Physical Appearance of Jesus

by W. John Walsh

jesus christ

A computer generated image of how experts believe Jesus Christ may have looked, using a skull of a man buried in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. (Copyrighted by BBC Worldwide/Reuters)

While we know Jesus was Jewish, we have no other conclusive information about his actual physical countenance.  Regarding the appearance of his mortal body, Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:

"We know very little about the personality, form, visage, and general appearance of the Lord Jesus. Whether he had long or short hair, was tall or short of stature, and a thousand other personal details, are all a matter of speculation and uncertainty. We suppose he was similar in appearance to other Abrahamic Orientals of his day and that he was recognized by those who knew him and went unheeded in the crowds by those unacquainted with him. A Judas was needed to identify him to the arresting officers; people spoke of him as though he were the carpenter's son; and he seemingly appeared as other men do. Perhaps the New Testament is silent on these points because it is more important to center attention on the principles poured forth than on the physical appearance of the Person who pronounced them. Perhaps also it makes it easier for us to dwell on his moral stature rather than any bodily perfection he may have had, and it certainly is a deterrent to the making of those graven images which apostate peoples so anxiously desire to venerate.

We suppose that a knowledge of these personal matters—his appearance, demeanor, and familial relationships—was also withheld from the ancients. Their Messianic prophecies, at least, also draw a reverent veil of silence over many things in the realm of human interest." (The Promised Messiah, p.476 - p.477)

Since no photographs of Jesus exist, artists have usually depicted him as a member of their own culture.  For example, white Europeans have often been depicted him with pale skin, angular features, blue eyes, a beard, and shoulder-length hair.  On the other hand, people from Oriental and African cultures have often pictured Jesus with darker or even black skin.  While we cannot conclude with absolute certainty, recent scientific evidence suggests that Jesus had a dark, round-faced, brown-eyed, with a close-shaven beard and cropped hair. To some, he may even have looked swarthy and stocky. [1]  Regarding the appearance of his resurrected body, the scriptures state:

"When the light rested upon me [Joseph Smith] saw [Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ], whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air." (Joseph Smith History 1:17)

"[Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery] saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.  His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters..." (D&C 110:2-3)


[1]  ABC News report by Jennifer Askin entitled "Your Own Personal Jesus" March 27, 2001.