What Did Jesus Really Look Like?

What did Jesus look like? A new book by Joan E. Taylor, professor of Christian origins and Second Temple Judaism at King's College London, attempts to answer questions about his skin and hair color, height, and attire.

The Gospels do not describe Jesus physically, but we think we know what he looked like thanks to all the images we have, writes Taylor in an article published in Irish Times.

"The early depictions of Jesus that set the template for the way he continues to be depicted today were based on the image of an enthroned emperor and influenced by presentations of pagan gods. The long hair and beard are imported specifically from the iconography of the Graeco-Roman world. Some of the oldest surviving depictions of Jesus portray him as essentially a younger version of Jupiter, Neptune or Serapis."

These images were not aimed at showing Jesus as a man, "but to make theological points about who Jesus was as Christ (King, Judge) and divine Son," adds Taylor, author of What Did Jesus Look Like?

After consulting experts on ancient skeletons in Israel, the author learned that Judaeans of Jesus' time were closest biologically to Iraqi Jews of the contemporary world. "In terms of a colour palette then, think dark-brown to black hair, deep brown eyes, olive-brown skin. Jesus would have been a man of Middle Eastern appearance. In terms of height, an average man of this time stood 166 cm (5 ft 5 in) tall."

Jesus wore a tunic, called a chiton in Greek, Taylor writes, adding that it finished slightly below the knees.

"Tunics were made of two pieces sewn at the shoulders and sides," the author explains in another article in Sri Lanka Guardian. "One-piece tunics in first-century Judaea were normally thin undergarments or children's wear. We shouldn't think of contemporary underwear, but wearing a one-piece on its own was probably not good form. It was extremely basic."

That's what Jesus wore.

"Perhaps it is unsurprising, then, that Jesus was remembered as looking shabby by a scholar named Celsus, writing in the mid second century, in a treatise against the Christians. Celsus did his homework," she adds. "He interviewed people, and he – like us – was quite interested in what Jesus looked like."

In 2015, British scientists, assisted by Israeli archeologists, re-created what they believed was the most accurate image of the face of Jesus in human history. And they managed to do this as a result of forensic anthropology, which uses methods similar to those police have developed to solve crimes.

"Matthew's description of the events in Gethsemane offers an obvious clue to the face of Jesus. It is clear that his features were typical of Galilean Semites of his era. And so the first step for Neave and his research team was to acquire skulls from near Jerusalem, the region where Jesus lived and preached. Semite skulls of this type had previously been found by Israeli archeology experts, who shared them with Neave," said the report in Esquire.

However, evangelist Billy Graham has said one day all Christians will know what he looks like, and suggested that the Bible may avoid providing a description of Jesus because God wanted Christians to stay away from worshipping idols.