Is it clear Scripture does not leave ambiguous whether a woman’s hair is okay to trim if it’s still technically long?
This is one of our key biblical distinctions from the Apostle’s doctrine addressing the distinction in sexes. A fascinating thing is while some Apostolics are picking up “studied ambiguity” from non-Apostolic sources on this subject, scholarship outside our movement are revealing some amazingly plain admissions.
One claim is 1 Corinthians 11 is just addressing a local Corinthian custom. But, Dr. R.C. Sproul (chancellor of Ligonier Academy and Reformation Bible College) says, “If Paul merely told women in Corinth to cover their heads and gave no rationale for such instruction, we would be strongly inclined to supply it via our cultural knowledge. In this case, however, Paul provides a rationale which is based on an appeal to creation not to the custom of Corinthian harlots.” He goes on to push interpreters by stating emphatically, “We must be careful not to let our zeal for knowledge of the culture obscure what is actually said.” His point is that this is not a cultural issue but a command for all times and places. What should we Apostolics say? Amen!
Another common attempt to move away from this biblical prescription is by saying the words or concepts in 1 Corinthians 11 are so far distant from us that we cannot be sure of the correct meaning or reading. This claim suggests we cannot be sure of what is or isn’t on a man or woman’s head. However, again, cutting edge research flies in the face of this claim. For instance, Dr. A. Philip Brown II (Associate Prof. of Language, Bible, & Theology at God’s Bible School & College) points out that although “long hair” (κομάω) can be used with various metaphorical senses, the normal meaning of the word throughout Koine literature is “to allow the hair to grow long by not cutting it, wear long hair.” He further takes on the counterarguments of both Ben Witherington III (Prof. of NT Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary) and Preston T. Massey (Prof. at Indiana Wesleyan University) proving them wrong.
Dr. Brown points out that while the word “long hair” kóme (κόμη) occurs in the NT only in 1 Cor. 11:15, that “hurdle” does not leave the meaning ambiguous. He points out the early church’s interpretation regarding Paul’s use of komáo (κομάω) and kóme (κόμη) is uniform! He proves, citing example after example, there is simply no case historically where Paul’s words are taken to refer to hair that is long and yet cut. The consistent understanding from all the existing records is that “. . . men are not to have uncut hair and women are to have uncut hair.” What is an Apostolic response? Amen!
Brown shows all the writing in the Greek of the New Testament (Koine Greek), and even all of classical Greek does not support a distinction between cutting hair and trimming it. Further, he shows Paul did not intend to make a “long and yet cut” distinction in 1 Cor. 11. He states emphatically, “Since I can find no such distinction in Koine literature, in the early church’s understanding of this passage, or in Paul, I conclude that the argument is not legitimate. Paul’s expectation was that women would have uncut hair that grows however long nature has determined, and that men would have cut hair that did not ‘cover’ their heads and thus is distinctly masculine.” Isn’t it fascinating when even non-Apostolic authors make incredible admissions rooted in the facts of the Scripture? What a powerful day to be on the side of truth! Can I get an “Amen?”
Bobby J. Killmon
Dean of Biblical Studies
Indiana Bible College