What Does the Bible Say About a Man Cutting His Hair?

Hair length and style has long been a topic of debate among Christians. For men in particular, the Bible contains several verses that seem to address whether they should have long or short hair. In evangelical and charismatic Christian circles, there are a variety of opinions on what scripture teaches about men cutting their hair. In this comprehensive blog post, we will examine the key biblical passages concerning men’s hair length, look at how different denominations interpret these verses, and provide some analysis on what the Bible teaches on this issue.

Key Takeaways:

  • Several Old Testament passages forbid cutting the hair at the sides of the head or trimming the edges of one’s beard, which was part of ancient Israelite culture. However, it is debated whether these ceremonial laws apply today.
  • The New Testament is largely silent on male hair length, neither commanding long hair nor expressly forbidding it.
  • 1 Corinthians 11:14 states that long hair on men is a dishonor or shame, suggesting short hair is the cultural norm. However, the cultural context is important.
  • Historical context indicates that in the 1st century Roman world, long hair on men was often associated with homosexuality or decadence. Shorter hair was the masculine custom.
  • Most modern denominations do not enforce rules about hair length, leaving it to the individual’s conscience. However, some strict groups believe short hair on men is biblically mandated.
What Does the Bible Say About a Man Cutting His Hair?

Old Testament Teachings on Hair

Several passages in the Old Testament provide instructions regarding hair that applied to ancient Israel. Leviticus 19:27 states:

“You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard.” (NKJV)

This command was part of the holiness code given specifically to Israel through Moses. Trimming hair at the sides of the head or cutting the edges of the beard was prohibited as part of pagan Canaanite rituals for the dead. The Lord instructed Israel not to emulate such practices.

Later, in Ezekiel 44:20, the prophet Ezekiel rebukes the priests of Israel for their disobedience, writing:

“They shall neither shave their heads nor let their hair grow long, but they shall keep their hair well trimmed.” (NKJV)

Here, Ezekiel condemns the priests for two extremes: shaving their heads bald, or letting their hair grow excessively long. Both were against God’s statutes for priestly grooming. Instead, they were to keep their hair neatly trimmed.

Application for Today

Clearly, these Old Testament verses do not universally apply today. The ceremonial and ethnic laws specific to Israel are not binding in the New Covenant. While they hold valuable principles, the New Testament teaches that Christ fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:4).

However, these passages do reveal God’s concern for his people maintaining their cultural customs of masculine grooming. Rebellion against those norms was viewed as dishonorable and shameful. As we will see, this principle carries into the New Testament also.

Jesus and the Apostles on Hair Length

The Gospels make no mention of Jesus prescribing any rules about hair length. He criticized the Pharisees for majoring on minor external issues like tithing spices, yet neglecting deeper matters like justice, mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23). Jesus was more concerned with the inner condition of the heart.

Likewise, Acts and the Epistles are mainly silent regarding male hair length. The apostles teach much about the Christian life, but no specific command stands out on men cutting or not cutting their hair. The one passage we’ll examine is 1 Corinthians 11.

1 Corinthians 11:14

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul responds to reports of disorderly worship in the Corinthian church. In verses 3-10, he teaches on the importance of gender distinctions, mentioning head coverings for women. He states in verses 14-15:

“Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.” (NKJV)

Here Paul appeals to nature, cultural propriety, and gender uniqueness. In that society, women wearing long hair was considered honorable and feminine. Men wearing long hair was viewed as disgraceful and effeminate. Paul instructs the Corinthians to maintain the gender norms of their culture, which discouraged long hair on men.

Cultural Context

To fully understand this passage, we must grasp the first-century Greco-Roman perspective on male hair length. Roman moralist writers like Plutarch openly scorned men’s long hair as vulgar and barbaric. Shorter hair was seen as dignified and virilie.

Jewish teachers like Philo and Josephus echoed similar ideals, teaching that short hair distinguished noble, manly Hebrews from indulgent Greeks and Romans. Long curled hair on men was associated with decadence, homosexuality, and effeminacy – considered disgraceful in that society.

Principle of Modesty

While the cultural norms have changed, the principle behind Paul’s teaching remains valid. Outward presentation should respect whatever is considered dignified and modest in your community. Men should aim for a masculine appearance befitting their gender, avoiding styles considered indecent or dishonorable. With hair length, each culture differs on what is acceptable.

In summary, 1 Corinthians 11:14 prohibits the specific example of long feminine hairstyles on men in first century Corinth. By extension, it teaches moderation in adopting any self-presentation considered immodest, undignified, or countercultural. The emphasis is on inner character more than external appearance.

Historical Church Teachings on Men’s Hair

Throughout church history, instructions about male hair length have varied across times and Christian traditions. The early church did not enforce exact hair or beard styles. By the 4th century, clergy wore beards to distinguish from pagan priests, but laymen were free to shave.

Among Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, clerical hair rules focused on prohibiting ostentation and requiring modesty. Laymen could follow societal customs. Reformers like John Calvin opposed required beard growing. Puritans stressed modesty and humility, but did not mandate hair length.

Modern evangelicalism and fundamentalism has seen more emphasis on Old Testament holiness codes. Groups like Pentecostals and Holiness denominations began teaching that short hair was biblically required for men, while long hair dishonored God.

This was enshrined in resolutions like the Assemblies of God’s “Holiness Code” of 1967. While no longer an official rule, shorter hair remains normative in many conservative churches. However, denominations have tended to allow for individual conscience.

Analysis: Evaluating the Biblical Evidence

Analyzing the relevant biblical texts, what conclusions can we draw about male hair length?

1. Ceremonial laws don’t apply today – Old Testament verses like Leviticus 19:27 were ethnic and ceremonial commandments given specifically to Israel under the Mosaic Law. They hold principles for moderation, but the rituals concerning hair and beards were fulfilled in Christ (Colossians 2:16-17).

2. No universal commandment exists – Aside from ceremonial laws, no biblical passage explicitly institutes a universal requirement for men to have short hair or prohibits long hair outright. The common teaching that long hair dishonors God lacks direct biblical support.

3. Cultural propriety matters – 1 Corinthians 11 teaches that men should avoid hairstyles considered decadent, immodest or feminine by their culture. This applies to any self-presentation that flouts social norms and gender distinctions. But appropriate hair length is not rigidly defined.

4. Heart issues come first – Any focus on externals should be secondary to developing Christian character. Avoiding legalism, we should emphasize embodying the fruit of the Spirit internally more than enforcing rules on outward appearance.

5. Disputable matters left to conscience – Since Scripture does not provide absolute clarity, hair length fits Paul’s category of “disputable matters” upon which Christians can hold different convictions in good conscience (Romans 14:1).

Conclusions and Application

In summary, the biblical evidence does not conclusively define an appropriate hair length for men. Specific instructions concerning ancient Israelite grooming practices do not directly apply today. Beyond this, the New Testament gives no absolute prohibition against men having long hair.

Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 affirms the importance of upholding gender distinctions through culturally appropriate presentation. Yet while extreme and ostentatious hairstyles should be avoided, no precise length is mandated. Each culture varies, so exact rules cannot be imposed.

As such, male hair length fits the category of a disputable matter upon which believers have liberty of conscience before God. Churches should emphasize spiritual growth in godly character more than enforcing external uniformity.

For the individual Christian man, crucial questions include:

  • Does my hair reflect masculine qualities, or could it give an image of decadence?
  • Do I maintain a modest, socially-respectable style without drawing excessive attention to myself?
  • Does my focus on externals ever distract from cultivating godly virtues internally?

Keeping these principles in mind, men can make wise choices about their hair that honor God without legalistically judging their brothers. While the Bible affirms gender distinctions, it leaves room for individual liberty. Above all, our calling is to shine for Christ through holiness of heart.

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