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Author Topic: "Accurate" picture of Jesus...  (Read 15862 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: January 02, 2011, 12:55:55 AM »

How "accurate" is this?
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« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2011, 02:40:46 AM »

Well, I compared it against my original photograph from the first century, and it appears to be pretty darn close.
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« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2011, 02:42:04 AM »

where is this from?
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« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2011, 02:55:54 AM »

where is this from?

Jumping in -- I saw this picture a long time ago in (believe it or not) Popular Mechanics magazine. You can still search and find the article at their website. It was an article about an imaging machine or something and given the such-and-such and so-and-so information about people who lived in Palestine at that time (forgive me for the vague summary), this is what they say Jesus very well could have looked like. They were clear to say they're not saying it IS what he looked like, but that a Palestinian man of his age, etc. might have looked like this.
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« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2011, 03:51:33 AM »

I believe it was a reconstruction from a skull that they found.

Here's my first century photograph of him (courtesy of the Frankish raiders of Constantinople):



Eh, not too terribly close. The beard and the black eye don't make things, clear, though. Plus when you use linen as your film things don't come out too good.

But hey, I'm not complaining. I'm glad we get to see him.
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« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2011, 04:55:52 AM »

If one ever finds the body of St. James, the brother of the Lord, that would be worthwhile to reconstruct what he looks like.

The shroud of Turin however, supposedly one small piece was from medieval times.  I would hope the Vatican can allow another piece of the cloth to be tested to confirm the age.  If the age is different, then I can safely assume that is a valid picture of Christ.
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« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2011, 04:57:43 AM »

I'm pretty sure this is what he looks like...

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« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2011, 05:08:58 AM »

I'm pretty sure this is what he looks like...





Um, yeah. That painting was made from this photograph's negative.
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« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2011, 08:28:40 AM »

I'm waiting until He sets up His Facebook account and posts a profile picture.
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« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2011, 09:59:37 AM »

It looks more like St. Peter to me. :-/
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« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2011, 10:34:40 AM »

The traditional Byzantine, Slavic and Ethiopian depictions of Christ differ significantly. Even modern saints for whom we have photographs look quite different in painting from icon to icon. Thus icons can make little claim to physically realistic depiction of the person, in spite of their communication of spiritual realities.
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« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2011, 10:05:50 PM »

I'm waiting until He sets up His Facebook account and posts a profile picture.

There are many Jesus profiles on Facebook. 
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« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2011, 10:35:54 PM »

Well, I compared it against my original photograph from the first century, and it appears to be pretty darn close.

I had it coming LOL.

minasoliman: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/forensics/1282186
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« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2011, 05:31:38 AM »

Have you seen the picture that the talented little girl Akiane has painted?

Her website: http://www.artakiane.com/

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« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2011, 09:38:11 AM »

The traditional Byzantine, Slavic and Ethiopian depictions of Christ differ significantly. Even modern saints for whom we have photographs look quite different in painting from icon to icon. Thus icons can make little claim to physically realistic depiction of the person, in spite of their communication of spiritual realities.

No. The icons of Christ are in the same form as the original icons of Christ painted/written by Saint Luke.
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« Reply #15 on: January 03, 2011, 11:07:07 AM »

No. The icons of Christ are in the same form as the original icons of Christ painted/written by Saint Luke.

If you put those three iconographic traditions together, and you'll see that the hair tone, facial measurements, etc. prescribed to Christ are noticeably different.

Incidentally, can you cite the tradition that St. Luke ever painted Christ alone? He is generally depicted painting the first icon of the Theotokos with Child. And the Church's first depictions of Christ alone showed him as a beardless youth, not the "standard" face of later centuries.
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« Reply #16 on: January 03, 2011, 11:53:22 AM »

The traditional Byzantine, Slavic and Ethiopian depictions of Christ differ significantly. Even modern saints for whom we have photographs look quite different in painting from icon to icon. Thus icons can make little claim to physically realistic depiction of the person, in spite of their communication of spiritual realities.

No. The icons of Christ are in the same form as the original icons of Christ painted/written by Saint Luke.
St. Luke painted icons of Christ? I had heard that he painted the first icon of the Theotokos, but I'd never heard what you just asserted.
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« Reply #17 on: January 03, 2011, 12:10:08 PM »

The Popular Mechanics picture makes Jesus look like rather a dull ape. Akiane's picture makes him look like Barry Manilow. (And I'm not so sure a precocious ability to paint kitsch is necessarily a "gift"--nevertheless...)

No thanks.

Since Christ is the manifestation of truth, beauty and perfection, to my mind His features must be portrayed as geometrically perfect and balanced. We find that in many icons--Rublev''s "Christ the Redeemer" at the Tretyakov, for example. Or the beautiful "Pantocrator" at Hilandar monastery.

Different icon traditions use different rubrics, but the goal--as I understand it--is always geometric balance for the reason I stated above.
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« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2011, 12:24:45 PM »

Have you seen the picture that the talented little girl Akiane has painted?

She's certainly talented. Perhaps she will eventually mature in her art and actually make good paintings. As it is, it is pretty much indistinguishable from other new age kitsch. I love how the website describes her as "the crown jewel of the world's finest art." There's something very creepy about the promotion and the meetings with celebrities... she is likely being manipulated by her parents or agents.
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« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2011, 12:33:12 PM »

If one ever finds the body of St. James, the brother of the Lord, that would be worthwhile to reconstruct what he looks like.

Since St. James was the brother from Joseph's side, they share 0 (ahem, zero) familial genes, other than those which would have been common to all other Jews.
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« Reply #20 on: January 03, 2011, 12:34:24 PM »

Well, I compared it against my original photograph from the first century, and it appears to be pretty darn close.

I had it coming LOL.

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« Reply #21 on: January 03, 2011, 12:35:29 PM »

If one ever finds the body of St. James, the brother of the Lord, that would be worthwhile to reconstruct what he looks like.

Since St. James was the brother from Joseph's side, they share 0 (ahem, zero) familial genes, other than those which would have been common to all other Jews.

Who's then is James, the son of Alphaeus?  Is he not the son of the Theotokos' sister, or was that the son of Zebedee?
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« Reply #22 on: January 03, 2011, 12:45:10 PM »

If one ever finds the body of St. James, the brother of the Lord, that would be worthwhile to reconstruct what he looks like.

Since St. James was the brother from Joseph's side, they share 0 (ahem, zero) familial genes, other than those which would have been common to all other Jews.

Who's then is James, the son of Alphaeus?  Is he not the son of the Theotokos' sister, or was that the son of Zebedee?

In RC tradition, James, son of Alphaeus is also James the Lesser (vs. James the Great, brother of John, the sons of Zebedee) AND James the Just (the Brother of our Lord).  At least in EO tradition we seem to identify James of Alphaeus (Oct 9) and James the Brother of the Lord (Oct 23) as different people from one another (and from James the son of Zebedee - April 30).  According to the OCA's account, St. James (Alphaeus) is the brother of St. Matthew the Apostle.  In any case, the 3 Apostle Jameses (2 of the 12, 1 of the 70) each met different deaths in different circumstances: Alphaeus was killed by pagans in Egypt, Zebedee by Herod Agrippa (grandson of Herod the Great), and the Lord's brother by stoning (and being beaten with a club).

At "best," at least for the purposes of "looking alike," according to some traditions James the Just (i.e. Brother of the Lord) is the son of Mary's cousin (who was married to Joseph's brother), not sister, and thus a bit further in relation.  If that is true, then he is also Alphaeus (which was another name for Cleopas, Joseph's brother and husband of Mary the cousin of the Theotokos).
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« Reply #23 on: January 03, 2011, 01:02:15 PM »

Another thought: Jude/Thaddeus is called the brother of James the brother of God, but just before his name is James of Alphaeus.  If Alphaeus was the brother of the Lord, then the two would likely have been called "James and Jude, brothers of the Lord" instead of being identified differently from one another.  It's not a strong argument, but logical, IMO.
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« Reply #24 on: January 03, 2011, 01:16:12 PM »

I guess it's safe to assume that if we were to collect the skulls of any relatives of Christ (John the Forerunner, St. Elizabeth, the Theotokos' cousin and her sons) can give us an even more accurate picture, which is the point I'm driving home.

But yes, the James issues has always been a confusing one for me.  My first time reading about it was from this commentary by Coptic Hegumen Fr. Tadros Malaty:

http://www.orthodoxebooks.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/James%20-%20Father%20Tadros%20Yacoub%20Malaty.pdf

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« Reply #25 on: January 08, 2011, 04:42:11 PM »

The traditional Byzantine, Slavic and Ethiopian depictions of Christ differ significantly. Even modern saints for whom we have photographs look quite different in painting from icon to icon. Thus icons can make little claim to physically realistic depiction of the person, in spite of their communication of spiritual realities.

No. The icons of Christ are in the same form as the original icons of Christ painted/written by Saint Luke.
St. Luke painted icons of Christ? I had heard that he painted the first icon of the Theotokos, but I'd never heard what you just asserted.

Yes he did. Christ sitting on the lap of the Theotokos, but of course Christ made the Icon Not Made By Hands Himself, which shows us how he looked.
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« Reply #26 on: January 08, 2011, 05:03:33 PM »

I'm interested in seeing these icons by St. Luke.
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« Reply #27 on: January 08, 2011, 07:02:13 PM »

It is true that the Early Church's depictions are of Christ as a beardless youth, but you forget that those depictions are of Christ as the "Good Shepherd" and, in fact, they are images that are based on a Pagan prototype, and so if a Roman Soldier (or another persecuting force) saw the depiction, they would not connect it to Christianity, they would see it as simply an image from their own Pagan religion.
However, if the Early Christians depicted the "Good Shepherd" with a beard, etc... Then it would have appeared somewhat odd to the Pagans, and would have raised a lot of suspicion if found.

The same can be said for Early Christian depictions of the Apostles, which often put the heads of animals on them. Are we to believe the Apostles had animal heads? No, these are images that have somewhat Pagan prototypes and to a Pagan would look somewhat normal, whereas to Christians, they knew who these images truly depicted.

This also goes for the "ΙΧΘΥΣ", the fish that is often seen in/near Christian places of worship. This word means "fish" in Greek. To a Pagan, it would have appeared to be a reference to Pisces and has roots within Greek Mythology. However, to Christians, it is pretty obvious the connections between fish/fishing/fishermen and Christianity.

So I would personally argue that we cannot take the "Good Shepherd" images as an accurate depiction of Jesus. However, the earliest depictions (other than Good Shepherd) often do depict him in a very similar manner to modern icons.
We can also look at the earliest images of the Apostles (that is, that depict them facially without animal heads) and it's amazing to find that their depiction across the Christian world is consistent, and in fact, is the exact same as their depiction in icons, even up to the present day.

The only Apostle that I'm aware of that has been depicted without a beard would be St. John, who would have been a teenager during Christ's ministry. It would make perfect sense for Christ to have had a beard. Of course, the longer hair could be debatable, but from what I've heard, it was normal for men from Galilee/Nazareth to have longer hair.

I also think there are some written records as to his appearance, though of course, these are probably disputed and are in no way comparable to the level of even the Church Fathers, but it's interesting nonetheless.
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« Reply #28 on: January 08, 2011, 07:38:03 PM »

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« Reply #29 on: January 08, 2011, 08:12:32 PM »

I'm pretty sure this is what he looks like...





Um, yeah. That painting was made from this photograph's negative.

"That painting" is the oldest known depiction of the Pantocrator encaustic (hot wax method) from the 6th century found in St Catherine's monastery on Mount Sinai. Definitely not a forgery to match the shroud of Turin.
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« Reply #31 on: January 09, 2011, 09:02:05 AM »

"That painting" is the oldest known depiction of the Pantocrator encaustic (hot wax method) from the 6th century found in St Catherine's monastery on Mount Sinai. Definitely not a forgery to match the shroud of Turin.

I think his point is that it is not a forgery, precisely because it matches the shroud even though the shroud was nowhere near St. Catherine's at the time of the icon's painting. (Maybe that's not his point, but that's the point I would make with the same image.)  The same Christ depicted two ways in two media created years apart in different locations by different people. Smiley
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« Reply #32 on: January 09, 2011, 04:22:29 PM »

Yes he did. Christ sitting on the lap of the Theotokos, but of course Christ made the Icon Not Made By Hands Himself, which shows us how he looked.

And yet depending on the tradition, you can find Icons not Made by Hands with markedly different facial features. If you insist on icons being faithful of the physical representation instead of the spiritual reality, which one of these is "the right one"?
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« Reply #33 on: January 09, 2011, 06:07:08 PM »

The photograph in the OP is likely more accurate than most Orthodox iconography. Keep in mind that Our Lord actually is made of flesh and blood, not oil and wood, and exists in three dimensions, not two. It's unlikely that the magi were present along with the shepherds at the Nativity, and it is doubtful that Christ had the muscle control needed to raise his hand in blessing while in utero.  If we focus too much on the correspondence of icons to physical reality, it can be very easy to miss the spiritual realities they teach us. They are windows to heaven, not photographs of earth.
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« Reply #34 on: January 09, 2011, 07:21:18 PM »

The photograph in the OP is likely more accurate than most Orthodox iconography. Keep in mind that Our Lord actually is made of flesh and blood, not oil and wood, and exists in three dimensions, not two. It's unlikely that the magi were present along with the shepherds at the Nativity, and it is doubtful that Christ had the muscle control needed to raise his hand in blessing while in utero.  If we focus too much on the correspondence of icons to physical reality, it can be very easy to miss the spiritual realities they teach us. They are windows to heaven, not photographs of earth.
And yet, even though they're clearly stylized to be windows into heaven, they must still maintain some level of faithfulness to their prototypes. An icon of St. John Maximovitch, for instance, must still be based on how the saint appeared during his time on earth. The person depicted must still be recognizable as St. John, even though it will undoubtedly be somewhat stylized. That's why an icon of the Theotokos, for another instance, cannot be patterned after your sister, your mother, or Jane Doe down the street.
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« Reply #35 on: January 09, 2011, 07:38:58 PM »

The photograph in the OP is likely more accurate than most Orthodox iconography. Keep in mind that Our Lord actually is made of flesh and blood, not oil and wood, and exists in three dimensions, not two. It's unlikely that the magi were present along with the shepherds at the Nativity, and it is doubtful that Christ had the muscle control needed to raise his hand in blessing while in utero.  If we focus too much on the correspondence of icons to physical reality, it can be very easy to miss the spiritual realities they teach us. They are windows to heaven, not photographs of earth.
And yet, even though they're clearly stylized to be windows into heaven, they must still maintain some level of faithfulness to their prototypes. An icon of St. John Maximovitch, for instance, must still be based on how the saint appeared during his time on earth. The person depicted must still be recognizable as St. John, even though it will undoubtedly be somewhat stylized. That's why an icon of the Theotokos, for another instance, cannot be patterned after your sister, your mother, or Jane Doe down the street.
Fair enough. Painting an accurate icon of St. John Maximovich is made easier by the fact that we have photographs of him, but we don't have such a luxury with Christ and more ancient saints. This does not excuse us to the creation of completely novel images for these figures, even if they may be more "accurate" nor to throw the pretense of accuracy out the window and develop something completely novel. For figures whose appearance is uncertain, the most important thing is to work within the traditions that have developed. As the following icons of the Baptism of Christ demonstrate, these traditions may differ significantly in details while communicating the same spiritual truths.


That being said, this is a topic with which I'm not terribly familiar, so if I've said anything mind-bogglingly stupid, please let me know. I'm here to learn.
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« Reply #36 on: January 09, 2011, 07:41:45 PM »

Actually, while the "accuracy" of the depiction of Christ can be debated, I think it's clear that the depictions of the Apostles are pretty accurate, as I think the earliest "Icons" or paintings we've uncovered so far have been 3rd or 4th Century, and in fact, while they've all been from different areas of the Roman Empire, they are all consistent with each other. So I would assume, while we haven't found any earlier yet, the fact that they are consistent with each other, that they are probably accurate.
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« Reply #37 on: February 19, 2011, 02:42:46 PM »

This is an interesting thread.

To me, the icons, pictures, etc are painted to deliver a message to an audience of a particular ethnic background. For me, this means that Europeans will make Jesus look European, and Africans will make Him look African when painting His image. This is a projection of the self onto the image. This is probably OK, since it seems to suggest that Jesus humanity is like everyone’s, and that He does not belong to any one group.

I personally believe that He would have looked more Palestinian than not, when standing in front of someone, talking to them. I also believe that this appearance does not matter in the least in the end, since He would have looked like anyone He chose to resemble at any time.

What He tells us in the bible, and how the Church interprets this, is the thing to focus on, for me at least.

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« Reply #38 on: February 19, 2011, 04:04:40 PM »

As the following icons of the Baptism of Christ demonstrate, these traditions may differ significantly in details while communicating the same spiritual truths.


That being said, this is a topic with which I'm not terribly familiar, so if I've said anything mind-bogglingly stupid, please let me know. I'm here to learn.
Uh, that second icon does not represent an Orthodox tradition. No Orthodox tradition has the Holy Spirit flying away from Christ at his baptism.  Wink
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« Reply #39 on: February 19, 2011, 04:42:05 PM »

Sorry this thread passed me by. lotsa lulz.
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« Reply #40 on: August 06, 2011, 11:07:03 PM »

Yes he did. Christ sitting on the lap of the Theotokos, but of course Christ made the Icon Not Made By Hands Himself, which shows us how he looked.

And yet depending on the tradition, you can find Icons not Made by Hands with markedly different facial features. If you insist on icons being faithful of the physical representation instead of the spiritual reality, which one of these is "the right one"?
I'm gonna say the Byzantine since it is the one that is traditionally based on the Mandylion.

How do you know two out three traditions aren't just based on bad painting?

If none of the iconographic traditions truly capture His appearance even in theory then aren't the iconclasts correct?* He didn't have a "spiritual" physical appearance. If we don't actually know what He looked like, then how is He depicted for us?



*I'm not trying to accuse you of heresy or anything. This just genuinely bothers me.
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« Reply #41 on: August 06, 2011, 11:20:03 PM »

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« Reply #42 on: August 06, 2011, 11:22:32 PM »

I'm gonna say the Byzantine since it is the one that is traditionally based on the Mandylion.

How do you know two out three traditions aren't just based on bad painting?

If none of the iconographic traditions truly capture His appearance even in theory then aren't the iconclasts correct?* He didn't have a "spiritual" physical appearance. If we don't actually know what He looked like, then how is He depicted for us?



*I'm not trying to accuse you of heresy or anything. This just genuinely bothers me.

You do realize He probably didn't say exactly those red letters in the NT either. Or did the Theotokos probably break out into the Magnificat as recorded in your Bible.

It all goes back to tradition.

Thought experiment:

I go back into time with a camera and take a picture of Jesus of Nazareth.

And come back with it.

I place it next to Rublev's icon.

Which is more an "accurate" depiction of Jesus Christ from an Orthodox perspective.

After all we do have Saints will continue to have more of whom we have photos of.

Should we just venerate the photos and forget about making icons of them?

I think there is a fundamental flaw in your approach to understanding iconography. Or there is in mine.

What do you think?
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« Reply #43 on: August 06, 2011, 11:31:20 PM »

Was hoping Isa could give us a 2340x2030 picture compelete with wikipedia reference on the true picture of Christ. Wink

I'm still disturbed by that Raca pic.
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« Reply #44 on: August 07, 2011, 08:56:25 PM »

I'm gonna say the Byzantine since it is the one that is traditionally based on the Mandylion.

How do you know two out three traditions aren't just based on bad painting?

If none of the iconographic traditions truly capture His appearance even in theory then aren't the iconclasts correct?* He didn't have a "spiritual" physical appearance. If we don't actually know what He looked like, then how is He depicted for us?



*I'm not trying to accuse you of heresy or anything. This just genuinely bothers me.

You do realize He probably didn't say exactly those red letters in the NT either. Or did the Theotokos probably break out into the Magnificat as recorded in your Bible.

It all goes back to tradition.

Thought experiment:

I go back into time with a camera and take a picture of Jesus of Nazareth.

And come back with it.

I place it next to Rublev's icon.

Which is more an "accurate" depiction of Jesus Christ from an Orthodox perspective.

After all we do have Saints will continue to have more of whom we have photos of.

Should we just venerate the photos and forget about making icons of them?

I think there is a fundamental flaw in your approach to understanding iconography. Or there is in mine.

What do you think?
I agree regarding Gospel details, the ancients did not the same concept of accurate reporting, etc. that we do today. But Orthodoxy seems to hang its hat on the "if cameras were around back then, we could have taken a picture of Him" argument. If radically different portrayals can be brushed off as "spiritual," then the idea that iconography is rooted in historical reality becomes kind of absurd, doesn't it?

I don't know. I'll be the first to admit I have a very binary mind. Even dropping the fundamentalist view of Scripture I held in my youth caused me and continues to cause me a good deal of stress.
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