Dr. Andrew Butterworth is a Content Writer, Author, Coach, Pastor.
Images in Western art have no bearing on the historical Jesus. From the best information we have, Jesus of Nazareth grew up in a village of a hundred families. Ethnically Jewish, he wouldn’t have had long flowing hair, deep blue eyes and fair skin. Hipster Jesus is simply a fallacy.
Middle-eastern Jews in the first century were only, on average, 5ft 1in in height. In fact, most people 2000 years a go were a lot shorter than we are now. Height is based on genetics, but it is also about nutrition. Generation-on-generation we are getting taller because of better nutrition. As a Jewish peasant-artisan, Jesus wouldn’t have had access to amount of protein that is common in Western diets. Meat would have been a luxury, not a staple – so like his peers, to a modern observer, he would have been short.
And the brown eyes?
Well, definitely either brown or green. Genetically, blue eyes is a European thing and newsflash: Jesus wasn’t European (or North American!).
What about him being muscular? Well, he spent the majority of his adult life doing manual labour as a tekton, the Greek word for a skilled construction worker, carpenter or builder. Rather than having manicured delicate hands, his skin would have been weathered from outdoor work and callused.
Long hair was a no, no. Look at this passage in the Bible indicating a common cultural view at the time (1 Corinthians 11:14):
Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him
Male fashions were far more conservative, particularly among the working class.
Talking of working class, his appearance was so typically working class that towards the end of the his life Roman soldiers couldn’t tell him apart from a gathering of mainly commercial fisherman (See Matthew 26:47-9).
So what did he actually look like?
You’ve probably seen this reconstruction that medical artist Richard Neave did using skulls from Jewish males from the 1st Century. This is far more likely to be the face of Jesus than any of the one that show up in Western art:
For the sake of accuracy, it’s probably time for you to dump those original Da Vincis and Raphaels.
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