If Paul thought long hair was bad, why did he take a Nazirite vow?

Question:

Thanks for the website. I read it all the time.

I have a question concerning men and long hair. I know that I Corinthians 11 talks about that. The first part of the chapter is written off by many as cultural, but I disagree that view; however, in verse 14 it states it is a shame for a man to have long hair. This was written by Paul; yet, I read in Acts 18:18 that Paul is beginning a Nazirite vow in which he would let his hair grow long. I'm confused. Any commentary would help.

Thanks.


Answer:

"Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow" (Acts 18:18).

The shaving of the head in connection with a vow is following the custom of the Nazirite vow (Numbers 6:2-21). The head is shaved at the beginning of the vow and again at the completion of the vow. Most Nazirite vows were not lifelong. Samson and John the Baptist were rare exceptions.

The Bible doesn't record why Paul chose to follow the Jewish practice for this particular vow, though we can make a reasonable guess. He stated he was heading to Jerusalem and wanted to be there in time for a particular feast (Acts 18:21 in the NKJV). Paul was well known in the Jewish circles as one who had abandoned their faith and had become a Christian. By following the custom of this vow, Paul was showing everyone that he had not changed that much, and it would provide an opportunity for him to talk to his brethren about the Christ. It was not that Paul thought that shaving the head was required for a vow. He saw it as something that made no difference and so it would do no harm to follow the custom and it would open doors of opportunity that he would not have otherwise. Even though he kept one part of the Nazirite vow, he would not have followed this type of vow completely. Along with the shaving of his head, the vow required abstaining from all grape products. As a Christian, Paul would not have done this if the vow lasted longer than a week because he would partake of the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). That supper includes the fruit of the vine (grape juice).

If that is true, then "When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and went down to Antioch" (Acts 18:22), going "up" would refer to going to Jerusalem to visit the church there. It would be there that he would be at the temple where the vow could be completed by shaving his head for a second time.

Notice that the time between taking the vow and completing it would only have been a matter of several weeks, or perhaps a few months at most. This would not have been long enough time for his hair to grow long.