Jesus.

Jesus Christ, son of God, savior.


Attributed text(s).
Correspondence with Abgar.

Related text(s).
Gospels, including that of Peter and that of Thomas.
Testimonia.

Useful links.
Jesus in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Evidence for Jesus and Parallel Pagan Saviors Examined.

Sayings of Jesus.

The figure of Jesus looms over history taller than virtually any other historical figure. First at the very juncture between east and west, then into the west, and finally into the east and over the entire globe, Christianity, the religion founded on the title he was given, namely Christ, has become one of the most important religions worldwide, alongside Hinduism, Islam, and very few others.

Modern scholars often view the figure of Jesus in two different ways. First, there is the historical Jesus; the quest for the historical Jesus is the search for what actually happened, in historical terms, early in century I in Palestine. Second, there is the Christ of faith; this figure is the son of God, the savior worshipped by Christians of all kinds around the world.

It should be noted that this distinction between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith is mostly a modern one. (I say mostly because the process of separating the one from the other began in ancient times with skeptics such as Celsus, even if that process has come to a culmination of sorts only more recently with the position held by some that no historical Jesus existed at all.)

The classic Christian fish symbol is often given a literal meaning in Greek, as an acronym, (one of) the Greek word(s) for fish being ιχθυς:

Ιησους Χριστος, θεου υιος, σωτηρ.

Jesus Christ, son of God, savior.

The following texts deal with physical images or descriptions of Jesus. Most of them are taken in their original languages from Robert Eisler, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, appendices 20 and 21, pages 617-620. The translations (such as they are, and quite rough) are mine, since Eisler does not provide any.

From Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.25.6 (Latin only at this point):

Alii vero ex ipsis signant, cauteriantes suos discipulos in posterioribus partibus exstantiae dextrae auris; unde et Marcellina, quae Romam sub Aniceto venit, cum esset huius doctrinae, multos exterminavit. gnosticos se autem vocant, etiam imagines, quasdam quidem depictas, quasdam autem et de reliqua materia fabricatas, habent, dicentes formam Christi factam a Pilato illo in tempore quo fuit Iesus cum hominibus; et proponunt eas cum imaginibus mundi philosophorum, videlicet cum imagine Pythagorae et Platonis et Aristotelis et reliquorum; et reliquam observationem circa eas similiter ut gentes faciunt.

Others use signs upon themselves, branding their disciples in the posterior parts of the right earlobe. Whence also Marcellina, who came to Rome under Anicetus, and, since she was of this doctrine, she led multitudes astray. They call themselves gnostics, and they also have images, some of them painted, others moreover fabricated from different kinds of material, and they say that a form of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus was among men. And they display them with images of the philosophers of the world, to wit, with the image of Pythagoras, and [that of] Plato, and [that of] Aristotle, and [those of] the rest. And they also make different kinds of observations of these [images], similarly as do the gentiles.

Hippolytus, Refutation 7.20 (or 7.32 in Miller or in Wendland):

Τουτων τινες και καυτηριαζουσι τους ιδιους μαθητας εν τοις οπισω μερεσι του λοβου του δεξιου ωτος. και εικονας δε κατασκευαζουσι του Χριστου, λεγοντες υπο Πιλατου τω καιρω εκεινω γενεσθαι.

Certain of these [heretics]* cauterize their own disciples in the back parts of the lobe of the right ear. And they prepare images of Christ, saying that they were made at that time by Pilate.

* In context, possibly Carpocratians.

From Epiphanius, Panarion 27.6:

Ηλθεν δε εις ημας ηδη πως Μαρκελλινα τις υπ αυτων απατηθεισα, η πολλους ελυμηνατο εν χρονοις Ανικητου επισκοπου Ρωμης, του μετα την διαδοχην Πιου και των ανωτερω. .... και ενθεν γεγονεν αρχη γνωστικων των καλουμενων. εχουσι δε εικονας ενζωγραφους δια χρωματων, αλλα και οι μεν εκ χρυσου και αργυρου και λοιπης υλης, ατινα εκτυπωματα φασιν ειναι του Ιησου και ταυτα υπο Ποντιου Πιλατου γεγενησθαι, τουτεστιν τα εκτυπωματα του αυτου Ιησου οτε ενεδημει τω των ανθρωπων γενει. κρυβδην δε τας τοιαυτας εχουσιν, αλλα και φιλοσοφων τινων, Πυθαγορου και Πλατωνος και Αριστοτελους και λοιπων, μεθ ων φιλοσοφων και ετερα εκτυπωματα του Ιησου τιθεασιν, ιδρυσαντες τε προσκυνουσι και τα των εθνων επιτελουσι μυστηρια.

And there came to us now somehow a certain Marcellina, who had been deceived by them, and she despoiled many in the times of Anicetus the bishop of Rome, the one [standing] in the succession of Pius and those before him. .... And thereafter happened the beginning of the so-called gnostics. And they have images painted lifelike in color, but also which are [made] of gold and silver and the rest wood, which they say are reliefs of Jesus and that these were made by Pontius Pilate, that is, the reliefs of this very Jesus when he lived among the race of men. And they hold these things in secret, but also [those of] certain philosophers, of Pythagoras, and of Plato, and of Aristotle, and of the rest, with which philosophers they also place the others, the reliefs of Jesus, and after they set them up they worship them and enjoin the mysteries of the gentiles.

From Antonius Placentinus, a pilgrim to the holy land:

Oravimus in praetorio ubi auditus est dominus, ubimodo est basilica sanctae Sophiae ante ruinas templi Salomonis, sub platea quae decurrit ad Siloam fontem secus porticum Salomonis. in ipsa basilica est sedis ubi Pilatus sedit quando dominum audivit. petra autem quadrangulis quae stabit in medio praeturio, in quam levabatur reus qui audiebatur, ut ab omni populo audiretur et videretur, in qua levatus est dominus quando auditus est a Pilato, ubi etiam vestigia illius remanserunt. pedem pulchrum, modicum subtilem, nam et staturam communem, faciem pulchram, capillos subanellatos, manum formosam, digita longa* imago designat, quae illo vivente picta sunt, quae posita est in ipso praeturio.... et ipsa petra ornata est ex auro et argento.

* Eisler adds quantum in brackets at this point.

We prayed in the praetorium where the Lord was given a hearing, where the basilica of Saint Sophia is, before the ruins of the temple of Solomon, below the street which runs to the fountain of Siloam following the porch of Solomon. In the basilica itself is the seat where Pilate sat when he gave the Lord his hearing. There was also a quadrangular rock which was standing in the middle of the praetorium, on which the defendant would be raised who was being heard, so that he might be heard and seen by the whole populace; on this [rock] the Lord was raised up when he was heard by Pilate, where his vestiges still remain. His image, which depicts him as if alive and which is positioned in this same praetorium, traces out a beautiful foot, though a bit slender since [it has] a normal stature, a beautiful face, hair curled under, a well-formed hand, long fingers.... And the rock itself is overlaid with gold and silver.

From the Doctrine of Addai:

When Hannan, the keeper of the archives, saw that Jesus spoke thus to him, by virtue of being painter for the king, he took and painted a likeness of Jesus with choice paints, and brought it with him to Abgar the king, his master. And, when Abgar the king saw the likeness, he received it with great joy and placed it with great honor in one of his palatial houses.

This is one episode from the Abgar legend.

Andreas of Jerusalem:

Αλλα και ο Ιουδαιος Ιωσηπος τον αυτον τροπον ιστορει οραθηναι τον κυριον συνοφρυν, ευοφθαλμον, μακροπροσωπον, επικυφον, ευηλικα.

But Josephus the Jew also records in the same way that the Lord appeared with joined eyebrows, beautiful eyes, a long countenance, humped over, well grown.

Scholion to John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith 4.16, in two manuscripts of the Paris National Library:

...επει και Ιωσηπος ο Ιουδαιος, ως τινες φασι... τον αυτον ιστορει τροπον τον κυριον οραθηναι συνοφρυν, ευοφθαλμον, μακροψιν, ειπκυφη τε και ευηλικα.

...since also Josephus the Jew, as some say.... records in the same way that the Lord appeared with joined eyebrows, beautiful eyes, a long aspect [or face], both humped over and well grown.

Nicephorus Callistus (Migne, Patrologia Graeca 145, column 747):

Επτα σπιθαμων ην τελειων, ευοφθαλμος και επιρρινος, επιξανθον εχων την τριχα, μελαινας οφρυς, ηρεμα επικλινης τον αυχενα, ως μηδε πανυ ορθιον και εντεταμενην εχειν την ηλικιαν του σωματος.

He was seven spans tall, with beautiful eyes and a long nose, having tawny hair, black eyebrows, a sloping throat, as not having an altogether upright and taut growth of the body.

Nicephorus Callistus, Church History 15.23:

Τουτου δε του Γενναδιου ιεραρχουντος και τις ζωγραφος επι σχηματος Διος τον σωτηρα γραψαι τολμησας αντιμισθιαν της πραξεως το ξηραν αυχησαι την χειρα εκτησατο· ον το εγκλημα παρρησια ομολογησαντα ευχη Γενναδιος εξιατο. χρεων μεντοι ειδεναι οτι επι του σωτηρος το ουλον μαλλον και ολιγοτριχον αληθεστερον εστιν, ως εκ των ιστορουντων διεγνωμεν.

And while this Gennadius was serving as high priest there was also a certain painter who, having dared to depict the savior after the pattern of Zeus, won as compensation for the deed the withering of his hand; Gennadius healed him with prayer after he had openly confessed the act. It is thus necessary to see that short and curly hair is more true to the savior, as we have found out from the historians.

Theodorus Anagnostes, Church History 1.15:

Επι Γενναδιου η χειρ του ζωγραφου εχηρανθη του εν ταξει Διος τον σωτηρα γραψαι τολμησαντος· ον δι ευχης ιασατο [ο] Γενναδιος. φησι δε ο ιστορων οτι το αλλο σχημα του σωτηρος το ουλον και ολιγοθριχον υπαρχει.

In the time of Gennadius the hand of the painter who had dared to depict the savior in the form of Zeus was withered; Gennadius healed him through prayer. And the historians say that the other pattern for the savior, the one with short and curly hair, is better.

Theophanes, To Year of the World 5955 (Latin courtesy of Anastasius Bibliothecarius, Chronography in Three Parts):

Τω δ αυτω ετει ζωγραφου τινος τον σωτηρα γραψαι τολμησαντος καθ ομοιοτητα του Διος εξηρανθη η χειρ· ον εξαγορευσαντα δι ευχης ιασατο Γενναδιος. φασι δε τινες των ιστορικων οτι το ουλον και ολιγοτριχον σχημα επι του σωτηρος οικειοτερον εστιν.

Sequenti anno cum pictor quidam pingere salvatorem secundum similitudinem Iovis praesumpsisset, arefacta est manus eius, quem peccatum suum confessum sanavit Gennadius. aiunt enim quidam historicorum quod crispis et raris capillis schema in salvatore magis vernaculum sit.

And in the same year the hand of a certain painter, who had dared to depict the savior according to the likeness of Zeus, was withered; Gennadius healed him through prayer after he declared it. And certain ones of the historians say that the pattern with short and curly hair is more familiar on the savior.

Anonymous scholion, περι της του κυριου ανθρωπινης μορφης (concerning the human form of the Lord):

Η καθ ημων του θεανθρωπου μορφη, ως παρειληφαμεν υπο των αυτου αυτοπτων και αποστολων. ην το μεν της ηλικιας μεγεθος τελειος ανηρ, ουτε το μετρον υπερβαινων ουτε προς τουναντιον κατασπωμενος, απεριττος ταις σαρξιν, υποκυφος, την κομην μεγας και συνεσταλμενος θριξι ουλος τους βοστρυχους, ακερσοκομης, ακουρευτος, ασκεπης, διχη προς το μετωπον, τους πλοκαμους διεσταλμενος, επιρρινος, υποξανθιζων τας κορας των οφθαλμων, μελαγχρους, μακροτραχηλος, μετριος την υπηνην, ουτε τανοτητι των τριχων ταυτην επεσπασμενος, αλλα συστροφη κοσμιοτητος σεμνυομενος.

The form of the godman among us, as taken in by his eyewitnesses and apostles. He was a perfect [or mature] man in the prime of life, neither too big nor too small, not unusual of musculature [or flesh], somewhat humped, with long hair drawn together and curly, unshorn, unshaven, uncovered, divided toward the brow, with separated locks, a long nose, brown in the pupils of the eyes, swarthy, with a long neck, an average beard, not made ugly by the length of the hairs, but rather dignified by the gravity of his decorum.

Anonymous Byzantine homily defending iconolatry:

Παρεδωκαν οι απ αρχης αυτοπται* το θεανδρικον σχημα τριπηχυ, μικρον, επικεκυφος, ...ευοφρυ και τουτο συνδεμενον, ευοφθαλμον, ευρινον, σιτοχροον, ουλοτριχον την κεφαλην και ξανθην ολιγον.

* Refer to Luke 1.2.

No translation yet.

The letter of Lentulus Publius, an ancient or medieval forgery of which more can be learned in the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Lentulus Hierosolymitanorum praeses S. P. Q. Romano: Adparuit nostris temporibus et adhuc est homo magnae virtutis nominatus Christus Iesus, qui dicitur a gentibus propheta veritatis, quem eius discipuli vocant filium dei, suscitans mortuos et sanans languores. homo quidem staturae procerae, spectabilis, vultum habens venerabilem, quem intuentes possunt et diligere et formidare; capillos vero circinos et crispos aliquantum coeruliores et fulgentiores ab humeris volitantes; discrimen habens in medio capitis iuxta morem Nazarenorum; frontem planam et serenissimam, cum facie sine ruga ac macula aliqua, quam rubor moderatus venustat; nasi et oris nulla prorsus est reprehensio; barbam habens copiosam et rubram, capillorum colore, non longam sed bifurcatam; oculis variis et claris exsistentibus. in increpatione terribilis, in admonitione placidus ac amabilis, hilaris, servata gravitate, qui nunquam visus est ridere, flere autem saepe. sic in statura corporis propagatus, manus habens et membra visu delectabilia; in eloquio gravis, rarus et modestus, speciosus inter filios hominum. valete.

Lentulus, president of Jerusalem, to the senate and the people of Rome: There appeared in our times, and still is, a man of great power1 named Christ Jesus, who is said by the people to be a prophet of truth, whom his disciples call the son of God, since he resuscitates the dead and heals those who are sick.2 He is indeed a man of tall stature, notable, having a venerable countenance, whom those who gaze upon him can both love and dread; hair truly wavy and curly, considerably bluish and shining, fluttering from the shoulders; having a part in the middle of the head according to the custom of the Nazarenes; a flat and most serene forehead, with a face without any wrinkle or spot, which a moderate redness embellishes; nothing of his nose or mouth is at all reprehensible; having an abundant and reddish beard, the color of his hair, not long but bifurcated; his eyes being varying and bright. In his reproaches he is terrible, in his admonition placid and amiable, cheerful, but his gravity preserved, who no one has ever seen to laugh, but often to weep. He is extended in the stature of his body, having hands and arms delectable to see; grave in his eloquence, rare and modest, splendid among the sons of men. Be well.

1 Or virtue.
2 Or languishing.

Some of these texts appear to insist on short hair for the savior. Confer 1 Corinthians 11.14-15.