Depiction of Jesus
Christian icons or images depicting Jesus
The depiction of Jesus in pictorial form was controversial in the early Church. The depiction of him in art took several centuries to reach a conventional standardized form for his physical appearance, which has subsequently remained largely stable since that time. Most images of Jesus have in common a number of traits which are now almost universally associated with Jesus, although variants are seen.
The conventional image of a fully bearded Jesus with long hair emerged around AD 300, but did not become established until the 6th century in Eastern Christianity, and much later in the West. It has always had the advantage of being easily recognizable, and distinguishing Jesus from other figures shown around him, which the use of a cruciform halo also achieves. Earlier images were much more varied.
Images of Jesus tend to show ethnic characteristics similar to those of the culture in which the image has been created. Beliefs that certain images are historically authentic, or have acquired an authoritative status from Church tradition, remain powerful among some of the faithful, in Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, and Roman Catholicism. The Shroud of Turin is now the best-known example, though the Image of Edessa and the Veil of Veronica were better known in medieval times.[not verified in body]
There is only one description of the physical appearance of Jesus given in the New Testament, which is in the Book of Revelation 1:12-16.
Except for Jesus wearing tzitzit—the tassels on a tallit—in Matthew 14:36 and Luke 8:43–44, there is no physical description of Jesus contained in any of the canonicalGospels. In the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus is said to have manifested as a "light from heaven" that temporarily blinded the Apostle Paul, but no specific form is given. In the Book of Revelation there is a vision the author had of "someone like a Son of Man" in spirit form: "dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head were white like wool, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like burnt bronze glowing in a furnace (...) His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance" (Revelation 1:12–16, NIV). Use in art of the Revelation description of Jesus has generally been restricted to illustrations of the book itself, and nothing in the scripture confirms the spiritual form's resemblance to the physical form Jesus took in his life on Earth.
Exodus 20:4–6 "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" is one of the Ten Commandments and except for minor exceptions made Jewish depictions of first-century individuals a scarcity. But attitudes towards the interpretation of this Commandment changed through the centuries, in that while first-century rabbis in Judea objected violently to the depiction of human figures and placement of statues in Temples, third-century Babylonian Jews had different views; and while no figural art from first-century Roman Judea exists, the art on the Dura synagogue walls developed with no objection from the Rabbis early in the third century.
During the persecution of Christians under the Roman Empire, Christian art was necessarily furtive and ambiguous, and there was hostility to idols in a group still with a large component of members with Jewish origins, surrounded by, and polemicising against, sophisticated pagan images of gods. Irenaeus (d. c. 202), Clement of Alexandria (d. 215), Lactantius (c. 240–c. 320) and Eusebius of Caesarea (d. c. 339) disapproved of portrayals in images of Jesus. The 36th canon of the non-ecumenical Synod of Elvira in 306 AD reads, "It has been decreed that no pictures be had in the churches, and that which is worshipped or adored be not painted on the walls", which has been interpreted by John Calvin and other Protestants as an interdiction of the making of images of Christ. The issue remained the subject of controversy until the end of the 4th century.
The earliest surviving Christian art comes from the late 2nd to early 4th centuries on the walls of tombs belonging, most likely, to wealthy Christians in the catacombs of Rome, although from literary evidence there may well have been panel icons which, like almost all classical painting, have disappeared.
Initially Jesus was represented indirectly by pictogram symbols such as the ichthys (fish), the peacock, or an anchor (the Labarum or Chi-Rho was a later development). The staurogram seems to have been a very early representation of the crucified Jesus within the sacred texts. Later personified symbols were used, including Jonah, whose three days in the belly of the whale pre-figured the interval between Christ's death and resurrection; Daniel in the lion's den; or Orpheus charming the animals. The image of "The Good Shepherd", a beardless youth in pastoral scenes collecting sheep, was the most common of these images, and was probably not understood as a portrait of the historical Jesus at this period. It continues the classical Kriophoros ("ram-bearer" figure), and in some cases may also represent the Shepherd of Hermas, a popular Christian literary work of the 2nd century.
Among the earliest depictions clearly intended to directly represent Jesus himself are many showing him as a baby, usually held by his mother, especially in the Adoration of the Magi, seen as the first theophany, or display of the incarnate Christ to the world at large. The oldest known portrait of Jesus, found in Syria and dated to about 235, shows him as a beardless young man of authoritative and dignified bearing. He is depicted dressed in the style of a young philosopher, with close-cropped hair and wearing a tunic and pallium—signs of good breeding in Greco-Roman society. From this, it is evident that some early Christians paid no heed to the historical context of Jesus being a Jew and visualised him solely in terms of their own social context, as a quasi-heroic figure, without supernatural attributes such as a halo.
The appearance of Jesus had some theological implications. While some Christians thought Jesus should have the beautiful appearance of a young classical hero, and the Gnostics tended to think he could change his appearance at will, for which they cited the Meeting at Emmaus as evidence, others including the Church FathersJustin (d. 165) and Tertullian (d. 220) believed, following Isaiah:53:2, that Christ's appearance was unremarkable: "he had no form nor comeliness, that we should look upon him, nor beauty that we should delight in him." But when the pagan Celsus ridiculed the Christian religion for having an ugly God in about 180, Origen (d. 248) cited Psalm 45:3: "Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, mighty one, with thy beauty and fairness" Later the emphasis of leading Christian thinkers changed; Jerome (d. 420) and Augustine of Hippo (d. 430) argued that Jesus must have been ideally beautiful in face and body. For Augustine he was "beautiful as a child, beautiful on earth, beautiful in heaven."
From the 3rd century onwards, the first narrative scenes from the Life of Christ to be clearly seen are the Baptism of Christ, painted in a catacomb in about 200, and the miracle of the Raising of Lazarus, both of which can be clearly identified by the inclusion of the dove of the Holy Spirit in Baptisms, and the vertical, shroud-wrapped body of Lazarus. Other scenes remain ambiguous—an agape feast may be intended as a Last Supper, but before the development of a recognised physical appearance for Christ, and attributes such as the halo, it is impossible to tell, as tituli or captions are rarely used. There are some surviving scenes from Christ's Works of about 235 from the Dura Europos church on the Persian frontier of the Empire. During the 4th century a much greater number of scenes came to be depicted, usually showing Christ as youthful, beardless and with short hair that does not reach his shoulders, although there is considerable variation.
Jesus is sometimes shown performing miracles by means of a wand, as on the doors of Santa Sabina in Rome (430–32). He uses the wand to change water to wine, multiply the bread and fishes, and raise Lazarus. When pictured healing, he only lays on hands. The wand is thought to be a symbol of power. The bare-faced youth with the wand may indicate that Jesus was thought of as a user of magic or wonder worker by some of the early Christians. No art has been found picturing Jesus with a wand before the 2nd century. Some scholars suggest that the Gospel of Mark, the Secret Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John (the so-called Signs Gospel), portray such a wonder worker, user of magic, a magician or a Divine man. Only the Apostle Peter is also depicted in ancient art with a wand.
Another depiction, seen from the late 3rd century or early 4th century onwards, showed Jesus with a beard, and within a few decades can be very close to the conventional type that later emerged. This depiction has been said to draw variously on Imperial imagery, the type of the classical philosopher, and that of Zeus, leader of the Greek gods, or Jupiter, his Roman equivalent, and the protector of Rome. According to art historian Paul Zanker, the bearded type has long hair from the start, and a relatively long beard (contrasting with the short "classical" beard and hair always given to St Peter, and most other apostles); this depiction is specifically associated with "Charismatic" philosophers like Euphrates the Stoic, Dio of Prusa and Apollonius of Tyana, some of whom were claimed to perform miracles.
After the very earliest examples of c. 300, this depiction is mostly used for hieratic images of Jesus, and scenes from his life are more likely to use a beardless, youthful type. The tendency of older scholars such as Talbot Rice to see the beardless Jesus as associated with a "classical" artistic style and the bearded one as representing an "Eastern" one drawing from ancient Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia seems impossible to sustain, and does not feature in more recent analyses. Equally attempts to relate on a consistent basis the explanation for the type chosen in a particular work to the differing theological views of the time have been unsuccessful. From the 3rd century on, some Christian leaders, such as Clement of Alexandria had recommended the wearing of beards by Christian men. The centre parting was also seen from early on, and was also associated with long-haired philosophers.
From the middle of the 4th century, after Christianity was legalized by the Edict of Milan in 313, and gained Imperial favour, there was a new range of images of Christ the King, using either of the two physical types described above, but adopting the costume and often the poses of Imperial iconography. These developed into the various forms of Christ in Majesty. Some scholars reject the connection between the political events and developments in iconography, seeing the change as a purely theological one, resulting from the shift of the concept and title of Pantocrator ("Ruler of all") from God the Father (still not portrayed in art) to Christ, which was a development of the same period, perhaps led by Athanasius of Alexandria (d. 373).
Another depiction drew from classical images of philosophers, often shown as a youthful "intellectual wunderkind" in Roman sarcophagii; the Traditio Legis image initially uses this type. Gradually Jesus became shown as older, and during the 5th century the image with a beard and long hair, now with a cruciform halo, came to dominate, especially in the Eastern Empire. In the earliest large New Testamentmosaic cycle, in Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna (c. 520), Jesus is beardless though the period of his ministry until the scenes of the Passion, after which he is shown with a beard.
The Good Shepherd, now clearly identified as Christ, with halo and often rich robes, is still depicted, as on the apsemosaic in the church of Santi Cosma e Damiano in Rome, where the twelve apostles are depicted as twelve sheep below the imperial Jesus, or in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia at Ravenna.
Once the bearded, long-haired Jesus became the conventional representation of Jesus, his facial features slowly began to be standardised, although this process took until at least the 6th century in the Eastern Church, and much longer in the West, where clean-shaven Jesuses are common until the 12th century, despite the influence of Byzantine art. But by the late Middle Ages the beard became almost universal and when Michelangelo showed a clean-shaven Apollo-like Christ in his Last Judgment fresco in the Sistine Chapel (1534–41) he came under persistent attack in the Counter-Reformation climate of Rome for this, as well as other things.
French scholar Paul Vignon has listed fifteen similarities ("marks", like tilaka) between most of the icons of Jesus after this point, particularly in the icons of "Christ Pantocrator" ("The all-powerful Messiah"). He claims that these are due to the availability of the Image of Edessa (which he claims to be identical to the Shroud of Turin, via Constantinople) to the artists. Certainly images believed to have miraculous origins, or the Hodegetria, believed to be a portrait of Mary from the life by Saint Luke, were widely regarded as authoritative by the Early Medieval period and greatly influenced depictions. In Eastern Orthodoxy the form of images was, and largely is, regarded as revealed truth, with a status almost equal to scripture, and the aim of artists is to copy earlier images without originality, although the style and content of images does in fact change slightly over time.
As to the historical appearance of Jesus, in one possible translation of the apostle Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul urges Christian men of first-century Corinth not to have long hair. An early commentary by Pelagius (c. AD 354 – c. AD 420/440) says, "Paul was complaining because men were fussing about their hair and women were flaunting their locks in church. Not only was this dishonoring to them, but it was also an incitement to fornication." Some[who?] have speculated that Paul was a Nazirite who kept his hair long even though such speculation is at odds with Paul's statement in I Corinthians 11:14 that long hair for men was shameful at the time. Jesus was a practicing Jew so presumably had a beard.
By the 5th century depictions of the Passion began to appear, perhaps reflecting a change in the theological focus of the early Church. The 6th-century Rabbula Gospels includes some of the earliest surviving images of the crucifixion and resurrection. By the 6th century the bearded depiction of Jesus had become standard in the East, though the West, especially in northern Europe, continued to mix bearded and unbearded depictions for several centuries. The depiction with a longish face, long straight brown hair parted in the middle, and almond shaped eyes shows consistency from the 6th century to the present. Various legends developed which were believed to authenticate the historical accuracy of the standard depiction, such as the image of Edessa and later the Veil of Veronica.
Partly to aid recognition of the scenes, narrative depictions of the Life of Christ focused increasingly on the events celebrated in the major feasts of the church calendar, and the events of the Passion, neglecting the miracles and other events of Jesus' public ministry, except for the raising of Lazarus, where the mummy-like wrapped body was shown standing upright, giving an unmistakable visual signature. A cruciform halo was worn only by Jesus (and the other persons of the Trinity), while plain halos distinguished Mary, the Apostles and other saints, helping the viewer to read increasingly populated scenes.
The period of Byzantine Iconoclasm acted as a barrier to developments in the East, but by the 9th century art was permitted again. The Transfiguration of Jesus was a major theme in the East and every Eastern Orthodox monk who had trained in icon painting had to prove his craft by painting an icon of the Transfiguration. However, while Western depictions increasingly aimed at realism, in Eastern icons a low regard for perspective and alterations in the size and proportion of an image aim to reach beyond earthly reality to a spiritual meaning.
The 13th century witnessed a turning point in the portrayal of the powerful Kyrios image of Jesus as a wonder worker in the West, as the Franciscans began to emphasize the humility of Jesus both at his birth and his death via the nativity scene as well as the crucifixion. The Franciscans approached both ends of this spectrum of emotions and as the joys of the Nativity of were added to the agony of crucifixion a whole new range of emotions were ushered in, with wide-ranging cultural impact on the image of Jesus for centuries thereafter.
After Giotto, Fra Angelico and others systematically developed uncluttered images that focused on the depiction of Jesus with an ideal human beauty, in works like Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, arguably the first High Renaissance painting. Images of Jesus now drew on classical sculpture, at least in some of their poses. However Michelangelo was considered to have gone much too far in his beardless Christ in his The Last Judgment fresco in the Sistine Chapel, which very clearly adapted classical sculptures of Apollo, and this path was rarely followed by other artists.
The High Renaissance was contemporary with the start of the Protestant Reformation which, especially in its first decades, violently objected to almost all public religious images as idolatrous, and vast numbers were destroyed. Gradually images of Jesus became acceptable to most Protestants in various contexts, especially in narrative contexts, as book illustrations and prints, and later in larger paintings. Protestant art continued the now-standard depiction of the physical appearance of Jesus. Meanwhile, the Catholic Counter-Reformation re-affirmed the importance of art in assisting the devotions of the faithful, and encouraged the production of new images of or including Jesus in enormous numbers, also continuing to use the standard depiction.
During the 17th century, some writers, such as Thomas Browne in his Pseudodoxia Epidemica criticized depictions of Jesus with long hair. Although some scholars believed that Jesus wore long hair because he was a Nazarite and therefore could not cut his hair, Browne argues "that our Saviour was a Nazarite after this kind, we have no reason to determine; for he drank Wine, and was therefore called by the Pharisees, a Wine-bibber; he approached also the dead, as when he raised from death Lazarus, and the daughter of Jairus.”
By the end of the 19th century, new reports of miraculous images of Jesus had appeared and continue to receive significant attention, e.g. Secondo Pia's 1898 photograph of the Shroud of Turin, one of the most controversial artifacts in history, which during its May 2010 exposition it was visited by over 2 million people. Another 20th-century depiction of Jesus, namely the Divine Mercy image based on Faustina Kowalska's reported vision has over 100 million followers. The first cinematic portrayal of Jesus was in the 1897 film La Passion du Christ produced in Paris, which lasted 5 minutes. Thereafter cinematic portrayals have continued to show Jesus with a beard in the standard western depiction that resembles traditional images.
A scene from the documentary film Super Size Me showed American children being unable to identify a common depiction of Jesus, despite recognizing other figures like George Washington and Ronald McDonald.
Conventional depictions of Christ developed in medieval art include the narrative scenes of the Life of Christ, and many other conventional depictions:
Common narrative scenes from the Life of Christ in art include:
Devotional images include:
Range of depictions
See also: God the Father in Western art
Certain local traditions have maintained different depictions, sometimes reflecting local racial characteristics, as do the Catholic and Orthodox depictions. The Coptic Church of Egypt separated in the 5th century, and has a distinctive depiction of Jesus, consistent with Coptic art. The Ethiopian Church, also Coptic, developed on Coptic traditions, but shows Jesus and all Biblical figures with the Ethiopian appearance of its members. Other traditions in Asia and elsewhere also show the race of Jesus as that of the local population (see Chinese picture in the gallery below). In modern times such variation has become more common, but images following the traditional depiction in both physical appearance and clothing are still dominant, perhaps surprisingly so. In Europe, local ethnic tendencies in depictions of Jesus can be seen, for example in Spanish, German, or Early Netherlandish painting, but almost always surrounding figures are still more strongly characterised. For example, the Virgin Mary, after the vision reported by Bridget of Sweden, was often shown with blonde hair, but Christ's is very rarely paler than a light brown.
Some medieval Western depictions, usually of the Meeting at Emmaus, where his disciples do not recognise him at first (Luke.24.13–32), showed Jesus wearing a Jewish hat.
In 2001, the television series Son of God used one of three first-century Jewish skulls from a leading department of forensic science in Israel to depict Jesus in a new way. A face was constructed using forensic anthropology by Richard Neave, a retired medical artist from the Unit of Art in Medicine at the University of Manchester. The face that Neave constructed suggested that Jesus would have had a broad face and large nose, and differed significantly from the traditional depictions of Jesus in renaissance art. Additional information about Jesus' skin color and hair was provided by Mark Goodacre, a New Testament scholar and professor at Duke University.
Using third-century images from a synagogue—the earliest pictures of Jewish people—Goodacre proposed that Jesus' skin color would have been darker and swarthier than his traditional Western image. He also suggested that he would have had short, curly hair and a short cropped beard. Although entirely speculative as the face of Jesus, the result of the study determined that Jesus' skin would have been more olive-colored than white or black, and that he would have looked like a typical Galilean Semite. Among the points made was that the Bible records that Jesus's disciple Judas had to point him out to those arresting him in Gethsemane. The implied argument is that if Jesus's physical appearance had differed markedly from his disciples, then he would have been relatively easy to identify.
Miraculous images of Jesus
Main articles: Acheiropoieta, Divine Mercy image, and Head of Christ
There are, however, some images which have been claimed to realistically show how Jesus looked. One early tradition, recorded by Eusebius of Caesarea, says that Jesus once washed his face with water and then dried it with a cloth, leaving an image of his face imprinted on the cloth. This was sent by him to King Abgarus of Edessa, who had sent a messenger asking Jesus to come and heal him of his disease. This image, called the Mandylion or Image of Edessa, appears in history in around 525. Numerous replicas of this "image not made by human hands" remain in circulation. There are also icon compositions of Jesus and Mary that are traditionally believed by many Orthodox to have originated in paintings by Luke the Evangelist.
A currently familiar depiction is that on the Shroud of Turin, whose records go back to 1353. Controversy surrounds the shroud and its exact origin remains subject to debate. The Shroud of Turin is respected by Christians of several traditions, including Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Orthodox, Pentecostals, and Presbyterians. It is one of the Catholic devotions approved by the Holy See, that to the Holy Face of Jesus, now uses the image of the face on the shroud as it appeared in the negative of the photograph taken by amateur photographer Secondo Pia in 1898. The image cannot be clearly seen on the shroud itself with the naked eye, and it surprised Pia to the extent that he said he almost dropped and broke the photographic plate when he first saw the developed negative image on it in the evening of 28 May 1898.
Before 1898, devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus used an image based on the Veil of Veronica, where legend recounts that Veronica from Jerusalem encountered Jesus along the Via Dolorosa on the way to Calvary. When she paused to wipe the sweat from Jesus's face with her veil, the image was imprinted on the cloth. The establishment of these images as Catholic devotions traces back to Sister Marie of St Peter and the VenerableLeo Dupont who started and promoted them from 1844 to 1874 in Tours France, and Sister Maria Pierina De Micheli who associated the image from the Shroud of Turin with the devotion in 1936 in Milan Italy.
A very popular 20th-century depiction among Roman Catholics and Anglicans is the Divine Mercy image, which was approved by Pope John Paul II in April 2000. The Divine Mercy depiction is formally used in celebrations of Divine Mercy Sunday and is venerated by over 100 million Catholics who follow the devotion. The image is not part of Acheiropoieta in that it has been depicted by modern artists, but the pattern of the image is said to have been miraculously shown to Saint Faustina Kowalska in a vision of Jesus in 1931 in Płock, Poland. Faustina wrote in her diary that Jesus appeared to her and asked her to "Paint an image according to the pattern you see". Faustina eventually found an artist (Eugene Kazimierowski) to depict the Divine Mercy image of Jesus with his right hand raised in a sign of blessing and the left hand touching the garment near his breast, with two large rays, one red, the other white emanating from near his heart. After Faustina's death, a number of other artists painted the image, with the depiction by Adolf Hyla being among the most reproduced.
Warner Sallman stated that The Head of Christ was the result of a "miraculous vision that he received late one night", proclaiming that "the answer came at 2 A.M., January 1924" as "a vision in response to my prayer to God in a despairing situation." The Head of Christ is venerated in the Coptic Orthodox Church, after twelve-year-old Isaac Ayoub, who diagnosed with cancer, saw the eyes of Jesus in the painting shedding tears; Fr. Ishaq Soliman of St. Mark's Coptic Church in Houston, on the same day, "testified to the miracles" and on the next day, "Dr. Atef Rizkalla, the family physician, examined the youth and certified that there were no traces of leukemia". With episcopal approval from Bishop Tadros of Port Said and Bishop Yuhanna of Cairo, "Sallman's Head of Christ was exhibited in the Coptic Church", with "more than fifty thousand people" visiting the church to see it. In addition, several religious magazines have explained the "power of Sallman's picture" by documenting occurrences such as headhunters letting go of a businessman and fleeing after seeing the image, a "thief who aborted his misdeed when he saw the Head of Christ on a living room wall", and deathbed conversions of non-believers to Christianity. As an extraordinarily successful work of Christian popular devotional art, it had been reproduced over half a billion times worldwide by the end of the 20th century.
A representation of Jesus riding in his chariot. Mosaic of the 3rd century on the Vatican grottoes under St. Peter's Basilica.
Jesus depicted on an early 8th-century Byzantine coin. After the Byzantine iconoclasm all coins had Christ on them.
Reconstruction of the enthroned Jesus (Yišō) image on a Manichaean temple banner from c. 10th-century Qocho (East Central Asia).
11th-century Christ Pantocrator with the halo in a cross form, used throughout the Middle Ages. Characteristically, he is portrayed as similar in features and skin tone to the culture of the artist.
"Christ All Mercy" Eastern Orthodox icon.
Palma il Vecchio, Head of Christ, 16th century, Italy
Jesus, aged 12, Jesus among the Doctors (as a child debating in the temple), 1630 by Jusepe de Ribera.
Trevisani's depiction of the typical baptismal scene with the sky opening and the Holy Spirit descending as a dove, 1723.
19th-century Russian icon of Christ Pantocrator.
A nineteenth-century Chinese depiction of Jesus and the rich man, from Mark chapter 10.
A traditional Ethiopian depiction of Jesus and Mary with distinctively Ethiopian features.
Main article: List of statues of Jesus
Infant Jesus of Prague, one of several miniature statues of an infant Christ that are much venerated by the faithful
- ^Philip Schaff commenting on Irenaeus, wrote, 'This censure of images as a Gnostic peculiarity, and as a heathenish corruption, should be noted'. Footnote 300 on Contr. Her. .I.XXV.6. ANF
- ^Synod of Elvira, 'Pictures are not to be placed in churches, so that they do not become objects of worship and adoration', AD 306, Canon 36
- ^Matthew 14:46
- ^Luke 8:43–44
- ^Harold W. Attridge, Gohei Hata, et al. Eusebius, Christianity, and Judaism. Wayne, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1992. pp. 283–284.
- ^English translation found at Catholic University of America, accessed 5 September 2012 
- ^John Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion Book 1, Chapter V. Section 6.
- ^Hellemo, pp. 3–6, and Cartlidge and Elliott, 61 (Eusebius quotation) and passim. Clement approved the use of symbolic pictograms.
- ^The Second Church: Popular Christianity A.D. 200–400 by Ramsay MacMullen, The Society of Biblical Literature, 2009
- ^McKay, John; Hill, Bennett (2011). A History of World Societies, Combined Volume (9 ed.). United States: Macmillan. p. 166. ISBN . Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- ^Orpheus as a symbol for David was already found in hellenized Jewish art. Hall, 66
- ^Syndicus, 21–3
- ^Cartlidge and Elliott, 53–55. See also The Two Faces of Jesus by Robin M. Jensen, Bible Review, 17.8, October 2002, and Understanding Early Christian Art by Robin M. Jensen, Routledge, 2000
- ^Hall, 70–71
- ^Brandon, S.G.F, "Christ in verbal and depicted imagery". Neusner, Jacob (ed.): Christianity, Judaism and other Greco-Roman cults: Studies for Morton Smith at sixty. Part Two: Early Christianity, pp. 166–167. Brill, 1975. ISBN 978-90-04-04215-5
- ^Zanker, 299
- ^Every, George; Christian Mythology, p. 65, Hamlyn 1988 (1970 1st edn.) ISBN 0-600-34290-5
- ^Syndicus, 92
- ^Cartlidge and Elliott, 53 – this is Psalm 44 in the Latin Vulgate; English bible translations prefer "glory" and "majesty"
- ^Zanker, 302.
- ^Schiller, I 132. The image comes from the crypt of Lucina in the Catacombs_of_San_Callisto. There are a number of other 3rd-century images.
- ^Painted over 40 times in the catacombs of Rome, from the early 3rd century on, and also on sarcophagii. As with the Baptism, some early examples are from Gaul. Schiller, I, 181
- ^Syndicus, 94–95
- ^Syndicus, 92–93, Catacomb images
- ^"Catholic Encyclopedia: Portraits of the Apostles". Retrieved 10 August 2008.
- ^Cartlidge and Elliott, 60
- ^ The Two Faces of Jesus by Robin M. Jensen, Bible Review, 17.8, Oct 2002
- ^ abNew Catholic Encyclopedia: Portraits of the Apostles
- ^Jesus, the Magician by Morton Smith, Harper & Row, 1978
- ^Zanker, 302
- ^Zanker, 300–303, who is rather dismissive of other origins for the type
- ^Syndicus, 93
- ^Cartlidge and Elliott, 56–57. St Paul often has a long beard, but short hair, as in the catacomb fresco illustrated. St John the Baptist also often has long hair and a beard, and often retains in later art the thick shaggy or wavy long hair seen on some of the earliest depictions of Jesus, and in images of philosophers of the Charismatic type.
- ^Zanker, 257–266 on the charismatics; 299–306 on the type used for Christ
- ^Zanker, pp. 299, note 48, and 300. . See also Cartlidge and Elliott, 55–61.
- ^Grabar, 119
- ^Zanker, 290
- ^Syndicus, 92–97, though images of Christ the King are found in the previous century also – Hellemo, 6
- ^Hellemo, 7–14, citing K. Berger in particular.
- ^Zanker, 299. Zanker has a full account of the development of the image of Christ at pp. 289–307.
- ^The two parts of the cycle are on opposite walls of the nave; Talbot Rice, 157. Bridgeman Library
- ^"Last Judgment", Esperanca Camara, Khan Academy; Blunt Anthony, Artistic Theory in Italy, 1450–1600, 112–114, 118–119  (refs to 1985 edn), OUP, ISBN 0198810504
- ^The Shroud of Christ ("marks") by Paul Vignon, Paul Tice, (2002 – ISBN 1-885395-96-5)
- ^The Shroud of Christ ("Constantinople") by Paul Vignon, Paul Tice, op. cit.
- ^Grigg, 5–7
- ^Regarding the alternate NIV translation of 1 Corinthians 11:7, and in agreement with modern interpretations of the New Testament, Walvoord and Zuck note, "The alternate translation in the NIV margin, which interprets the man's covering as long hair, is largely based on the view that verse 15 equated the covering with long hair. It is unlikely, however, that this was the point of verse 4." John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, "1 Corinthians 11:4", (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983)
- ^Institute for Classical Christian Studies (ICCS) and Thomas Oden, eds., The Ancient Christian Commentary Series, "1 Corinthians 1:4", (Westmont: Inter-Varsity Press, 2005), ISBN 0-8308-2492-8. Google Books
- ^ abThe New Westminster Dictionary of Church History by Robert Benedetto 2006 ISBN 0-8264-8011-X pp. 51–53
- ^Jensen, Robin M. (2010). "Jesus in Christian art". In Burkett, Delbert (ed.). The Blackwell Companion to Jesus. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 477–502. ISBN .
- ^ abIconography of Christian Art, Vol. I by G. Schiller 1971 Lund Humphries, London. figs 150-53, 346-54. ISBN 0-85331-270-2 pp. 181–184
- ^The image of God the Father in Orthodox theology and iconography by Steven Bigham 1995 ISBN 1-879038-15-3 pp. 226–227
- ^Archimandrite Vasileios of Stavronikita, "Icons as Liturgical Analogies" in Hymn of entry: liturgy and life in the Orthodox church 1997 ISBN 978-0-88141-026-6 pp. 81–90
- ^ abThe image of St Francis by Rosalind B. Brooke 2006 ISBN 0-521-78291-0 pp. 183–184
- ^The tradition of Catholic prayer by Christian Raab, Harry Hagan, St. Meinrad Archabbey 2007 ISBN 0-8146-3184-3 pp. 86–87
- ^ abThe vitality of the Christian tradition by George Finger Thomas 1944 ISBN 0-8369-2378-2 pp. 110–112
- ^La vida sacra: contemporary Hispanic sacramental theology by James L. Empereur, Eduardo Fernández 2006 ISBN 0-7425-5157-1 pp. 3–5
- ^Philippines by Lily Rose R. Tope, Detch P. Nonan-Mercado 2005 ISBN 0-7614-1475-4 p. 109
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- ^ abLegon, Jeordan (25 December 2002). "From science and computers, a new face of Jesus". CNN. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
- ^ abcWilson, Giles (27 October 2004). "So what color was Jesus?". BBC News. London. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
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- ^ abFillon, Mike (7 December 2002). "The Real Face Of Jesus". Popular Mechanics. San Francisco: Hearst. ISSN 0032-4558. OCLC 3643271. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
- ^William Meacham, The Authentication of the Turin Shroud: An Issue in Archaeological Epistemology, Current Anthropology, Volume 24, No 3, June 1983
- ^The Rev. Albert R. Dreisbach (1997). "The Shroud of Turin: Its Ecumenical Implications".
- ^Joan Carroll Cruz, 1984, Relics OSV Press ISBN 0-87973-701-8 p. 49
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- ^Brockman, Norbert (2011). Encyclopedia of Sacred Places. ABC-CLIO. p. 140. ISBN .
- ^ abcTim Drake, 2002, Saints of the Jubilee, ISBN 978-1-4033-1009-5 pp. 85–95
- ^ abA Divine Mercy Resource by Richard Torretto 2010 ISBN 1-4502-3236-1 "The Image of Divine Mercy" pp. 84–107
- ^Catherine M. Odell, 1998, Faustina: Apostle of Divine Mercy OSV Press ISBN 978-0-87973-923-2 pp. 63–64
- ^Butler's lives of the saints: the third millennium by Paul Burns, Alban Butler 2001 ISBN 978-0-86012-383-5 p. 252
- ^Morgan, David (1996). Icons of American Protestantism: The Art of Warner Sallman. Yale University Press. p. 62. ISBN .
- ^Otto F.A. Meinardus, Ph.D. (Fall 1997). "Theological Issues of the Coptic Orthodox Inculturation in Western Society". Coptic Church Review. 18 (3). ISSN 0273-3269.
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- Cartlidge, David R., and Elliott, J.K.. Art and the Christian Apocrypha, Routledge, 2001, ISBN 978-0-415-23392-7, Google books
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- Grabar, André; Christian iconography: a study of its origins, Taylor & Francis, 1968, ISBN 978-0-7100-0605-9Google books
- Grigg, Robert, "Byzantine Credulity as an Impediment to Antiquarianism", Gesta, Vol. 26, No. 1 (1987), pp. 3–9, The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the International Center of Medieval Art, JSTOR
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Searching for a Jesus Who Looks More Like Me
A writer’s Easter pilgrimage, from Jordan to Jamaica, to find a multiethnic image of Christ.
Close your eyes and imagine that Jesus is in front of you.
Is the man kneeling in prayer in the Garden at Gethsemane Chinese? Is the man sitting at the table of the Last Supper Navajo? Is the man dragging his cross toward Golgotha Nigerian? Or is the crucified figure a woman?
Likely as not, the image that presents itself to most Americans is of a lithe, bearded man with shoulder-length, chestnut-colored hair. And whether he is a dashboard Jesus or the nearly 100-foot tall Cristo Redentor, arms outstretched atop a mountain rising over Rio de Janeiro, he is likely to be male — and white.
This confounded me as a young child — the image of a white Christ (in my case, blond and blue-eyed) — printed on the hand-held fans cooling the black congregants of my grandmother’s church in Los Angeles.
Even at that age, with only a peripheral awareness of the brutal attacks on civil rights marchers in Birmingham, Ala., and the bombing of the 16th St. Baptist church there that killed four little girls, the youngest not much older than I — even in my innocence, worshiping someone who didn’t look like us seemed incongruous.
As it turns out, at about that time, “God” as depicted in the form of Jesus Christ was beginning to look more and more like me. Only I didn’t know it.
By the middle of the 20th century, the global center of Christianity had begun shifting away from Europe to Africa, Asia and Latin America. “Christianity around the world was becoming less white, and pictures of Jesus hanging in churches from Jordan to Japan to Jamaica were looking more like the people, instead of the standard white portraits from Europe or North America,” said Todd Johnson, co-director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass.
Thomas Hastings, the executive director of the Overseas Ministries Study Center in New Haven, Conn., said, “They did their own version of Christianity, to put it simply.”
Dr. Hastings, who taught for decades in Japan, recalled how the Rev. Tamura Naoumi, an American-educated Japanese pastor in the early 20th century, sought to change the Western-based Sunday school images of Jesus to those reflecting his culture and that of his students. Mr. Tamura employed local artists to illustrate his books.
“The images of Jesus are Japanese images,” Dr. Hastings said. “The images of his disciples are Japanese images. The images of the Old Testament prophets are Japanese images.”
Dr. Hastings acknowledges that some of the missionaries didn’t like what Mr. Tamura was up to.
“But today,” he added, “all Japanese churches would relate to Japanese images of Jesus.”
There is also a long tradition of adapted local appearances and iconography to the Christian message in the West. “Early Christian artists appropriated images of the long haired pagan gods like Zeus to symbolize the power of Jesus,” said Joan E. Taylor, a professor who studies early Christianity and Judaism at King’s College London, and the author of “What Did Jesus Look Like?” The artists, she added, were referring to “other gods the people of that era would know.”
“Even with that, over the centuries in the West there have been changing fashions in the way Christ was represented that are as variable as hem lines,” she added.
So Jesus, a Jewish man from the Middle East, probably didn’t look like the Nordic Messiah portrayed on the church fans of my childhood. But should it make any difference?
“Multiethnic representations of religious symbols of all kinds are important to everybody, but particularly in our communities, ”said Dinorah Nieves, a sociologist and author in Los Angeles. “It’s important for us to see melanin and sacredness as connected and not opposites.”
However, Ingrid Reneau Walls, a missionary who teaches literature and theology in Akropong-Akuapem, Ghana, points out that among many Caribbean and American black people, even if pictures of a blond-haired Jesus hung at home or in church, “The worship was inevitably distinctly African derived.”
“The way we moved, envisioned, reached for and cried out to Christ, was not to a Christ who was white, for such a Christ would not have necessary comprehended our groans, moans and shouts, ” Dr. Walls said.
As Easter approached this year and the persistence of the coronavirus created a mushrooming feeling of apprehension, I felt the urge to go on a pilgrimage in search of more authentic renderings of Christ — ones reflective of race, but also of gender and sexual orientation. With the help of scholars , I selected 12 images from around the world that are “true” in the way they translate local idioms and sensibilities into the universal ethos Christianity strives to represent.
“The Dead Body," 2004
In ‘‘The Dead Body,’’ the Indonesian painter Wisnu Sasongko, born in 1975, said he wasn’t aiming for historical accuracy — he rarely depicts biblical events or Christ literally. “I imagine him based on my personal experience,” Mr. Sasongko said — an amalgam of everyday people he sees and images from other artists, Western and not.
The artist “restricts his palette to somber colors,” said Victoria Emily Jones, who blogs about Christianity and the arts at ArtandTheology.org. “Jesus’s lips, discolored from lack of oxygen, blend in with his black facial hair. The strongly vertical orientation is striking. Instead of seeing Christ’s body laid out horizontally on a slab or in a coffin, as in most Entombment paintings,” she said, “we see this tightly cropped frontal pose. It’s confrontational.”
This is Jesus and Judas as we have never seen them — extraordinarily buff, dressed to show off their weight lifting physiques. The men’s arms seem to almost touch. The drawing is by Richard Bruce Nugent (1906—1987), an African-American writer, painter, illustrator and bohemian of the Harlem Renaissance whose stream-of-consciousness poem, “Smoke, Lilies and Jade,” was an ode to bisexuality and interracial sexual attraction.
Stamatina Gregory, the director of curatorial programs at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, says the drawing suggests a cruising scene. “We always think of the Jesus-Judas encounter as only one of betrayal,” Ms. Gregory said. “What Nugent is proposing is essentially the unthinkable — that such an encounter might be sexual, and that the deepest betrayal could only have come from someone who was the closest person to the Christ figure in the world.”
“Untitled” (“Ethiopian Last Supper,” anonymous, year unknown)
Modest paintings not much bigger than a letter-sized sheet of paper — like this of the Last Supper — are ubiquitous throughout Ethiopia.
Neal Sobania, a professor emeritus of African History and Visual Culture at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., said there is a small industry of painters there who make biblical settings — like this Last Supper tableau — for the tourist market. In addition to the facial features of Jesus and the apostles, another element marking this as Ethiopian is the mesob — the basket dining surface — and the local custom of taking food with the right hand.
In 1984, when this sculpture of Christ as a nude crucified woman, by the British sculptor, Edwina Sandys, was exhibited at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan, Walter D. Dennis, a bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, criticized its presence as “theologically and historically indefensible.” The work was taken down within days.
Even a decade earlier, when her 250-pound sculpture was first shown, Ms. Sandys (pronounced “sands”) — a granddaughter of Winston Churchill — witnessed extreme reactions, pro and con. “Women’s Lib was in the air,” Ms. Sandys said, quickly adding that’s not why she made the sculpture. “I like changing things around, turning things upside down,” she said. In 2016, Ms. Sandys, who lives in New York, donated the work to the Cathedral — which happily accepted it.
Greg Weatherby, an Australian of Aboriginal descent, depicts Jesus and his followers as Mimi, spirit beings with elongated bodies who taught the Aboriginal peoples practical life skills and gave them culture. “Jesus is crucified in front of Uluru (Ayers Rock), a place of mystery and magic for Aboriginal peoples,” Ms. Jones, the art blogger, said.
“By absorbing Jesus’s death into Aboriginal myth, Weatherby suggests that it, too, has sacred significance and is for his people,” Ms. Jones said. “Weatherby places it even farther back in time than the First Century, into the Dreamtime, which constitutes the deepest reality and strongest identity marker for Australia’s Indigenous people.”
In the mid-1930s, students at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago voted a black and white sketch titled “Son of Man,” by the illustrator Warner Sallman, the most accurate portrayal of Jesus. Kriebel & Bates, a publisher of religious material in Indianapolis, bought the rights to the image and, in 1940, the copyright to Sallman’s color painting, “Head of Christ.” An industry was born.
“Wallet-sized versions were distributed to soldiers and sailors during World War II,” said Mr. Johnson, of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. “It made its way to church bulletins, calendars, posters, bookmarks — literally hundreds of millions of them.”
Emmanuel Garibay is a social realist painter from the Philippines who expresses the struggles of the common man. “Many of his Christ paintings sharply critique the Catholic Church, with its legacy of colonialism and other abuses of power,” said Ms. Jones. This one, however, is on a lighter note. Although Christ is crowned with barbed wire rather than thorns, he is casually wearing a white tank top, and holding a cup in one hand; his other is held in a sign of blessing. “This is a thoroughly contemporary Christ, a Christ of the people,” Ms. Jones said. “He looks tired yet approachable. He’s here doing life with us.”
The Chinese painter James He Qi (pronounced “huh chi”) depicts the gospel story of Jesus and his disciples suddenly caught in a storm. As the waves rise, the disciples turn fearfully to Jesus. With outstretched arms, he stills the winds and the water. As in Mark 4:39, “He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, Be still.”
“He Qi is influenced by the simple and beautiful artwork of the people in rural China,” said Mr. Hastings, quoting from the website of the Overseas Ministries Study Center. “With bold colors, embellished shapes and thick brush strokes, he blends Chinese folk art and the iconography of the Western Middle Ages and Modern Art.”
“The Yoruba Transfiguration,” 2007
In the gospel-based description of the Transfiguration, a radiant Christ is flanked by Moses and Elijah, who represent the law of God and the law of the prophets.
In this version, created by the Yoruba sculptor Lamidi Olonade Fakeye (1928-2009), Jesus stands between a priest of Osanyin, the god of healing, and a priest of Shango, the god of thunder and lightning. “The meaning is that Jesus came to fulfill — not condemn or destroy — the Yoruba traditional religion,” said Nicholas Bridger, author of “Africanizing Christian Art.”
“Maori Jesus,” 2014
This bold, soulful depiction of Jesus is by Sofia Minson, a painter of Swedish, Irish, English and Maori descent living in New Zealand. It shows him as a Maori man with full-face moko (traditional tattoo) and a huia bird, once native to New Zealand but now extinct, as a neck ornament. On her website, Ms. Minson says her goal was “to sense the fluidity and exchange of faith, wairua (spirit), culture, art and religion between people through the ages.”
“Jesus on the Lotus Flower,” 1998
While Christian artists typically depict Jesus’s suffering, in Indian art he is often seen as peaceful. Dr. P. Solomon Raj, an artist and theologian, shows Jesus “as teacher, sitting on a lotus flower much like the Buddha, the lotus being a symbol of purity,” Ms. Jones said. He raises his right hand in a gesture of reassurance and blessing “whose Sanskrit name literally means ‘Do not fear’ — something Jesus said many times.”
“Largo do Pelourinho, Salvador,” Bahia, Brazil, 1955
Djanira da Motta e Silva (1914 — 1979) was a self-taught Brazilian artist who worked in several mediums. Rodrigo Moura, chief curator at El Museo del Barrio in New York, said this 1955 painting, with its solid colors, symmetry and flat perspective, fits in stylistically with her work. But while she often documented working people — farmers, basket weavers — here the subject showed a black Christ.
The painting was controversial among church officials and in the press, Mr. Moura said: “After all, the image of Jesus Christ was (and still is), traditionally that of a white man.”
Christ is tied to a post and whipped in the public square in Salvador. Djanira suggests that violence was so common in colonial time that the faceless passers-by are indifferent to it, Mr. Moura said.
“The post bears the coat of arms of Imperial Brazil, the symbol of the European colonization,” he added. “Churches surround the scene, signifying the clergy’s complicity about violence inflicted on black residents.”
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