I was doing some sidewalk evangelizing with a group of fellow Catholics in my neighborhood last Sunday and a very angry African American Man confronted me with the accusation that we were unjust and lying because the Image of Jesus on our banner looked European. He explained to me that everyone knew Jesus was Black and African and that we were therefore lying and misrepresenting Jesus.

For the record, the image we had on our banner was an icon, generally with Eastern European features, but like most Icons, of darker complexion and ambiguous as to nationality.

But never mind, He saw it as white because it wasn’t clearly black or possessed of African features. I told him that we really don’t know exactly how Jesus looked and that it was fine to see him with African features, or eastern or really anyway. I also asked him to notice that many of us there on the sidewalk were African American and that in our parish, which I pastor, we had an African Christ on our processional cross etc. We made no real claim that our banner was what Jesus looked like exactly.

But at the end of the day he wasn’t really looking for a conversation, he wanted a confrontation. My own training tells me to end such dialogues quickly and look for more fertile ground. I assured him that we meant no offense and was sorry that he experienced offense, asked his prayers and politely disengaged from the conversation.

The very question, “What Did Jesus Look Like?” and our debates as to his features, says a lot about our modern age. And the silence of the Bible as to the physical appearance of most of its principal characters says a lot too.

We live in a very image driven culture. Ever since the invention of photography and especially television, the physical appearance of people has become quite significant. Perhaps the first real discernment of how important this had become was in the Nixon-Kennedy debate. Those who listened on radio generally thought Nixon won the debate. Those who saw it on TV thought Kennedy had won. And thus it was that physical appearance seems to have been greatly magnified as an assent or liability. It is surely true that physical appearance had importance before, but now it was magnified. Prior to the invention of photography, films and TV very few people had access to the physical appearance of influential people before they formed an opinion of them.

The fact that the Bible has so little to say about the physical appearance of Jesus or most of the main figures gives an indication that such facts were of less significance to the people of that time. It may also say something of God the Holy Spirit who chose not to inspire the recording of such information as a general rule. It would seem that physical attractiveness (or lack thereof) matters little to God? (I am hopeful in this department for my handsomeness has taken a serious hit in recent decades). Perhaps too the Holy Spirit draws back from such descriptions so that we would be encouraged to see ourselves in the narrative of Holy Scripture.

We get occasional references to physical traits. There are the some references to attractiveness. David is said to have a ruddy appearance, Leah seems to have been less attractive than her sister Rachael. Bathsheba surely drew David’s eye. There is also some mentioning of more specific traits. For example the beloved woman in the Song of Songs describes herself as “black” and “beautiful.” Sampson is said to have long hair. Zacheus is said to be of short stature. Herod was an Edomite, a name which refers to the reddish skin of that race of people. You will perhaps want to add to this list in the comments section. But overall the Scriptures are remarkably silent about any extensive physical description of the main protagonists. Who was tall, who was short, what color their skin or hair, or eyes? How long was the hair? Did the person have a beard?

And thus as we consider Jesus we are left with little from the scriptures themselves. It does seem clear that Jesus must have had a vigorous constitution given the extensive journeys he made throughout the mountainous region of the Holy Land. Lengthy walks of 60 miles or more back and forth from Jerusalem to Galilee and then well north to Tyre and Sidon. Climbs up steep hills and mountains such as Tabor were not for the weak or feeble. I have spoken more of the physical stamina of Christ here: On the Human Stature of Christ. But as for his hair color, relative height, skin tone etc. we have little or nothing.

I would like to speculate however based on a a few criteria of certain possible traits of Jesus’ physical appearance. Again, these are mere speculations. I encourage you to remark on them and to add or subtract as you see fit. These speculations are somewhat random and given here in no particular order.

1. The length of his hair. It is common since the renaissance to see Jesus depicted with long and straight or wavy locks of flowing hair. I have often wondered if ancient Jewish men ever wore their hair this long. I say this because St. Paul says, Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him? (1 Cor 11:14). He goes on to speak of long hair as a “glory” to a woman. I wonder if Paul would have said such a thing if Jesus had the log hair he is often depicted with today? What exactly Paul meant by “long” is a matter for debate. It does not necessarily mean that Jesus went about with hair as short as some men wear it today. The Shroud of Turin, if it is authentic, shows the hair length to be at just about the length of the upper shoulder. I also doubt that Jesus’ hair would be as straight as many post renaissance artists depict it. If Jesus was a Semite, his hair was probably far more coarse and wiry than European hair. It is also interesting that some of the earliest images we have of Jesus on the Catacomb walls depicts him as clean shaven with short hair. But this may simply be a projection of Mediterranean standards upon him. Again, all these ponderings of mine are speculative.

2. What of Jesus’ complexion? If Jesus was of Semitic stock (a point which some debate) it would follow that his skin was not as dark as that of a sub-Saharan African but neither was it as light as a northern European. Many Scholars think that the ancient Semites had something of an olive tone to their skin, generally dark colored hair that was thick and often wiry or curly. The picture at left was developed by scholars recently using forensic techniques on a skull found from the first century AD. While the skin tone and hair are more speculative, the appearance of the face is based on the techniques of forensic reconstruction (cf HERE and HERE ). The image is not without controversy. Indeed there seem to be significant differences among scholars as to both the origin, appearance and general anthropology of the Semites who likely descended from Noah’s son Shem according to the Scriptures. Here again, I present these aspects of appearance to you only as speculative.

3. The Shroud of Turin - You have likely read much on the shroud. There is wide consensus today that the shroud comes from a period far earlier than the Middle Ages as was held in the 1980s when some questionable studies were conducted on it. Even if it dates from the time of Christ, this still does not prove it is his image. However the seemingly miraculous manner of the imprinting of the image is strong evidence not to be lightly set aside that this is in fact Christ’s image. Even if it is we have to be careful to remember that he had been savagely beaten and that this may have marred his appearance left on the shroud. Nevertheless, if this is Jesus’ image then we can see that he was 5-feet-10 to almost 6 feet tall and weighed about 180 pounds, had a fairly strong muscular build and a long nose seemingly typical with the Jews of his day. We have already remarked on the length of the hair and, despite Paul’s remark, his hair as depicted on the Shroud was worn a bit longer than most men of today.

Perhaps we do well to end where we began and question our own modern preoccupation with the physical appearance of Jesus and other biblical figures. It is true we are visual and will always prefer to see the face of those we love. But the Bible’s silence on these matters may be instructive and we do well to consider that the Scriptures invite us to look deeper than appearance, deeper than race or ethnicity. The Word became flesh in Jesus, but the Word must also become flesh in us and we must learn to find Christ in the Sacraments (cf Luke 24:31,35), in the poor, in our neighbor, our enemy, our very selves.

This video is one of the most extraordinary I’ve seen using a fascinating technology to show the many ways Jesus has been depicted down through the centuries. The images melt and morph into one another!


The Real Face of Jesus on HISTORY 3/30 by HistoryChannel

51 Responses

  1. JohnR says:

    I have a picture which is of the Shroud and it also has the face behind the shroud face. I’m sure that others reading this will have something very similar. This is one of those pictures which changes depending upon which direction you are looking from, so that from one direction it is the Shroud and from another direction it is a flesh face. I am happy with the result portrayed. I am convinced that the Shroud really is the actual shroud of Jesus and it seems to me that this amazing display was intended by God Himself to give us a picture of Jesus long, long before photography was invented. How many crucified men were also subjected to scourging and crowning with thorns and having a spear thrust into their sides? The two men crucified with Jesus were not treated and tortured in the way that he was! It is possible of course that another man was so treated….but just how likely is it to have happened?!

    • Javier H. von Sydow says:

      I also have it, digitally stored in my cell phone. There is just something to it. And that blood stain in his forehead resembling a “3″, the number of the Holy Trinity…

    • Lindah says:

      How could Jesus’ face be imprinted on this cloth in a recognizable manner? He was severally beaten, Jesus was beaten so violently He was unrecognizable. This can NOT be Jesus precious face. I have seen my sister after a beating from her “ex” husband, she was barely recognizable. Jesus took so much more of the physical beating than any mere human could ever possible take. So the shroud would only show a monsterous image at best. I do not believe God gave this as a way to know what Christ looked like since God looks at the heart, & several scripturestell us not to look at the outside appearance, but look inside the person. We are created in the likeness of God, which is not physical, but spiritual. Our soul is was created in Gods, Jesus, & the Holy Spirits image. The physical appearance is for man’s sake, not Gods. Just saying. <

  2. Becca says:

    He looks like He does on the Shroud of Turin. End of story for me.

  3. Restless Pilgrim says:

    I remember this subject of Jesus’ appearance came up once before. At that time, I quoted the Prophet Isaiah to offer the suggestion that, in worldly terms, Jesus didn’t look that attractive:

    “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
    – Isaiah 53:2

    Several months later I was preparing some commentary on the Sunday Readings and I came across this passage from St. Justin Martyr where he appears to assert the same thing:

    “Jesus came as the son of a carpenter. He was not physically attractive, just as the prophets had predicted of Him. He was merely a carpenter, making plows and yokes, and instructing us by such symbols of righteousness to avoid an inactive life.” – Saint Justin the Martyr (ca. A.D. 155), Dialogue With Trypho The Jew, 7,7

  4. Judith C. Kessel says:

    Msgr. Pope, based on the book, Revelations of St Bridget on the Life and Passion of our Lord and the Life of His Blessed Mother, the Blessed Mother described the appearance of our LORD JESUS as:

    Such as my Son in Heaven you cannot behold. But hear what He was in Body in the world. He was so beautiful of countenance that no one looked Him in the Face without being consoled by His aspect, even if heartbroken with grief. The just were consoled with spiritual consolation; and even the bad were relieved from worldly sadness as long as they gazed upon Him. Hence, those in grief were wont to say: “Let us go see Mary’s Son; we shall be releved for that time.”

    * In His 20th year, He was perfect in manly strength & stature. Amid those of modern times, He would be large, not fleshy, but of large frame and muscle. His hair, eyebrows, and beard were of a light brown, His beard a hand’s width long. His forehead not prominent or retreating, but erect. His nose moderate, neither small nor large; His eyes were so pure that even His enemies delighted to look upon Him; His lips not thick, but clear red. His chin was not prominent or over long, but graceful in beautiful moderation. His cheeks modestly fleshy, His complexion clear white and red. His bearing erect, his whole Body spotless. (Lib iv, c. 70).

    And here’s another description of Pontius Pilate of our Lord JESUS:

    The letter from Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar
    This is a reprinting of a letter from Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar describing the physical appearance of Jesus. Copies are in the Congressional Library in Washington, D.C.

    TO TIBERIUS CAESAR:

    A young man appeared in Galilee preaching with humble unction, a new law in the Name of the God that had sent Him. At first I was apprehensive that His design was to stir up the people against the Romans, but my fears were soon dispelled. Jesus of Nazareth spoke rather as a friend of the Romans than of the Jews. One day I observed in the midst of a group of people a young man who was leaning against a tree, calmly addressing the multitude. I was told it was Jesus. This I could easily have suspected so great was the difference between Him and those who were listening to Him. His golden colored hair and beard gave to his appearance a celestial aspect. He appeared to be about 30 years of age. Never have I seen a sweeter or more serene countenance. What a contrast between Him and His bearers with their black beards and tawny complexions! Unwilling to interrupt Him by my presence, I continued my walk but signified to my secretary to join the group and listen. Later, my secretary reported that never had he seen in the works of all the philosophers anything that compared to the teachings of Jesus. He told me that Jesus was neither seditious nor rebellious, so we extended to Him our protection. He was at liberty to act, to speak, to assemble and to address the people. This unlimited freedom provoked the Jews — not the poor but the rich and powerful.
    Later, I wrote to Jesus requesting an interview with Him at the Praetorium. He came. When the Nazarene made His appearance I was having my morning walk and as I faced Him my feet seemed fastened with an iron hand to the marble pavement and I trembled in every limb as a guilty culprit, though he was calm. For some time I stood admiring this extraordinary Man. There was nothing in Him that was repelling, nor in His character, yet I felt awed in His presence. I told Him that there was a magnetic simplicity about Him and His personality that elevated Him far above the philosophers and teachers of His day.
    Now, Noble Sovereign, these are the facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth and I have taken the time to write you in detail concerning these matters. I say that such a man who could convert water into wine, change death into life, disease into health; calm the stormy seas, is not guilty of any criminal offense and as others have said, we must agree — truly this is the Son of God.

    Your most obedient servant,
    Pontius Pilate

    Respectfully, jck

  5. Jennifer says:

    It shows maturity and wisdom that you didn’t argue with or try to persuade the man you mentioned at the beginning of your post.

    Hopefully God doesn’t care too much about how we look! As an aging beauty queen, that thought consoles me. :)

  6. workingclass artist says:

    It’s interesting that while the earliest images of Jesus beyond symbols were influenced by Roman portrait imagery…The development of Byzantine visual iconography was likely influenced by the Mandylion.

    A scholar has recently proven that the Mandylion of Edessa and the Shroud of Turin are one in the same by discovering the documented evidence forgotten in the Vatican archives describing The Templars removing the Mandylion from Edessa to France. The common characteristics of the “Face of Christ” seems to be based on the shroud and were passed down in artistic tradition. It’s astonishing to see how alike they are when aligned together with the shroud.

    As Christianity spread through Europe each culture interpreted the appearance of Christ to reflect themselves and this has become tradition because in Japan he often looks a bit like the Japanese, as does the Virgin and in Africa he often looks African etc.

    I for one love the early Byzantine iconography and the relationship to the Shroud of Turin because these reflect a fervent sincerity toward authenticity by the artists who sought to portray Christ using the shroud as guide.

    As for me I think Jesus looked like the man we see on the Shroud and the one we see in our hearts.

    Great article Msgr. Pope

  7. Lisa says:

    Great article Msgr. I think God cares a great deal about beauty as any artist would. I just think he doesn’t want us preoccupied with it as the fallen creatures that we are. What we see as our own physical aesthetic flaws can be edifying in a way if we think of it as a reflection of our true selves on a journey to perfection. Didn’t some of the saints who had visions of holy souls describe them as amazingly beautiful? So, your speculation I am assuming is only of Jesus prior to his resurrection. Is that why you did not mention the image of divine mercy? I would think that would have the most accurate depiction of Jesus. However, I do seem to remember hearing of St. Faustina in tears over the inadequacy of the painting. So, maybe not.

  8. Wendell says:

    @Becca

    Likewise for me. The Shroud image suffices.

  9. Steve Murray says:

    I can’t imagine why you would back out of this confrontation. Jesus of Nazareth was a semite, not an african.What he looked like, you are right, is not that important. But Jews at that time did not resemble Africans. There are Africans who belong to the Jewish religion today, but they are not ethnically Jewish.

    • Well, you answered your own puzzlement, “It is not that important” And, while you say he was Semite, anthropologically it is debated exact what qualities Semites possessed or if there was any variance among them . I do realized that they did not look like sub-Saharan Africans.

  10. Agus says:

    @ Ms. Judith C. Kessel,
    Thank you for exposing such letter I never read before. It gives one more proof that He once lived in our world, be human and die for us. Thanks & GBU

  11. Peter Wolczuk says:

    This article, especially the letter attributed to Pontius Pilate, reminded me of an objective study done by comparing peoples’ attractiveness to their intelligence and, which I had read quite some time ago. Fortunately, I quickly found a site by Psychology Today which reported an objective test that was done by having people rate attractiveness and comparing it to the IQ, as meaured in the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test. The ones who were rating the attractiveness didn’t know the IQ of the subjects whose beauty they were rating, however there was a marked tendency to rate the more intelligence as the moreattractive. “http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundamentalist/200903/beautiful-people-are-more-intelligent-i”
    This may not “prove” anything about the appearance of one individual and, His appearance is not about the best genetic choice for siring children but, rather, about whether He is indeed “God among us” so that many other factors (humility, as in “humble in heart” Matthew 11:29) may be involved.
    Also, cosmetics can artificially enhance the rating of a person’s attractiveness – in a general way – but I don’t see the Christ, the Messiah, the Annointed One resorting to such trickery, which seems to make a person appear more desirable as a mate for contributing genetic quality.
    So, for what it’s worth, here is a little more information.

  12. Alison says:

    I in no way mean disrespect, but to me the image on the Shroud of Turin looks exactly like depictions of Zeus. If only we could travel back in time and sort the facts from the myths. But then again, what exactly would we get from the knowledge of Jesus’ appearance? As you write “that the Bible has so little to say about the physical appearance of Jesus or most of the main figures gives an indication that such facts were of less significance,” I think is key.

  13. David F says:

    Great post I’ve always disliked both the Flemish Christs and the black African ones. I favor the notion that he was Semitic in appearance, but then I’m from Jewish descent. We all want the same thing: Christ should look like us. We see similar things in the various visions of Our Lady. Again Our Lady appears as a local. God and the Blessed Mother conform to our notions and meet us where we’re at for our benefit out of generosity. Ultimately I pray we’ll all find out exactly what Jesus looks like in the joy of heaven.

    • dhris awo says:

      dont dislike the flemish Christs or the black African Christs. Embrace them. All of us – north eurepean, east european, asian, indian, sub-saharan african, tasmanian, pygmy, aztec, etc – belong to the same tribe. The tribe of Judah and his brothers. Never separate them. They will not be separated in heaven.

  14. teomatteo says:

    In a similiar vein, It seems that St. Mary Magdalene is always depicted as a big darked eyed, shapely beauty. Even Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion of the Christ’ had an acctrative ital. actress play her part. The bible says nothing about her looks. She could have been an aged, toothless, stooped woman. Still a Saint, still an inspiration, but very average in her ‘appearance’.

  15. bj says:

    I think of Him more as a “master of disguise”. LOL based mostly upon accounts such as John 21. I look for Him everywhere. I am absolutely convinced that He has shown up in several people that I’ve come across along the way. I’m probably just crazy.

  16. Nathan says:

    1) The Shroud seems like the best we have to go on. Also, I’d be hesitant to dismiss the traditional depiction of Christ, in favor of one tht looks more like another ethnic group. It’s always a disappointment to see an unrecognizable image of Our Lord, one which has to be explained to be Christ.

    2) As to the forensic reconstruction, it is simply absurd that someone would take a random first c. Jewish skull to rebuild the face of anyone (except that particular man). Could you imagine taking a random skull from 18th c. America and, in contradiction to any known image of the man, reconstruct Washington’s face? The results would be ridiculously inaccurate.

    3) As to the traditional long hair. I’d point out that Jews who took the Nazirite Vow, such as Sampson, kept their hair long. Long hair would certainly not be out of the question.

    4) as to whether Christ was plain, as a commenter above suggested, I’d tend toward the opposite, that His was the most beautiful Face on Earth. First, because He was without sin. Second, because His Face was the closest thing to the Beatific Vison one could experience.

    God Bless.

  17. David F says:

    I think the real answer is that He looks like our neighbor

  18. Sojourner says:

    I have actually wondered about this from a different perspective. If I am made in the image and likeness of God then some of me must look like Jesus; in fact all of us must carry some resemblance to him. This is more than whimsy though because Mother Teresa encouraged us to “see” Christ in others. So I wonder; do others see Christ in me? Do I really look to find Christ in others and when I find Him how do I respond? Am I a sister who looks with love on her brother? Do I rejoice to find Him in my life? Ultimately what Jesus used to look like is less important than what He looks like today. For me he looks like bread and wine but through the great mystery of transubstantiation He is truly present. How deep are the mysteries of God.

  19. Peony Moss says:

    Thank you Monsignor. Concerning the appearance of Our Lord’s hair – what about the Mosaic laws concerning the cutting of the hair?

  20. Tom T says:

    As I recall from several Gospels, after our risen Lord returned, He was not immediately recognized by the Apostles, ‘on the shores, walking with Jesus on the way to Emmaus,’ even Mary at the tomb thought He was the gardener, which leads me to conclude we all change in some mysterious ways after death but are still recognizable. Personally, I really don`t care, why cling to something of this earth. All I know is I love Him, and by the way, if you look hard enough in love you can see Him today in other people and they may not look the way you think He looked. Pax.

    • Javier H. von Sydow says:

      Peter, James and John got an early look at this when the Lord was transfigured in Mt. Tabor. Something happens with the resurrected body…

  21. RichardGTC says:

    I think the best evidence against the Shroud of Turin being real is in the Catholic Encyclopedia On-line (entry for the Shroud: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13762a.htm) I think it is much more likely that the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is real, though, of course, they could both be real.

  22. I Like The Church Fathers says:

    Ancient peoples in general were no less concerned with physical appearance than us moderns. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Etruscans, Persians and others were heavily preoccupied with peoples’ physical appearance and artistic representations [often, but not always, idealized] of such. Ancient writers such as Tacitus and Suetonius often provided detailed written descriptions of peoples’ appearance.

    The reason that we don’t have contemporary representations or descriptions of Jesus’ physical appearance is because depictions of people were forbidden in ancient Jewish culture. Ancient Jewish art contains no images of people. Early Christianity had Jewish origins and this is partly why several of the early Church Fathers, such as Irenaeus, Eusebius and Clement of Alexandria disapproved of the making of images of Christ. The Calvinists later seized on this as a justification for prohibiting images; Calvinists banned images because that’s what they did in the early, more “pure” Church.

    However, as Christianity grew apart from its Jewish routes and became more firmly enmeshed in the broader Greco-Roman Hellenistic culture, it came to embrace depictions of Christ, the apostles and the saints. This started to happen as early as the 3rd century.

    Early Christian iconography appears to be based largely on the ancient [and probably supernatural] examples of the Shroud of Turin, the Image of Edessa and the Veil of Veronica. These images were copied and disseminated throughout the ancient Mediterranean. They generally all portray a lean-faced man with a dark beard and fairly long dark hair. Arguably the greatest early representation of Jesus [Peter and Paul are also depicted] is the mosaic in Santa Pudenziana in Rome, made around the year 400 [if you go to Rome, you have to visit this small, ancient Church, a short walk from Santa Maria Maggiore; it's the Philippines' national church in Rome and the people there are very friendly]:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/56/Apsis_mosaic%2C_Santa_Pudenziana%2C_Rome_photo_Sixtus_enhanced_TTaylor.jpg

  23. David from San Francisco says:

    The Shroud of Turin, plus the Holy Face of Manopello is sufficient for me. http://holyfaceofmanoppello.blogspot.com/

    The two images’ faces are identical in shape and form, only difference is open eyes in the Face of Manoppello…

    I personally do not care about skin color.

  24. Bender says:

    “What Did Jesus Look Like?”

    What does Jesus look like? What did Jesus look like in His temporal, pre-Resurrection state? And what does the Risen Lord look like in His glorified Body?

    What does the Body of Christ look like? The Body of Christ, that is to say, the Church, is universal (catholic) – it has a universal look. It is not limited or constricted to any one race or ethnicity, but embraces them all.
    ________________

    Jesus is an historical figure, but that does not mean that we must imprison Him within the bonds of history. Beyond the historical outlook, we should have an eschatological view, looking to the fullness of time. Jesus transcends the temporal; He transcends the physicality of this world.

    Jesus looks like each of us. But what is more important is that we look like Him, and that we see Him in everyone we encounter.

    Jesus Himself already made clear that when you do any work of mercy for another, you are doing it for Him, such that Jesus looks like that every person of every race.

  25. Xavier Abraham says:

    When the Word became flesh, men had the privilege to see, hear, and touch the one who was previously invisible to them. By taking flesh, Christ came into a family like ours, lived in the midst of a people and within the boundaries of a place with distinct culture and history of its own. Christ wore, ate, worked, and led the social life of a typical Galiliean. But Christ was not confined to a particular culture. In fact, if it was His will, He could have as well chosen the Sub-Saharan desert or the Japanese culture, to render His self for the redemption of mankind.

    These images of Christ, with a distinct ethnic like East European or African, are the cultural expressions to cloth the Incarnated Word. It was required to tell the story of Christ to the unknown, to teach, to help the faithful to focus on, and thus immensely helping the piety of the people. Historical accuracy is not the objective. Probably it was at the time when long hair was a norm that Jesus’ images with long hair dominated. St.Michael has the attire of Roman soldier, which was a powerful symbol of protection. Traditions imprinted those images into our subconscious that we cannot imagine a Jesus with short hair or dark complexion. But whenever Christianity reach new shores, the problem of early Christianity re-surfaces – we want a means to express our faith to the unknown. It’s vital to express the simple faith by the cultural expressions of that place. An evangeliser, like St.Paul, must be ready to shed his own cultural expressions and embrace a new, say Jesus of Indian ethnic, for the sake of faith. Else, we may be asked, “How is that you force these people follow your customs ?” (~Galatians 2/14).

  26. Bob Easley says:

    It would appear that some people want create God, Jesus, in the image that they are willing to accept. Sad.

  27. Bill M. says:

    “About suffering they were never wrong, The old Masters: how well they understood . . . ” – Auden

    As to the old masters, my own preference is for the Jesus of El Greco’s ‘Christ Carrying the Cross’, and also ‘The Spoliation’ — faces full of mercy, beauty, suffering, strength. Another friend prefers Rembrandt’s Head of Christ, still another Sallman’s 1941 classic. YMMV . . .

  28. Joseph says:

    I was part of a congregation listening to Marian Fathers from Stockbridge MA giving presentations on the Divine Mercy Devotion. At one they took an actual sized copy of the Shroud of Turin, put a copy of the picture of Jesus composed according to Sr. Faustina’s instructions right behind it, and a bright light behind that. There was a collective gasp in the congregation because the features of Jesus the Divine Mercy fit perfectly into the face on the Shroud. It was amazing.

  29. Jeannie says:

    Jesus was of Semitic origin on His mother’s side, by inheriting her DNA. But what constituted the rest of His genetic make up nobody really knows – He may well not have looked typically Jewish.

    • Howard says:

      EXCEPT that such a difference would have drawn obvious attention to Him. It’s pretty clear that there was nothing really exceptional about His appearance; the locals thought that He really was the son of St. Joseph (who was also Jewish), and even Isaiah 53:2 surely does not mean that He was *ugly* (though, after the scourging, He must have looked terrible), but rather that it was not His appearance that made Him attractive, but His inner being. Remember, the Israelites favored Saul as their first king in large part because he was tall and handsome, whereas even the Prophet Samuel was not impressed by the appearance of young David. Well, Jesus is the Son of David, not the son of Saul.

  30. dhris awo says:

    For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius[a] a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place; 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. 5 Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’[b] 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20 .

    It does not matter the race or appearance of the Lord Jesus. He welcomes us all into his vineyard. And the reward is equal.

  31. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    Isn’t it funny how people who complain about profiling are defensively willing to describe the appearance of someone they know little or nothing about, someone they never saw, who never had a picture made of Himself, hasn’t walked the face of the earth in 2,000 years and has no traceable ancestors or physical body relics. Even his own apostles and closest followers didn’t recognize Him upon first seeing Him after His resurrection. Christ probably looked more like Michael Jackson after all his plastic surgeries and skin bleachings, by the time Christ had completed His transfiguration and ascention into heaven. Maybe that would satisfy the culturally sensitive relativists.

    • dhris awo says:

      from the evil of racism and ethnicism which really is paganism, Good Lord Jesus deliver us Catholics (and Christians)

  32. garym says:

    All of us are made in His image and likeness.

    You were correct to see the trap set for you.

  33. Philip Sandstrom says:

    An interesting reference to the appearance of Barnabas and Paul is the incident in Acts 14, where the pagan priest wants to sacrifice a bull to the gods. Verses 11 &12 say “The gods have come down to us in human form. Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.” Since Paul is called Hermes — he might also be bow-legged and short, which could explain the pain he would like to be rid of, but would explain also his proficiency as a ‘tent-maker’. This identification choice of which god is named for Barnabas and Paul could also be because of their resemblance to the ‘standard iconography’ for Zeus and Hermes.

  34. Howard says:

    This is just another version of the “Scandal of Particularity”. Jesus is not some mythological god who might have been born in Athens, or in Babylon, or in Thebes, or in New York, maybe in 500 B.C., maybe in 800 B.C., maybe in A.D. 1980. We know when He was born, where He was born, and to what Mother and tribe He was born. He came to save people of “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation,” but He was not born into “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” If someone rejects the true Christ, does he really benefit by accepting an imaginary one more soothing to his ethnic pride? I doubt it.

  35. dhris awo says:

    7 But when he (John the Baptist) saw many of the Pharisees and Sad′ducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit that befits repentance, 9 and do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Matthew 3.
    If a pygmy from the camerounian mountains wants to think of the Lord Jesus as a member of his tribe and the icon of the Lord Jesus as such helps him in his spiritual life, why should another christian object? I dont think the Lord Jesus objects.

  36. JimShoe says:

    What of Jesus’ mother? Is it not a scientific fact that mitochondrial DNA comes from the mother? I don’t know, it seems a valid insight to be looked at. Then again, looking at the scriptures he seemed rather “ordinary” (i.e. Is 53). And even at Gethsemane the soldiers couldn’t tell him apart from others as Judas had to point him out. Either way what’s the difference? His message is what was ‘earth shattering’.

  37. dhris awo says:

    Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 And he became hungry and desired something to eat; but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heaven opened, and something descending, like a great sheet, let down by four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “No, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has cleansed, you must not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

    17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision which he had seen might mean,,, (Acts 10)

  38. TeaPot562 says:

    Christ is both Our Lord and our brother. Perhaps each of us might wash our face, then look into a mirror. If we were scrubbed clean of personal sin as soap can clean us from dirt, our face might reflect that; And if we prayed often, communing with God, the face might reflect that also. Love for others, each of us individually would also be reflected as well as intelligence.
    When the BVM has appeared in visions, she has typically appeared as a member of the local ethnic group. Her image at Guadelupe is that of an Aztec princess.
    Just a couple of thoughts.
    TeaPot562

  39. [...] Monsignor Charles Pope offers some thoughts about the appearance of Jesus Christ. [...]

  40. Altimon Kelly says:

    The sand tribe off west africa are the oldest known people on the planet. The are not deep black skin like nigirians but brown. They look like asians,indians,And blacks all mixed up. They did not look european. A white skin european man preaching in the sun for months no way. None of the older people in north africa looks white, except for allthe european that invaded the area i n the last several hundred years. So you people in the middle have dark skin and you white europeans still paint Jesus pale white. You even paint his followers white , yet he is in a dark skin peoples land.my father is hebrew from
    ethiopia. He did not know where white jews come from but he said they are not of jacobs seed.

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