Traditions and Legends regarding Jesus Appearance

Other than the cryptic allusions to Jesus' physical appearance in Justin or in Origen (who cited the text of Isaiah as if it were historically descriptive), only a few references to eyewitness descriptions of Jesus' appearance occur in the literature. On the other hand, traditions that actual portraits were made "from life1' were more widely known. Among the rare textual witnesses is a letter supposedly written bya fictitious governor of Judea, Pubis lis Lentulus, to the h< Roman People and Senate." The oldest version of this document is found in a fifteenth-centuty manuscript, included with the "life of Christ" by Ludolph tile Carthusian and purportedly found in 1421 by a certain Giacomo Colonna among some ancient Roman documents* In this letter Lentulus describes lesus as a man of medium size with a venerable appearance; his hair was hrowii, airly, and parted in the center "after the pattern of the Nazarenes. ]esusn brow was smooth and unwnnkled, his complexion ruddy, his expression cheerful and his abundant (but not particularly long) brown beard divided at his chin. Lentulus's description concludes; "He is the most beautiful among human beings" [puL'heirimus vultu inter homines).

Lentulus'ii depiction conforms to many ot" the earliest portraits of Christ and, in one detail, finds a parallel in a fourth-centurv letter to the Emperor Theodosius from Epiphanius of Salamis. Epiphaiiius opens his letter by denying that any ancient Christian "father" could have painted ail image of Christ either for a display in a church or in a private house, and he argues that any who doHLlie'n by representing the Savior with long hair. This, he claims, they arrive at "by conjecture because he [the Savior] is called a Na/arene, and Nazarenes wore long hair" Epiphanius justifies his denial that Jesus was a Nazarene (with long hair) because while iesus drank wine, Nazarenes do not According to him, those who make such pictures invent physical types according to their whim, even though logic contradicts them. For, how could the Savior have had long

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