Scala/Art Resource, NY

Did Jesus have a beard? He does, in an early-sixth-century apse mosaic from the church of Saints Cosma and Damiano in Rome (center photo); but in a contemporaneous depiction as the Good Shepherd in Ravenna’s Galla Placidia mausoleum (right), Jesus appears as a bare-faced youth.

The New Testament does not tell us what Jesus looked like, but as Robin Jensen explains, early Christian artists represented him in two very distinct ways—as either the youthful son of God or as the more mature savior of all mankind.

Many historians have tried to interpret these two portrait types in terms of popular fourth- and fifth-century theories of Jesus’ two separate natures, with the more mature face representing the fully human Jesus and the beautiful, youthful face denoting his divinity. But Robin Jensen—noting that the youthful Jesus appears most often in miracle-working scenes, whereas the bearded figure is reserved for scenes of his passion and ascension—offers a new reading of the two faces of Jesus.