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Don Stewart :: What Did Jesus Look Like?

Don Stewart

A question that is asked frequently concerns the physical appearance of Jesus. People wonder if Scripture gives any direct testimony as to what Jesus looked liked physically. The answer is no. There is nothing in the Bible that describes the physical characteristics of Jesus. There are, however, a few indirect references that give us some idea of what He looked like.

His Appearance Was Not Outstanding

We can surmise from the Scripture that Jesus was not outstanding in His appearance. He was probably of average size for a man living in His day. We can deduce this from the record of His betrayal. Judas Iscariot made a pact to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. The chief priests and religious rulers wanted to be sure they had the right man. Judas said,

Whomever I kiss, he is the one; seize him (Matthew 26:48).

If Jesus had been above average in height or had some outstanding physical characteristic, then it is hard to imagine why Judas needed to point Him out. Jesus obviously did not stand out that strikingly in a group of eleven other men.

He Was Mistaken For A Gardener

At His resurrection, Mary Magdalene first thought Jesus was the gardener.

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. "Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him" (John 20:14,15).

Again, if He had some unmistakable physical characteristic, then it would be difficult to imagine Him being taken for a gardener. Even though Mary was not expecting a resurrected Christ, any outstanding physical characteristic would probably have been noticed.

Was Jesus Ugly Or Deformed?

Some take the prophecy that Isaiah makes of the Messiah to indicate He was ugly or deformed.

He has no form or comeliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him (Isaiah 53:2).

But this prophecy more likely refers either to the battered condition of His body while on the cross, or that He was merely average in His looks. Moreover, it does not explain why Jesus had to be singled out of a crowd. If He were somehow deformed, there would have been no need for a sign from Judas. Also the Scripture tells us that little children came to Jesus of their own accord. Usually children are afraid of a physical deformity because of a natural fear of the unknown. This would further indicate that there was nothing unusual about Jesus' appearance.

He Was Without Blemish

In the Old Testament, the sacrificial lamb was to be without spot or blemish. This was a picture of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who was the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Although the perfection of Jesus was spiritual, that is, He was without sin, it might also have reference to His physical characteristics. But of this point we cannot be sure.

Was A Statue Of Jesus Made?

There is the testimony of the early church father Eusebius that a statue of Jesus had been made by the woman whom Jesus healed from hemorrhaging. He said that he had seen this statue of Jesus in the city of Caesarea Philippi. The statue was ordered destroyed by order of the anti-Christian Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate.

Was A Portrait Of Jesus Made?

There is also ancient testimony that Luke, the author of the Third gospel, painted a portrait of Jesus. The early church father Eusebius mentions this fact.

What About The Shroud Of Turin?

We also have the mysterious Shroud of Turin, the purported burial cloth of Christ. If this is the actually burial cloth of Jesus, then we have an actual representation of what He looked like. However the Shroud has not been proven to be the actual burial cloth or Christ.

Summary

Though Jesus was a human being we do not know what His physical appearance was like. There are no direct descriptions of Jesus in the Scripture. The Bible is more concerned about who He was as a Person than His outer appearance. However we can infer that He was not extraordinary in His looks. He had to be picked out of a crowd of ten other men when He was betrayed. Mary Magdalene mistook Him for the gardener. Although the two disciples on the Emmaus Road were supernaturally kept from recognizing Him there is nothing in general appearance that made Him stand out from others.

Anything we can deduce about Jesus' physical appearance is only from inference. This indicates that the outward appearance was not that crucial. What was important was what was on the inside-in His heart.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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