Everyone has an idea of what Jesus looks like. As the most duplicated image in Western society, Jesus is commonly presented as a fair-skinned man with flowing long hair and a beard, wearing a cream-colored robe with long sleeves.
His face is so familiar that people claim to see him on pancakes, toast and once by a New York man who said, “I Found Jesus in My Chicken Tikka Masala.”
According to forensic experts, earlier interpretations of Jesus–in food, your mind, or in famous paintings–are likely wrong.
Thousands of Jesus paintings and drawings have been created through the ages, yet no one knows what he really looks like.
The vision of Jesus Christ, etched in our minds, is one suggested by artistic masterpieces, like Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” (1498), Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgement” (1541) or El Greco’s “Christ Carrying the Cross” (1540).
All these paintings, and appearances in popular culture are stereotypical portraits of Jesus, a long-haired man, usually blue eyed, with a robe that reveals his feet in sandals.
But there is nothing written in the New Testament offering evidence to his physical appearance, nor are there skeletal or other remains allowing a DNA analysis.
His real appearance has remained a mystery but now, experts believe they created a more accurate representation of the Son of God.
A Dutch photographer and digital artist used cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology to produce a “historically accurate” image of Jesus.
Bas Uterwijk, a specialist in algorithmic picture synthesis, explained he used a neural network trained on photographs and paintings of thousands of human faces to create the face: “I used several cultural depictions of Jesus of Nazareth of Byzantine and Renaissance origin including Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi”, and the Turin Shroud, tweaking the ethnicity to a more convincing Middle-Eastern face.”
Uterwijk said he “felt it lacked any historical accuracy,” so he “changed the hair and beard to a more credible length and style for the time and region,” and “brought in elements found in some Fayum mummy portraits, pushing the renaissance art to the background.”
He added, “The result is an artistic impression of how this man could have looked, more than it is a scientific search for an exact likeness.”
Meanwhile, British forensic experts and Israeli archaeologists developed a 3D portrait of Jesus Christ’s face by combining the study of Semite skulls with modern-day forensics techniques.
Dr. Richard Neave, the author of book of “Making Faces: Using Forensic and Archaeological Evidence,” is the brilliant mind behind many famous facial reconstructions, including King Phillip II of Macedonia (father of Alexander the Great), and King Midas.
Neave, a retired medical artist and forensics facial reconstruction expert in Britain, headed the team that used forensic anthropology to recreate the face of Jesus, an image that no one was expecting.
The images constructed suggest that Jesus Christ might have had a wide face, dark eyes, short dark hair, a bushy beard, and tanned skin. These features are typical of Galilean Semites of his era, based on a description written in the New Testament, in the Gospel of Matthew, that also says Jesus closely resembled his disciples.
Neave, formerly from the University of Manchester, emphasized that the recreation is of an adult man living at the same time and place as Jesus, but some experts say the depiction is far more accurate than the famous masterpieces.
The process involves intense analysis of cultural and archaeological data, along with techniques similar to those used in solving crimes.
The team X-rayed three Semite skulls–found earlier by Israeli archaeologists–from the same time period, and then using computerised tomography, the skulls were visually “sliced,” revealing details of their structure.
After programs calculated muscle and skin density, the experts built a digital 3D reconstruction of a face, followed by a cast of the skull, which was layered with clay to match the thickness of facial tissues previously determined by the program.
Features like the eyes, lips and nose were then added, following the predicted shape of the skulls.
What the skull analysis couldn’t do was reveal his eye color or hair style.
Further studying first century artwork from archaeological sites, from before the Bible was written, the team then theorized that Jesus had dark eyes and keeping with Jewish traditions at the time, he also likely had a beard.
Taking a clue from the bible to determine his hair style, the experts figured the Son of God wore his hair short, with tight curls, contrary to common depictions.
And, written by Paul in the bible is a passage that reads, “If a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him,” allowing the team to conclude that Jesus had shorter hair.
This depiction is very different from the long-haired image seen in the Shroud of Turin, surfaced in 1354, that some believe bears the image of Christ when he was wrapped in a cloth after his death on the cross.
Following the same steps to discover his possible height and weight, the team used skeletal remains of Semite men to determine the average build of a Jewish man in Galilee.
From this, they found that Jesus was a smaller man, likely about 5-foot-1, weighing around 110lbs.
And, because he mostly worked outside as a carpenter until he was 30, experts also hypothesize that he was tanned and had larger muscles than traditional Western arts suggests.
Replying to the story posted on Facebook, people commented with a resounding, “Amen!”
Interestingly, the new depictions are closer to the “Prince of Peace,” that was painted by Akiane Kramarik when she was only eight. Akiane said she saw the image of Jesus in her dreams and now the painting is priceless and known internationally.
Without question, the recent findings may upset some devout followers, specifically those who look for his popular image in food.
“When I put my fork down it moved a little bit of sauce around the eyes. I didn’t think anything of it, but that actually turned it into Jesus,” said Jeff Jordyn, 52, who in 2022 was eating some chicken tikka masala when suddenly he saw the face of Christ in his curry. Comparing the image in the curry to how Christ is famously portrayed in historical illustrations, Jordyn added, “This is the only time I’ve had someone appear in my food. I’m not real big on divine intervention.”
Perhaps now people will start looking for a Jesus with different physical characteristics.
Science and technology offers incredible insights into our past and it’s interesting to see what the experts did in recreating an image of Jesus.
What do you think of this story?