When the Bible gets hairy. (Or: Is it right for men to have long hair?)

 

Hairy650pw

For some strange reason, I seem to be asked far more than most about the propriety (or impropriety) of men wearing long hair.

Okay, so maybe my being asked about this fairly regularly really isn’t so strange, weird or surprising at all, since I just happen to have long hair myself. Very long hair, actually, and I tentatively plan to keep it unless the Lord decides to call it home before He takes the rest of me, which is of course His prerogative.

(Lord willing, my long-term goal is to have sort of a “Gandalf look” in my later years. I very much like the thought of one day reading Scripture and other books to a mountain of grandchildren and great-grandchildren as that wise old Gandalfy type. More detail along these lines is pro’ly better spent in a future post, but you get the general idea.)

“So what’s the deal?”, some may wonder and even ask.

From time to time someone approaches me with something like, “You talk a lot about God this and Bible that and how important it is that we personally obey King Jesus in every way, so what’s up with the long hair, man?”

First off, assuming that this is being asked in a spirit of serious inquiry, there are three things that I try to remember when these opportunities present themselves:

  1. It’s reasonable and even good that people ask these things – particularly of those who claim to have a biblical worldview. The Christian worldview is marked by consistency, so it is important that we are always testing ourselves for the biblical consistency of our beliefs and practices. The Christian worldview covers everything because everything is defined by the Nature of Christ. (See: Art, math, beauty, logic, law and economics…it’s all about Him.)
    .
  2. It’s important that we be challenged by others. Mature Christians ought to welcome such challenges as an opportunity to test their own position(s), clarify the understanding of those who ask these challenging questions, and demonstrate all along the way that mature people are not only willing but happy and honored to handle the challenge of “iron sharpens iron” style discussion and debate. Without these sorts of loving, corrective confrontations, the grace-fueled thick skin that we must develop in order to reliably function as mature Christians in a hostile world will never form, and we will remain as enslaved to our feelings and hobbled by our personal sensitivities as the average unregenerate Pagan. (See: Man up, buttercup. Rome wasn’t conquered in a day.)
    .
  3. True love compels us to confront and correct one another. The true love of a Brother in Christ should compel them to ask me these sorts of questions when they perceive a clear departure from Scripture in any area of my life. This runs contrary to all that the world would have us believe about “love”, but Scripture is plain: If I truly love my Brother, I will strive to confront and correct him in a manner consistent with the Nature of our Lord as revealed in His Word.

With those points noted, let’s cut to the chase and get to The Passage that most folks tend to lean upon (and understandably so) when they address the issue of long hair on men:

Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. ~ 1 Corinthians 11:13-15 (emphasis added)

Wow!

That seems pretty clear, doesn’t it?

Sure does…at least when the passage is left alone in isolation like a solo lego or fortune cookie insert.

But what about those other passages that sure seem to make it plain that God doesn’t view long hair on a man as inherently shameful or sinful?

You know, like the record of Samson (in Judges) and the Nazarite vow (in Numbers). Things like that.

So what do we do with all of this? How do we come to a right understanding of what God is telling us on the subject of long hair on men when there seems to be equally clear and contradictory takes on the subject?

Here’s where I’d like to touch on one important principle of hermeneutics (which is just a ridiculously fancy word for “how we interpret Scripture”):

We must always interpret the cloudy in light of the clear.

When we see something that seems to be vaguely implied (or even strongly stated) in one passage, we need to seek out other passages dealing with the same subject so that we might then find the comprehensive contextual clarity required for us to rightly understand the issue in question.

Ascertaining which passages are more clear than others and which ones are more precise on particular points will often require that we go to the original languages in which Scripture was written. We have to be willing to do that and use what is found there if we are going to study Scripture seriously.

God’s Nature is not self-contradicting. Thus, God’s Word is not self-contradicting. Both are entirely and perfectly coherent, and it is the perfectly coherent Nature of God as revealed in His perfectly coherent Word that serves as the perfectly reliable foundation for life in practice everywhere in His creatiob.

So getting this Scripture thing right is kind of a big deal.

Even on hair.

ItsAllAboutHim650pw

At this point it’s worth noting that Scripture is loaded with references to hair. Hair matters. Hair is important to God. So it ought to be important to us.

So let’s get to it, with “it” being the answer to the question: Is it inherently shameful or sinful for men to wear long hair?

We’ll begin to chase down the answer by returning to the passage that, in most of its English translations, sure seems to respond to that question with a resounding “yes”:

Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. ~ 1 Corinthians 11:13-15 (emphasis added)

In the original language, the terms used for “long hair” here are komao and kome. This passage is the only place in Scripture where these precise terms are used.

While the more generic term for hair – thrix – is used elsewhere, the more precise komao and kome convey an effeminate aspect to the manner or style in which long hair is kept. Komao and kome describe hair being worn “in tresses” or in a similarly ornamental fashion. Where thrix would be used to help convey the notion of “plain old long hair”, komao and kome are used to communicate the notion of elaborate or ornamental long hair.

So when we see the presentation of the Nazarite vow in Deuteronomy 6 or the record of Samson in the book of Judges, we are not witnessing a contradiction in Scripture.

We are not seeing the presentation of two opposing lego blocks or fortune cookie snippets from which we may choose to build or support our own pet traditions and preferences as we see fit.

What we are seeing is the coherent, consistent presentation of God’s Nature as it is reflected in His creation where the subject of long hair on men is concerned. That full, coherent presentation tells us two things:

  1. Long hair on a man is not inherently shameful or sinful. (See: Samson and the Nazarite vow, for example.)
    .
  2. Effeminate presentations (“ornamental tresses”, etc.) of long hair on a man is inherently shameful and sinful.

To help make this clearer, let’s return once again to 1 Corinthians 11:13-15, this time focusing on another aspect of the passage:

Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

Let’s take a look at the “what nature itself teaches us” about long hair on males, using an example that uniquely symbolizes the Lord and King that we want to honor and serve with all that we do – including the manner in which we deal with hair.

The example from nature to which I refer is the lion. You know, Aslan.

In order to help us along the way on this point, let’s have a look at some pictures of lions. See if you can detect which ones are male and which ones are female

Lioness 1Lion 1Lioness 2Lion 3

Okay, so how hard was it to tell the difference between the male and the female lions?

Not very hard, I’m guessin’…and why?

Because of the hair. More precisely, because of the long hair…on the males.

Is there anything effeminate about the long hair on these male lions?

Nope.

Not at all.

It’s actually quite a masculine look, am I right?

So what is nature telling us here? More importantly, what is the Word of God telling us?

Is Scripture telling us that it is inherently shameful for a male to have long hair?

Or is it telling us that effeminate stylings of long hair on a male is inherently shameful and sinful?

The whole counsel of God seems to clearly present the latter position, as far as I can tell.

Which is why I welcome the question when it’s asked and thank you for taking the time to wade through this post.

FBCPleaseHelpRed300pw

As with all things, I encourage you to test what I’ve written here in light of His perfect Word. Go there. Dive deep. Test all things.

One final and very important item to tack on here, particularly for young men who are looking for a “case” to be made for growing out their hair in spite of their parents’ views on the subject.

I certainly understand how some young men in such scenarios may well desire to grow out their hair. Since I hold the biblical position that I do on the subject of long hair on men, I also believe that it is quite possible for the young men in question to prefer to wear their hair long out of completely pure motives, without being inspired in their preference by rebellion or sin. This is quite rare, particularly in our culture, but it is most certainly possible.

That said, if you are one of these young men who would like to wear your hair longer than your parents would like, and you think that you have found in this article a great tool or argument for your cause, please hear me clearly when I say: Stop.

Do not use this article or anything herein as an instrument with which to bludgeon, beat or argue with your parents in an unbiblical manner.

Might you share these ideas with them in a respectful manner in the hope of promoting better biblical understanding all around by all involved?

Sure.

That would be a good thing.

But if your parents have made their position known, and their position calls for you to wear your hair shorter than you may prefer, then honor them and submit to their wishes on the subject. (See: Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2; Matthew 15:4)

Do so happily and out of love for them, rather then begrudgingly and out of a sense of burdensome obligation.

Show them the self-sacrificial, respectful love that one would expect of a spiritually mature young Christian man.

Show them the character of Judah’s Lion and worry about the mane later.

~

If you know of anyone who might appreciate this post, please share it. If you’d like to help support the Fire Breathing Christian mission, please click here.

Please also “like” us on Facebook, “+” us on Google+, follow us on Twitter and feel free to sign up for new articles by email using the buttons in the upper right corner of the FBC home page. Also feel free to check out the latest designs at Fire Breathing TeesThank you for your support!

© 2015 Scott Alan Buss – All Rights Reserved.

Comic2V2Front650pw

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 COMMENTS

  1. Whenever someone appeals to "the" Greek, you know that you're about to be lied to by someone who doesn't like what the Scripture actually says. I wonder what "original" Greek text he is referring to.

    • "Doesn't like what Scripture actually says"? Really? In what language was Scripture originally written, Phil? King James English?

  2. The Nazirite or, Nazarite vow is found in the sixth chapter of the book of Numbers, not Deuteronomy as stated in your article. The vow consists of three actions; not to participate in any consumption of wine or anything related to it, not to cut ones hair and not to touch a dead body. To fulfill that vow in our present day would mean 1. not to pursue the enjoyments of human life (wealth, power, possessions etc.) 2. not to be concerned about your personal appearance or in other words do not try to make yourself look good spiritually and 3. do not participate in the activities of the spiritually dead (unregenerate). The Lord has stated that He will not drink of the wine of the new covenant until He "enjoys it" with us anew in His Kingdom. I believe this means that as the many brothers of Christ, we are to keep this vow with Him until all things are fulfilled.

        • The response to your pouting is already presented in the above article, which you have thus far done nothing substantive to refute. (Hint: Making/shouting an unsubstantiated claim or opinion is not a substantive refutation and relying on such an approach to make a case is a fairly glaring sign of immaturity.)

          If you have something substantive to say, feel free. I'd like to see it and will consider it if offered. If not, you're only proving the above points with each added comment.

  3. Is it then true that women should have short hair due to the lions? How does the 1Cor. Passage make sense? I would appreciate more information to dig in more yo your interpretation of this topic.

      • I might try to address other issues touched on in the passage (like women's hair) in a future post, but the point of this post was to go straight to the actual text of the passage to determine whether it was conveying a blanket condemnation of long hair on men.

        I hope that this clarification is helpful.

        Thanks for chiming in!

  4. Have you noticed how many Emergent pastors have shaved faces and heads?

    It's a sign, though they may not overtly comprehend, of deep grief. Of what, their own soul death by alleging to Emergent gobbledygook? Or they are ashamed of going bald? It hides baldness like an untucked shirt hides a belly… not very well.

  5. I'm very glad you wrote on this. Maybe we'll have a chance to talk about it some more. You've brought up some thoughtful points.

    • Thanks, Caleb!

      I look forward to talking soon and hearing your thoughts.

      Hope all is well in your neck o' the woods.

  6. I have actually wondered the flip side of this: is it wrong for women to have short hair? I asked this because I wanted to get a pixie cut and wasn’t sure if that was OK. A mentor helped me see this verse in context and we came to a similar conclusion that you did. Short hair on women is OK, as long as it looks feminine, not masculine.

LEAVE A REPLY