Question: "How tall was Jesus?"
Answer: The Bible does not say anything about how tall Jesus was. Height is not something the Bible regularly mentions. The only people in the Bible who are mentioned in reference to their height are Saul (1 Samuel 9:2), Goliath (1 Samuel 17:4), and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:3). The only physical description the Bible gives of Jesus is found in Isaiah 53:2, and that verse provides little information: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” This essentially means Jesus was ordinary. There was nothing spectacular about His appearance. It could be said that Jesus was average-looking.
With that in mind, the best speculation as to how tall Jesus was would be the average height of a first-century male Jew living in the land of Israel. Even arriving at that average leads to divergent opinions. Based on skeletal remains and other evidence, most anthropologists believe the average height of a Jewish male living in Israel in the first century AD was 5′1ʺ (155 cm). This is significantly shorter than the average height of men today, which is between 5′5ʺ (165 cm) and 5′11ʺ (181 cm), depending on the part of the world they live in.
Some use the Shroud of Turin to guess at how tall Jesus was. That artifact portrays a man around 6′1ʺ (185 cm) tall, and so some conclude that Jesus was approximately that height. There are two primary problems with using the Shroud of Turin in this manner. First, it is highly unlikely that the Shroud of Turin is truly Jesus’ burial cloth. Second, if Jesus was 6′1ʺ, He would have been approximately a foot taller than most of the other men in Israel during His time. That would have definitively made Him above average. His height—head and shoulders above everyone else—would have made Him attractive and desirable, in contradiction of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:2.
Others point to the fact that Jesus was sinless and, from that, extrapolate the idea that He had perfect genetics. According to this theory, the lack of genetic defects would have made Jesus tall. Besides the fact that Scripture never indicates that Jesus was a genetically perfect man, this theory ignores the other factors that help determine height, such as nutrition and environment. But again, the problem with this theory is Isaiah 53:2. If Jesus had perfect genetics, and if that made Him significantly taller than other people, then His appearance would not have been ordinary, again in negation of Isaiah 53:2.
So, how tall was Jesus? Very likely, He was of average height for His time and place, between 5′ (152 cm) and 5′5ʺ (165 cm). This conclusion bothers some people because, generally speaking, being tall is looked upon favorably and being short is looked upon unfavorably. We view Jesus as better than we are—and, of course, He is—and since, in our minds, being taller is better, we tend to picture Jesus as being taller than we. Centuries of artwork have furthered the idea that Jesus was rather tall, with a commanding presence. For these reasons, many of us have in our minds a portrait of Jesus as a tall man.
Our natural association of being tall with superiority is based on our inclination to infer moral qualities from physical traits. “People look at the outward appearance,” after all (1 Samuel 16:7). We want our heroes to be tall, strong, and strikingly handsome. Villains are supposed to be ugly or misshapen in some way. In contrast, unlike us, “the LORD looks at the heart,” and often it is the plain, the average, and the overlooked who are God’s choice. Jesus Christ was infinitely superior to us morally, spiritually, and intellectually, but, physically, He could have been simply average.
Ultimately, it does not matter how tall Jesus was. His height has absolutely nothing to do with any aspect of His ministry, death, or resurrection. Some of us may need a mindset change regarding height. While there are likely more advantages to being tall than there are to being short, being tall does not make anyone superior in the areas it really matters. A person who is 7′ (213 cm) is just as much created in the image of God as a person who is 4′ (122 cm). Jesus was probably not physically tall, but His height is meaningless in terms of bowing the knee to Him and acknowledging “that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11).