Thursday, May 18, 2006

Paul's hair

Sequel to: Head covering, custom or not?

In one of the comments of last week, Suzanne gave a link to A Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 by Norman E. Anderson. From that huge amount of information and opinion, I found some interesting notes.

In note 26 at verse 14 Norman writes:
Recall that while in Corinth, Paul had himself evidently worn his hair long (such seems the implication of Acts 18:18; cf. Numbers 6:18).
Paul had long hair!
How could Paul have his hair long while being amongst the people to whom he later seems to write that it is a shame for men to have long hair?
The more I think about this passage, the less sense the traditional translation makes; and the more sense the ISV translation makes.
Norman even proposes (in note 9 at verse 4-5) to translate these verses as rhetorical questions:
Does each man [or husband] praying or prophesying having a draped head dishonor his head? Yet does each wife [or woman] praying or prophesying with the head uncovered [or against the uncovered head] dishonor her head? Is she [or he] surely one and the same with [or as] she who has been shorn?
Maybe someone at Better Bibles Blog can give an opinion on this alternative translation?

There is one last clever question I want to cite. In a comment at Head covering? Keep your hair on! Suzanne McCarthy writes:
Personally, I wonder how Paul could say circumcision doesn't matter, but how long your hair is does matter. That is just shifting the emphasis from one outward ritualistic observance to another.


Peter Kirk said...

Did Paul really have long hair before Acts 18:18? Yes, he cut his hair at this point, or in fact he probably shaved it. I cut my hair today, as you may have seen in a comment on a Better Bibles Blog posting. But that does not imply that my hair was long before that; indeed it was quite short. In fact the only way for anyone to consistently have short hair is to cut it regularly - so having a hair cut is not evidence against having short hair, but rather more indicative in favour of it! But the safest thing to say about Acts 18:18 is that it doesn't tell us anything about the length of Paul's hair before this - except that he wasn't completely bald!

Ruud Vermeij said...

Well, if the vow was the Nazirite vow, long hair is a likely option, isn't it?
At least, it was not a normal haircut!

Suzanne McCarthy said...


I think that Paul must have had longish hair, but the passage doesn't give much information.

Peter Kirk said...

If it was a Nazirite vow, I thought the point was that he shaved his hair at the start and again at the end, but remained unshaven in between. We don't know how long the vow would have been for, but it would have taken several months for shaven hair to grow long enough to become unmanly or dangerous in machines - or whatever other criteria for hair being long you might choose to apply.

Don said...

On a nazirite vow, you start with head shaven and end with head shaven and the hair is offered to God. It indicates a length of time that one is under the vow, the minimum time is a lunar month, but it can be for any length of time. Both men and women could take this vow.

When one becomes unclean during a vow, you have to start over, and that means getting your head shaven again.