Jesus Christ, Cover Star

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It's that time of year again for the newsweeklies: Christ-as-Cover-Boy time.

Jesus, of course, is as reliably evergreen a cover subject as they come -- ever-mysterious, ever-controversial -- and one that, naturally, pops up annually on newsstands around Easter and/or Christmas. With the appearance this week of two visually similar Jesus Cover Stories (Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report), we wondered: How has the Jesus Cover Story been packaged over the years? How has it changed (or not)?

Often, such covers involve a painting of a cherubic Jesus cradled in Mary's arms accompanied by a question (some variation on Who Was He?) or a nod to some book or bit of research which shows How Jesus Isn't Who You Thought He Was. Such is the case this week with Newsweek's and U.S. News' dueling Jesus covers -- which, although they feature paintings from entirely different centuries, can be hard to differentiate for a newsstand browser with no art history training.

On U.S. News' cover, reporter Jay Tolson is "In Search of the Real Jesus" -- having apparently lost track of Him sometime after March of 2004 (when Tolson wrote a cover story titled, "The Real Jesus.") While Time "Search[ed] for Jesus" on a December 1996 cover (and "Search[ed] for Mary" back in 1991), its cover has thus far been Jesus- (and Mary-) free this year (ditto the years 2000-2003). Not so Newsweek, with the current cover headline: "The World of the Nativity: How First-Century Jewish Family Values Shaped Christianity" (which reminded us a bit of Tolson's above-referenced 2004 Jesus Cover Story for U.S. News, subtitled,-"How the Jewish reformer lost his Jewish identity.")...

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