What did Jesus look like?

People have a funny idea of what Jesus looked like. Jesus of Nazareth was not white-skinned. Jesus was not European. Jesus was a Jew. Jesus lived in the land of Israel, in the Middle East. The Bible tells us that Jesus walked wherever He went, so we can easily imagine that His olive skin would have been darkened by the sun.

Jesus would not have had a neat, trimmed beard, because a command (Leviticus 19:27) in the Law of Moses , which the Bible says Jesus observed, required Jewish males to “not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.”

Hundreds of years after Jesus’ life on earth, Renaissance artists painted pictures that made Jesus look handsome. They were not accurate representations of Jesus’ likeness. The painters were following Italian traditions and the culture of Europe, rather than what the Bible says, and they certainly had never met Jesus. Sadly, their artworks continue to influence thinking to this day.

The only verse in the Bible about Jesus’ physical form, before His death and resurrection, is found in Isaiah 53:2. It says:

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him,
nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.”

In other words, the only biblical description of Jesus during His time on earth says that He was not physically attractive.

Beauty, in God’s eyes, comes from within [1 Samuel 16:7b, 1 Peter 3:3-4].

1 Samuel 16:7b

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

1 Peter 3:3-4

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

On the other hand, in contrast to the horned cartoon character that we are accustomed to seeing, the Bible tells us that the devil is handsome [Ezekiel 28:14-17] and he portrays himself as being full of goodness [2 Corinthians 11:14-15].

Ezekiel 28:14-17

“You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones.

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.

Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones.

Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.”

2 Corinthians 11:14-15

And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness ...

The gospel rings true in my heart because it is the opposite of the way man normally thinks.

What man would have conceived a philosophy where salvation would come through believing that God would come to earth as a helpless baby, born in a stinking stable, a peasant among a despised, subjugated people in an obscure land, and would later be nailed up to die like the worst of criminals.

The natural mind is more attracted to youth and beauty, success and acclaim.

But, God’s thoughts are the opposite of man’s thoughts [Isaiah 55:8-9].

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Of course, in one sense, it hardly matters what Jesus looked like. It is what He accomplished for us on the cross of Calvary – in paying the price for our sins – that truly counts.

However, it certainly goes to show that there is much to do with Christian belief and living that is influenced more by tradition, and even by the culture and ways of thinking surrounding us, than by what the Bible actually says.

Many Bible truths are confronting. They challenge our normal patterns of thought. However, God, in His perfect wisdom, presents us with Truth – not to tickle our ears but to work for our ultimate good.

What does the Bible say on these matters:

Was Jesus’ appearance
closer to this ...

Jesus as traditionally portrayed

or to this ...?

Jesus in cultural context

More about Jesus ...