With a team of Israeli archaeologists and British scientists, he recreated what they claim to be the most accurate picture of Jesus.
For Christ’s sake, is this true? Short, dark, frizzy hair wrapped around thick features? A swarthy man looking horrible well fed?
Western culture portrays a much different image of a tall, slender man with flowing strands threaded with golden highlights. He has clear eyes fixed on a pale face that grows wispy facial hair. It’s a look rocked by 1970s musicians, think Neil Young, George Harrison, even Frank Zappa.
And he’s skinny like Russell Brand, not muscular like Russell Crowe.
This isn’t just a western view from the industrial age – the mosaic portrait below is from the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
“The fact that he probably looked much more like a darker-skinned Semite than Westerners are used to seeing him photographed is a reminder of his universality,” Charles D. Hackett, director of episcopal studies at the Candler School of Theology from Atlanta, Told Popular mechanics, “And [it is] a reminder of our tendency to appropriate it in a sinful way in the service of our cultural values.
The New Testament does not describe the appearance of Christ, no contemporary drawing of him has ever been found. But there are clues.
Remember the Gospel of Matthew: when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas Iscariot had to point him out because the soldiers could not tell him from his disciples. It makes sense that it would have looked like the Galilean Semites of his day, not white boy rock and roll.
Neave and his research team began with Semitic skulls from near Jerusalem, where Jesus lived and preached. Drawing from forensic anthropology – the same scientific toolkit used to solve crimes – Neave used special software to determine the thickness of soft tissue in key areas of the face, helping to recreate muscle and skin. covering a representative Semitic skull.
The results, verified against anthropological data, were used to digitally reconstruct the face. Next, the researchers molded a skull, applying layers of clay matching a computer-specified facial tissue, topped with simulated skin. The nose, lips and eyelids were shaped according to the underlying muscles.
Neave’s team turned to drawings found at archaeological sites dated to the first century to determine Christ’s hair and coloring. There were indications that Jesus had dark eyes and dark hair and that, according to Jewish tradition, he was bearded.
By analyzing the skeletal remains, archaeologists have established that Christ’s contemporaries averaged just over 5 feet and weighed around 110 pounds. They theorize that after years of working outdoors, this most famous carpenter would have been muscular with a weather beaten face.
Neave points out that his recreation is simply that of a grown man who lived in the same place and at the same time as Jesus. Alison Galloway, professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told Popular Mechanics: “This is probably much closer to the truth than the work of many great masters.”