What Did Jesus Really Look Like?
But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2
It’s an amazing fact, yet true: the writers of the four Gospels never gave to the world an actual description of what Jesus Christ really looked like. Nevertheless, there is an actual description of the appearance of Christ. One of the few that has survived the centuries is said to have been written by the governor of Judea, Publius Lentulus.
Writing to Tiberius Caesar, in the year 32 AD, the Judean governor wrote the following: “There lives at this time in Judea a man of singular virtue, whose name is Jesus Christ, whom the barbarians esteem as a prophet, but his followers love and adore him as the offspring of the immortal God. He calls back the dead from the graves and heals all sorts of diseases with a word or touch. He is a tall man, well‑shaped, and of amenable and reverent aspect; He has hair of a color that can hardly be matched, falling into graceful curls, waving about and very agreeably couching about his shoulders, parted on the crown of his head, running as a stream to the front after the fashion of the Nazarites. His forehead is high, large and imposing; his cheeks without spot or wrinkle, beautiful with a lovely red; his nose and mouth formed with exquisite symmetry; His beard of a color suitable to his hair, reaching below his chin and parted in the middle like a fork; His eyes, bright blue, clear and serene, look innocent, dignified, manly and mature.
“In proportion of body most perfect and captivating; his arms and hands delectable to behold. He rebukes with majesty, counsels with mildness; His whole address, whether in word or deed, being eloquent and grave. No man has seen Him laugh, yet his manners are modest and wise, a man for his extraordinary beauty and divine perfection, surpassing the children of men in every sense.”
There you have it‑‑a description said to have been written by an eyewitness in the first century. When you close your eyes and concentrate on what has just been described, a lovely image comes to your mind. You can almost see Him, right? But the question is, “Can we believe that the record which I just shared with you is authentic or, no matter how nostalgic and how lovely, must we write this description off as a clever forgery?” As much as scholars would like to accept it as genuine, it is generally believed to have been brought to the Vatican about the 9th century at a period of time when religious relics were at their peak. Human nature being what it is, we seem to always want to help God out. Yet, the spirit of what an unknown author wrote is consistent with the record of the four Gospels.
Each of the writers of the Gospels reflected a different point of view. The tax‑collector, Matthew, wrote from a very Jewish point of reference while Mark reflected more of a Roman viewpoint. Luke, the Gentile physician, who was probably from Syria, presented Christ as the perfect man, reflecting a Grecian viewpoint. John, whose Gospel describes events taking place in 21 days in the life of Jesus, spoke of Jesus as the Son of God‑‑the Savior for all men of all ages.
Taking what the four wrote in a composite, there is a great deal of information, yet no actual description of what Jesus really looked like. Why? Apparently God wanted us to realize that what Jesus did is far more important than what He looked like, and for this reason no artist ever gave to posterity an actual painting of the face of Jesus. No sculptor ever left His features chiseled in stone or cast in bronze, but the world will never escape the fact that He lived, died, and rose again. Yes, indeed!
Resource reading: Isaiah 52:13-15.