The truth is, for all of the tens of thousands of depictions of Jesus, nobody really has even the vaguest ideas of what he looked like. Every depiction you have ever seen has been imaginings on the part of the author.

You see, the writers of the gospels were not too interested in really giving a biography of Jesus per se. Rather, they were attempting to describe the life and doings of a figure whom they were trying to construct a religion around. They wanted something to show to members of the early church that would strengthen and broaden its power, not something that would provide an in depth, down to earth description of their supposed christ. Therefore, they left a lot of things out--what Jesus' personality was really like, the precise nature of his family and lineage, and what he looked like. It seems to me that if you were trying to write a religious book about a messiah that you wanted other people to revere and believe in, you wouldn't want to make him too realistic and down to earth, since such a portrait would just make him seem more terrestrial. Rather, you would want to make him seem ethereal and majestic, and the only good way to do that would be to make him vague and mysterious by nature, since any concrete depiction would fall well short of an individual's preconceptions of what the son of god would be like. Think of monster movies: when the monster hides in the darkness killing people, he is scary and captivating because he is unknown. If he comes out of the shadows later on, he invariably falls short of expectations. And it's even worse when he's running around onscreen the entire time, since after the first five minutes, you've kind of acclimated.

Right, then. So the question is what did Jesus really look like. The usual picture you see everywhere of a really light skinned, blond guy with delicate bones is probably wrong. Think of the pictures of ancient Rabbis you've seen; none of them look anything like that. Yes, even then, war, migrations, and the like had polluted the gene pool to the point where there probably were Jews who had blond hair and light skin, but Jesus most likely had darkish skin, hair, and eyes. This is a far cry from the traditional western portraits of Jesus, and even farther from the pictures from the Greek Orthodox Church, which show him as kind of greenish skinned, limping, and with uneven legs. He also probably looked fairly normal and was lacking in glowing halos hovering atop his head, since none of the people he went and hung around with immediately recognized him as the messiah. Furthermore, he probably had shortish hair, since Paul wrote a bit in the New Testament where he said that long hair was disgraceful, and Paul probably wouldn't disrespect the Lord Thy God like that.

"But, man," sayeth you, "stop jerking me around. Forget the probablys and maybes. In the end, what did the Christ really look like?" The answer (if there is one): any way you want him to.

So I was listening to some lecture the other day, and the lecturer mentioned something about Daniel prophesizing pretty definitively about the coming of Jesus and what not. Now, I hadn't read The Book of Daniel in quite a long time, but I recall his visions as being incredibly strange and ambiguous, so after the lecture was over, I looked it up. . .among other things, it mentions the coming of one like the Son of Man and that this character will have "hair of his head like the pure wool." (Daniel 7:9) My Bible cross references this with Revelations 1:14 which says of the Son of Man "his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow." I don't see any mention of ebony colored skin, but this might be the thing Quad is seizing upon. . .The problem that both of these descriptions take place during apocalyptic visions, which are crazy, metaphor ridden, and painfully ambiguous.

I happened to remember right about Daniel: his vision, as I mentioned, does speak of the Son of Man, and he does speak of God's coming dominion, but his terms and descriptions are about as clear as mud. It is amidst all sorts of crazy stuff involving dragons, horns, and beasts. The traditional reading is that these aren't visions about the end of the world, but rather an allegory about history: the warring among these dragons and beasts is not about Judgement, but rather about these pagan nations fighting and swollowing eachother up - the author is simply describing history as he knows it to be in a veiled language in order to stay out of trouble with the state. Keeping with this idea, the one as the Son of Man is not the Messiah; rather, it is the concept of a Jewish ruled Zion. Where the other kingdoms, the pagan kingdoms, were in the forms of wild monsters, the Jewish kingdom would be strong and enlightened - it would be as a white clad man in comparison with these beasts. It should be mentioned that the term "Son of Man" was not coined for Jesus, nor was it a classical Messianic title. Rather, it seems to simply have been a way of saying "man" (Ezekiel was also referred to as the Son of Man, and he definitely was no Messiah). So using Daniel as proof of Jesus having woolly hair seems a bit specious. . .

As for Revelations, that quote seems to offer a much greater deal of proof. It seems to me that John, regardless if he were writing about the ultimate coming of the Messiah at Judgement or, as some have conjectured, in some kind of allegory about the past, present, or future, he seems to have had the vision of Jesus firmly in mind. Barring any questions of John actually having seen Jesus, my problem with using this last as proof of Jesus being definitively black and having wooly hair is chiefly one of semantics: he does not claim that Jesus' hair felt like wool; rather, he says that Jesus' hair was as white as wool. John is not making a statement about the hair's quality or feeling, but rather simply about its color.

Ultimately, because of these ambiguities, my conclusion is as it was before: there is no definitive description of who Jesus was and exactly what he looked like. It seems to me, at the very last, this is all one is left with: Jesus Christ is a personal messiah. He supposedly suffered for a personal salvation, and will later personally come to save the righteous. By this, he is your personal savior, and hence must look as you envision him appearing.
The Rastafarians say that scriptures prophesized him as a person with "the hair of whose head was like wool, whose feet were unto burning brass". This is where the ebony skin colour comes from in Quad's writeup.

Of course, to them, it's very easy to find out what Jesus looked like. Just do a web search for Ras Tafari or Haile Selassie.

References: virtually any page on Rastafarianism on the web. They all seem to be almost verbatim duplicates of eachother.

According to legend, the location of the First Church is obvious: the site of the Last Supper in Jerusalem,  which was also the room where Pentecost occurred, and so on. That is the Centacle, and, as with every other even semi-Biblical site in the area, is the location of a lavish place of worship.

I am not so sure. As with most of these sites, their actual location is 'traditional', that is, established some centuries after the fact, so what was the second church?

Christianity differs quite sharply with paganism (and even Judaism) in at least one regard: pagan temples were meant as homes for Gods, not places for people to congregate. While some rites were, in fact, celebrated in public, these tended to be on the steps, or at the door of the temple. Inside, there might be a lamp or reed burning for the priests to find their way around, but aside from an image with a waist-high column in front, the room might be entirely featureless and dark.

     Christian churches, on the other hand, were where people were. Many people at one time believed that the Early Christians met in the catacombs of major cities, but, as many people have seen when they actually tour them, there just isn't enough room for more than perhaps a dozen to meet at a time. Therefore, the earliest churches were most often located in family homes, in a very convenient place.

     Most Roman houses, as you can see in diagrams, were in the form of two square suites, set one in back of the other. Originally, most families lived in a single round (or squarish) room, with a fireplace in the center and a walled yard in the back. As villages became cities, however, and overall prosperity increased, people began to curtain, and then to wall off little niches off this central room. Then, the walled garden in the back began to sprout a covered colonnade and from thence, more rooms. At the last, the rooms nearest the street would be walled off on the inside, and rented out for apartments and small businesses, leaving a large, often sooty-walled, space in the front with a hole in the roof, called the Black Room, or atrium, that most people had little use for, other than as a large corridor, with a decorative pool in the center. Some of the wealthier families used it as a kind of home office,  somewhat extraneous for a small family, but ideal for gathering with a mixed group who might, as the need arose, read, sing and eat together, give one of their number a lustral bath, or engage in a little clandestine activity.  ("Christians? I thought they were holding orgies!")

     It is in this kind of church, in a city called Dura-Europos, in Syria that one might see the closest thing we have to a portrait of Jesus, painted about 232 AD.

It's on a panel about four feet high, and forms the upper part of a wall near the font. People who only know it from the Internet don't know it, and if you didn't know who or what to look for, the figures would look almost like a classical graffito or a child's drawing: a tall figure, carrying a bed frame, another figure lying on a similar bed, and, almost as an afterthought, a short, shaved man with short curly hair in a calf-length tunic pointing towards the bed. An imaginative viewer can see piercing eyes and high cheekbones.  (It's also darker and redder than what you can see in published images.)

This. Is. Jesus.

The resemblance of this figure to Tolkein's drawings of hobbits is frightening. My mind is flashing to every crucifixion that I've ever seen, to the Children's Book of Bible Stories, to the thought: yes, He was of humble birth, though of a royal lineage, a man, like many other men, though born to greatness…and he looks like a hobbit?

Sorry if this upends someone's major mythology. Jesus was short, with curly short hair, and not at all 'regal' or 'royal' in his person. He looks like, well, given the circumstances, anyone of 'the people' in that period.  But, isn't that the point?

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.