(Please note - I am a total beard enthusiast)
1Corinthians 11:14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace…?
What then of the beard? Nature quite clearly teaches us that God put a beard on man’s face to distinguish him from a woman. Numerous commentators state that the force of Paul’s argument in this verse is to suggest that having long hair was effeminate and that this was the disgrace Paul was describing in the context. Similarly, is it not also effeminate to shave off the unique feature of a man’s face in order to maintain the appearance of a lady or a child?
Indeed, there are even Christians who believe that women must wear skirts in order to distinguish themselves from men! Accordingly, the Christian husband wakes up every morning and proceeds to ritualistically shave off the very feature our wise God has created for that purpose. They would rather impose a man-made item of clothing on women for any needed distinction.
‘How do we distinguish between a man and a woman?’ The answer is right under your nose. And what, I ask, is wrong with the natural feature God has created for this purpose?
Throughout God’s Word, we see that men have beards. It is taken as obvious that they would have beards, with the shaving of them being the custom of heathen tribes for the mourning of their dead (Leviticus 19:27). In fact, in the Scriptures, we see that shaving off one’s beard is shameful:
2Samuel 10:4-5 So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved off half the beard of each and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away. When it was told David, he sent to meet them, for the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown and then return.”
Dr Gill interestingly points out that, were shaven men to have been acceptable in God’s Israel, they could have easily just shaved off the other half of their beard. But no! This was so shameful and ridiculous that they could not return without a beard.
So why do men shave today? How have things changed since David’s time? How did beard shaving come about?
The history of beard removal:
Ancient postdiluvian history – Cave paintings have been found depicting men plucking their beards off with sea shells; similarly flint appears to have been used for shaving various body parts as well as for cutting the flesh for diabolical pagan rituals.
Later, the Egyptians, particularly the priesthood, shaved their faces and heads. For the Egyptians, the less hair on one’s body, the higher their status. The Mesopotamians and the Sumerians too would shave off their beards with obsidian blades. Note that Moses was raised in the house of Pharaoh and the children of Israel had interactions with the Mesopotamians, particularly Balaam. And yet the Lord calls for Moses and the children of Israel to not do as the heathen nations do in shaving their beards and cutting themselves
Between 3000 and 1500 B.C. – Cultures from India to Scandinavia developed various permanent razors from copper and other materials for use in rituals for the dead.
500 B.C. – As homosexuality prevails in Greece and elsewhere, the hairlessness of men becomes increasingly popular. By the late 300’s B.C., Alexander the Great expanded his empire from the Mediterranean to the Himalayas and notoriously popularised shaving. He vainly would not go into battle without shaving. Just as notorious became the Greek baths where men would seek out younger men, perfumed and hairless.
The term ‘barbarian’ is thought to refer to supposedly uncivilised or un-barbered nations, the Greek word ‘barba’ meaning ‘beard’.
300 B.C. – Publicus Ticinius Maenas, a Greek barber, comes to Rome and the fashion spreads into Europe. It becomes so popular that once men reached the age of 21 they were legally required to be shaved using an iron novacila. Only the military and philosophers were exempt. With homosexuality just as popular and acceptable in Rome as in Greece, the rich had live-in servants to shave their bodies whilst the plebeians had to go to the barber to make themselves appear more effeminate and attractive to other men.
This practice continued and was increasingly popularised at least until 100 B.C. by Julius Caesar and by the openly sexually deviant Emperors such as Nero.
The Dark Ages – As the Roman Empire falls and is divided, the Papacy arises as the revived head of Rome. The ecclesiastical system of Antichrist Rome adopted countless Pagan customs; one of these being the shaving of their priesthood. Another example is the shaven head or ‘tonsure’ which was and is the custom of various heathen religions. By 1000 A.D., it was so engrained in the minds of Europeans that a shaved man was automatically a popish priest, it is thought that the Normans won the battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D. because their spies came clean-shaven and were mistaken by the Saxons for priests.
However, during the Reformation, beginning in the 1500’s A.D., for a priest to declare that he had been liberated by the light of the doctrines of grace and saw the Papacy as the
Antichrist, he grew his beard; this was a rejection of the darkness of the abominable traditions and errors of Rome.
The ‘Renaissance’ – The renaissance also began in the 1500’s A.D.; this movement saw artists, architects and philosophers reviving ideas from ancient Greece and Pagan Rome. Michelangelo, a notorious homosexual, amongst the works he was commissioned to create by the Papacy, carved his statue which is supposed to represent king David. Michelangelo, hearkening to the debauched artistry of ancient Greece and Rome, with their heavy emphasis on nude males, carved the statue of a completely naked, shaven man standing in an obscenely effeminate pose, facing towards Rome. This is most ungodly. Yet, this monstrosity declared to the western world what was considered masculine for centuries to come, even having been described as ‘the perfect man’.
Shaving increasingly became more popular among those of a higher status in Europe, as in
Egypt and Rome before it; shaving was considered the height of fashion in the 1600’s and
1700’s A.D., with popular books written on the subject. Peter ‘the Great’ of Russia even made beards illegal in order to be more like Western Europe.
‘Modern’ Times – Since the safety razor was introduced in the 1800’s, men have scarcely looked back. Today, if you are deluded enough to watch much T.V., a deliberately deep voice will attempt to sell you the idea that if you are clean shaven, attractive women will want to come and stroke your face. This is a stupid notion and those that fall for it, sadly, deserve to. Nothing has impeded the advance of this originally pagan practice from invading Protestantism and ruining many a fine beard. Very few voices, it seems, have stood against it. Charles Spurgeon declared in the 1800’s:
‘[G]row your beards! A habit most natural, scriptural, manly, and beneficial.’
Brethren, consider Christ who truly was the perfect man, indeed a bearded man (Isaiah
50:6); consider the thoughts of the early church of the 2nd century:
‘How womanly it is for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, and to arrange his hair at the mirror, shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them! …For God wished women to be smooth and to rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane. But He has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him as an attribute of manhood, with a hairy chest, a sign of strength and rule… This, then, is the mark of the man, the beard. By this, he is seen to be a man. It is older than Eve…It is therefore unholy to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness.’6
To conclude, I am NOT saying that a man who shaves cannot be a Christian and I certainly do not want to glory in the flesh of my brethren. But I do believe that someone who shaves their beard simply for vanity and to appear ‘normal’ in the eyes of the world is only satisfying their fleshly desires. Embrace what God put on your face; it turns overgrown schoolboys into men!
In all seriousness, I pray we would examine all of our habitual daily activities in light of God’s Word.
5 Spurgeon, C. H. (1981 ed.) Lectures to My Students, First Series, Lecture 8, Baker Book House, p.134
6 Clement of Alexandria, vol. 2, pp. 275-276