In order to establish what Jesus looked like, Christians usually refer to a letter written by the Governor of Jerusalem, Publius Lentulus.
“His hair is of the colour of the ripe hazel-nut, straight down to the ears, but below the ears wavy and curled, with a bluish and bright reflection, flowing over his shoulders. It is parted in two on the top of the head, after the pattern of the Nazarenes. His brow is smooth and very cheerful with a face without wrinkle or spot, embellished by a slightly reddish complexion. His nose and mouth are faultless. His beard is abundant, of the colour of his hair, not long, but divided at the chin.”
Very nice; except that there never was a Governor of Jerusalem and Valerius Gratus was the Roman Prefect of Judaea at the time. Lentulus Publius never existed and the letter was simply an Early Church hoax, likely derived from the works of the 1st century historian Josephus.
The Slavonic copy of Josephus’s ‘Capture of Jerusalem’ contains the following description of a man wanted by Pontius Pilate for claiming that he was the King of the Jews: “a man of simple appearance, mature age, dark skin, small stature, three cubits high, hunchbacked with a long face, long nose, and meeting eyebrows…with scanty hair with a parting in the middle of his head, after the manner of the Nazarites, and with an undeveloped beard.”
The image of a rather unatractive Jesus is provided by numerous other sources:
In the Coptic Acts of Paul and Thecla, Paul describes him as “a man small in size, bald-headed with eyebrows meeting, rather hook-nosed” (v.3)
In the Acts of Peter, Peter quotes a prophet who described Jesus “And we saw him and he had no beauty nor comeliness” (v. 24).
In the Acts of John, John says: “And oft-times he [Jesus] would appear to me as a small man and uncomely” (v. 89)
The monk Dionysius of Fourna in a ”Handbook of Painting”, specifies “beautiful eyebrows that meet” in the section entitled: “On the countenance and form of our Lord as we have learned it from those who have seen Him with their own eyes.”
An 8th century description of Christ is found in the works of St. John of Damascus, in his Epistola ad Theophilum include: “beautiful eyes, with eyebrows that meet”.
One of the Fathers of Christianity, Origen Adamantius, preserved some of the work of the Greek philosopher, Celsus, who described Jesus as “small and ugly and undistinguished.” Celsus is also possibly the source of the claim that Jesus’s father was a Roman soldier named Panthera.
From a variety of sources we know that Jesus was small in stature; this in a time when the average male measured 5’1” and weighed 110 pounds.
The first century historian Josephus reports him being approximately 3 cubits tall (4 feet 6 inches).
The Gospel of Luke (19:3) describes Zaccheus’ attempt to see Jesus while he preached in a crowd: “And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and he could not for the crowd, because he was low of stature.” Luke may be referring to Zaccheus rather than Jesus, but the idea that Jesus was slight can be seen again in the Acts of John v. 90: “…I was afraid and cried out, and he, turning about, appeared as a man of small stature…”
The Qur’an records Jesus’s diminutive size in the story of the the night that the prophet Muhammad flies to Jerusalem on a winged horse to visit the prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus; Jesus was the smaller of the three.