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Questions From Readers

Questions From Readers

Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses depict the apostle Paul as being bald or having little hair?

Frankly, no man today can be certain of Paul’s appearance. The drawings and paintings in our publications are artistic representations, not images based on proven archaeological facts.

However, there are some indications of Paul’s appearance. For example, Zion’s Watch Tower of March 1, 1902, mentioned one, saying: “As to Paul’s personal appearance: . . . In the ‘Acts of Paul and Thecla,’ . . . written about A. D. 150, there is a description of Paul which is probably the best, and a true tradition. In this he is described as ‘small in size, bald-headed, bandy-legged, well built, with eyebrows meeting; rather long nosed.’”

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (1997 edition) says about that ancient writing: “It is not impossible that the ‘Acts’ contain some elements of historical truth.” The Acts of Paul and Thecla was highly regarded in early centuries, as confirmed by the fact that 80 Greek manuscripts of it exist, as well as versions in other languages. Thus, our artistic presentations are in line with some ancient indications of what the apostle looked like.

Bear in mind, though, that other things are more significant than Paul’s appearance. Even while Paul was carrying on his ministry, some fleshly critics charged that “his presence in person [was] weak and his speech contemptible.” (2 Cor. 10:10) But we should not forget that he became a Christian by a miraculous display from Jesus. We can also think about what Paul accomplished as “a chosen vessel to [Christ] to bear [Jesus’] name to the nations.” (Acts 9:3-5, 15; 22:6-8) And consider how much benefit we can draw from the Bible books that Jehovah inspired Paul to write.

Paul did not boast over his accomplishments before becoming a Christian; nor did he describe his physical appearance. (Acts 26:4, 5; Phil. 3:4-6) He admitted: “I am the least of the apostles, and I am not worthy of being called an apostle.” (1 Cor. 15:9) He later wrote: “To me, a man less than the least of all holy ones, this undeserved kindness was given, so that I should declare to the nations the good news about the unfathomable riches of the Christ.” (Eph. 3:8) That message is certainly more significant than any concern about what Paul may have looked like.