Why does Jesus look like a rock star?

Posted on 28 December 2011

Bet you never knew why Jesus is portrayed with long hair. So, read on.

Long hair + beard = Rock star

There are two possible explanations why the bearded, long-haired Jesus persisted through the centuries.

That rock star look that Jesus currently embraces was based on the iconography of Roman gods back in the day.

Romans viewed Jesus as the son of God, so they thought of him as being similar to second-generation pagan deities like Apollo and Bacchus. But these dudes were clean-shaven and youthful, with mid-length, curly locks.

But as He increasingly became imagined as the king of kings, sitting on a heavenly throne, his image had to resemble Neptune and Jupiter: The patriarchs of Olympus who were mature and bearded.

With longer manes of hair.

A more specific explanation is also warranted: Jesus had a relationship with water. He walked on water. He turned water into wine.

Since pagan gods who were associated with water, like Neptune, often had long-flowing hair that merged with the water itself in statues and paintings, Jesus probably ought to be long-haired too.

Ancient cities built at the confluence of waterways had their own local river gods who were similarly depicted.

In early paintings, Jesus was often shown above the four rivers of paradise.

So, you have the right to suspect if the Jesus hairstyle shown in religious icons today has anything to do with his actual coiffure back in the day.

Because, lo and behold! Jesus, most likely, had short hair!

A Roman triumphal arch from that era depicts enslaved Jews with short hair. Even one of the earliest images that scholars think could be Jesus—on a third-century chapel at Dura-Europos in modern Syria—also shows men with short hair.

Moreover, the early Christian evangelist Paul wrote, “Doth not even nature itself teach you that if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?”

Paul may never have seen Jesus in the flesh, but he would have known the popular hairdos of the time.

It can be concluded that the classic image of a bearded, long-haired Jesus only emerged as the favorite in the sixth century.

But nothing’s fixed since early Christians painted Jesus’s hair in many different ways.

The New Testament offers virtually no physical description of him, so they would have based the portraits on their own, diverse ideas of what a god should look like.

Some philosophers, like St. Augustine, appreciated the diverse ways of portraying the incarnate Jesus.

He thought ineffability was more consistent with divinity. It’s easy to paint a man, he argued, but hard to paint a god.


This article is a 60-second reduction of the original found here.

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- who has written 2685 posts on New Nation.

Wang Pei can be considered a new citizen of Singapore. She has been here all her life, just that her environment's changed beyond recognition.

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  • Zhi Ping Chong

    He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus…

    • Belmont

      …but he, talks like a gentleman…

  • Skipper149

    Jesus (if he had existed) was a Jew. So he would have looked nothing like all these “official” portraits of him.

  • http://www.twitter.com/blurvirus megabigBLUR

    I once saw a black-and-white pencil sketch of Jesus laughing. It was one of the best depictions I’ve ever seen. Cos in Christianity, the point of the incarnation was that God came to earth not like an “avatar” but in fully human form. But as you point out, the traditional depictions are still based on classical Greek and Roman gods which look kind of “unearthly”.

  • Jesson edmund

    Because you took on the looks and ways of the Rishis of India whom he encountered and learned from whilst in India.

  • Mrpompass

    no dummy.  He has long hair because He’s a Nazarine; they take a vow to not touch a dead body, not to touch wine or strong drink, and to not have their hair or beard cut except in a specifically detailed way by a rabbi.

  • Mrpompass

    Sorry…not Nazerine…a Nazarite.

  • slow man

    can’t believe none of you know where this picture originated!