In the town of Cástulo, Spain, archaeologists have discovered one of the earliest-known images of Jesus, which shows him short-haired and beardless.
The newly found depiction of Jesus is engraved on an 8.6-inch glass plate known as a paten, estimated to date back to the fourth century A.D., and is the oldest image of its kind to have been found in Spain.
The image is similar to the first representations of Jesus, preserved in the Roman catacombs, which portray him as a clean-shaven shepherd.
By the fourth century, in religious art Jesus is usually shown with a beard.
There has always been debate concerning what Jesus really looked like. But although the Bible tells us that King David was ruddy and handsome, it is relatively silent regarding Jesus’ appearance.
In fact, the only verse in the Bible about Jesus’ physical form is a quote from Isaiah 53:2, which reads: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire Him.”
This has not prevented artists from recreating images of Jesus from their imagination, or scholars from speculating about what Jesus might have looked like.
Regarding hair length, for instance, a 2002 article in Popular Mechanics claimed that although artists have generally depicted Jesus with long hair, “most biblical scholars” believe it was probably short, with tight curls.
Others suggest that Jesus would have sported a full beard, appealing to a command from Leviticus (19:27), requiring Jewish males to “not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.”
Perhaps the most compelling evidence comes from the famous Shroud of Turin, which depicts Jesus with long hair, a narrow face, and beard. Believed by many to be the burial cloth that was wrapped around Jesus after his death, the shroud is the closest thing we have to a photograph of Jesus, though its authenticity is hotly contested.
The Spain image portrays Jesus in a philosopher’s toga, along with two other, whom researchers suggest may be Saints Peter and Paul. All three men are depicted beardless, with halos.