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How Does the Bible Describe Jesus Christ’s Appearance?

Jesus Christ's appearance.

People who lived over 2,000 years ago must have been very lucky to have a one-on-one encounter with Jesus Christ. It must have been amazing interacting with the Son of God, a man who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit one-on-one. Walking with Him and seeing Him perform different miracles in His human form must have been very wonderful. People who were the luckiest of them all were His 12 disciples.

Jesus Christ's appearance.
Portrait of ‘Jesus Christ’

They personally interacted with Him in His physical form from the time He chose them as His disciples to the time He died and ascended to heaven. He prayed with them, taught them how to pray, and went with them to different regions. But for us who did not have the opportunity to interact with Jesus when He was in His physical form, we wonder what Jesus looked like.

Was He black or white? How tall or short was He? The Bible remains silent on the specifications of the appearance of Jesus Christ. This silence sparked curiosity, questions, and imagination about the looks of Jesus. 

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What the Bible Says About the Appearance of Jesus

Some of the disciples of Jesus wrote very informative messages about the life of Jesus Christ on earth. They wrote about His birth, circumcision, dedication, ministry, and death. However, they wrote nothing concerning His earthly appearance. None of them revealed to us in the Scriptures what Jesus looked like. This has prompted various artistic depictions of Jesus Christ’s physical appearance throughout history.

Personally, I grew up knowing that Jesus looked like the person who plays the role of Jesus in the famous movie ‘Passion of Christ.’ Whenever anyone talked about Jesus, that man’s image is what would come into my mind. If we had been given a description of the physical appearance of Jesus, we would not have likened Him to anyone who plays the role of Jesus in movies. 

When we read the New Testament, most especially the first four Books, we find great life-changing teachings that are relevant for today. Most of these teachings were taught by Jesus and touched on different aspects of life.

The authors direct us to the work that Jesus did on earth but do not reveal to us anything about His earthly appearance. However, we can learn from some of the Scriptures that seem to give us a hint about the appearance of Jesus in His earthly form.

“He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem.”

Isaiah 53:2-3

In these Scriptures, we are told that Jesus Christ had no special appearance that distinguished Him from other people. Isaiah writes that He was not attractive and had nothing that could make people attracted to Him. This is the main reason why the Jews, the teachers of the law, and the Pharisees despised Him.

Jesus Christ's appearance.
Portrait of ‘Jesus Christ’ getting baptized.

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The ordinary appearance of Jesus did not meet their expectation of what a Messiah should look like. They expected someone who looked radiant with shiny eyes and an outstanding appearance. Maybe they expected Him to be strong, tall, and very attractive. But Jesus was ordinary and of medium height. He was neither tall nor strong.

From the story of Lazarus, the tax collector, we can tell Jesus was actually of medium height. Luke 19:3-4 reads, “He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him since Jesus was coming that way.”

If Jesus was tall, Lazarus would not have had to climb a tree for him to see Jesus even though he himself was short. He could have seen Jesus among the crowds, but since He was medium height, Lazarus could not spot Him from the crowds.

Consider the appearance of Goliath, the Philistine giant that scared the Israelites to the borne. If Goliath was in a crowd of say 50 people, anyone could easily identify him from afar because of his appearance. But with Jesus it was different; this could not happen with Jesus when he was in the midst of the crowds because he was medium height.          

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Some Bible Scholars argue that the Book of Revelation 1:14-15 describes the appearance of Jesus Christ; “The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.” They say that Jesus must have had white hair (as white as snow), brown eyes (eyes like blazing fire), and a deep voice (like the sound of rushing waters).

These Bible Scholars draw their inspiration from the characteristics that John mentioned about the appearance of Jesus in his vision. However, others argue that the characteristics that John mentioned do not describe the physical appearance of Jesus but Hid heavenly form.

Jesus Christ's appearance.
‘Jesus Christ’ in a white robe.

They claim that this is how Jesus looks like in heaven and not what He looked like while on earth. But could it be that His physical appearance was so different from how He looked in heaven? We know that the only thing that could be different was the way He shined with glory.

Consider the passage about the transfiguration of Jesus. Here, Jesus was in His earthly form but as the transfiguration was taking place, His appearance changed.

“There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.”

Matthew 17:2

When Jesus was transfigured, the only thing about Him that changed was ‘the shining.’ His clothes were the same clothes He wore before the transfiguration but became as white as snow.

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Similarly, His face did not change to a different one but only shined like the sun. This is the same thing that could have happened when John saw Jesus in his vision. His facial look had not changed from the one He had while still on earth. That is why John could easily identify Him as the Son of Man. 

“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a Son of Man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.”

Revelation 1:12-13

Jesus still looked the same though His face was brilliant. This proves to us that John’s description of Jesus in Revelation 1:14-15 reflects not only His heavenly appearance but His physical appearance too.

We can also tell the appearance of Jesus based on His origin and tribe. Jesus was a Jew and many Bible Scholars argue that His physical specifics were likely typical for an ordinary Jew of His time. They add that during the time of Jesus, a typical Jewish man had brown eyes, short black hair, and olive skin. It is believed that Jewish men at that time were not allowed to keep long hair.

Jesus Christ's appearance.
A cross on a hill.

They claimed that it was a disgrace for men to keep long hair but a source of glory for women.

“Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.”

1 Corinthians 11:14-15

All Jewish men were to have short hair except for those who had made vows as Nazarites, (Judges 16:17). From this understanding of the Jewish culture and beliefs, we can be sure that Jesus did not have long hair. 

The carvings, statues, and pictures of Jesus that we see are not real images of Him. Rather, they are only the imaginations of the artists and inspirations that come from their hearts. They are not real pictures of Jesus and they do not reflect His earthly appearance. In fact, most of them portray Jesus Christ as having long hair yet we have found out that since He was a Jew, there is no possibility of Him having long hair. 

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The Bible does not put much emphasis on the appearance of Jesus. It only focuses on His messages and His Messianic assignment that redeemed the world from the bondage of sin. This could be because God did not want us to focus on the outward appearance of Jesus but on what He had brought into the world.

Jesus Christ's appearance.
Graffiti containing the word ‘Jesus’.

God Himself does not look at the outward appearance of people but at the states of their hearts, (1 Samuel 16:7). He desires that we focus on the heart of Jesus and His teachings. If there were direct illustrations of the physical appearance of Jesus in the Scriptures, many would have ignored what matters most and focused on how they could make themselves look like Him. We would be having people today going for surgeries to look like Jesus Christ instead of longing to walk in His footsteps.

Finally, since the authors of the Bible wrote the Scriptures under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, we can conclude that it was God’s plan not to reveal every detail about the physical appearance of Jesus.

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