Thursday, March 30, 2006

Jesus: Jewish Hippie or Roman Couture?

I was on an airplane today and had a very pleasant conversation with a young lady. She was studying a statistics text book, which was very suspicious - but I try not to be judgmental. Anyway, it seems that we both had the experience of attending a conservative Baptist college for one semester before realizing our mistake. The conversation brought back a flood of disturbing memories.

I remember sitting in Hermeneutics class (That's Biblical Interpretation to you and me. This particular college threw around Greek and Hebrew words like the F-bomb in a Quentin Tarantino movie.) and the professor apparently thought good Biblical interpretation included a lecture on the subject "How We Know Jesus had Short Hair." No, I'm not making this up.

The good doctor, holding up a picture of Julius Caesar, made the observation that the style of Jesus' day was the "Julian" haircut - so it was only obvious that Jesus would have looked like the Roman emporer's marble bust.

Ummmmmmmm, yeah. I'm sure Jesus and his fellow religious Jews were simply slaves to Roman fashion. I mean, the Romans were so popular with the Jewish community. You certainly get that from a conservative hermeneutical exegesis of the canon. I mean it would be preposterous, not to mention theologically liberal, to suggest that Jesus the nazarene might have taken a nazarite vow not to let a razor touch a hair on his head.


Sometimes, my fundamentalist brothers absolutely astound me with the mental gymnastics (or maybe contortions is is a better word) they have to exercise to find their man-made legalistic rules in scripture.


At 10:05 PM, Anonymous said...

Hey... cool blog. Enjoy some of your ranting. You are very funny and yet have many good points.

Where as I agree with you 100% that Jesus wasn't reading RQ (Roman Quarterly) for his fashion advice and would have been overtly Jewish in his looks...

Yet he was NOT a nazirite as you suggest.

Nerdy Bible geek that I am, I had to correct the idea that there is any connection between taking a Nazirite vow and living in Nazareth and being a Nazarene.

The Nazirite vow originated in the Law of Moses about 1550 years before Jesus was born (See Numbers Chapter 6).

Nazirite is pronounced “Nawzeer” in Hebrew and means “to be separate.” People would take the nazirite vow for a period of time to be set apart as holy for some holy purpose. During the vow you could not eat or drink grapes or wine, you could not cut your hair and you could not touch anything or anyone dead.

Most people would take the vow for a period of time. There were a few, however, who were nazirites for life from birth… such as Samson or John the Baptist.

How do we know Jesus was not a Nazirite? He drank wine and was constantly touching dead people and bringing them back to life. That would disqualify him from being a nazirite.

So we have no reason to think Jesus had long hair, though he may have. We don’t know what Jesus hair was like and anyone’s guess is as good as another’s.

We picture Jesus today as a white guy with long hair because the modern image of Jesus is based on 12 century European artist’s conceptions. He was made to look like 12 century Europeans who were white dudes with shoulder length brown or blond hair. All pictures of Jesus since have imitated this motif.

However, it would be much more reasonable to picture Jesus with black perhaps even curly hair and a very Middle Eastern Jewish face. Jesus was NOT white. And his beard was not trimmed in anyway as the law of Moses forbid that.

Now Jesus was called a Nazarene because he grew up in Nazareth. That was from the Greek "nad-zar-eth" which was the name for a small village in Galilee. It means “the branch.” The Greek word for Nazareth and the Hebrew word for Nazirite have NOTHING to do with each other.

Now I can see how they sound alike and may lead someone to think there is a connection, but there isn’t.

You were right in your main point though, Jesus probably didn’t look roman. But probably didn’t look anything like a 12th century European like we all have seen depicted in every movie ever made about him.

Jesus was certainly not a conformist to man made traditions but I don’t see him riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as some long haired hippy in a tie-dye robe with a dead head sticker on his donkey’s bumper either.

Grace and Peace!


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