No one knows.
Many have seen him and of those only a few, like Joseph Smith, Akiane Kramarik and Colton Burpo, have left visual clues as to his appearance. And these reflect Christ’s current appearance, not necessarily what he looked like in mortality.
We have some supposedly authentic contemporary descriptions of his earthly appearance but all have been questioned. The earliest image we have of Christ is a sketch created some 100 years after his death, and that showed him as a beardless, short-haired youth. The first time his beard showed up in artwork was about 400 years after his death; in the West his beard first appeared as late as 1500 AD. None of these can be considered definitive representations of his appearance.
I know the value of perpetuating stereotypes of Christ’s image, which today is basically a pale Swede with long, reddish hair and a beard. Although this image is not very consistent with a desert climate and a poor-man’s diet it certainly makes it easy to point him out in a work of art, almost like a halo. Still, this image has always felt scruffy and inconsistent to me. Paul certainly didn’t like long hair on men. I base my interpretations on the idea that Christ did not stand out from the crowd, and since almost all depictions of Palestine inhabitants during his lifetime show men with uniformly short hair I’m guessing that’s how he wore his hair, too.
In the end, his actual appearance doesn’t matter. What matters is your ability to relate to him. The character’s look is contemporary in hopes of making it easier for you to empathize with him. May these images help bring his reality closer to you.
Accounts given near the time of Christ; draw your own conclusions as to their accuracy.
The book “Heaven Is For Real” by Todd Burpo recounts his 4-year-old old son Colton’s visit to Heaven. When his parents realized that he truly had been given a special gift – time with Jesus – they showed Colton dozens of paintings by masters and illustrators, trying to discover which one looked the most like Jesus. There was always something wrong with them, however.
One day Todd learned about Akiane Kramarik, a girl who started seeing visions of Heaven at age 4. When Colton saw on TV a realistic painting that Akiane had done at age 8, Todd asked his son, “What is wrong with this one?”
His son turned to the screen and for a long moment said nothing.
But he just stood there, studying. I couldn’t read the expression.
“What’s wrong with this one, Colton?” I said again.
I nudged him in the arm. “Colton?”
My seven-year-old turned to look at me and said, “Dad, that one’s right.”
Short hair: Eusebius copied the text of the Jewish historian Josephus in Against Apion I.22, para.173-4. In this section, Josephus was quoting an early Gentile author who gave some unique grooming styles of Jewish men. Josephus shows that the Jews were known, as Eusebius renders it, for “their close-cropped hair” (Preparation for the Gospel, IX.9, sect 412b). From Associates for Scriptural Knowledge