Christ Figure

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).”

The question has been asked throughout the ages – “What did Jesus look like?” A new book out by a British historian, Joan Taylor, bearing that title covers much of the same ground as others have recently on this subject. (1) Taylor maintains rightly that contrary to Western art, Jesus most certainly was not the blonde haired blue-eyed character seen in many works.

She believes that He was “probably around [five-feet-five inches] tall, somewhat slim and muscular, with olive-brown skin, dark to brown to black hair, and brown eyes.” Such a description aligns with forensic anthropologists’ own findings of people of this region during the first-century based on skeletal remains they have analyzed.

But Taylor offers another description of Jesus that is fascinating. She proposes that He was likely disfigured, due to His profession of a carpenter. Taylor supposes that since He worked outdoors His face “had a leathery appearance from exposure to the elements.” Further, she suggests that he likely had scars from his professional work He would have been subject to scars, broken arms left unset and possible eye injuries and perhaps even walking with a limp.

Of course, all of this is subjective and she does readily confess that the only description in the Bible of His physical appearance doesn’t give us much to go on. “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him (Isaiah 53:2).” Basically, Jesus did not have charismatic cover-boy good looks that would attract us to Him. It would seem that the Holy Spirit intended a paucity of detail on His physical attributes so that we should focus on His inner character and actions (John 1:18, Hebrews 1:3). And truly “the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).”

But if He was disfigured it was intentional and not the happenstance of a dangerous profession. “Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for OUR transgressions, He was bruised for OUR iniquities, the chastisement for OUR peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:4c-5).” Pilate had Him scourged, a humiliating and brutal punishment that sometimes proved fatal. (2) He would have been stripped publicly and secured to a post while a flagrum whip with sharp pieces of bone, glass, or shell would have shredded the flesh from His shoulders to His loins. He was foreordained to be scourged and crucified and He knew this appointment awaited Him (Matthew 20:19). Yet Scripture tells us that He endured this shameful and painful mutilation by focusing on the joy of obeying the Father’s will (Hebrews 12:2).

Just as God knew that the Christ would suffer the disfigurement of the Passion, He also predestined His people to be “conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).” We were misshapen and marred by the scars of sin. But through faith in His sacrifice we may be healed and returned into that image intended at creation (Genesis 1:27).

This mystery of what Jesus looks like will one day be resolved when He comes back and every eye will see Him (Revelation 1:7). Meanwhile, as our outward appearances fade keep heart as our inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

“He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength (Revelation 1:16).”


Billy Alexander is a member of the church of Christ in Jersey Village in Houston, TX. He and his wife Gwen both work at Hewlett-Packard where they met and have worked more than 25 years each. Billy enjoys teaching Bible several times each week at Jersey Village and Memorial church of Christ. Since 2008, his weekly article "Equipping the Saints" as run in the Jersey Village bulletin.