NOT the earliest known image of Jesus

Latest update; 11th August 2022.

This image has been shared all over the internet with the claim that it is the, or one of the earliest known paintings, images or pictures of Jesus Christ.

Even the Daily Mail, the biggest online newspaper in the world, has made the claim.

But the painting is not the earliest depiction of Jesus, far from it.

The image shows St. Thomas touching the wound of Christ with his finger so he could believe in his Resurrection, while the rest of the disciples look on.

The picture gets quite a lot of attention because the skin colour of both Jesus and the disciples.

Some people claim that the image was darkened by age, varnish, candle smoke, lead whitewash, etc.
And although these things indeed sometimes darken paintings in this case the people really do have a dark skin.
Which is not strange as the painting has a strong Byzantine influence and in these types of paintings darker skin is far from uncommon, not always because the people they depict were actually dark skinned.

But if this truly was the earliest known picture of Jesus it would be extremely famous, some people may think that the image was hidden or ignored by historians because they don’t like the idea of a dark skinned Jesus, but if that was the case the painting wouldn’t be on display at the Coptic Museum for everyone to see.
Anyone visiting it would be sharing it, every modern history book on the subject would have mentioned it by know, it would be shown in documentaries, etc.
Remember that in 2001 forensic anthropologist Richard Neave made a model of what Jesus might have looked like, an image of a typical of the era.
It got a lot of attention and in stead of hiding or ignoring it the image became famous.

Made by Richard Neave

Anyone knowing about this so called first image of Jesus in the Coptic Museum would have mentioned it then.
Also if this was the first image of Jesus it would be extremely well protected, draw huge crowds and you would not be allowed to take a photo… especially not with a flash camera!
There is a reason to why this image is not shared in books, documentaries and special international travelling exhibits, but does get a lot of attention on social media, and no it is not because of some sort of conspiracy.

What the real Jesus looked like is something we don’t really know, it is highly likely that he looked like most men in the region the bible stories take place in; a Jewish man from Galilee, someone who didn’t stand out in a crowd in Jerusalem or at least looked like his disciples and the people who surrounded him, because when the Romans came to arrest him they had to ask Judas to kiss Jesus so they would know who the man they were looking for was.
Which makes it unlikely that he was white skinned, had blue eyes and long blonde hair, Asian or a black African.

The painting is indeed on display at the Coptic Museum in Cairo, so all it took for me to deal with this myth was to get in touch with the museum and simply ask them.
This was their response;

It shows Saint Thomas touching the wound of Christ with his finger while disciples look on.
St. Thomas touches the wound of Christ with his finger so he could believe in his Resurrection, while the rest of the disciples look at Thomas or at Christ. 18th Century (AD) Greek style.

So the experts at the museum where this piece is displayed are telling us it is from the 18th century, this doesn’t come from me.
Just to be 100% sure, to confirm what the museum thought I asked one of my Twitter followers to go out into the field, visit the museum and gather intelligence!
Hassan Khalil was kind enough to go and collect video & photographic evidence for us that proves without a doubt that the actual museum where the painting is says that this is an 18th century Greek piece;

Photo by Hassan Khalil showing the painting and the description.
Photo by Hassan Khalil showing in detail the sign at the museum.

Want more?
No problem, here’s another video showing a visit to the museum that includes the painting;

From the Coptic Art book (pic via A. Lave)

The icon is on display for everyone to see at the museum, not in a special room with extra protection, there’s no permanent guard, it is not advertised as being the first depiction of Jesus ever, even though the museum obviously would do that as the revenue of the countless visitors that would flock to the museum to see this priceless artefact would be immense.

Here’s the artwork inside the coptic museum as posted on the museum’s Facebook page here.

Prof. Dr. Sherin Sadek El Gendi, Associate Professor of Coptic and Islamic art and archaeology at the Faculty of Arts/Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, also wrote about this art piece in her article ‘Different Attitudes of Jesus Christ in Coptic Art‘;

In the Incredulity of Thomas event decorating another rare icon in the Coptic Museum in Cairo, the Christ stands on a flight of stairs flanked by his disciples. His brown-half long hair is decorated by a golden cross-halo. Being barefoot, he raises his right hand to show the wound. In his other hand, in his right side and his feet, other wounds are seen. Having beard and moustache, Jesus wears a white tunic under an orange pallium. Six disciples, between them Thomas, stand to the left side of Jesus. To his right side, other five disciples appear and they are appointing with hands. Wearing different colored tunics and pallia, they have brown or grey hair, beards and moustaches. Like the first disciple to the right, Thomas has a red beard around his right arm. All have small heads, slightly curved eyebrows, small eyes and mouths and straight noses. The event is going on under a red-brown arcade. To the left and to the right of the background, buildings are shown under a golden sky.Above the buildings,it is written: “the incredulity of Thomas”.In the Christ’s cross-halo, one can read: The one who is. Dating from the beginning of the eighteenth century A. D., the icon is painted on linen, fixed to a panel.

She also describes the object as such;

27Nº 4871. Dimensions: 43,9 x 59,1 x 1,8 cm. Bought from NICOLA KYRODOS on the 26thof June 1939. V. GIRGIS, Icons, p. 59, nº66, fig. 66. The Icons, pp. 108-109, nº 119, pl. 31/b.

So it is quite obvious that every expert, historian, museum researcher and ever person who knows a bit about Coptic art and religious iconography that this painting was made in the 18th century.
Yes, 1700 years after Jesus lived.
Making religious icons was very popular then.
Ibrahim Al-Nasikh was well known for making these and for a short time I assumed he may have made this one but the museum spokesperson explained to me that it was not and all they know is that it was made in the Greek style, in the 18th century and they’re not sure by who.

Not only is this not the oldest depiction of Jesus and his disciples, it’s not even the oldest depiction of Jesus and his disciples in the Cairo museum itself.

Triptych Icon N.3349 in the Cairo Museum.
Left wing shows Christ washing the feet of his Disciples and the last supper.
It was made in the 14th century.
Source and another source.

I don’t have a stake in this game, it doesn’t matter to me what his skin colour was, I am not religious and never have been.
So although this article is mostly just about if the story about this painting is real or not, I can’t resist writing a little about what Jesus might have looked like and what the earliest images of him looked like.

Religious texts don’t tell us much about his appearance.
One important detail to remember is that all descriptions we have of what Jesus looked like probably come from after he lived.
That includes the bible.

The only description of Jesus we have in the bible comes from the Book of Revelation from the New Testament.
These verses were originally written in Greek in the Codex Sinaiticus in the 4th century, so here it is in it’s original Greek with English translation;

Revelation 1:14
ἡ δὲ κεφαλὴ αὐτοῦ καὶ αἱ τρίχες λευκαὶ ὡς ἔριον λευκόν, ὡς χιών, καὶ οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ αὐτοῦ ὡς φλὸξ πυρός,
(and the head of him and the hairs white as if wool, white as snow, and and the eyes of him were like a flame of fire)

Revelation 1:15
καὶ οἱ πόδες αὐτοῦ ὅμοιοι χαλκολιβάνῳ ὡς ἐν καμίνῳ πεπυρωμένης, καὶ ἡ φωνὴ αὐτοῦ ὡς φωνὴ ὑδάτων πολλῶν,
(and the feet of him like fine bronze as in a furnace having been refined and the voice of him was like the voice of waters many)

Revelation 1:16
καὶ ἔχων ἐν τῇ δεξιᾷ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ, ἀστέρας ἑπτά, καὶ ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ ῥομφαία δίστομος ὀξεῖα ἐκπορευομένη, καὶ ἡ ὄψις αὐτοῦ ὡς ὁ ἥλιος φαίνει ἐν τῇ δυνάμει αὐτοῦ.
(and holding in the right hand of him, stars seven, and out of the mouth of him, a sword two-edged sharp, going forth and the face of him was like the sun shining in its full strength.)

Things to keep in mind are that this is not a description of Jesus as how people would/could have known him when he was still alive.
This is what Jesus looked like in a vision to a certain John, who may have been John the Apostle but we don’t really know who he was.
So this is the account of one man who had a vision many years after Jesus had died.
This was Jesus his heavenly form, a glorified state.
All the description suggests is that Jesus was glowing, the sun is sort of white and yellow, bronze in a furnace is bright orange and yellow-ish, his head and hair were white, his eyes were like fire.
In short; Jesus in his heavenly form was very bright, not black, not European white, but very very bright and white like snow.

Bronze glowing in a furnace.

But even if this was in relation to what Jesus looked like when still alive, even then it is vague enough to not really tell us very much.

The holy texts also tell us of several instances where people who had known Jesus very well, in person, failed to recognise him after his resurrection.
John 21:4 and Luke 24:16 describe the disciples meeting Jesus but not realising who he was, in John 20:15 Mary Magdalene confuses Jesus with a gardener.
If we take this literally, it suggests Jesus looked, at fight sight, quite different after his resurrection.

One much more valuable clue we get from the bible about what Jesus actually looked like while alive is that Jesus did not stand out in 1st century Jerusalem, if he had looked very different from any of the people around him or even just his disciples, Judas wouldn’t have had to kiss him to identify him.
So it’s very unlikely that Jesus looked like a Scandinavian or a black African.
Regardless if the story is true and if the bible is a reliable record, it does tell us that at least the people involved with writing it had to think of a way to get the Romans to identify Jesus among others.
To the authors of the bible at that time it was obvious that Jesus looked like everybody else and didn’t stand out.

Although Jerusalem at the time had visitors from all over the world, was full of Romans, Greeks and traders from far away places including Western Europe, a tall blonde haired blue eyed man would still have stood out, especially in a group of disciples who didn’t look like that at all.
Jesus most likely had dark hair and light brown skin, what’s sometimes called Olive colour skin.

Let’s move on to the images.

This, as far as I know, is the actual first image of a human Jesus, although historians aren’t quite sure.

The Healing of the Paralytic – one of the oldest possible depictions of Jesus, from the Syrian city of Dura Europos, dating from about 235 AD

There is one that might be earlier, but it doesn’t tell us anything about how people thought he looked like because it is graffiti probably meant to mock Jesus by giving him the head of a donkey.
We don’t know much about Jesus but I’m pretty sure he didn’t have a donkey’s head.

The Alexamenos graffito, roughly dated between the 1st & 3rd centuries AD.
In greek it says; “Alexamenos worships God” and shows a crucified man with a donkey’s head.

Here’s another contender, 2nd century, Catacombs of Domitilla on the Via Appia Antica in Rome, the last Supper fresco, which is possibly the oldest depiction of Jesus and the disciples.

Here are a few more images showing Jesus, mostly from the 3rd and 4th centuries.

Jesus in the Catacombs of Rome. Third-century fresco from the Catacomb of Callixtus of Christ as the Good Shepherd.
Bearded Jesus between Peter and Paul, Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter, Rome. Second half of the 4th century.
Mural painting from the catacomb of Commodilla. One of the first bearded images of Jesus, late 4th century.

So, conclusion; we don’t really know what Jesus looked like, no contemporary images or descriptions exist and when people started drawing him centuries after he died they generally painted him the way people around them looked at the time.
But the icon image at the top of this article is not, I repeat, not the earliest known image of Jesus.

Special thanks to Mr. Dommershuijzen for helping me with the detective work.

Sources;

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Disclaimer;
Picture(s) found online, used for (re-)educational purposes only.
I do not own the copyrights to these images, I only share them here for educational purposes to try and make sure the real story behind it becomes known and people will stop spreading false information.
If the copyright owner objects to the sharing here, kindly contact me and I shall alter the article.
If you’re interested in using any of the images here get in touch with the copyright owners mentioned in the article.
Feel free to contact me with questions.


24 thoughts on “NOT the earliest known image of Jesus

    1. Rofl. Nice try? The “shazereverquar.” website is completely nonsense. It’s pure BHI cult propaganda. The PAINTING in the Coptic Museum is OBVIOUSLY from the last few centuries. The paint that is used, the style, the materials didn’t even exist until fairly recently. Everything about that painting is clearly relatively modern. I can’t believe people are so gullible and ignorant that they could believe that painting is as old as the “shazereverquar” site claims. EVERYTHING on that ridiculous “shazereverquar” site is idiotic and pure fantasy. It’s not plausible in any objective way. NICE TRY “nice try” guy. You are either a mental midget or a complete con man. Its laughable. Like, hilariously laughable that anyone would even think that Coptic Museum painting is the “earliest image of Jesus”. Literally, those paints, those materials did not exist when the “shazereverquar” site claims it was created. There are a number of VERY early images of “Jesus”, or at least what people think “he” looked like. You would first have to PROVE he existed of course, which you cant. If anyone believes Warin West, they should be quickly admitted to a mental hospital, because they have brain damage. BHI claims tend to be ridiculous, but this one takes the cake. There is clear evidence about the genetics, the phenotype and the ethnicity of 1st century Judeans, Canaanites, Palestinians or whatever you want to call them. They were and ARE a Eurasian people group, very closely related to modern Syrians, Lebanese, JEWS, and Arabs. Their skin tone varied from light, to yellow, to olive, to brown. Butt they were never “black”. The BHI makes a mockery of itself with its absolutely comedic claims, over and over and over again. All I can say is, Warin West, you one stupid brotha.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The most prevalent logical fallacy on the internet is the ad hominem attack. For example: “EVERYTHING on that ridiculous “shazereverquar” site is idiotic and pure fantasy.” Is this a scientific statement? How did Fake History Hunter make this determination, with their ridiculous-o-meter? Apparently, if you do not believe exactly what Fake History Hunter wants you to believe, you are a “mental midget”. WOW. Where’s the scientific evidence for THAT?

        People who know the truth do not attempt to impose their beliefs upon others. Nor do they employ ad hominem attacks. At least Fake History Hunter is somewhat honest. They admit they deal in FAKE HISTORY.

        Everybody on the planet originated in the area now called “Africa”. Everyone is African. For example: The oldest remains of Russians are so-called “black” people. Thanks to the information available on the internet, race theory is a fraud that has just about run its course. Which is exactly why there is now an overarching attempt to censor anyone on the internet who dares to expose the fact that the emperor has no clothes.

        As for “BHI”, what the hell is that? Obviously we are dealing with ideologues here. People who are more comfortable with acronyms and rhetoric rather than reality. No one is believing your race bullshit any more.

        NO ONE

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      2. Never black? Why never black? Does that comport with your world view? Were Pharoahs Eurasian in ways that comport with your description? Did they look like Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra?

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      3. Why don’t you spend as much of you time and energy debunking the white Jesus ,Pope Borgia’s gay son depicted all over the world and the lying blond haired blue eyed pictures? Is it because you would leave Christianity knowing you were bowing down to s Black man acknowledge the Black man is God, and crucify him again if he returns

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    2. Someone get Warin West a number for NA. He must be HIGH as F. That website he posted is one of the dumbest sites I have ever seen. Nothing on it is real. I didn’t know human beings were capable of being that wrong about everything. The whole site is full of fake information. That painting isn’t close to the earliest depiction of Christ. This article is 100% correct. What is wrong with people? If Jesus was black, which he probably wasn’t, that painting still wouldn’t mean anything because it is like 18th century. And all early images of Christ, the earliest images, show him as a tan skinned white guy. Like everyone else in the in the Levant. He wasn’t a blond guy like some depictions. But he looked very similar to southern Europeans like most people in the Levant. Warin West must be trolling.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It is so strange that I’ve seen many white images of Jesus and there’s hardly any articles written to dispute these depictions. You have to do some serious research to find one. The moment a picture of a non white Jesus appears and there’s articles and active debates on the depiction. I need you now to write articles debunking all the other images of Jesus… it is only then that your site or article will have some credibility.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The reason there are so “few” articles written about Jesus not being white is that it is generally accepted, at least in Western Europe.
        I don’t know anyone who seriously thinks Jesus looked like a west European, it is not an issue.
        If someone would come and claim Jesus was white then historians would respond, but they don’t, not any longer, not in my part of the world.
        The last few reconstructions of what jesus may have looked like that came from historians/scientists were both not Western European looking.

        Also, I don’t care what he looks like.
        The only reason I even wrote the article was because someone made a claim about a piece of art.
        This is about that painting, not really about Jesus, for me anyway.

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    1. “the claim that this picture is the earliest depiction of Jesus”
      STRAWMAN ARGUMENT. We do not say it’s the earliest DEPICTION of Jesus. We DO say, it precedes what Google was touting as the earliest painting. AND IT DOES.

      We also left a link with information that dwarfs your exposition of the etiology of the Jesus myth. It’s quite telling that you FAILED to dispute the information associated with that link.

      Sincere researchers investigate ALL leads. Your failure to study the lead given to you reveals pursuit of truth is NOT your primary agenda. If people don’t agree with you, you call them “idiots”. Typical of the Dunning-Kruger effect, your incompetence blinds you to the competence of others. The link in the comment section of SHAZER EVERQUAR links to an exposition that includes “The Healing of the Paralytic” as well as many other art forms you failed to mention in your article.

      Everything in your article is minutia I learned TEN years ago. You’re WAY behind. SO far behind, you don’t even realize how far behind you are.

      At no time have I called you an “idiot”. Name-calling is a logical fallacy. IMHO, you do not possess the gravity of a scholar. You may have impressed yourself. But your superficial dalliance does not impress those who have been studying this subject for a number of years. We’re done with you now. Primarily because you have no skin in the game. If you want to put up your assets against us and battle your position in a court of law before a jury, let us know.

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  1. Warren West , there is a difference between “ad hominem” attacks and “ad hominem” statements made in ADDITION to factual assertions. And the “shazereverquar” website is indeed chock full of inaccurate claims, pseudo-intellectual historical narratives and completely unscientific claims. You are correct, the “ad hominem” is not definitive evidence that the “fake history: is fake. But the absolutely spurious content, objectively provable FACT that near everything on that website is FALSE, leaves the creator open to such condemnation. Clearly he has no idea what he is talking about.

    Now, you accuse others of using “race”? You are clearly misunderstanding the difference between “race”, which doesn’t exist and ethnicity, which is generally a combination of culture, genetic lineage and matrix of phenotypic traits. And by these terms, genetic, biologically provable heritage, genetic lineage ,population relation and migration is all objectively scientific and real. As in, we know very well what genetic disposition people in the ancient Levant fell within. We know the general spectrum of that population as it relates to modern populations. We can thereby infer quite a bit of information. We can give a spectrum of traits that that population would fall within, and such a spectrum is reasonably articulated with words like “Eurasian” and “Levantine”. Of course, some older terms, now outdated are still used like “Semitic” and “Caucasian”, which themselves are highly misunderstood by modern pseudo-academics.

    Thus, you are conflating “beliefs” with “fact”, “truth” with “assumption” and a cacophony of simplistic and binary misconceptions. BHI stands for “Black Hebrew Israelite”, as it was within this movement that such spurious afrocentric claims originated and are perpetuated, along with various subsidiaries and parallel movements. All which can be proven “delusional” or “preposterous” or absurdly heterodox to scientifically produced determinations.

    Thus, someone who has provably been disseminating ludicrous historical revisionism, like is done on the “shazereverquar” site, can be legitimately be labeled an “unscientific hack” without much concern for further impropriety in return.

    Do take care and please, keep believing in fantastical elements of such historically revisionist propaganda. By all accounts, you have every right to believe in nonsense.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is so strange that I’ve seen many white pictures of Jesus and there’s hardly any articles written to dispute these depictions. You have to do some serious research to find one. The moment a picture of a non white Jesus appears and there’s articles and active debates on the depiction. I need you now to write articles debunking all the other images of Jesus… it is only then that your site or article will have some credibility.

    Like

  3. Totally fake. Fact 1. One if you read and studied the prophetic message of Jesus first coming, there’s nothing saying that He’ll come out of Africa. Fact 2 He never wore those kind of clothes. HE was a priest and by law He had to were priestly garment.Fact 3. He never drank wine. If you read the story were the angel appeared to Mary the angel told her that He will never drink wine. If this Jesus of the Bible drank wine then this Jesus of the Bible wasn’t the messiah. FACT 4. The description of Jesus not describing HIM as a black person. Here He describe symbolically. Wool hair always describe a a wise person, red eyes represent fire. Fire is symbolically of God’s fiery anger but mercy, and so on. What thes dumb black folks did was destroyed who He IS spiritually and turned HIM into a drunk black person. That’s abomination and blashemish

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  4. Actually, we are thankful to Fake History Hunter. Our original article was not as thoroughly researched as it should have been. Since then, we’ve created an entire revision entitled “9 Oldest Paintings of Jesus in the World” which was formulated with guidance from The Associate Curator of Ancient Art at The Yale University Art Gallery.

    We welcome all attempts to “debunk” our article. Read it here: https://shazereverquar.wordpress.com/2020/10/11/9-oldest-paintings-of-jesus-in-the-world/

    There was one comment from a person who IMHO appropriately coined themselves as “Turtle” that I couldn’t help but notice. Apparently, that person is geographically challenged and fails to realize the term “Middle East” is a contrivance. The location is actually Northeast Africa. Just look at a map, folks.

    Thank You, Fake History Hunter. You helped to make us better and that’s WONDERFUL!

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  5. In your blog article above, you quote a response from the Museum. If this was in a digital form (as in an email), would you please screen shot that and either post it, or send to me. I can be PM’d thru Facebook for my email. Thank you.

    Like

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