A reader of Andrew Sullivan’s blog at the Atlantic writes:

imageJesus had a beard? What makes you think that? It’s just like so much about Jesus, people have been culturally conditioned to an image that is almost certainly false.

There are no surviving images of Jesus, if there ever was one. It wasn’t until the 4th century that Christians began making images of him in artwork and relics and the like. And those images were most likely crafted from the likeness of the former pagan gods, particularly Zeus, who was represented with long hair and a beard.

At the time the images of Jesus were controversial. For one thing, Christians had been conditioned against worship of anything with images. Another argument was that Jewish men in the 1st century were believed to have been clean shaven and short-haired, like the Romans, while it was the pagan Greek philosophers who wore long hair and beards. And of course Paul had written that long hair on a man was a shame. How could he have said that if Jesus wore his hair that way?

So the hippie Jesus worshipped in so many evangelical churches today more than likely represents the image of the pagan god Sarapis (or Zeus). Just another one of those historical ironies, and of course bad news for beard-worshipping gay Catholics everywhere.

And so how does beard-wearing gay Catholic  Andrew respond? No better than, “Busted. But stubble surely?”

The last paragraph is a weak conclusion. Is he really saying that because Zeus had a beard that images of Jesus are therefore based on Zeus. There are other possibilities given that the common bearded image of Jesus really didn’t appear until about A.D. 550. The Pantocrator from St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai (shown above) may be the oldest. It may have been based on the Image of Edessa. We, who study the Shroud of Turin and thus the history of images of Jesus could write books in response and not fall into this simple trap.

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