What did Jesus look like?

By Edward B. Antonio
(Part I)

I don’t know if the Christian world would condemn people for commenting adversely on the usual description of Jesus Christ. In fact, the clergymen (and women) and their devotees would not dare comment anything against Jesus, for doing so might jeopardize their religion and salvation.

Our religious culture sometimes prevents us from opening our minds to new ideas. Anybody who is against this trend might be considered an apostate or worse, a heathen.

I am a Christian, too, fellas.

Like most devotees and Muslims, I pray 5 times a day without necessarily showing it to people. The only difference, perhaps, is that my mind is not closed to new findings and ideas, for entertaining them broadens the mind.

I always entertain new ideas, weigh them, and if I see them fit, I practice them in life.

I know that when it comes to religious beliefs, there are more questions than answer.

How did Jesus actually look like? Why is he depicted today as a tall, white man with long, flowing hair? Was he actually killed for the beliefs that he preached?

Ben Norton, writer and artist, has an amusing finding: Jesus was not a white conservative but a Jewish Palestinian dissident!

The usual Jesus image that we see is a tall, white man with long, flowing hair, long beard and mustache. He usually sports the usual traditional Jewish attire with girdle (but sometimes pure white), sandals and flashing the peace sign. Churches that condone images of Christ would hang them in conspicuous places.

But forensic anthropologists otherwise!

A December 2002 Popular Mechanics article, “The Real Face of Jesus,” reads: A person with these features and physical bearing would have looked very different from everyone else in the region where Jesus lived and ministered.
According to the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane before the Crucifixion, Judas Iscariot had to indicate to the soldiers whom [sic] Jesus was because they could not tell him apart from his disciples. So, Judas had to kiss Jesus so he could be recognized by the arresting soldiers.

Further clouding the question of what Jesus looked like is the simple fact that nowhere in the New Testament is Jesus described, nor have any drawings of him ever been uncovered. There is the additional problem of having neither a skeleton nor other bodily remains to probe for DNA.

Therefore, in the absence of evidence, our images of Jesus have been left to the imagination of artists.

And so the fundamental question remains: What did Jesus look like?

An answer has emerged from an exciting new field of science: forensic anthropology. Using methods similar to those police have developed to solve crimes, British scientists, assisted by Israeli archeologists, have re-created what they believe is the most accurate image of the most famous face in human history.

Forensic anthropology, a sub-discipline in physical anthropology, draws from archeology, physical and biological sciences, genetics, auxology (the study of human growth and development), primatology, paleoanthropology (the study of primate and human evolution), human osteology (the study of the skeleton), nutrition, dentistry, and climate science in order to understand what human beings would have looked like long ago.

With the understanding that, according to the incident in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus looked like his Galilean Semite peers, scientists analyzed three well-preserved skulls that had been found near Jerusalem. Renowned forensic anthropologist Richard Neave, who specializes in recreating scientifically accurate portraits of famous historical figures (he has a book about it, Making Faces: Using Forensic and Archaeological Evidence), led a team of scientists that, with the assistance of computerized tomography, re-created the muscles and skin that would have been on top of these skulls.

To supplement their research, Neave and his team also looked at drawings from first-century archeological sites, which prove that Jesus would have had dark-colored eyes. In terms of facial hair, as a Jew, Jesus would have been bearded; biblical scholars furthermore indicate that his hair would have been short with tight curls. (In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul also says “If a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him,” suggesting that Jesus did not have long hair).

The average Semite male in Jesus’ time was 5 ft 1 in (1.55 m) in height and approximately 110 lb (50 kg). As a carpenter Jesus would probably have been more muscular, but not much bigger.

All of this of course presumes that Jesus actually existed. Most scholars do agree that there was a historical Jesus, although his life diverged greatly from that depicted in the Bible

But how come most images of Jesus nowadays depict him as a white man, fellas? And was he killed for his spiritual beliefs that he introduced to Palestine?

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