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Photo of a plastic Jesus statue

Posted: 16 February 2016

When it was reported that the face of Jesus had been spotted on a three-cheese pizza fresh out of the oven at Posh Pizza in Brisbane, everyone who examined the fuzzy image knew what they were looking for: shoulder-length hair and a beard. Jesus has looked that way for centuries, whether it’s in church paintings, Sunday school books, or plastic statues to stick on the dashboard of your car. He is instantly recognisable.

But is that how Jesus really looked when he was a carpenter in 1st century Galilee?

The Professor of Christian Origins at King’s College London, Joan Taylor, thinks it’s unlikely that Jesus ever looked like this.

‘Jesus, as a philosopher with the “natural” look, might well have had a short beard,’ she says, ‘but his hair was probably not very long.’ Long hair, she believes, would have identified Jesus as a Nazirite, someone who had taken a vow not to drink or cut his hair. This doesn’t match the Jesus depicted in the Gospels, who was accused of drinking too much.

Joan Taylor has written a ‘head to toe’ guide to how Jesus probably looked, starting with his hair and beard, and covering his facial features, eye colour, clothes and footwear. She believes that a wall-painting found in an ancient frontier town in eastern Syria probably gives us the best idea of Jesus’s appearance: ‘He’s short-haired and with a slight beard, and he’s wearing a short tunic, with short sleeves,’ she says.

Read Joan Taylor’s feature on the look of Jesus on the BBC website.

Photo: Simon Jenkins

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Photos at the top of this column by:
Taro Taylor and Jon Sullivan