Today, a man walking about without a beard is just that: a man without a beard. But transport him back into ancient Israel or ancient India and he would be labeled as an adulterer. Travel to ancient Greece and that same man would be laughed out of the city as "effeminate" or perhaps it was the result of a punishment by the Spartans for his cowardice. This poor confused man could find refuge in Rome, however, where it was well-accepted to walk about naked faced.
If this man was in England during the 16th century, he could be marked as a celibate clergyman. He certainly would not be considered a Reformed clergyman. These men protested the church and it's stance on celibacy by allowing their beards to grow at length: the longer the beard, the more striking the statement. (Thus explaining the beard of John Knox!)
(I must add that one of my favorite things about Josh's beard is the smell of pipe tobacco lingering from a "theology walk" when he is out in the open air, smoking, and talking about the things of God. I imagine Christian men of old doing this very thing)
Also at this time, women were reigning. Typically, women did not (or could not) exert their opinions on the facial hair of society's men. However, as queen, Elizabeth found a way by putting a tax on the beard. I guess women and beards have been at enmity for a long time!
In western society, the beard began to die out and, I would say (except for a short time in60s to 80s), has not returned to popularity. Oh so sad.
What killed it; or rather...who shaved it? Was it the feminist movement when women finally had a say in society? Was it the small rodent which apparently made it's home in some men's beards? Does it go further back to Western culture's decent from Rome where the beard was never truely prized? I don't really know. Perhaps westerners and beards just don't mix. Okay, Josh: time to move East!
Finally, consider these words from history:
"There are two kinds of people in this world that go around beardless — boys and women — and I am neither one." -Greek saying
"A kiss without a mustache, is like soup without salt." - Breton saying
"A man without a mustache is like a cat without a tail." - Arab Saying
"A woman with a beard looks like a man. A man without a beard looks like a woman." - Afghan Saying
Leonato: You may light on a husband that hath no beard.
Beatrice: What should I do with him? Dress him in my apparel and make him my waiting-gentlewoman? He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man: and he that is more than a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a man, I am not for him… -William Shakespeare - Excerpt from 'Much Ado About nothing"
"The beard is the handsomeness of the face, and a wife is the joy in a man's heart."
- R' Akiva, Eicha Rabbah
- R' Akiva, Eicha Rabbah