There is no doubt about what Jesus looked like while he was on the planet. He is the most typically depicted character in Western art, with his long hair and beard, long-sleeved robe (usually white), and cloak (often blue).
The question is, is it the true depiction of Jesus? Let’s explore with the help of religious notes.
What Did Jesus Look Like?
Byzantine rule lasted from the 4th century AD through the 6th century AD. The well-known image of Jesus was painted in this era. Byzantine images of Jesus were often symbolic rather than real. These designs were inspired by the altar mosaic at Rome’s Santa Pudenziana cathedral, which depicts an enthroned ruler.
The early church took influence from ancient art and the sun god Apollo (also known as Sol Invictus) by giving Jesus a halo to symbolize his divinity.
Jesus appears to be wearing a gold toga in the Gospels. This replica was built by Augustus, the Roman Emperor, to look like the famed statue of Olympian Zeus with long hair and beard. He is the ruler of the celestial spheres.
Byzantine artists depicted Christ as a younger version of Zeus to demonstrate his supremacy over the globe. As a common model of the early Jesus, the depiction of Christ is the one in paradise as a hippy interpretation.
Let’s explore from head to toe.
1. Facial Hair
As opposed to a ruler of the heavens, early Christians depicted Christ as a human person with short hair and no beard. The paintings of Jesus were found in Dura-Europos, located on the Euphrates River. Even as a wandering sage, Jesus may have decided to keep his beard because barbers were not one of his regular haunts. Moreover, it was thought that a philosopher’s scruffiness and beard differentiated him from the rest of the population.
Other than that, in the first century BC, men were expected to have a clean-shaven appearance and short hair. Hair and beard could only be worn in the divine style. Thus, even Plato, the famous Greek philosopher, shaved his head.
Since antiquity, beards were not thought to be one of the distinguishing characteristics of Jews. Jewish oppressors have faced difficulties in recognizing Jews at various points in history. The Juda Capta coinage depicted Jewish captives with beards during Rome’s assault of Jerusalem in 70AD.
Jesus had a natural appearance as a philosopher with a short beard. He might have had short hair like the males represented on the coinage of the city of Capta.
He would have gotten a reaction if his hair had been longer. Nazirites can be identified by their unkempt facial hair and significantly longer hair. They used to shave their heads in a special rite held in the temple in Jerusalem after a month of fasting, alcohol abstention, and hair neglect.
2. Facial Features
What can we say about the features of Jesus’ face? They identified themselves as Jewish when asked. In Paul’s letters, Jesus was a Judean. The Book of Hebrews offers even another reason to believe that Jesus was descended from the tribe of Judah. During Jesus’ early career, Luke records him as being 30 years of age.
Based on a real human skull found in the Galilee region in 2001, Richard Neave, the replica Galilean man, was built for the BBC’s Son of God show. He didn’t mean to imply that it was Jesus’ face. We don’t know anything about Jesus’ appearance from the Gospels. Consequently, this was just a way for people to imagine him in his time and place.
Affluent men in Jesus’ time wore long robes to show off their wealth and social status. A warning from Jesus: “Beware of the scribes,” referring to those who sought honor in the marketplace, prominence in synagogues, and positions of honor during feasts by wearing long robes (stolai).
In light of the overwhelming consensus that the Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ words are the most historically accurate, you can safely believe that Jesus did not wear these garments.
Women were required to wear knee- or ankle-length tunics when exchanging tunics with men in Jesus’ day. Seeing a woman named Thecla in a short (male) outfit in the 2nd Century Acts of Paul was a surprise. These tunics featured colored bands that ran from shoulder to hem and could therefore be sewn from one piece; there was no need for multiple pieces.
The mantles’ design, grandeur, and color screamed wealth and power. For centuries, purple and other shades of blue have been linked with riches and high social status. The use of expensive dyes allowed these regal hues to come to fruition.
Josephus implies that the colors may have a deeper significance. He believed that genuine men should wear unbleached clothing until they have the highest social standing.
On the other hand, Jesus never dressed in all white during his lifetime. Jews who followed the rigorous interpretation of Jewish law known as Essenes used a particular dye that required chalking or bleaching before use.
On a mountainside in Mark 9, three of Jesus’ disciples join him in prayer, and he releases an outpouring of light. Mark describes Jesus’ himatia as glistening or extremely white as no fuller on earth could bleach them. A fuller would have received Jesus’ undyed wool before his transfiguration. Mark depicts him as an average man before the transformation. He was reborn in the image of God’s grandeur.
When the Roman troops broke Jesus’ hisatia into four pieces during his execution, Christians got to learn more about his attire. A tallith, a Jewish prayer shawl, could have been one of the garments he wore. According to the New International Version of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus mentions a lengthy, tassel-studded mantle. This piece was made of unbleached, cream-colored woolen cloth and most likely had an indigo stripe or threading
Jesus used sandals as his preferred footwear. Everyone wore sandals. Sandals belonging to Jesus have been discovered in caverns near the Dead Sea and Masada in the desert. These sandals consist of leather pieces sewed together in the sole with a pair of leather straps passing through the instep to keep the shoes in place.
That’s everything we know about Jesus’ appearance. No matter how he looked, his services for his disciples and his sacrifice for the afterlife are far greater than anything you might see on paper.