Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Uncut Hair Issue

Is it a sin for a woman to cut her hair?
Can a woman cut her hair?
A womans hair is her glory!

It is not a sin for a woman to cut her hair... Plain and simple. I am sure you have heard or even uttered the above questions of comments. This standard has been a debated item within the Pentecostal movement, mainly however it is an issue singular to the Oneness adherents. Such as the United Pentecostal Church, and other Oneness Pentecostals orgs and independents.

As with many of the “holiness dress standards” it too has caused a great deal of division, strife and confusion in the church. This “Holiness Dress Standard” has caused many to leave the church, others to not consider church, and it has even divided family members, it has certainly detoured many, and as you will see, all this confusion, strife and division is over an issue that cannot be proven biblically. That's right, there is not a shred of biblical text t o support it!

What one must first establish is: “Is there any reason to believe that this belief, the “no hair cutting” standard, has any real biblical virtue?” Such questions therefore must be asked and suitably answered.

Do we have clear biblical precedence for such a position?

What text is used to support the issue, and does the text state such?

One would surmise if biblical instruction where as easily defined and found, as some pretend it to be, their would be no argument, and all christians... trinitarians, baptists, methodists etc... would adhere and follow! The truth however is; it is not a clearly defined topic in the WORD, and to be honest, those who ascribe to it, at best define it in a manner most confusing!

There are no direct biblical commands, or precepts that state women should not cut their hair.

Instead we have several verses located in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 that make references to the hair, of both a man and a woman. These texts however do not at all clearly and concisely lead one in a manner that we might formulate such a position… The truth of the matter is, biblical, Greek and historical scholars of great reputation have NOT considered such instruction or direction to be given by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11, nor do they consider the text to in any way validate such a position.

Let us consider the following:


I want to first consider the cultural atmosphere surrounding this text. In Paul's day women walked with great discretion in regards to sobriety and humility. In fact most women would not even expose their face in public. They wore veils to cover their heads, and their faces similar to those seen in cultures in the Middle East today.

Note: Please note a few excerpts from Dakes Annotated Bible

10 reasons women should be veiled

· It had been a custom for ages for women to be veiled.

· It was jewish law that no woman be seen in public veiled

· Among Greeks, Romans and other nations it was a custom also

· Only public prostitutes in the east went without veils, hence to pray or prophesy without a veil would be identifying Christianity with harlotry

· If a women appeared in public without a veil she would disgrace her head – the husband. It would be the same as a woman who had hair shorn off as punishment for whoredom and adultery

· It was becoming to a woman in that day to be veiled and not common for a Christian woman to pray or prophesy unveiled. That would make her like the heathen priestess who prayed and delivered the oracles bareheaded or with disheveled hair

To understand 1 Corinthians 11, at all, we must realize the great cultural significance of the veiling customs in the Eastern cultures, and the Corinthian culture. The veil brought humility, respect and honor to the woman. It was a display of submission and modesty in Corinth, and once again still is the custom used among the eastern women of today. Lets establish first that the women in Corinth, and the culture of Corinth demanded they wear a material veil.

William Barkley, in his book, Letters to the Corin­thians, page 97

"Today, the eastern women wear the "yashmak" which is a long veil leaving the forehead and eyes uncovered but reaching down almost to the feet. In Paul's time the eastern veil was even more concealing. It came right over the head with only an open­ing for the eyes and reached right down to the feet. A respectable eastern woman would never have dreamed of appearing without it."

Corinthian propriety deemed it shameful and immodest for women to speak in church, and to appear without a veil. The Apostle Paul talks about both of these social practices in the book of Corinthians. In one context the Apostle Paul discusses women keeping silent in church this happens in chapter 14, here in chapter 11 he gives a dissertation on the veiling of a woman. The Apostle Paul is guide lining the veiling custom, and he expresses his desire that the Corinthian women have their heads covered with a veil while praying and prophesying.

1Co 11:5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

1Co 11:6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

With this in mind let’s look deeper into veiling and Corinthian culture.

Veiling and Corinthian Culture

The first issue we must understand in exposing the uncut hair issue is the fact that 1 Corinthians 11 actually has nothing to do with hair. It is instead a culturally relevant text dealing with the artificial veil chaste women wore in the time and the culture of Corinth.

Many, in fact MOST scholars believe that veiling was an issue in the Corinthian culture, and the majority of facts point to this truth: That Corinthian culture participated in the act of veiling. This was the theme, and point of 1 Corinthians 11, and not the hair of a woman.

The pulpit Commentary Volume 19, page 370,

“If a woman appeared in public unveiled she was deemed immodest. To wear a veil was a sign of womanly delicacy and hence, if she went to a public assembly without her veil, she acted shamelessly,. To be consistent Paul argues “let her also be shorn” and so assume the mark of a disreputable woman”

Furthermore John Ruef’s book “Paul’s First Letter To Corinth States

“Paul now arrives at what seems to be his main concern in this section, the appearance of a woman. He takes for granted the customs regarding appearance in the worship of the church. Men are “uncovered” when the pray or prophesy as is proper. One must surmise(in the context of other problems women where creating in Corinth) that some women in the congregation where following the custom of men and praying and prophesying with their heads uncovered. In doing this they where ignoring their sex….. The evidence with regards to the wearing of veils refers largly to customs which obtained in public…. The remarks about shaving and shearing may best be taken as a bit of a rhetorical overstatement”

David Wasmundt – Neo Phariseeism

“The eastern women were thouroughly surbordinate in many aspects of daily living. For example, Corinthian propriety deemed it shameful and immodest for women to speak in church and to appear without a veil. The Apostle Paul speaks about both of these social practices in the book of Corinthians. The Apostle deals with women keeping silent in church in chapter 14, and in chapter 11, the apostle is dealing with the veiling custom and expresses that Corinthian women should have their heads covered with a veil while praying and prophesying….

Daniel Seagraves book – “Women’s Hair The Long and the Short of It”

“ The Corinthians had written to Paul asking about the wearing of veils. Their question had nothing to do with the length of a woman’s hair nor whether it should be cut. Paul assumed they understood that a womans hair was not to be cut and uses this knowledge to tell the women to observe the cultural custom of the wearing of veil’s”

John Wesley - A name I am sure we all recognize:

For this cause also a woman ought to be veiled in the public assemblies, because of the angels - Who attend there, and before whom they should be careful not to do anything indecent or irregular.

But every woman - Who, under an immediate impulse of the Spirit, (for then only was a woman suffered to speak in the church,) prays or prophesies without a veil on her face, as it were disclaims subjection, and reflects dishonour on man, her head. For it is the same, in effect, as if she cut her hair short, and wore it in the distinguishing form of the men. In those ages, men wore their hair exceeding short, as appears from the ancient statues and pictures.

Therefore if a woman is not covered - If she will throw off the badge of subjection, let her appear with her hair cut like a man's. But if it be shameful far a woman to appear thus in public, especially in a religious assembly, let her, for the same reason, keep on her veil.

Page 2078 of the NIV Life Application Bible states the following regarding this passage:

. "We need to read it in the context of the situation in Corinth. The matter of wear­ing hats or head coverings, although seem­ingly insignificant, had become a big problem because two cultural backgrounds were col­liding. The Jewish women always covered their heads in worship. For a woman to un­cover her head in public was a sign of loose morals. On the other hand, Greek women .where used to worshiping without head coverings...Thus Paul told women who were not wearing head coverings to wear them. not because it was a scriptural com­mand, but because it kept the congregation from dividing over a petty issue that served only to take people's minds off of Christ."

Page 200 of Barnes Commentary says of this passage: . "...some of the women who on pretense of being inspired, had prayed or prophesied in the Corinthian church, had cast off their veils after the manner of the heathen priestesses. This indecent and improper custom the Apostle reproves."

Page 379 of Pulpit Commentary states:

"The veil was a recognition of subordination and an indication of modesty...For by dis­carding the head-covering a woman put her­self in the class of the disreputable. It was but a carrying out of the principle involved for a women to have her head shaved (vers. 5.6) which was sometimes done in the case of those who had forfeited their honor...In estimat­ing the teaching of this passage. we must discriminate between the necessary and the accidental. The principle is that women should be so attired as to indicate...their rightful position. Because women in Western Churches are not so attired, it does not follow that they are acting antagonisti­cally to the Corinthian instruction"

Halley's Bible Handbook has this to say about the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16:

"Some of the Christian women taking advan­tage of their new found liberty in Christ, were making bold to lay aside their veils in Church meetings, which horrified those more modest type. They are here told not to defy public opinion as to what was considered proper in feminine decorum at Corinth."

(The Woman and Her Covering, pg. 30, by Bill Cavender).

"The truth is that the veil is the covering demanded in I Cor. 11: 4-7. This veil fully covered the head and hanged down from the head....It can be large enough to carry and hold six measures of barley, four and one-half gallons, Ruth 3: 15-17, and of such texture and material so that the face cannot be seen. Exo. 34: 33-35; 2 Cor. 3: 13..."

Philo, a first century Alexandrian Jew, describes the head-covering (Greek epikranon) as a token of modesty which the guiltless use.

Further Evidence of the veil in Tarsus is provided by Dio Chrys[ostom] Or[ationes], 33, 46 with coins bearing the image of Tyche of Tarsus."19 Regarding the veiling of women in Tarsus, William M. Ramsay relates that Dio Chrysostom praises only one Tarsian characteristic unreservedly, and that he praises, though it was, as he says, utterly different from the Hellenic custom [i.e., Greek custom-emphasis mine-bt]. He was much pleased with the extremely modest dress of the Tarsian women, who were always deeply veiled when they went abroad. As Tarsian ladies walked in the street, you could not see any part either of their face or of their whole person, nor could they themselves see anything out of their path.20

So it seems that some very heavy hitters completely agree that Paul is addressing the cultural custom of “veiling” that was certainly historically present in Corinth, at the time of Paul’s writing, and not the hair length or a woman! We could include many more findings, historians and references regarding the fact that in Corinth veiling (artificial) was a custom, or cultural practice, but at the threat of shear boredom, we shall assume the aforementioned is sufficient support to accept that such a custom, “headdress veiling”, was present at Corinth and at the time of Paul’s writing 1 Corinthian’s, and that this custom was a weighty matter.

Thus it is easily concluded, that the entire text of 1 Corinthians, Chapter Eleven, is based on the woman being (artificially) veiled, or unveiled. Veiled is appropriate, and unveiled was shameful….The argument then becomes one of supposition…..What was the veil? Was it cultural, or was it a precedence that transcends all time and place?

These commentaries all clearly support the cul­tural relevance of 1 Corinthians 11, and that Paul is dealing with this in Corinth. Many Bible translations of this passage also give the same impression of cultural intent and relativity.

The King James translates Verse 16:

But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

The Amplified Bible says in 1 Corinthians 11:13:

Consider for yourselves; is it proper and de­cent according to your customs for women to offer prayer to God [publicly] with her head uncovered?

These questions to some are difficult, but not for most …..In fact retrospectively speaking a very small few really believe in the doctrine of uncut hair and 1 Corinthians 11 as a suitable text for establishing such a doctrine.

Historians and theologians with 99% unity agree the chapter was in regards to an artificial veil and this was most definantly a custom at the time of Paul’s writings in Corinth. as previously exampled. Please note the following reference:

Reference: Jewish Headcoverings and Corinthian culture says

Sha'ul(Paul) said that men should not cover/katakalupto (Strong's 2619) their heads. And in verse 11 Sha'ul(Paul) contrasts that with: "Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered/akatakaluptos/?" (Strong's 177) Note that 'uncovered'/akatakaluptos is the opposite of 'to cover'/katakalupto. Katakaluptos basically means to Uncover or Unveil. So far, we have a 'men uncover, women cover' command. Now for where the confusion comes in: When Sha'ul(Paul) refers to a woman's natural hair covering, he uses an altogether different word: "But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering/peribolaion." (Strong's 4018). Peribolaion means something thrown around (loose items like a veil, a mantle, a vesture). Hair is more like a glorious decoration given to woman. Now if Sha'ul(Paul) had meant the naturally occurring hair covering and the headship-type covering to be one and the same, he would have used the same word for each. Instead, a woman's natural hair covering (peribolaion) is being contrasted to this other covering (katakalupto) that women wear. In fact, the katakalupto actually *covers* the peribolaion.

This is important

katakalupto actually *covers* the peribolaion.

A Covering – not the Covering

(1Co 11:15) But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

We covered this earlier – but let us re-state. Some say this states the woman’s hair is her covering. However the apostle uses a different word al together in this text, to note the coverings to which he is referring. Plus note the phrasing her hair is given her for a covering. He states “a” covering – not “the” covering. Theologians agree the meaning is “a covering” – that states she is chaste and a woman of dignity in the culture of Corinth and nothing more- it is a reference back to the veil to which he is teaching, and not hair.

Paul(The Apostle) is speaking in greater reference to a covering that is more than just hair, something that would cover the whole body…. Much as the eastern covering would. This is to say that the hair is “a covering” and much like a woman has “a covering”(her hair) that separates her from the then disreputable practice of women shaving their heads(we will later discuss) So she should also wear “the covering” (katakalupto actually *covers* the peribolaion) Which would be the material veil that covers her both body and hair, as was proper in the city of Corinth for the women.

A Shame For A Woman

1 Corinthians 11:6 with “Strongs” Greek

1Co 11:6 For if the woman be not covered(katakalupto¯From Strongs G2596 and G2572; to cover wholly, that is, veil: - to cover, hide.), let her also(kai Apparently a primary particle, having a copulative and sometimes also a cumulative force; and, also, even, so, then, too) be shorn(keiro A primary verb; to shear) : but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.(katakalupto)

Above we have one of the verses used by the “no hair cutting crew” Paul references the culture and he references nature with the custom of veiling… By saying simply this:

If a woman, in Corinth chooses to be uncovered, or unveiled (akatakaluptos) ..she should shave her head also…showing her disrespect and disgrace. For to be unveiled is of similar disgrace

1Co 11:6 For if a woman is not covered [or, veiled], let her also have her hair cut off, but if [it is] disgraceful [or, shameful] for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be having herself shaved, be letting her be covered [or, veiled].

1Co 11:6 So if a woman does not cover her head, she should cut off her hair. If it is a disgrace for a woman to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her own head.

Paul is refencing the shame of a shaven head on a woman to the shame of a woman who is unveiled.

To have the head shaven on a woman was a sign of disgrace and the attire of a prostitute, in those times. Please note the following reference.

Nelson King James Study Bible –

“In Corinth it was not uncommon for prostitutes and loose women to shave their heads….signifying their availability to the men in the streets. Just as no respectable woman in today’s culture would appear in public in the attire of a prostitute it was equally important that a woman not be seen in public without her head covering”

The above being true, Paul established that reputable women wear a artificial veil, because in Corinth women of good reputation, chaste women where veiled, if they choose not to, they are as disgraceful as a woman of ill repute, even a prostitute, who in Corinth, shaved their heads! This behavior was disgraceful. Please note the following…..

Plutarch Quaest. Rom. xiv

In New Testament times, however, among both Greeks and Romans, reputable women wore a veil in public

So then Paul writes if a woman refused the wearing of her veil, then she might as well shave her head. But since cultural convention(the culture present in Corinth at the time) deems it to be a shame to shave or shear off the hair, women of sobriety and respect should wear a veil!

Now then it does not say in this passage that women should not cut their hair. The truth is the hair reference is indirect, and it is cultural support for a cultural teaching regarding the cultural practice of artificial veiling, yet with no clear reason some insist that this hair reference is a biblical command and what is more deplorable it is a test of holiness, fellowship and true faith!

The unfortunate truth is too many women this a source of bondage!

Headaches, head acne, receding hair lines and all kinds of medical problems have resulted for some, due to this standard, even in light of this. No exceptions are given. Woman are tricked, fooled and taught that their uncut hair is a biblical command, a gateway to real anointing, releasing angels, and is pleasing to GOD. Such statements are made without any biblical precedence, text, or backing.

This by its own attributes constitutes it as legalistic, pharisaical, and heretical.

Her Glory

Oft times the reason given for the no hair cutting standard is because a woman’s hair according to verse 15 is her "glory". Some then conclude that a woman should not want to cut her "glory." , and that “glory” is her uncut hair. The problem with this thought is the bible is completely void of any verse that states in any such manner that a woman’s glory is her uncut hair.

It is notable to further state that the cutting of her hair, or the lack of cutting the hair provides neither more or less in regards to her “glory”, or holiness, or anointing. These statements are further manipulations to assert a holiness dress standard without the need of biblical mandate. The truth of the matter is many women who hold to the “no hair cutting” standard: will rat their bangs, twist, or even burn their hair. This way they can shorten without actually cutting it. How does this I wonder affect their glory? It examples the desperation some exist in. Lets us deal with the text that states a woman’s hair is her glory.

(1Co 11:15) But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

Glory according to the Strongs Concordance

G1391 doxa


From the base of G1380; glory (as very apparent), in a wide application (literally or figuratively, objectively or subjectively): - dignity, glory (-ious), honour,

Gill Expository

it is a glory to her; it is comely and beautiful; it is agreeable to her sex, she looks like herself; it becomes and adorns her:

This simply is to say that her hair worn in a long fashion shows her femininity. It being a glory to her has nothing to do with any spiritual application. Instead it has to do with being chaste, humble and honorable.

In the days of Paul, a woman who was shaven or shorn was associated with the temple prostitutes, as we saw earlier. So it was in those days that woman kept their hair long, as a display of humility, and chasteness.

There is little argument here regarding the context and meaning of this text. Her hair shows who she is, a woman of virtue, or a prostitute. In this manner it was a covering in Corinth.

Shorn and Shaven

It is clear and evident that Paul never stated women should not cut their hair. It is equally clear that he is not in reality discussing the length of a woman’s hair at all, but is instead teaching on veiling. The words shaven and shorn in describ­ing what a woman might as well do if she didn't wear a veil while praying or prophesying present themselves in this dissertation. I want to discuss these words for a moment

The word shave - and the word shorn are descriptive of cutting off all the hair, and is most commonly used in reference to shearing sheep.

For if the woman be not covered. let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven., let her be covered (1 Corin­thians 11:6).

Those that teach women's hair must never be cut use as their only scriptural reference the fact that since the word shorn can mean any cutting at all, it must therefore be interpreted that any cutting is having the hair shorn. This defeat’s the argument Paul is making. He is stating for a woman not to wear a veil would be similar to the woman of prostitution in Corinth who shave their heads

Shorn in this context is used as in the manner of complete removal of the hair, or closely shaving the head, and not just any removal of it. Most of the definitions are derived from or are in connection with shearing the wool of sheep. Some reference to closely shaving the head, as we will see from scripture.

Shorn comes from the Greek word "keiro" which means “to shear”. In addition to Paul’s reference to "shorn " in 1 Corinthians 11, the only other time "keiro" is translated as “shorn” in the Bible, appears in Acts 18:18

And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren. and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea:for he had a vow.

The usage of the word “keiro" or shorn in this text is descriptive of Paul shaving his head, which was a ceremonial portion of the vow he took. Therefore when Paul had his hair “shorn”or “kiero”, what was accomplished was his head was shaved.

The Message Bible states

“Paul stayed a while longer in Corinth, but then it was time to take leave of his friends. Saying his good-byes, he sailed for Syria, Priscilla and Aquila with him. Before boarding the ship in the harbor town of Cenchrea, he had his head shaved as part of a vow he had taken.”

James M. Freeman, author of Manners and Customs of the Bible

"many believe that Paul had taken a Nazarite vow, and was ending it. It was the custom to finish the term of this vow by shaving the hair off that had been allowed to grow."

So in the only other place in the Bible the word "keiro" is translated as shorn, we find it referring to the shaving off of the hair and not just simply trimming or cutting it. This is the ONLY other reference!

So we can see that shorn in 1 Corinthians 11:6 or the word “kiero” is not just trimming the hair, but instead refers to the shaving of it, or having it sheared, as Paul had done in Cenchera.

The Living Bible also states these facts clearly: ...if a man refuses to remove his hat while praying or preaching, he dishonors Christ. And that is why a women who publicly prays or prophesies without a covering on her head dishonors her husband [for her covering is a sign of her subjection to himJ. Yes, if she refuses to wear a head covering, then she should cut off all her hair. And if it is shamefulfor a woman to have her head shaved. then she should wear a covering (1 Corinthians 11:4-6).

Lack of Scripture

Perhaps the most powerful point one can make is this: The bible does not state that woman should have uncut hair. Therefore how can man dictate such a law?

Regardless of your explanation of the purpose of this passage, the bottom line remains the Bible does not command that a women should not cut her hair.

The WORD is simply non –existent of such an exercise.

So if the Bible does not command it, how can we or why should we? It has been clearly shown that Paul uses hair as the symbol of the veil, and that wearing a literal material veil was the main subject of 1 Corinthians 11 and all theologians, and resources support and agree with this.

Remember Paul specifies this covering is to be worn while praying or prophesying. It is a removable piece, hair is not removable!


We see only one verse in the entire WORD OF GOD concerning woman’s hair. Since this is true, it is not proper to use this an indirect hair reference as the only premise for biblical precedence in creating a “no hair cutting rule”

If we had other scriptures, stating similar and certainly clearer instruction, then we could contend the issue. We don't however....

With the weight of commentators, theologians and historical data, it is ever evident that the apostle was not setting rules for women and their hair length. He was dissertating of proper veiling customs in the city of Corinth. It is virtually impossible to not see the cultural implications present in the text. A literal rendition of the text would require the insistence that women wear veils, not that they have uncut hair. Such a premise cannot be deduced from this text of scripture….in any manner.

If God wanted women to never cut their hair, why do we not have a simple outlined dissertation of this, and multiple texts on the issue. Why is it so fogged by difficult words, and indiscernible phrasings?

It is often stated the bible does not directly state that a person should not smoke either. The bible does however state

a. The Bible does state it is a sin to defile the body (1 Co. 3: 16, 17)

b. It has been proven that smoking does damage and harm the body.

Smoking, drugs, alcohol are obvious evils, and damaging to the body. Such a comparison is unmeritorious - Hair cutting is not a health hazard, nor does it damage the modesty or a woman. The comparison is without merit, and a “grasping at straws”!

When Is Long, Long?

I have heard it said long hair is only hair that has not been cut. In fact as of late, I have heard this a lot. One could argue we take this approach with men. That as long as they trim the ends it can be as long as they wish. This is a silly notion, and these same individuals will state this truth to be untrue for men, so their argument is seriously flawed. Such a notion lacks biblical fortitude, and sound logic.

Certainly a woman can and should be distinguished as a woman, by the things she wears, and in my opinion even the style of her hair. Some women however have short hair, despite not cutting it. In fact it may well be longer if she did trim the ends. Nonetheless these are of cultural opinion and not actual biblical command

It is certainly reasonable to believe that women who cut their hair can still preserve the distinction of womanhood, or do so without looking like a man. However that is not the concept of the text anyway! Since the bible does not state that uncut hair is a biblical mandate, man cannot make it a requirement for fellowship, anointing or right standing. To do so is pharisaical in nature and is unmeritorious.