This post entitled “The Error of the Long-haired Jesus” makes the very interesting case that Jesus did not have long hair and a beard. Read it yourselves, but I will summarize it in this post.
(In case anybody is interested, it doesn’t affect my faith one whit whether Jesus has long hair or not. I have a vision of His face in my mind that has nothing to do with his hair length or whether he has a beard. It is mostly His eyes that I see in my mind. But I find such historical speculation interesting. And, yes, this also applies to temple depictions of the Savior, which like everything in the temple are done to help our worldly eyes understand the mysteries of the eternities. Please note that each of the temple films has a Jesus who looks different, so we should not let ourselves get bogged down about details (such as Jesus with long hair and a beard) that miss the point.)
So, the post I link above makes the point that it was the custom in Palestine in the 1st century AD for most Jews to have short hair. Jesus was not a Nazarite (they notably had long hair). And Paul’s writings seem to imply that people who are followers of Christ should have shorter hair. In addition, early Christian writers make the point that most people in the 1st Century AD thought Jesus had short hair.
The idea that Jesus had long hair and a beard came from the attempt to make Christianity more palatable to Greeks and Romans, who all imagined gods in that way. Here is a statue of Sarapis (Zeus):
But, the post claims, there is no reason to believe Jesus actually looked at all like this.
The post states:
With the time of Constantine a new type of JESUS began to be portrayed among the Christian population of the Roman Empire. They took the style of grooming which was typical of the pagan gods and adopted it as their “JESUS.” The above drawing is from a bust in the British Museum of Sarapis, the Egyptian version of Zeus (the chief of the Gentile gods). See reference Harper’s Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities, article, “Coma.”
Note the long hair! Such long feminine type of hair on a man is how evil spirits are portrayed in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 9:7,8). And Sarapis is always portrayed with a beard and long hair. It is astonishing that since the time of Constantine in the fourth century, almost all the visionary experiences of people who believed they saw a personage they thought to be “Jesus,” have seen a long haired “Jesus.” This is not the Jesus of the Bible (either in his fleshly state on earth or his divine state in heaven). The truth is, the real “Jesus” of the New Testament (who taught in the flesh among the Jews almost 2000 years ago) groomed himself by clipping his hair to keep it relatively short.
Looking at scripture, the post makes the following points:
The apostle Paul said it was a shame for a man to have long hair because the male is made in the image of God who is groomed with short hair (I Corinthians 11:3-16). It was a common characteristic of Jewish men to wear their hair in a close-cropped fashion. Eusebius copied the text of the Jewish historian Josephus in Against Apion I.22, para.173-4. In this section, Josephus was quoting an early Gentile author who gave some unique grooming styles of Jewish men. Josephus shows that the Jews were known, as Eusebius renders it, for “their close-cropped hair” (Preparation for the Gospel, IX.9, sect 412b).
There was a definite reason why Jewish men (especially in the time of Jesus) wore their hair short as a common custom. The people knew that the Aaronic priests had the role of being mediators between themselves and God. Sometimes the priests took the place of the people in petitioning God, while at other times the priests became a substitute for God in instructing the people. In the time of Jesus most of the Sadducees were priests while the majority of the remainder of the Jews were Pharisees. The Pharisees applied the Scripture that the whole nation of Israel were to be reckoned as priests (Exodus 19:6) and they invented some strict customs even for themselves and the common people that were actually designed only for priests. And what was a principal custom (indeed, it was a command from God) that characterized the priests because of their roles in being like God to the people and the rest of the world? God commanded all priests to have SHORT HAIR! That’s right, the priests who administered in the first Tabernacle and later in the Temple at Jerusalem were required to have short hair, not long hair which women were accustomed to wear.
Such a command had been in effect since the time of Moses. Whereas the King James Version translates Leviticus 10:6 as “uncover not your heads,” the Jewish authorities always knew that this should be rendered “Let the hair of your heads not grow long” (see Rashi on Leviticus 10:6; and it is so translated in The Jerusalem Bible, Koren ed.).
This command of God was given again in the time of Ezekiel. “They shall not shave their heads [that is, to be bald], or let their locks grow LONG they shall only trim the hair of their heads” (Ezekiel 44:20 RSV)
Jesus was not a Nazarite:
Jesus, however, was not under a Nazarite vow during his ministry because he also consumed wine and the fruit of the vine (Matthew 11:19) and this was prohibited to all Nazarites (Numbers 6:3). Though Jesus lived in the town of Nazareth, he was not a Nazarite. This shows that Jesus had short hair like all normal Jewish men at the time. Indeed, when Judas pointed out who Jesus was at the time of his betrayal to the priests, he kissed him on the cheek (Luke 22:48) rather than pointing out the man with the long hair. The simple truth is, Jesus while teaching on earth had short hair and all the early portraits of him made in the hundred or so years before the time of Constantine show him also as beardless.
It was common custom throughout the Roman Empire in the first century for men to have their hair short. They followed the examples of the Caesars of Rome who always wore short hair. As far as males were concerned, Paul demanded that they keep their hair short. Indeed, even with the Greeks it was customary for men to wear their hair short except, as the Jews, for short periods of mourning. Charles Goodwin of Pusan, Korea supplied me with this quotation from the Loeb edition of Plutarch’s Moralia on The Roman Questions 267B. “In Greece, whenever any misfortune comes, the women cut off their hair and the men let it grow, for it is usual for men to have their hair cut and for women to let it grow” (emphasis mine). Paul reminded his Greek readers in Corinth of this custom which he called the way of nature [instinct] among the Greeks. So, both Jewish and Greek men normally wore their hair short. It was even a religious duty for Jewish men.
This is because males were to be groomed in the way that God and Christ were groomed (and as the priests of Israel were groomed). Jewish Christians did not need to be told this. They already kept their hair short. Indeed, for a Jewish male to have long hair signified his attitude of mourning and that he was in shame and humiliation. “Does not nature [instinct] itself teach you, that if a man have long hair it is a shame to him?” (I Corinthians 11:14).
So, to sum up: I think the post makes an interesting case, certainly one worth considering. If you still feel Jesus has long hair and a beard, I have no problem with that. As I said, I don’t have strong feelings either way. But it is worth thinking about at the very least.