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Long is 'uncut'?

Submitted: 8/3/2005
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Question: You have said that in regards to hair and 1 Cor 11, the only acceptable definition of 'long' must be 'uncut'. It is clear from reading your comments that by 'uncut' you mean not cut, regardless of how little or how much. Since you define long as uncut, and a woman's uncut hair as her covering, then does it not necessarily follow that a man's hair, to be 'short', must simply be cut (again, regardless of how little or how much), and this would render him 'uncovered'? so a man with four feet of hair but who trims a measely 2 inches off it, now has short hair, is uncovered, and it is not a shame to him? Please reconcile this apparent contradiction. thank you.

Answer: Revelation 9:8 describes creatures that “had hair like women’s hair,” indicating that in the New Testament period there is a difference between men’s hair and women’s hair. This raises the question, what kind of hair is distinctly women’s hair and what kind is distinctly men’s. Paul writes to the Corinthians that women are to cover their heads by having “long hair.” The Greek word komao (NT:2863) means to wear tresses of hair or to have long hair. It does not specify how long it must be to qualify as long; only that it serve as a covering. Hence, we propose that the only way to define long is uncut. Any other definition is purely arbitrary.

David Bernard writes: “As a practical matter, many people want to know what is the precise definition of long hair on a woman. From the study of the Nazarites, we see that it means uncut hair or hair that is allowed to grow freely. Any other definition cannot be supported by Scripture. By letting the hair grow freely we allow nature, the teacher that Paul appealed to in verse fourteen, to determine the proper length for each woman.” This makes sense to us.

Now, concerning men’s hair. You have employed a flawed form of logic in your question. You suggest that if long hair on women means uncut hair, then short hair on men would mean cut hair, irrespective of the length at which it is cut. But you are ignoring the typology of the hair. The long hair is to be a covering, for “if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering” (1 Corinthians 11:15). But concerning men the Bible says, “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God” (1 Corinthians 11:14, 7). In the case of men, they are to keep their heads uncovered, which means they are not to allow their hair to grow out to a length that could be interpreted as a covering.

Paul’s appeal to nature as a teacher should not be under-valued. The fact is, throughout most of human history and in nearly all cultures and societies, men have kept their hair cut so as not to cover the ears and collar and women have allowed their hair to grow out freely. This can be seen, for example, in India, where this is the common practice. And in Korea and Singapore, men are forbidden by law to grow hair over their collars, ears, or eyebrows. Furthermore, we know from Roman sculpture and coinage as well as other historical sources that men, including Jewish men, wore their hair short in Christ’s day. In fact, there is no historical representation of any man during that time period with shoulder length hair.

Based on all of these considerations, we continue to believe that Christian women are to cover their heads by letting their hair to grow freely, allowing nature to determine the length, and Christian men are to keep their heads uncovered by keeping their hair cut so as not to cover their face, ears, or shoulders. If long hair on a women is defined in any way other than uncut, it will be problematic in determining whose hair is adequately long and whose is not.