Should Christian Women Have Long Hair?

Should women have short hair? Can Christians cut their hair?

I do not cut my hair because I believe the bible says not to. This may seem silly, but I would like to style my hair by putting lots of layers but keeping it looking long. I am 54 and look 20 years older with long hair but feel like it is wrong to cut it in any way. I know one Pastor says never ever cut your hair and others just do not care one way or the other. What do you think? Thank you for your help and God Bless.

Doreen

Doreen:

Thanks for writing! Clearly, your question isn’t exactly about hair, but about how to understand what the Bible teaches. I commend you for wanting to do the right thing, and hope that I can clarify the situation for you.

It’s important to ask the simplest questions first: does the Bible teach that women shouldn’t have short hair? Certainly not. If we look at Numbers 6, we’ll see the following:

“If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite…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…when the period of their dedication is over…they are to be brought to the entrance to the tent of meeting. Then at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the Nazirite must shave off the hair that symbolizes their dedication. They are to take the hair and put it in the fire that is under the sacrifice of the fellowship offering.” (vv. 2, 5, 13, 18)

As you can see, both men and women made this vow. They grew their hair as a symbol of their dedication to God, then shaved it all off. If women aren’t supposed to cut their hair, they could never take part in the Nazirite vows. Women took the Nazirite vow and shaved their heads, and that was good. In case anyone thinks that this is an ‘Old Testament vs New Testament’ thing, I refer you to Acts 21 .

If women shaving their heads to take part in an important vow to God was good, why would it be bad for you (or any other woman) to cut your hair?

Those who teach that it’s wrong for Christian women to cut their hair generally refer to several verses in 1 Corinthians 11 . “every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head – it is the same as having her head shaved.” (v.5)

If Paul’s words to the Christians in Corinth weren’t about the length of a woman’s hair, what was he talking about? Look at v5: a woman was expected to cover her head during prayer, or when she prophesied. Paul likens a woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered to one who has her head shaved. The Greek word used is KEIRO…the same word use to describe the shearing of sheep.

Paul’s instructions had nothing to do with cutting your hair, and everything to do with living in Corinth. Corinth was a city where many pagan gods were worshipped, including Dionysus. One of the names used in ancient Macedonia (Greece) for Dionysus was “Pseudanor”. It means “false man”, as in “effeminate man”. He was pictured in art from that time as a beardless, sensuous, naked or half-naked androgynous youth. Literature described him as womanly or “man-womanish”. Because of this, worshippers of Dionysus would often engage in cross-dressing, where men would grow their hair and wear women’s clothing…and women would cut their hair and dress in men’s clothing. These women were known, for hundreds of years prior to Paul’s letter, as “imitators of men”.

That is why women having short hair was a big deal in Corinth: everybody would assume that they worshipped Dionysus instead of worshipping Jesus Christ.

Paul didn’t teach that women should have long hair. He taught, as was the custom of the day, that women should cover their heads while praying or prophesying. Keeping their heads uncovered at those times would have been considered shameful…as shameful as having people assume you worshipped a pagan god.

I don’t know where you live, but it’s unlikely that cutting your hair will confuse your neighbors and convince them that you worship Dionysus, or make you look like a man. That’s what Paul was saying, clearly…so please feel free to cut and style your hair.

While you’re at it, you might take a moment to read another article: Should Christians Separate from the World?. From where I stand, those who teach that you shouldn’t cut your hair are guilty of misrepresenting God, making it harder for others to trust Him.

Should Christians Separate from the World?

Is the Bible true? Are Bible translations bad? What language is the Bible?

No one likes being misunderstood. It’s frustrating. It troubles us when we’re misunderstood…in fact, it’s so troubling that we often take it personally when others misunderstand our family, or our friends. I’m no different. Thousands of GodWords visitors are seekers or skeptics or spiritually confused, so I take it personally when someone makes it more difficult for these nice folks to understand God. At the moment I’m taking aim at Pentecostals.

One of the identifying marks of a particular brand of Pentecostalism is a list of do’s and don’ts known as “Standards”. Note the capital S. This list of restrictions includes things like long hair for men, women in pants, adult beverages, cosmetics, wedding bands, movies, and so on. Those who adhere to Standards are convinced that these restrictions help to keep them spiritually pure.

Please don’t misunderstand: I have no problem with Pentecostal people as individuals. I grew up in and ministered in and still worship in a church that originated in the Pentecostal Holiness tradition and whose motto is “Holiness Unto The Lord”. If a guy wants short hair, or if a woman likes skirts, that’s okay with me. Fewer movies is probably better than more. Alcoholism is a plague. I’m all for clean living…but that’s not the point.

Most Christians are, to some extent, concerned about clean living…or “being holy”. This makes sense, since the Bible teaches that Christians should live holy lives. Many Pentecostals, however, take the Scriptural mandate for holiness and twist it into something it’s not. They teach that Christians should separate themselves from non-Christians and “worldly things”.

To some extent, I understand their confusion. After all, the implication of the word “holy” is ‘being set apart’. The Bible asks whether light can have fellowship with darkness. The Bible also tells us to avoid the appearance of evil, which sounds like a really good idea to me. It would be easy to assume that Christians should pull back from society to remain pure…easy, that is, if you ignore the rest of the Bible.

Jesus didn’t suggest that purity is maintained by avoiding contact with impure things. He explained that it is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of it. Purity is, He explained, an inside job. He chastised the religious elite of His day for missing the point, saying “…you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence”. Jesus taught this by example as well. He rightly went against the religious traditions of His day when He ate with tax collectors and spoke with foreign women and worked on the Sabbath and ran the swindlers out of the temple.

Purity isn’t a matter of simple avoidance. God is utterly holy and utterly pure, but He didn’t hang back from the world to avoid contamination. He’s fully aware of the extent to which humans can degrade themselves, but He became one of us and lived with us and touched the sick and the sinful with His hands and His heart. God isn’t less holy because of His contact with sin. Based on Jesus’ example, Christians are supposed to place themselves in contact with those who are not yet holy.

Pants don’t make women sinful. Men with long hair aren’t necessarily being disobedient. Beer wasn’t created by Satan, and there are a lot of really great movies that I’d love to take Jesus to see. It’s okay to set standards to live by, but setting Standards only further confuses those who are already confused about God. Our insides are more important than our outsides…and Jesus died to prove it.

If holiness had anything to do with pants and pilsners, the Bible would clearly say so. Christianity isn’t about simple do’s or don’ts. It’s about allowing God to decide which direction your life should take. It’s about letting God transform you into His likeness. It’s about love interacting with those who need love most.