He says a 24mm-wide coin from the first century AD shows the only lifelike image ever made of Jesus
Ellis called his conclusion ‘one of the most important discoveries in modern history’
Detractors argue that there are inconsistencies, and his view is controversial
For centuries historians have disagreed about what Jesus Christ looked like, but an ancient coin depicting a bearded man could have the answer, a new book claims
A tiny bronze coin, dating from the first century AD, is the only lifelike image ever made of Christ, according to British biblical historian Ralph Ellis.
Until now, the 24mm-wide coin was believed to show the face of King Manu, ruler of the Mesopotamian kingdom of Edessa, in what is now southeastern Turkey.
But after nearly 30 years of research, Ellis argues that Manu and Christ were in fact one and the same person.
He said his find is ‘one of the most important discoveries in modern history’.
The historian has studied the lives of the pair and cross-referenced all recorded and anecdotal evidence, and believes that the striking similarities between them cannot be a coincidence.
Ellis said he is convinced ‘beyond any reasonable doubt’ that the same man was posthumously referred to by two names – ‘King Izas Manu’, and ‘(King) Jesus Emmanuel’.
If he is correct, the coin’s image is the one and only accurate portrait of Christ.
A third century coin showing King Abgarus XI, a descendent of Jesus-Izas, which shows more clearly the plaited crown of thorns worn by Edessan monarchs
Although Jesus is the most painted figure in all of western art, there is no physical description of him in the Bible.
The familiar image of him with long, flowing hair and white robe is said to be a later invention dating from the 6th-century AD.
Elllis’ findings are revealed in his book Jesus, King of Edessa, which is published in the UK this week.
The author, 59, admitted his conclusions are controversial and contradict the conventional story of Christ.
He said: ‘Outside the Gospels there is precious little evidence attesting to the actual existence of the Christ figure.
‘Though this might not be an issue for those who are satisfied on the basis of faith alone, which I understand and respect, as an historian this is deeply troubling.
‘I have made it my life’s work to reconnect events and people from the Bible with known history.
‘And Jesus – probably the most important figure in western history – deserves to be brought out from the biblical shadows and into the historical sunlight.
‘The coin is the icing on the cake, and at last helps build up a strong case for the true identity and genealogy of the biblical Jesus.’
Many modern historians agree that Jesus the Nazarene – also known as ‘Jesus Emmanuel’ – actually existed and was executed by the Romans.
The Bible portrays him as a pacifist preacher in the Roman province of Judea, now part of Israel, who was called ‘Christ’ and ‘Messiah’ by followers, which translates as ‘anointed king’.
The scriptures say he was crucified by Pilate who feared that rising popular support for Jesus as a ‘King of the Jews’ could lead to the Jewish people revolting.
Ellis says his research suggests that Jesus was in fact a warrior king called ‘Izas Manu of Edessa and Adiabene’, also sometimes referred to as ‘Izates’ and ‘Monobazus II’, who also had his sights set on freeing Judea and its people from the Roman Empire.
He says his hypothesis explains every facet of the gospel narrative, including elements that have hitherto baffled traditional scholars.
Surviving accounts show that King Izas Manu and Jesus Emmanuel were both Nazarene Jews who lived in the City of Jerusalem in the first century.
And both were seen by the Romans as a threat because they aided the revolt of the Jewish people during the Great Jewish-Roman war of 66-73AD.
Although the historical records of Izas Manu’s death are inconclusive, Ellis believes he was among the three Jewish leaders who were rounded-up and crucified by the Romans, according to the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus Flavius.
This version of events has striking parallels with Jesus’ own death when he was led to the cross alongside two others, while wearing a crown of thorns and a purple cloak.