The context here is that I’ve seen a few claims floating about within the media regarding a supposedly “scientific” analysis that has yielded the above picture. For example we have this over at Salon dated 14th Dec 2015 … except it is not really new at all, and you will find the exact same claim with the exact same picture in Popular Mechanics dated Jan 2015, almost one year ago, and yet it is now popping up once again as if it was new, for example here in Daily Mail, AOL News, etc…
In fact, this image has been doing the rounds with this claim for a very long time, because here is the exact same claim with the same picture from 2002. Interestingly enough the words from that story in 2002 are frighteningly similar to the more recent ones, so why do none of the recent stories actually come clean and admit they are recycling old stuff.
Does it comes from 2002 then?
Nope, here it is in 2001. It appears to originate from some work that Richard Neave, a forensic facial reconstruction expert, was commissioned to do back in 2001 for a TV program, and was simply being done to illustrate what somebody from that region might have looked like during the 1st century.
So what data has been used?
As far as Jesus is concerned, we have no body, no DNA, no descriptions, basically nothing, and so if we have a claimed description then what we actually have is imagination, a fantasy and that is it. The PM Article explains …
An answer has emerged from an exciting new field of science: forensic anthropology. Using methods similar to those police have developed to solve crimes, British scientists, assisted by Israeli archeologists, have re-created what they believe is the most accurate image of the most famous face in human history.
… except, you are actually dealing with a real starting point and then extrapolate from there. What Richard Neave does is to start with just a skull and from that re-construct what the person actually looked like. In other words you have an actual starting point and not nothing at all.
OK, it was not quite nothing, because when the TV program commissioned Richard Neave to do this reconstruction, then gave him a first-century Jewish skull from a department of forensic science in Israel, in other words, this is all based on a real skull of what is basically a random individual.
It is interesting because it does highlight the fact that the rather popular image of Jesus (see below), as portrayed in an almost countless number of religious images, is totally fictitious and is instead just a fantasy constructed by medieval european artists.
What is also rather interesting is that many of the religious who claim to have had visions of Jesus come up with a description that fits with the prevailing cultural expectations, (long blond hair, blue eyes, white), and never describe a middle-eastern chap, which if you give it a bit of thought should be the far more obvious description for somebody from that time and region, and so such visions perhaps tell us a great deal about human psychology and nothing at all about anything that is actually real.
OK, so what is the oldest image of Jesus?
This one is …
The above comes from the Syrian city of Dura Europos, and dates to about 235. One other rather interesting observation there is that he is beardless and also young. The beard did not start appearing on images of Jesus until about the late 3rd century. Interestingly enough another very common early pattern was Jesus with a wand when doing magic tricks.
If curious to understand how the image changed and evolved over time into what we have today then the Wikipedia page on that topic is a good read.
So in summary …
- nobody knows what he actually looked like, assuming of course he even existed (I suspect under all the layers of superstition and belief that was added later was one of the many Jewish messiah claimants)
- anybody claiming they know is lying to you, and perhaps also lying to themselves
- the long haired, blue eyed quarterback image we now associate with him is total fantasy
- the “this is the real face of jesus” is an old story that gets resurrected about this time of year and has been popping up almost annually since 2001, so much so that the reveal of this “discovery” is now almost a tradition.