Monday, December 1, 2014

Does the long hair of the man on the Shroud of Turin contradict 1 Corinthians 11:14?

Here is an email I received today from a Shroud pro-authenticist friend on a reason given by someone he knows for dismissing the image on the Shroud to be of Jesus because of his supposedly long hair, which appears to conflict with 1 Corinthians 11:14:

"Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair [Gk. koma] it is a disgrace for him,"

[Above: Face of the Man on the Shroud showing that he had shoulder-length hair: Shroud Scope Enrie Negative Vertical.]

My friend's edited (to preserve his anonymity) words below are in bold to distinguish them from mine.

>Dear Mr. Jones,
>... I received an e-mail from a
[person] whom I have known for a number of years. In the past he totally disregarded the data one finds on the internet dealing with the Shroud, and which he dismisses ... the image to be that of our Lord due to the LONG HAIR ... From your website I have not located a refutation of this ... argument, but if you have already dealt with it would you please refer me to where I can locate it via Google by typing in your name? If not, are there websites your consider valid which do refute this ... PROOF that this is not the face of Christ? ...
>... J

J

Good to hear from you again.

I am answering your private emailed question on the Shroud publicly, less your identifying details, as per my long-standing policy stated on this blog's top page:

"Private messages I receive on Shroud of Turin related topics, I reserve the right to respond publicly via this blog, less the senders' personal identifying information."

That way others who have the same question can hopefully benefit from my answer. And in fact you requested an answer that you can locate via Google, and I have given this post a title which should help with that. As far as I am aware I have not posted on that question before, although I might have answered it briefly in a comment under one of my posts.

Stevenson and Habermas give this as one of the most frequently asked questions raised by Christian audiences after their talks on the Shroud:

"Q. Doesn't the Shroud conflict with Scripture? ... b) In 1 Corinthians 11:14, the Apostle Paul declares that long hair is a disgrace to men, yet the man of the Shroud apparently has shoulder-length hair." (Stevenson, K.E. & Habermas, G.R., 1990, "The Shroud and the Controversy," p.149

They point out that: 1) what constitutes "long hair" depends on one's own culture's subjective view; 2) Paul himself would probably have had shoulder-length hair, as that was the norm for Jewish men of his day; and 3) What Paul was speaking about is "men who wore their hair in styles peculiar to women" (my emphasis):

"A. ... though the question of long hair seems overly naive, it is frequently asked. Our concept of what Paul meant by `long hair' is usually affected by our own views of what constitutes long hair. While Paul was speaking of effeminate men who wore their hair in styles peculiar to women, Paul himself would probably have worn shoulder-length hair in keeping with the hairstyle of the other orthodox Jews of his day. 1 As a matter of fact, the traditional style for an orthodox Jewish man of two thousand years ago is much the same for him today: a ponytail of hair and sidelocks-precisely what we see on the Shroud." (Stevenson & Habermas, 1990, pp.149-151).

In support of this, one of my commentaries on 1 Corinthians points out that, based on the original Greek, what Paul was talking about was not "hair as such" but "hairdo":

"[1 Cor] 14-15 ... Vs. 4 reads: having his head covered, lit. from the head; vs. 6 distinguishes between a not covering of the head and a cutting short of the hair, apparently assuming that even if the head is not covered the hair may still be long. The solution of this question must be sought in the two different words for hair which the Greek uses. [triches and kome] The first one means hair as such; the second, which is used here, means the hairdo, hair that is neatly held by means of ribbon or lace. That also fits the context which shows that the Corinthian women did not cut their hair short (vs. 6), but that they took it down in ecstasy." (Grosheide, F.W., 1954, "Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians," p.260. My transliteration).

This is confirmed by my Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, which shows that the words translated "a man wears long hair" (lit. "he wears his hair long") is one Greek word κομη (kome) (Marshall, A., 1966, "The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament," p.686).

This can be seen in the online Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament of 1 Corinthians 11:14, where "has long hair" is based on one Greek word "komaƍ," the Greek root of kome.

Another of my commentaries points out that what Paul was really concerned about was not the lengths of men's and women's hair, but "that man is to be distinguished from woman":

"[1Cor] 13-15 The final point in the passage is that man is to be distinguished from woman. Thus the Corinthians are to see that the woman should not pray with her head uncovered as the man does. They are reminded that in ordinary life man with his short hair is distinguished from woman with her long hair. If a man has long hair like a woman's, he is disgraced, but with long hair the woman gains glory in her position of subjection to man. Also long hair is actually given to her as a natural veil." (Mare, W.H., "1 Corinthians," in Gaebelein, F.E., ed., 1978, "The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Volume 10 - Romans - Galatians," p.256).

The NIV Study Bible's comment on this passage puts it succinctly, that, "Paul's point is that men should look like men in that culture, and women should look like women in that culture":

"[1Cor] 11:14 Here the word nature probably means "your natural sense of what is appropriate for men and women": it would be a disgrace for a man to look like a woman because of his hair style. Although the norms of appropriate hair style (and dress) may vary from culture to culture, Paul's point is that men should look like men in that culture, and women should look like women in that culture, rather than seeking to deny or disparage the God-given differences between the sexes." (Barker, K., et al., eds., 1985, "The NIV Study Bible," p.2207. Italics original).

The real problem is an example of the old church member's supposed rebuke to the young minister who was proposing their church switch to a modern Bible translation:
"Young man, if the King James Version was good enough for St. Paul, then it is good enough for me!"

But in fact the same applies even to modern English translations, in that they weren't what St. Paul wrote in either. If an argument is to be made, that flies in face of a lot of other evidence (in this case that the Shroud is authentic and the image on it is in fact of Jesus), on the basis of only two words "long hair" in an English translation, then a Christian runs the risk of unwittingly "fighting against God" (Acts 5:39. NIV) by failing to check what the original Greek behind those two English translation words meant to the original writer (St. Paul) and his readers (the largely Greek members of the first century church at Corinth).

Among the edited out parts of your email you implied that this person you know is highly intelligent and university educated. Such a person would presumably be appalled if one of his colleagues adopted a superficial, `near enough is good enough,' approach in their profession. You might put this to him and ask why then does he adopt this same approach in the things of God?

Finally, there are other Biblical passages which show that long hair, per se, was not a problem to God.

Indeed, in Numbers 6:1-5 God Himself instructed Moses that, if "a man or a woman makes a ... vow of a Nazirite," then amongst other things, "no razor shall touch his [or her] head" for the duration of the vow:

"6 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “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, 3 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. 4 All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins. 5 `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.'"

Indeed, in 2 Samuel 14:25-26, King David's son Absalom was praised for his very long hair:

"25 Now in all Israel there was no one so much to be praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. 26 And when he cut the hair of his head (for at the end of every year he used to cut it; when it was heavy on him, he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head, two hundred shekels by the king's weight."

And Paul himself in Acts 18:18 had made a vow to "cut his hair," which would make little sense unless it was normally long:

"After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow."

Of course many (if not most) in our post-Christian Western society may disagree that "man is to be distinguished from woman" by such things as hair-style. But that is not the point, which is, "does the fact that the Man on the Shroud has long hair contradict 1 Corinthians 11:14 and/or the Bible generally?" And the answer clearly is. "No, it does not!

I hope this helps. Regards.

Stephen E. Jones

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