With Christmas in the air, it’s the time of year that many are focused on Jesus Christ. This year, reports Popular Mechanics, Richard Neave, a retired medical artist from the University of Manchester in England, has recreated the face of Jesus using the best historical and archaeological evidence available to modern science.
The resulting visage looks nothing like the light skinned, willowy Jesus depicted in modern Western art. The newly rendered face of Jesus, however, is based upon some solid research and technology and is likely to be a much closer rendition to the actual face of the historic Jesus than anything produced before.
“In some cases the resemblance between the reconstruction and the actual individual can be uncanny. But in others there may be more resemblance with the other work of the same artist. This is probably a lot closer to the truth than the work of many great masters.”
Richard Neave, who took up the challenge of recreating an accurate representation of the face of Jesus Christ, has a dedicated history of recreating the faces of the famous and long-dead. In the last 20 years, he has reconstructed literally dozens of famous faces. His resume includes the faces of King Midas and Philip II among many others. With his impressive body of work, Neave was an excellent candidate for the historic, controversial job.
Why delve into the reconstruction of Jesus Christ’s face in the first place? For scientific and historical purposes. It’s glaringly obvious to anyone with a background in anthropology or the history of world civilizations that the westernized image of Jesus is incorrect. Indeed, while most in the Western world are most familiar with the Sunday-school portrait version of Jesus Christ, in other areas of the globe, Jesus is often portrayed as looking like the people in those respective regions.
There’s also the question of the Biblical accounts of the appearance of Christ. Or rather, the lack thereof. Nowhere in the Bible is Jesus depicted as looking markedly different than his disciples. Rather, in the Biblical account, when Jesus Christ is arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, the arresting soldiers cannot tell him apart from the rest of his followers, and Judas has to point him out. It’s unlikely that this would have been the case if he’d been the sole tall, light-complected, light-haired member of his party.
With these Biblical clues, Richard Neave was able to determine that the true face of Jesus Christ must have been typical of others of his ancestry and geographical location. Namely, the Galilean Semites of his time. In reconstructing the face of Jesus Christ, Neave first acquired skulls from the area and era where Jesus purportedly lived and ministered. He began his reconstruction of the face of Jesus Christ with three such specimens, which were shared by Israeli archaeologists.
Using the most advanced computer tomography, the most minute details of each of the skulls was discerned. The use of additional forensic reconstruction computer programs allowed Neave to determine the most appropriate soft tissue dimensions for each the areas of the skulls, ultimately allowing him to recreate the underlying facial structures on a model skull. The model skull, of course, was created in the image of the Galilean Semite skulls of the era Jesus Christ is historically thought to have existed.
With the foundation Jesus Christ “face” complete, the medical artist was left with the task of filling in a couple of details that forensic computer programs and even recovered skulls couldn’t provide. Neave had to determine the skin, hair, and eye color of the historic face of Jesus Christ.
Once again, he turned to the historic evidence of the appearances of Jesus’ contemporaries in the region. The Galilean Semites were dark-skinned and had dark curly hair. For Jesus’ eye color, the scientist turned to drawings dated to the first century, recovered from archaeological sites, and drawn before the compilation of the Bible. These drawings indicated that Jesus Christ most likely had lighter eyes, which is how Neave opted to represent them in his face of Jesus.
The length of Jesus Christ’s hair was determined from clues in the Bible, and his facial hair is depicted as a beard in accordance with Jewish religious custom.
“Would Paul have written ‘If a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him’ if Jesus Christ had had long hair?”
Despite the highly scientific process used to recreate the face of Jesus Christ, it’s not surprising that there are some who are calling this “most accurate” representation of the face of Jesus into question. Gospel Herald reports that at least one historian, Dr. Matthew Kilburn of the History of Parliament, has his doubts about the accuracy of this depiction of Jesus Christ.
“Jesus certainly wasn’t Nordic-looking. But nor was he ‘Black.’ He most likely shared the skin tone of those of his community. If you pull up pictures of Palestinian men today, you’ll find a skin tone much closer to ‘white’ than to ‘black,’ but most accurately described as ‘tan’ or ‘olive’… if you look at the Shroud of Turin, it clearly shows a figure with long hair.”
Dr. Kilburn doesn’t go on to address the controversy surrounding the Shroud of Turin, which is a very hotly contested religious relic. There are some who believe it to be the actual burial shroud of Christ, while many others believe it to be a monumental hoax. To date, there’s been no consensus within the scientific, historic, or religious communities as to the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, let alone an agreement that its stain is an accurate representation of the face of Jesus Christ.
[Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]