Jesus was a Nazarene, but He was not a Nazirite. The two terms are often confused for one another. The term Nazarene refers to someone who lived in the town of Nazareth, while a Nazirite (or Nazarite) was someone (such as Samson or John the Baptist) who took a special vow before God and was subsequently consecrated to God for service. Numbers 6 details the requirements for being a Nazirite, which included abstaining from wine (verses 3–4), keeping one’s hair unshaved (verse 5), and staying away from dead bodies (verses 6–7). After the time of the vow was fulfilled, the Nazirite had to present sacrifices and cut his hair, offering this as a sacrifice as well. From this information, it is clear that Jesus was not a Nazirite.
Jesus could not have been a Nazirite since He did drink wine, as recorded in the gospels. In fact, His first miracle was to change water into wine at the marriage in Cana (John 2:1–11), and we assume that He drank some of that. Also, at the Last Supper Jesus drank wine: “After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes’” (Luke 22:17–18). If Jesus had taken a Nazirite vow, He could not have consumed any product of the vine.
A Nazirite had to let his hair grow in order to fulfill his vow. Many paintings depict Jesus with long hair, probably in the mistaken assumption that He was a Nazirite. But there is nothing in the Bible that indicates the length of His hair. It’s possible that He let it grow out, but, if He did, it was not because He had taken a Nazarite vow.
Because Nazarene and Nazirite have similar spellings, many people confuse the terms. But it is important to make the distinction, since Jesus was often called a Nazarene (e.g., Mark 10:47 and Acts 22:8) but not a Nazirite. Our Lord did not follow the rules laid out for a Nazirite in the Mosaic Law.