After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. (Acts 18:18, ESV)

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it belongs on Biblical Hermeneutics
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 23, 2016 at 6:13
  • Why on earth would a person edit a question, and then vote to close it? That's mind boggling. Sorry, but I think you folks get a little ahead of yourselves seeing full well there's a tag for this sort of thing: exegesis.
    – user31124
    Oct 30, 2016 at 17:46

2 Answers 2


A theme repeated consistently throughout Acts of the Apostles is that the Jews unfairly attack Paul for not following Jewish religious laws. In each case, Acts defends Paul by providing evidence that he was a loyal Jew, even if the defence sometimes seems contrary to what Paul states in his epistles to be his beliefs, including that Christians are not under Jewish law.

The vow in Acts 18:18 that required Paul to cut his hair would be the Nazarite vow that is stipulated in Numbers 6:1-21. Referring to claims that Paul taught his followers to abandon the Mosaic laws, Dennis E. Smith and Joseph Tyson say, in Acts and Christian Beginnings, page 225, "Luke intends to show that this is a false charge, and the taking of a vow of special devotion is probably intended to support the image of Paul as a faithful Jew."

  • Still I can not see the benefit of Paulbecause it didn't change the accusation from the Jew.
    – karma
    Oct 19, 2016 at 16:39
  • Still I can not see the benefit of Paul's vow because it seems it didn't change the accusation from the Jew and Paul go to prison. Thanks for the answer Dick Harfield.
    – karma
    Oct 19, 2016 at 16:44

Good question, and you'll find that in answering it you will wind up with far more questions than answers.

The starting place, is of course, the Tenakh, what you may have been told is the "Old" Testament. Shaul was a man who was a slave to righteousness (Romans 6:18), and a prisoner for Jesus the Christ, or for the Gospel (Eph 3:1. but also Zechariah 9:12)

To understand the vow one needs to look into what a Nazirite was. Nazirite -- Wikipedia
Now the place in the Tenakh to go to is Numbers 6:1-21 describing the vow.

Short of two other occasions, is there ever a precedent where the head of someone follow G-d was shorn? The one occasion is he who has contracted leprosy, in order to be fully diagnosed and then as a condition of being declared clean, the head was shaved. The other instance which may or may not pan out--though if memory serves-- instances of extreme mourning. Since neither of these two qualify as a vow, nor are even alluded to, we must conclude that Shaul had voluntarily undertaken a Nazirite vow.

There is more I will add later, time permitting.

  • I'm confused with the chronology between Acts 18:18 and Acts 21:23. If Paul already taken a vow in Acts 18:18, why did they ask Paul : "Therefore do just what we tell you. With us are four men who have taken a vow upon themselves" in Acts 21:23 ? Thanks for the answer user31124
    – karma
    Oct 19, 2016 at 16:52
  • @karma, you're welcome. I thought it a good question. In answer to your question in the comment, consider adding it to the question! I'd answer: because, perhaps, the legitimate vow was being used as a demonstration to those who had a (false) claim against him. The normal fulfilling of the vow had no public ceremony involved and in fact was quite a private thing involving the one taking vow, G-d, and the kohen HaGadol (High Priest). So in order for it to suffice as a demonstration of his following torah it would have to be witnessed by the faction who had claimants against him.
    – user31124
    Oct 19, 2016 at 18:49
  • To me, your answer is acceptable. Thank you once again user31124.
    – karma
    Oct 30, 2016 at 15:32
  • Oops... I just read again the verse.... Acts 21:24 : Take these men, purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so they can have their heads shaved I don't understand that those four man have their heads shaved is the beginning of their vow or the end of their vow, ya ?
    – karma
    Oct 30, 2016 at 15:38
  • @karma From Numbers 6:18, it is ideally at the end of the vow, however if they become defiled at any time before the vow's completion then they must shave their heads and start the period of their view over again. Sadly it sounds like the swell chaps who don't believe in exegesis, even though there's a tag for it, wish to close down your question. Crazy, right? So if you want it to inform others, I guess you should talk to those swollen chaps.
    – user31124
    Oct 30, 2016 at 17:44

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