Jesus Was was no "Girlie-man." On Restoring a Truer Vision of the Biblical Jesus from the 20th Century Remake

When I was a teenager in the 1970s Jesus was presented in less than flattering terms, at least from my standpoint as a young man at that time. The paintings and statues of that day presented Jesus as a rather thin, willow-wisp of a man, a sort of friendly but effeminate hippie, a kind of girlyman,  who went about blessing poor people and healing the sick. It is true he did that but usually left out of the portraits was the Jesus who summoned people to obedience and an uncompromising discipleship, the Jesus who powerfully rebuked his foes.

1970s Jesus was “nice,” and I should be nice too. In my 1970s Church we had no crucifix. Rather there was a cross and a rather slender and starry eyed Jesus sort of floated there in front of the Cross. The cross, it would seem, was all too much for a kinder gentler Jesus. The cross was, how shall we say…., so “unpleasant.”

Somehow, even as a teenager, I craved a stronger, manly Jesus. My heroes then were Clint Eastwood and I loved John Wayne movies which my father called to my attention. Now those were men. (I know they were into revenge, but I’d learn about that later).

The “Jesus” I was presented with seemed soft and unimpressive compared to them and, teenager that I was, I was unmoved. Who will follow an uncertain trumpet? The basic message of Jesus 1970 was “be nice” but 1970s Catholicism (which Fr. Robert Barron calls “beige Catholicism”) stripped away the clarion call of repentance and trumpet-like command that we take up our cross, that we lose our life in order to save it.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I actually began to study the real Jesus, the one in Scriptures. He was nothing like the thin little williow-wisp of a man I had been taught. He was a vigorous leader, a man among men. Someone who was formidable and commanding of respect. Someone I could look up to.

What follows is a portrait of Jesus Christ that I culled from a few sources and adapted. I wish I could remember the sources to credit them here, but it was over twenty years ago in seminary that, from some dusty old books written long before the 1970s, I culled this portrait on the human stature of Christ. Note that the focus here is on the humanity of Christ. It presupposes his divine nature but focuses on the human nature and, as you will see draws most of its material straight from the Scriptures. As You can see the description is longish. In case you would rather print and read it later I have put it in PDF here: On the Human Stature of Christ

The exterior appearance of Jesus seems to have been a handsome one. A woman in the crowd broke out into praise of him with the words, Blessed in the womb that bore Thee and the breasts that nursed Thee. His response to her Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep itseems to suggest that she had bodily excellencies in mind as well as spiritual. The powerful impression which Jesus made on ordinary people certainly owed something to his attractive exterior which by its charm drew everyone to him and held them.

Even if this was due primarily to his spiritual and religious power, still, his eyes, with their burning, waking, reproving looks must have been especially striking. For example see how Mark remarks of the eyes of the Lord in the following passages: 3:5,34; 5:32; 8:33; 10:21; 23:27.

We also may cull from Scripture an impression of health, power, energy and well being in Jesus. Jesus seems to have been a thoroughly healthy man, not prone to fatigue and with a great capacity for work. We never hear that Jesus was visited by any sickness. A proof of his physical endurance is born out in Scripture. He was in the habit of rising very early (Mark 1:35). The hills and the lake were especially dear to him and after a long day he loved to climb some lonely height, or late in the evening get himself taken out on to the shimmering water of Lake Gennesareth and stayed out far into the night (cf Mk 4:35; 6:35). We also know that his public life was one of wandering through the mountain valleys of his homeland, from Galilee to Samaria and Judaea and even as far as to the district of Tyre and Sidon (Matt 15:21). Despite these arduous journeys he counseled that one should travel light, bringing nothing for the journey, neither staff, money, nor bread, neither have two coats (Luke 9:3). Hunger and thirst must therefore have frequently accompanied him.

His last journey from Jericho up to Jerusalem was an astounding feat. Under a burning sun through a desolate, rocky waste he climbed some 3500 feet in a six hour climb. Despite this, he seems not tired, since that night he takes part in a feast at the house of Lazarus and his sisters (John 12:2). By far, the greater part of Jesus’ public ministry was spent out in the open, exposed to rigors of climate, in a life filled with labor and toil, with often little time eat (Mk 3:20; Mk 6:31). He owned no home and “had nowhere to lay his head” (Matt 8:20) Hence he likely spent more than a few nights sleeping out in the elements. Only a sound body of physical stamina could have endured such as this.

And now to his mental stature itself. He faced many malevolent enemies among the Pharisees and Sadducees and dealt with them effectively, reducing them to silence (so much so that they began to plot his death). In addition there were tiring explanations to be offered to disciples who were often slow to learn. His self assurance is manifest. In the midst of a raging storm he went on peacefully sleeping till his disciples woke him. He immediately grasps the situation and rebukes the storm.

There was tremendous clarity in his thought. He had an absolute grasp of His goal which gave him an inflexibility and finality (in the good sense) of his will. Jesus knows what he wills and determinedly pursues it. This is evident even at twelve years of age in the temple.

The three temptations in the desert are turned back forcefully by the Lord. He is never deterred by opposition. There is opposition among the kindred of his own town, among his followers (cf esp. John 6:57) and even among the Apostles (cf esp. Matt 16:22). Here we have a man of clear will. He demands the same determination and certainty from his followers. No man, putting his hand to the plough and turning back is fit for the reign of God.” (Luke 9:62)

He bore so clearly the marks of the true, the upright, and the strong, that even his enemies had to declare when they came to him, Master, we know that thou art a true speaker and care not for the opinion of any man. (Mk 12:14) He shows forth a unity and purity and transcendence that reflect his interior life of union with the Father. His loyalty to the will of his Father is unwavering and clear even though it leads directly to the Cross. Jesus in every way is a heroic and epic figure in the purest sense of that word staking his life for a known truth and demanding the same of his followers.

Jesus was a born leader. When he calls his apostles, they immediately arise to follow after him. (cf esp Mk 1:16; 1:20) Again and again the Apostles note how they wondered among themselves about the marvels of his actions and even how these struck terror into them (cf esp. Mk 9:5; 6:51; 4:40; 10:24,26). At times they did not dare question him any further (Mk 9:3). The same wonderment affected the crowds.(cf Mk 5:15,33,42; 9:14). He spoke with towering authority and the people sought the loftiest images to in wondering who he could be. Is he John the Baptist? Elijah? Jeremiah or one prophets? (Matt 16:14) His spiritual power and authority discharged themselves in stern language and bold action when the powers of evil arrayed themselves against him. Demons trembled against his awesome power (Matt 4:10.) He also rebukes strongly the evil that is in men and warns them that they will not be worthy of him if they do not repent (Matt 13:41sq; 13:49sq; 25:1sq; 14sq; 33sq; 18:34; 22:7; 22:11sq.).

He is absolutely clear and unflinching in dealing with the scribes and Pharisees (Matt 23:14,24,25). As shown above, he knows himself to be the Messiah and is anything but a fair-weather Messiah but follows the model of the prophets rebuking all enemies of the truth He proclaims. He speaks of hypocrites, serpents and generations of vipers and liars (cf Matt 23:33). He calls Herod a fox (Lk 13:32). Although he was never one to tread lightly, he never forgets himself or loses control. His anger is always the expression of supreme moral freedom declaring, for this I came into the World, that I should give testimony to the truth (John 18:37). Because He was so consistently true to His Father’s will his life was only “Yes and No” and he reacted with great severity against anything that was ungodly or hateful to God. He was ready to stake his own life for the truth and die for it.

To describe Jesus psychologically would be to describe his as a man of purposeful virility, absolute genuineness, austere uprightness, and heroic in performance. He knows the truth, knows himself and, with exact clarity, executes his mission.

I realize that people are pretty particular in how they envisage Jesus. I also think men and women have a very different starting point too. Please remember that I am not pontificating here, I am starting a conversation. So have at it!

Photo: From the Movie, The Passion of the Christ. A strong Christ, to be sure.

This video Clip is from the Movie The Gospel of John

55 Replies to “Jesus Was was no "Girlie-man." On Restoring a Truer Vision of the Biblical Jesus from the 20th Century Remake”

  1. Dear Monsignor,

    It is a really good article and I do honour the intention of the article, but one passage from Isaiah strikes me though which to a certain degree elaborates form or rather “exterior appearance” of Jesus and this passage as much as i know belongs to way JESUS looked.:-

    “2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not “. Isaiah 53;2.

    Or is it someone else which prophet Isaiah is stating ? Please correct me if I am wrong.

    Sabu Augustine

    1. Sabu: You are correct, this passage does refer to Christ, “the suffering servant.” From this we can assume Jesus was an average looking man. The OT is pretty clear, though, that David was quite handsome!

    2. Msgr Pope has said something like this before and I brought up exactly the same passage. He made the point that this is associated with suffering of the servant – Jesus’ passion.

      Still not quite convinced 😉

    3. Isaiah could be speaking in a less literal sense too. In saying that Christ had no comeliness, Isaiah might be referring to how Christ, while God, is also truly man. He doesn’t necessarily have to be speaking about any of Christ’s personal attributes in the strict sense.

  2. Epistle 246
    My some thoughts about “the homily” of Msgr. Charles Pope are here below:
    Firstly, in the homily, Msgr. Charles Pope spoke of Jesus.
    Msgr. Charles Pope said that Jesus was no “Girlie-man”, but He was a decisive virility. He knows the truth, knows himself and, with exact clarity, executes his mission.
    Secondly, now permit me to discuss some matters to relate the homily hereafter:
    Of course as Catholic priest, Msgr. Charles Pope can speak of Jesus. But as a Catholic, I only can speak of Priests, Bishops or Popes.
    I can’t speak of Jesus and God. I only can speak (pray) to Jesus and God.
    In my opinion, when Msgr. Charles Pope speaks of Jesus, Father ought to reread Matthew 16:13-20 and Matthew 22:41-45.
    In Matthew 16:13-20, Peter the Apostle said that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the living God.
    And in Matthew 22:41-45, Jesus asked that “What do you think about the Christ?” and “From that day no-one dared to ask him any more questions”.
    However, in fact, Vietnamese Catholics can speak of Jesus as Gospels did.
    For example, Jesus is Son of God. Jesus is Son of Mary. Jesus is master of Peter. Jesus is Founder of Roman Catholic Church. Jesus has many miracles, etc. ./.

  3. Wow… Having been born and raised in the 70’s, I’ve never known anything but the ‘Nice Jesus’ and didn’t even question this construct until I read your article. It’s so difficult to see a bias we’ve been raised to accept. Makes me see the truth in the quote “God made man in his image, then man returned the favor.”

    Maybe this is at least part of the reason why some men around my generation don’t aspire to emulate or follow/embrace Christ…he’s been fed to them as a soft ‘girly-man’ that denies his masculine human nature. On the flip side, the men who have embraced Jesus haven’t been acting very manly in the face of very real evil around us and our children these days.

    Yes! Let’s DO uncover and celebrate his ‘purposeful virility, absolute genuineness, austere uprightness, and heroic performance’! Our men need to see that part of him!

  4. Dear Monsignor,

    Your thoughts today follow a line of thinking that I have been following since I was a teenager when I attended a Pentecostal Church before being baptized Catholic at the age of 19. My old Pentecostal Pastor preached a sermon that sticks with me across the decades, a sermon he called “Jesus was a BIG man.” It was apparently a response to views of Christ that had formed in Protestantism as well is in Catholicism in the 70s, maybe due in part to a couple popular movies at the day, “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Godspell.” In any event, the old Pentecostal’s sermon claimed Jesus was a large and striking man for not only reasons you provide, but due to two more: he most likely spent his adult life as a carpenter, which in those days meant he did some stone masonry, not a “girly man” craft to be sure; the Lord also threw the money changers from the temple with no one stepping up to stop Him, when it would be right to assume that at least the temple guard were there and maybe some Roman soldiers nearby. This pauses me to think back of my days in graduate school studying theology (I majored in sacred scripture) and I never remember any professor (both lay and religious) even speaking of the physical Christ, only the spiritual, God incarnate. Makes me think I may have to throw this in a class where it seems fitting someday! One other thought – if God was going to come to us incarnate, the most powerful, awesome and supreme God, why else would he come as anything other that a big, strong, handsome man?

    1. You brought up very good points about Jesus being “big”. I knew about doing stone masonry in His days of being a carpenter, but I never thought of no one stopping Him, because of His size, when He overthrew the money changers. That’s very interesting to note. However, we have no guarantee that He was handsome. In fact, the verse in Isaiah that one of the other commenters mentioned, says that He had no beauty that we should be attracted to Him. He may have been handsome to some people, since as the phrase is, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, but on the whole, it wasn’t His looks that attracted the crowds–it was His magnetic personality.

  5. At the abbey of St. Meinrad in Indiana, there is a shrine to St. Joseph that shows a barrel-chested man that reminds me of the carpenters that I know, instead of the scholarly looking men that I so often see depicted elsewhere. It is good to be reminded the Jesus was strong and strong-willed instead of the buddy Jesus that we so often see.

  6. Thank you, Monsignor, for a thoughtful consideration of a challenging topic. I have had to grapple with this issue while raising three boys, each of whom expressed concerns at some point about what kind of man they had to be to follow Jesus.

    I would be interested in your thoughts on the visual depiction of a different kind of Jesus in the National Shrine here in DC. None of my boys (nor I) know what to make of that particular interpretation in the apse.

  7. Jesus, meek and mild.

    Mt 18:6
    “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

    Mt 26:24
    “… woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”

    Mt 25:41
    “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

    Then there is this.
    Exodus 12:13-29
    “… the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thus, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you.
    At midnight the LORD slew every first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh on the throne to the first-born of the prisoner in the dungeon …”
    — We find Jesus celebrating this event with the Passover meal before his death.—

    I believe one reason that so many people in this modern age picture Jesus as a “girlie-man” is that many of the clergy that are supposed to mirror Him are themselves “girlie-men”. The problem is not so much the priests that we don’t have but many priests that we do have.
    The problem will be solved, not by ordaining women but by ordaining MEN. The Church Militant is a shambles because of a lack of leadership in “preserving, protecting and defending” the Faith. We need more warrior priests not pacified wimps. Our enemies here on earth and in the hereafter are certainly not pacified and never will be.

  8. Reminds me of a joke I heard during the financial meltdown in 08-09:

    “What would Jesus do? He’d grab a whip and start beating on bankers, that’s what he’d do!”

    1. Doesn’t seem fair to blame it on the 1970s…I grew up surrounded by pre-Vatican II images of Jesus and He often looked like Mary with a beard–including lipstick…

  9. Msgr, good post. You really should read St. Anne Catherine Emmerich’s visions. Jesus traveled a LOT farther than is believed, and he did it quickly. A lot farther than Tyre and Sidon.

    Also, as Mother Mary was the most beautiful woman to have walked the earth and shared in the flesh and blood of Jesus and as He is God the Son, how else would he have appeared? He would have been awesome, powerful, handsome and strong.

  10. This is fantastic, Msgr. Pope. I’ve been saying for a long time that I do not worship Nice Jesus – in fact, that I cannot stand him. He is an idol and nothing more. It has always blown my mind that anyone could read the Gospels and think Jesus was, like, the Nicest Man Who Ever Lived. Please.

    Besides… aren’t we familiar with the idea that God permits the circumstances we live? How about WWII or the death of dearly loved ones? Anyone think that came from Nice Jesus? Yeah, okay! No, I think that came from the toughest kid on the block.

    Respect. That’s what we need to learn in this culture. Respect for God. Respect for His Church. Respect for the masculine. ‘Cause when the s*** hits the fan, it’ll be these three that see us through to the end, while Nice Jesus quivers and frets in the corner by himself, sobbing a plea for mercy from the One True God.

    But we don’t respect any of these three. In fact we p*** all over them. No wonder the devil’s raping the culture. Hey – if this is what people want, all the power to them. I’m going where I know I’ll be safe.

    Thanks, Msgr.

  11. “On the flip side, the men who have embraced Jesus haven’t been acting very manly in the face of very real evil around us and our children these days.”

    I would also like to add to Jen’s comment that if men really took on the culture in the way she would like, all but a few women would be shocked to discover how they themselves are taken to task by the selfsame men. Women who complain about the absence of strong men would do well to remember this flip side of the equation. The truth is that women today do not want strong men, because deep down inside, they know that once the strong men return, their party is over.

  12. When we say that Jesus was “true God and true Man” it seems that we are referring to His perfection in these separate areas. As “true man” I would imagine that His intellect, physical appearance, and strength were “true” or perfect; the way Man would have been before the Fall. Jesus, and, by God’s grace, Mary perhaps both manifest the characteristics of our “unfallen” human nature after the resurrection? What are your thoughts?

  13. I don’t know about envisioning a Superman Jesus, even aside from the portrayal in Godspell.

    A Jesus that never tired, who never knew physical sickness, who if He were cut would not bleed, etc. would be to say that Jesus was not fully human — human with all of its limitations. Thus, God really cannot relate to what it is like to be a human, He does not, in fact, know exactly how hard day-to-day life is because He Himself has never experienced it. He might know it as a matter of omniscient “knowledge,” but He has not really and fully descended down into the sweat and toil of human existence. In short, He cheated.

    No, that cannot be true. Jesus, fully God, is also fully human and, while He walked the earth, was fully human, warts and all. Anything less detracts from Him, not enhances Him. He who would be first will be last, while he who would make himself last will be made first. Jesus made Himself lowly, truly lowly, including the lowliness of human physical limitations.

    1. Yet it’s not hard to believe that in that lowliness he still possessed the best attributes that humanity had to offer. He didn’t eat McDonald’s or sit on a couch all day.

      1. The closest to how Jesus looks like is said to be Akiane’s painting, “The Prince of Peace” and “Father Forgive them” His face is Jewish- He has curly dark hair and thick eyebrows- his face is rugged looking and definitely someone you would picture as “blue collar” who was outdoors alot — but the thing that makes Him handsome is the love that comes out of His eyes– His eyes are pure and his Soul is pure, so that is the beauty many saw from Him.
        Also, we have to remember that people who were considered handsome in that day may not have been the blue collar type of men- but the wealthy, refined elegant type of men- because mostly everyone was poor back in that day so they looked up to the more refined . In our society today, tastes have changed.

        Sister Faustina’s depiction of Jesus’ face looks very similar to Akiane’s painting. Akiane, in case you don’t know- is a child prodegy painter who testifies that she was taken up to Heaven while 3 years old, and learned to paint there– Google her name and the name of her paintings of Jesus that she painted at 8 years old– all of the money made from her paintings goes directly to charities for the poor.

        a child that recently had a near death experience– Todd Colton- also saw Jesus in Heaven. He remarked how Jesus loves kids. Todd was shown pictures of Jesus which he dismissed as “not looking like Him”– until he came to Akiane’s painting–which left him speechless as he stared at it, and then told his father it looked very close to the actual Jesus.

        1. Interesting, I also read of a story of someone who saw Jesus and later when they saw the Divine Mercy image I think, said that He looks very similar. There are several versions of it though, including the original image. I think that the painting that you mentioned looks kind of similar also to the Shroud of Turin and the 3D image that they constructed based on the Shroud of Turin. I think some images with similar proportions also resemble the painting and the Shroud.

  14. This reminds me a lot of the writings of John Eldredge, a Protestant author who has done much to help recapture the thoroughly masculine, and thoroughly biblical, picture of Jesus. As I read through Msgr. Pope’s piece, I realize just how much the “Nice Jesus” model is alive and well among most of the people I know. They have always gone on about His loving, caring nature, which of course is accurate, but I have always been struck by the tough picture I see in Scripture. Comedian Robin Williams once joked in a stand-up routine that when Jesus comes back, He won’t be some wimpy guy, but more like a sheet metal worker from Detroit. It has always amused me that this secular comedian caught a picture of our Lord more akin to what we see in Revelation in what is talked about by most Christians. Excellent post! Thanks!

  15. To continue the conversation, though, as Msgr. Pope invites, I would love to know what people see as the closest models to the virile, Scriptural Jesus, in the modern world. I am truly having a hard time coming up with any. Any thoughts?

  16. Great post, Monsignor! I always love your articles! Growing up in the 70’s like you, I too was exposed to this wimpy Jesus. I still get tired of “nice Jesus” and people who try to throw out the “What Would Jesus Do?” argument, with the subliminal “he’d be nice!” and forgiving and not too hard on anybody, because, after all, “we’re all human and we just can’t be perfect” type of mentality. My Jesus is strong, demanding and holds me accountable! It’s difficult, but I like it because it helps me to be more authentically human and more virtuous!

    I read somewhere that the average Roman soldier was 5’4″ tall – this was the army that conquered the world, and so they were probably of average height, or taller, than most of the cultures that they conquered. Yet, if we believe that the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Christ, then he was minimally 5’10” tall. I believe I’ve heard estimates that he could have been as tall as 6’2″, so either way, Jesus was significantly taller than the average person, and therefore, I believe, he would have commanded a presence just with his height!

    @Will: I’ve read a decent amount of Anne Catherine Emmerich and quite honestly, I prefer Blessed Mary of Agreda and Maria Valtorta (because I believe they stay more in line with Tradition than is Emmerich), but we always need to be careful when it comes to private revelation because they could be wrong. However, they all remark on how handsome Jesus was! I believe this to be true.

    I believe when prophesy talks about “no form or comeliness” it truly is speaking about the Savior who suffered for our sins, and when we read about the tremendous beating that Jesus took, I believe these prophetic passages really do apply to his passion, not to his ministerial work in proclaiming the kingdom.

    Finally, it takes a strong man to take the kind of beating that Jesus took. I don’t believe he could have endured it if he was wimpy or a “girlie-man.” Strong does not imply callous, macho or insensitive. Instead, it takes a strong man to be caring while still holding strong to his principles and not back down in the face of adversity. Jesus was, and is strong!

    Thanks for this excellent post, Monsignor!

    1. “My Jesus is strong, demanding and holds me accountable! It’s difficult, but I like it because it helps me to be more authentically human and more virtuous!”


      “Finally, it takes a strong man to take the kind of beating that Jesus took.”

      Yes – and this is where I am most amazed that the Nice Jesus image ever managed to take root at all. But then, as Msgr. said, he grew up seeing a crucifix that… was not a crucifix but a cross from which Nice Jesus was sort of suspended and, well, drooling with Nice, Friendly Love for all the creatures he couldn’t be bothered to save (he’s just that nice!).

  17. A very good post. Although you do know that the Gospel of John movie is not biblical correct.

      1. Only the other day I recommended Gospel of John as a very good movie to see, but there are a couple of issues with it, namely with the imagery, although some do fault it for using what they hold to be a less-than-optimum translation.

        Two historical critiques I have of Gospel of John are — (1) Mary is WAY too old and (2) in one scene where Jesus is preaching in the synagogue, Mary Magdelene is seated with the men in the background even though the synagogue was segregated back then. And two dramatic critiques I have are (3) the Samaritan woman at the well smiles too much and (4) Pilate is rather wishy-washy.

        Henry Ian Cusick’s portrayal of Jesus though is excellent, as is the narration by Christopher Plummer. Reading from a dry text, it is difficult to capture the right pacing and cadence, but they really bring it alive. It leads one to think that they should require lectors to take dramatic reading lessons before being allowed to read at Mass.

  18. Yeah, it seems like the 70’s conceptions of Jesus were like the rock stars of the day. I’m going to take a different angle, though. I was never fully convinced that Jesus was the Hollywood – handsome type in his personal appearance. It is very important in our current culture to be good looking, as if good looking people are automatically good. But how important is one’s personal appearance in relation to his holiness ? What if He was disabled ? If not afflicted with some disability, perhaps His initial appearance was a bit shocking.

    I kind of wonder if there’s the hint of a subtext of this in some of the Gospel readings. There’s nothing I can really hang my hat on. I am puzzled about His post Resurrection appearance seemingly being different in some accounts. Was this part of a test of faith or does it possibly indicate His resurrection body was somehow different in appearance ? Were there imperfections that were now absent ? We do know His crucifixtion wounds were visible and tangible.

    The image of the face on the Veil of Manopello does not reveal an objectively handsome man. Some investigators believe this image was not made by human hands and is of postResurrection origin. The authenticity of the relic remains in question for the time being, but it reminds us God Is who He is, not who we expect Him to be.

    1. Man’s idea of perfection and beauty all too often does not correspond to perfection and beauty from God’s perspective — that is, true perfection and beauty. What we would hold to be hideous, He might very well find to be the height of beauty. To us, Satan himself would probably appear to be quite attractive, so easily taken in are we by the superficial and shallow.

      Should we go so far as to say that Jesus was never more beautiful and perfect as when His bloody and bruised body was hanging on the Cross, when He exhibited His great love?

      1. @ Bender:

        Yours is one of the best comments, in the history of comments.

        @ Charles Pope:

        I told you God is the manliest of men, a long time ago.
        Glad to read this article.

  19. Sometime in the 70s (of all times) I read a book entitled YOUR GOD IS TOO SMALL, which forever scrunched my image of Jesus as a wimp. Good book! Well written.

  20. A few thoughts:

    1) In the 60’s and 70’s there was a growing awareness of the ways in which social structures and attitudes had been marked by sexism. There was a also a growing mistrust of traditional authorities due to the abuse of power by these authorities. Thus, this age created a Jesus that fit the ideal of the moment; a Jesus who was the opposite of the arrogance, machismo, triumphalism, aggression, and insensitivity that created the problems of the day. I fear though that many of the comments here reflect a similar process, just going in the other direction. We live in an age that is dealing with fallout of the sexual revolution, declining American influence in the world, an absence of responsible male role models, etc. There is a yearning for strong leaders who possess confidence and conviction. There is also a desire on the part of many to reclaim masculinity. And so it is very easy for us to project onto Jesus the ideal of our moment. We should remember though that Jesus was an incredibly complex figure; the gospels testify to that again and again. The same Jesus who expelled the money changers from the temple also welcomed the little children. The same Jesus who confidently debated the Pharisees also wept at the tomb of Lazarus. The same Jesus who fasted for 40 days cried out from the cross that he was thirsty. The same Jesus who referred to a gentile woman as a “dog”, also welcomed Mary to remain at his feet (the place, in that world, reserved for male disciples of a teacher) rather than return to the women’s work of preparing and serving food. Jesus just doesn’t fit into our neat little molds, and we ought to be careful about constructing a Jesus who neatly fits our own agenda.

    2) I’m somewhat intrigued by the gendered subtext of this discussion (manly vs girlie). Why are the attributes mentioned by Msgr. Pope considered to be “male”? Are there not many women who are decisive, resolute leaders who are clear-minded and hold fast to their convictions; who are possess stamina and physical fortitude? And are these women somehow “unwomanly” for possessing these attributes? While these attributes might be more commonly held in esteem by males (and therefore worth mentioning in an effort to inspire males, as I think is Msgr.’s intent), I do not see them as any more essentially male.

    3) On whether Jesus’ status as the new Adam would have meant that he was physically perfect: I think not. First, we should note that Jesus did appear quite difference once he was resurrected. Presumably, his resurrected form is the more physically perfect body. Second, we should recall the words of the ancient Christian hymn that Paul quotes in Philippians 2: that Jesus did not regard his equality with God as something to be grasped (or, more accurately, “clung to”), but rather emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, and found human in appearance. This implies that Jesus’ kenosis (self-emptying) included his body and therefore he would not have been physically perfect.

  21. A great post, Msgr! Jesus doesn’t look like any of those images we’re so used to seeing. He isn’t blond nor does he have long hair. I was blessed enough to be visited by Jesus one time when I was seriously ill and close to dying. The closest image I can compare Jesus to and even then not quite, not a whole 100%, is the Shroud of Turin. He was tall, a good physique, definitely not a “girlie-man.” His face reflected pain and sorrow. Our Lord and Savior suffered tremendous physical pain for us so much so that his hair greyed a bit, salt and pepper, at 33 years of age. But it was those eyes. He has the most compassionate looking eyes, non-blue eyes, his whole essence was I understand, I’m here with you. I’ll never forget that encounter with Jesus. It’s like it happened yesterday even though it was many many years ago.

    1. Gray eyes, brown hair, 179 cm tall.

      The shroud reflects how He looked after being beaten almost beyond recognition and then crucified.

  22. “He was a vigorous leader, a man among men”
    This is a great article! Most young men find it difficult to relate to Jesus.
    This article makes it easier to discuss who Jesus was and why he commanded such attention even from the Jews.
    Thank You for this article. 🙂

  23. Msgr. Pope, this was a good article. My take on Jesus is that since He is the Word made flesh, there can be no separating His flesh from who He is. It seems that his bodily form would always have had a supernatural quality to it, which no doubt cause people to be in awe and fear of Him, and to despise Him as a threat.He seems to have posessed the ability to walk great distances with little food and water…defenitely not the girlie-man! Thank you or giving us this food for contemplation ….some people back then had the eyes to see&ears to hear, others just saw him as a man. He must have had eyes like fire.

  24. It is totally irrelevant what kind of personality Jesus had. What matters is what He did: He loved and He loved well. And He showed us how to do that: He gave Himself to others. All types of personalities can do that in their own way.

    What a useless post.

    1. Avoid using declarative sentences with the word “totally” in them since it too absolute. Further, you exhibit a strange anthropology in asserting that one’s personality is “totally” irrelevant.” As for being useless, you are not the judge of that except for a very limited scope, namely yourself.

      1. I appreciate your comment, Msgr. Perhaps my last sentence was useless as well.

        But I am curious about something. If you can deduce from Scripture what type of personality Jesus had, can you also deduce from Scripture whether Jesus was gay or straight? And would it make any difference?

        1. Yes and yes. Sounds like you have an issue. Are you struggling with something? Since the Catechism speaks of the homosexual orientation as intrinsically disordered, why do you need to entertain that Jesus, who had a perfect humanity, could be gay? Why are you curious of such a thing? What’s going on?

    1. Not sure I remember one coming in. But I do recall you called the post “useless” so perhaps I chose at that time to end the thread since useless conversations waste everyone’s time.

      1. “As for being useless, you are not the judge of that except for a very limited scope, namely yourself.”
        -Msgr Pope, from thread above

        My comment pointed out that you misquoted the catechism. The catechism does NOT say that homosexual orientation is intrinsically disordered. It says homosexual ACTS are intrinsically disordered. It then goes on to say that homosexual orientation is not a personal choice.

        Therefore, homosexual orientation is not a sin. Therefore Jesus could be gay and not violate our belief that He is sinless.

        My comment also pointed out that your idea of Jesus having a “perfect humanity” seemed to imply that He was a perfect specimen of the human race. I don’t know of any Catholic teaching that says that. Could He not have one leg longer than the other such that He had to limp when He walked? Could He never have suffered from psoriasis? Could He not have been gay? My sense is that a perfect humanity would mean that He lived a sinless life. That’s what’s important, not being physically perfect.

        And then I asked you, if Jesus was gay, would you still be a believer?

        Well, would you?

        So I’m making a perfectly legitimate comment. If you’re an honest man, you will post it.

        1. The post is not about homosexuality. I have no idea why you are so insistent on raising this issue here. In your highly theoretical question emerging from your twisted little world, Jesus was not “gay” and could not have been because this would indicate that he was weighed down with the effects of Original Sin, contradicting Scripture which says he was like us in all things save sin. Your on-going insistence about the catechism is belied by further instructions from the Holy See. For example From The Pastoral Care of Homosexuals #3

          3. Explicit treatment of the problem was given in this Congregation’s “Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics” of December 29, 1975. That document stressed the duty of trying to understand the homosexual condition and noted that culpability for homosexual acts should only be judged with prudence. At the same time the Congregation took note of the distinction commonly drawn between the homosexual condition or tendency and individual homosexual actions. These were described as deprived of their essential and indispensable finality, as being “intrinsically disordered”, and able in no case to be approved of (cf. n. 8, $4).

          In the discussion which followed the publication of the Declaration, however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

          Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.

          Hence, the orientation itself is disordered and rooted in the fallen human condition as are other strong inclinations to sinful things. Jesus did not have this affliction.

          Now this thread is over. The post is old and you are not even discussing what the post was about except to try and reduce it to the absurd. You are argumentative to the extreme. You’re on your own personal errand here and ought to discuss this with a trustworthy priest or spiritual adviser. For heaven’s sake Steve, move on to other things.

  25. Thanks for this post Monsignore.
    It is almost as if I should have written it myself.



  26. This is an interesting article. I personally believe that Our Lord is the perfect combination of being strong and masculine, and also very gentle and tender. I also believe that He is handsome in terms of the appearance though during the Passion, this may not have been apparent because of the sufferings He endured. It’s very probable that after the Resurrection, something was added to His appearance in a spiritual way, though I’m not sure how to describe.

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