WWhat do you imagine when you imagine Jesus? Imagine a fair-skinned man with flowing light brown hair in a white kaftan? Are you trying to be more historically specific and imagine him as a Middle Eastern man with tan or dark skin, dark hair, brown eyes, and maybe a beard? Or do you imagine a bald man with a monobrush, hunchbacked and patchy beard that was about four and a half feet tall? If you chose the last option, congratulations, your point of view aligns with that of the early church. While most modern artists and filmmakers portray Jesus as a dreamer, ancient Christians seem to have thought he was fairly ordinary if not, in their opinion, downright ugly.
Although scholar Joan Taylor wrote an excellent book on the subject, we don’t know what Jesus actually looked like. The Bible tells us absolutely nothing about the features of Jesus’ face. The only real interaction or discussion about his body comes after his resurrection from the dead, when the apostle Thomas says he wants to get his hands on the marks of the crucifixion. And that’s all. We don’t know how tall he was, if his nose was crooked, what his hair looked like, or if he had smooth skin. We know a bit more about his fashion sense – he advises against wearing flowing dresses in Mark 12 – and his face shone brighter than the sun during the Transfiguration. But nothing would cause you to swipe his profile to the left or to the right.
What’s odd about this is that the ancient Greeks and Romans were somewhat obsessed with the look: they provide us with extremely racist textbooks that use bodily characteristics to determine and dissect a character’s character. no one. Based on this consensus and a larger consensus, you could distinguish the type of person you are dealing with by their appearance. The Roman Emperor Augustus is described by his biographer Suetonius as “exceptionally handsome” even though he “didn’t care about personal adornment” and his eyes were so clear and bright it was almost as if they had a certain divine power. Emperor Otho, who reigned only for a few months, was less fortunate. Suetonius describes him as unmanly and effeminate: he was “with splayed feet and bandaged legs”, wore wigs to hide his hair loss, and spent a lot of time waxing his body and admiring himself in a mirror.
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