Pictures of Jesus: Are you seeing or seeking him?

I often try to picture God when I pray. I know that I can’t physically see him, and therefore it’s irrational to do so, but I feel like there’s something in the way we’re wired that visual stimulus feels necessary. I’m sure I’m not alone in that feeling because thousands and thousands of people look for pictures of Jesus every month in Google. According to Google, the number of monthly searches for the phrase “Jesus pictures” is roughly 74,000.

Although it’s irrational to believe we can without a shadow of a doubt know what Jesus looked like, I think it’s only natural to want to try.

Throughout this article, I’ll walk you through a number of ways people have attempted to depict Jesus. We’ll look at how the images of Jesus have changed over time, the impact geography makes on the visual depiction of Jesus, various situations people have placed Jesus in pictures, and the different types of media people have use through time from paintings to computer desktop wallpaper. Finally, we’ll wrap up with a final thought on why we shouldn’t care what Jesus looked like.


To get started, let’s walk through the history of people creating pictures of Jesus. In this section, we’ll talk about the hunt for the original picture of Jesus Christ (the earliest recorded image of Jesus) dating back to 200 AD, some slightly more recent images of Christ between 1000 and 1900, and we’ll wrap up with some more modern pictures of Jesus.


First, let’s walk through the hunt for the oldest picture of Jesus, the original.

While it’s unknown exactly which depiction is truly the original picture of Jesus, there are a number who are in the running for that desired description. Here’s a breakdown of the 5 that seem like they’re the most likely candidates:



According to popular believe, this is most likely the oldest picture of Jesus. Original pictures though have to actually about Jesus in order to claim the title. And, I’m candidly not entirely convinced this is even depicting Jesus. If you translate the writing on the plaster carving, it reads "Alexamenos worships [his] God.” So, it has a person on a cross and another person worshiping the crucified one. Yes, that could mean this is the original Jesus picture, but there were thousands and thousands of crucifixions and Jesus was by no means the only one to hang on a cross. Even the Bible reveals he had two other men hanging near him. And, if humans back then are anything like they are today, and I’m sure they were, I would not be at all surprised if there were other religions sprouting up either in mockery of or to copy Christ that included worshipping crucified individuals. Finally, while this may be the oldest reference to Jesus in a visual form, I think we can all agree Jesus did not have the head of a donkey, so this picture is definitely not the oldest accurate picture of Christ.




The next one is known as “The Good Shepherd” because the image has a shepherd holding a sheep around its neck, seemingly taking it to safety. I’m fairly convinced that this one can claim the title or original Jesus picture, but I do still have some doubts. It was created in early 200-300 AD, so it definitely has the age down. And Jesus refers to himself as the good shepherd in John 10:11, so it has that going for it too. Also, if you look at other artists fresco depictions of events in the catacombs of the day, it’s clear they were focused on biblical situations such as Noah and his ark, and Jonah and his big fish. But, I’m not entirely convinced because David was also a shepherd. Why couldn’t it just be David?



ADORATION OF THE MAGI,_Museo_civilt%C3%A0_romana_-_Adorazione_dei_Magi_-_sec_III_dC_-_Foto_Giovanni_Dall%27Orto_12-Apr-2008.jpg,_Museo_civilt%C3%A0_romana_-_Adorazione_dei_Magi_-_sec_III_dC_-_Foto_Giovanni_Dall%27Orto_12-Apr-2008.jpg

The third contender is called the “Adoration of the Magi” because it depicts the nativity, with the three wisemen, Mary, Joseph, and of course, Jesus. It has writing on it that reads "severa indeovi vas,” which I’m having difficulty finding an accurate translation of, but the closest one I can find that I assume is remotely real says “you live in God.” Regardless of what the writing says, it’s pretty clear to me that this is indeed a picture of Jesus and it is indeed old because it’s dated back to sometime between 200-300 AD. But, it’s one of many pictures of baby Jesus, not grownup Jesus, and I’m pretty sure when we’re seeking out what God looks like, we’re more concerned about him as an adult, not a child. Right? Oh, also, an interesting fact is that this picture came from a cast of a sarcophagus!




Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. I’m pretty darn sure this fresco is truly the original picture of Jesus. It’s dated between 300-400 AD, and out of all the ones we’ve seen so far, it’s the most what you would expect Jesus’ original photo to look like. The adult-aged Jesus has a halo-esque shape around his head, which is commonly understood to signify someone holy, and he appears to be the center of attention, which I can only imagine Jesus always was. So, again, I’m pretty sure this is the oldest known picture of Christ, but if you’re not convinced on this one, we’ve got one more that could oust it.




If you’re still not 100% convinced you’ve seen the original picture of Jesus, this last one in the running is sure to satisfy your search. It’s called the “Pantocrator” which is actually a really generic name that means “almighty” or “all-powerful” and is basically like naming it “Christ.” It’s a mosaic in the Church of Santa Pudenziana in Rome. Right in the middle of it, sits Jesus on a throne, with the cross above him as well as all sorts of religious and biblical symbols signifying various things. Through all of those cross referencing symbols that provide contextual relevance to say that this couldn’t be anyone other than Jesus, it’s clear that if none of the prior candidates are the original, this one takes the cake. And for reference, it’s dated at around 410 AD.



Regardless of which one was actually the oldest picture of Jesus, there are quite a few that are newer, but still very old, that I think are interesting to look at because they show the various ways Jesus has been depicted from roughly 1000 AD and the 1800’s.



This mosaic calls Saint Sophia’s Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine its home and is dated to 1000 AD. Jesus is placed in the middle of two other figures, Mary on the left and John the Baptist on the right. And fun fact, “dessis” means “entreaty” in Greek.




This painting depicts Jesus on the cross in the center panel. It’s dated back to the 1370’s and was done using a technique called “marouflage.” That’s where you paint a painting on a canvas and then, using an adhesive, you attach it to a wall or plywood in this case.




This tempera piece is dated to around 1482 AD and depicts Jesus on the cross with Mary and Saint John. It was created by Pietro Perugino, an Italian renaissance painter.



JESUS, AFTER LEONARDO (STATE 1),_after_Leonardo_(State_1).jpg,_after_Leonardo_(State_1).jpg

Wenceslas Hollar created this picture of Jesus and he lived between 1607 and 1677, so this was created sometime in between there. It’s a pretty basic picture of Christ, but he’s holding something in left hand like a large glass ball. I’m not sure what that’s supposed to be and couldn’t find any commentary on it, but I wonder if it’s supposed to be a representation of him having the universe in his hand?




This last fairly old one is dated between 1800 and 1900 AD and is fascinating to me even because of the medium. It’s an engraving in steel, which I personally would have such a tough time making look remotely like a human, let alone our Lord and Savior. It was made in Germany and is a visual representation of Revelation 3:20, which says, "Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”



We’ve taken a look at a number of pictures of Jesus we’d call “old” because they date back more than a hundred years, but we have one more category to look at — those that have been around for about a hundred years or less, all the way up to today.



The first one we’ll look at is pretty humorous to me. I just personally think the primary subject — the artist, Jacek Malczewski, himself as Jesus — just looks kind of funny and seems fairly conceited to place yourself as Christ. And, I’m no art critic by any means, but the style of the oil on canvas painting reminds me of a time much more recent than 1909, when the piece was produced.




This print was made in 1917 and depicts Jesus healing the blind man. This is really cool because from what I can tell, this piece was created for a magazine used to help educators with blind students. I personally benefitted from Christ-centered education from Kindergarten through my Senior year in college, so I appreciate the effort to teach using the stories of Jesus. New images of Jesus come up a lot, but it’s rare to hear a story like this.




Jan Wydra painted this stunning piece using oil on canvas back in 1925. Jesus is in the middle of the city with all sorts of behavior going on around him. I wonder if Wydra was making a statement about the behavior going on in America given that it was during the prohibition era. Maybe this was a cry to focus on Christ in the midst of that chaos.




I don’t know much about this piece except that it was produced in 1940 by Santiago Martinez Delgado. It’s a depiction of Jesus on the cross being crucified, but it’s a unique in the sense that the cross appears to be laid somewhat flat, being supported by sticks and posts, instead of the traditional upright placement. I’m not sure what that means or if it has to do with being around the world wars, but I definitely think it’s interesting.




I’m very much not sure what’s going on in this picture, but Vangelo di Giovanni created this piece in 1989. I’m pretty sure the figure in the middle is Jesus, but I’m not sure who the person on the right is, and I have zero clue who the guy in the suit is — quite an anachronism! It also looks like there are blue beings on the bottom, like spirits, and possibly a maroon/geometric being in the top left as well. Again, not sure what it means, but it’s interesting to look at.




Finally, the last time-based image of Christ in our new Jesus photos section we’ll look at is simply titled “Christ.svg” and was designed in 2016. This one cracks me up, being a Millennial. In today’s world, technology has changed so much of how we operate as individuals and creatives. The name of this piece is really just a filename. It’s description is “Vector image of Jesus.” New photos often don’t give proper attribution to the artist and this one falls under that category, the author isn’t even a person, it’s some entity called "OpenClipart-Vectors.” As for a modern picture of Jesus, this is pretty much hitting the nail on the head.



Throughout the world, different people groups have interpreted what Jesus looked like based on their own culture. From my perspective, I don’t think there’s anything necessarily inherently wrong with that, except for the fact that there was only one Jesus and he only looked one way. So, there is definitely a clear right and wrong, although as we’ve seen so far, it’s not exactly clear what the exactly correct picture of Jesus is.

Here are some examples of differing images of Jesus that are specific to the generalized nationality local to their surroundings.

United States










In addition to how Jesus is depicted, different geographies tend to use the language most common in their nation to say the name of Jesus. This is obvious, but I think we can all sometimes can get into the mindset that what another nation calls Jesus is strange, when in fact all spellings and translations point to one Lord and Savior.

Google has some interesting data to show us how Jesus is searched for across the globe. It tells us that people search for phrases like “image de Jesus,” “God Yesu images,” and “Yesu photos” every day. We even see a lot of people searching for “pictures of black Jesus” in Google very regularly. Let’s take a look at a few different spellings of Jesus’ name and see where different countries search in different ways.




                                            "Yesu Christ"

                                           "Yesu Christ"

                                            "Jesu Christ"

                                           "Jesu Christ"

                                          "Jishu Christ"

                                         "Jishu Christ"



So far, we’ve seen the image of Jesus take some various shapes and even nationalities, but we still haven’t come to an exact conclusion on what he actually looked like. Because of this variance in appearance throughout time and throughout the world, people want to find the real picture of Jesus Christ. To be clear, this is obviously impossible because there is no known picture or painting of Jesus from when he was actually alive. But, there are a few ways people have tried.

One is that people have claimed to have a vision of the image of Jesus’ real face, and then proceeded to paint what they saw.



Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun living in the early 1900s claimed to have spoken with Jesus on occasion and one time he gave her a specific command:

“Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’ I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.”

She was not a painter, but she had connections who could paint, so she worked with them to produce this piece. As we’ve seen and will continue to see, real Jesus photos don’t actually exist, but people who believe Faustina’s story would suggest this to be on a list of the real pictures of Jesus.




Next up is Warner Sallman, an American painter who lived in the late 1800s until he died at age 76 in 1968. He also claims that this painting he created, definitely one of the most famous paintings of Christ, came from a vision of direct communication from God. But is it the true image of Jesus? I’m not sure, but it is a stunning example among pictures of Jesus’ face.




Another is possibly the most famous version of an attempt to claim the “real image of Jesus Christ,” the Shroud of Turin. You’ve probably heard of it a number of times, but supposedly, it was used to cover Jesus’ body when he was buried in the tomb. Using more and more modern technology, it very much does look like some of the typical depictions of Christ, specifically the face of Jesus. Image technology doesn’t necessarily prove anything though and no one alive can possibly know for sure if this was even remotely close to a real photo of Jesus as he awaited resurrection.




And finally, my personal favorite because it uses actual logic, a skull of a first-century Galilean Semite, and current technology to come to a realistic conclusion and image of Jesus. Real photo though? Nope, it’s still a guess and should not be considered genuine. It was created by Richard Neave, a forensic anthropologist, and was featured on the BBC history series Son of God.



In addition to the physical features of Jesus and they way people describe him, pictures of him vary by scene. Some artists depict him as a baby in the manger, others show him on the cross, and others paint him in heaven.


Baby Jesus

We’ll start with pictures of baby Jesus. Images in this category vary especially in their backgrounds and media, but are all fairly similar in their depiction of Christ as a baby. On a side note, Google shares with us that a ton of people look for “baby Jesus pictures” all the time, and I can’t help but wonder if that has seen an uptick since the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was produced because of the prayer scenes at the dinner table. Regardless of what led to the popular interest in images of baby Jesus, there are quite a few to look at. Here are five that I think show some of the variety that exists today.,_mosaico_della_Madre_di_Dio_in_trono_con_il_Bambino,_circondata_da_quattro_angeli._-_panoramio.jpg,_mosaico_della_Madre_di_Dio_in_trono_con_il_Bambino,_circondata_da_quattro_angeli._-_panoramio.jpg,_The_Nativity_at_Night,_c_1490.jpg,_The_Nativity_at_Night,_c_1490.jpg

Jesus on the Cross

Next, check out these pictures of Jesus on the cross. The first one is Jesus carrying the cross, but the rest have him actually on it during Jesus’ crucifixion. These are some of the most powerful pictures of Jesus in my opinion because they show so much pain and emotion. Images of Jesus on the cross can be found very easily, but here are seven that I find particularly moving, interesting, and a reflection of the time and place they were created.,_Fr%C3%BChchristlich-byzantinische_Sammlung-Br%C3%BCck_%26_Sohn_Kunstverlag.jpg,_Fr%C3%BChchristlich-byzantinische_Sammlung-Br%C3%BCck_%26_Sohn_Kunstverlag.jpg

Jesus in Heaven

Finally, take a look at these pictures of Jesus in heaven and other related scenes.

This grouping all share the name Ladder of Divine Ascent. They each depict a scene where individuals are climbing a metaphorical ladder to heaven and are typically being tormented by demons and coached by saints along the way. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure Jesus is represented in each, depending on who individuals are in them, but you get the idea.

This one is an interesting take from back in 1851. I really like the style of this artwork and initially thought it looked more recently created. This is one of many stylized images of Jesus in heaven with visual references to various verses in Revelation.;_or,_The_history_of_Christian_art_in_the_middle_ages_(1851)_(14742744896).jpg;_or,_The_history_of_Christian_art_in_the_middle_ages_(1851)_(14742744896).jpg

This image of Jesus during his transfiguration is absolutely gorgeous in my opinion. Given the context of the story of the transfiguration, I don’t think we can fairly describe this truly as one of the pictures of Jesus Christ in heaven, but it’s pretty close so I figured I’d include it.

This is definitely a picture of Jesus in heaven given his placement in the sky. I’m really not sure what the other elements of the image are supposed to mean, but I think there is a really nice aesthetic in this Jesus painting.

Lastly for this section, check out all of these that are considered “Ascensions.” They’re all showing Christ as he ascends from earth to heaven.,_PRA.jpg,_PRA.jpg



Regardless of how Jesus looks or where he’s placed in the scene, there are some beautiful pictures of Jesus. Here are some of the most well-liked or famous pictures of Jesus.



Judging the amount of fame something has is difficult, but I’d assume we will all agree that The Last Supper is the at the top of the list of most famous pictures of Jesus that exists today. It was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci and illustrates Jesus’ last meal before he was betrayed.




We’ve already taken a look at this piece by Warner Sallman, but again it’s such a famous painting of Jesus, I had to share it again here.




This piece was painted by Michelangelo on a wall in the Sistine Chapel. I’m not sure it’s truly as famous as the others we’ve seen, but with his talent, I think Michelangelo created one of the most beautiful images of Jesus Christ with this artwork.




Giotto di Bondone painted this picture, which is currently housed in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence, Italy. Again, I’m not sure that it’s the most famous picture of Jesus, but it is definitely interesting and I think could be categorized as a “different” image of Jesus because of the skin tones.




In 1632, Diego Velázquez painted this beautiful Jesus picture, which has been deemed one of the best pictures of Jesus because the body looks so realistic.



One thing that has struck me as interesting through researching how Jesus has been depicted is that because of the sheer volume of Jesus pictures, there are many of all shapes, sizes, and media. As we’ve walked through time, geography, and topic of images, we’ve seen a lot of media types. We’ve seen portraits of Jesus Christ, paintings of Jesus Christ, Jesus art, and drawings of Jesus. These are all just scratching the surface though, people have depicted Jesus in all sorts of media. Here are some we didn’t cover in depth:

  Statues  (

Statues (

  Tattoos  (

Tattoos (

And of course, these 22 people who found Jesus in their food:



We’ve walked through a lot of different ways Jesus has been depicted through time, geography, and through different media. But, most importantly to discuss, does it really matter? Does it matter what we think Jesus looked like? Why? Why do we constantly try to find ways to divide us instead of unite us? Why do we squabble over what he looked like when no one besides those who saw him know? Let’s come together and recognize that all of us who believe in Jesus are saved, regardless of what he or any of us look like. Jesus’ desire for us is to be unified in community and in spirit as He is one with the Father.

So, if you’re upset by anything on this page, or if you find pride in the pictures that look like you, stop it. You’re thinking about it all wrong. I challenge you to take that same energy and put it to use by simply focusing on seeking Christ and placing him at the center of your life so that his light may shine through you and you can help in growing his kingdom.

Faith is not believing in something you can see. That’s just observation. Faith is believing in something you can’t see. We can’t see Jesus, so stop trying to. Focus on seeking him, not seeing him.