“Why didn’t any of the gospels describe what Jesus looked like?”

Ever get one of those strange questions that just makes you stop and say “hmm”? I was sitting at a cafe doing some devotional reading when I got this text message from a good friend of mine;

“Very important theological question for you… Why didn’t any of the gospels describe what Jesus looked like? If I was writing about someone I cared about so that the world would know him I would describe what he looked like… Random, I know, but I figure there is a reason.”

Yes, it WAS random, but it got me thinking about it.  And thinking about it.  And thinking some more.

Eventually I had to answer, so here’s what came to me…

“Great question! As always, I’m not an expert but here’s how I understand it.  When people’s physical descriptions are mentioned in the Bible, it seems to always be a specific element of the plot.  For instance, people liked King Saul because he was handsome.  That’s important to the story so it’s included. However, the prophet Isaiah said that the Messiah would have no outward beauty “that we should desire him”. It would be his character, authority and power that would draw men to him. Knowing this, and knowing that Jesus IS the Messiah, the Gospel writers would have not much to really write about, since as a plot point, “he looked like everybody else” seems pretty weak.

Additionally, I have a feeling that with man’s propensity to idolatry (well evidenced by even the existence of Christian “relics”) the Holy Spirit opted not to give us more fodder for creating false images and even hierarchies of physical value (“hah, I look more like Jesus than you do!”)  To me, it all boils down to the classic truth that “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”, and the heart of Jesus is what we’re called to seek after most of all.”

So, that’s what came to MY heart and mind as I thought about it, but what do YOU think?  Why doesn’t the Bible include more information about Jesus’ physical appearance?


(Special thanks to Karen Kain [http://raisingkains.wordpress.com] for sparking the question.)

One Response

  1. Hey Phillip,
    I noticed no one answered so far…I think it’s that you wrote an amazingly poignant response by text. Clearly, the longest and most detailed text I have ever seen. Great answer though because although I have never thought about that question before, it really does make sense and now I know.

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