IS IT CHRISTIAN FOR MEN TO HAVE LONG HAIR? DID JESUS HAVE LONG HAIR?
This is somewhat of a passé subject, but every now and then it rears it head, so I will address it. I can remember as an early teen growing out my hair. The occasion came that I was corralled into the barbershop to have my mangy locks sheared. Upon dismounting from the chair an older lady looked over at me and commented, "You look so much better. You look like a nice young Christian man." It was a few months later that I was told that the Bible taught that men were not to have long hair. Is this true? Well here is the proof verse.
Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? 1 Cor 11:14
So if it is true that it is unchristian for men to have long hair, why is the traditional image of Jesus one with flowing locks? First of all we must look at this verse in context. I will spare you a quotation of the context of scripture and offer a summary. I will also warn you that this will not be popular in our modern times, but if we are to search for truth, we must bear with it. What Paul is teaching in the first half of I Corinthians, Chapter Eleven is that there is a natural order to the relationship of men and women. This order is Christ, then man, then woman. With this order in mind, Paul taught that if a woman prayed or prophesied, she should do it with a covering, a sign of authority over her, possibly because it may have been considered a privilege for a woman to pray or prophesy in public. Long hair on a woman was a natural sign of this authority. Thus long hair on a man would be shameful, for man need not have an authority over him. So before I dig myself into a deep hole. I think it wise to see what the bulk of scripture has to say about hair. Let us go to the Old Testament.
All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no rasor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. Num 6:5
This is interesting because this shows that growing out the hair is an act of being holy. What this verse is speaking about is the Nazarite vow. A person who was a Nazarite took a vow to separate himself from certain worldly things and to consecrate himself unto God. Kind of a temporary monk, although some did it for life. Three well-known lifetime Nazarites would be Samson (Judges 13:5), Samuel (I Samuel 1:11), and John the Baptist. (Luke 1:15) Samson is commonly known for having long hair and for him it was a sign and connection to great strength. (Judges 16:17) So we have scriptural testimony that long hair on a man is shameful and then seemingly contradictory scripture that testifies that it is a sign of holiness and strength. So if one wants to stick to his guns and assert that long hair on a man is shameful and effeminate then he will have to admit that John the Baptist was shameful and effeminate. But Scripture teaches that he was the greatest prophet of all (Luke 7:28). I have also read where some will take a dispensational view of this and say that long hair was for the Old Covenant and short hair is for our present Covenant. I think this is a faulty view because there are many, many things that transcend any dispensation or covenant. If something is holy by nature, then its holiness will transcend any dispensation. I think if we are to get to the bottom of this, then we will have to go back to my first Bible Study Help. (Every scripture has a context both written and historical.) We have considered the written context but not the historical context yet. Corinth was a metropolis immersed in immorality. Some possibilities are that women who were prostitutes would shave their heads and likewise male prostitutes would grow their hair long. A good general reading of I Corinthians shows that most of the members of that Church came from an iniquitous lifestyle (I Corinthians 6:11) and that many could not fully divorce themselves from their surroundings. It is possible that a few women had cropped hair. It is common doctrine that when anyone comes to Christ from the secular world he is a new creature. He has a rebirth. His old self is dead and is to be left behind. This would be true of any Corinthian who formerly existed in an immoral, pagan fashion. Jesus taught:
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Matt 5:29-30
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Matt 18:8-9
When I was a teenager, to some long hair was a sign of rebellion and drug use. There were many who at the time they came to Christ found it necessary to cut their hair because it was a connection to their past lives. I think a modern day equivalent would be those who come to Christ from the urban gang lifestyle. It would not make much sense for a former gang member who had come to Christ to still wear his gang colors and symbols as though he were still a member of that gang. I think it possible that this is what Paul is speaking of here. Although the Corinthian women had found new freedom in Christ, there was still an order of conduct and behavior that was to be apart from the outside society.
How about men and long hair today? I think it all boils down to the intent. If a man grows out his hair with the intent to appear more effeminate, then he is better off wearing his hair short. The image of the rock star that was prettier than screaming female fans in the audience comes to my mind. Likewise if a man shaves his head as a sign of rebellion and lawlessness, he is better off growing his out.
Now on to our second topic. Did Jesus have long hair? I do think that the traditional image of Jesus with flowing locks is an accurate one. There is ample evidence that would point to this. First I will start with this verse.
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. John 5:39
One of the reasons that Martin Luther gave for separating the books of the "Apocrypha" from the rest of the Old Testament was because he said that they did not point to Christ. Now this is not a debate I want to deal with in this chapter but a perceptive eye can find Christ prefigured throughout the Old Testament. One example could be this.
But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. 2 Sam 14:25
Like it or not, Absalom was a type of Christ prefigured. Christ was the lamb without blemish thus making him the perfect sacrifice.
But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 1 Pet 1:19
If we look at the next verse that testifies about Absalom, we find this.
And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year's end that he polled it: because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it:) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king's weight. 2 Sam 14:26
So in the context of Absalom being without blemish, thus prefiguring Christ, we see that he would grow his hair out. We also see that Absalom cut his hair once a year. He did not cut his hair when it became long because it was shameful, effeminate or apart from a manly style. We see that he cut his hair because it was heavy and uncomfortable. Next, letís consider this verse in Matthew citing the Old Testament.
And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. Matt 2:23
I have always found this a curious verse. For one, no two study or reference Bibles can agree on a particular reference for this verse. Also, no two reference or study Bibles can specifically pinpoint what this verse is talking about. If we take a look at the word "Nazarene" we see that is comes from "Nazoraios," which Strong's readily defines as an inhabitant of Nazareth. There are a few problems with this, though. First, apparently it would be bad Greek to call a resident of Nazareth "Nazoraios," and secondly, the city of Nazareth was unknown in Old Testament times so a specific prophetic reference to it would be unlikely. Thayerís lexicon readily defines "nazoraios" with reference to "nazarite" but not all scholars are readily comfortable with this. I think one key to understanding this curious verse is to note that text says "prophets" and not "prophet." Matthew did not wish to limit this statement to a specific prophet or prophecy. I think this verse should be received in general and we should not look for a specific verse. With this in mind, I think it is perfectly plausible to look at the nazarite as a prefiguring of Christ. Now when I say prefiguring I do not mean identical. If one looks at the accepted Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah, one can see that they will have several different meanings. There are many prophesies about the Messiah in the Book of Psalms, most of which David is speaking about himself as well a prophesying about the coming Messiah. David is a type of Christ prefigured but it would be foolish though to say that David is identical to Jesus. Likewise, I think that one can look at the Nazarite as a prefiguring of Christ yet not identical to him. Many are quick to note that the Nazarite was not to partake of the Grape or any of its products (Numbers 6:3) and that Jesus readily did. So the Nazarite is not a carbon copy of the Messiah but in many ways the Nazarite is a reflection of the Messiah. A Nazarite was separated from the world and consecrated unto God. A Nazarite was a symbol of purity and godliness. John the Baptist, being a Nazarite was a close prefiguring of Christ. John was a close relative of Jesus, being less than a year older than he was. John was a priest and greatest of the prophets. (Luke 1:76, 7:28) Jesus was a priest and the Son of God. (Hebrews 2:17) Johnís ministry was to prefigure and issue in Jesusís ministry (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:7-8, Luke 1:17, 76, 3:16, John 1:15,26-27,30-34) Jesusís ministry in many ways mirrored Johnís (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14-15, Luke 11:1, John 3:22-23,26, 4:1, 10:40). Jesus was often confused with John the Baptist. (Matthew 16:14, Mark 8:28, Matthew 14:2, Mark 6:14-16, Luke 9:7,18-19) So if John had long flowing locks, then I would not think it unreasonable to think that Jesus would have them also. In closing I would like to state that I wish to prove nothing, only to show congruency. The traditional image of Jesus with long flowing locks is not contradicted by Scripture. I think the general testimony of Scripture tends to support it. I also think it a rather silly subject to get hung up on and waste a lot of time on as I just did.