Ancient Mysteries, Biblical, Jesus

NOT the earliest known image of Jesus – Fake History Hunter

Jesus was obviously a man of Middle Eastern ethnicity, resembling something like a Palestinian man. The “Black Israelite” theory has gotten a lot of attention because of the passage in the Bible that describes his skin as “burnished bronze”, with white hair. Leading many to assume he was a black African. This was describing the Son of Man in his heavenly form. Not his earthly one. The “burnished bronze” phrase was describing how his feet looked and it goes on to describe him as having “a face like the sun” with “daggers coming out of his eyes” and “skin like chrysolite”. Doesn’t sound like any earthly person to me, so certainly not his human form.


NOT the earliest known image of Jesus – Fake History Hunter

This image has been shared all over the internet with the claim that it is the, or one of the earliest known paintings, images or pictures of Jesus Christ.


It isn’t.

The image shows St. Thomas touching the wound of Christ with his finger so he could believe in his Resurrection, while the rest of the disciples look on.

The picture gets quite a lot of attention because the skin colour of both Jesus and the disciples.

Some people claim that the image was darkened by age, varnish, candle smoke, lead whitewash, etc.
And although these things indeed sometimes darken paintings in this case the people really do have a dark skin.
Which is not strange as the painting has a strong Byzantine influence and in these types of paintings darker skin is far from uncommon, not always because the people they depict were actually dark skinned.

But if this truly was the earliest known picture of Jesus it would be extremely famous, some people may think that the image was hidden or ignored by historians because they don’t like the idea of a dark skinned Jesus, but if that was the case the painting wouldn’t be on display at the Coptic Museum for everyone to see.
Anyone visiting it would be sharing it, every modern history book on the subject would have mentioned it by know, it would be shown in documentaries, etc.
Remember that in 2001 forensic anthropologist Richard Neave made a model of what Jesus might have looked like, an image of a typical of the era.
It got a lot of attention and in stead of hiding or ignoring it the image became famous.

Made by Richard Neave

Anyone knowing about this so called first image of Jesus in the Coptic Museum would have mentioned it then.
Also if this was the first image of Jesus it would be extremely well protected, draw huge crowds and you would not be allowed to take a photo… especially not with a flash camera!
There is a reason to why this image is not shared in books, documentaries and special international travelling exhibits, but does get a lot of attention on social media, and no it is not because of some sort of conspiracy.

What the real Jesus looked like is something we don’t really know, it is highly likely that he looked like most men in the region the bible stories take place in; a Jewish man from Galilee.
Which makes it unlikely that he was white skinned, had blue eyes and long blonde hair.
I’m not sure why some people still find it an astonishing discovery or something controversial to say that Jesus probably didn’t look like how he was portrayed all over the world for centuries.

The painting is indeed on display at the Coptic Museum in Cairo, so all it took for me to deal with this myth was to get in touch with the museum and simply ask them.
This was their response;

It shows Saint Thomas touching the wound of Christ with his finger while disciples look on.
St. Thomas touches the wound of Christ with his finger so he could believe in his Resurrection, while the rest of the disciples look at Thomas or at Christ. 18th Century (AD) Greek style

So the people at the museum where this piece is displayed are telling us it is from the 18th century, this doesn’t come from me.
If you don’t believe me I suggest you get in touch with the museum yourself.

From the Coptic Art book (pic via A. Lave)

The icon is on display for everyone to see at the museum, not in a special room with extra protection, there’s no permanent guard, it is not advertised as such, even though the museum obviously would do that as the revenue of the countless visitors that would decent on the museum if they truly had the oldest image of Jesus would be immense.

So the painting was made in the 18th century.
Yes, 1700 years after Jesus lived.
Making religious icons was very popular then.
Ibrahim Al-Nasikh was well known for making these and for a short time I assumed he may have made this one but the museum spokesperson explained to me that it was not and all they know is that it was made in the Greek style, in the 18th century and they’re not sure by who.
I got in touch with several experts on Coptic, Greek Russian art and they all agreed that this was a relatively new icon, possibly Russian, given to the Coptic Museum.

I don’t have a stake in this game, it doesn’t matter to me what his skin colour was, I am not religious and never have been.
So although this article is mostly just about if the story about this painting is real or not, I can’t resist writing a little about what Jesus might have looked like and what the earliest images of him looked like.

Religious texts don’t tell us much about his appearance.
One important detail to remember is that all descriptions we have of what Jesus looked like probably come from after he lived.
That includes the bible.

The only description of Jesus we have in the bible comes from the Book of Revelation from the New Testament.
Here it says;

The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

Things to keep in mind are that this is not a description of Jesus as how people would/could have known him when he was still alive.
This is what Jesus looked like in a vision to a certain John, who may have been John the Apostle but we don’t really know who he was.
So this is the account of one man who had a vision many years after Jesus had died.
This was Jesus his heavenly form.
People often forget to mention that when they use this to describe what Jesus may have looked like.
But even if this was in relation to what Jesus looked like when still alive, even then it is vague enough to not really tell us very much.
So let’s move on to the images.

This, as far as I know, is the actual first image of a human Jesus, although historians aren’t quite sure.

The Healing of the Paralytic – one of the oldest possible depictions of Jesus, from the Syrian city of Dura Europos, dating from about 235 AD

There is one that might be earlier, but it doesn’t tell us anything about how people thought he looked like because it is graffiti probably meant to mock Jesus by giving him the head of a donkey.
We don’t know much about Jesus but I’m pretty sure he didn’t have a donkey’s head.

The Alexamenos graffito, roughly dated between the 1st & 3rd centuries AD.
In greek it says; “Alexamenos worships God” and shows a crucified man with a donkey’s head.

Here’s another contender, 2nd century, Catacombs of Domitilla on the Via Appia Antica in Rome, the last Supper fresco.

Here are a few more images showing Jesus, mostly from the 3rd and 4th centuries.

Jesus in the Catacombs of Rome. Third-century fresco from the Catacomb of Callixtus of Christ as the Good Shepherd.
Bearded Jesus between Peter and Paul, Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter, Rome. Second half of the 4th century.
Mural painting from the catacomb of Commodilla. One of the first bearded images of Jesus, late 4th century.

So, conclusion; we don’t really know what Jesus looked like, no contemporary images or descriptions exist and when people started drawing him centuries after he died they generally painted him the way people around them looked at the time.
But the icon image at the top of this article is not, I repeat, not the earliest known image of Jesus.

Special thanks to Mr. Dommershuijzen for helping me with the detective work.

Coptic Museum Egypt
Live Science
‘What Did Jesus Look Like?’ by professor Joan Taylor
Coptic Civilization: Two Thousand Years of Christianity in Egypt, by Gawdat Gabra

Picture(s) found online, used for (re-)educational purposes only.
I do not own the copyrights to this picture, I only share it here for educational purposes to try and make sure the real story behind it becomes known and people will stop spreading false information.

If the copyright owner objects to the sharing here, kindly contact me and I shall alter the article.

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