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The appearance of Jesus Christ: redux

1 April 2010

A few years ago Rethabile (Poefrika: What race was Jesus? Do we care?) asked his children which of two pictures of Jesus they preferred, and they opted for one that looked something like this:

rather than one that looked like this:

which they said didn’t look like Jesus at all.

Would YOU buy a used car from this man?

I blogged about this at the time, here The appearance of Jesus Christ: Khanya and here Notes from underground: Poefrika: Meme findings – what did Jesus look like?, but unfortunately people sometimes delete their blog posts, or entire blogs, and so links to them get broken, and one sees messages like “You 404’d it. Gnarly, dude.” So I thought I’d update the post with some of the pictures in it, rather than as links to other blogs that might not be there when people look for them. And so here is the Used-car salesman Jesus, who looks as if he is saying “Sold, to that gentleman in the back row, yes, you Sir.”

Kitsch Jesus

On my other blog, Notes from underground, there is a widget from a site called Ulike, which has an utterly kitsch image purporting to be of Jesus that looks like this. There are a couple of better images on that site, but it needs a few people to join Ulike and vote for the better images before they will display.So if you are reading this, and you think Jesus deserves a better image than the monstrous one on the right, please join Ulike and vote for a better one!

A search of Google images for “Jesus Christ” will turn up more kitsch, much more, including the image of Jesus as a used-car salesman. At the risk of posting yet another link that may disappear in time, The Wanderings of a Theological Vagabond: Christ and Culture: Niebuhr’s 5 Interactions shows the image of the coopted capitalist Jesus interacting with culture in various ways, but only after being coopted.

Rethabile writes about his children’s reactions to two pictures of Jesus in a discussion about whether Jesus should be portrayed as black or white, and the notion that Jesus is blond and blue-eyed, because of some recent Western Christian art.

I think Orthodox Christians would have problems with both the first image and the second image in the meme, and would say that neither looked like Jesus.

Stalin, the Caucasian

In Orthodox ikonography Jesus is shown as a Near Eastern man, not Nordic (blond and blue-eyed), nor Caucasian (like Stalin), nor African, nor Aryan (like the first image). Jesus Christ is one person (hypostasis) and so images depicting him according to any artist’s imagination depart from the truth. The “My Jesus” type of Picture, creating a Jesus according to one’s own desires and perceptions and values (whether of colour, complexion, or anything else) depicts a fantasy Jesus.

For Orthodox Christians the true image of Jesus is more like this (acknowledgements to my daughter, who painted the ikon):

Jesus Christ Pantokrator

An ikon is not a photograph. It does not show you what you would have seen if you had been there. It shows, rather, what most people did not see — that this is the incarnate Son of God. Ikons show Christ (and the saints) with elongated noses, not as some kind of aesthetic ideal, but to show that they breathe the air of heaven. They have small feet, because they tread lightly upon the earth. Christ’s clothing is red and blue, to show the divine and human natures, but in one person. But he still looks Near Eastern, just as ikons of St Peter the Aleut show him as Aleutian, and those of St Moses the Black show him as African. Jesus Christ was a real person, not someone’s conception of an idealised type of humanity.


See also Which Christ do we believe in? | Fr. Ted’s Blog

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 6 April 2010 1:46 pm

    I have voted for another jesus image. Thanks for adding our widget to your blog.

  2. Leo Peter O'Filon permalink
    16 November 2010 8:51 pm

    Greetings! A couple years ago Abp LAZAR in British Columbia noted on one of his websites at the time that he’d written previously that we have a physical description of Christ in connection with one of the Ecumenical Councils, and He doesn’t look like the Shroud of Turin. (Implying, I presume, that He tends to look like Byzantine iconography.) But I couldn’t re-locate Lazar’s previous, nor get a response from his Monastery (I’m sure they’re quite busy). Since you’ve talked about it, do you know anything about this?

    • 22 October 2011 8:19 am

      I don’t, but if you find anything, please let me know!


  1. Which Christ do we believe in? | Fr. Ted's Blog

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