Picture Jesus: Is He Shiny?

Christ’s resplendence in the Transfiguration says more than we think.

Jesus Christ is arguably the most famous man who ever lived. His image is everywhere. But what did the God-Man from Nazareth actually look like?

We often imagine a particular “look” based on artistic renderings we’ve seen, but many of these designs are influenced by the artist’s culture. And while we may be able to assume certain visual traits based on the time and culture in which Jesus lived, there is little explicit evidence for these assumptions. In fact, the Bible tells us very little about Jesus’ appearance at all.

Other than Isaiah’s remark that he “had no beauty or majesty” (Is. 53:2), the Scriptures never tell us how tall Jesus was, what kind of hair he had, his body type, the color of his eyes, what sort of clothes he wore, or even the color of his skin.

It’s somewhat unexpected for the Bible not to comment on Jesus’ physicality, since back then a person’s physical looks often corresponded to their character traits. Ancient authors might note aspects of their main character’s appearance to highlight or foreshadow something about them.

For example, the Old Testament tells us King Saul was “as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else” (1 Sam. 9:2) and King David was “glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features” (1 Sam. 16:12). Each of these descriptions signaled their heroic and kingly appeal to the people of Israel.

The New Testament narrative only focuses on Jesus’ appearance in the Transfiguration (see parallel accounts in Matt. 17:1–8; Mark 9:2–8; Luke 9:28–36; 2 Pet. 1:16–20). And although there is much we …

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