Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume III/Moral Treatises of St. Augustin/Of the Work of Monks/Section 39

39. For there is less sin, if people do not praise the sinner in the desires of his soul, and speak good of him who practiseth iniquities.[1] Now what is more an iniquity than to wish to be obeyed by inferiors, and to refuse to obey superiors? The Apostle, I mean, not us: insomuch that they even let their hair grow long: a matter, of which he would have no disputing at all, saying, “If any chooseth to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the Church of God.[2] Now this I command;”[3] which gives us to understand that it is not cleverness of reasoning that we are to look for, but authority of one giving command to attend unto. For whereunto, I pray thee, pertaineth this also, that people so openly against the Apostle’s precepts wear long hair? Is it that there must be in such sort vacation, that not even the barbers are to work? Or, because they say that they imitate the Gospel birds, do they fear to be, as it were, plucked, lest they be not able to fly? I shrink from saying more against this fault, out of respect for certain long-haired brethren, in whom, except this, we find much, and well-nigh every thing, to venerate. But the more we love them in Christ, the more solicitously do we admonish them. Nor are we afraid indeed, lest their humility reject our admonition; seeing that we also desire to be admonished by such as they, wherever we chance to stumble or to go aside. This then we admonish so holy men, not to be moved by foolish quibblings of vain persons, and imitate in this perversity them whom in all else they are far from resembling. For those persons, hawking about a venal hypocrisy, fear lest shorn sanctity be held cheaper than long-haired; because forsooth he who sees them shall call to mind those ancients whom we read of, Samuel and the rest who did not cut off their hair.[4] And they do not consider what is the difference between that prophetic veil, and this unveiling which is in the Gospel, of which the Apostle saith, “When thou shall go over[5] unto Christ, the veil shall be taken away.”[6] That, namely, which was signified in the veil interposed between the face of Moses and the beholding of the people Israel,[7] that same was also signified in those times by the long hair of the Saints. For the same Apostle saith, that long hair is also instead of a veil: by whose authority these men are hard pressed. Seeing he saith openly, “If a man wear long hair, it is a disgrace to him.” “The very disgrace,” say they, “we take upon us, for desert of our sins:” holding out a screen of simulated humility, to the end that under cover of it they may carry on their trade of self-importance.[8] Just as if the Apostle were teaching pride when he says, “Every man praying or prophesying with veiled head shameth his head;”[9] and, “A man ought not to veil his head, forsomuch as he is the image and glory of God.”[10] Consequently he who says, “Ought not,” knows not perchance how to teach humility! However, if this same disgrace in time of the Gospel, which was a thing of a holy meaning[11] in time of Prophecy, be by these people courted as matter of humility, then let them be shorn, and veil their head with haircloth. Only then there will be none of that attracting of people’s eyes in which they trade,[12] because Samson was veiled not with haircloth, but with his long hair.


  1. Ps. x. 3 [ix. 24]
  2. 1 Cor. xi. 16, 17
  3. E.V. follows text rec. τοῦτο δὲ παραγγελλων οὐκ ἐπαινῶ, but good mss. and Versions besides the Ital. and Vulg, have τοῦτο δὲ παραγγελλω ουκ ἐπαινῶν, hoc autem prœcipio non laudans.
  4. Numb. vi. 5
  5. Cum transieris. Gr. ἡνίκα δ᾽ ἄν ἐπιστρέψη, sc. ὁ Ἰσραὴλ Chrys. Theod. or τὶς Origen.
  6. 2 Cor. iii. 16
  7. Exod. xxxiv. 33
  8. Venalem typhum
  9. 1 Cor. xi. 4
  10. 1 Cor. xi. 14
  11. Sacramentum
  12. Species illa venalis