Have you ever wondered what Jesus really looked like? How tall was He? Was He thin or heavy set? What did He wear? Did He really look the way so many movies and paintings portray Him, with long, straight, light-brown hair and beard, blue eyes, and fair skin?
It’s been said that Jesus was the best known person in history, but also the least known. Most Biblical accounts are focused on what Jesus did and said, not what He looked like. The Old Testament described some people’s appearance, like King Saul being taller than anyone around or David being ruddy with beautiful eyes. But the New Testament doesn’t have a lot to say about anyone’s physical appearance.
Let’s check out what the Bible does say about Jesus’ appearance and what genetics, ancient artwork, historians, and anthropologists have to say!
Was Jesus tall or short?
We don’t know for sure, but He probably wasn’t tall, as Isaiah 53:2 implies there wasn’t anything special about His appearance. He was probably close to the height of the average Jewish men of His day. The average height of Jewish men in Israel today is 5’10”; however, most Israeli Jews today have mixed European ancestry. The average height of men living in the countries bordering today’s Israel – Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon – is around 5’8” to 5’9”.
But in Biblical times, archeologists have found that the average Middle-Eastern male was between 5’ to 5’2”. That’s probably what Jesus’ height was. He was mostly likely average for His day yet would have been considered short by today’s standards.
How much did Jesus weigh?
One thing is certain, Jesus was not fat! He was an extremely active man, constantly walking from village to village, town to town. It’s close to 100 miles from Galilee to Jerusalem, and Jesus walked to Jerusalem at least three times to celebrate the Passover, according to John, and at least once for Hannukah (John 10:22) and at least once for an unnamed festival (John 5:1). That means He probably made a 200-mile round trip about twice a year, maybe more. He did that walking. The Bible always talks about Jesus walking (or riding in a boat). The only time the Bible says He rode an animal was the donkey colt (Luke 19) that He rode into Jerusalem shortly before He died.
The three times Jesus fed people (the 5000, 4000, and the breakfast He cooked for His disciples after His resurrection), it was the same meal: bread and fish (Mark 6, Mark 8, John 21). After His resurrection, He ate fish (Luke 24). The bread was probably a round flat bread, like pita bread or laffa. At least four of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen, and He spent a lot of time around the Sea of Galilee, so fish was probably His main protein. Although He attended special feasts, His ordinary diet would have been simple: probably bread every day, fish when available, and the occasional fig He plucked from a tree.
Since we’re guessing that Jesus was an average height for His day of between 5’ to 5’2”, He probably weighed somewhere between 100 to 130 pounds, which would be an average weight for a man of that height.
What did Jesus look like?
Let’s first take a look at how the Bible describes Jesus. The prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah 53 tells us what He wasn’t, with regard to physical appearance:
“He had no stately form or majesty to attract us, no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:2).
In His human form, Jesus wasn’t majestic looking, He wasn’t especially handsome; He was an ordinary-looking man whose appearance would not attract attention.
The only other physical description we have of Jesus is what He looks like now, in His glorified state. In the book of Revelation, John described Him with hair as white as snow, eyes like blazing fire, and feet like polished bronze, and His face like the sun shining at its brightest (Revelation 1:12-16)(also, see Daniel 10:6).
The clothing Jesus wore when He walked this earth was also ordinary for His day. It’s highly unlikely that He wore the gleaming white tunic and bright blue outer garment we often see in pictures. Jesus spent most of His time walking by foot for miles from one town to another in a dry, dusty land. He climbed mountains and napped in fishing boats. Any tunic that started out white would quickly be stained with the grayish-brown dust all around Him. The only time His clothing was white was when He was transfigured on the mountain top (Matthew 17:2).
John the Baptist mentioned Jesus wearing sandals, which was customary at that time (Mark 1:7). John the Apostle spoke of four items of outer clothing that the soldiers gambled for when Jesus was crucified. These were in addition to His tunic, which was woven all in one piece, without seams (John 19:23).
The outer clothing might have included the purple robe Herod mockingly draped around Him. Jesus’ own clothing probably resembled the clothing the Bedouin men still wear. Jesus likely wore a head covering, as most Middle Eastern men do today to protect from the sun and blowing sand. He was probably wearing a coat with sleeves when He was crucified at Passover time, as the temperature in the spring would be chilly, especially at night. He may have worn a cloak over that. He would have worn a belt for holding His clothes together and carrying essentials, like money. He outer cloak or coat would have had the tzitzit fringe.
- “Throughout the generations to come you are to make fringes [tzitzit] on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each fringe [tzitzit]” (Numbers 15:38).
- “And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak” (Matthew 9:20).
Based on Leviticus 19:27, we can assume Jesus wore a beard. Isaiah 50:6 is considered a prophecy of Jesus, and speaks of His beard being torn out:
- “I offered My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who tore out My beard. I did not hide My face from scorn and spittle.”
Jesus probably did not have long hair, as that was mainly a thing for the Nazarites (Numbers 6). The Apostle Paul spoke of long hair being a disgrace for a man (1 Corinthians 11:14-15). Paul was alive when Jesus was, and probably saw Him in Jerusalem. Even if not, Paul knew Peter and other disciples who knew Jesus personally. He would not have said it was a disgrace for a man to have long hair if Jesus had long hair.
Jesus most likely wore short hair and a long beard.
Is there any ancient artwork that depicts Jesus? Yes, but not ancient enough. The catacombs of Rome have paintings of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, carrying a lamb over His shoulders. They date to the mid-200’s AD and show Jesus without a beard and with short hair.[i] Usually, He is wearing a short Roman tunic.[ii] However, that’s how Roman men went about in that era: beardless, with short hair. The artists simply painted Jesus according to their own culture. The oldest paintings were done over two centuries after Jesus lived on earth.
Well, what about Jesus’ hair color? Was it curly or straight? Did He have dark or light skin? What color were His eyes?
Jesus would have fit in with the Jews in Galilee and Judea. He would have looked like everyone else. When the temple guard came to arrest Jesus, they didn’t know which one He was. Judas came with them to show them – it would be the man he kissed.
Well, how did the Jews look back in that day? Different from today because after Rome destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70, many Jews fled to north Africa, western Europe, and Russia. These diaspora Jews have intermarried with Europeans and Africans over the past two millennia.
The Jews of Jesus’ day would have looked more like today’s Lebanese and Druze people (of Lebanon, Syria, and Israel). Genetic studies show Jews share similar DNA with the Arabs, Jordanians, and Palestinians, but are most closely related to the natives of Lebanon and the Druze people (who were originally from northern Turkey and Iraq).
Jesus probably had black or dark-brown hair that was wavy or curly, brown eyes, and olive-colored or light brown skin.
What do we know about Jesus Christ?
Everything we need to know about Jesus Christ is in the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament contains many prophesies about Jesus, and the New Testament records His life and teaching.
Jesus called Himself “I AM.” This is the name God used to reveal Himself to Moses and the Israelites. Jesus is God as part of the Triune Godhead – one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “This is what you shall say to the sons of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14)
- Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.” (John 8:58)
- For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Jesus was born as a human and walked this earth as God in human form. He was completely God and completely man. He came to live a perfect life and take the sins of the entire world on Himself when He died on the cross. He broke the power of sin and death, bringing eternal life to all who have faith in Him.
- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him, not even one thing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of mankind.” (John 1:1-4)
- “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12)
- “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:3)
Jesus is the head of the church, which is His body. He is the “firstborn from the dead,” meaning that His resurrection gives all believers the sure hope of resurrection when He returns. Jesus is our merciful High Priest, who was tempted to sin as we are, yet was sinless. He is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and everything is under His power.
- “He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” (Colossians 1:18)
- “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
- “He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion.” (Ephesians 1:20b-21a)
What does the Bible say about height?
God says He’s more interested in a person’s heart than a person’s height.
· “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or height, for I have rejected him; the LORD does not see as man does. For man sees the outward appearance, but the LORD sees the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16:7)
The Bible says that nothing is high enough to separate us from God’s love.
- “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
The Bible gives us the dimensions of the New Jerusalem, including its height. Did you know it will be about 1500 miles high?
- “The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal.” (Revelation 21:16)
Paul prayed that we “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 1:18-19)
Do you know Jesus?
How tall Jesus was or what He looked like when He walked this earth as a man is inconsequential. What really matters is who He is! He is the only one who knows you intimately – who knows your soul, your thoughts, and everything you’ve done. He is the only one who loves you in such a mind-blowing way that we can never fully comprehend it. He is the only one who can forgive your sins and transform you into a new creation.
“There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
He is the only one who can free you from death and welcome you into heaven. He is the only one who can give your life purpose and meaning. He is the only one who can walk with you through everything life takes you and calm the troubled seas. He is the only one who can bring you the peace that passes understanding.
You may not know Jesus, but He knows you inside and out. He created you, He died for you, and He longs for a relationship with you. Today is the day of salvation. If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
If you already know Jesus, revel in your relationship. Strive to know the height of His love for you. Share His love with others and share how they can come to know Him too.