by Al Maxey

Issue #276 ------- November 21, 2006
How we clutch at shadows as if
they were substances; and sleep deepest
while fancying ourselves most awake!

Thomas Carlyle {1795-1881}

Trim Not Thy Tresses
The Snipped Hair Hairesy

A minister from the very beautiful state of Missouri, where our middle son and his family reside, and where Shelly and I visit every summer on our vacation, recently made the following request: "I hope that you will begin writing much more to expose the Old Paths Advocate [a One Cup publication] empire. They can be brutal in their policing of the One Cup brotherhood." I have long been a subscriber to the Old Paths Advocate, and have seriously studied this particular faction within the Churches of Christ for a good many years. In the November, 2006 issue of this periodical (which, by the way, has been in publication for over 80 years) there was an Editorial by Don L. King (from Livermore, California), who serves as the publisher. His editorial comments bear the titillating title: "Can A Woman Trim Her Hair?" The question so intrigued me that I quickly found myself perusing this man's thoughts on the subject. I then discovered a much fuller treatment of this same subject, also authored by Don King, titled "Let Her Be Covered," which may be found, and examined in its entirety, under the heading "Doctrinal Issues" at the web site mentioned above.

As one might imagine, Don King takes the very narrow view that women must, by divine decree, let their hair grow long. His very first statement in his Editorial is: "For as long as I can remember God's people have generally accepted that the Scriptures teach a Christian woman is to have long hair" [Old Paths Advocate, Nov. 2006, p. 2]. He then lamented that some women have chosen to cut their hair anyway, but in so doing they have blatantly "ignored what the Bible said" [ibid]. Therefore, it is Don L. King's view that when a woman cuts her hair -- indeed, when she dares to even trim her hair -- she is committing SIN against God. With heavy heart, Don King revealed, "Some years ago, a fellow got on the Internet and taught Christian women all over the world that they could trim their hair and still obey God. His teaching was plainly a false doctrine ... the fruit of that false doctrine is still with us" [ibid]. His conclusion, in the final paragraph of his Editorial, was this: "Brethren, in light of Scripture, there really is no reason any Christian woman should ever trim, shear or shave her hair. Just leave it alone and let it grow" [ibid, p. 8]. In his above referenced tract, Let Her Be Covered, he declares, "Only the God of heaven assuredly knows how many souls have been placed in jeopardy or lost by disobedience of 1 Cor. 11:2-16." This is clearly a salvation issue for Don King.

This teaching is nothing new, nor is it restricted to rigid religionists like Don L. King and his Old Paths Advocate adherents. It predates the present dispensation and even transcends the parameters of our own Judeo-Christian teaching. In the theology of Islam, for example, the Jamiatul Ulama [Council of Muslim Theologians] have interpreted their sacred writings as decreeing that although a woman may be allowed to trim her hair on occasion, she may not clip it further than "the size of a small finger," which they determine to be no more than two centimeters. Don King would consider even this much too liberal, as he would advocate no trimming at all. There is an old Ozark folksong, written and recorded by Blind Alfred Reed in 1927, that easily demonstrates this narrow view among some of the "mountain folk" of a bygone era. It is titled: Why Do You Bob Your Hair, Girls? Note the following stanzas:

Why do you bob your hair, girls?
You're doing mighty wrong;
God gave it for a glory
And you should wear it long.
You spoil your lovely hair, girls,
To keep yourself in style;
Before you bob your hair, girls,
Just stop and think a while.

Why do you bob your hair, girls?
It is an awful shame
To rob the head God gave you,
And bear the flapper's name.
You're taking off your covering,
It is an awful sin;
Don't never bob your hair, girls,
Short hair belongs to men.

Why do you bob your hair, girls?
It does not look so nice.
It's just to be in fashion;
It's not the Lord's advice.
And every time you bob it
You're breaking God's command.
You cannot bob your hair, girls,
And reach the Glory Land.

Why do you bob your hair, girls?
It's not the thing to do;
Just wear it, always wear it,
And to your Lord be true.
And when before the judgment
You meet your Lord up there,
He'll say, "Well done, for one thing:
You never bobbed your hair!"

Daniel L. Segraves, in his book on the subject, wrote, "For thousands of years, society has frowned upon the cutting of hair by women. Speaking in very broad terms, it is only since the turn of the twentieth century that the practice has gained and held any wide acceptance" [Women's Hair: The Long and Short of It, p. 15]. Although those who disfavor women cutting or trimming their hair are quick to quote such statements as this one made by Daniel Segraves in his book, his premise is far from accurate. The reality is that history is filled with peoples throughout the world who clearly did not frown upon women cutting their hair, and, indeed, in a good number of cultures it was even favored for various reasons, including religious reasons. Even among the ancient people of Israel, both men and women [Num. 6:2] who chose to place themselves under "the vow of a Nazirite, to dedicate themselves to the Lord," would at some point, as a part of that vow, shave their heads and present the hair as a burnt offering before the tent of meeting [Num. 6:9, 18-19]. Therefore, under this circumstance at least, the Law of Moses clearly allowed women to cut their hair, and to do so for religious purposes. It should also be noted that in the case of leprosy there was also provision made for the cutting of hair [Lev. 13:33; 14:8-9]. Further, when an Israelite man sought to marry a captive woman from another nation, he was to bring her home to his house, "and she shall shave her head and trim her nails" [Deut. 21:12]. Although these are certainly all exceptional, out-of-the-ordinary cases, nevertheless they do demonstrate a willingness on the part of God to permit a woman to cut her hair, even shave her head, for medical, religious and social purposes.

Proponents of this restrictive theology, such as Don King, will suggest that nowhere in the Bible is there any positive statement regarding women cutting their hair (i.e., for style or comfort). While true, it is equally true that nowhere in the Bible is there any negative statement regarding such. Certainly, it was the known custom of the ancient Israelites, under normal circumstances, for women not to cut their hair short. However, the responsible biblical exegete must remember that human custom does not necessarily equate to divine command. Further, in the absence of any such command, for mere men to elevate a mere custom to the level of universal Law is irresponsible. Yet, this is exactly what far too many have done, not only with the hair issue, but with countless other matters of personal preference and perception as well.

Most people who focus on the teaching of Paul in 1 Cor. 11:2-16 believe he is dealing with the custom of women wearing some form of veil, and to a large extent he is. However, as noted in the above referenced issue of Reflections, I would agree with Don King that God's "covering" for the woman is her hair. In that article I wrote --- "Paul is indeed declaring a covering for women to be essential, but that this covering has already been provided by the Lord God, woman's Creator, and thus some artificial covering of human design is not really required. Should such a covering as a veil be employed, then that is fine, but it is not necessary for the simple reason that the covering God has given the woman is her hair! 'For her hair is given to her for a covering' (1 Cor. 11:15). Thus, she already has a covering; one given to her by her Creator. Thus, Paul has no intention of being contentious over some custom or practice regarding a humanly devised covering. If one wants to wear one, fine; if not, fine! This, I believe is the true significance of verse 16. In the church of God there is no such practice or custom of binding the use or non-use of artificial coverings, thus no need to be contentious over such. It is a woman's hair that is her glory, and her God-given covering. 'Women in the church have a ready-made covering and are therefore not necessarily in violation of the principles expressed in vs. 3-10. Overall then, 1 Cor. 11:3-16 is a very liberating passage. In it, women are freed from the bondage of wearing religious head garb' (NT Restoration Foundation)."

Don L. King, in his article, stated, "What the woman must have is that which is given to her, instead of an artificial veil" [Old Paths Advocate, Nov. 2006, p. 8]. With this I completely concur. That which is given to her is her hair. The issue before us, however, is what a woman may, or may not, do with that God-given covering of her head. In particular, may she ever trim it? Or, as Don King suggests, must she simply "leave it alone and let it grow" [ibid]? The whole matter revolves around how one interprets several key Greek words found in 1 Cor. 11:5-6. The apostle Paul wrote the following instruction to the Corinthian brethren, "But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered" [New King James Version]. The words that need to be examined much more carefully are: "shorn" ... "shaved" ... "uncovered." It is upon these three words that Don King has based his restrictive theology regarding women trimming their hair.

Don L. King, after quoting verses 5-6, makes this statement in his article: "In these verses we find a jewel of truth. Paul speaks of a woman who is 'uncovered' (vs. 5). Her covering is her hair according to verse 15. Hence, this indicates that something has happened to her hair. She is 'uncovered.' She is not 'shorn' or 'shaven,' as per verse 6, yet she is 'uncovered.' Paul mentions three conditions: 'uncovered,' 'shorn' and 'shaven.' These two verses show us that a woman can be 'uncovered,' yet not have her hair cut off short or be shaven. Look at the woman Paul mentions in verses 5 and 6. She is 'uncovered,' but she is not yet 'shorn' or 'shaven.' We know what shorn and shaven means here, but what else might render the woman 'uncovered'? Simple logic tells the story, brethren. The only thing left is trimming. Obviously, when a woman trims her hair, though she is not shorn or shaven, she is still quite 'uncovered'" [Old Paths Advocate, Nov. 2006, p. 8]. Is Don L. King correct in his analysis? Let's look at these words more closely, and ask some very pointed questions.


This particular Greek word is keiro, and it only appears four times in the pages of the New Covenant writings -- Acts 8:32; 18:18; 1 Cor. 11:6 (twice). It's primary meaning is: "to shear," as one would shear the fleece from sheep, for example. I grew up on the Navajo reservation among this noble people, who largely raised sheep for a living, and I have seen a good many sheep sheared. Although there may be some stubble left on the skin, it is nevertheless a rather close cropping ... certainly far more than a trimming. It is an almost complete removal of the covering of the sheep. There is a vast difference between a sheep that has been trimmed (perhaps clipping some wool that has been matted with burrs) and one that has been shorn. As Don King correctly states in his article, "The condition of 'shorn' indicates hair that has been cut close to the head" [p. 8]. The words "shorn" and "shear" appear several times in the OT writings also, and the Hebrew equivalents to the Greek term convey this same concept.


This is the Greek word xurao, which is a form of the word for "razor," and simply means "to shave with a razor." This word appears only three times in the NT documents -- Acts 21:24; 1 Cor. 11:5-6. It is found over 20 times in the OT writings. It conveys the concept of removing virtually any trace of hair from the head or body, and this is done by using a razor. In some translations of certain OT passages, this term is even rendered "bald." Again, Don King correctly states in his article, "'Shaven' presents a picture of hair that is barely visible at all" [p. 8].


This comes from the Greek word katakaluptos, meaning "to hide, cover, veil," which is then negated by adding the Greek letter a (alpha). One of the rules of Greek grammar is that when the letter alpha is prefixed to a word, that word is generally thereby negated. Therefore, the word akatakaluptos (which appears only twice in all the NT, and only here in this passage in 1 Cor. 11) simply means "uncovered, unveiled." Most biblical scholars feel the apostle Paul is referring to a woman violating the custom of the day, which in a great many places in that day and age dictated that respectable women would be veiled in public. Although Paul taught that Christians should be cognizant of local ways, and not intentionally seek to violate custom if such violation could be a hindrance to the spread of the gospel, nevertheless Paul seems to suggest in the passage that whether one wore a veil or not was not an issue in God's sight, for the true "veil" of the woman, her God-given "covering," was her hair. Nevertheless, if a woman was determined to bring shame upon herself and family by violating the customs of the day, then she might as well take such rebellion to the ultimate extreme and uncover her head completely by removing her hair as well. This seems to be the majority view as to the significance of the "uncovering" mentioned here by Paul.

Don King, however, sees it much differently. To his way of thinking, the "covering" of which Paul speaks is only the woman's hair. He sees no reference to an artificial veil whatsoever. Therefore, "uncovering" can only mean, in his view, a removing of hair. Since the words "shorn" and "shaved" denote the complete removal of hair, he thereby contends that "uncovered" could only logically indicate a lesser removal of hair. Thus, he concludes "uncovered" means hair that is trimmed. This theory, to be accepted, must completely set aside as invalid the interpretation that Paul had any reference at all to the custom of women wearing a veil in ancient Greco-Roman societies. That view must be utterly rejected to make Don King's theory work, and virtually no reputable biblical scholars are willing to discount this custom as being at least a factor, no matter how small, in Paul's overall reasoning.

In his article, Don King made this assertion: "Simple logic tells the story, brethren." Okay, let's apply some "simple logic" to this man's theory. If in fact, as Don L. King boldly asserts, the term "uncovered" signifies hair which has simply been trimmed (i.e., any amount of cutting whatsoever, no matter how small), then if a woman trimmed just a centimeter from her bangs, or cut the dead ends from her long, flowing tresses (even if her hair reached to her knees), then by definition she would be "uncovered." IF "uncovered" signifies such a trimming, then this would have to be the logical conclusion of Don King. Thus, a woman could have hair dragging the floor and still be "uncovered" according to this theory. In his tract he wrote, "For her to cut, or in any other way remove, her hair renders her 'uncovered.'" He then states that as far as God is concerned, "if she removes any part of her hair she is 'uncovered.'" He even states that whether she is "sheared right off at the scalp" or just trimmed, God sees both as equally "uncovered."

In verse 15 Paul writes, "If a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering" [New King James Version]. However, are we to "logically" assume that if this woman trims the dead ends from her "long hair," from her "covering," that she thereby has rendered herself "UNcovered," and thus no longer has "long hair"? If a simple trim renders a woman no longer covered, does that same simple trim make "long hair" short? If I commented to a friend, as we observed a lady with hair down to her ankles, "That woman is a sinner because she has removed her covering of hair!" --- what do you suppose the reaction of my friend would be? "She what?! What do you mean she removed her covering of hair? Her hair is practically dragging the ground!" "You don't understand," I reply. "She cut a centimeter off the ends on the right side!" "She did?! How can you tell?!" "Oh, I can tell. I have the spiritual gift of perception!" "Hmmmmm. And you think that means she is no longer covered with hair?! Doesn't sound like you're too perceptive to me!!"

Brethren, let's face facts here. There is nothing either logical or exegetically responsible about this narrow doctrine prohibiting the trimming of a woman's hair. Indeed, it is an absurdity that only opens the door for unbelievers to further mock the people of God. It is a clear case of eisegesis (reading a doctrine into the Scriptures), rather than exegesis, in which we draw Truth from out of the inspired writings. I would be very interested in knowing from Don King if he feels there is ever any circumstance that would justify a woman trimming her hair, or if such is forbidden for life. In other words, I'm curious if there are any scenarios that would justify, in the mind of Don King, the setting aside of God's Law to accommodate a human need, and, if so, what are they specifically? It is unlikely I will ever get an answer from Don King, but if I ever do I will pass it along to my readers. Also, as a follow-up, I would pose the additional question -- under what circumstances and scenarios of human need could other Laws of God (either actual or assumed) be set aside without penalty? I think the answers of this man would be most enlightening!

Let me close by stating that I harbor no ill-will toward Don King or my beloved brethren in the One Cup congregations. I have never met Don, and thus have no reason whatsoever for a personal dislike of this man. Until proven otherwise, I shall operate under the assumption that he is nothing other than a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ with whom I simply differ on some matters of practice and perception. This does not make him an evil man, nor does it make him my enemy. I do believe, however, that some of his teachings are fallacious, and even dangerous, and have absolutely no qualms about attacking such teachings very boldly. I have sent a copy of this evaluation to Don King, and have invited him to respond. If he should choose to do so, I will be happy to share that response with you. May our God be with us all as we seek greater understanding and application of His Word, and may He guide us into greater unity and fellowship with one another.

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Readers' Reflections

From an Elder in Arizona:

Dear Brother Al, I serve as an elder in the church here, and have been a reader of your Reflections for about three years now. I also have your Reflections on CD. I enjoy your work and appreciate the scholarship of your studies. I really love to read -- especially your writings! I also have your book on marriage and divorce -- Down, But Not Out -- and I think it is the best on the market! Keep up the good work!!!

From a Reader in Virginia:

Bro. Al, I have been blessed to read your Reflections. I am asking that you and your church family pray for me. I have to start chemo treatments for cancer on November 29th. Please keep me in your prayers.

From a Minister in the Philippines:

Dear Bro. Al, Greetings in the name of the Lord. I have a question. Actually, this is not my own question, but a question raised in a discussion during a Bible study. I know we have a lot of verses in the Bible that show killing your fellow man is a sin, but where can we find scriptures that teach it is a sin to kill yourself? Please help me out on this one! I need to answer somebody's question. May God bless you and keep you, brother!

From a Reader in Georgia:

Brother Maxey, I have never written before, but I am a huge "fan" of your Reflections. I live in Georgia, and we are struggling so much in this area of the state. Our congregation is considered the "liberal" Church of Christ in our area because we allow divorced people to attend, and even let them teach class and lead singing. We also allow those with religiously mixed marriages to attend without harassing them. Anyway, that is only the tip of the iceberg, of course, but I say that basically to beg for your prayers on behalf of our congregation, and for all the Churches of Christ in this area.

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Al, Once again you have provided a great treatment of a puzzling subject in your Reflections article on the offerings of Cain and Abel. God truly does not look at what we give to Him. Instead, He is more concerned with how it is given, and how we live our lives in the interim.

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Al, Excellent article! I believe you nailed the matter of it being the heart of Abel and Cain that was the issue. Thanks for the stimulation. I too think it is possible that Cain and Abel were not the first births to Adam and Eve. I appreciate you, brother!

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, Once again you have hit the proverbial nail a solid blow with your "Offering A Better Sacrifice" Reflections. The main lesson is so often missed from this account -- What is in our hearts when we deal with our fellow man is what is important! I think of the MarsList group and all of the hatred that is shown by them. What a shameful display of human cruelty, rather than the love that God expects of us. Are we Abel, or are we Cain, in our daily dealings with others? Are we acceptable in God's sight? Bro. Al, you just continue to be a bright light glowing in the darkness. Thank you. I have said it before, and continue to say it: "Soldier On" dear brother! As long as there are "Al Maxeys" around, the family of God will increase and grow in spirit and strength!

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Bro. Maxey, I have really enjoyed your writings for some time now. Thank you for your work. If you have not heard of this already, you may want to read Bro. Wayne Jackson's comments in The Christian Courier on one of your articles. His article is: The "Belly Button" Argument. Although he refers to you as a "gentleman," his condescension and characterization of you and your motives declare otherwise!

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Your Reflections articles bless me! I admire your scholarship and ability to cut through the fog on complex issues. I'm studying about what it means to have a relationship with God. How is knowing God different from knowing about God? Thanks!

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