How Tall Was Jesus?October 21, 2011 at 10:20 am | Posted in Bible Studies | 5 Comments
Tags: Hebrews 4, Isaiah 53, Jesus, John 8, Luke 2, Matthew 26, Matthew 27, Revelation 1, Sunday School teachers
When I first became the teacher of an adult Sunday School class my biggest worry was that somebody in class would ask a question for which I didn’t have an answer. So I would tend to “over-study” in preparation for class. Even if we were going to be covering something really simple (Does Jesus say you should love your neighbor?) I would be prepared to do a complete exegesis on the Olivet Discourse and to defend my position on infralapsarianism versus supralapsarianism – just in case. Well, after a few weeks, I stopped worrying about that. I came to realize that I had more pressing concerns than somebody asking a difficult question and putting me on the spot. My bigger concerns had to do with just trying to keep everybody awake for 35 minutes – or trying to make sure the people who preferred the chairs to be arranged in a circle didn’t physically attack the people who preferred to sit classroom-style. Instead of being afraid that someone would ask a difficult question, I actually began to hope that anyone would ask anything – which would at least indicate that someone was listening or had read the lesson. Finally, it happened.
A particular fellow stayed after class one Sunday morning and came up to me as I was shuffling my notes back into my folder. Oh boy, I thought, maybe he wants to know about modalism or the Sabellian controversy! But instead he said in a gruff voice, “Hey you’re one of them Christians – one of them ‘church people.’ How tall do you think Jesus was?”
Of course, I had no idea. And although I don’t think Jesus’s height bears a tremendous significance on the essentials of the Christian faith, I did promise to study the matter and get back to him.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
Luke 2:52 (emphasis added)
From the time Jesus was 12 years old He “increased in stature.” Presumably, this means that He “grew up” physically. So, however tall He was at 12, we can assume He got taller as He got older. The last part of that Verse, which says “with God and man” appears to apply to the part about Him growing “in favor,” but I suppose it might also apply to “increased in stature.” If Jesus grew “in stature with other men,” that would not tell us definitively how tall He was, but it would lead us to suppose that He reached an “average” height – similar to other men.
And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
Matthew 27:35 (emphasis added)
The Roman soldiers cast lots (gambled) for Jesus’s clothing after He was stripped and crucified. They did this partly to fulfill Old Testament prophecy, but it is unlikely that the soldiers in their own minds even knew this prophecy, much less that the Divine hand of God was causing them to fulfill it. It is also unlikely that they cast lots hoping to win a valuable souvenir or a Roman Catholic “relic.” More likely, they were hoping to obtain some free clothing. (Clothing was relatively expensive back in those days.) From this, we might infer that Jesus was physically around the same size as the average Roman soldier.
In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.
When Jesus was arrested, He pointed out to His persecutors that He had been among them openly, and the fact that He referred to His teaching as the means by which they might have recognized Him and arrested Him sooner, rather than by His physical appearance, may mean that there was nothing especially noteworthy about the way He looked.
Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
It is possible that when Jesus escaped being stoned in the Temple He supernaturally camouflaged Himself, but it is also possible that, during the confusion, He simply blended in with the crowd and got away, which, if He was of average height and appearance, would not have been terribly difficult to do.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
If Jesus, during His earthly life, was tempted in all the ways in which we are tempted, might not that have included the temptation that comes with being made fun of for how we look? This does not really tell us anything about His height, but it does tend to support the idea that Jesus was not especially physically attractive. We know from the Gospel records that He was not a wimp, but He was gentle. Great stature (height or size) is usually associated in the Bible – especially in the Old Testament – with sin or great wickedness. (See Genesis 6:4-5; Numbers 13:30-32; I Samuel 17:4.)
These are only clues at best, but it seems that there was nothing glaring or especially attractive about Jesus’s physical appearance.
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Isaiah 53:2-3 (emphasis added)
Regardless of whether Jesus was tall or short according to the standards of His day, we know that God looks at men’s hearts more than their outward appearance. Jesus was a giant when it came to righteousness and love. He did not intimidate people with His physical size. He was “tall enough” to bear our sorrows, griefs, and sins and to nail them to His Cross.
While we don’t have a detailed description of the physical appearance of Jesus during His days on earth, we do have something of a description of how He will look when He returns to set things right once and for all:
His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
By the way, that explanation did not satisfy my friend who stayed after class to ask me about it, and I suppose he went down the road to another church where the preacher got “a rhema word from God” and told him without a doubt that Jesus was five foot eleven and a half. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all.