Jesus has his hair cut

I’m told that Monelli’s Pizzeria on the corner of George Street by the West Hill lift sells rather good sourdough pizza. 

Back in the mid-1960s, I once bought plastic dog poo there with my pocket money! Perhaps I should explain. 

The ‘novelty figure’.

In those days it was a fancy goods shop selling novelties and items for the beach and the imitation dog poo gave me hours of fun, leaving it in various places and watching the horror of those who came across it.  Such is childhood.  

Fancy goods in George Street may now be purchased at Flibbertigibbert and I was looking at its shop window only last week. I noticed an interesting range of solar powered dancing figures. The figures included Donald Trump, labelled as ‘Big Wig’ and the Queen, labelled as ‘Dancing Queen’.  There was also one of Jesus but without further identification other than ‘solar powered novelty.’

But how do we know what the Jesus of History looked like? Well, we don’t.  There is no physical description of him in the New Testament or anywhere else of historical value. Yet there he was in the shop window replete with fair skin, long hair, a beard and a long white robe. 

Robert Powell as Jesus.

As it happens, I’m currently reading What did Jesus look like? by Joan Taylor, Professor of Christian Origins at King’s College, London. It’s a fascinating study of images of Jesus and explains the emergence of the iconic picture of Jesus shared by believer and unbeliever alike. It also looks at textual and archaeological evidence in arriving at what Jesus actually looked like, arguing that in appearance he was an average Jew of his day, neither handsome nor ugly.

I remember staring at the ossuary of Caiaphas in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem a few years ago. There I was, only a few feet away, from the container which had contained the bones of the High Priest who had looked directly at Jesus. It was a tantalising historical link. Would Caiaphas have recognised the unamed solar powered novelty as representing Jesus? The answer is no.

Taylor concludes that Jesus would have been a few inches over five feet tall with olive-brown skin, brown-black hair and brown eyes. He would have had shortish hair and a short beard. Jesus would have worn a knee-length woollen tunic and not a long white robe. That’s about as close as we will get.

Jesus reconstructed – Taylor.

It is his teachings and actions which the Gospels describe. According to Matthew 25, Jesus said that we would see him in the hungry and thirsty, the naked and the sick, in prisoners and strangers and that what we do or fail to do for them is the same as doing or not doing something to him. And so if we walk down George Street, we may well see him there. But we need to recognise him first.

Hunt

The Reverend Paul Hunt is the part-time priest-in-charge of St. Clement’s and All Saints in Hastings Old Town.  St. Clement’s is open for public worship at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Sundays.

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