My Blog List

People I Know

Eclectic Folks

Media Blogs

Politics, Policy Blogs

Page Rank

Check Page Rank of your Web site pages instantly:

This page rank checking tool is powered by Page Rank Checker service

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

J is for Jesus

I suppose a couple caveats in order: I am a Christian, but I have no desire to proselytize. Conversely, I have no desire to mock the faith. Surely one or more people will think I'm doing one or the other.

I thought this Time magazine cover(#) was a fairly accurate representation of what Christianity looks like; it depends on the point of view.

Take, for instance, the physical characteristics of Jesus. He was not depicted in art until decades after walking the earth. What did Jesus look like? Looking in the Bible, there appears to be no description whatsoever, except an interpretation of Isaiah 53:2, which says, "He has no form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him". If this is in fact referring to Jesus, and the subsequent verses of the chapter are used in Messiah (Handel) as Jesus verses, then this Jesus fellow was rather plain-looking.

There's a lengthy Wikipedia description about the depictions of Jesus. My favorite section is on this point: "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'." So humans, using their own sensibilities, created the appearance of Jesus in their own image of what he (or He) must have looked like. The beard and long hair was copped, ironically, from the image of competing "gods".

So, the "standard" look of Jesus is understood to look something like this:


But of course, there are blond Jesus portraits:


In many homes, in the 1960s United States, there were pictures of Jesus that looked more like this montage:

Some folks saw the depiction of a black Jesus as a source of pride, while others called it blasphemy. Given the Biblical directive way back in Genesis that God made humans in God's image, it seems as though people feel compelled to return the favor.

I was going to continue on a slippery slope of the differing philosophies of various Christian denominations, and the various depictions of Jesus as everything from a Pascal (sacrificial) lamb to a guy who turned over tables in righteous anger, but instead I'll just leave you with this delineation of church memberships in the United States.

Oh, and this story: back in 1995, when I was still a Methodist, I was in a class called Disciple, where we poured through the whole Bible in 34 weeks. Among other things, one week's exercise was to go to a faith community different from your own; getting out of one's comfort zone is something I am in favor of.

As it turned out, there was a Coptic church in Albany at the time. The Coptic church is the Egyptian Orthodox church. The service, mostly in Arabic, but some in English, lasted over three hours! After the service, I had a conversation with a knowledgeable member. Everyone who participated in communion drank from the same cup; they did not worry about communicable diseases because the Lord would not let that happen in the Sacrament. As a non-Orthodox, I was not invited to partake of communion, although a Roman Catholic, who believe in transubstantiation, could have. In fact, the gentleman, in the nicest possible manner, assured me that I was going to hell for my Protestant beliefs. It was all VERY interesting how different the teachings of Jesus can be interpreted.

(#) First three images from LIFE, for personal non-commercial use only
ROG

26 comments:

40 Forever said...

Very interesting. I just assumed that he looked like an Israeli.

RuneE said...

Maybe that is why I'm non-religious :-)

PS And a well described J-post!

Mara said...

I liked this view on Jesus. I guess people of all different backgrounds will have different views on what Jesus looked like. And none of them may be true and yet all of them may be! Who is to say...

Reader Wil said...

This is such an interesting post, Roger! Thank you! Does it matter what Jesus looked like? I know many beautiful people who have empty eyes, who are not interesting or impressive at all. Whereas other plain looking people are so impressive when they talk and they are so convincing in their faith. After a while you see the spirit and soul of a person not his face or perfectly built body.Great post Roger!

Sylvia K said...

Guess I have to agree with RuneE.

Great post for the day!

Sylvia

Carol said...

Interesting J post, Roger...glad you didn't go down the slippery slope, LOL...I'll have to agree with Wil...the inside is more important than the outside...but not as easy to see....

Your EG Tour Guide said...

You are tackling a difficult subject here. ;-)

anthonynorth said...

An excellent post. I've been interested in the differing interpretation of Jesus in looks and theology. It usually says more about us than any actual existant Christ, I find.

Lin said...

Informative post as usual, Roger! I'm kind of embarrassed that I didn't think of Jesus for J.

Amy said...

Roger, I enjoyed reading your post - in the 90's I spent a few years learning about the Jesus in an historical context. I especially value the time I spent at a 2 week long seminar studying the life of Jesus and applying it psychologically to our current life. We did art, had celebrations, silent times, work meditation, as well as hard work, both physical and mental!

Anyway, it's a great post and I can appreciate the differing physical views of Jesus - thank goodness we have a fairly good record of what he said and did, keeping in mind the context of course!

ohslowburn said...

" I am a Christian, but I have no desire to proselytize."

Thank you. You may now proceed to tell me absolutely anything you wish about Christianity until the cows come home.

Can you tell I have no patience for those secretly - or not so secretly - praying for my soul?

Irene said...

An interesting and challenging post, Roger. I'm oh so confused about dogmatic RC beliefs.

magiceye said...

very interesting post...

Paula Scott said...

Fascinating. Compelling. Thought-provoking.
Very well written and a good discussion as to the complexities that come with what we believe to be our faith.
A++++!

jay said...

A very interesting post. I'm with 40 Forever - I assume that he must have looked Middle Eastern because that is the area in which he was born. The Victorian notion of a blond, blue-eyed Jesus can surely have had no basis in fact, or that would have been remarked upon in the Bible, since He would have been very different from the indigenous people.

Yes, we all interpret Jesus differently, but that is only right. We all interpret Christianity differently, and God Himself, differently, because we are all different. I like the Time cover.

April said...

Interesting post!

Q said...

I am always interested in the historic Jesus.
I think understanding others is knowing their history.
Sherry

Nydia said...

Jesus was a wonderful personality, no matter the faith one follows. And everyone has this curiosit about how he looked like, we will never know while here, I guess. A very interesting ABC post!

Kisses from Nydia.

Anthony said...

If Jesus is the lord, then perhaps the main issue is not how we interpret him, but how he interprets us.

In the Gospels, Jesus said a lot of provocative things, among which a stand out is when he said, "whatever you've done to the least of these you've done to me." So, in this statement Jesus is identifying himself with everyone, and if this is so then perhaps the best way to see him is to see him in others.

Grace and Bradley said...

We just saw in the News of one church in Taiwan has a painting of Last Supper on the wall with all the figures modified to look like Chinese deities including Jesus!!

~JarieLyn~ said...

This is fascinating. I'm not a religous person, however, I do believe in the christian faith. I'm not sure what Jesus looks like but I think 40 Forever and Jay have given me a new perspective.

Great post.

Rose said...

Very interesting post, Roger, with equally interesting comments. I always thought it funny that some people were offended by the idea of a black Jesus or a depiction of him very different from the usual image. How do we even know what he looked like?? In high school our Sunday School class spent several months studying different faiths and visiting other churches. It was very enlightening and helped to make me a more tolerant person of others' beliefs, I think.

SparkleFarkle said...

I follow Ricky Bobby’s lead and pray to the Baby Jesus.

Tumblewords: said...

Interesting post! Guess no one knows for sure.

Janie said...

I like your willingness to get out of your comfort zone and look into others' beliefs. Interesting how different people or groups view Jesus.

Beverley Baird said...

Very interesting. I had never seen the Time cover - fascinating the many different faces of Jesus.