After all, that’s the way they’ve always seen Him portrayed in every painting, drawing or movie. That’s the only Jesus they’ve ever seen. But are those depictions accurate?
The fact is, we don’t know what Jesus looked like, because the first depictions of Him weren’t done until hundreds of years later. Thus every image we’ve ever seen of Him is based solely on artists’ imaginations.
While we don’t know what Jesus looked like, we do know that He didn’t look like the common depictions of Him with long hair. After all, this same Jesus inspired the apostle Paul to write in 1 Corinthians 11:14 1 Corinthians 11:14Does not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame to him?
American King James Version×: “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?”
In addition to this instruction regarding long hair on men, the Bible also contains circumstantial evidence that Jesus didn’t have long hair.
Perhaps the most telling is that when Judas betrayed Jesus, he had to identify Jesus by a kiss. That was the prearranged signal Judas had given so that the guards could identify Jesus. Why did Judas have to do that? Because Jesus looked just like any average man of His day, and they wouldn’t have been able to identify Him if Judas hadn’t betrayed Him with a kiss.
This incident shows us that Jesus looked like any ordinary, average Jew of His day; there was nothing distinguishing about Him. The messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53:2 Isaiah 53:2For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
American King James Version×(NIV) says of Him: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”
The Gospels tell us that on at least two occasions Jesus slipped away into the crowds when people were trying to kill Him (Luke 4:30 Luke 4:30But he passing through the middle of them went his way,
American King James Version×; John 8:59 John 8:59Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the middle of them, and so passed by.
American King James Version×). He was able to escape harm because He was simply an average-looking man of His day and blended in with the other people around Him.
A Feb. 24, 2004, Associated Press article reports: “ ‘Jesus didn’t have long hair,’ said physical anthropologist Joe Zias, who has studied hundreds of skeletons found in archaeological digs in Jerusalem. ‘Jewish men back in antiquity did not have long hair.’ ‘The Jewish texts ridiculed long hair as something Roman or Greek,’ said New York University’s Lawrence Schiffman” (“Jesus Scholars Find Fault in Gibson’s ‘Passion’ ”). However, it wasn’t at all typical among even the Greeks and Romans, as plenty of statues and coins from the time attest.
“Along with extensive writings from the period, experts also point to a frieze on Rome’s Arch of Titus, erected after Jerusalem was captured in AD 70 to celebrate the victory, which shows Jewish men with short hair taken into captivity” (ibid.).
Jesus wasn’t the tender, effeminate man with a somewhat angelic appearance as commonly depicted in paintings. He was a carpenter, a builder, a man who knew the construction trade. He knew how to cut down trees and make wooden beams, to haul rocks to build walls, to construct buildings from stone and timber.
The Gospels make it clear that He spent a lot of time outdoors. He hung out with fishermen, the kind of characters who would never respect and look up to a weakling. Yet Jesus had 12 disciples who followed Him everywhere He went and who in time died for Him. They knew Him as a real man, not the fabrication we see in so many paintings.