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The Real Face of Jesus?

The news always turns topical around the big holidays during the year, and with Easter sneaking up you just know who the centre of attention is right now. That’s right: the J-Man, the S.o.G., or as I like to call him, ‘that dude who may or may not have existed some 2000 years ago’. This year the best effort comes from the History Channel, which will air “The Real Face of Jesus?” tomorrow night:

For the devout and curious alike, this documentary feature may bring us the closest we have ever come to seeing what Jesus actually looked like.

Science and religion join together, bringing cutting-edge computer technology to an ancient stretch of fabric, and creating a living, moving 3D image of the man many believe to be Jesus Christ.

The starting point of this journey is an ancient 14-foot linen cloth known as the Shroud of Turin, believed by millions to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ. Imprinted on the fabric is a faint, ghostly image of a crucified man. The question of whether this man is or is not Jesus has been debated for centuries. But when 3D computer graphics artist Ray Downing decided to use today’s most sophisticated electronic tools and software to recreate the face of Jesus, the Shroud of Turin is the first place he turned.

While there have been many documentaries about the shroud, most have centered on the shroud’s authenticity. HISTORY’s THE REAL FACE OF JESUS? presents something very different: an attempt to reveal the image embedded in the fibers of the fabric, to turn the faint, unfocused, two-dimensional image into a living, moving, 3D creation – if they are successful, this may be the most accurate depiction ever made of the man many believe to be Jesus Christ.

You can view the trailer for the History Channel feature here (it’s too short to be worth embedding here). While there’s plenty of controversy over the credentials of the Shroud of Turin – in a poll here on TDG last year (“What do you think of the Turin Shroud?“), a substantial majority of TDG readers said they think the religious artefact is not the burial shroud of Jesus Christ – it certainly looks like a bit of fun and puts a new spin on the old “what did Jesus look like?” question (e.g. in this Popular Mechanics feature from 2002).

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  1. The newest new face of Jesus
    Trying to make out the facial features of the man who allegedly was buried with the shroud is nothing new. Here’s an image that I think was made after the first scientific evaluation of the sindone in the 1970s.

    There was also that lame attempt to put a ‘real’ face to Jesus based on the cranium of a first century Jewish man, by Nat Geo. Aside from the fact that such an endeavor was conceptually stupid from the beginning, the thing that annoyed me the most was the expression given to the CG ‘reconstruction’: that Jesus looked like a total schmuck, hardly the expression of a man who was charismatic enough to lead thousands of people to one of his sermons —if we are to believe the accounts of the New Testament, that is; but considering his followers went out to found one of the biggest religions in the world, you’d think people in those days had heard of him not only casually…

    So this new attempt to milk the sacred cow by the History Channel might bring more new CG kung fu; but the first thing that bothers me from that one screen-captured image being used to promote the show, is that it doesn’t seem to show the face of the buried man with a broken nose. And a broken nose, if I remember correctly (aside from a hematoma in one of the eyes I think) was part of the results thrown by the first serious studies on the shroud.

    1. jesus face
      Of course it is the magician Leonardo. He was well know for his ‘trickery’. I came across a description of Jesus recently, written by a roman who saw him, he wrote that Jesus, was incredibly handsome, and quite unlike any other man he had seen. I found it on google.

      1. Didn’t they have Twitter back then? 😉
        Human beauty is of course something a bit subjective, even though there are some studies that link the symmetry of a person’s face with how appealing it is to others.

        Was Jesus physically handsome? we have no way to know based on the accounts given by the people who knew him personally. Add to that the fact that Jews were forbidden of having portraits of themselves or other members.

        But I think that at least we can safely rule out that he suffered from any major deformities. And the reason i state that is simple: back then diseases and infirmities were considered punishment by God, either for your sins or sins committed by your parents. Such a person wouldn’t have been deemed worthy of preaching to the people as a Rabbi.

        So, at the very least, the J-man would have had to pass as an ‘average dude’ 😉

        [Even though the man who was allegedly buried with the Turin shroud far exceeded the average height of the inhabitants of Palestine during the first century]

    1. that should be it
      if it’s done honestly that is. I’m sure behind the scenes there will be strict guide lines to follow. It’s all about ratings after all.

  2. Enough with the Leonardo thing!
    People – it’s NOT a photograph. And, if it’s a fake – which I seriously doubt – then it was a 100 years too old, at least, to be by Leonardo. Knight & Lomas’s theory it’s an imprint from Jacques de Molay is about the most plausible of the “Medieval Shroud” theories.

    BUT the C-14 dating was from the wrong part of the Shroud! A late Medieval patch! Everything else about it is consistent with a 1st Century origin – the only undatable bit is that Image. Could the cloth be old, but the image Medieval? I don’t think we can ever know via a scientific test. Only history can say if the thing is for real. And then the evidential link to JC is even more tenuous – or is it?

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