Were any of the apostles clean shaven?


#1

In the book of Leviticus, men are required not to mar the corners of their beard. But the norm in Roman society at the time of Christ was for men to be clean shaven. Did the disciples of Jesus follow this norm or did they keep this tradition. Also, if John was the youngest at the age of 24-27 when Jesus died and kept this tradtion, isn’t all Christian art wrong when John is portrayed as clean shaven?


#2

In the Eastern tradition, all priests must be bearded. As good Jews, I imagine Our Lord and the apostles were all bearded. Romans were clean shaven. That doesn’t mean Jews were.


#3

Nobody today was there, so nobody can really answer that question–the most would be an educated guess. And no, all Christian art is not wrong, for the very reason that the question can’t really be answered, so the matter is up to the artist’s discretion and imagination.


#4

It is possible he is depicted without a beard to symbolize his youth.

In images of him as an older man, he has a beard.


#5

The Romans shaved their faces both as a cultural norm and because they were a strongly militaristic culture. Roman soldiers shaved their beards and clipped their hair so an enemy could not grab them by either one. The Jews and other MIddle Eastern men grew their beards. The Jews left theirs natural instead of shaping them as others did.

St. John was often depicted beardless–not clean shaven–to show that he was the youngest of the Apostles. But we really don’t know if he had a beard or not–if he were old enough he most likely would have. In “The Passion of the Christ” he was depicted with the rudimentary beard of a young man.


#6

Any of the 12 who were non-Jewish might have been clean shaven.

I say might because while Roman soldiers were clean shaven (to deny a possible enemy handhold on the chin) and older Romans would have been in homage to previous legionary service; in a world without steel razor blades or rotary cutters, clean shaven was possibly too much trouble among those not expected to do it.

ICXC NIKA


#7

All of the 12 were Jewish, though, yes? As a Gentile St. Luke may have been clean shaven–although there is a tradition that he was Jewish and so wouldn’t have been–not if he was practicing his heritage.

I say might because while Roman soldiers were clean shaven (to deny a possible enemy handhold on the chin) and older Romans would have been in homage to previous legionary service; in a world without steel razor blades or rotary cutters, clean shaven was possibly too much trouble among those not expected to do it.

ICXC NIKA

Yes, although, as you cited, not all Roman citizens followed that fashion. St. Paul, although a Roman citizen, as a Pharisee, wouldn’t have.


#8

I can see the Sons of Thunder shaving their faces with their swords.

:smiley:


#9

Paul would have been clean shaven right before having taken the vow of a Nazarite.

After this Paul stayed many days longer, and then took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aq’uila. At Cen’chre-ae he cut his hair, for he had a vow. (Acts of the Apostles 18;18)

Nazarites would not cut their hair while under the vow but would have shaved clean just prior.

All the days of his vow of separation no razor shall come upon his head; until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the LORD, he shall be holy; he shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long. (Numbers 6:5)

Elisha was a Nazarite. His bald head was how the children identified him as a man of God, someone who had just taken the Nazarite vow.

***He went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” *(2 Kings 2:23)

So yeah, at some point Paul was completely bald and clean shaven, just prior to taking the vow.

-Tim-


#10

Interesting. Thanks for that. I’ve never given that episode in his life any real thought before. :slight_smile: The custom appears to have continued with the Christian monks and the tonsure–another subject I know too little about but would like to know. :wink:


#11

Much of Christian art is already ‘wrong’ in a sense, anyways, in that we don’t really know what Jesus or Mary or most anyone else looked like. (In fact, there are only two people whom we have some kind of tradition regarding their likeness: Peter and Paul.)

Besides, this is the key thing to remember: Christian art, especially early ones, were (originally) really symbolic in nature. When John is depicted as clean-shaven, that’s not meant to be a statement to the effect that ‘this is what John the apostle really looked like’. That’s an artistic symbol for the belief that John was the youngest of the apostles.


#12

Peter and Paul are the only two people who have been depicted with near-regular consistency in early Christian art: Peter is always this guy with short, curly/frizzy hair and a close-cropped beard, and Paul is the bald one with a long (usually forked or pointed) beard. This consistency led some people to think that these artistic depictions might be derived from some sort of template or a kind of tradition regarding their appearance.

Now, they are really the exceptions to the rule: the other apostles - John included - did not get personalized depictions until much later (6th century or so, I believe). When they are depicted in earlier artworks, they’re really just portrayed as ‘generic’ guys. Not even the depictions of Jesus have the same level of consistency as those of Peter and Paul have.
http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/corinthians/images/peterpaul.jpg

http://www.saintpetersbasilica.org/Necropolis/MG/Fig-48-p173.jpg

http://www.christusrex.org/www1/ofm/pilgr/bord/pcts/05Paul.jpg


#13

Why does that matter? It is not relevant.


#14

It was pretty relevant back then!!!


#15

Why? It has zero impact on our faith or salvation.


#16

And?


#17

Therefore it is completely irrelevant if the Apostles were bearded or not. You are trying to make an issue out of a non-issue.


#18

Just asking a question.


#19

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