A Question I Was Asked:

Should Churches Ban Men From Having Long Hair?

The Question:

Why did Paul write the following?

Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, (1 Corinthians 11:14).

Why is it bad for men to have long hair? Didn't those under a Nazarite vow keep their hair long?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Firstly, Paul did not say it is sinful for a man to have long hair. He is simply pointing out that it is women who should have long hair and more fitting, or more suitable, for men to have shorter hair. That's all he says. Neither does he say anything like, 'throw the men with long hair out of the church!' The big problem for us today is, of course, how long is long? Did a few at Corinth believe that since those under a Nazarite vow wore long hair, then it was somehow 'more holy'? Men under that vow would have had exceptionally long hair, probably far longer than the old 'Beatles' style! Eventually it became understood, of course, that that vow had no place under the New Covenant but it continued for just a very few years into the Christian era.

Among the Hebrews, long hair was regarded as disgraceful (apart from those under the aforementioned vow), but the Greeks prized long hair as have various other cultures. In general, a man's hair does not grow as lustily as a woman's hair, so a kind of natural limiter applies here. Some, however, think that Paul was referring to curled hair in men which might have been a fad of the time. Also possibly the male temple prostitutes of that era might have attempted to wear their hair long (a fad which does not seem prevalent among modern homosexuals).

So it is hard to be sure as to exactly what Paul meant, save to say that women generally have longer hair than men. In our day, I don't think that Christians can say too much about this nor to impose prohibitions. Also, modern women often have quite short hair; what would first century Hebrews think of that? We need to be a little careful here as to what we take forward as a possible 'church prohibition.' Should we ban Cretans from services because of Paul's not very high opinion of them? (Titus 1:12). I suppose I would hate to walk into a church meeting and find that all the women had very short hair and all the men had very long hair! Obviously that is not going to happen, but I don't think we should be glancing about, noticing the hair styles of fellow-believers in a judgmental fashion.

Most vitally, any careful look at verses 4-16 of 1 Corinthians 11 will reveal that it is really the matter of whether or not a woman should cover her hair whilst praying which is what Paul is most concerned about, not the precise length of a man's hair! The point about men's hair length is merely thrown in in passing - never his central point! But we must understand that all of this only really pertains to Hebrew first century culture and is not a spiritual matter.

So, not being a spiritual matter it seems to me this is one of those matters which we should just leave open, lacking sufficient information.

Robin A. Brace. September 3rd, 2013.