What Does the New Testament Say About Beards?
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What Does the New Testament Say About Beards?

You open your Bible, intrigued by the question. As an Evangelical or Charismatic Christian, you want to understand what God’s word says about various topics, including something as specific as beards. You value upholding Biblical principles in all areas of life. So you begin searching the New Testament to see what it reveals.

Key Takeaways About Beards in the New Testament

  • Jesus and the apostles likely had beards, following Jewish custom
  • There are no direct commands about wearing or not wearing beards
  • Outward appearance is less important than inward condition
  • Focus is on living righteously, not legalistic rules
  • Liberty in matters not expressly forbidden or commanded

You start your investigation with the four Gospels, expecting to find examples there. Being the visible image of God on earth (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15), Jesus’ actions provide insights into God’s purposes and values. As the Divine Son in human flesh (John 1:14), his lifestyle models holiness for all believers.

Jesus Likely Wore a Beard

Searching the Gospels, you find no definitive statement about Jesus having a beard. However, based on cultural norms for Jewish men in that time, historians believe he had one. The Bible mentions Jesus increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52). At age 30, he began his public ministry looking like a typical Jewish man. Numerous messianic prophecies pointed to the Messiah being from among the Jewish people (Isa. 11:1; Zech. 6:12). So Jesus conformed to common practices like wearing a beard, unless Scripture specified otherwise.

Roman records also indicate Jewish men of the first century wore beards. Jewish Law prohibited shaving with a razor (Lev. 19:27; 21:5). Only Nazirites shaved to signify being set apart for spiritual service (Num. 6:9,18). The Old Testament mentions beards frequently, assumed as the norm. Trimming or shaving beards could symbolize shame or judgment (2 Sam. 10:4-5; Isa. 7:20). Since the New Testament does not contradict these established customs, you conclude that in all likelihood Jesus had a beard befitting his Nazarene identity.

The Apostles Probably Had Beards Too

You then consider whether Jesus’ disciples and the apostles wore beards. Jesus called fishermen, tax collectors and others to follow him. Their beard status going in is unknown. However, during three years with Jesus, they would have observed his adherence to Jewish laws and practices. As devout Jews, they likely grew beards after becoming his disciples, if they didn’t already have them.

The book of Acts indicates that the apostles continued living as Jews in the early church. When falsely accused of teaching against the Law of Moses, Paul went to great lengths to prove otherwise (Acts 21:20-24). He testified “I am a Jew” (Acts 22:3) and described his Pharisaic training under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Undoubtedly Paul’s appearance aligned with his Jewish heritage and apostolic authority. Unless Scripture specified shaving requirements for ministry roles, which it does not, you conclude the apostles probably all wore beards resembling Jesus’ facial hair.

No New Testament Commands About Beardedness

You proceed to look for any commands in the Epistles and elsewhere instructing believers to either wear or not wear beards. To your surprise, you find no New Testament instructions about beards whatsoever. There are general principles about living orderly, respectable lives (1 Thess. 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:9). And warnings against externalism – emphasizing outward appearance over internal godliness (1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Pet. 3:3-4). But nowhere does the New Testament specifically command growing or removing facial hair. It neither commends nor condemns the practice.

Unlike with head coverings (1 Cor. 11:2-16), dietary laws (Mk. 7:19; Rom. 14:14), or circumcision (1 Cor. 7:18-19; Gal. 5:2-6), the New Testament is silent regarding any spiritual significance to having a beard. The practice is a matter of personal discretion, cultural relevance, and healthy hygiene, rather than moral or biblical importance. Liberty in such matters is affirmed (Rom. 14:1-4). Lacking explicit apostolic teaching, you decide to focus on more relevant righteous virtues instead of legalistic rules about beards.

Inner Truth More Important Than Outward Appearance

In fact, the New Testament stresses inner spiritual qualities far more than external appearance. Jesus corrected those focused on outer cleanliness rather than inner purity (Lk. 11:39-41). He prioritized transforming hearts over superficial behaviors (Mt. 23:25-28). Likewise, 1 Timothy 4:7-8 says, “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things.” 1 Peter 3:3-4 also says inner beauty outlasts external beauty. So you realize New Testament priorities are righteous living and godly character, not keeping up appearances.

The book of James strongly echoes this point. James 1:26-27 says true religious practice is controlling one’s tongue and caring for needy people, rather than just looking spiritual. James 2:2-4 prohibits favoritism based on outer appearance. And James 3 warns of the immense power of the tongue for both good and evil. So you recognize it is foolish to major on minors like beards when genuine righteousness is what distinguishes godly men. The New Testament aims at transformed hearts, not superficial externals.

Focus on Righteous Living, Not Legalistic Rules

The New Testament gives hundreds of commands exhorting believers to live holy lives. You find verses instructing you to: worship God (Jn. 4:24), love one another (Jn. 13:34), be humble (Eph. 4:2), forgive others (Col. 3:13), overcome sin (1 Jn. 2:1), do good works (Mt. 5:16), make disciples (Mt. 28:19), and many more. But beard-related commands are notably absent.

The epistles repeatedly warn against false teachers imposing extra rules beyond Scripture (2 Cor. 11:13-15; Col. 2:8; Titus 1:10-14). Adding legalistic requirements about diet, lifestyles, outward holiness routines, mystical experience, or other regulations beyond the Bible distorts the gospel into a works-based religion. So you heed these warnings by avoiding dogmatism about beards. You keep your focus on obeying the New Testament’s clear ethical teachings, which never mention facial hair.

Paul’s letters explain that Christians have died to the law (Rom. 7:1-6) and are under a new covenant in Jesus (Heb. 8:7-13). The strict Old Testament code has been superseded by the grace and truth realized in Christ (Jn. 1:17). So although facial hair had cultural meaning for Jews, it has no inherent spiritual value for you as part of the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). The righteousness God now requires comes from Jesus (2 Cor. 5:21), not from keeping religious rules. You grow in grace and holiness by relying on the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-26; 2 Pet. 1:5-8), not external efforts. So you commit to reading the Bible diligently but also allowing freedom where Scripture allows.

Christian Liberty Where Scripture is Silent

In biblical interpretation, you realize that what is not forbidden is permitted. Only where Scripture definitively commands or condemns something are you obligated to obey. On matters where it is silent, you have Christian liberty.

For example, 1 Corinthians 6:12 says: “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.” The New Testament affirms your freedom to make personal choices about disputable matters within God’s moral will (Rom. 14:1-23). So on a topic like beards where Scripture is silent, you apply wisdom, but avoid dogmatism.

You reflect on Paul’s teaching to Timothy that Scripture is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Yet you realize it was never meant as an exhaustive rule book governing every minute decision. As Paul explained, “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). The purpose of God’s word is to transform your inner person to live a Spirit-filled life. So you make following biblical values of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23) your priority rather than speculating about beards.

Conclusion: Focus on Inner Righteousness

In conclusion, your investigation of the New Testament finds no commands either requiring or forbidding beards for Christians. The practice was common but not compulsory for Jews like Jesus and the apostles. Their example and teaching emphasizes prioritizing inner righteousness over outward conformity to religious rules. So you determine to place your focus on obeying what Scripture clearly teaches regarding ethical conduct, spiritual disciplines, acts of service, and other aspects of godly living instead of external matters like beards. By emphasizing Biblical values and sound doctrine, you aim to please God with a Christlike life of holiness, wisdom and compassion.

Pastor Duke Taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.