What Did Jesus Look Like? Historian Says Widely Known Image of Christ Is Inaccurate
Offbeat 6:23 AM PDT, March 31, 2018 - Inside Edition Staff
He has historically been portrayed as a light-skinned man with wavy brown hair down to his shoulders, with a full beard and mustache.
The look has been prominently featured in churches around the world and reinforced in classic Hollywood movies like "King of Kings" and "The Passion of the Christ," as well as hit TV shows like “The Bible.”
Although the image can be traced back to the 3rd century, Dr. Tom Beaudoin, a professor of religion at Fordham University, explained the depiction is inaccurate.
"Jesus was modeled as a combination of a Greek god and a philosopher," Beaudoin explained in an interview with Inside Edition.
He said many historians believe that the fair-skinned Jesus was actually inspired by the heir to the Borgia clan in Italy in the 15th century, Caesar Borgia. The Italian Cardinal was famed for his handsome features, and his father, Pope Alexander VI, commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to paint a portrait of Jesus modeled after his sons.
But, citing historian Joan Taylor and her latest book, "What Did Jesus Look Like?" Beaudoin speculated the real Jesus probably looked much different.
He said historians believe Jesus was much darker skin and stood at only 5 feet tall. He would have also worn his beard and hair short.
Instead of a long robe, Jesus likely wore a knee-length tunic with a short mantle or shawl, and wore leather sandals.
“He would have presented very typically, she argues, as a Jewish man of his day, which is quite different than how Jesus is often imagined in Christian churches today,” Beaudoin explained. "Think about Jewish people in Iraq today and this is how we should imagine Jesus. He would have looked like what we think of Middle Eastern presenting people today."
Despite that characterization, Beaudoin speculates that the image of a light-skinned Jesus persisted to reflect the demographics of some churches in the United States.
"It reflects the whiteness of Christianity in the United States," Baudouin said. “We tend to have a very white Jesus in the United States, especially in white churches."