by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Express an idea often enough and people will assume it is true. The expression can be in the form of words or pictures. Consider the common image of Jesus. Photography did not exist at the time of Christ. There are no drawings or paintings of the Messiah which are contemporary with his time on this earth. Yet most of the depictions of Jesus show him with long hair.
The confusion comes from two words: Nazarite and Nazarene. A Nazarite was an Israelite who had taken a special vow to God (Numbers 6:1-21). At the beginning and end of the vow, the Nazarite shaved his head. But during the vow, his hair was left to grow long. Some Nazarites were dedicated to God for their entire life, such as Samson and John the Baptizer. Therefore their hair would have been very long.
However, a Nazarene is a person from the town of Nazareth. Jesus grew up in Nazareth and was, therefore, a Nazarene (Matthew 2:23). Nowhere is Jesus referred to as a Nazarite. In fact, we know that Jesus was not a Nazarite because he drank grape juice, something a Nazarite was not allowed to have (Luke 22:17-20).
The only thing that the Bible says about Jesus’ appearance is that he was not handsome (Isaiah 53:2). There is no reason to assume Jesus had long hair. But once a false idea becomes lodged in people’s mind, it is difficult for them to let go.