(Is Leonardo da Vinci the man on the Shroud of Turin? Visit the videos page to find out.)

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Some people say the Shroud of Turin has the actual image of Christ’s face. Venerated by millions around the world a negative image of this 14- by 4-foot linen cloth shows the image of a bearded man with pierced wrists and feet and a bloodstained head. It is believed this particular shroud was wrapped around Jesus' body after his crucifixion. The piece of tightly woven herringbone twill last went on public display in 2000, and attracted more than three million viewers. Many more visitors are expected for next public display in 2025. In 1988, three reputable laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Tucson carried out radiocarbon tests on the cloth and declared the Shroud a brilliant, medieval fake produced between 1260 and 1390. Scientists have since been able to reproduce the Shroud using materials and techniques available in the middle ages.

Skeptics point also to the physical image we know of Jesus, which they claim was massively altered by the early Church. In his book, “The messiah Jesus and John the Baptist” Robert Eisler says that newly converted Christians could not appreciate Jesus’ original features so they transformed his image into a Grecian form of male beauty. But as quoted by Eisler (p. 467) Josephus in his Halosis II described Jesus as follows: "a man of simple appearance, mature age, small stature, three cubits high [4 ft 6 in; 137 cm], hunchbacked, with a long face, long nose, and meeting eyebrows, so that they who see him might be affrighted, with scanty hair (but) with a parting in the middle of his head, after the manner of the Nazirites, and with an undeveloped beard." Jesus with European featuresSome say this description attributed to Josephus is an anti-Christian forgery and perhaps they are right. The gospels relate a story where Jesus violently attacks and clears a temple full of vendors and this certainly is not a task a small, deformed man could have accomplished.

We do know however that Jesus’ relatives once tried to save him from a mob by arguing that he was insane and the authorities at that same instant thought he was demon possessed (Mark 3:21-22). The appearance of Jesus as presented in this gospel incident is not that of a gentle, good-looking, blond-haired, white man with a glowing halo hovering lightly above his head.

Scholars say that a tall, blond, long haired male Caucasian would not fit in the region where Jesus lived and worked as a handy man; fair skin and light eyes would have made him an oddity and archeologists have confirmed that the average height of a semite man in Jesus' time was 5 ft. 1 in. The New Testament reports that Jesus so much resembled those around him that at his arrest, Judas had to physically identify him with a kiss so that the soldiers could tell him apart from his disciples. Now, using the science of forensic anthropology researchers have created a face they think gives the closest approximation of what Jesus may have looked like – a short-haired, dark, swarthy Middle Eastern man with features typical of Galilean Semites of his era, weighing about 110 pounds.

Jesus depicted in a Grecian form of male beauty

Krishna teaching his friend Arjuna

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What Jesus may have really looked like
This BBC Photo Library Illustration is the most truthful representation of what Jesus may have really looked like. The model was constructed using the science of forensic anthropology.

The prophet Isaiah also visualized the Isrealite messiah: "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not." (Isaiah 53:2-3)

Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi, an associate professor at Columbia Theological Seminar says that "While Western imagery is dominant, in other parts of the world he [Jesus] is often shown as black, Arab or Hispanic."

The Lord's prayer in Aramaic. Click to hear how Jesus may have spoken.

Some scholars believe that Jesus is a totally fictional character. They say the miracles associated with his birth are not new; many of the supernatural marvels cited in the Christmas story were already assigned to deities of much earlier ages. Others believe Jesus, the historical figure who wanted to be king of the Jews existed, while the divine Son of God character, as created by early church leaders, was merged into his original biography. The miracles and other supernatural phenomena attributed to Jesus were specially culled from pagan myths of universal themes while selected pieces of the Jewish Torah (the Old Testament) were used to legitimize and bring credibility to the messianic story.

Jesus is the most recent version of a commom man-God myth these scholars contend. They show how his life story perfectly parallels of the path of the sun through the zodiac and how his birth and death appear to symbolically reflect the yearly equinoxes and solstices.

Different human cultures, across many thousands of years created belief systems centered on the solstices because the annual climate cycle had a direct impact on the survival and welfare of their farming communities.  Jesus, as man or God never existed, researchers say. His name was added simply as a new flavour to ancient astrological superstitions.

For instance, the tale of Attis, the Phrygian son of God is hundreds of years older than Jesus’ story. Attis was born on December 25th. His mother, Nana, was a virgin. He was thought of as a savior who was killed to redeem mankind. His body, symbolized by bread, was eaten by his worshippers. He was crucified on a tree and after three days was resurrected.

Buddha, who was thought to have lived almost 500 years before Jesus, was also born of a virgin mother, Maya. He was announced by the stars, wise men and angels singing heavenly songs. Buddha was of royal lineage and as a baby he was presented with costly jewels and precious substances. He taught in a temple at 12 and fed 500 men from a small basket of cakes and he walked on water. Buddha also was resurrected after he died, his tomb was opened by supernatural powers and he was taken physically up to heaven. Dionysus was also born of a virgin in December and was also in a manger. He was a traveling teacher who performed miracles including turning water into wine.

Hercules also had a virgin mother and a God for a father. The Egyptian Osiris/Horus myth is a story of a God and his once and future father, Osiris.  Horus’ story is uncannily like the divine Jesus. His mother was the virgin Isis-Meri and his birth which took place in a manger was heralded by a star and attended by wise men. He was of royal descent. At age 12 he was a child teacher in the temple. Horus walked on water, raised El-Azarus from the dead and had twelve close followers.

Khrisna and his friend ArjunaThere are hundreds of instances where the stories of the Hindu God Krishna and Christ are suspiciously similar. Krishna’s story is older than the Jesus’. Krishna’s mother was the virgin Devaki, his birth was signaled by a star in the east and he was presented with spices as heavenly creatures sang. At the time of Krishna’s birth, his father, a carpenter, was off in the city paying taxes. Krishna’s beloved follower was Arjuna or Ar-jouan and not surprisingly Jesus’ beloved disciple had a similar name, John. Krishna was killed at around age thirty and the sun darkened at his death but not before he gave his followers the ability to perform miracles.

Further research should include a reading about Mithra of Persia whose story existed thousands of years before Jesus’. Checks can be made for similarities in the tale of Prometheus of Greece, Quetzalcoatl of Mexico, and Serapis of Egypt.

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After Jesus’ death his followers, including members of his family led by his brother James, formed a movement in Jerusalem that held to Jewish traditions and laws and did not see Jesus as a God-figure. Some of the teachings of this group can be found among the Ebionites, a group disparaged by the apostle Paul with whom they were in direct theological competition. The Ebionites are described as emphasizing the indivisibleness of God and the humanity of Jesus as the biological son of both Mary and Joseph, who by virtue of his righteousness, was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit at his baptism to be the messianic "prophet like Moses" (foretold in Deuteronomy 18:15–22).

Scholars say Paul, who was once called Saul, is responsible for the creation of the god Jesus we know today. Paul never met Jesus and at one time persecuted Jews who followed Jesus’ teachings. He was raised a pagan in his boyhood home of Tarsus but converted to Judaism as an adult.

On the road to Damascus to arrest some of Jesus’ followers Paul, according to New Testament writings, experienced a supernatural event after which, scholars say, Paul synthesized the Greek paganism he practiced as a child, notably Gnosticism and Mystery-Cult religion, with the understanding of messianic Judaism he learned as an adult convert.

Paul, researchers say, then re-imagined Jesus as a kind of Mystery-Cult Savior God along the lines of Attis and this became the dominant view of Jesus in New Testament writings. Paul's reworking of Jesus effectively separated this anti-Roman rebel from all earthly politics. The new non-threatening faith proved convenient for the Church when Paul ultimately moved it to the capital of the Roman Empire.

The fresh idea of a savior whose death and resurrection brings salvation that a mere adherence to Jewish law cannot, created a new and unique religion, one rooted in a venerable history yet distinct in general from Gnosticism, from mystery-cult religion, and from Judaism. Paul's clever creation of an eclectic religion fitted well into the Hellenistic world and beyond. Today, Christianity, as defined by Paul’s theology, remains one of the world’s most dominant religions.

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