South Bay Congregation
4250 Kirk Road, San Jose, CA 95124

Barbara Walking in the Valley
A weekly column for those who live and walk in Silicon Valley

by Barbara Dahlgren

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?
Column for the week of November 10-23, 2002

Remember that old TV show, "To Tell the Truth?" It's back, along with many other old game shows. If you have cable TV you can see them all on Game Show Network. Game shows! How we love them. We love them so much we keep recycling them. The Pyramid is back, Hollywood Squares is back, and Family Feud has been recycled so many times you'd think all the families would have nothing to feud about anymore. "To Tell the Truth" used to start with 1 contestant saying, "My name is John Doe." The 2nd contestant said, "My name is John Doe." And the 3rd contestant said, "My name is John Doe." The host of the show would say to the panel, "Only one of these men is the real John Doe." Then the panel would ask each contestant questions to try to determine who the real John Doe was. Only one contestant was sworn to tell the truth. The other two imposters would lie to try to trick the panel into thinking they were the real John Doe. Sometimes it's hard to know the real thing.

People have been trying to figure out the "real Jesus" for centuries. This became even more evident to me when I saw the cover of the December 2002 issue of Popular Mechanics. (I have a pet peeve about all these magazines sending out issues 2 months in advance but I'll save that for another day.) My question is, "When did Popular Mechanics stop being about cars and such?" I am so out of the loop. Anyway, believe it or not Jesus made the cover of Popular Mechanics! And they say there are no miracles. That Jesus is everywhere! The cover reads "The Real Face of Jesus, Forensic Science Reveals the True Image of Jesus" and an article by Mike Fillon on page 68 tells us all about it.

The images we have seen of Jesus over the years have changed. He's been immortalized in sculpture, mosaics, stained glass, woodcarvings, paintings, and film. Now forensic anthropology seems to be the next medium trying to shed some light on Jesus' appearance. Usually used just to solve crimes, Richard Neave, a retired medical artist and co author of Making Faces: Using Forensic and Archaeological Evidence uses his expertise in forensics and archeology to reconstruct famous faces. He's done Philip ll of Macedonia, father of Alexander the Great, and King Midas of Phrygia. Now he's adding Jesus to his list.

Although the reconstruction cannot be totally accurate since they don't have the actual skull of Jesus, they do have three well-preserved specimens from the time of Jesus from the area where Jesus lived and taught. Taking one of these skulls, Neave uses a computer to create X-ray "slices" of the skull to reveal details of the structure. In addition computer programs draw on massive amounts of information to help recreate muscles, skin, thickness of tissue, etc. Then they make a cast of the skull, layer clay on it, form the features, all according to the computer specifications and abracadabra…you have the face of a man who is the same nationality and lived during the era of Jesus. Technology is fascinating. Since the Bible indicates Jesus' features were typical of the Galilean Semites of that time (he was so typical that Judas had to actually point him out when he betrayed him in Matthew 26:47), Neave thinks it's safe to say that Jesus looked somewhat like his creation which is more like a dark, swarthy Middle Eastern man than the traditional white faced picture of Jesus we are accustomed to seeing. We certainly do try to make Jesus over in our image so to speak, images we are familiar with. Somehow we think it's easier to accept what he stood for if we can visualize him. But the Bible says blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe. (John 20:29)

The real Jesus has nothing to do with images we may conger up. His reality lies in the fact he really lived, really walked this earth, really brought salvation to mankind, really died for our sins, really rose from the dead, and really is alive today. It's what Jesus taught that counts not what he looked like.

Will the real Jesus please stand up? He already did. And to tell the truth, he looked just like everyone else at that time. Therefore it's must be what he stood for that counts, not what he looked like.

©November 2002