January 1, 1997 Issue
by Ronny F. Wade 

Question: If a woman trims her hair, is she violating I Cor 11:1-16?

Answer: Before I give an answer to the above question, there are several observations that I would like to make. When I first began preaching over forty years ago, it was rare to find very many women in the churches who cut their hair. Now and then there would be one, but they were few and far between. Today, the opposite is fast becoming the norm. More and more women are not only cutting their hair, but many openly declare that there is nothing wrong with it. Often as a first step there seems to be an idea among some that if a woman just trims a little of her hair it is not wrong, but if she were to cut a significant portion of it off, she would he in violation of the above passage. Is this sound or correct reasoning? Please note the following facts before you draw your conclusion. "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering" I Cor 11:15. The expression "have long hair" translates a Greek word which means "let the hair grow" Thayer p.354. The idea of length is not relative. Paul is not contrasting the length of a woman's hair when compared to the length of man's hair. (To argue that a woman's hair is longer than a man's misses the point.) In fact, the idea of a certain lineal length in so many feet or inches is not under consideration. Our hair is either natural length or not natural length. We either let our hair grow or we do not. If we let it grow we do not cut it. If we cut or trim it, we do not let it grow. Thus Paul is actually saying: "If a man let his hair grow, it is a shame unto him. But if a woman let her hair grow, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. "How much of her hair is given her for a covering? The word "hair" in this verse translates a Greek word meaning "head of hair" Thayer p.354. Thus it is a woman's "head of hair" or all of her hair that is given her for a covering. When a woman trims the edges or the last few inches of her hair, she no longer has "long hair" in God's sight. She ceases to "let the hair grow" by trimming it. To argue that trimming the hair will cause it to grow, also misses the point. Paul is not suggesting ways to get the hair to grow, but merely telling women to not interfere with its growth. When a woman trims her hair, she has cut her hair, and in so doing has violated this passage.

Question: Is Paul merely addressing a custom that applied to that time and place?

Answer: "But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God (v.16)" The idea expressed by Paul here is not, as some have concluded, that if anyone objects to his teaching just forget it or ignore it. But actually he is saying the very opposite. His meaning is: if anyone refuses this teaching, let him know that we, nor the churches of God recognize nothing else, i.e. no other teaching. It would be utterly foolish to charge Paul with presenting the content of vs 1-16 and then say if anyone wants to argue about this, then just forget it. Certainly not. Other translations make the meaning unmistakably clear: "If any man presumes to raise objections on this point, well, I acknowledge no other mode of worship. "(Mof) "If, however, anyone still thinks it is right to contest this point" (TCNT), I for my part recognize no other practice in worship than this" (Goodspeed). Paul also affirmed that such teaching was recognized in all of the congregations of that day. To try and negate the plain teaching of the Apostle in these verses, is to tread on dangerous ground. Sisters, do not think that you can ignore what is here said and taught and escape the judgment of God. This inspired writer did not spend sixteen verses of sacred text merely to have it swept under the rug with one fell swoop. In summary, Paul declares that there are three things a woman may do with her hair. She may cut or trim it, she may shave her head, or she may let her hair grow. Regarding the first two he said "...but if it he a shame for a woman to he shorn (cut) or shaven, let her he covered." So, of the three things a woman may do with her hair, two of them are a shame. The other thing she may do is "let the hair grow" i.e. have long hair. If she does this, Paul declares that "it is a glory to her." Glory or shame, which will you choose? Often when preachers discharge their duty in pointing out this sin, many become upset and disgruntled as though someone has trespassed into a forbidden area. Such, however, is the duty of every preacher of the gospel, and should result in thanks, rather than scorn, on the part of the hearers.

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