On the Real Face of Jesus of Nazareth 1.0.7

Abstract In this note a new approach is used to reveal the hidden features of the face of the man imprinted on the Shroud of Turin, and then Microsoft’s facial recognition technology is used to make comparisons between this criterion-face and various representations of the face of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Faking and the Flogging of the Shroud of Turin
The late Professor Edward Hall was the most openly prejudiced and pugnacious of the scientists involved in the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud of Turin.

Of the mysterious, and iconic garment, he once declared

Someone got a piece, of linen, faked it up, and the flogged it.

This is an unfair description of what occurred several levels. As to the faking, while someone on the pro-authenticity side of the Shroud debate need only explain what is at best a dubious radiocarbon date to defend their position that the Shroud truly wrapped the dead body of Jesus of Nazareth, anyone on the con-authenticity side of this debate has to explain a host of forensic and historical facts, most obviously how (opportunity) a medieval artist was able to produce a unique photographic negative 600 years before the invention of photography, and why (motive) they would do so centuries before anyone could examine their work by converting the negative to a positive. As to the flogging, Geoffrey de Charny, the owner of the Shroud at the time of its first exhibition in 1355 was in no position to have purchased so valuable a forgery. The squire of Lirey, a tiny French village, he could not even afford to pay his own ransom when captured by the English. Nor did he have any interest in “flogging” a fake image of Jesus himself. An Amazon reviewer of the Book of Chivalry of Geoffroi De Charny (1) writes:

He is completely immune from the modern obsessions with justice, victory, security, or wealth. His sense of the ideal warrior would be a deeply pious man who singlemindedly studies and practices the profession of arms from the earliest age, sticks with it through the best and worst times, and gives little time or thought to anything else other than God.

However many lack Geoffrey De Charny’s high-minded values, and the world is rife with those that would happily fake and flog images of Jesus of Nazareth. By reference to a new way to reveal the real face on the Shroud, and to Microsoft’s facial recognition algorithm, we will here evaluate some of the more well known representations of the face of Jesus, including some good efforts, some honest mistakes, and some shameless fakes/flogs.

A New Approach to Revealing the Face Hidden on the Shroud
Dianelos Georgoudis prepared the above negative-positive face-image pair for Wikipedia:

He writes:

The processed image at the right is the product of the application of digital filters. Digital filters are mathematical functions that do not add any information to the image, but transform it in such a way that information already present in it becomes more visible or easier to appreciate by the naked eye. The processed image was produced by inverting the brightness of the pixels in the positive image but without inverting their hue, and then by increasing both the brightness contrast and the hue saturation. Finally noise and so-called “salt and pepper” filters automatically removed the noisy information from the original image which hinders the appreciation of the actual face. To my knowledge the resulting image is the best available and indeed the only one that reveals the color information hidden in the original.

In a horizontally rotated, enhanced, version of the Wikipedia image we are able to see that the eyes of the man are open, and that his left eye doesn’t align with the right eye, a condition known as “divergent strabismus”. Both eyes appear bruised, but the left eye more heavily so, and we can infer that the condition was caused by trauma to the left eye socket:

The earliest known icon of Christ Pantocrator, a 6th century encaustic on panel in Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, exhibits two different expressions which -aside from their connection with the clear differences between the left and right sides of the face on the Shroud- have been thought to show the dual natures of Jesus as human (the left side, and viewer’s right) and divine (the right side) (2):

From the more detailed point of view, this duality is revealed more dramatically: the right eye appears somewhat calm and serene, whereas the left eye unmistakably has a staring, tortured look of a real person wrestling with extreme pain:

Faces of Jesus Compared to the Face on the Shroud Using Microsoft’s Face API
This approach allows us to go from the Wikipedia image to a biometrically more illuminating image, and one that Microsoft’s Face API is able to read. The algorithm isn’t great, but if we are careful we can we can use it to distinguish realistic and unrealistic Jesus-faces.

Shroud-face v a synthesis of the face of the oldest known icon of Christ Pantocrator and the Shroud-face:

Shroud-face v the 1935 portrait by Ariel Agemian called The Face of Christ, a face of Jesus in wide circulation in various forms and attached to various back stories:

Shroud-face v the face of a typical Byzantine icon:

Shroud-face v a face of Jesus that circulates on the internet in a variety of guises and attached to a variety of stories:

Shroud-face v the face of Isaac Newton:

Shroud-face v Luigi Mattei’s sculptured Jesus-face:

The Veil of Veronica is a legendary cloth bearing an image of the face of Jesus. According to the most mature form of this legend, Saint Veronica from Jerusalem encountered Jesus along the Via Dolorosa on the way to Calvary. When she paused to wipe the blood and sweat off his face with her veil, his image was imprinted on the cloth.

Shroud-face v the face in Domenico Fetti’s The Veil of Veronica circa 1620:

In 2009, the British television station Channel 5, aired a documentary that claimed the Shroud was forged by Leonardo using his own face as the model. Putting aside the unanswerable objection that Leonardo was yet to be born when the Shroud was first exhibited 1355 (he was born in 1452), his face is in any case not as good a match to the face on the Shroud as it needs to be.

Shroud-face v the face of Leonardo da Vinci:

There is a lot of hype surrounding Akiane Kramarik’s painting Prince of Peace: The Resurrection because a young boy, after a near-death experience, claimed to have seen Jesus and that he resembled the man depicted by Kramarik’s painting:

In 2014, Akiane’s Jesus Prince of Peace painting was featured in the bestselling book, Heaven is for Real, the true story of 4-year-old Colton Burpo’s encounter with Jesus during his heavenly near-death experience. After seeing an array of images of Jesus, Colton Burpo, the subject of the book, identified the Prince of Peace painting by Akiane Kramarik as the Real Face of Jesus as he experienced the Lord while in heaven.” Colton Burpo, a near-death survivor at age four, had been identifying deceased family members from photographs, and the family had been searching for images that matched the boy’s description of Jesus. It was not until Kramarik’s Prince of Peace, a portrait of Jesus, was shown many years later on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, that Burpo confirmed that “they finally got one right.” (3)

Shroud-face v the Jesus-face-in Akiane Kramarik’s painting:

In 2010 The Daily Mail reported (4):

Is this the real face of Jesus?

Jesus was 5’8″, swarthy and looked nothing like the Renaissance painters’ depictions of Christ, according to a reconstruction based on the Turin Shroud

Using the latest 3-D computer technology, a team of digital artists have created what they claim is the real face of Jesus. The contours of the face and body were taken from the ghostly face imprinted on the Shroud, the bloodied linen sheet said to have covered the body of Christ in his tomb. Months of painstaking work went into the reconstruction, which is the first of its kind. The results were recorded by The History Channel for a two-part documentary, The Real Face Of Jesus, broadcast this week. “If you want to recreate the face of Jesus and you want to get the actual face of Jesus, you only have one object and that’s the shroud,” said Ray Downing, lead artist on the project. “I have a lot of information about that face and my estimation is we’re pretty darn close to what this man looked like.” The face they have created looks very different from the image on the Shroud, Mr Downing explained, because it has been transformed from 2-D to 3-D. “The shroud wasn’t hanging on the wall – it was wrapping a corpse. The face is hidden in there. By imitating those distortions we could take the image and put it back into shape and figure out what the face looked like. It gave us a blueprint,” he said.

Debate has raged for centuries about the authenticity of the Shroud. In 1988, carbon dating tests appeared to show that the material dated back to between 1260 and 1390, suggesting that it was a medieval forgery. However, it was subsequently claimed that the results could have been distorted as the linen has been repaired over the centuries due to water or fire damage.

Two million people are expected to view the Shroud when it goes on display next month at Turin Cathedral.

Downing unapologetically offers reproductions of his fantasy Jesus-images for sale in his online “Jesus Store” (4), continuing the enterprise that began with Judas and 30 pieces of silver 2000 years ago.

Shroud-face v Ray Downing’s Jesus-face:

Shroud-face v the face of Robert Powell’s Jesus (Powell played Jesus in the 1977 Jesus of Nazareth):

Shroud-face v the face of Jim Caviezel’s Jesus from Mel Gibson’s 2004 The Passion of The Christ:

The alleged similarity between his face, and the face on the Shroud, is a basis of Australian cult-leader Brian Leonard Golightly Marshall’s claim that he is the curiously impotent reincarnation of Jesus of Nazareth, and he has published numbers of comparative photos and videos he says prove that he is the Nazarene reborn in the 21st century:

Like fingerprints, faces are unique, and Window’s facial recognition process, Microsoft Hello, was even able to distinguish between identical twins such as Abby and Libby Sukkel and George and Henry Blood depicted below:

This means that, assuming the authenticity of the Shroud, the real Jesus of Nazareth could prove his identity by reference to the impeccability of the match between his face and the face on the Shroud. Marshall’s method then is sound, but in his case, facial recognition only serves to establish beyond any question that the Australian is -assuming the authenticity of the Shroud- not the real Jesus of Nazareth.

Shroud-face v the face of Brian Leonard Golightly Marshall:

The following article appeared in Popular Mechanics in 2015 (5):

The Real Face Of Jesus
Advances in forensic science reveal the most famous face in history.

From the first time Christian children settle into Sunday school classrooms, an image of Jesus Christ is etched into their minds. In North America he is most often depicted as being taller than his disciples, lean, with long, flowing, light brown hair, fair skin and light-colored eyes. Familiar though this image may be, it is inherently flawed. A person with these features and physical bearing would have looked very different from everyone else in the region where Jesus lived and ministered. Surely the authors of the Bible would have mentioned so stark a contrast.

On the contrary, according to the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane before the Crucifixion, Judas Iscariot had to indicate to the soldiers whom Jesus was because they could not tell him apart from his disciples. Further clouding the question of what Jesus looked like is the simple fact that nowhere in the New Testament is Jesus described, nor have any drawings of him ever been uncovered.

There is the additional problem of having neither a skeleton nor other bodily remains to probe for DNA. In the absence of evidence, our images of Jesus have been left to the imagination of artists. The influences of the artists’ cultures and traditions can be profound, observes Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi, associate professor of world Christianity at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. “While Western imagery is dominant, in other parts of the world he is often shown as black, Arab or Hispanic.” And so the fundamental question remains: What did Jesus look like?

An answer has emerged from an exciting new field of science: forensic anthropology. Using methods similar to those police have developed to solve crimes, British scientists, assisted by Israeli archeologists, have re-created what they believe is the most accurate image of the most famous face in human history.

The Body As Evidence
An outgrowth of physical anthropology, forensic anthropology uses cultural and archeological data as well as the physical and biological sciences to study different groups of people, explains A. Midori Albert, a professor who teaches forensic anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Experts in this highly specialized field require a working knowledge of genetics, and human growth and development. In their research they also draw from the fields of primatology, paleoanthropology (the study of primate and human evolution) and human osteology (the study of the skeleton). Even seemingly distant fields like nutrition, dentistry and climate adaptation play a role in this type of investigation.

While forensic anthropology is usually used to solve crimes, Richard Neave, a medical artist retired from The University of Manchester in England, realized it also could shed light on the appearance of Jesus. The co-author of Making Faces: Using Forensic And Archaeological Evidence, Neave had ventured in controversial areas before. Over the past two decades, he had reconstructed dozens of famous faces, including Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great, and King Midas of Phrygia. If anyone could create an accurate portrait of Jesus, it would be Neave.

Reconstructing Jesus
Matthew’s description of the events in Gethsemane offers an obvious clue to the face of Jesus. It is clear that his features were typical of Galilean Semites of his era. And so the first step for Neave and his research team was to acquire skulls from near Jerusalem, the region where Jesus lived and preached. Semite skulls of this type had previously been found by Israeli archeology experts, who shared them with Neave.

With three well-preserved specimens from the time of Jesus in hand, Neave used computerized tomography to create X-ray “slices” of the skulls, thus revealing minute details about each one’s structure. Special computer programs then evaluated reams of information about known measurements of the thickness of soft tissue at key areas on human faces. This made it possible to re-create the muscles and skin overlying a representative Semite skull.

The entire process was accomplished using software that verified the results with anthropological data. From this data, the researchers built a digital 3D reconstruction of the face. Next, they created a cast of the skull. Layers of clay matching the thickness of facial tissues specified by the computer program were then applied, along with simulated skin. The nose, lips and eyelids were then modeled to follow the shape determined by the underlying muscles.

A Matter Of Style
Two key factors could not be determined from the skull\[LongDash]Jesus’s hair and coloration. To fill in these parts of the picture, Neave’s team turned to drawings found at various archeological sites, dated to the first century. Drawn before the Bible was compiled, they held crucial clues that enabled the researchers to determine that Jesus had dark rather than light-colored eyes. They also pointed out that in keeping with Jewish tradition, he was bearded as well.

It was the Bible, however, that resolved the question of the length of Jesus’s hair. While most religious artists have put long hair on Christ, most biblical scholars believe that it was probably short with tight curls. This assumption, however, contradicted what many believe to be the most authentic depiction: the face seen in the image on the famous – some say infamous\[LongDash]Shroud of Turin. The shroud is believed by many to be the cloth in which Jesus’s body was wrapped after his death. Although there is a difference of opinion as to whether the shroud is genuine, it clearly depicts a figure with long hair. Those who criticize the shroud’s legitimacy point to 1 Corinthians, one of the many New Testament books the apostle Paul is credited with writing. In one chapter he mentions having seen Jesus – then later describes long hair on a man as disgraceful. Would Paul have written “If a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him” if Jesus Christ had had long hair? For Neave and his team this settled the issue. Jesus, as drawings from the first century depict, would have had short hair, appropriate to men of the time.

The historic record also resolved the issue of Jesus’s height. From an analysis of skeletal remains, archeologists had firmly established that the average build of a Semite male at the time of Jesus was 5 ft. 1 in., with an average weight of about 110 pounds. Since Jesus worked outdoors as a carpenter until he was about 30 years old, it is reasonable to assume he was more muscular and physically fit than westernized portraits suggest. His face was probably weather-beaten, which would have made him appear older, as well.

An Accurate Portrait
For those accustomed to traditional Sunday school portraits of Jesus, the sculpture of the dark and swarthy Middle Eastern man that emerges from Neave’s laboratory is a reminder of the roots of their faith. “The fact that he probably looked a great deal more like a darker-skinned Semite than westerners are used to seeing him pictured is a reminder of his universality,” says Charles D. Hackett, director of Episcopal studies at the Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. “And [it is] a reminder of our tendency to sinfully appropriate him in the service of our cultural values.”

Neave emphasizes that his re-creation is simply that of an adult man who lived in the same place and at the same time as Jesus. As might well be expected, not everyone agrees.

Forensic depictions are not an exact science, cautions Alison Galloway, professor of anthropology at the University of California in Santa Cruz. The details in a face follow the soft tissue above the muscle, and it is here where forensic artists differ widely in technique. Galloway points out that some artists pay more attention to the subtle differences in such details as the distance between the bottom of the nose and the mouth. And the most recognizable features of the face – the folds of the eyes, structure of the nose and shape of the mouth – are left to the artist. “In some cases the resemblance between the reconstruction and the actual individual can be uncanny,” says Galloway. “But in others there may be more resemblance with the other work of the same artist.” Despite this reservation, she reaches one conclusion that is inescapable to almost everyone who has ever seen Neave’s Jesus. “This is probably a lot closer to the truth than the work of many great masters.”

Shroud-face v Richard Neave’s face of Jesus:

The Face of an Ancient Israelite
People are indeed want to mistakenly create Jesus in their own image (for the African American, the face of Jesus is the face of an African American man, for the European, the face of Jesus is the face of a European man). For those -like Downing- raised in the world dominated by Hollywood, there is no more realistic Jesus-face than a the face of a male Hollywood actor and so Downing offers us Hollywood-Jesus. For Brian Leonard Golightly Marshall’, the face of Jesus is the face of a possible descendant of one of the 162,000 British convicts transported to an Australian penal colony between 1786 and 1868. But while the face of Jesus may bear some resemblance to some of the faces belonging to these groups, it is first and foremost the face of an ancient Israelite. There is some question today as to what the face of an ancient Israelite looks like, but we can get a good idea -not from the pseudo-scientific fantasies of Richard Neave- but from the Samaritan High Priests. Since the time of Alexander the Great the Samaritans have been completely isolated genetically, and the lineage of the High Priests -the most extensively documented Israelite lineage in the world – has according to Samaritan tradition existed continuously since the time of Aaron, the brother of Moses, and has been held by 132 priests in the last thirty-four centuries. (6) 127th in this line was Jacob ben Aaron (1841 – 1916):

Shroud-face v the face of Jacob ben Aaron, a direct descendant of the biblical Aaron:

The Money-Changers
For centuries, artists (not so much iconographers, whose motives are pure) and forgers have been producing fake images of Jesus for the purposes of flogging them, and the same criticism that can be levelled at the authors of books on Jesus, most notably those books on the Shroud of Turin that appear around Easter time: artists selling portraits of Jesus, and writers selling books on the Shroud of Turin at Easter, and “Christian” churches and ministries selling objects of various kinds… are no different to the merchants and money changers that Jesus physically expelled from the temple for using the worship of God as a pretext for profiteering. It seems either that little to nothing has been learned in 2000 years and/or that we live in dark, Godless, times.

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(1) Schoeborn, C (1994), God’s Human Face: The Christ-Icon

(2) Kaueper, R (1996), Book(4) http://www.raydowning.com/jesus-store/

(3) Hallowell, B and O’Oonnor, C (2014), Boy Who Claims He Nearly Died and Went to Heaven Reveals How an Image on CNN Captured Exactly What He Saw of Chivalry of Geoffroi De Charny

(4) Singh, A (2010), Is this the real face of Jesus?

(5) Fillon, M (2015), The Real Face of Jesus

(6) Ireton, S (2003), The Samaritans – A Jewish Sect in Israel: Strategies for Survival of an Ethno-religious Minority in the Twenty First Century