Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jesus Did Not Look Like This

I, like all of you, did not live to remember having actually seen the man known today as Jesus of Nazareth, nor can I say for a certainty whether the imagery found below likely matches how Jesus really, distinctively looked. However, I do have good reasons for believing Jesus did not actually look similar to how we often see him presented by others, that is, as an otherwise appealing or strong and healthy looking adult male. Before I explain why I believe this, consider the following fairly popular depictions of how Jesus is seen by many:

The reality is, it is not possible to compare these or other, similar images or depictions with the actual, physical appearance of the one who came in the name of the God called "Jah," "Jehovah," and more recently but for good reasons, "Jaho(h)-ah" (Deuteronomy 18:18-19; John 5:43; 10:25; 14:24, 31). However, in the writings of Isaiah, writings which in many places speak of the same person or of one very similar to Jesus, we read of one who would come not to "judge according to the exterior appearance that is seen by his eyes" (or 'by what he hears') but by what he knows for better (the best) reasons is "right" or "true" (Isaiah 11:3-4). Yet, like pictures or depictions of someone else what is "right" is often difficult to determine according to what others merely 'see' or 'hear.' Rather, ultimately, what is true can only be truly known by searching inside our heart, or by knowing our intentions which are manifest by our actions and by whether we change or remain the same over time.

Where it concerns the true physical appearance of Jesus of Nazareth, this is how he may have actually looked according to descriptive visions given to and seen by Isaiah:

Translation of the Hebrew Text of Isaiah 52:13-53:12

52:13:   Behold! My servant will carefully consider things. He will be raised up; and he will be lifted up
             high; and he will be glorified to a great extent.

52:14:  [now speaking to this “servant” in the second and third person:] It is as if they were appalled over
            you very much, for your disfigurement is because of man, and his form and appearance because 
            of the sons of men.

52:15:  Thus, he will sprinkle many nations with his blood [“with his blood” is implied by association with 
            the verb for “sprinkle” used in the first part of the verse]. On his account, kings will shut their 
            mouths. Because that which they had not considered they will have seen, and that which they did 
            not hear they will have understood. 

53:1:   Who has believed where it concerns our report? And on account of whom has the arm of Jaho(h)-
            ah been shown?

53:2:   And he will grow up like the young plant grows toward its top soil, and like the root grows 
           away from the dry ground. No unique form or glory belongs to him, and we will see him 
           but not with an appearance so that we will desire him.

53:3:   Despised and left alone by men, a man of sorrows and made to know sickness, despised like when 
           people hide their faces, and we have not held him in high regard.

53:4:   Truly our sicknesses he himself has removed, and our sorrows he has carried, 
            and  we ourselves considered him as one afflicted by God and disciplined.

53:5:   But he was pierced through because of our errors, badly beaten because of our guilt, punishment for 
           the sake of our security came to be upon him, and by his pain we have been healed.

53:6:   We have all wandered away like a flock of sheep, like a man to his own road we have turned
            away. But Jaho(h)-ah has caused all of our guilt to meet up with him.

53:7:   He himself was treated severely and put down by others, yet he does not open his mouth. He is
           carried along like the one among a flock of sheep taken to be slaughtered. Yet, like a quiet sheep
           that is about to be sheered he will not open his mouth.

53:8:   Because of coercion and because of judgment he was taken away, and as for his generation who
           will consider it, for he has been cut off from the land of the living because of the error of my
           people, those to whom the mark of death truly belongs.

53:9:   And his grave will be set up alongside criminals and with the wealthy at his death, though he had
           done nothing wrong and there was no deceit in his mouth.

53:10:  Jaho(h)-ah desired to break him down, to make him weak. If he will serve as compensation, then 
            his soul will see the fruit of his sacrifice. His days will continue, and the desire of Jaho(h)-ah he 
            will advance with his hand.

53:11:  Due to the burden of his soul, he will see; he will be satisfied with what he knows. My servant, 
            the righteous one, he will justify many, when he himself carries their guilt.

53:12:  And so I will give him a share along with great ones, and with mighty ones he will divide up great 
            wealth, for he has emptied his soul all the way to death. He has been counted among those who sin, 
            but he has carried  away the sins of many, and he will stand up for those who sin. 

The primary areas of physical description seen here by Isaiah are underlined. The above translation of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is from my pending Elihu Online Paper 4, "The 'Glory' "Seen" by Isaiah According to John 12:41." The above translations, I believe, accurately represent pre-Christian, Jewish prophetic texts written by one truly named "Isaiah" and to whom the God Jah spoke, at least in part, through the well-attested book bearing his name, a book which describes the actual, physical appearance of the one whom Christians believe to be further known as Jesus of Nazareth. 

Though not likely very glorious in his appearance in "the flesh," Jesus was said to be "lifted up and glorified" in a much different but, in the end (and certainly afterward) a much better way than we often "see" with our physical or even with our mind's eyes (Isaiah 52:13; John 1:14; 3:14; 12:32-41). It is best, therefore, if we do not think of Jesus only in terms of what we would like to think may have been his true physical form, but instead recognize that what matters most is not what Jesus looked like but what he taught and, more important still, what he did to glorify the God of Moses.—John 5:41-44; 7:18-19; 17:4; Philippians 2:5-11.