The Face Of Christ


National Review has on its website this picture of Christ (with apologies to K-Lo for pulling up a picture on their server):

Whenever we see pictures of Christ, paintings from long ago, to present depictions, he generally looks the same = long hair, a beard, etc.

There were no photographs back then. So, how did we develop this image? I have heard many people say the image comes from that on the Shroud of Turin. I’m one of those people who believes things like the shroud are possible, but I don’t know for sure what to think of it — though science has not effectively debunked its age.

So, dear readers, any thoughts on where we get the common image of Christ?

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Erick Erickson


  • I’d say it comes from an understanding of Orthodox Judaism’s restrictions on the dress and grooming of men, most of which are stil with us today. Hair was rarely cut, and beards were not supposed to be trimmed. Jesus, who taught in the Temple, would have shown faithful adherence to these rules had he wanted to be taken seriously as a rabbi.

    It always cracks me up when I see movies about the Old Testament and all the men are clean-shaven, like Ruth, for instance.

  • I have also seen images of contemporary Syrian jews taken from murals, and the image is consisten.

    I’ve also seen the Christ portrayed as a tall, square-jawed European, with one particular silent film giving Him such a treatment.

  • Hair rarely cut? I’m an observant Jew. Only the sidelocks and beard are supposed to be uncut. One of the Torah’s commandments is the wearing of tefillin, which is impossible to do correctly with long hair since the knot at the back of the head piece is supposed to fit snugly against the back of the skull at the point where it end and the neck starts. Long hair makes this impossible.

    From the Dead Sea findings, see slides 21-27.

    Lots of artistically-inspired corruptions of the Bible. The 10 Commandments were NOT rectangular with rounded tops. They were cubes. The common portrayal of Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac is that of a father and child but the text clearly shows that Abraham was nearly 140 and Isaac was in the prime of life at 37.

    Given that until Gutenberg printed the Bible, only monks, priests… and predominantly literate Jews had familiarity with the actual text.

    The church, historically, railed against the publication of the Bible because, shudder, it allowed the masses to actually verify what their clergy was saying.

By Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

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