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According to the LXX, Leviticus 19:27 states:

You will not make curled hair from the hair of your head, nor shall you disfigure the appearance of your beard.

The Greek word for curl is σισόην which means to sift and is also used in Luke 22:31 in the context of Satan trying to sift Apostle Peter like wheat.

The surrounding context of 19:27 seems to be non-existent as this is the chapter that concerns general laws.

Does this mean that curling my hair is a sin? If so why?

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    IF curling naturally straight hair is a sin, then is straightening naturally curly hair also a sin? I can think of the sin of vanity, in cases where people try to make themselves look attractive, but I suspect that is a side issue. It all hinges on motive, or purpose, right?
    – Lesley
    Sep 18, 2023 at 11:59
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    Really? How could any word used in the context of Satan trying to 'sift Peter like wheat' ever mean anything like 'curl'? I'm suggesting one of those meanings is clearly wrong. Sep 18, 2023 at 21:59
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    By your use of Leviticus (applying it to the present), owning slaves would be fine, so long as they are freed at Jubilee. Sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. Levitical laws aren't applicable today to Christians. Sep 19, 2023 at 7:58
  • If you take the Bible as written, you're going to have a lot of problems living in modern society, under modern moral principles, such as that of equality between genders and races, and with modern understanding of science. Many use some rationalisations to explain away the things they disagree with (while others just disregard the book altogether).
    – NotThatGuy
    Sep 20, 2023 at 10:40
  • Recently, Iranian government announced a dress code for students that includes avoidance of having curly hair to be more aligned with the Islamic values. Sep 27, 2023 at 20:10

4 Answers 4

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First, the immediately surrounding verses of the text in question are significant. From verse 26 to 29, all those laws pertain to avoiding pagan beliefs and practices. Verse 27 is one of those.

Context helps sort out what was meant, as does going by the Hebrew word used in verse 27. From Matthew Henry's Commentary, he shows how (vs. 26) the way the Gentiles used blood was to gather the blood of their pagan sacrifices in a vessel and to identify themselves with demons. Superstitions and horoscopes etc had been seen by the Israelites when in Egypt; they must have no truck with them. Here is his quote regarding verse 27:

"There was a superstition even in trimming themselves used by the heathen, which must not be imitated by the people of God - You shall not round the corners of your heads. Those that worshipped the hosts of heaven, in honour of them, cut their hair so as that their heads might resemble the celestial globe; but as the custom was foolish itself, so, being done with respect to their false gods, it was idolatrous." Commentary, Matthew Henry, p 137 columns 2 & 3, Hendrickson, 2008

He then deals with other pagan customs, such as for the dead - cutting one's flesh, and marking one's body, also with prostituting one's daughter in pagan rituals. All these practices were of the one cloth - and had to be cut completely out of the people of God. So verse 17 is to be understood in that context - pagan customs.

Another commentary makes this observation about the verse in question:

"27 not round the corners of your heads: i.e. to cut round, so as to have a tuft of hair, like the Canaanitish priests. Cp. Jer. 9:26; 25:23; 49:32. corners of the beard = whiskers, as Egyptians did. Cp. Gen. 41:14." The Companion Bible (study notes) p161, Bullinger Publication Trust, 1974 reprint

There was no overt pagan association with making straight hair curly, or coiling it into ringlets any more than there was of making curly hair straight. The Hebrew word that has been taken in the LXX to mean 'curl' is naqaph in Young's Concordance, and means 'To go or compass round about'. That might lend itself to the idea of straight hair becoming 'round' in the sense of curly. But in paganism of the day, the emphasis was on cutting off hair in certain ways.

For Christians today, modesty in appearance and apparel is encouraged, but there is simply nothing said about making straight hair curly (or vice versa).

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    Incidentally, this is the source for jewish custom not to excessively trim the side-burns - or even grow the side-locks very long - as doing so would result in a "round" (that is, bowl-shaped) haircut. Sep 19, 2023 at 20:41
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Actually, Lev 19:27 says nothing about curling the hair. Here is the text from the LXX:

οὐ ποιήσετε σισόην ἐκ τῆς κόμης τῆς κεφαλῆς ὑμῶν, οὐδὲ φθερεῖτε τὴν ὄψιν τοῦ πώγωνος ὑμῶν. = Ye shall not make a round cutting of the hair of your head, nor disfigure your beard. (Brenton)

Ellicott comments on this verse as follows:

(27) Round the corners of your heads.—That is, they are not to shave off the hair around the temples and behind the ears, so as to leave the head bald except a dish-like tuft upon the crown, thus imparting to their heads the form of a hemisphere. This was done by the Arabs, and other worshippers of the god Orotal. Hence the Arabs are ironically called “those with the corner of their hair polled,” as it is rightly rendered in the Margin (Jeremiah 9:26; Jeremiah 25:23; Jeremiah 49:32).

Barnes is similar:

Round the corners of your heads - This may allude to such a custom as that of the Arabs described by Herodotus. They used to show honor to their deity Orotal by cutting the hair away from the temples in a circular form. Compare the margin reference.

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    So then having a bowl cut is a sin? Sep 18, 2023 at 23:53
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    @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft - the answer to that question depends upon your attitude to the status of the Levitical law - that should be asked in another question. If someone commits adultery, should they be taken out of the city and stoned? Should homosexuality be punished by death?
    – Dottard
    Sep 19, 2023 at 0:12
  • Yes, it is a sin, although it's a hard one to swallow for many people. We like to think that we can do whatever we want with our bodies, that our bodies belong to us, but in reality they don't. This verse confuses the hell out of people but it really shouldn't. We are not to shave our heads, either partially or totally. Period. And, if we choose to grow a beard, it must be a full beard, we are not to shave off the sides, leaving only a goatee. Period. Amazing that even orthodox Jews, so called experts in the Torah, can't figure this out. No shaving of heads, no goatee. Period.
    – moron
    Sep 23, 2023 at 8:04
  • "We are not to shave our heads, either partially or totally. Period." '... they must shave their head on the seventh day—the day of their cleansing.' 'Then at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the Nazirite must shave off the hair that symbolizes their dedication.' 'After the Nazirite has shaved off the hair ...' Numbers 6:9,18,19 Bring her into your home and have her shave her head ...' Deuteronomy 21:12 'Now, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a barber’s razor to shave your head and your beard.' Ezekiel 5:1 "Amazing ..." Yeah funny about that. Oct 29, 2023 at 15:23
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The clue is in the Jeremiah references ,especially ch9 v26, where those who cut their hair in odd ways are asociated with the uncircumcised. It is about using the wrong kind of identification marks. Circumcision helps to identify a member of God's people Israel. Cutting the hair was at the time the mark of certain tribes who did not worship YHWH. This is one of those laws that are related to the immediate social context. The act is not a sin to those who "serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit" (Romans ch7 v6, RSV).

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    Granted, if a Christian were to do this as an act of worship to a pagan deity, then it would still be a sin. But, otherwise, a bowl cut is not a sin from a biblical perspective, though some may consider it to be one from a perspective of style.
    – reirab
    Sep 18, 2023 at 14:48
  • This is where people go completely off the rails. If God says not to do something, then we are not to do it. Period. What we intend or don't intend by our actions is irrelevant. God prohibits certain things because they were done by the heathen to worship false gods. He hates those things. So we don't do them. End of discussion.
    – moron
    Sep 23, 2023 at 8:08
  • @moron But, for the same reason, when the heathen stops doing these things to worship falso gods, God stops hating them. Only the basic principles (loving God and neighbour) are absolute. Sep 23, 2023 at 8:20
  • Again, we're off the rails. God hates these things regardless of why you do them. He hates those things because He associates them with false gods. And that will never change. God doesn't change how He feels about those things. Why someone shaves their head makes no difference to God. God hates the practice, period. If you study the Old Testament you will see God, over and over, telling us not to do certain things. He doesn't say it depends on why you're doing them. He says don't do that stuff. Period. Get a clue.
    – moron
    Sep 24, 2023 at 10:02
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Lessons from Archaeology Archaeology has come a long way in the past hundred years. We have, not only relics, but monuments and murals, along with statues, from which we can draw pictures if the ancient people groups...and Empire rulers.

A scan of these pictures in Archaeology books shows the cosmetic features of the ancient peoples that the Israelite nation intermingled with. Kings with "ringlets" or some with wavy hair were common. Beards manicured with stylish features are seen throughout. Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Canaanites all engaged in barber shop manicuring.

But throughout the Patriarch and Mosaic eras God warned the Israelites to maintain their unique different identity. They were not to become like the peoples they were to encounter. Neither adopt their gods, unclean eating habits, immorality...or cosmetic features and styles. The early Israelites were agrarian, and manicuring their hair and beards was nor first on their list in everyday work. Grooming was simple. Full beards, and hair bunches...not too long and not too short were all that was necessary. They weren't styled to attend palace banquets...just attend sheep and goats! This identity was to remain theirs. And it would help keep them separate and prevent the culture drift that clans often succumb to.

Modern Application While modern Christians are not obliged to keep the details of the Law--it has been nailed to the Cross--yet the principles found there are to be observed: Piety, morality, integrity, charity, family, etc. These passages (about hair and beards) highlight the tendency of young people to want to conform to the culture around them. Preventing assimilation to surrounding culture is a constant struggle between parents and their children. Moses's decrees give strength to parental authority. Culture drift is a constant danger! And any help is to be appreciated.

Parents (as well as pastors) are obligated to be thankful to Moses for bringing this to our awareness in his Pentateuch. We are a holy people, a prized possession, a godly kingdom...

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