British scientist Richard Neave used forensic facial reconstruction to reveal what he believes to be a true depiction of the face of Jesus Christ. While the image should not be taken as a definitive model of Jesus, it is a historically accurate representation of how a man born in Jesus’s time and place would have looked.
Of the hundreds of thousands of words written in the Bible, not one gives an accurate description of how Christ looked. And without any firsthand descriptions of Jesus’s appearance to work with either, we’ve long been forced to rely on various artists’ personal interpretations — hence the lean, long-haired Christ so many of us have become familiar with. However, experts have emphasized this depiction is an entirely inaccurate representation of what a man from Jesus’s era may have looked like.
Based on historical records, Jesus Christ was from Galilee, a northern region in what is now modern day Israel. In order to get a better picture of Jesus’s face, Neave, a medical artist who retired from the University of Manchester in England, analyzed three skulls of Galilean Semites from Christ’s era, Popular Mechanics reported. Although the actual image was created three years ago, the picture has recently recirculated the Internet. No doubt, just in time for Christmas.
Neave used the skulls to create a computerized map of the facial structures each man once had. These images were used to create a 3D cast of a typical Galilean skull from the era. Then, using specialized computer programs, Neave recreated muscles and skin out of clay to match the thickness of human facial tissue and to cover the casts of the skull. Once Neave applied simulated skin, a nose, lips, and eyelids to the model, the face began to take shape.
The image’s hair style and coloring was based off drawings from various archeological sites dating back to Christ’s time period. In addition, the image was given a beard, since having one was a popular Jewish tradition at the time. Perhaps one of the most conflicting features of the new image, however, is his hair.
Most images of Christ portray a man with long straight hair. However, not only was this hairstyle uncommon among men at the time, it was even described in the Bible by the apostle Paul as being disrespectful — it’s highly unlikely Paul, being such a devoted follower, would say this about Christ. Most scholars, according to Popular Mechanics, therefore believe Christ to have had short, tight curls instead.
Gone are the lean features of the classic Christ. Instead the image is more muscular and weather-beaten, traits that Neave believes are more fitting of a Jewish carpenter from the first century. What’s more, Neave also suggested Christ was about 5-foot-1 and 110 pounds — the size of the average man from the time period.
While we will likely never know exactly how Christ looked, other scholars agree Neave’s depiction is more historically accurate than those found in Christian children’s books.