Faces of Jesus

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Forensic Image

This unfamiliar portrait of Jesus was made specially for a BBC programme broadcast during Easter 2001, called Son of God.

The head of Jesus was created by a production team which took into consideration medical, archaeological, geographical and artistic evidence from the time of Jesus.


The television production team which produced this image worked with a 1st-century male skull found in Israel. “Jewish heads are very different today to 2000 years ago, so the team looked for a Jewish skull from the period of Jesus,” they said.

Using a plaster cast of the skull, forensic medical artist Richard Neave from the University of Manchester began to reconstruct the face by building up layers of clay to represent muscle, fat and skin. Details such as the hair were decided by considering the hair of men in the Middle East, which tends to be thick, dark and curly, together with hairstyles current in the time of Jesus. The final image of Christ’s head was produced as a 3D computer model.

What do you think of this version of Jesus? Are you surprised by it? Can you imagine Jesus looking something like this?

Opinions of the image

Here are some of the press comments made about the “Son of God” image when it was first broadcast…

“Unless you believe all first-century male residents of Israel to have looked identical, with Judas the mirror image of Christ and Lazarus the absolute spit of the crucified robber… the exercise in reconstruction is pointless.”
Catherine Bennett, The Guardian

“It’s not the face of Jesus, but how he is likely to have looked given the scientific information we’ve got.”
Lorraine Heggessey, Controller of BBC1

“In reconstructing this head, we are not claiming that this is exactly Jesus’ face, but we are trying to counteract all of those bad images of blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesuses running around in Hollywood productions.”
Joe Zias, Israeli archaeologist

“He wasn’t the blond, blue-eyed character seen so often on Easter cards. The image we’ve constructed is far more realistic.”
Jeremy Bowen, presenter of Son of God

“My only quibble would be that this face doesn’t have any soul in the eyes. In portraying the face of Christ each artist is expressing their own soul image, but this face does look a bit vacant.”
Mary Farley, Society of Catholic Artists

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About this module

Christians have been making images of Jesus since the early centuries of the church. In this section, we look at pictures of the face of Christ – some of them centuries old, some of them from today.

NB: If you are hoping to reproduce these images you will need to seek permission from the original copyright holders (not rejesus). Please don’t contact us looking for permission or asking for contact details for the copyright holders.

Categories: Creativity, Art & image,


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arrow Light of the World

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