Baker Academic

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Beardless Jesus

Image from
A burial site in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv has revealed several 4th-century Christian images, some including portraits of Jesus. These images are now available here. These are the oldest portraits of Jesus discovered in Bulgaria and among the largest (perhaps the largest) portraits from this period.

There are several fascinating features of these images. What I found initially striking was that Jesus is young, beardless, has short(ish) hair, and robed. All of these features parallel another 4th-century find.

This glass plate found in Linares, Spain shows a similar Jesus with the notable difference of an aureole (i.e. the plate shows Jesus with a halo; the painted tomb does not). Similar portraits of Jesus can be found in the Roman catacombs. So when did Jesus become the long-haired, bearded man, in a stolē rather than a chitōn (cf. John 19:23)? Joan Taylor's article surveys a few interesting developments in Jesus' appearance.

For an almost credible reenactment of what the early Christians thought about the importance of beards, see here.


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