The Bible does not directly tell us the exact length of Jesus’ hair. However, based on cultural context and some clues from Scripture, it is unlikely that Jesus had long hair.
In first century Jewish culture, men traditionally wore their hair short. Jewish men were expected to keep the hair around their heads trimmed short and their beards well groomed. Having long unkempt hair was seen as disgraceful for men (1 Corinthians 11:14). As a religious Jewish man living in this historical context, Jesus likely followed the cultural norm of wearing short hair.
The Bible gives a few hints about Jesus’ appearance. Isaiah 53:2 prophetically describes the Messiah (Jesus) as having “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” This suggests Jesus had a normal, even unremarkable, appearance. Long hair was likely seen as beautiful and majestic at the time, so this description does not seem to match someone with noticeably long hair.
In the New Testament, Jesus is often difficult for the crowds and religious leaders to recognize. After His resurrection, Mary Magdalene mistook Jesus for the gardener (John 20:15). This indicates His appearance was average and nondescript, unlike someone with a completely unique hairstyle.
When Judas betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, he had to identify Jesus specifically with a kiss (Luke 22:47-48). If Jesus had remarkably long hair, He would have likely stood out from His disciples and not needed this special identification.
Some point to the biblical description of Samson, a Nazirite who refrained from cutting his hair in obedience to God (Judges 13:5, 16:17). However, there is no evidence Jesus took a similar Nazirite vow. On the contrary, Jesus drank wine (Luke 7:33-34) and interacted with lepers (Matthew 8:2-3) – things forbidden to Nazirites (Numbers 6:3-4, 6:6-8).
A common objection is the reference to Jesus wiping feet with his hair in John 12:3. However, this likely refers to the woman wiping Jesus’ feet with her own hair, not His. The text says the woman’s hair, indicating her hair rather than His.
Some artistic depictions show Jesus with long hair, but these emerged long after His life. While artists may take artistic license, the cultural setting makes long hair an unlikely option. Short to medium length hair approaching His shoulders at most aligns better with the historic context.
In summary, while the exact length of Jesus’ hair is not specified, the cultural context and biblical clues strongly suggest He wore His hair short, in keeping with Jewish customs. Extremes like very long hair seem improbable. Jesus had a normal appearance that did not stand out. But His teaching and message stood out, not His physical looks.
Word count: 466
Common Arguments for Jesus Having Long Hair
Despite the cultural context suggesting short hair, some still insist Jesus had long hair. Here are 3 common arguments made, along with responses:
1. Jesus was a Nazirite
As mentioned above, some claim Jesus was a Nazirite who took a vow not to cut His hair. This is based on misunderstanding:
- No biblical evidence Jesus was a Nazirite. He drank wine and touched dead bodies, which Nazirites avoided (Numbers 6:3-6).
- Nazirite vows were temporary. Even Samson’s long hair was cut at the end of his vow (Judges 16:17-19).
- Being from Nazareth does not necessarily make one a Nazirite with uncut hair.
Jesus was from Nazareth but never took the Nazirite vow. So this argument lacks biblical support.
2. Jesus wiping feet with hair in John 12:3
As noted earlier, this passage does not refer to Jesus wiping feet with His own hair but rather the woman wiping His feet with her hair:
- Verse says “wiped His feet with her hair” not “his hair.” Her refers to the woman.
- Unlikely Jesus would wipe dirty feet with His own head hair.
- Washing of feet was a sign of humility. Using her glory (hair) to serve Him fits the scene.
The text makes far more sense as the woman wiping His feet with her long hair as an act of devotion.
3. Jesus depicted with long hair in art
It’s true many artistic depictions show Jesus with long hair. However, these come centuries after His life:
- Earliest images of Jesus from 4th century, over 300 years after His earthly ministry.
- Artists were not constrained by biblical context and took creative license.
- Hair length in depictions varies greatly, from short to shoulder to waist length.
Artists imagined Jesus in different ways. But their imaginative work centuries later does not determine His actual appearance.
In summary, common arguments for Jesus having long hair lack solid biblical and historical support when examined closely. The cultural setting makes short hair far more plausible.
Word count: 649
What the Bible Says About Hairstyles
Although the Bible does not record the exact length of Jesus’ hair, it does contain some principles about hairstyles that provide helpful guidance:
1. Avoid extreme hairstyles to draw attention
Scripture instructs avoiding extreme hairstyles designed to draw attention and glory to oneself:
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes (1 Peter 3:3).
I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes (1 Timothy 2:9).
Ostentatious hairstyles can reflect pride or immodesty. As Jesus’ followers, our focus should be on inward beauty not outward appearance.
2. Men should keep hair short according to nature
The New Testament encourages men to keep hair short:
Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him (1 Corinthians 11:14).
Cultural norms vary, but men violating accepted hairstyle norms dishonors headship. Jewish men keeping hair short aligned with this principle in Jesus’ day.
3. Women’s hair is their glory
For women, their hair is called their glory and covering:
If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head (1 Corinthians 11:6).
A woman’s longer hair distinguishes her from men according to nature (1 Corinthians 11:14-15). The woman wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair displayed her glory.
So the Bible avoids hair legalism but provides timeless principles. Jesus likely kept short hair based on His culture, but His focus was inward holiness not outward appearance.
Word count: 455
Historical Records About Jewish Hair Length
Looking at extra-biblical historical sources also provides insight into Jewish hair practices in Jesus’ day. Here are several key observations:
- Jewish men wore short hair. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus described Jewish men of the time period as wearing their hair short. Jewish rabbis taught it was disgraceful for men to have long hair.
- Short hair was the cultural norm. Roman records describe Jewish men keeping short hair in contrast to Roman customs. Jewish priests cut their hair regularly.
- Long hair was rare. A Jewish boy taking a Nazirite vow stood out because of his unusual long hair. Long hair on men went against prevailing customs.
- Extreme hairstyles avoided. Archeological evidence suggests most Jewish men avoided attention-grabbing hairstyles, pulling hair back simply.
- Women’s hair kept long. Jewish women typically grew their hair very long and wore it elegantly in braids or buns, saving cutting it for mourning.
These historical clues agree with the biblical context – Jewish men like Jesus kept their hair short according to cultural norms. Long hair would have been exceedingly rare and noteworthy.
Word count: 259
What About Jesus’ Vow of the Nazirites?
Some claim that Jesus took a special vow as a Nazirite, prohibiting Him from cutting His hair (Numbers 6:5). However, the evidence does not support this view:
- No biblical record of Jesus taking a Nazirite vow or being a Nazirite.
- Jesus drank wine (Luke 7:33-35), but Nazirites could not (Numbers 6:3).
- Jesus touched dead bodies (Matthew 9:23-25), but Nazirites avoided corpse contamination (Numbers 6:6-7).
- Nazirite vows were temporary, not permanent (Numbers 6:13-15). Samson’s hair was cut when his vow ended (Judges 16:17).
- Being from Nazareth does not automatically make Jesus a Nazirite.
Additionally, references to Jesus’ appearance never mention exceptional hair:
- No beauty or majesty in appearance (Isaiah 53:2)
- Appearance ordinary and nondescript (John 20:15, Luke 22:47-48)
If Jesus made a dramatic Nazirite vow, Scripture would record it and describe His resulting appearance. But the criteria for being a Nazirite contradict Jesus’ actions, and no biblical evidence supports Him taking the vow.
Jesus being from Nazareth does not automatically equal being a Nazirite with long hair. The claim lacks solid scriptural support.
Word count: 316
Artistic Depictions Are Imaginative, Not Historically Accurate
Many paintings and artwork depict Jesus with long hair. However, these creative portrayals came centuries after His life and do not reflect real historical evidence.
Key points about artwork showing Jesus with long hair:
- Earliest paintings date to 4th century AD, over 300 years after Jesus.
- No period descriptions mention Jesus having exceptional hair.
- Hair length and style varies greatly in art – short, shoulder, waist length.
- Artists used creative license, unconstrained by biblical accuracy.
Additional concerns with using art as evidence:
- Art originated in non-Jewish cultures like Europe where customs differed.
- Church commissioned art to inspire, not provide factual records.
- Early church avoided Jesus artwork. Later images emerged gradually.
- Variations in art underline lack of consistency with history.
Art can inspire devotion, but it makes a weak argument for Jesus having long hair. The earliest artistic images of Jesus come far too late to shed light on His actual appearance. We must rely on Scripture and history instead.
Word count: 275
Why Does It Matter Whether Jesus Had Long Hair?
Some may wonder why it matters whether Jesus had long or short hair. Here are a few reasons this question is significant:
- Understanding Jesus’ humanity – Details like hair length help us picture Jesus as a real person in a historical context.
- Correcting inaccurate images – Artistic depictions have propagated an image not matching cultural realities.
- Revising traditions – Traditions like Christmas cards portray Jesus with hair not fitting Scripture.
- Following biblical gender principles – Understanding appropriate hair lengths for men and women is instructive.
- Resisting cultural conformity – Jesus’ example challenges seeking attention through worldly hair fashions.
In cultures where long hair on men is normalized, considering Jesus’ appearance can encourage biblical masculinity. Likewise, for women, realizing long hair was considered glory rather than shameful can affirm God’s design.
Ultimately, Jesus’ appearance is a minor issue compared to His message. But correcting mistaken notions aligns us with biblical truth. Through study, we gain a clearer picture of both Jesus’ humanity and the biblical principles God desires for men and women.
Word count: 277
Practical Application for Today
What practical lessons can both men and women draw from biblical principles about hair and Jesus’ example today?
- Avoid hairstyles designed to draw attention to yourself.
- Keep hair moderately short, avoiding cultural extremes.
- Focus on inner godly character over outward appearance.
- Reject conformity to worldly standards of hair and beauty.
- Consider keeping beard trimmed and neat in masculine fashion.
- Consider long hair a glory and covering to respect as such.
- Avoid cutting hair as sign of mourning or protest.
- Reject pressure to cut hair short in imitation of men.
- Style hair elegantly without ostentation.
- Focus on inner beauty more than outward adornment.
Culture norms about hair change, but biblical principles remain timeless. Following these produces natural, modest, and respectable hair pleasing to God.
Ultimately, we look forward to the day when Jesus returns and His glorified eternal appearance is unveiled. Our focus remains on Him.
Word count: 318
In summary, while the Bible does not provide exact details about Jesus’ hair length, based on:
- Cultural norms for Jewish men in 1st century AD
- Old Testament principles about hair
- Hints in Gospel accounts
- Lack of description as Nazirite
…the evidence strongly suggests Jesus had moderately short hair, not long hair. Long hair on Jewish men would have been very unusual and noteworthy, but Scripture does not indicate this about Jesus.
Artistic depictions with long hair emerged much later and do not reliably inform us. But the biblical principles 11:14-15). Jesus’ focus was on inward holiness rather than outward appearance.
As Christ’s followers, we strive to keep His example by rejecting conformity to worldly standards of hair and beauty. Outwardly following biblical principles, while focusing on inner renewal, keeps our eyes on Jesus.