By: J.R. Ensey
There has long been a popular idea that Jesus wore His hair long. He is often portrayed in dramas and paintings as having hair quite similar to a woman’s. The hippies and other non-conformists types have used that perception to justify their long locks.
Did Jesus really wear His hair long like a woman? Let us go to the Bible and history for the answer.
I. Jewish Priests Did Not Have Long Hair
In John 1:38 Jesus is called a Rabbi: “They said unto (Jesus), Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?” Again in verse 49, Nathanael called him “Rabbi.” Nicodemus referred to him as a rabbi (John 3:2). The common people recognized him as such (John 6:25).
The term rabbi is not the absolute equivalent of a priest, but meant Master, particularly a master teacher. Jesus was not a priest after the order of Aaron, not being a Levite, but was referred to at least twelve
times in the Epistle to the Hebrew Christians (e.g. 2:17; 3:1). Had Jesus not conformed in appearance to the priesthood they would never have called Him rabbi. Jesus would not have spurned the code clearly spelled out in Ezekiel 44:20 – “Neither shall (the priests) shave their heads, nor suffer their locks to grow long, they shall only poll their heads.” The word poll means to “lop, clip, or shear” the hair relatively close to the head.
Doubtless, no one would have referred to Jesus as Rabbi, or Master Teacher, or High Priest, if he had looked like Little Lord Fauntleroy, ZZ Top, or Michael Jackson!
II. Paul’s Reference To Men’s Hair In I Cor. 11
The primary subject of the Apostle’s comments to the Corinthians in this chapter was not hair but headship. They were prompted by questions from the church about the necessity for their women to wear veils on their heads. He pointed out that women were to wear long hair as a covering so there was no
absolute need to wear a veil. Long hair was essential as a symbol of her recognition that she was under male headship. In this context, men should not have long hair: “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him” (v. 14)?
Paul’s comments were made less than thirty years after Christ. Is it reasonable to think that Paul could have obtained their cooperation in this matter if Jesus had sported long hair?
III. Long Hair On Men Was Not Stylish
Palestine was under Roman rule at the time of Christ. Disregarding the Jewish law or biblical injunctions, long hair on men was not the custom in the Roman empire. Emperors, Senators, Generals, and other important men who were portrayed in statuary and other works of art had cropped hair. Jesus would have been a curiosity indeed – a bizarre eccentric – had he worn his hair in the way it is commonly portrayed today.
IV. Medieval Artists Created The Long-Haired Jesus
Artists like Michaelangelo and his contemporaries preferred to depict Jesus with woman-like hair. While longer hair on men was more common in Europe in the Middle Ages, many of the artists were homosexuals (a widely known fact today) who probably preferred portraying a softer, more feminine Christ. The long hair was a perfect way to do so. This was evidently handed down through the ranks of male artists who generally have no quarrel with femininity in men. Even the more contemporary painting, Salmon’s Head of
Christ, is beautiful as art, but makes Jesus to appear very feminine.
Jesus was evidently a manly individual. He was respected as a male even when he was twelve years old (Luke 2:41-52). He evidently assisted His father in the carpentry shop in Nazareth. When he cleansed the temple, he used a whip he had fashioned himself (John 2:15). He was no wimp! He overthrew their tables, drove men and animals out of the temple court, and gave them a stern rebuke! It would have taken a man who was all man to do what He did!
V. Jesus Was Not A Nazarite
Many mistakenly think Jesus was a Nazarite – one who has taken a special oath or vow of consecration to God, including not cutting the hair or partaking of wine. Samson is an example of one who had taken this vow (Judges 13:5). It was also the promise of Hannah to the Lord that if she could bear a son that no razor would come upon his head (I Samuel 1:11). Her desire was that he be specially consecrated to the service of the Lord. The entire sixth chapter of Numbers is dedicated to the vow of the Nazarite.
But Jesus nor his mother took such a vow. He was called a Nazarene (Matthew 2:23), but that merely referred to the fact that He hailed from Nazareth.
Today, long hair on women still symbolizes their submission to God-ordained authority. On men it means the opposite. Just as shorn hair on women indicates a measure of rebellion, men’s long hair also indicates an attitude of rebellion. It became a popular way to express anarchy and rebellion against the traditional institutions of American society in the ’60’s – by institutions we mean church, government, school, and home. Political radicals such as Jerry Rubin, and rock music groups like the Beatles, led the way and encouraged the young men of our nation and the world to express rebellion by letting their hair grow long. Rebellion led to decadent lifestyles, the penalty for which our present society is paying dearly.
Godly men and women the world over are wise to reject conformity to cultural mores that conflict with the word of God: “Be not conformed to this present world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2).
(The above material appeared in the July 1992 issue of The Mississippi Torch.)
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