Questions From Readers
● Isaiah 52:14, a prophecy regarding the Messiah, seems to indicate that Jesus Christ was a disfigured person. How is this to be understood?—J. B., U.S.A.
Jehovah God inspired the prophet Isaiah to write prophetically respecting the Messiah: “Look! My servant will act with insight. He will be in high station and will certainly be elevated and exalted very much. To the extent that many have stared at him in amazement—so much was the disfigurement as respects his appearance more than that of any other man and as respects his stately form more than that of the sons of mankind—he will likewise startle many nations. At him kings will shut their mouth, because what had not been recounted to them they will actually see, and to what they had not heard they must turn their consideration.”—Isa. 52:13-15.
These words of Isaiah apply to Jesus Christ. But what is said in Isaiah 52:14 should not cause us to conclude that Jesus was a person who was physically disfigured. Though the Bible does not describe Christ’s facial appearance or physical form, the oldest archaeological evidence is not to the effect that Jesus had an unpleasant visage or grotesque features. For example, in considering early paintings in which Christ is depicted, American scholar Jack Finegan wrote: “The almost destroyed painting of Christ in the Catacomb of Priscilla at Rome [the Resurrection of Lazarus] probably belongs, as we have seen, to the middle of the second century. The painting at Dura [the Healing of the Paralytic] is dated even more definitely in the first part of the third century. In both pictures Christ is shown as a young and beardless man with short hair and wearing the ordinary costume of the day. These and similar portrayals are the earliest type of Christ as far as is now known in early Christian art.” (Light from the Ancient Past, 1946 edition, page 408) Hence, the oldest extant paintings depicting Jesus Christ do not indicate that he was disfigured in any way.
What, then, is meant at Isaiah 52:14? Evidently these words have reference to the humiliation Jesus Christ experienced. Many viewed him as a sinner and reviled him. (1 Pet. 2:22, 23) As a man on earth Jesus did righteous works that others could not do, but he was hated without cause despite the good things that he did. Nonetheless, he bore such reproach, proving his integrity to God. For this Jesus was exalted.—John 15:17-25.
Jesus was a staunch advocate of truth and righteousness. He boldly exposed religious leaders of his day as being hypocrites, even liars and murderers. (Matt. 23:1-39; John 8:44) To such exposed ones, understandably, Jesus had no pleasant appearance. They hated him. To the hypocritical religious leaders of his day Jesus’ message was repulsive and the bearer of that message had no desirable appearance.
While the Scriptures do not provide an actual description of Christ’s facial or physical appearance, we do well to remember that Jesus was a perfect man. (Heb. 7:26) God prepared a body for him. (Heb. 10:5) Undoubtedly, therefore, Jesus had a very pleasing physical form and countenance.