Like Abraham the first Hebrew, Jesus was a Semite, a descendant of Noah’s son Shem (Gen. 11:10-32; 14:13; Matt 1:1-17). As such, Jesus faithfully identified himself with the customs of the Jewish people and the teachings of Moses. He came not to abolish the Law but to establish and uphold it (cf. Matt 5:17). Given the Israelite ancestry of Jesus of Nazareth, what information do we have about the physical appearance of Jews in Bible times? Specifically, what archaeological and textual evidence do we have from the ancient world concerning Semitic hairstyles and the wearing of beards? Furthermore, how may this evidence on hair and beards assist us in trying to find out how Jesus looked to his contemporaries in that first-century milieu of Judaism in the land of Israel? We shall consider a variety of relevant ancient sources as we attempt to answer these questions.
No one knows for sure how Jesus looked in the eyes of his contemporaries. However, there is evidence that suggests the hair of Jesus may have been rather short—black or dark in color—and his beard closely trimmed.