At 09:40 AM 12/24/00 , Mark Goodacre wrote:
>Thanks, Bob, for your helpful response....
>On 23 Dec 2000, at 8:38, Robert M. Schacht wrote:
> ...statements like Crossan's, in its deceptively
>> simple declarative form, without any qualifiers, is presenting something as
>> truth that is only a guess....
>Lest I have been unfair to Crossan, the quotation was nicked not from one
>of his scholarly works but from a comment he makes on the Beliefnet site,
>on a rather limited little section of that site on appearance:
Thanks for providing the source of the quote.
>> There is a tradition, based on a passage from Isaiah, I think, that Jesus
>> was not a handsome fellow. But it says nothing about skin color. I think
>> that, for various reasons, any early descriptions of Jesus' appearance
>> (apart from the transfiguration) were expunged from the literature. There
>> simply is no evidence on which to base a description.
>Agreed. Both Justin Martyr and Tertullian give the tradition that
>Jesus was short and not good looking, but this tradition perhaps
>derives from Isa. 52.14 and 53.2-3 (prophecy historicized?!). There
>is no mention of skin colour.
Thanks for providing the references for this tradition. Since I generally
look for the grain of truth in situations where the issue of historicizing
prophecy is raised, for the sake of consistency I should do that here, too!
The Isaiah passages may have influenced the details, so we cannot be sure
about them. However, I think the Criterion of Embarrassment may be useful
here. Jesus is being touted as the Son of God, and the Greco-Roman culture
of the day had a lot to suggest about the kind of perfection of physical
appearance that was implied by godly descent. What if Jesus was short and
ugly? In that case, the less said about his appearance, the better--
however, arguing from negative evidence is always risky. But with that
caveat, the Isaiah passages then might be interpreted as a way of making a
virtue of an awkward reality. So there might be some truth to the Justin
Martyr/Tertullian tradition, although one cannot be sure of the exact
details. The passages where his appearance is an issue (e.g., the
Transfiguration) are short on the kind of details one might want in order
to paint a portrait.