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Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears his hair long it is a disgrace to him, whereas if a woman has long hair it is her glory, because long hair has been given her for a covering? (1 Corinthians 11:14-15)

Is men having long hair a sin?

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    I am not sure we will get very far with this because it is tricky to resolve. - It was probably a local custom but we cannot be certain.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 20:55
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    – agarza
    Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 3:12
  • What defines "long hair"?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 4:11
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    The definition of long hair is provided by the text by way of comparison. If the man has the hair of the woman, he has long hair. It is considered as a disgrace for the man to wear the glory of the woman.
    – oldhermit
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 12:30

6 Answers 6

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Let's see the context.

1 Corinthians 11:13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.

Paul was comparing man and woman's hair in this passage.

Men having long hair is a sin?

I don't think so.

Numbers 6:5 New International Version

"'During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the LORD is over; they must let their hair grow long.

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  • Just as long as these men with long hair realise that they, also, must not have a single drop of alcohol . . . . . . ever.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 18:46
  • Right @NigelJ, that was part of the consecration Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 21:00
  • @NigelJ I think the takeaway is that it isn't the case that long hair on men is a sin in general, so that explanation would be a bit too easy. There is no implication a man with long hair is automatically a Nazirite ;-)
    – kutschkem
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 11:56
  • I agree with your conclusion but it doesn't explain Paul's personal distaste for long hair on men OR women speaking in the fellowship of the brethren. Paul is adding his own opinions onto what the Spirit has revealed to him. Those things I listed are not asked of the question though. Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 7:41
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Men having long hair is a sin?

Men having long hair is a sin?

The answer is " Yes" this is what the verse teaches, it is a disgrace to him.

"Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears his hair long it is a disgrace to him, whereas if a woman has long hair it is her glory because long hair has been given her for a covering?" (1 Corinthians 11:14-15)

While personal taste and local custom have a definite bearing on how long a Christian man wears his hair, he does want it to reflect his masculinity. Similarly, Christian women style their hair modestly and with evident femininity, so it will be a glory for them.(1 Peter. 3:3, 1 Timothy . 2:9 )

1 Timothy 2:9 (NASB)

9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, [a]modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive apparel,

1 Peter 3:3 (NASB)

3 Your adornment must not be merely the external—braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or putting on apparel;

In Corinth, shaving a woman’s head, or clipping her hair very short, was a sign of her being a slave girl or of being in disgrace for having been caught in fornication or adultery.(1 Cor. 11:6 ).

1 Corinthians 11:6 (NASB)

6 For if a woman does not cover her head, have her also cut her hair off; however, if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, have her cover [e]her head.

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    Your conclusion doesn't follow your argument. In your examples, you're showing how a particular local custom/culture thing meant something (e.g. short hair = adultery), so then why would you reach the conclusion that this verse was talking specifically about the hair? Perhaps long hair for men meant something then, and it is that more general meaning that is disgraceful now.
    – J. Dimeo
    Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 0:19
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It is important to note that the overarching context of this strange section on head covering is one of praying and prophesying and the assumed venue is that of public prayer and prophesy rather than private, as the chapter goes on to corrections in the Church's practice of the Lord's Supper:

Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.  But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head - 1 Cor. 11:4-5a

After a certain amount of very confusing language Paul summarizes the teaching:

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. - 1 Corinthians 11:14-15

The word translated as "have long hair" appears to imply the connotation of an elaborate hairdo more than simply just length. This makes sense because the hair of both men and women naturally continues to grow:

The noun κομη (kome) means hair in the sense of one's head of hair, coiffure and even beard: one's carefully kempt hairdo. It's used in 1 Corinthians 11:15 only. The more common word for hair is the word for a single one: θριξ (thrix), see next. It's unclear where our noun κομη (kome) comes from, but an excellent candidate is the verb κομεω (komeo), meaning to tend. That would mean that the Greeks named a hairdo after the effort it took to make hair abandon its natural wildness and sit compliantly on one's head in an orderly and respectful manner: washed, combed and braided.

Thus we have nature "teaching" us by the fact that, left alone, hair does not grow and remain in a tame and well kempt fashion. If we tie this effort expended to compose an elaborate hairdo into the passages connection with authority we can understand this chapter as teaching that for a woman to expend effort to "tame" her hair is an outward sign that she is under the authority of Christ through a proxy...the man, whereas the man is directly under Christ's authority and should not expend great effort in this area since he has no proxy; i.e. the entirety of the man's person should be the outward sign that he is under the authority of Christ:

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. - 1 Cor. 11:3

Therefore if a man will keep his hair long or short it should be with a minimum of effort expended since he is not to be concerned with such an outward show toward others. No coiffures gentlemen!

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    In view of 1 Peter 3:3 where Christian wives are discouraged from seeking to be viewed as beautiful with braiding their hair and wearing expensive jewellery and fine clothes, is it not the women who should be wary of coiffures?
    – Anne
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 16:47
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    @Anne I think 1 Peter 3:3 treats especially elaborate plaiting of the hair and not just regular feminine hair care but, as the word is used only once, it is difficult to be certain. Certainly both sexes are discouraged from being primarily focused on outward appearance. Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 18:48
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"Sin" and "trespass" are legal terms that refer to violations of the Law.

Paul, being trained as a Pharisee, was precise in his language especially as it referred to matters of the law, sin, and trespass.

"Disgrace" - ἀτιμία- is best translated as "shame" and is neither sin nor trespass, which would be translated as παράπτωμα.

Nor is there anything about head coverings (excluding Nazaretes and various treatments for Leprosy) in the Mosaic Law, and it would be a repudiation of everything Paul taught to argue that he was trying to impose a Law of Haircuts on the Corinthians after repudiating circumcision and adherence to the Law of Moses.

Rather, Paul was here talking about matters of church order. He did not want the wife to shame the husband, or the husband to shame the wife, or the rich to shame the poor, and so he admonished the Corinthians, having a discussion about what is proper behavior, by urging them to dress modestly, for those who are wealthy to not adorn themselves extravagently when meeting in fellowship with believers who might be poor, for wives to not embarrass their husbands by flaunting their hair, etc.

It seemed that the church in Corinth experienced a revival of freedom in response to Paul's message of freedom, and they started flaunting local customs when they met, which was giving them a reputation in the city for looseness and was also causing some of the men to feel shamed as their wives exposed themselves in a manner that was looked down upon by the local community:

It cannot be unequivocally asserted but the preponderance of evidence points toward the public head covering of women as a universal custom in the first century in both Jewish culture ([apocryphal] 3 Maccabees 4:6; Mishnah, Ketuboth 7. 6; Babylonian Talmud, Ketuboth 72a-b) and Greco-Roman culture (Plutarch Moralia 3. 232c; 4. 267b; Apuleius The Golden Ass 11. 10). The nature of the covering varied considerably (Ovid The Art of Love 3:135–65), but it was commonly a portion of the outer garment drawn up over the head like a hood. It seems that the Corinthian slogan, “everything is permissible,” had been applied to meetings of the church as well, and the Corinthian women had expressed that principle by throwing off their distinguishing dress. More importantly they seem to have rejected the concept of subordination within the church (and perhaps in society) and with it any cultural symbol (e.g., a head-covering) which might have been attached to it. According to Paul, for a woman to throw off the covering was an act not of liberation but of degradation. She might as well shave her head, a sign of disgrace (Aristophanes Thesmophoriazysae 837). In doing so, she dishonors herself and her spiritual head, the man.[1]

Paul was trying to reign these tendencies in, hopefully in a discussion with adults in which no one needs to cry out about this or that being a "sin" as they demand a new Law.

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. 1 Cor 10.23 KJV


[1]David K. Lowery, “1 Corinthians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 529.

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There is a biblical case to be made for long hair upon men being emblematic of pride or rebellion. An example from scripture might be Absalom who rebelled against his father David. 2 Samuel 14:26, 18:9.

There are other examples, like Samson (Judges 13-16) and as other have mentioned, the Nazirite vows of Numbers 6:1-5 where long hair might be a part of ones consecration to YHVH.

Regarding head coverings, (1 Corinthians 11) this is one reason some Christian women wear scarves and men have adapted the custom of removing their hats while praying.

Regardless of how one wears their hair I would submit to those interested, that the real issue is the condition of our hearts and minds as God looks more at these things. (1 Sam 16:7, 1 Chronicles 28:9, John 7:24.)

Lots of people cannot afford fine clothes or hairstyles, much of which is vanity, but each of us may choose to humble ourselves before the LORD, or as Absalom, rebel and perhaps find ourselves in danger of divine judgement, therefore, we ought humble ourselves before God and man. (1 Peter 5:6, Matthew 23:12)

Blessings!

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Not necessarily. Paul's letters were letters to specific people at specific times in specific situations. Paul is saying it is a sin for them to have long hair, but it's not necessarily true that it's a sin for us today for men to have long hair. We need to unpack why it was a sin for them and then apply that same why to us today.

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