What did Jesus look like?

March 27, 2012 | By | 5 Replies More

I’m not yet far into Bart Ehrman’s newest book, Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. Ehrman’s answer, however (and he warns that his conclusion will annoy many non-Christians–of which he is one–and please Christians) is that a man named Jesus most definitely did exist. I’ll be posting on Ehrman’s book once I finish it.  I should also mention that Frontline has produced a show on the search for the historical Jesus [Here is the video of the entire show].

Assuming that a man named Jesus once walked on the planet, what did he look like? At Popular Mechanics, Mike Fillon discusses what Jesus must have really looked like.  Hmmm. He’s not the tall blonde haired blue-eyed British-accented guy I’ve seen in more than a couple movies.  Nor could he have been like any of the seven art images of “Jesus” created through the centuries.  And what Jesus looked like is no academic exercise.  There are real and serious real-world ramifications.  For instance, Rudy Giuliani once became perturbed at an exhibit depicting Jesus as a black man. People tend to concoct the Jesus they  worship in their own image and likeness.

What is the method by which one might recreate an image of Jesus using other Galilean Semites of his era? It’s the field of forensic anthropology, and the assumption guiding this enterprise is that Jesus would, indeed, look somewhat like most other men who lived in that area of the world.

With three well-preserved specimens from the time of Jesus in hand, [medical artist Richard Neave] used computerized tomography to create X-ray “slices” of the skulls, thus revealing minute details about each one’s structure. Special computer programs then evaluated reams of information about known measurements of the thickness of soft tissue at key areas on human faces. This made it possible to re-create the muscles and skin overlying a representative Semite skull.

What Neave has offered, then, is not actually the face of Jesus, but how Jesus likely would have looked. Here is a video showing Neave at work.

Based on this reaction, we have some confidence to say the following to European, African and Asian Christian congregations, each of which tend to display a version of Jesus that looks like themselves.  “So sorry, but Jesus didn’t look like any of you.  Will you still worship him?”

I’d love to run the following experiment.  Let’s put a big reproduction of the photo offered by Neave at the front of Christian churches all across America, right next to the altar.  Then I’d like to observe church attendance over the next few months to see how dramatically it suffers.  My prediction is that church attendance would fall by 50% within a year.

For more on this topic see this article by BBC News.

[Above Image by BBC].

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Category: Religion, Science, The Middle East

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Adam Lee says:

    I was very interested in reading Ehrman’s book initially, but was turned off by this scathing review by Richard Carrier arguing that Ehrman makes a slew of elementary historical mistakes: for example, referring to the purely hypothetical “Q” document believed to be the source of the common material in Luke and Matthew as if it were a real thing we had held in our hands.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Adam: That’s disappointing. I was intrigued by Ehrman’s introduction (that’s all I’ve read so far), which seemed somewhat contentious compared to the writing style of his previous works.

      Q? It would sound rather un-Ehrman-like for him to rely on bootstrapping. Carrier’s article is brutal. Something has apparently gone terribly wrong here. I look forward to reading Ehrman’s book and then reading the responses of those who question the existence of of the man referred to as Jesus.

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Hmmmm…
    The image looks a lot like the actor Jonathon Frakes. I would of though he would look more like Jim Caviesel.

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