The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Jesus' real face

When I was the editor of Metro Lutheran, I featured — on the front page — a photo of a stained-glass window in an ELCA congregation that depicted Jesus' ascension into heaven. An Episcopal reader wrote to complain that we Lutherans were perpetuating "Euro-ethnicism" in our representations of Jesus. He asked why we didn't show Jesus as a Middle Eastern peasant.

I'd seen just such a rendering of "how Jesus might have looked." It appeared in, of all places, Popular Mechanics. The December 2002 issue ran an article, "The Real Face of Jesus," which included a full-page, color "scientific reconstruction" — a short, ruddy-faced, dark skinned Eastern Mediterranean peasant with short, black, curly hair. I was shocked — even angry. But then I thought about it. Jesus surely didn't have pale white skin, long flowing hair and blue eyes. That sounds like a Scandinavian.

I bought the magazine and put it in my library amid books about understanding the New Testament. I didn't think much more about what Jesus might really have looked like until I opened Augsburg Fortress' new Lutheran Study Bible. There, on page 1548, is the Popular Mechanics Jesus.

It's seems appropriate now: Jesus' father was a carpenter. Why shouldn't a hands-on, do-it-yourself magazine for mechanically inclined men show us what the carpenter from Nazareth might realistically have looked like? Way back in 2002 I began to make my peace with the peasant Jesus depiction of God's Son. These days I rather prefer it to anything I see in stained glass in church windows. This is truly a Jesus for the rest of us. This Jesus is approachable. He is ordinary-looking, earnest, probably fun-loving — and, I'd guess, has dirt on his hands.

Today I much prefer the Jesus I see in the Lutheran Study Bible. What about you?


Check out this week's articles:cover4

Reality TV : (right) Is it a virtual sin to watch contestants struggle?

Resurrecting Zion: Texas woman breathes new life into church her grandfather served.

Hogslop? Youth express faith via cookbook.

'Sunshine on a scooter': He listens to other amputees, helps them set goals.

Also: Try this tasty project!

Also: Synod bishop on climate change.

Also: Worship attendance is falling.

Read these articles at our front page ...

This week on our blog:sonia

Sonia Solomonson (right) blogs about freedom.

Tell us! Pastor goofs

For some of you it was just last Sunday, for others it was years ago. Pastors, please share with us your funniest — yes, likely embarrassing — ministry stories.

Send your 100-word stories to Julie Sevig at julie.sevig@thelutheran.org or respond online.

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February issue


Embracing diversity