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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, August 03 2023

Should we have pictures or images of Christ?

It is well known there aren’t any actual, authentic portraits of Christ. Religious individuals have simply created a figure from their imagination, reflecting their beliefs, but these inaccurate representations obscure the reality of the living Christ and what He represented and taught.

United Church of God

The Bible challenges the weak, effeminate and frail image most pictures or images of Jesus convey. We know from the Scriptures Christ was able to blend in with the crowds and that His physical appearance was not remarkable in any way. The messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53:2 says: “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” It’s noteworthy that Christ was so much like any common individual of the day that, in spite of His fame, it was necessary for Judas to identify Him to the soldiers who came to arrest Him.

Additionally, Christ’s legal father, Joseph, was a “carpenter,” and it’s logical to assume Jesus worked with him while a young boy. To do the work of a carpenter you would generally need to be a relatively strong individual. The Greek word from which “carpenter” is translated also means a craftsman. So Joseph and Jesus likely did much more than carpentry work, including woodworking and general contracting.

Artists who have depicted Christ – whether in paintings, images, or sculptures -- clearly worked from a preconceived idea of a “soft” image, perhaps because they thought it would convey gentleness. If so, it’s unfortunate that they did not consider the above information, as well as the fact that a man can be truly masculine and lovingly gentle at the same time.

While there aren’t any actual pictures, or images, of Christ, there are images of the people who lived in the time of Christ and they are generally pictured with short hair, cuts in styles that have no hair covering the ears, forehead or back of the neck. It’s logical to assume that this was representative of male grooming at the time of Christ and therefore of His true appearance. The Bible says that if a man has long hair (as some pictures of Jesus portray) it dishonors him (I Corinthians 11:14).

Since God did not cause or allow the preservation of any likeness of Jesus Christ, it’s clear that He intended us to look instead to Christ’s words and teachings for instruction on how to live, and how to pray. The second Commandment prohibits any images of God, so it is therefore not appropriate to have an image of Christ on the cross in any form of religious worship, or when praying.