Monday, July 11, 2011

The Physical Appearance of Our Lord, Jesus Christ

Icon of Our Lord Jesus Christ 14th c. by Manuil Panselinos

The Physical Appearance of Our Lord, Jesus Christ

By Pouplious Lantoulos & St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite
From Orthodox Heritage Periodical published by
The Orthodox Brotherhood of St Poimen
Copied with permission

Concerning the God-man, the Son and Logos of God, the Evangelists and Apostles wrote about His works in the world in the Divine Gospels. They recorded the accounts of His transfiguration, His crucifixion, His resurrection and His ascension up to heaven. But there were many other private individuals of that period, not followers of Christ, who wrote a more detailed account concerning the life of the Lord. One who wrote about the character, appearances, form and figure of Christ which is worthy of mention, is the Roman Pouplious Lantoulos, who lived during the days of our Lord, residing in Jerusalem at that time. He wrote a letter to the Roman senate which is as follows:

In those days there appeared a young man, who is still living, a youth that has great power and whose name is Jesus Christ. The populace calls Him a strong prophet and His disciples call Him, Son of God. He raised the dead to life; and cures the sick of every type of disease. The youth is tall but well proportioned. The countenance of His face is both serious and active, so that those who look at Him love Him, and yet in another way, they are afraid of Him. The hair on His head is the color of wine down to the beginning of His ears, lacking brilliance. It is smooth from the beginning of His ears to His shoulders, then twisted and brilliant from the shoulders down, where it hangs divided according to the custom of the Nazarenes. His forehead is smooth and clean, His face without blemish decorated with a light pink color. His appearance is polite and joyful, His nose and mouth are altogether blameless. His beard is thick being of the same color as His hair, and is also divided in two, while His eyes are blue and filled with extreme brilliance. When He scolds He is fearful; when He teaches and advises, He is attractive and beloved. Wonder is the grace of His face and dignified. Not once was He seen laughing, but He was often seen crying. According to the height of His body, His hands being very straight and His arms graceful, and according to His generation, He is the nicest of all men.

St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite, in "A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, the Classics of Western Spirituality Proper Delights of the Mind”, addresses the great delight of envisioning the physical appearance of Christ.

Let me say this too. Even the mere envision of the physical appearance and the beauty of the divine face of Jesus brings inexpressible delight so that you will want to say enthusiastically: "You are all sweetness, O Savior; You are all desire and appeal; You are all insatiate; You are all beauty irresistible." Also you will want to say: "You have attracted me with desire, O Christ, and You have transfigured me with your divine love." Moreover, you will want to say with St. Paul: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (Rom. 8:35) Also you will want to ask the question of the bride: "Have you seen him whom my soul loves?" (Song of Solomon 3:3) And you will want to say many other words of love.

Think of those most pure eyes of Jesus, so calm, so sweet; the straightness of His nose; the somewhat chestnut-colored and at the same time golden hair and beard of His; His great and joyous forehead; the blended color of His calm and royal face; His fine, long fingers and his perfectly shaped hands; His moderate stature, and simply all of the other symmetry and grace, which shone in all His members. Jesus was so beautiful that, as Lantoulos, that officer who had seen the Lord with his own eyes in Jerusalem, wrote to the senate in Rome, there has never appeared on earth another person more beautiful than Jesus. Foreseeing this beauty, prophet David wrote: "You are the most beautiful of the sons of men" (Ps 45:2). Aquila rendered this line, "You are adorned with beauty by the sons of men." Symmachus rendered it,: "Among the sons of men You are good in beauty." The bride in the Song speaks lovingly to Him: "Behold, You are beautiful, my beloved, truly lovely (Song 1:16) This is why the people could not be satisfied when looking upon Him, nor did they want to take their attention away from Him.

St. John Chrysostom explaining this passage "When Jesus saw great crowds around Him" (Matt. 8:18), wrote: "The people were really attracted to Him and they loved Him and marveled at Him, desiring always to be looking upon Him. Who would want to leave while He was doing these marvelous deeds? Who would not want to simply get a glance at the face and the mouth that as saying such wonderful things? He was not so wonderful only when He was doing wonders, but even when He was just looked upon, simply He was just full of grace." This is what the prophet David meant when he said that He was the most beautiful among the sons of men.

Now if the physical body of sweetest Jesus was so beautiful then when He was bearing a corruptible body, how much more beautiful is it now that it has become incorruptible and glorified and His divine face is shining in heaven infinitely more brightly than the sun? This is why St. John Chrysostom has sought with his eloquent homilies to move us to do everything we can so that we may achieve and enjoy the most sweet vision of the glorified and most beautiful and most desired divine face of Jesus. For if one is to be deprived of the vision of that most beautiful and most desired face of Jesus, this is truly a worse calamity than a thousand hells. For as St. John Chrysostom wrote:

"Even if we experience a thousand hells, none of these will be anything like the experience of seeing the calm face of Jesus and His serene eyes turn away from us as being unable to endure looking upon us."

Christ at the Well (detail) - 14th c. Panselinos


  1. Your post made me cry, I was deeply moved by it.
    God Bless your work abundantly.

  2. Thank you Anne! I was very moved by the description of Jesus myself. There is nothing
    in this life or the next that I want, as intensely as I want, to see my Lord Jesus Christ.

  3. The letter of Lentulus was certainly a piece among other reports about the events in Judaea made to the Emperor Tiberius. There can be no doubt that the report of Pilate existed. Justin Martyr and Tertullian are emphatic about their existence in the Roman archives. They have been destroyed by the persecuting Emperors. But the tradition persisted. I believe that the stories of the Acta Pilati were based on the "reconstruction" of the destroyed originals. I believe that the Shroud of the Christ was produced as evidence at the inquest ordered by Tiberius.

  4. Seraphim:
    Thank you. Do you have the specific
    sources by book and page from Justin Martyr and Tertullian?


  5. Justin Martyr refers to the Actes of Pilate in his First Apology, 35 and 48.
    Tertullian in his Apology, c.5 and 21.
    The reference to the destruction of the original Acta and their replacement with forged Acta by Diocletian, at Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, c.9.

  6. Yes, the truth is that there have been other proofs of the history of the Church than just the Christian writings. Christianity was not that "obscure" sect, so obscure for a long while, that nobody cared to mention. The fact is that it had been declared "religio illicita" by Nero and remained as such until the Edict of Milan. The Apology of Justin Martyr was addressed to the Emperor Antoninus Pius asking to rescind the decrees. Tertullian's also.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Recommended Reading

  • A Commentary On The Divine Liturgy by St. Nicholas Cabasilas, ISBN: 0-913836-37-0
  • A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos Trans. by Effie Mavromichali, ISBN: 960-7070-31-3
  • A Spiritual Psalter or Reflections On God excerpted by St. Theophan the Recluse from the works of St. Ephraim the Syrian, Trans. by Antonina Janda, ISBN 0-912927-40-2
  • Against False Union ( with a prologue by Photios Kontoglou) by Alexander Kalomiros, Trans. by George Gabriel, ISBN: 0-913026-49-2
  • Akathist To Jesus Conqueror of Death, by St Nikolai Velimirovich, Trans. by Interklima, Copyright 2009, English Edition, by St Paisius Monastery, Safford, AZ
  • An Athonite Gerontikon by Archimandrite Ioannikios, Holy Monastery of St Gregory Palamas Kouphalia, Greece 1991
  • Byzantine Theology by John Meyendorff, ISBN: 0-8232-0967-9
  • Christ Our Way and Our Life by Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou, ISBN 1-878997-74-2
  • Christ The Eternal Tao by Hieromonk Damascene, ISBN 0-938635-85-9
  • Commentary on The Gospel of St Luke by St Cyril of Alexandria Trans. by R.Payne Smith, Studion Publishers, Inc. ISBN:0-943670-01-2
  • Concerning Frequent Communion by Nikodemos the Hagiorite, Trans. by George Dokos, ISBN: 960-86778-5-8
  • Confronting Controlling Thoughts by Antony M. Coniaris, ISBN: ISBN: 1-880971-88-7
  • Conversations with Children by Sister Magdalen, ISBN: 1-874679-21-5
  • Counsels from the Holy Mountain by Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, ISBN: 0-9667000-2-3
  • Daily Readings with St. Isaac of Syria, Trans. by Sebastian Brock, ISBM: 0-87243-173-8
  • Dance, O Isaiah by Constantine Platis, unknown printing 2000
  • Diary Of A Pilgrimage from the Ancient Christian Writers series, by Egeria, Trans. by George E. Gingras, ISBN: 0-8091-0029-0
  • Drinking from the Hidden Fountain by Thomas Spidlik, ISBN: 0-87907-348-9
  • Elder Ephraim of Katounakia Trans by Tessy Vassiliaou-Christodoulou, ISBN: 960-7407-33-4
  • Elder Paisios of Mount Athos Spiritual Counsels, Spiritual Awakening vol 2, Trans by Fr. Peter Chamberas, Holy Monastery 'Evangelist John The Theologian' Souroti, Greece 2007
  • Elder Paisios of Mount Athos Spiritual Counsels, With Pain And Love for Contemporay Man vol1, Trans by Cornelia A. Tsakiridou & Maria Spanou, Holy Monastery 'Evangelist John The Theologian' Souroti, Greece 2006
  • Epistles by Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Holy Monastery of the Evangelist John the Theologian, Souroti, Greece 2002
  • Father Arseny Trans. by Vera Bouteneff, ISBN 0-88141-180-9
  • Flame in the Snow, A Life of St Seraphim of Sarov by Julia de Beausobre, ISBN: 0-87243-223-8
  • From St. Isaac The Syrian to Dostoyevsky by Archimandrite Vasileios, Trans. by Dr.Elizabeth Theokritoff, ISBN: 1-896800-34-3
  • Grace For Grace: The Psalter And The Holy FathersCompiled and Edited by Johanna Manley, ISBN: 0-9622536-1-8
  • Hesychia and Theology by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, Trans. by Sister Pelagia Selfe, ISBN: 978-960-7070-60-9
  • His Life is Mine by Archimandrite Sophrony, ISBN: 0-913836-33-8
  • I Love Therefore I Am by Fr. Nicholas V. Sakharov, ISBN: 0-88141-236-8
  • In The Light of Christ, St Symeon The New Theologian by Archbishop Basil Krivocheine Trans. by Anthony P. Gythiel, ISBN 0-913836-91-5
  • Isaac of Ninaveh ( Isaac The Syrian) The Second Part, chapters IV-XLV, Trans. by Sebastian Brock, ISBN: 90-6831-709-1
  • Missionary Lettersof Saint Nikolai Velimirovich vol 1, Trans. by Hierodeacon Serafim, New Gracanica Monastery, Grayslake, IL
  • Monastic Wisdom, The Letters of Elder Joseph The Hesychast, ISBN: 0-9667000-0-7
  • Mount Athos Renewal in Paradise by Graham Speake, ISBN: 0-300-093535
  • Nil SorskyTrans. and Edited by George A. Maloney, ISBN: 0-8091-9810-7
  • Not of This World,Compiled and Edited by James S. Cutsinger, ISBN: 0-941532-41-0
  • On Prayer by Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov Rosemar Edmonds, ISBN 0-88141-194-9
  • On The Apostolic Preaching by St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Trans. by John Behr, ISBN: 0-88141-174-4
  • On The Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ by St Maximus The Confessor, Trans. by Paul M. Blowers & Robert Louis Wilken, ISBN: 0-88141-249-x
  • On The Human Condition by St Basil The GreatTrans. by Nonna Verna Harrison, ISBN: 0-88141-294-5
  • On The Incarnation by St. Athanasius, ISBN: 0-913836-40-0
  • On The Mother of God by Jacob of Serug, ISBN: 0-88141-184-1
  • Once Delivered to The Saints by Fr. Michael Azkoul, ISBN: 0-913026-84-0
  • Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ by Father Justin Popovich Trans. by Asterios Gerosterios, ISBN: 1-884729-02-9
  • Orthodox Psychotherapy by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, Trans. by Esther Williams, ISBN: 960-7070-27-5
  • Orthodox Spiritual Life According to Saint Silouan The Athonite by Harry Boosalis, ISBN: 1-878997-60-2
  • Orthodox Spirituality and The Philokalia by Placide Deseille Trans. by Anthon P. Gythiel, ISBN 978-0-9717483-7-8
  • Orthodox Spirituality by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, ISBN 960-7070-20-8
  • Passions and Virtues According to Saint Gregory Palamas by Anestis Keselopulos, ISBN: 1-878997-75-0
  • Patristic Theology by John S. Romanides, ISBN 978-960-86778-8-3
  • Prayers by the Lake by St Nikolai Velimirovich, The Serbian Orthodox Metropolinate of New Gracanica, Grayslake, IL 1999
  • Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy by John McGuckin, ISBN: 0-88141-259-7
  • Santa Biblia Antigua Version de Casiodoro De Reina Revisada por Cipriano de Valera(1602) Revision de 1960, Holman Publishers 2008
  • St John of Damascus, The Fathers of the Church series, Trans. by Frederic H. Chase, Jr., ISBN: 0-8132-0968-4
  • St Seraphim of Sarov, A Spiritual Biography by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore, ISBN: 1-880364-13-1
  • St Silouan The Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony, ISBN 0-88141-195-7
  • St. Symeon The New Theologian, On The Mystical Life, The Ethical Discourses, Trans. by Alexander Golitzin 3 vols. ISBN: 0-88141-142-6 and - 143-4, and 144-2
  • Standing In God's Holy Fire by John A. McGuckin, ISBN: 1-57075-382-2
  • Symeon The New Theologian, The Discourses, Classics of Western Spirituality, ISBN: 0-8091-2230-8
  • Symeon The New Theologian, The Practical and Theological Discourses and The Three Theological Chapters, Trans. by Dr. Paul McGuckin, Cistercian Publications Inc. 1982
  • The Acquisition of The Holy Spirit by I.M. Kontzevitch, ISBN: 0-938635-73-5
  • The Adam Complex by Dee Pennock, ISBN: 1-880971-89-5
  • The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac The Syrian, Trans. by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, ISBN: 0-913026-55-7
  • The Authentic Seal by Archimandrite Aimilianos, ISBN: 960-85603-3-0
  • The Book of Mystical Chapters, Trans. and introduced by John A. McGuckin, ISBN: 1-59030-007-6
  • The Boundless Garden by Alexandros Papadiamantis Edited by Lambros Kamperidis and Denise Harvey, ISBN 978-960-7120-23-6
  • The Church Fathers ( Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, published by Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Massachusetts, 37 vol. set
  • The Enlargement of The Heart by Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou, ISBN 0-9774983-2-8
  • The Faith of Chosen People by St Nikolai Velimirovich, The Free Serbian Diocese of America and Canada, Grayslake, IL 1988
  • The Faith of The Saints , A Catechism by St. Nikolai Velimirovich, ISBN:1-932965-06-8
  • The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Pseudo-Macarius, ISBN: 0-8091-0455-5
  • The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios by Dionysios Farasiotis, ISBN: 978-1-887904-16-2
  • The Heart by Archimandrite Spyridon Logothetis, ISBN 960-86639-4-6
  • The Hidden Man of The Heart by Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou, ISBN 978-0-9800207-1-7
  • The Holy Bible NKJV, Thomas Nelson, 1992
  • The Homilies of Saint Gregory Palamas by Christopher Veniamin, 2 vols. ISBN: 1-878997-67-X; ISBN: 1-878997-68-X
  • The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus Edited by Holy Transfifuration Monastery 1979, ISBN 0-943405-03-3
  • The Life of St. Anthony by St. Athanasius the Great, Eastern Orthodox Books, Willits, CA
  • The Lives of The Holy Prophets by Holy Apostles Convent, ISBN: 0944359-12-4
  • The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain by Hieromonk Alexander Golitzin, ISBN: 1-878997-48-3
  • The Luminus Eye by Sebastian Brock, ISBN: 0-87907-524-4
  • The Mind of the Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, Trans. by Esther Williams, ISBN: 960-7070-39-9
  • The One Thing Needful by Archbishop Andrei of Novo- Diveevo, ISBN: 91-2927-29-1
  • The Orthodox Ethos, Studies in Orthodoxy Edited by A.J. Philippou, Hollywell Press Oxford 1964
  • The Orthodox New Testament 2 vols., Published by The Holy Apostles Convent 1999, ISBN: 0-944359-17-5 & 0-944359-14-0
  • The Philokalia, The Complete Text compiled by St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St Makarios of Corinth, Trans. by G.E.H. Palmer, Phillip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware Vol 4 ISBN: 0-571-11727-9
  • The Philokalia, The Complete Text compiled by St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St Makarios of Corinth, Trans. by G.E.H. Palmer, Phillip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware Vol2 ISBN: 0-571-15466-2
  • The Philokalia, The Complete Text compiled by St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St Makarios of Corinth, Trans. by G.E.H. Palmer, Phillip Sherrard and Kallistos WareVol 3 ISBN: 0-571-17525-2
  • The Philokalia, The Complete Textcompiled by St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St Makarios of Corinth, Trans. by G.E.H. Palmer, Phillip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware, Vol 1 ISBN: 0-571-13013-5
  • The Philokalia: Master Reference Guide Compiled by Basileios S. Stapakis, Trans by G.E.H. Palmer, Phillip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, ISBN: 1-880971-87-9
  • The Prologue of Ohrid, Trans. by Fr. Timothy Tepsic, vol 1 ISBN: 978-0-9719505-0-4; vol 2 ISBN: 978-0-9719505-1-1
  • The Psalter Trans. by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, ISBN: 0-943405-00-9
  • The Spiritual World of St Isaac the Syrian by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo, Michigan 2000
  • The Way of A Pilgrim R.M. French, ISBN 345-24254-8-150
  • We Shall See Him As He Is by Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov, ISBN 0-9512786-4-9
  • Wisdom. Let Us Attend: Job, The Fathers, and The Old Testament by Johanna Manley, ISBN: 0-9622536-4-2
  • Words of Life by Archimandrite Sophrony, Trans. by Sister Magdalen, ISBN1-874679-11-8
  • Writings from The Philokalia On Prayer of The Heart, Trans. by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, ISBN: 0-571-16393-9