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Who Is Going to Cast an Ugly Jesus?

I’d love to say it’s just secular Hollywood that has an obsession with portraying Jesus Christ as a tall, strapping, handsome dude. But when Christians cast the man who would play their Savior, he too looks like he’s just stepped out of a hair salon…in Europe. What if Jesus the Christ and Son of God is short, bald, and physically unattractive? We’ve been challenging misconceptions and misrepresentations about his ethnic appearance, but are we prepared to embrace an ugly Jesus?

Of course, what Jesus looks like doesn’t matter…right? Maybe. If we’re honest about how we picture him in our mind when reading Scripture or contemplating his life, or lamenting his suffering during the crucifixion, we’d likely have to admit that the Jesus we imagine looks strikingly like the White images we’ve grown used to seeing in popular culture. Or maybe he’s Black in our mind, or has Chinese features. But is he ever ugly?

I recently tweeted: “If we think Isaiah 53:2 references Christ, then he looks nothing like Saul (tall), David (fair complexion), or Absalom (handsome). #Oogly”

The identity of God’s “servant” in Isaiah 53 (introduced in Isaiah 52:13) is debated but it’s interesting nonetheless to wonder if this “suffering messiah” could be describing Jesus of Nazareth:

“He sprouted up like a twig before God, like a root out of parched soil; he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention, no special appearance that we should want to follow him” (NET).

Other translations suggest: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (NIV); “He wasn’t some handsome king. Nothing about the way he looked made him attractive to us” (CEV); “…he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (ESV).

If Isaiah 53:2 is talking about Jesus, it certainly seems as if the prophet was saying the Son of God was nothing much to look at, from the people’s perspective.

Consider King Saul, who the people heaped their hopes on based on his physical appearance, which the Bible gives us in detail: “… Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else” (1 Samuel 9:2, NIV).

The same goes for Israel’s second king, David: “… He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features” (1 Samuel 16:12, NIV); “…he was … glowing with health and handsome” (1 Samuel 17:42, NIV).

And David’s son who made himself king briefly: “In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him” (2 Samuel 14:25, NIV).

Dr. Joan Taylor, a professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Judaism at Kings College in London, writes in her book What Did Jesus Look Like? that evidence suggests Jesus looked nothing like the popular Westernized images we’re used to seeing.

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Nicola A. Menzie
Nicola A. Menzie
Nicola A. Menzie a religion reporter whose bylines have appeared on the websites of the Religion News Service, The Christian Post, CBS News and Vibe magazine. Nicola is the Managing Editor at You can find her on Twitter @namenzie. Email: nicola.menzie (at)


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