From the upcoming book, "Jesus and Mary, Husband and Wife?"
What did Jesus Look Like?
It must be said from the onset that the authenticity of the following letters is in question. They should be weighted accordingly.
The following was taken from a manuscript in the possession of Lord Kelly, and in his library, and was copied from an original letter of Publius Lentullus at Rome. It being the usual custom of Roman Governors to advertise the Senate and people of such material things as happened in their provinces in the days of Tiberius Caesar, Publius Lentullus, President of Judea, wrote the following epistle (letter) to the Senate concerning the Nazarene called Jesus.
"There appeared in these our days a man, of the Jewish Nation, of great virtue, named Yeshua [Jesus], who is yet living among us, and of the Gentiles is accepted for a Prophet of truth, but His own disciples call Him the Son of God- He raiseth the dead and cureth all manner of diseases. A man of stature somewhat tall, and comely, with very reverent countenance, such as the beholders may both love and fear, his hair of (the colour of) the chestnut, full ripe, plain to His ears, whence downwards it is more orient and curling and wavering about His shoulders. In the midst of His head is a seam or partition in His hair, after the manner of the Nazarenes. His forehead plain and very delicate; His face without spot or wrinkle, beautified with a lovely red; His nose and mouth so formed as nothing can be reprehended; His beard thickish, in colour like His hair, not very long, but forked; His look innocent and mature; His eyes grey, clear, and quick- In reproving hypocrisy He is terrible; in admonishing, courteous and fair spoken; pleasant in conversation, mixed with gravity. It cannot be remembered that any have seen Him Laugh, but many have seen Him Weep. In proportion of body, most excellent; His hands and arms delicate to behold. In speaking, very temperate, modest, and wise. A man, for His singular beauty, surpassing the children of men"
The letter from Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar
This is a reprinting of a letter from Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar describing the physical appearance of Jesus. Copies are in the Congressional Library in Washington, D.C.
TO TIBERIUS CAESAR:
A young man appeared in Galilee preaching with humble unction, a new law in the Name of the God that had sent Him. At first I was apprehensive that His design was to stir up the people against the Romans, but my fears were soon dispelled. Jesus of Nazareth spoke rather as a friend of the Romans than of the Jews. One day I observed in the midst of a group of people a young man who was leaning against a tree, calmly addressing the multitude. I was told it was Jesus. This I could easily have suspected so great was the difference between Him and those who were listening to Him. His golden colored hair and beard gave to his appearance a celestial aspect. He appeared to be about 30 years of age. Never have I seen a sweeter or more serene countenance. What a contrast between Him and His bearers with their black beards and tawny complexions! Unwilling to interrupt Him by my presence, I continued my walk but signified to my secretary to join the group and listen. Later, my secretary reported that never had he seen in the works of all the philosophers anything that compared to the teachings of Jesus. He told me that Jesus was neither seditious nor rebellious, so we extended to Him our protection. He was at liberty to act, to speak, to assemble and to address the people. This unlimited freedom provoked the Jews -- not the poor but the rich and powerful.
Later, I wrote to Jesus requesting an interview with Him at the Praetorium. He came. When the Nazarene made His appearance I was having my morning walk and as I faced Him my feet seemed fastened with an iron hand to the marble pavement and I trembled in every limb as a guilty culprit, though he was calm. For some time I stood admiring this extraordinary Man. There was nothing in Him that was repelling, nor in His character, yet I felt awed in His presence. I told Him that there was a magnetic simplicity about Him and His personality that elevated Him far above the philosophers and teachers of His day.
Now, Noble Sovereign, these are the facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth and I have taken the time to write you in detail concerning these matters. I say that such a man who could convert water into wine, change death into life, disease into health; calm the stormy seas, is not guilty of any criminal offense and as others have said, we must agree -- truly this is the Son of God.
Your most obedient servant,
Another description of Jesus is found in "The Archko Volume" which contains official court documents from the days of Jesus. This information substantiates that He came from a genetic line which had blue eyes and golden hair. In a chapter entitled "Gamaliel's Interview" it states concerning Jesus (Yeshua) appearance:
"I asked him to describe this person to me, so that I might know him if I should meet him. He said: 'If you ever meet him [Yeshua] you will know him. While he is nothing but a man, there is something about him that distinguishes him from every other man. He is the picture of his mother, only he has not her smooth, round face. His hair is a little more golden than hers, though it is as much from sunburn as anything else. He is tall, and his shoulders are a little drooped; his visage is thin and of a swarthy complexion, though this is from exposure. His eyes are large and a soft blue, and rather dull and heavy....' This Jew [Nazarite] is convinced that he is the Messiah of the world. ...this was the same person that was born of the virgin in Bethlehem some twenty-six years before..."
- The Archko Volume, translated by Drs. McIntosh and Twyman of the Antiquarian Lodge, Genoa, Italy, from manuscripts in Constantinople and the records of the Senatorial Docket taken from the Vatican of Rome (1896) 92-93
Recap of Details
Jesus was a historical figure and thus real.
He was a Jewish man.
He was born in Bethlehem but hailed from Nazareth.
He was tall.
He was thin.
He had drooped shoulders.
He had golden-brown hair with red undertones.
He had a pleasant disposition but seldom laughed.
He was calm.
His mannerisms and personality were pleasant.
He was a teacher.
He did things that were startling.
There were claims that Jesus was the Messiah (that is, the Christ).
He gathered a band of followers, who continued to follow him after his death.
He had a brother called James.
James was executed by in AD 62 with the consent of Pilot at the urging of the Jewish leaders.
That is actually quite a bit of detail, when all sources are allowed to speak. But are these sources reliable enough to be counted as evidence? You will have to decide.
There are no "eyewitness" accounts written about Jesus during his lifetime, so historians have to rely on interpretations of the four main canonical gospel texts, which were written decades after his death; possibly after a reinterpretation of his life and its meaning based on their view of Old Testament scripture. Untangling the man from the myth is a delicate undertaking, which is bound to fascinate some and offend others, but it should be of interest to all.
Tobias Hagerland, a doctoral candidate at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden said, "I think it's natural for human beings to ask questions 'why' something happened, and those are not exactly the questions dealt with in the Gospels," said Hagerland. "It could be of interest both to Christian believers and to critics of that religion to know which aspects of Christianity are rooted in historical facts and which are derived from religious convictions and experiences that cannot really be evaluated from an historical point of view.”
Jesus is not a total mystery. The "Jesus" of history isn't a complete mystery to Biblical scholars, who often make a distinction between the man and the religious figure depicted in the scriptures.
"We do know some things about the historical Jesus — less than some Christians think, but more than some skeptics think. Though a few books have recently argued that Jesus never existed, the evidence that he did is persuasive to the vast majority of scholars, whether Christian or non-Christian," said Marcus Borg, a retired professor of religion and culture at Oregon State University and current fellow of the Jesus Seminar, a group of preeminent academics that debate the factuality of Jesus' life as portrayed in the Bible.
The following "facts" about Jesus would be affirmed by most history scholars, Borg said:
Jesus was born sometime just before 4 B.C. He grew up in Nazareth, a small village in Galilee, as part of the peasant class. Jesus' father was a carpenter and he became one, too, meaning that they had likely lost their agricultural land at some point.
Jesus was raised Jewish and he remained deeply Jewish all of his life. His intention was not to create a new religion. Rather, he saw himself as doing something within Judaism.
He left Nazareth as an adult, met the prophet John and was baptized by John. During his baptism, Jesus likely experienced some sort of divine vision.
Shortly afterwards, Jesus began his public preaching with the message that the world could be transformed into a "Kingdom of God."
He became a noted healer, teacher and prophet. More healing stories are told about Jesus than about any other figure in the Jewish tradition.
He was executed by Roman imperial authority.
His followers experienced him after his death. It is clear that they had visions of Jesus as they had known him during his historical life. Only after his death did they declare Jesus to be "Lord" or "the Son of God."
Some parts of the Bible likely strayed from history for emphasis, Hagerland agrees. The public's negative reaction to Jesus' preaching of forgiveness is one example, he said.
Without the reinterpretation of history in a metaphysical light, Jesus did not die for the sins of the world but rather was killed by those ruling that part of the world at the time. It was only after his death that his followers began to redefine the events in light of the Old Testament and thus assign meaning to events. It is much like seeing patterns in objects and events after the fact.
Facts about the ancient Greco-Roman world can be overlooked or easily forgotten. Life did not have great meaning then, especially the life of a female. It must be stated clearly and without reservation that those who hold to the fact that Jesus was celibate may be completely correct seeing as how there was a deficit of females in that part of the world. The ratio of man to women was about 1.4 men to every woman. Why? Infanticide.
A first-century letter from a husband to his pregnant wife shows the contrast of his tender regard for his wife and hoped-for son, versus his disregard for a possible daughter: "I ask and beg of you to take good care of our baby son ... If you are delivered of a child [before I come home], if it is a boy, keep it; if a girl, discard it."
By the Law of Romulus in Rome, a father was required to raise all healthy male children, and only the firstborn female; any others were disposable. According to the Greek poet Posidippus (third century B.C.), "Everyone raises a son even if he is poor, but exposes a daughter even if he is rich."
However, this was Roman law and not Jewish custom. Widows were fined by Rome for out-living their husbands and being a drag on the economy. The Jewish custom as well as that of the early church, was to care for the widows and orphans. One of the last acts and requests by Jesus was to make sure his mother would be cared for after his death. Most intriguing is the clash of cultures at this time. Romans were killing their daughters and the ration of male to female was at 1.4 to 1. Meanwhile, in the Jewish population the custom of polygamy was still intact and the strength and leadership of women were being felt still.