Jesus Christ is often depicted as a light-skinned man with pale eyes and flowing golden locks, but the fact remains that he was a Jewish man born in the Middle East. Now, thanks to advances in forensics, scientists believe they have a more accurate idea of what he would have looked like.
According to the Gospel of Matthew, the Romans who arrested Jesus needed Judas Iscariot’s help to identify him because he looked like his disciples. Jesus is never described in the Bible, nor can scientists use his remains to recreate his appearance using DNA.
However, using contextual clues from the Bible and historical data, Richard Neave, a medical artist retired from The University of Manchester in England, was able to help illustrate what Jesus might have looked like, Popular Mechanics reported.
“It is clear that his features were typical of Galilean Semites of his era,” the report reads.
Neave and his team acquired Semite skulls from the area in and around Jerusalem with cooperation from Israeli archeologists. He then used a computer to give details on the skulls’ structure and how tissue would have sat on top of the bone. Using these data, Neave and his team built a 3D model of the face and cast it in clay.
Though some details like eye color and hair length are impossible to determine, researchers used pre-Biblical illustrations of Jesus to determine that he most likely had dark eyes, and tradition at the time usually dictated that men had short hair. During Jesus’ time, the average man was 5-foot-1 and weighed 110 pounds.
Forensic description isn’t an exact craft; details like the distance between the lips and nose, eyelid folds and nose shape can be lost, Alison Galloway, professor of anthropology at the University of California in Santa Cruz, told Popular Mechanics.
Some theologians have praised the new depiction of Jesus.
"Jesus certainly looked far more like that person than me and other males who live in the West," James Charlesworth, professor of New Testament languages at Princeton Theological Seminary, said in a 2001 Discovery Channel/BBC co-production called "Jesus: The Complete Story.”
"We in the West have for about 2,000 years been wrongly influenced by an Aryan Jesus, who looks like us," he added. "Nothing is more unfaithful to Jesus."