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If St. Paul says long hair is unnatural for men, why do our portraits of Jesus show him with it?

Full Question

In 1 Corinthians 11:14 Paul tells us long hair is degrading to and unnatural for a man. All the pictures of Jesus show him with long hair, so they must be false images.

Answer

The pictures we have of Christ do not derive from any physical description we have of him in the Bible, because there is none. The basic image comes from a long artistic and iconographic tradition—influenced, among other things, by the Shroud of Turin. However, this tradition does not contradict the Bible.

Part of the problem in discussing hair length is how long is long? We know from archeological materials such as Middle Eastern carvings and Egyptian tomb paintings that Jews wore what we would consider today as long hair and beards. Hair reached down to the shoulders on men. Women wore hair down to the waist.

Paul was telling Corinthian men that wearing hair down to the waist as women did would be effeminate and contrary to what natural law would suggest, especially considering the physical demands of many first-century male occupations. It is easy for us today to assume the length and cut of a Jewish man’s hair in the first century to be as it is for most men today, but that’s a misconception that can result in our misreading Paul.










6 comments

  1. Dave Reply

    Actually, most images of first century men shows that they wore the short Greek/Roman cut. True, some Jews wore it long, but by no means all Jewish men did.
    Billy Graham once pointed out that Jesus’ hair must have been very similar to that of his disciples. Why? Because when Judas led the leaders to Jesus, he had to identify him with a kiss. If Jesus had had much longer hair, Judas could simply have concealed his own treason by saying, “Arrest the one with the long hair.”
    Somehow we American Christians have developed a “surfer dude” Jesus, with almost Swedish features: blonde hair, blue eyes and a modest nose. Not very much like the first century Middle Eastern population.

  2. lindarcooper Reply

    Not all Americans think of Jesus as a “Swedish surfer dude” I know that’s a fun slam on Christians, but mostly it’s Hollywood idea of Jesus. My Uncle, who is an evangelical something or other, has a blond Jesus head on his TV…it really creeps me out.

  3. Joan Holmes Reply

    In fact, in 1 Cor.11 the words so frequently translated ‘grow the hair long’ and ‘long hair’ can mean various things according to their context.The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures) gives ample proof that overall these words carry the idea of ‘doing the hair up’, or a coiffure, a decorative arrangement. Paul’s telling men to look like men and women to look like women. Length of hair is not the issue here. See J.M.Holmes Text in a Whirlwind (Sheffield Academic Press, 2000) in the appendix on 1 Cor.11.

  4. marcdane Reply

    Maybe Jesus did the Nazirite Vow….
    Num 6:5

    and also….
    Judges 13

    1. Joan Holmes Reply

      I recomment J.M.Holmes ‘Text in a Whirwind : a Reconsideration of Four Exegetical Devices a t1 Tim 2:12’ (Sheffield Academic Press, 2000). There you will find an appendix on 1 Cor. 11 which demonstrates that the word group universally translated ‘grow the hair long’ or ‘long hair’ was often translated in the LXX in other ways. Paul was’t talking about the length of hair at all.

  5. Suzy Solis Reply

    Smatram kako je krajnji čas i potreba da Crkva odnosno sve kršćanske zajednice “in capite et in membris" pokažu maksimalan karakter pa svijetu “kriknu istinu"! Ma zapravo crkveni auktoriteti bi prvi trebali pokazati spremnost na mučeništvo i cijelom svijetu a najprije svojim vjernicima vlastitim primjerom i proročkom odlučnošću pokazati da je besmisleno nekakvom lošom

    diplomacijom odgađati progon Crkve. To više što neće biti obnove kršćanstva bez novoga progona Crkve. A progon će uskoro sigurno nastupiti jer su “novi vladari svijeta" koji upravljaju globalizacijom planirali “jedan svijet, jednu vladu, jedno tržište i jednu religiju u kojoj se svi slažu!" a ja se s takvim “demokratskim totalitarizmom" ne mogu složiti, kao i većina braće i sestara u Kristu

    Zbog toga je naša najbolja “politika" i “politička platforma" – redizajnirano pravilo Sv. Benedikta prilagođeno za naše 21. i 22. stoljeće – MOLI, RADI, RODI! Jer TO je najviše što MI u ovim okolnostima skučenih sloboda možemo učiniti i što ONI najmanje mogu nadzirati. Sjetimo se Hebreja, tj. Izabranoga naroda Božjega u Egiptu pod faraonovom diktaturom. Vrlo je slična danas vlast i moć “globalnog Faraona". Samo što, za razliku od onog egipatskog, ovaj ima globalnu MEDIJSKU moć koja masama ispire mozak i kvari dušu.

    Sotonisti znaju “da nas ima koji drugačije razmišljamo", ali taj se postotak NAS mora omasoviti – zato trebamo biti ustrajni. Uz to, svojom upornošću pokrenut ćemo “moždane vijuge" i onih koji nisu na našoj strani. Samo tako će na kraju taj “sotonistički car" ostati javno gol – raskrinkan kao sluga Otca Laži!

    Crkva je, na čelu s Papom, tu nemoćna. Čak da se ovoga trena sazove Treći vatikanski koncil i “digne glas do neba" protiv pobačaja, taj bi “abortivni lobi" i dalje mirno nastavio svoj bizinis. Naravno, u tome slučaju Crkva bi riskirala neke “društvene pogodnosti" i navukla na sebe tsunami bijesa “javnosti" (tj. medijâ u vlasništvu protucrkvenih lobija!). Ipak, taj bi crkveni “krik" pogodio neke savjesti pa bi profit od abortivne industrije privrjemeno malo pao, no tv-marketing i feministički lobiji bi brzo “popravili situaciju". Sve pak to zajedno nije razlog da se glas Crkve stalno ne čuje mnogo jače i češće – od prvoga biskupa do posljednjeg laika!

    Zato mi kršćani, kao nov(ozavjetn)i Izabrani narod Božji, moramo IZIĆI IZ EGIPTA, osloboditi se toga duhovnog faraonova jarma. Ili, budući da to ne možemo vlastitim snagama, barem to stalno željeti i moliti neka se vrši Volja Božja i biti spremni na trpljenje i tako odgajati djecu, jer doći će još veće kušnje! A ono što možemo, dok nije „oktroirano“ kao “stroga građanska dužnost", jest da slobodno bojkotiramo sve sotonine zamke, varke i obmane. Uostalom, to nam je i obveza koju smo po sakramentu Sv. krštenja primili potvrdno odgovarajući na pitanje odričemo li se sotone, začetnika i vođe grijeha, SVIH djela njegovih i SVEGA zavođenja njegova? (kako je glasila starija formulacija)! Eto, ne može jasnije – premda je moglo kraće.

    Međutim, ovdje je najvažnije imati na umu Isusovo upozorenje: „Kome je više dano, više će se od njega iskati.“ Odgovornost je golem teret!

    – U ovim okolnostima odnosno u tzv. DEMOkraciji, MI, kršćani, Kristovi učenici – NE možemo imati SVOJU vlast! Kao što Hebreji u Egiptu nisu imali SVOJU vlast – faraon nije bio njihov vladar, nego njihov robovlasnik. Naš vladar je Bog, Krist – a ne DEMOS! Dakle, samo i isključivo u TEOKRACIJI možemo imati svoju vlast.

    UPAMTIMO da je jedino BOG naš siguran oslonac, a Isus Krist temelj nade za budućnost.

    AMEN

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