Thursday, May 24, 2012

Jesus Showing Up in Lots of Places

Guerda's smudge
A Florida woman named Guerda Maurice recently insisted that she had captured an image of Jesus on her cellphone.  She was trying to take pictures of “The Bachelor” TV show and, when she checked them, on one there was this white kind of smudge that she was sure was the splitting image of the Son of God.

Who else?

After all, the image (right) appeared bearded, wearing a white robe and on her cellphone.  It couldn’t be anyone else.

As we all know, Jesus has nothing better to do than spend his days superimposed on a TV program.  Better late than never, since he was never portrayed in any manner during his lifetime. 

Paul, the propagandist of the early Christian faith, never described him.  He did say Jesus was born of a woman in Galilee in the normal way and did nothing in his life until being chosen by God to be the messiah while dangling on the cross, but not a hint of height, hair color or anything else. Paul even described himself, but never once provided a detail about Jesus’ looks.  No one else did either.

Early Christians tried to make up for that gap by drawing their own images.  One early wall etching depicts a man with an animal’s head.  That resembles one of Egypt’s animal-human gods, like Horus or Osiris, but is no help in determining Jesus’ true looks.

Christians also borrowed pictures from the Romans.  Apollo, the Good Shepherd, a young man often shown with a sheep over his shoulders, (left) was a favorite and remains so today.

The Romans had plenty such illustrations, including ones for every emperor and for many social and political leaders.  Their faces remain preserved in statues, busts, images etched into stone memorials and other ways.  Jesus simply didn’t receive such immortality.

Modern attempt to depict Jesus.
Naturally, the lack of any authentic depiction has left each generation free to suggest a likeness.  Mosaics and paintings though the ages have presented Jesus in the clothing and appearance of the time period when the art was produced.  As a result, he has been shown bearded, clean shaven, light-skinned, swarthy, crowned, with long and short hair and so on.  Even a few white pixels on a camera.

At right is an image of Jesus  created by modern scientists based on the remains of a Jewish man who lived around the time of Jesus.  It didn't win any converts.

All it takes for us to identify a face is 12 different elements.  That triggers part of our brain to organize those elements into an image.

Maurice “saw” Jesus because our brains are hardwired to “see” human images in everything.  We need that ability since humans, unlike animals, have distinct facial patterns.  Two tigers look alike; two humans don’t.  As a result, no one really looks exactly like someone else, except some identical twins.  To separate friend from stranger, then, we need specialized abilities.

It also comes in handy to see faces in clouds, men in the moon and religious figures in electronic images.

That doesn’t mean that Jesus couldn’t have posed for Maurice’s camera, but given the number of people claiming to see Jesus in bread mold, cliff sides and the like, it’s safe to say the Son of God is spending an awful lot of time having his picture taken these days.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

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