How Did Jesus Have Looked?

How Did Jesus Have Looked

How did Jesus have looked? Beautiful or ugly, with or without a beard? The Gospels say nothing about the outer form of Jesus persistently – which of course does not prevent that we make a pictorial conception of Jesus Christ. If one interprets the Old Testament prohibition of images so that you can make any picture and give no idea of ​​God, then no bid is probably so unabashedly transgress like this.

What we see in our minds when we visualize Jesus, often depends on early impressions from: Children’s books, cribs, Jesus film or a painting of the Good Shepherd on grandpa’s living room sofa. We see the child in the straw, the teacher, the authoritative preacher, who was crucified or resurrected, the angry Temple expeller or the buddy who meets up with friends at the lake and fry over a campfire fish.

The image of Jesus has a firm place in our religious imagination, but it remains blurred: the silence of the Gospels to the outer form of Jesus opens the door to imagination.

Visual art has benefited, even if in the early church initially existed opposition to an artistic representation of Jesus. There were early portraits whose ritual worship was legitimized by the fact that the images were not made by human hands. In reaching back to the 3rd century Abgar legend is narrated Christ had pressed his face on a cloth and so left his image for posterity. The world-famous Turin grave cloth – an enigmatic impression of a martyred with strange lofty trains – falls into this category.

The face of Christ on the veil of Veronica

Man of Sorrows or resurrected?

(The face of Christ on the veil of Veronica)

Pictorial representations of Jesus, there were at least since the 3rd century, it bears witness to a fresco of the house church of Dura Europos in today’s Iraq. The picture from the year 233 shows Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Pictures of Jesus as the Lamb of support are also available in the Roman catacombs.

Byzantine Period

(4th century)

In the 4th century – Christianity was the state religion – Christ was propagated immortalized in frescoes, mosaics and sarcophagi. In addition to the bearded Jesus with flowing hair enters the beardless youth, as in the apocryphal Acts of Thomas – was described – an extra-biblical scripture of the 3rd century. But the handsome youth can not prevail against the severe Byzantine Beard Christ. Completed encountered this type in the Icon of St. Catherine monastery (Sinai, 6th century.): Hard, symmetrical facial features are intended to illustrate the divine-human nature of the Savior. A theological image of Jesus.

Icon representation of the Eastern Church

Icon representation of the Eastern Church

(Icon representation of the Eastern Church)

Carolingian period

(8th century

The beardless Jesus experienced its renaissance in the Middle Ages. In the Carolingian period (around 800) a youthful Savior enthroned primarily on globes.

Ottonische time

(10th century)

The Ottonian era (around 1000) continues this tradition, but creates a new type of the Crucified One. During the Carolingian Christ always with open eyes – so alive – represented on the cross, he will appear with his eyes closed, as a dead man.


(12th Century)

In the 12th century Christ appears once crowned as man of power, sometimes as uncrowned Redeemer interceding with his hands raised, such as the Portal images of Chartres Cathedral (around 1150).

Late Middle Ages

(13th Century)

Under the influence of Franciscan theology, the image of Christ in the 13th century changed again. The Crucified One appears alive, suffering, the representations in the late Middle Ages. Now even the baby Jesus is seen in a new sense. Instead of standing childlike world Redeemer the helpless child occurs a strong mother’s arm.


The Renaissance Jesus gives his heroic trains back. Michelangelo sees Christ in a world court fresco in the Sistine Chapel as ideal figure – beardless and youthful. Equally Leonardo in his Last Supper: the main slightly tilted, lowered eyelids – the Passion anticipatory character. Perhaps the most radical contrast to the mosaics of the East, on the womb of Mary show the world leaders already in the child Jesus, is the Christ of the Isenheim altarpiece by Matthias Grunewald represents: Hanging head, tortured, heavily laden of the sin of mankind. A pre-Reformation Protestant, but by and through Christ. No beautifying ingredient for the devotional life, rather abscheuerregende provocation.

Painting of the 17th and 18th centuries

The painting of the 17th and 18th century takes on the other hand again a U-turn: With the emergence of subjectivism in theology corresponds a soft, act on the feelings of the viewer a willing Christ image (Rembrandt). Rubens gives his Christ triumphant trains. A victorious Risen. It depends sometimes on the cross, then with arms raised – quite in victory pose.Rubens Christ child on the other hand the same his angel Wells: lovely figures, chubby and Rubens around.

Christ by Peter Paul Rubens

Christ by Peter Paul Rubens

(Christ by Peter Paul Rubens)

Paintings of the 19th Century

The Christ representations are rare, with the 19th century breaks the artistic tradition. Religious feelings are now expressed more in landscape paintings (Caspar David Friederich).careful modern art holds back with interpretations, it also changes Baselitz’s inverted Christ nothing. Maybe not to the detriment of our own Phantasmal and imagination.

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