Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What the early church thought about beards

Okay, this post is for fun. You will have to pardon my limiting my recent posting to merely quotations. I am working on a paper.

I know many of my readers are interested in the early church's attitude about beards. Well, your curiosity is about to be quenched. I myself have recently grown a beard, and have found a great source of inspiration.

So here are some early church meditations on beards. The references at the end of each selection give you where you can find it in the Ante-Nicene Fathers. Though I am being somewhat light-hearted in the presentation here, I really do find these thought-provoking. You may agree with some of the observations more than others:

"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." - Clement of Alexandria (vol. 2, p. 275)

"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 the token of the superior nature. . . . It is therefore unholy to descrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness." - Clement of Alexandria (vol. 2, p. 276)

"The nature of the beard contributes in an incredible degree to distinguish the maturity of bodies, or to distinguish the sex, or to contribute to the beauty of manliness and strength." - Lactantius (vol. 7, p. 288)

"This sex of ours acknowledges to itself deceptive trickeries of form peculiarly its own--such as to cut the beard too sharply, to pluck it out here and there, to shave around the mouth." - Tertullian (vol. 4, p. 22)

"Let the chin have the hair. . . . For an ample beard suffices it for men. . . . The hair on the chin is not to be disturbed." - Clement of Alexandria (vol. 2, p. 286)

These selections were taken from David W. Bercot, ed., A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1998), 66-67.

22 Comments:

Blogger Paul said...

I must begin by saying I'm eagerly awaiting my return home just so I can see you in a beard. We talked about this in my Early Church Fathers class back in September. Not much came from the conversation except the dismay of a fresh-faced student. Thanks for this!

12/07/2005 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

Wow, Ryan. Deep. It did nothing for my ego (which is a good thing), but it ministered to my spirit -- my heart of hearts.

On a much, much more serious note (Nos Sobrii), several pastor-friends of mine have grown goatees lately. It has raised important questions: Can one be a young fundamentalist without a goatee? Can one be a real fundamentalist with one? I'm sure your post will contribute much to the discussion. We are in your debt.

Furthermore, until now I was unsure what to preach on Sunday. Thank you so much...seriously.

12/07/2005 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Funny, Chris. Thanks for stopping by. I did not grow a goatee on purpose--because I viewed it as too trendy. More proof that I am not a young fundamentalist. Besides, I am confident that beards are coming back. People were clean-shaven in the 18th century (think Washington and Jefferson), and in the 19th century they came roaring back (think B. B. Warfield, Moody, U. S. Grant, Lincoln). In the 20th century, we moved back to the "womanly" look (I am just quoting Clement there--think Woodrow Wilson and FDR and everybody else). Now, in the 21st century, I am on the cutting edge . . . by not using a cutting edge. Beards are coming back, and I am at the fore-front of the movement.

12/07/2005 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ryan,

What do you think of God's command in the OT for the Hebrews to not round the edges of their beard? Does that mean no trimming or even shaving under the chin? Should this be applied to NT believers?

Also, some folks think beards are disorderly and therefore out of character with God. What would you say to this?

Paul Weir
Whitewater, WI
http://kettlemoraine.org

12/07/2005 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Paul, thank you for stopping by.

The church fathers I cited are quick to reference the Leviticus passage you mention (I did not include those here).

I am not sure what was exactly meant in the prohibition against rounding the corners of the beard. I can say that I hesitate to put myself under any of these legal regulations because of passages like Rom 7:1-4, Gal 4:1-11, Col 2:16-23, and 1 Tim 1:8-11.

Although beards can certainly be disorderly, they do not have to be. Clothes can be disorderly as well, and I wholly encourage people to wear clothes. I think if you are disorderly in appearance, it may indeed be dishonoring to God, but beards as such are not necessarily disorderly.

12/07/2005 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Paul, do not be discouraged. Too many young men grow facial hair too quickly, and it ends up looking "blotchy." Better to be "fresh-faced" than to have a mediocre beard.

12/07/2005 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

That last Paul was to the first Paul at the top. This Paul is a follow-up to the Paul from Whitewater:

The command to "not round the corners of they beard" comes from Lev 19. Moses giving sundry laws to the people, partly to set them apart as holy, as He is holy (v 2).

Here are some surrounding verses:

26Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.

27Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.

28Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

29Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.

30Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.

Even the commands we would agree with here would not apply strictly to the Church. Verse 29 would be the heart of any living and breathing father, but if he does not, the judgment promised should not be interpreted to fall to a father in America. And there are several others in this chapter we would have difficult applying to us. Consider verse 19, "Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee." Are we willing to follow verses 5-8?

5And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, ye shall offer it at your own will.

6It shall be eaten the same day ye offer it, and on the morrow: and if ought remain until the third day, it shall be burnt in the fire.

7And if it be eaten at all on the third day, it is abominable; it shall not be accepted.

8Therefore every one that eateth it shall bear his iniquity, because he hath profaned the hallowed thing of the LORD: and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.

So not only has Paul made it clear in the New Testament passages I cited above that we are not bound by the law of Moses (I just thought of another: Rom 3:19-20), but I would say if some Christian today sincerely believed that they were to obey all the commands in the Old Testament, they are probably doing a pretty lousy job of it.

12/07/2005 01:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the clarification, I agree. But then are their no rules or guiding principles for growing and keeping beards?

Paul Weir
Whitewater, WI
http://kettlemoraine.org

12/07/2005 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Well, I guess I would say that we must be careful to prove the will of God in these matters (see my post on Saturday). We want to be careful not to replicate the spirit of the age in these matters. But even our bearing a beard can be and should be for the glory of God.

12/07/2005 03:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

But, Ryan, what about those of us who can't...

Wait, I have this friend who couldn't grow a beard if his life depended on it. What about m... him?

12/07/2005 07:31:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Let me just say that some can post pictures of lions (be it Aslan or any other lion) on their blog, but they themselves will never have the distinct honour and priviledge of bearing the majestic look of one.

12/07/2005 09:41:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

LOL. Funny, funny, funny.

Scott, I knew w...er...you and my friend were kindred spirits.

All that stuff about being not being "womanly" and about God endowing men "as an attribute of manhood, with a hairy chest, a sign of strength and rule" really makes m...I mean, him want to cry.

12/07/2005 09:49:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

I hate typos. :(

"being not being" should be "not being"

12/07/2005 10:21:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

Scott,

My pastor-friend Dan Greenfield sent me this for our (friends') assistance.

Uh...thanks, Dan. You're too kind.

12/08/2005 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

RE: "Beards are coming back, and I am at the fore-front of the movement."

Ryan, when I was discharged from active duty in the Marine Corps, and started serving in the Reserves (1983), I grew a beard between my drill weekends. After boot camp, I grew a mustache, and have had a mustache since. Only when I was a recruiter aide for 1 year in the Corps, I did not have a mustache per the CO's orders.

Then, after I finished with my Reserve duty (1987), I decided to grow a beard so I didn't need to shave it because of the Marine Corps rules on beards.

Then, I re-enlisted in the Marine Corps reserve for 2 years (1990) and had to shave my beard, but not my mustache. I then re-grew my beard, and have had one since 1992 when I was discharged. Only during the summer months after being discharged did I shave it off. In 1998, I decided to keep my beard and only trim it every other week, and I do shave every other day just to keep my beard looking well groomed! So, I have been on the "fore-front of the movement" longer than you!

12/08/2005 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Doug, that's a fascinating story . . . no, really--it is.

Thanks for sharing . . . No, I mean that.

12/08/2005 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Hey, Ryan

:P``` Pffffffttttttttttt

12/08/2005 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous rjm2 said...

I am with scott and chris those who are not endowed with such gifts as you my friend. I must say that those readings from the early church fathers were quite discouraging.

12/09/2005 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

That's just the breaks.

12/09/2005 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger lilrabbi said...

Beardless friends,

Consider beardlessness a cross that you..uh...your friends must bear. As I can't glorify God by glorying in great music like you can, you can't glorify God by glorying in beardedness like I can...so there:P

12/10/2005 10:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Theoldman said...

Ryan,

As the father of four sons, each having been endowed with a variety of hairiness, it is my opinion, that there is not a spirituality or glory in having a lot of hair (unless teasing the brother is counted). Each of my sons, now being adults, have a different hair blessing. I, thank the Lord, have been facially hair gifted since high school. Unfortuantely, as I am growing older, my hair has departed in some key areas. However, the beard, goatee, and mustache I have worn during my adult years has been thick, dark and well groomed. It even reduces the emphasis from my bald top.

Having been part of a church in my early adult years, that forbid the growing of facial hair, I was a frustrated young man. Today, being gloriously called to the Independent Baptist faith, I have been liberated! I now have the option of having or not having a beard. To those with friends who may be hair impaired, its OK, its how God made you, rejoice, and be glad in it! (The baldness and now the snow in my black goatee, are a bit disappointing, however.)

12/15/2005 08:45:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Well, old man, I can just say that I desire a nice mantle of grey in the next ten years or so as much as some of these "more womanly" fellows desire to look "like a lion."

Thanks for stopping by.

12/15/2005 09:04:00 PM  

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Immoderate: What the early church thought about beards

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What the early church thought about beards

Okay, this post is for fun. You will have to pardon my limiting my recent posting to merely quotations. I am working on a paper.

I know many of my readers are interested in the early church's attitude about beards. Well, your curiosity is about to be quenched. I myself have recently grown a beard, and have found a great source of inspiration.

So here are some early church meditations on beards. The references at the end of each selection give you where you can find it in the Ante-Nicene Fathers. Though I am being somewhat light-hearted in the presentation here, I really do find these thought-provoking. You may agree with some of the observations more than others:

"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." - Clement of Alexandria (vol. 2, p. 275)

"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 the token of the superior nature. . . . It is therefore unholy to descrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness." - Clement of Alexandria (vol. 2, p. 276)

"The nature of the beard contributes in an incredible degree to distinguish the maturity of bodies, or to distinguish the sex, or to contribute to the beauty of manliness and strength." - Lactantius (vol. 7, p. 288)

"This sex of ours acknowledges to itself deceptive trickeries of form peculiarly its own--such as to cut the beard too sharply, to pluck it out here and there, to shave around the mouth." - Tertullian (vol. 4, p. 22)

"Let the chin have the hair. . . . For an ample beard suffices it for men. . . . The hair on the chin is not to be disturbed." - Clement of Alexandria (vol. 2, p. 286)

These selections were taken from David W. Bercot, ed., A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1998), 66-67.

22 Comments:

Blogger Paul said...

I must begin by saying I'm eagerly awaiting my return home just so I can see you in a beard. We talked about this in my Early Church Fathers class back in September. Not much came from the conversation except the dismay of a fresh-faced student. Thanks for this!

12/07/2005 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

Wow, Ryan. Deep. It did nothing for my ego (which is a good thing), but it ministered to my spirit -- my heart of hearts.

On a much, much more serious note (Nos Sobrii), several pastor-friends of mine have grown goatees lately. It has raised important questions: Can one be a young fundamentalist without a goatee? Can one be a real fundamentalist with one? I'm sure your post will contribute much to the discussion. We are in your debt.

Furthermore, until now I was unsure what to preach on Sunday. Thank you so much...seriously.

12/07/2005 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Funny, Chris. Thanks for stopping by. I did not grow a goatee on purpose--because I viewed it as too trendy. More proof that I am not a young fundamentalist. Besides, I am confident that beards are coming back. People were clean-shaven in the 18th century (think Washington and Jefferson), and in the 19th century they came roaring back (think B. B. Warfield, Moody, U. S. Grant, Lincoln). In the 20th century, we moved back to the "womanly" look (I am just quoting Clement there--think Woodrow Wilson and FDR and everybody else). Now, in the 21st century, I am on the cutting edge . . . by not using a cutting edge. Beards are coming back, and I am at the fore-front of the movement.

12/07/2005 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ryan,

What do you think of God's command in the OT for the Hebrews to not round the edges of their beard? Does that mean no trimming or even shaving under the chin? Should this be applied to NT believers?

Also, some folks think beards are disorderly and therefore out of character with God. What would you say to this?

Paul Weir
Whitewater, WI
http://kettlemoraine.org

12/07/2005 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Paul, thank you for stopping by.

The church fathers I cited are quick to reference the Leviticus passage you mention (I did not include those here).

I am not sure what was exactly meant in the prohibition against rounding the corners of the beard. I can say that I hesitate to put myself under any of these legal regulations because of passages like Rom 7:1-4, Gal 4:1-11, Col 2:16-23, and 1 Tim 1:8-11.

Although beards can certainly be disorderly, they do not have to be. Clothes can be disorderly as well, and I wholly encourage people to wear clothes. I think if you are disorderly in appearance, it may indeed be dishonoring to God, but beards as such are not necessarily disorderly.

12/07/2005 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Paul, do not be discouraged. Too many young men grow facial hair too quickly, and it ends up looking "blotchy." Better to be "fresh-faced" than to have a mediocre beard.

12/07/2005 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

That last Paul was to the first Paul at the top. This Paul is a follow-up to the Paul from Whitewater:

The command to "not round the corners of they beard" comes from Lev 19. Moses giving sundry laws to the people, partly to set them apart as holy, as He is holy (v 2).

Here are some surrounding verses:

26Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.

27Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.

28Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

29Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.

30Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.

Even the commands we would agree with here would not apply strictly to the Church. Verse 29 would be the heart of any living and breathing father, but if he does not, the judgment promised should not be interpreted to fall to a father in America. And there are several others in this chapter we would have difficult applying to us. Consider verse 19, "Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee." Are we willing to follow verses 5-8?

5And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, ye shall offer it at your own will.

6It shall be eaten the same day ye offer it, and on the morrow: and if ought remain until the third day, it shall be burnt in the fire.

7And if it be eaten at all on the third day, it is abominable; it shall not be accepted.

8Therefore every one that eateth it shall bear his iniquity, because he hath profaned the hallowed thing of the LORD: and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.

So not only has Paul made it clear in the New Testament passages I cited above that we are not bound by the law of Moses (I just thought of another: Rom 3:19-20), but I would say if some Christian today sincerely believed that they were to obey all the commands in the Old Testament, they are probably doing a pretty lousy job of it.

12/07/2005 01:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the clarification, I agree. But then are their no rules or guiding principles for growing and keeping beards?

Paul Weir
Whitewater, WI
http://kettlemoraine.org

12/07/2005 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Well, I guess I would say that we must be careful to prove the will of God in these matters (see my post on Saturday). We want to be careful not to replicate the spirit of the age in these matters. But even our bearing a beard can be and should be for the glory of God.

12/07/2005 03:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

But, Ryan, what about those of us who can't...

Wait, I have this friend who couldn't grow a beard if his life depended on it. What about m... him?

12/07/2005 07:31:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Let me just say that some can post pictures of lions (be it Aslan or any other lion) on their blog, but they themselves will never have the distinct honour and priviledge of bearing the majestic look of one.

12/07/2005 09:41:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

LOL. Funny, funny, funny.

Scott, I knew w...er...you and my friend were kindred spirits.

All that stuff about being not being "womanly" and about God endowing men "as an attribute of manhood, with a hairy chest, a sign of strength and rule" really makes m...I mean, him want to cry.

12/07/2005 09:49:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

I hate typos. :(

"being not being" should be "not being"

12/07/2005 10:21:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

Scott,

My pastor-friend Dan Greenfield sent me this for our (friends') assistance.

Uh...thanks, Dan. You're too kind.

12/08/2005 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

RE: "Beards are coming back, and I am at the fore-front of the movement."

Ryan, when I was discharged from active duty in the Marine Corps, and started serving in the Reserves (1983), I grew a beard between my drill weekends. After boot camp, I grew a mustache, and have had a mustache since. Only when I was a recruiter aide for 1 year in the Corps, I did not have a mustache per the CO's orders.

Then, after I finished with my Reserve duty (1987), I decided to grow a beard so I didn't need to shave it because of the Marine Corps rules on beards.

Then, I re-enlisted in the Marine Corps reserve for 2 years (1990) and had to shave my beard, but not my mustache. I then re-grew my beard, and have had one since 1992 when I was discharged. Only during the summer months after being discharged did I shave it off. In 1998, I decided to keep my beard and only trim it every other week, and I do shave every other day just to keep my beard looking well groomed! So, I have been on the "fore-front of the movement" longer than you!

12/08/2005 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Doug, that's a fascinating story . . . no, really--it is.

Thanks for sharing . . . No, I mean that.

12/08/2005 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Hey, Ryan

:P``` Pffffffttttttttttt

12/08/2005 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous rjm2 said...

I am with scott and chris those who are not endowed with such gifts as you my friend. I must say that those readings from the early church fathers were quite discouraging.

12/09/2005 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

That's just the breaks.

12/09/2005 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger lilrabbi said...

Beardless friends,

Consider beardlessness a cross that you..uh...your friends must bear. As I can't glorify God by glorying in great music like you can, you can't glorify God by glorying in beardedness like I can...so there:P

12/10/2005 10:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Theoldman said...

Ryan,

As the father of four sons, each having been endowed with a variety of hairiness, it is my opinion, that there is not a spirituality or glory in having a lot of hair (unless teasing the brother is counted). Each of my sons, now being adults, have a different hair blessing. I, thank the Lord, have been facially hair gifted since high school. Unfortuantely, as I am growing older, my hair has departed in some key areas. However, the beard, goatee, and mustache I have worn during my adult years has been thick, dark and well groomed. It even reduces the emphasis from my bald top.

Having been part of a church in my early adult years, that forbid the growing of facial hair, I was a frustrated young man. Today, being gloriously called to the Independent Baptist faith, I have been liberated! I now have the option of having or not having a beard. To those with friends who may be hair impaired, its OK, its how God made you, rejoice, and be glad in it! (The baldness and now the snow in my black goatee, are a bit disappointing, however.)

12/15/2005 08:45:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Well, old man, I can just say that I desire a nice mantle of grey in the next ten years or so as much as some of these "more womanly" fellows desire to look "like a lion."

Thanks for stopping by.

12/15/2005 09:04:00 PM  

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