Some anti-Catholics would say that it’s unbiblical to have long hair citing the first Letter of Paul to the Corinthians (11:14): “Does not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man has long hair, it is a shame unto him?”
But to understand this scripture, there is a need to understand what the situation was like in Corinth. At this time, Corinth was known for it’s immorality and perversity and the men that were sexual perverted had long hair. Paul who wrote this letter didn’t want the men in the church to be taken for “perverted” so he wrote these words. Take note, this is NOT a commandment of God to all people throughout all times, but Paul’s SPECIAL ADVICE only for the people in Corinth, at that time.
Moreover, the whores in Corinth, during his time, had short hair or shaven heads and Paul didn’t want the Christians in that city be taken for “whores.” Thus, the Christian women in Corinth were advised “not to cut their hair off” (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:6). Again, that was Paul’s SPECIAL ADVICE only for the women in Corinth at that time and NOT God’s commandment to all Christians throughout all times.
In addition to it, Paul, taking the given verse, appealed to biology to illustrate the appropriateness of following the cultural standards: women naturally have longer hair than men, and men are much more prone to baldness. That is, God created women with a “natural veil” and men with an “uncovered head.” If a woman spurns the mark of her submission (the veil), she may as well shave her head (verse 6). His point is that if the culture says a woman should not be bald (going without her natural covering), then why would she reject that same culture’s standard of wearing a veil (going without her cultural covering)? For the man’s part, it is unnatural for him to have “long hair” (verse 14). His hair is naturally shorter (and thinner) than the woman’s. This corresponds to the Corinthian tradition of men not wearing a head covering during worship. Paul only urges the church to conform to the generally held ideas of male and female appearances and NOT to create an absolute doctrine of hair length for all ages.
However, are long hair for male Christians also acceptable? In the book of Numbers (6:1-5), it reads:
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord, he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins. All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long.'”
Note that the Nazirites were people that had devoted themselves to God by taking a voluntary vow described in Numbers 6:1-21. In fact, “Nazarite” comes from the Hebrew word “nazir” meaning “consecrated” or “separated”. In this case, it is very clear that having long hair is not necessarily and absolutely shameful before God. It just happened that there are false prophets who would try to misterpret the context of the scriptures for their own interest. Remember, God Himself said, “Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long.” Absolutely forbidden? Think.
Presenting biblical facts, Samson was a Nazirite from the moment he was born. He let his hair grow and didn’t cut it off, and that was a source of his strength (Judges 13:5, 16:19). But when he played with his annointing and cut his hair, he immediately lost his strength (Judges 16:19). Another man in the Bible that seems to have been a Nazirite was the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11). The Apostle Paul himself also wore his hair long as can be concluded from the following passage where it is mentioned that “head bands” and “towels” touched to his body were placed on the sick to heal them. Note that the “head bands” indicate the length of his hair (in accordance with pious custom) which had to be tied back in order to keep it in place (cf. Acts 19:12). The historian Egezit, furthermore, wrote that James the Just, bishop of Jerusalem, never cut his hair off (cf. Christian Reading, February 1898, p.142, [in Russian]).
Now, if it is shameful before God to have a long hair, then why did He allow others to have grown one? Simply because God really did not prohibit any male Christian to have long hair. One must know how to distinguish a doctrine from a discipline. A doctrine is for all and must be adhered to by all; but the discipline may be set for all or may be not depending on a given circumstance. Hence, the anti-Catholics must not simply interpret the Bible based on their personal understanding. As what the Holy Father Peter, first bishop of Rome, said: “First of all, you must understand this: No prophecy in Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20).
Titus Flavius Clemens (AD 150-215), an early Christian theologian from the Catechetical School of Alexandria, wrote the following:
“But for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, to arrange his hair at the looking-glass, to shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them, how womanly! For this is a meretricious and impious form of snare. For God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane; but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with a shaggy chest — a sign of strength and rule […] Wherefore males have both more hair and more heat than females […] It is therefore impious to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness. But the embellishment of smoothing (for I am warned by the Word), if it is to attract men, is the act of an effeminate person, if to attract women, is the act of an adulterer; and both must be driven as far as possible from our society.” (The Instructor, Book 3, Chapters 3, 11)
Now, it is indeed clear the since the beginning of Christianity, it has not been forbidden for a man to wear long hair. A man to grow long hair could be acceptable in accordance to his culture and in the context of the accepted discipline and norm of modesty. A man may have his hair long grown or cut-off because the length of hair has nothing to do with salvation anyway. Salvation comes from God’s grace.
On the other hand, did Jesus have long hair?
The anti-Catholics attacked the Church on her depiction of Christ’s image, that is a bearded man with long hair. But how did Jesus look like? Below are the historical documents describing physically the Lord. The Holy Bible is silent on the physical description of the Lord but those who saw Him personally had it recorder, kept, and transmitted from generations to generations.
⚫ From the description of Publius Lentullus (27 BC-AD 14):
(The following was taken from a manuscript in the possession of Lord Kelly, and in his library, and was copied from an original letter of Publius Lentullus at Rome. It being the usual custom of Roman Governors to advertise the Senate and people of such material things as happened in their provinces in the days of Tiberius Caesar, Publius Lentullus, President of Judea, wrote the following epistle to the Senate concerning the Nazarene called Jesus.)
“There appeared in these our days a man, of the Jewish Nation, of great virtue, named Yeshua [Jesus], who is yet living among us, and of the Gentiles is accepted for a Prophet of truth, but His own disciples call Him the Son of God- He raiseth the dead and cureth all manner of diseases. A man of stature somewhat tall, and comely, with very reverent countenance, such as the beholders may both love and fear, his hair of (the colour of) the chestnut, full ripe, plain to His ears, whence downwards it is more orient and curling and wavering about His shoulders. In the midst of His head is a seam or partition in His hair, after the manner of the Nazarenes. His forehead plain and very delicate; His face without spot or wrinkle, beautified with a lovely red; His nose and mouth so formed as nothing can be reprehended; His beard thickish, in colour like His hair, not very long, but forked; His look innocent and mature; His eyes grey, clear, and quick- In reproving hypocrisy He is terrible; in admonishing, courteous and fair spoken; pleasant in conversation, mixed with gravity. It cannot be remembered that any have seen Him Laugh, but many have seen Him Weep. In proportion of body, most excellent; His hands and arms delicate to behold. In speaking, very temperate, modest, and wise. A man, for His singular beauty, surpassing the children of men.”
⚫ From the letter of Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar:
(This is a reprinting of a letter from Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar describing the physical appearance of Jesus. Copies are in the Congressional Library in Washington, D.C.)
TO TIBERIUS CAESAR:
A young man appeared in Galilee preaching with humble unction, a new law in the Name of the God that had sent Him. At first I was apprehensive that His design was to stir up the people against the Romans, but my fears were soon dispelled. Jesus of Nazareth spoke rather as a friend of the Romans than of the Jews. One day I observed in the midst of a group of people a young man who was leaning against a tree, calmly addressing the multitude. I was told it was Jesus. This I could easily have suspected so great was the difference between Him and those who were listening to Him. His golden colored hair and BEARD gave to his appearance a celestial aspect. He appeared to be about 30 years of age. Never have I seen a sweeter or more serene countenance. What a contrast between Him and His bearers with their black beards and tawny complexions! Unwilling to interrupt Him by my presence, I continued my walk but signified to my secretary to join the group and listen. Later, my secretary reported that never had he seen in the works of all the philosophers anything that compared to the teachings of Jesus. He told me that Jesus was neither seditious nor rebellious, so we extended to Him our protection. He was at liberty to act, to speak, to assemble and to address the people. This unlimited freedom provoked the Jews — not the poor but the rich and powerful.
Later, I wrote to Jesus requesting an interview with Him at the Praetorium. He came. When the Nazarene made His appearance I was having my morning walk and as I faced Him my feet seemed fastened with an iron hand to the marble pavement and I trembled in every limb as a guilty culprit, though he was calm. For some time I stood admiring this extraordinary Man. There was nothing in Him that was repelling, nor in His character, yet I felt awed in His presence. I told Him that there was a magnetic simplicity about Him and His personality that elevated Him far above the philosophers and teachers of His day.
Now, Noble Sovereign, these are the facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth and I have taken the time to write you in detail concerning these matters. I say that such a man who could convert water into wine, change death into life, disease into health; calm the stormy seas, is not guilty of any criminal offense and as others have said, we must agree — truly this is the Son of God.
Your most obedient servant,
⚫ From the Archko Volume, the archaeological writings of the Sanhedrin and Talmuds of the Jews, taken from the ancient parchments and scrolls at Constantinople and the Vatican at Rome, being the record made by the enemies of Jesus of Nazareth in His day:
(This information substantiates that He came from racial lines which had blue eyes and golden hair. In a chapter entitled “Gamaliel’s Interview” it states concerning Jesus’ appearance.)
“I asked him to describe this person to me, so that I might know him if I should meet him. He said: ‘If you ever meet him (Jesus) you will know him. While he is nothing but a man, there is something about him that distinguishes him from every other man. He is the picture of his mother, only he has not her smooth, round face. His hair is a little more golden than hers, though it is as much from sunburn as anything else. He is tall, and his shoulders are a little drooped; his visage is thin and of a swarthy complexion, though this is from exposure. His eyes are large and a soft blue, and rather dull and heavy […]’ This Jew [Nazarite] is convinced that he is the Messiah of the world […] this was the same person that was born of the virgin in Bethlehem some twenty-six years before […]”
ASIDE from those, the early Christian catacombs have depiction of a long-haired and bearded Christ like the ones found in the catacombs of Commodilla. That is indeed a clear archeological evidence that the early Christians also believed on what has been portrayed in churches today as the image of Jesus Christ — a Man with beard and long hair.
St. Faustina Kowalska, wrote in a diary, her vision of the Lord as Jesus Himself appeared to her as the “King of Divine Mercy” robed in a white garment on the night of Sunday, 22 February 1931 whilst she was in her cell in a convent at Plock, Poland. The first painting of the image was done by the artist Eugene Kazimierowski, which was the only rendition that Faustina saw — the image of the Divine Mercy. In the said diary (Notebook 1, items 47 and 48), she wrote that Jesus told her:
“Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: “Jesus, I trust in You”. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.”
There are any other visions of the Lord that was approved by the Church like, the ones with Saint Francis of Assisi (AD 1205), Saint Juliana of Liege (AD 1208), Saint Catherine of Siena (AD 1366), Saint Teresa of Ávila (AD 1559), Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (AD 1673), Saint Veronica Giuliani (AD 1678), Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (AD 1813), Sister Marie of Saint Peter (AD 1843),
Venerable Marie Martha Chambon (AD 1866), Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart Droste zu Vischering (AD 1897), Saint Gemma Galgani (AD 1899), Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (AD 1910), Blessed Maria Pierina De Micheli (AD 1936), and Blessed Alexandrina of Balazar (AD 1938). These are divine proofs that the Holy Catholic Church holds the God-inspired image of Christ as portrayed on His statues and icons.
Through Sacred Tradition, the Holy Catholic Church has just portrayed perfectly what has been handed down to her by the early witnesses of the divine faith. HAVE NO DOUBTS!