The Hair Issue
By Jason Pound
In the Bible, there is only one scripture that seems to deal directly with the hair of men and women being handled differently (I Corinthians 11:1-16). However, there are ten other scriptures that are used in conjunction with this passage to make a case against the lawfulness of women being able to cut/dye their hair. First, let's examine these ten scriptures and how they are used (bolded headers) vs. what the real context is. Then we will examine I Corinthians 11 in detail. (Scripture taken from the New Living Translation.)
Hair Is A Symbol of Glory
1. Proverbs 16:31 Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life.
I dont see how you can make a case for women not cutting their hair. If you stretch it to the Nth degree you may be able to support a personal conviction against the dying of the hair, but then only if that hair is gray.
2. Ezekiel 5:1-4, 12 Son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a razor to shave your head and beard. Use a scale to weigh the hair into three equal parts. Place a third of it at the center of your map of Jerusalem. After acting out the siege, burn it there. Scatter another third across your map and slash at it with a sword. Scatter the last third to the wind, for I will scatter my people with the sword. Keep just a bit of the hair and tie it up in your robe. Then take a few of these hairs out and throw them into the fire, burning them up. A fire will then spread from this remnant and destroy all of Israel.
If this prophetic passage is used to show the violation of God's glory by the cutting of the hair, it also proves you violate God's glory by shaving your beard. It also applies to men, not women. This prophecy was fulfilled by the diaspora. A third of the Jewish population of the world died in a fire after the surrender of Jerusalem to foreign invasion, another third died by the sword in that same invasion. The remaining third that did not die by fire or sword were scattered across the globe. Hair is not the issue of this passage.
3. Ezekiel 16:7 And I helped you to thrive like a plant in the field. You grew up and became a beautiful jewel. Your breasts became full, and your hair grew, though you were still naked.
This is a beautiful description of the transformation of a female child to womanhood, but not a mandate from God to never cut your hair if you are a female.
Hair is a Symbol of Perfection and Strength
4. II Kings 2:23 Elisha left Jericho and went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, a group of boys from the town began mocking and making fun of him. "Go away, you baldhead!" they chanted. "Go away, you baldhead!"
No reference to women and uncut hair.
5. Dt 21:11-12 Suppose you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you are attracted to her and want to marry her. If this happens, you may take her to your home, where she must shave her head, cut her fingernails, and change all her clothes.
This only tells us that the Jews would shave their captives, cut their fingernails, and change their clothes. If you make an issue of the hair, you must also make issue of cutting your fingernails and changing your clothes.
Cut Hair was a Symbol of Disgrace or Mourning
Leviticus 21:5, Isaiah 15:2, Amos 8:10, Micah 1:16, Jeremiah 47:5
All of these scriptures refer to the shaving of the head, not the cutting of the hair. Why does someone have to go to Old Testament war/mourning customs that are 2000-4000 years old to dictate standards of behavior for a modern woman trying to look her best for her husband? That sounds a little out of context. Consider this: wearing black is a symbol of mourning in our culture. Is it a sin to wear black?
The scriptures used above never even hint at the inappropriateness of women cutting their hair!!!!
I Corinthians 11 is the primary instruction to the New Testament church regarding the length of a person's hair.
I Corinthians 11:1-16 (1-3 quoted here and the rest follows) And you should follow my example, just as I follow Christ's. I am so glad, dear friends, that you always keep me in your thoughts and you are following the Christian teaching I passed on to you. But there is ONE thing I want you to know: A man is responsible to Christ, a woman is responsible to her husband, and Christ is responsible to God. (emphasis is mine)
The whole issue of this chapter is to establish this one issue of authority.
A man dishonors Christ if he covers his head while praying or prophesying. But a woman dishonors her husband if she prays or prophesies without a covering on her head**, for this is the same as shaving her head.
The KJV uses the word covering instead of veil. However, according to most accredited theologians and language experts, Paul is specifically commanding the women to wear veils in church as a sign of submission to their husbands. If a female did not wear a veil in church, it was the same shame as if she had been shaven like a common slave or war captive.
Yes, if she refuses to wear a head covering, she should cut off all her hair. And since it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut or her head shaved, then she should wear a covering.
Who is it shameful to, God, or the people? This is the only passage in the entire Bible that refers to shame being associated with a woman having cut hair. (How come every major doctrine of the church is confirmed out of the mouth of two or three witnesses as Paul told us to do....all that is....except the issue of hair?)
The only problem here is that Paul is using common Hebrew customs to argue the spiritual law of submission. Just because the customs have changed doesn't mean that the principle of submission has changed. However, we cannot use the changing customs of mankind as unchanging doctrines. If one were to line up with custom and spiritual law, a modern woman would be submitted to her husband, have uncut hair, and wear a veil. Wow!! How about that?
A man should not wear anything on his head when worshiping, for man is God's glory, made in God's own image, but woman is the glory of man. For the first man didn't come from woman, but the first woman came from man. And man was not made for woman's benefit, but woman was made for man. So a woman should wear a covering (VEIL) on her head as a sign of authority because the angels are watching.* (Veil is my addition.)
The woman should wear a veil to show the angels that she is submitted to her husband.
But in relationships among the Lord's people, women are not independent of men, and men are not independent of women. For although the first woman came from man, all men have been born from women ever since, and everything comes from God. What do you think about this? Is it right for a woman to pray to God in public without covering her head?
Paul seems to be leaving room for the people to make their own decision here. To wear a veil or not to wear a veil. Hair isn't the issue, but the veil was the issue, the symbol of submission.
Isn't it obvious that it's disgraceful for a man to have long hair? And isn't it obvious that long hair is a woman's pride and joy? For it has been given to her as a covering.
Paul proves the validity of the veil as a sign of submission by appealing to the logic of the Hebrew custom of hair.
But if anyone wants to argue about this, all I can say is that we have no other custom than this, and all the churches of God feel the same way about it.
In his closing Paul says, we have no other custom, so just wear the veil. In submission to their Pastor, the Corinthian church wore veils and didn't allow the women to speak in church. Customs since then have changed, but the principle is the same; women submit to their husbands, who submit to Christ, who is submitted to God.
In conclusion, there is no biblical doctrine in support of the idea that women must not cut or dye their hair. If one is to rely on the Middle Eastern custom of cut hair being a shame, then one must also take hold of the custom that women must wear veils. Some try to say that Paul was telling the church that the hair is your veil. Read it for yourself, Paul didn't stutter. He said wear a veil because if you don't the shame is the same as shaving your head.
One last thought to consider: if the UPC definition of long hair is uncut, then the definition of short is cut. If that is true, it is not only so for the women, but also for the men. Therefore a man can have hair to the ground, but if it has been clipped, it is considered not long, but short. Legalistic interpretations of scripture create such inconsistencies. That is why a relationship with God is so important. He will quicken you in your spirit when you go past his guidelines for YOUR life.
* Do a study on veils and Corinth...a lack of a veil on a woman was a symbol of prostitution.
** Do a study on Hebraic beliefs regarding angels. As in witchcraft today, and as mentioned in parts of Genesis, some Jews (maybe Paul) believed that sexual intercourse/rape was a possiblity between angels and humans.
This writing is the copyright of Jason Pound and was posted with his permission. Jason Pound is a former UPC minister. He was an assistant pastor at Turning Point, formerly North United Pentecostal Church, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and is now a hopeful skeptic. These articles were written while he was a believer. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to write. View all of his available articles here.
Page added July 6, 2006
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