Arguing legalism is like staring down an angry beast – no matter your intentions or demeanor, the animal still believes you have invaded its territory. Its fangs are out, hair is standing on end, muscles are taught, and any movement could trigger the explosive reaction that results in a melee.
Yet, for all that, we enter the fray for the purpose of dispelling the fear that legalism always creates. And, legalism comes in so many forms that you simply can’t tackle them all, and while I’ve talked about the ‘Uncut’ hair theory before, I want to talk about it again.
There are ultimately three camps or trains of thought that have come out of 1 Corinthians 11 and the topic of long hair on men and woman in Biblical times, and whether it was a universal, eternal commandment.
- The long hair was interpreted as the actual ornamental veil worn by women, and that praying or prophesying in public without that veil was viewed as a shameful act. This seems to be the most factual or Scripturally supported view. It was specific to an event of worship, not a lifestyle commandment. This was, however, relative to the time and culture in which it was written and does not apply to Christians today.
- The long hair was interpreted as the actual ornamental veil worn by women and as such, some sects still believe it should be worn by the woman, even today.
- The long hair was interpreted as ‘uncut’ hair, and that while it speaks specifically of the act of public prayer and worship, certain sects believe it unholy for a woman to trim or cut her hair at all and this is a lifestyle commandment, not just pertaining to prayer and prophesying or public worship.
My followers know that I came out of a conservative sect (cult) of Christianity that teaches the latter point, that women were not to cut their hair, and furthermore, made audacious claims that the phrase ‘long hair’ in 1 Corinthians 11 was actually ‘uncut’ in the original Greek language. This claim has zero historical or linguistic support, making it a dubious claim at best but more than just a lie, a lie used to perpetrate spiritual abuse.
I’ve written about the Greek claim in another article so I won’t rehash it here. Needless to say, it is a complete lie, either spoken in ignorance, or in willful deception. There are, however, several other interesting facts about this passage of Scripture that helps us dispel this interesting dogma altogether.
So what does 1 Corinthians 11 actually say about hair? On the surface, it’s clear that it isn’t saying ‘uncut’ but let’s check it out.
For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? 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. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.
There are three main veins of thought to dispel the idea that the two words ‘long hair’ actually mean the verb or action of cutting one’s hair, as some teachers propose.
Yes, I know, this is quite uncommon actually. And, I know, that mainline fundamental Bible believers and teachers interject the notion that you cannot interject human understanding to understand the Bible. Which is just nonsense because it was written by Humans, for Humans, intended for them to understand it!
But what does human understanding and common sense have to do with this conversation?
Well, think about this. If this passage is to command that men are to have short, trimmed (cut) hair and that woman are to have long (uncut) hair, the Bible would then be contradicting itself by virtue of this interpretation. For instance, if ‘long hair’ actually meant ‘uncut hair’, then a mans hair could be just as long as the woman’s so long as he cut it.
If, as teachers of the ‘uncut’ theory say, that the long hair wasn’t in reference to length but to being cut, then their own dogmas of men having short hair contradict their own teaching. The uncut/cut theory would allow men to have hair as long as they wished so long as it was cut.
And, these teachers would need to re-arrange the Scripture to say this:
Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have uncut hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have uncut hair, it is a glory to her:
Furthermore, some teachers of the ‘uncut’ doctrine have made the false claim that the Greek word for ‘long hair’ in reference to a man and a woman is different in that verse. However, it takes a simple 60 seconds to look at the Biblical dictionary, Concordance, Lexicon, etc, to reveal that it is actually the very same word.
The problem with the above re-arrangement of 1 Corinthians 11:13-14a is that you cannot place ‘cut’ or ‘uncut’ in place of the word ‘long’. First and foremost because the word ‘long’ is interpreted from the same Greek word komaō in both places, which means tresses, not cutting.
You could make the argument that there were different connotations (cut vs. uncut) between the man’s hair and the woman’s hair if the Greek word being translated as ‘long’ was different in each case. It was not different, however.
Furthermore, commentaries, scholars, Biblical dictionaries, etc, agree that this was speaking of the ornamental veil worn by a woman during the time frame, as custom to Grecian woman when entering the temple/synagogue.
And, knowing that Paul was a learned man, well versed in the Scriptures, we must assume he knew what he was talking about, and that he had full command of the language he was using, or should we say, writing. The word komaō (G2863) and komē (G2864) both speak of the ornamental locks or tresses of hair but are not referencing the anatomical hair of the head.
Even the Strongs Concordance tells you when looking at komē (G2864) that this is different from the Greek word thrix (G2359) and that it is not speaking of anatomical hair. When looking at the word thrix (G2359) we see it declaring this to be the anatomical hair on the head, or of animal hair.
Why didn’t Paul use thrix if he was saying that a woman’s anatomical hair on her head was the covering?
Furthermore, there are eight basic Greek words to denote cutting or severing, while certainly, this list does not cover all of the words that could be applicable, it shows that there were many options plausible but that was not used in Paul’s teaching on hair.
- tomí̱ – incision, cutting, scission
- kópsimo – slash
- kóvo̱ – sever, pluck, cut out
- charakiá – to nick
- elátto̱si̱ – to reduce, or dimish
- kópto̱ – slash, or chip away
- charásso̱ – incise or carve
- apokoptō – to cut off, amputate
Why did Paul not use any of these words in 1 Corinthians 11? If the teaching was that men should cut their hair, and woman should not cut their hair, why did Paul not use a word that truly meant to cut, or sever?
If we simply take the concept that Scripture speaks for itself, and means what it says, and says what it means, we would trust that God inspired men to correctly write what He wanted them to write.
Thus, we can make the clear and bold claim that IF a woman cutting her hair was sinful, shameful, unholy, incorrect or even just culturally ‘not the norm’, it would have clearly defined this, and in multiple places. (Remember the Biblical rule that Scripture Translates Scripture)
There is no evidence in the Old Testament that a woman cutting her hair (trimming but leaving it long?) was seen as wickedness, or shameful, nor in the New Testament.
If you search the King James Version of the Bible for the word ‘cut’, you’ll find 308 verses, with 320 usages of the word. None of which, declare it incorrect for a woman to cut her hair. And we can research to see that the words used definitely imply severing, such as the word apokoptō, found in Acts 27:32.
Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off. ~ Acts :27:32, KJV
Or, since this word has the connotation of amputation or complete severance, we can find another word suntemnō which means to cut short, which would make more sense in the hair conversation, found in Romans 9.
For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. ~ Romans 9:28, KJV
This word means to cut into pieces or to cut short. Certainly, Paul would have had the ability to use this word had he truly meant to say, in 1 Corinthians 11, that a woman’s glory was her hair that was not cut short or cut/severed at all.
We must concede, that while it is culturally normal, even in modern times for a woman to appear more feminine than the man somewhat based upon the length of her hair, that there is no clear teaching in Scripture that a woman trimming even an inch of her hair has committed a sin before God.
There is neither Scriptural reference, hermeneutical findings nor historical findings to evidence this claim, made by fundamental Christian sects that a woman rebels against her authority or headship (husband) when trimming her hair, for either function or beauty.