[quote="jimkhong, post:6, topic:338399"]
I very detailed explanation, thank you.
I read somewhere that the early depictions of Jesus had him clean-shaven. Any truth in this?
That's true. Most of the early depictions of Jesus do portray Him as a clean-shaven young man, almost like a Greco-Roman philosopher: dressed in a tunic and a pallium. It's not really surprising: the artists (who are themselves part of Greco-Roman society) were simply depicting Jesus in terms of their own social context, as a quasi-heroic philosopher figure. Besides, depicting Jesus as a smooth-faced young philosopher also has another implication: proper dress, close-cropped hair and a shaven face are signs of good breeding in Greco-Roman society. Sometimes in fact these youthful representations could include some rather 'feminine' characteristics: sloping shoulders, wipe hips, long, curling hair and small protruding breasts.
It's basically thought that these early representations of Jesus simply borrowed from established templates - namely the portraiture of Greco-Roman gods like Apollo, Dionysus and Orpheus. The common thing between these gods is that they are all portrayed as beardless young men. Plus, these gods who were featured in various mystery cults of Late Antiquity were imminent and personal gods with whom devotees had intense encounters, not unlike Jesus. Plus, they were usually associated with descents into the underworld and 'resurrection' in some way. It's no wonder then that Christians adopted certain aspects of traditional representations of these gods to visual imagery of Christ, including the almost feminine beauty associated with such gods in particular.
At first the early Christians did not really portray Jesus 'directly' mind - instead they preferred to use other figures to symbolically evoke Him. There's of course the famous fish (ichthys), the anchor, and monograms like the chi-rho and the staurogram. Jesus is also portrayed symbolically by depictions of things like Daniel in the lion's den, Jonah being thrown overboard into the sea monster's mouth, and even Orpheus charming the animals or a shepherd tending a flock of sheep, itself an already-established artistic motif: the kriophoros. (When Jesus is portrayed, He is either shown as a baby or a beardless young man.) This is actually the thing about ancient Christian art before the 4th-5th century: it was indistinguishable from that of other religious groups, whether conventional pagans following ancient Roman religion, Jews, or followers of mystery religions. (This is what makes it quite difficult to identify.) It's possible that (at least at first) the early Christians did not think that the historical Jesus actually looked like that, that these are just symbolic depictions.
The healing of the paralytic (ca. AD 235) from the house church at Dura-Europos in Syria, the oldest known image of Jesus we have. Note the beardless, short-haired Jesus.
Shepherd from the same house church at Dura-Europos
The raising of Lazarus and shepherd, Catacomb of the Giordani, Rome (3rd century)
Christ as Orpheus charming the animals, Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome (ca. AD 250-300)
(From left to right) Jonah resting under the vine, an orans with philosopher, shepherd, and baptism, Santa Maria Antiqua, Rome (ca. AD 270)
Christ as a solar deity (Helios or Sol Invictus), Tomb of the Julii, Vatican (late 3rd-4th century)
Jesus healing the bleeding woman (ca. AD 300-350)
Christ with chi-rho, Hinton St Mary, England (early 4th century)