For centuries, scholars and historians have debated what Jesus Christ, the Son of God, actually looked like. Traditional images depict him as a tall, muscular European with long, blond hair and blue eyes, but this portrayal does not align with historical evidence. Most experts agree that as a carpenter’s son born in Palestine, Jesus would have shared the physical traits of the locals at that time – a shorter, stockier build and curly black hair.
However, a Dutch photographer and digital artist, Bas Uterwijk, may have finally put an end to this debate using cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology. Uterwijk, specializing in algorithmic picture synthesis, employed Artbreeder’s machine learning features to create a mesmerizing portrait of Jesus.
His “historically accurate” depiction of the Messiah stands in stark contrast to Western art and ecclesiastical portrayals. Uterwijk explained that he trained the artificial intelligence software on thousands of photographs and paintings of human faces, enabling it to merge multiple sources and create a synthesized version guided by the user’s artistic decisions.
To create this portrayal of Jesus, Uterwijk incorporated various cultural depictions from Byzantine and Renaissance art, including Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” and the Turin Shroud. He then adjusted the ethnicity to represent a more convincing Middle Eastern face. Additionally, Uterwijk drew inspiration from Fayum mummy portraits and incorporated historically accurate elements, such as the hair and beard style of the time and region.
It’s important to note that Uterwijk’s portrait is an artistic interpretation rather than a scientific search for an exact likeness. Nevertheless, it offers a fascinating impression of how Jesus might have looked, given the historical context.
While the Bible provides relatively limited details about Jesus’s appearance, it does mention the clothes he wore. According to Joan Taylor, an experienced researcher and author of the book “What Did Jesus Look Like,” Jesus would have been around 5 feet 5 inches tall, similar to the average height of men during his time. Historical writings, ancient artifacts, and depictions of mummies also support the idea that Jesus had dark olive skin, black hair, and brown eyes.
Taylor emphasizes that the traditional images of Jesus with long hair, robes, and a beard do not reflect his true appearance. Jesus was a Jewish man of his time, not a pale European figure. He would have had shortish black hair, a beard, and wore sandals. As a wanderer who associated with the poor and relied on charity, Jesus likely appeared shabby and unkempt, as described by the 2nd-century philosopher Celsus.
Taylor believes that Jesus’s overall appearance closely resembled that of a typical Jewish man in the first century. While he may have had some cultural contact with Europeans and Africans, resulting in slightly darker skin, his features would have aligned with those of the people in the Middle East.
The recent digital portrait created by Bas Uterwijk resembles the work of forensic facial reconstruction specialist Richard Neave. In 2001, Neave attempted to recreate the likeness of a Judean man from the first century, similar to Jesus. His model, based on a first-century Israelite skull, depicted a short, stocky man with dark hair, a clipped beard, and olive skin.
This rediscovered image of Jesus challenges long-held perceptions and reminds us of the importance of reevaluating historical assumptions. Whether or not this portrait accurately represents the physical appearance of Jesus, it offers a fresh perspective and invites us to envision a different interpretation of the historical figure.
Let us share this article with our family and friends to embark on a thought-provoking journey into the true appearance of Jesus Christ.