"Is this the first ever portrait of Jesus?" asks Nick Pryer in Monday's Daily Mail
Now, it would be easy to pour scorn on the Mail's claims by pointing out the image in question is so vague and so worn by the passage of time that it resembles Tinky Winky as much as it does the Messiah, but the inscription of "Saviour of Israel," the dating to the first century and the location of the find all suggest it is at least feasibly referring to Jesus. And, in a rare display of journalistic integrity, the Mail falls short of actually claiming that the image is Jesus. Of course, I am forced to take their word for it that the codex is genuine, and I wouldn't trust the Daily Mail if they said the sky was blue.
Near the end of the article they provide an example of what Jesus is supposed to look like (as if their readership had conveniently forgotten) by reproducing the image of Him that appears in Leonardo's "The Last Supper", claiming that the codex image has "similar characteristics".
Now, I will admit that this is flogging a dead horse, but it reiterating that whatever Jesus may have looked like, He certainly didn't look like He does in "The Last Supper". He was Jewish, and He lived in first century Palestine. It is unlikely that He had fair, flaxen hair, pale skin and blue eyes. It is likely that He had a beard, since that would have been typical for a Jewish man living in the region at the time, but I doubt it was the neatly-trimmed goatee of Leonardo's imaginings. Leonardo was utilising an established schema that represented Jesus in a way recognisable to Europeans, many of whom would have never seen someone from outside their own racial grouping. To suggest that this early impression of a bearded figure is Jesus because it looks like Jesus is circular reasoning: by the same logic Saint Bartholomew literally walked around without his skin just because that was how he was portrayed in later art to distinguish him from other bearded holy guys.
As far the "similar characteristics", the only attribute they have in common is that the codex image might possibly have a beard maybe, a characteristic shared with plenty of other men, none of whom are regularly mistaken for the Alpha and Omega. The codex image is even described as having a crown of thorns, which personally I don't see, and which is notably missing from "the Last Supper" because- shockingly!- Jesus didn't wear a crown of thorns until his crucifixion! It's not like he wore it all his life to hide his baldness, like Caesar, or the Edge!
So all the Mail has established is that image that doesn't look like anything in particular also doesn't look like an image painted fifteen centuries later. The only evidence that it is in fact a image of Jesus is textual, but the Daily Mail is really clutching at straws to suggest it looks like a man whose definitive image had not yet been defined. It's a pity because it's unusually good history for the Mail undone by a small oversight. It's as if they couldn't stomach the fact that Son of Man probably looked a bit... well, foreign.