Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Is Long Hair Shameful?

Steve Hays took issue with my objection that the Shroud depicts a man with long hair, which is consistent with medieval iconography but inconsistent with Paul's teaching regarding hair length.

1 Corinthians 11:14-15
Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

Steve asserts "i) It’s ironic that TFan contradicts Calvin's interpretation of 1 Cor 11:14:"  but then Steve provides a selection from Calvin that in no way contradicts my position that Paul taught that nature itself teaches that it is a shame to a man to have long hair.

Steven next argues, with support from a recent commentary, that "On that interpretation, Paul is simply referring to the social customs or social mores of that time and place, not what's intrinsically right or wrong. A matter of social decorum."  Again, even if this is fully correct, it merely limits Paul's claim to the 1st century era, which is the same era when Christ walked the earth, died, was buried, and rose again.

Indeed, ancient descriptions of the Jews describe them as having short hair styles:
For in his enumeration of all those nations, he last of all inserts ours among the rest, when he says, "At the last there passed over a people, wonderful to be beheld; for they spake the Phoenician tongue with their mouths; they dwelt in the Solymean mountains, near a broad lake: their heads were sooty; they had round rasures on them; their heads and faces were like nasty horse-heads also, that had been hardened in the smoke.
 (Josephus, Against Apion, Book I, Section 22)

This same account quoted as a description of the Jews in Eusebius' Gospel Preparations, Book 9, Chapter 9:
"Next passed a nation wondrous to behold,
Whose lips pronounced the strange Phoenician tongue;
Upon the hills of Solyma they dwelt
By the broad inland sea. Rough and unkempt
Their close-cropped hair, and on their heads they wore
The smoke-dried skin flayed from a horse's face."

Moreover, one way that the Romans distinguished themselves from the barbarians (the Greeks were not viewed as barbarians, I should point out) was by having closely cut hair:
In general, Greeks and Romans considered long hair to be typical of barbarians; thus, the new Gallic provinces subdued by Julius Caesar came to be called Gallia comata. Romans, on the other hand, were supposed to cut their hair short.
From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms (ed. Thomas F.X. Noble), "Telling the Difference: Signs of Ethnic Identity," by Walter Pohl, p. 117.
But after the introduction of barbers into Italy about B.C. 300 it became the practice to wear their hair short.
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Sir William Smith, under coma p. 330.

The social decorum issue alluded to by Steve's source is one of looking like a homosexual. 
While there are statues from Corinth with males wearing long hair, Gill points out that these are usually male deities. It should also be noted that the only others depicted wearing long curly hair were from the Facade of the Captives in the forum in Roman Corinth. To portray these men wearing their hair thus was the way the Roman conquerors indicated that all the men in the facade were 'weak', i.e., captives of the mighty Roman army. It implies that they were 'soft' or 'effeminate'.
After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change, by Bruce W. Winter, p. 132.

In other words, long hair suggested passive homosexuality in the cultural milieu. That was a shameful thing as taught by "nature itself," whether Paul is equating traditional custom with "nature" here is not really the issue.

Steve goes on: "I think it highly unlikely that Paul would make Roman hair style an absolute standard for Jews. After all, Romans were pagans who subjugated the Jews. They were the enemy. The oppressor. The idolater. Hardly a model of morality or piety."

Steve is working from the assumption that short hair was only a Roman custom.  The evidence from Josephus suggests it was also a pre-Roman Jewish custom.  Moreover, the customs of Corinth were Roman-influenced, no doubt, but the people of Corinth were Greeks.

It's not totally surprising the Paul might think that Roman customs represented the outworking of natural law.  After all, Paul was a Roman citizen.  Paul does not treat Rome as the enemy, the oppressor, or inherently as idolatrous.

Moreover, short hair in the Roman world could only very loosely be associated with idolatry (some sources refer to a practice of cutting off a teens pigtail/ponytail and offering it as a sacrifice to a river god upon coming of age).

Instead, short hair is sexual identifier - something highly consistent with God's law, which requires sexual distinction in appearance:

Deuteronomy 22:5 The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

So, it is fully consistent that Paul would admonish the Corinthians not to have men with women's hair length.

Steve continues: "iii) A more serious problem with TFan's position is that if men with long hair is inherently shameful, then that contradicts the Nazirite vocation in Num 6:5:"

Steve's argument conflates the issue of absolute moral impropriety and shamefulness.  For example, Adam and Eve were naked in the garden and were not ashamed.  Moreover, we have the example of prophets who prophesied in the nude:

1 Samuel 19:24
And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?

None of this suggests that nakedness is or should be normal behavior.  Likewise, nothing suggests that a perpetual Nazirite vow is or should be normal behavior.

Steve doesn't suggest that Jesus had a Nazirite vow, but considering that he took the cup at the Last Supper, and Nazarites did not drink from the fruit of the vine, we can be sure Jesus was not under a Nazarite vow.

Steve continued: "Moreover, TFan implicitly makes Paul a hypocrite, for Paul himself took a Nazirite vow (Acts 18:18). In that event, his statement in 1 Cor 11:14 is self-incriminating–if we accept TFan's interpretation."

Actually, Acts 18:18 does not say that Paul had a Nazirite vow, just that Paul had a vow.  Moreover, it does not say that Paul let his hair grow excessively long, but rather that he shaved his head.  One might conclude that Paul's hair had become long by reason of the vow, but the text does not actually say that.

Moreover, the length of hair after taking a vow does show a measure of shame on the person who is slow in performing his vow.  In other words, if one vows to do "X" and promises not to shave his head until it is performed, then one's hair length begins to be a testimony against one.

We likewise have no reason to suppose that Jesus was under any particular vow that would have dictated that he wear his hair long in view of non-performance of the vow to date.

Steve concludes: "At this rate, TFan may need several gallons of turpentine to escape from the corner he's painted himself into (vis-à-vis long hair)." But actually, it seems that the only problems arose from Steve interpreting Paul's rule regarding hair as an absolute moral imperative, as opposed to what Paul actually said, which was that long hair on men is shameful, according to nature itself.



turretinfan said...

I should add that hair length as a sexual distinction may depend on one's culture context. Steve shows an American Indian in his post. It's extremely doubtful that amongst California Indians in the 18th-21st centuries, long hair had the same connotation that it did in Paul's world. Someone more familiar with those tribes could inform me about the sexual differences in hair styles there. I didn't address it in the post, because the point of the post is really focused.

Natamllc said...

I can speak to one region of the California Indian issue of hair. If perchance you are in Santa Rosa, California and go into Codding Town Mall, north doors main entrance, you can see historical photos that have been enlarged and expanded made into wall paper and placed on the walls in that foyer for observation by the customers showing my people, the Pomos of that region in their native dress. These photos are clearly circa 1800's photos. We were known and still are in some circles as "dreamers" (madu) and dancers. Rarely do you see a male with long hair from that time period. Rarely do you see women with short hair if at all?

That idea of California Indians of this region having long hair (and many men do these days) seems to me to come from our association with two things. One is wanting to "fit in" with more prominent Tribes who do, as a custom, keep their hair long and wear jewelry, ear pieces and necklaces and bracelets for the wrists. And, two, more important to that is the motivating fact of a heart of rebellion against the god of the White Man. Somewhere in the Scripture we read, I believe in Romans, yes, Romans 2, Paul the Apostle chastising the Jews for not living according to the Law of Righteousness and by so not doing it sometimes causes the "Gentiles" to blaspheme the Good Name of God because of their own rebellion. Rom 2:23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.
Rom 2:24 For, as it is written, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."

I will now add some "hopefully" good natured levity to this debate with something Steve coined in his issues taken up against TFan's view when saying about having a bucket of turpentine ( "At this rate, TFan may need several gallons of turpentine to escape from the corner he's painted himself into (vis-à-vis long hair).

I suggest to TFan to be generous to Steve and offer Steve some of that turpentine so he can wash away the paint he has been cornered and painted into by this thread/paint! I believe there is plenty of turpentine to go around? :)

Another thing I would mention by way of my own personal observations visiting the many Jewish communities I have been too, both here in the United States over the years, west coast, east coast and the like, as well as in Europe and Israel and also down in Africa when there doing my diamond trade. You don't see Jews with long hair. Some sects of Judaism have men walking around wearing modified black top hats or fedoras with locks of long hair hanging down on both sides in front of their ears. All the rest of their head hair is short, real short in some cases. You would think with the revival going on "by the Spirit of God according to Scripture" among the Jewish communities, to come back to the LORD to believe in Him and practice His Law if it was the "norm" for a Jewish male to have long hair as is depicted by the Turin Shroud image of that crucified man, you would see that in today's world, but you don't.

That in itself seems to serve well another support for the contention being made by TFan that long hair is normal for women to have but not men?

Lawrence Bray said...

I think it's important to recognize that though Scripture does speak objectively about long hair being for women and short hair being for men...it does not speak objectively as to the particular lengths that constitute long and short hair.

M Mccullagh said...

Any chance TF that in future blog posts the quotes of people might be in a slightly larger font? Now where did I put my glasses?

Godith said...

Wow, Tfan, I never thought of this issue. It sure would seem odd, to say the least, if our Lord's normal appearance fell into a category Paul called shameful. I think shameful is not to be equated with "sinful at all times, under any circumstances" (Nazarite vows come to mind). Jesus was a Nazarene, not a Nazarite.

Tertiumquid said...

Just curious: In your view Tfan, how long is "long" according to the Bible?

turretinfan said...

Exactly three inches, as it is written, "Three shall be the number of thy counting." 1st Python 2:5

Godith said...

There is no specific length mentioned in the Bible, yet it seems that in the culture of that day (and OT culture as well) that men with long hair, unless Nazarites, were considered unusual; Paul says shameful. Absalom was a long-haired fellow--seems unusual. I think it is pretty legalistic to assume that all women must have at minimum, shoulder-length hair. Yet the culture in America, as bad as it is, does seem to have some norms about hair, and to violate them is probably a bad idea, although not technically sinful.

But the main point--that Jesus was extremely unlikely to have long hair, although the medieval church represented him so--holds.

Images are teachers of lies. The Bible says so (forgot where at the moment).

Tertiumquid said...

"Exactly three inches, as it is written"

I've been thinking of getting a mohawk. I'm glad that's settled.

Mark said...

Why is it that we as Christians have the greatest trouble with the commands that don’t have every detail spelled out?

"[I desire] likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire," 1 Timothy 2:9.
The response is, "'Modest' is culturally determined, therefore I can still dress like a tramp."

Or "Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving," Eph. 5:4.
The response is, "'Filthy language' is culturally determined, therefore I can curse like a sailor."

Or "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 Cor. 11:14-15.
The woman’s response is, "'Long hair' is culturally determined, therefore I can shave my head."
The man’s response is, "'Long hair' is culturally determined, therefore I can look like as androgynous as I want."

What do we call this attitude but high-handed sin?

turretinfan said...

I observe that Matthew Bellisario has criticized two of the participants in this discussion for having the discussion at all.

Of course, it's understandable why this post doesn't matter to Bellisario - after all, his precious magisterium can dictate whether the pope wears a beard, but hasn't bothered to infallibly interpret 1 Corinthians 11.

One positive thing for Bellisario: I've seen him in a video - he cuts his hair.

otto said...

Hi TurretinFan, I would like to ask you some questions. Do you think Cor. 11 1-16 is talking about church? Would you say the point of these verses is covering, or is it hair? or both? And how would you translate toiauten in verse 16?

Lucian said...

Pagans did not (ususally) have a beard. In that context, wearing long hair (while being clean-shaven) makes one's (especially when young ) face look exactly like that of a woman... and we all know about Greek-Roman pederasty... so...

Jews, on the other hand, had to have a beard, according to the Law of Moses. So, in their case, the length of the hair was irrelevant.