The Hair Issue; Studies From I Cor. 11

**{Note:  The text below was pasted from an article I wrote elsewhere.  For some reason the font styles differ in some paragraphs and I cannot seem to correct it.  Still, the data is there – please pardon the annoying/varying fonts until I can get this figured out.}

*In 1992 Dr. Gregory Boyd put out his inflammatory work entitled “Oneness Pentecostals and the Trinity.”  In this book he charges, “neither the early church, nor the church throughout the ages, has ever held to the very eccentric notion that a woman should never cut her hair.”

*Not only is this entirely false, (cf., e..g., Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, John Chrysostom, et al.), but more importantly, apparently Dr. Boyd (also an Open Theist) does not consider the book of I Corinthians a part of “the early church.”  Below are a few (i) grammatical, (ii) historical and (iii) theological considerations that keep drifting through my mind.

*”If a woman has no covering, let her be for now with short hair, but since it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair shorn or shaved, she should grow it again.”  (I Cor. 11.6; NIV Footnote)

*”And since it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut or her head shaved, then she should have long hair.”  (I Cor. 11.6; NLT—Footnote)

*Today’s English Version, I Cor. 11.5-6:  “And any woman who prays or speaks God’s message in public worship with nothing on her head disgraces her husband; there is no difference between her and a woman whose head has been shaved.  If the woman does not cover her head, she might as well cut her hair. And since it is a shameful thing for a woman to shave her head or cut her hair, she should cover her head.

*Social scientists Bruce Malina and Jerome Neyrey:  “It is impossible to overestimate the importance of honor and shame in the socialization of males and females in the ancient Mediterranean world…..To know the gender of someone was already to know a whole set of norms to which they must conform if they were to be honorable in that society.  Such expectations formed clear cultural norms about what clothes (Deut. 22:5), hairdos (1 Cor. 11:4-14), and sexual partners (Rom. 1:26-27) are appropriate to males and females.”  (Drs. Bruce Malina and Robert Neyrey, Portraits of Paul: An Archaeology of Ancient Personality {Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 1996}, p. 182.)

*I once asked a Trinitarian apologist about these passages, to which he responded, “Well, the idea is that this was a cultural notion limited to the Corinthians based upon temple prostitution.”  I counter responded by pointing him to Pauline usage of “nature” and the fact that I Cor. 11 was addressed to “…all that in every place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord…”  (I Cor. 1.2).

*Indeed, Paul’s universal salutation effectively undercuts the “cultural” card, silencing those seeking to nullify these passages.  Incidentally, if the first portion of I Cor. 11 is relegated to merely “cultural” status, what prohibits the latter section of the same chapter dealing with the Lord’s Supper from being demoted to the same?  Using identical logic, we should now equally stop observing the Lord’s Supper!

*The Greek verb translated as “shorn” (κείρασθαι) appears in the middle voice indicating that the action is performed upon—or with reference to—the subject.  Here’s what some of the most authoritative lexicographers in existence state about this specific term: Mid. [voice] cut one’s hair or have one’s hair cut…Abs(olute sense)…I Cor. 11:6a, b(Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon; 2nd ed., p. 427 [BDAG affirms the same thing}).  “To have one’s hair cut” (Dr. F.W. Gingrich’s, Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, p. 114).

*Analytical Greek NT Lexicon:  “middle cut one’s hair, have one’s hair cut off (1 C 11.6).”

*Louw & Nida’s Greek-English Lexicon Based upon Semantic Domain:  19.23  “κείρω to cut the hair of a person or animal – to cut hair, to shear.  εἰ γὰρ οὐ κατακαλύπτεται γυνήκαὶ κειράσθω if the woman does not cover her head, she might as well cut her hair 1CO. 11.6″

*For these grammatical reasons, many linguists have translated this verb as “cut off,” or simply “to cut” (e.g., RSV, NEB, Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts, NAB, NIV, Amplified Bible, James Moffatt).

*Additionally, on p. 245 of the United Bible Societies A Translators Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, we read:  “To be shorn, literally ‘cut-her-hair’ in Greek, probably referred to a regular trimming of her hair.”

*This is the lexical definition of the verb translated “shorn/κείρασθαι” and hence is the very thing the Holy Spirit is prohibiting through the writings of the Apostle Paul.

*Regarding the adjective translated “shame (or) disgrace” (v. 6), see here BAGD, p. 25:it is disgraceful…for a woman to cut her hair.”  Thayer’s; p. 17: “disgrace, dishonorable.” Louw & Nida: “since it is shameful for a woman to shave or cut her hair, she should cover her head 1CO. 11:6.” 

*This is the same GK. word (αἰσχρόν) employed in Eph. 5.12 of, “things in secret are shameful even to mention” and Titus 1.10-11 of certain Jews who were “ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach for the sake of dishonest gain” (NIV).  {Note:  I have more lexical quotes to this end.}

*This is a very strong Greek adjective always denoting a forceful offense.

*In this vein, as it relates to the verb “long/komao (#2863)” in v. 15, “if a woman has long hair,” lexicographers affirm: “In a number of languages it may be necessary to translate komao/long as ‘to let one’s hair grow long’ or ‘not to cut one’s hair” (Drs. Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domain, UBS).

*The idea here is that if the receptor language does not have a word for “uncut hair,” the translator should communicate this idea by his choice of words.  (Cf. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains {New York: United Bible Societies, 1996}, 8.14, 11.15.)

*Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon:  “let one’s hair grow long…I Cor. 11:14, 15” (p. 442).

*The following quotes were accessed from Bro. Jason Weatherly’s blog:

1.  I posed the following question to Janet Downie, Assistant Professor, Department of Classics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:  “In Classical Greek, is it possible to understand the participle komoōntes as referring to ‘uncut hair’?”

Response:  “The participle komaontes/komoontes (κομάω from the noun κόμη ‘hair’) does mean ‘having abundant hair,’ ‘with a full head of hair’ — so that implies uncut.  Homeric warriors and later Greeks seem to have worn their hair long.”

2.  I proposed the following question to the blogger’s third language expert:  “So, my question is – is it possible that akersekomes and komaō are used synonymously in Classical Greek?  Is it possible that the context of Classical Greek indicates that komaō indicated long hair that was not (yet) cut?”

Dr. David Leitao, Professor of Classics, San Francisco University responded with:  “Yes, in some contexts, akersokomes and kom(o/a)on (the participle form of komao) could be synonyms.  It’s not quite true that boys left their hair to grow uncut until adulthood.  That was the custom in some areas and at some times, but far from universal.  The word akersokomes was probably used mostly commonly of Apollo, a special case.  And there’s the case of the Achaeans in the Iliad (and the Spartans of later years), who were described as komoontes (‘wearing the hair long, i.e. uncut’).  Hope this helps.”

3.  I sent the following question to Professor Mark Griffith, Professor of Classics, Berkley University:  “In Classical Greek, is it possible to understand the participle komoōntes as referring to ‘uncut hair’?”

Professor Griffith answered:  “Yes, that would be a natural meaning for that word.  Translators of the Iliad, for example, often render the formula KARA KOMOÔNTES ACHAIOI as ‘the long-haired Achaeans’  There are various theories as to why this epithet was applied to the Bronze Age or Archaic ‘Achaeans.’  As you probably know, in some societies young men did not cut their hair until reaching a certain age, as part of an adolescent rite of passage.  But of course not all the Achaeans in Homer’s poem are adolescents, by any means.  In the Classical period in Athens (5th C. BCE or so), the style of growing one’s hair long and luxurious (KOMOÔ or in Attic Greek KOMAÔ) was regarded as rather an aristocratic (and/or Spartan) habit.

4. I posed the question to Professor Anthony Kaldellis one of the Professors in this department:  “In Classical Greek, is it possible to understand the participle komoōntes as referring to ‘uncut hair’?”

Professor Kaldellis’ answer was:  “If it’s from komaô, sure, but more like letting the hair grow long rather than not cutting it, same thing in the end.”  In other words “letting the hair grow long” is the “same thing in the end” as “uncut hair,” which is what we affirm.

**(End quotes from Bro. Jason Weatherly’s blog)

*CEV:  A woman should wear something on her head.  It is a disgrace for a woman to shave her head or cut her hair (I Cor. 11.6).

*As it relates to the wearing of a literal veil, v. 15 could not be clearer:  “Her hair is given her for/anti a covering.”  The Greek preposition translated “for” is anti, where we get the English prefix “anti” and is defined as “instead of” or “against.”  The most straightforward rendering would be (and often is), “her hair is given her instead of a veil.”

*Paul further explained that even the nature of things teaches us on this matter.  How so?  First, nature teaches that there should be a visible distinction between male and female.  Second, in almost all cultures, men have worn short hair in comparison to women.  Third, men are ten times more likely to go bald than women.  It is natural for a man not to have any hair but unnatural for a woman not to have hair.  In addition, the Old Testament indicates that it is shameful for a woman to cut or lose her hair (Isaiah 3.17, 24; Jeremiah 7.29).

*From a historical perspective, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge; Vol. 5, p. 18, informs us: “Women never cut their hair (cf. Jer. vii. 29), and long hair was their greatest ornament (Cant. iv. 1; cf. I Cor. xi 15; Cant. vii. 5).”

*The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. 6, p. 158, “Hair”:  A woman’s hair was never cut except as a sign of deep mourning or of degradation.”  Remember, Jesus endorsed the Jewish concept(s) of God to the woman at the well (Jn. 4) and Paul affirmed that to the Jews were written, “the oracles of God” (Rom.).

*The World of Ancient Israel, pg. 84,  “When a woman was accused and found guilty of adultery, her hair was cut or her head shaved.”

*I have a myriad of additional quotes from historians who reference the Sioux’s practice of scalping the hair of the head as the emblem of losing one’s power and authority.  Adolf Hitler had all the women’s hair shaved upon their arrival at concentration camps during WW II.  At the liberation of Auschwitz, Jan. 1945, there was 7 tons of hair found in the camp’s warehouse (See Teresa Swiebocka’s, Auschwitz: A History in Photographs; p. 25).

*From a theological perspective, a woman’s hair is said to be a “covering,” and v. 7 specifies precisely what her hair is covering:  “For a man ought not to cover his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but (i.e., in contrast to this) the woman is the glory of man” (NET).

*That is, man’s hair is to be short “since he is the…glory of God,” but, in contrast to this—since woman is “the glory of man”—she should have long-uncut hair to “cover” man’s glory.

*My mind races to another “covering of Glory” in the tabernacle of Moses, namely the mercy seat.  Hannah lamented when the Ark of the Covenant was taken that “the glory of the LORD has departed.”  To the Hebrew mind, this is what the Ark represented as is well documented throughout Scripture.  Curiously, it was on this “covering” that Yahveh had Cherubim positioned as if “looking into.”  Interestingly, Paul explicitly ties in the notion that “because of the Angels” (I Cor. 11.10) women are to have this “covering” of uncut hair.

*No matter what interpretation one takes, just as angels were monitoring the OT covering of Glory, so angels are monitoring the NT “covering” of “glory.”  Consider for a moment what would have happened if Moses would have “shortened” the “covering” of the “glory?”  Sadly, this is the equivalent of what many in Pentecost and Dr. Boyd are advocating!

**What does “long hair” mean?  We will define it in two ways: (i) The literal definition of the word itself (which should be sufficient standing alone); (ii) Its usage else were in Scripture.

*Long Hair:  First, as we’ve seen above, the Greek term translated “long hair” is komaō and is defined as, “to allow the hair to grow.”  If one cuts their hair they are not “allowing it to grow,” particularly since the hair grows from the root and not the ends.  And, if a man has “long hair” it is a shame to him (1 Corinthians 11.14); that is, if a man has long and uncut hair.  Long hair on a man is equally uncut hair; therefore long hair on a woman would coequally be uncut hair.  Uncut hair is a shame to a man and a glory to a woman.  Or, as Dr. John Gill states, “But if a woman have long hair….And wears it, without cutting it, as men do.”

*The following quotation is extrapolated from Dr. Daniel Segraves, “Hair Length in the Bible” WAP, 1989 (pp. 43–45):

A question generally arises at this point:  How long must one’s hair be to fit the biblical definition of “long?”  The answer centers on the meaning of the Greek words Koma {a verb} and Kome’ {a noun}.  “Koma” is translated “have long hair” both in vv. 14 and 15.  According to Gingrich’s lexicon, this Greek verb means, “to wear long hair, let one’s hair grow long.”  Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon renders it “to let the hair grow, have long hair.”  Obviously, someone cannot allow hair to grow and cut it at the same time, particularly since the hair grows from the root & not the ends.

“Kome” is the Greek noun translated “hair” in the phrase “for her hair is given her for a covering” (v. 15).  The passages cited by Bauer’s Lexicon and Moulton and Miligan’s Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament indicate that “kome’” refers to uncut hair.  The passages cited by these works in which this noun occurs in Greek literature demand the meaning of “uncut hair.”  The same Greek word, “kome’,” is also used in the LXX to describe the Nazarite, who were forbidden to cut their hair.

*Dr. Spiros Zodhaites: komáo; contracted komo, fut. komeso, from kóme (G2864), hair.  To have long hair (1Co_11:14-15).  Paul teaches that a woman’s hair ought to be different from a man’s, and that a woman’s hair is equivalent to a “peribólaion” (G4018), something that is wrapped around, a veil or mantle.  From the context, it seems that the woman’s hair ought to be distinct from a man’s hair, not only in length, but also in ornamentation.

*Secondly, the way long hair is used elsewhere in Scripture would seem to demand the idea of uncut, or not trimmed.

*”They shall not shave their heads or let their locks grow long; they shall surely trim the hair of their heads.” Ezekiel 44.20

*In this verse it is clear that trimming the hair would prevent it from being long. Long hair is untrimmed hair.  This is not the only verse that indicates this:

*”All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head.  Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the LORD, he shall be holy.  He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long” (Numbers 6.5; ESV).

*The command to the one under the Nazarite Vow is:  “He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long.”  This is set in contrast to, “no razor shall touch his head.”  Clearly the Nazarite vow prohibited any cutting of the hair.

*Again, Dr. John Gill:  “he might not shave his beard, nor cut off his locks, and shave his head, nor cut short his locks with a pair of scissors, nor any with anything by which the hair may be removed, as Ben Gersom; nor pluck off his hair with his hands, as Maimonides says (x); but let it grow as long as it would during the time of his separation.”

*As mentioned above, some have argued that I Corinthians 11 merely applies to first-century Corinthian culture and so can be disregarded today.  However, v. 16 states that none of the “churches of God” had any other custom than what Paul had just taught.  At that time, there were Jewish, Greek, Roman, and various Asian churches.  Despite their many cultures, they all agreed on this practice.

*Finally, Revelation 9.8 describes a demonic army as having “hair as the hair of women.”  There is no biological difference between the hair of men and of women.  The difference is the length it is allowed to grow.  This fact was so evident in the late first-century churches that John – writing ca. thirty years after Paul – knew all his readers would understand his description.

*Let us hold fast to the written Word of God in the face of religious tradition!

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