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Q&A: Are Christian Women Required To Wear Head Coverings During Worship?

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Q&ATo those unfamiliar with this topic – yes, this is a serious question. 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 seems, at least at first glance, to command Christian women to cover their heads during worship.

Consider the passage in question:

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God. (1 Cor. 11:2-16, ESV).

I will not pretend that this is an easy passage to understand, nor will I deny that this passage is somewhat controversial (even within the Lord’s Body). Yet I do believe, after careful study, that it is understandable and no longer needs to be mysterious to us.

Head Coverings WEB2

“Give No Offense To Jews Or To Greeks Or To The Church Of God”

The first mistake people make when studying this issue is by beginning with 1 Corinthians 11:2. To adequately understand the passage, we must know the context, which Paul begins in 10:23:

10:23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ (1 Cor. 10:23-11:1, ESV, emp. added).

Here we are introduced to an important principle. Paul begins in verse 23 by informing us that while all things have a legitimate use, they may be used illegitimately. More specifically (verse 24), even good things, if we are not careful, can be detrimental to the people around us. This principle is illustrated with the example of eating meat (verses 25-31). Under the Christian covenant, all meats are permissible to eat (cf. Mark 7:19, Acts 10:9-16; 1 Tim. 4:3), even if they have been offered as a sacrifice in a pagan temple. A sacrifice, after all, doesn’t change the nature of meat; meat is meat. Yet, if a weaker Christian has a conscience problem with eating meat sacrificed to an idol, you should avoid consuming that meat in his presence. Why? Not because there is something wrong with the meat, but because you might hurt the conscience of the weaker brother. Doing so would be using something good in an illegitimate way (cf. verse 30).

The point is this: Christians need to be aware of how their actions could be perceived by other people. We must place a priority on protecting the name of Christ and building up His Church. (For further reading: “Is 1 Thessalonians 5:22 incorrectly translated?”)

The Principle Applied With Head Coverings

Paul further illuminates this principle for these early Corinthian Christians with the cultural practice of that day concerning women and head coverings (1 Corinthians 11:2-16).

The Corinthian Cultural Norm Of Women Wearing Veils 

It was a cultural practice for women, at least in 1st century Corinth, to cover their heads. Unlike the modern ‘Christian-woman-must-cover-their-heads-with-a-small-handkerchief’ concept, these 1st century coverings probably more closely resembled the burkas (veils) worn by women in Muslim regions today.

Of significant note, Corinth boasted the temple of Aphrodite (the goddess of procreation). Evidence suggests that this temple had as many as 1,000 ‘priestesses’ (prostitutes) in its service. It also employed a large number of male ‘priests,’ some of which appealed to the homosexual variety of the populace who wished to pay homage to Aphrodite. Needless to say, Corinth was a deeply immoral city. These temple prostitutes reportedly walked around the city without their veils and often had their hair shorn. Additionally, the male prostitutes, at least some of them (mainly the passive partners), probably allowed their hair to grow out. 

What was the significance of a woman’s public head covering? Roy Deaver made the following observations. It meant that:

  • She was concerned about decency and wanted to be regarded as a pure woman; she did not desire to be identified with the ordinary prostitutes of Aphrodite.
  • She recognized and respected the sacred principle of a woman being in subjection to man – that this was a relationship divinely established.
  • She desired to be in harmony with an inherently right, meaningful custom; she did not desire to be unnecessarily offensive to others.
  • She did not want to bring reproach upon the Church of Christ.
  • She did not want to be offensive to God or to His angels. [1] (Note: See 1 Peter 1:12 for a possible explanation of 1 Cor. 11:10)

The Dilemma

Evidently, some of these early Christian women were engaging in their religious duties and public interactions without their veil/head-covering. By violating this cultural norm, they were also violating the principle found in 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1. Why was this so bad?

  • It sent a message that they did not recognize or respect the headship of a man.
  • It sent a message that they did not respect the fact of creation – that woman was created from man.
  • It sent a message that they did not care about what the angels witnessed.
  • It sent a message that they did not care about society’s standards and customs.
  • It sent a message that they were being rebellious to the regular practice of the churches and Paul’s instructions.[2]

 How Corinthian Christians Were To Apply The Principle Taught In 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1

Paul told these early Christians they needed to stop violating the cultural norms of appearance (cf. 11:4-6, 13). Corinthian Christian women were to start covering their heads when in public. Christian men were to look like men, and Christian women were to look like women. In so doing, they would stop hurting the image of the Church and offending the consciences of weaker Christians.

Why The ‘Head-Covering As A Universal Command’ Argument Is Wrong 

Several well-intentioned Christians teach that, because of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, women in 21st century America need to cover their heads when they attend church services. This teaching is flawed for several reasons:

Paul was not referring to the congregational worship assembly in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.

Isn’t it interesting that today’s ‘head covering’ proponents teach that women only need to cover their heads during worship? Yet, Paul was not specifically talking about the worship assembly. How can we know this?

  1. The context of the passage (10:23-11:16) is about how Christians need to interact with society as a whole. Remember, Paul’s point is this: “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God” (10:32). Paul is not limiting this discussion to Christian worship.
  2. The ‘worship assembly’ is not specifically addressed until 11:17 (“…when you come together…”).
  3. The last thing Paul could be talking about is the worship assembly. In 11:5, Paul mentions wives who are “praying or prophesying” – something which Paul explicitly forbade in the congregational worship assembly in no uncertain terms (14:33-35, cf. 1 Tim. 2:11-12).

To those who believe Paul is binding this universally on all Christian women today, I make this appeal: please be consistent. If Paul is commanding women to wear head-coverings in worship, then he is definitely commanding women to wear head-coverings whenever they are in public.

The Corinthian church was not violating a specific doctrine taught by the apostles.

If these 1st century Corinthian women were violating a command taught universally by the Holy Spirit, then Paul would not have praised these early Christians for “keeping the traditions just as [he] delivered them” (11:2). They were simply violating culture, which in turn violated the principle Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1.

The veil does not mean the same thing today as it did in 1st century Corinth.

Note some differences between 21st century American culture and 1st century Corinthian culture:

  • Women ordinarily or customarily do not wear a veil.
  • Veils do not automatically declare a woman’s concern about purity and decency.
  • The absence of a veil does not automatically brand a woman as a prostitute.
  • Veils do not automatically indicate that the wearer recognizes and respects the principle of being in subjection to man.
  • Veils do not automatically indicate that the wearer does not desire to be offensive to others.
  • Veils do not indicate that the wearer does not want to bring reproach upon the Lord’s church.
  • Veils do not indicate that the wearer does not want to be offensive to God or to His angels. [3]

The simple fact of the matter is this: Head coverings in 21st century America have nothing to do with the principle set forth in 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 and therefore cannot be bound on Christians today. To teach otherwise would be to bind where God has not bound.

Conclusion

Are Christian women commanded to wear head-coverings today? A careful study of 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:16 says “no.” If it is a command, and not merely a 1st century reflection of an important principle, then Christian women must don head-coverings the moment they leave the house.

This study would not be complete without adding this point: if a woman’s conscience demands that she wear a head covering to worship, then by all means, she must wear a head-covering. A Christian must be careful not to do anything that will jeopardize her conscience (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1-2). Is there anything wrong with wearing a veil? Certainly not! But is it false doctrine to bind head coverings on others? Yes.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.


[1] Deaver, Roy. “1 Corinthians 1:1-16: Women and Veils.” Difficult Texts From First and Second Corinthians. Fort Worth Lectures. Winkler Publications: Montgomery, AL. 1981.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

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26 Responses to Q&A: Are Christian Women Required To Wear Head Coverings During Worship?

  1. Mandy October 8, 2013 at 1:26 PM #

    Although I have heard this subject discussed before, even through my own study I have had a hard time understanding this passage. This finally put the pieces together for me. Thank you for your well written article!!

  2. Jack October 8, 2013 at 1:29 PM #

    Very well done! Made sure to save this article to use in the future. Thanks for writing this up!

  3. Bonnie October 8, 2013 at 2:06 PM #

    I agree that the covering should be a woman’s personal choice and people should not argue over the topic. However, I disagree with this article. The point about eating meats unto idols, doesn’t apply here. You could say that all women Should wear it b/c it may offend some if they don’t. Also the point of culture. Scripture doesn’t say that we should or should not do it because of culture, it says because of the way creation was set up, man then woman, an that hasn’t changed. And it says because of the angels. The scriptures teach that she should wear it for praying and prophesying (teaching). I agree that this is a serious subject that women should really study for themselves with an open heart. :)

    • Ben October 8, 2013 at 2:40 PM #

      Bonnie, thank you for your good comments and for being so pleasant. It is okay for you to disagree with me. Please consider this response to a few of the points you raised:

      1. Culture certainly does play a role in ascertaining a Biblical command. If it didn’t, we would be required to literally wash the feet of others (1 Tim. 5:10) and “greet one another with a holy kiss” (Rom. 16:16). Christians have the obligation to distinguish between direct commands and principles behind the commands.
      2. In compliment with point number 1, consider what the 1st century Christians would have thought when they read 1 Cor. 11:2-16. I believe they would have understood it immediately. Contrast that with today; we read this passage and scratch our heads. Why us and not them? The reason is obvious: this is saturated in culture. To deny that culture plays any part in this (and I know you’re not denying it, but some do) is to deny the obvious.
      3. What Paul said about “nature” in 1 Cor. 11:14 is part of his larger appeal to their sense of propriety (vss. 13-15). The veil, at that time, was a reflection of nature itself – that woman was of man and submissive to man, as mankind is to his Creator. No one today would say the veil still reflects natural law. Such a reflection no longer exists, at least in 21st century America.
      4. If she should only wear the veil while praying and prophesying, she will not be doing any of those things during worship, and therefore need not wear the veil.
      5. If a woman is obligated to wear a veil to the worship assembly, then she is obligated to wear a veil anytime she is out in public.

      -Ben (ben@plainsimplefaith.com)

      • Heath October 8, 2013 at 5:32 PM #

        Ben,

        Thanks for your thoughts.

        However, I disagree that the covering is cultural. Many of the reasons given for the covering in 1 Corinthians 11 are not cultural in nature. Verses 7, 8, 9, and 10 all contain non-cultural reasons given for the covering..

        I do not believe that the passage teaches that a woman has to wear the covering during worship, only that she has to wear a covering while she prays or prophesies. So, if the congregation prays during worship, then she would be obligated to wear the covering. Also, when the woman prays outside of the church assembly then she would be obligated to wear the covering as well.

  4. donevy October 8, 2013 at 3:23 PM #

    I agree with Bonnie that this subject must be something that a person has studied out and come to peace with. Like Bonnie, there are things in this article that I disagree with, things that Bonnie has mentioned and other things as well. Many/most have heard that ‘this is not binding today’, and therefore have not studied it out, just accepted it. Many explanations for why it isn’t binding are given ie. her covering is her hair. That can’t be it (you can’t remove your hair per se), or as stated here as well that it was a cultural custom. Yet, it appears to be an ancient happening that extended both ways in time–prechristian era and forward until just a few years ago. Even in this country women wore a head covering when attending worship until mid 1900’s. Some will quibble that a ‘hat’ is not a veil, and that is correct, but what it is not isn’t the point. Women (people in general) considered a hat a ‘head covering’, whether God did or not, and they wore them until it became ‘unfashionable’. Consequently, it really appears that the fashionability or not of the covering was the main reason the head covering went out of style, not God’s requirement or not.

  5. Amy Bidigare October 8, 2013 at 4:08 PM #

    I remember studying this before and thinking the ‘head covering’ referred to women having hair?

  6. Jon W. October 8, 2013 at 10:25 PM #

    Thank you Ben for your work in the Kingdom. As one who views this differently than you I first want to say I appreciate your kindness in this post. Due to limited space (250 words), I’ll mention this: Many of the modern Christians who practice covering make the difficult decision believing its more than just a small handkerchief on their head. It actually doesn’t matter what item they choose to wear, they have angonized over such a decision that they believe is God-directed. Us men will never be able to understand this but its one of the most humbling acts of obedience they’ll ever do as Christians (by the way, I am one who doesn’t believe its only during worship). Also, I want to encourage you to think beyond 1 Cor. 10:23 as the context. One thing I can’t wrap my mind around is where Paul mentions “Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-25) Yes, Jesus IS God’s wisdom, but God’s precepts are His wisdom, too. If we concern ourselves with the practices of the world, we have just verified the world’s wisdom as acceptable. Finally, another text hard to ignore is 1 Cor. 4:16-17. Timothy will remind the church the ways that are taught everywhere in every church. I believe we can’t ignore the first few chapters as not being context also. Brotherly, Jon

  7. mrjgardiner October 9, 2013 at 12:21 AM #

    Hi Ben, the 1000 cult prostitutes belonged to Greek Corinth (not Corinth, the Roman colony) which was destroyed 200 years before Paul’s time. It was refounded in 44BC and some commentators mistakenly apply that to Paul’s time. I wrote about this in more depth here: http://www.headcoveringmovement.com/articles/is-head-covering-cultural-what-about-the-corinthian-prostitutes

    • Ben October 10, 2013 at 3:38 PM #

      While the original temple of Aphrodite was destroyed in 146 B.C., (as you state) it was refounded by the Romans. Specifically, it was moved to the Acrocorinthis (the acropolis of Corinth), and it very much existed in the time of Paul and the 1st century Corinthian church. It is this very time period, not the pre-146 B.C. period, about which Strabo writes. Pausanias also writes about this temple. The overwhelming evidence suggests that this temple played a significant role in the deep-rooted immorality of the city. The simple fact of the matter is this: Corinth was a corrupt and wicked city in the time of Paul. While it is okay to be skeptical about the exact details of the city’s immorality, one errs when he attempts to say that it all went away, including the temple prostitution, before Paul’s time.

      • mrjgardiner October 10, 2013 at 4:19 PM #

        Thanks for the response back Ben. Just to clarify, my comment was not saying it didn’t exist (Strabo calls it “a small temple of Aphrodite”) but rather to say that specifically the 1000 prostitutes belonging to the larger prosperous temple was destroyed and didn’t belong to Paul’s day. Strabo always uses the past tense “And the temple of Aphrodite WAS so rich that it owned more than a thousand temple slaves, courtesans, whom both men and women had dedicated to the goddess.” and “The city of the Corinthians, THEN, WAS always great and wealthy”.

        Pausanias (2.4.6/2.4.7) doesn’t provide any details that would support that conclusion either.

        Finally, there is no source material that supports the claim that even if the Corinthian prostitutes belonged to Paul’s day that the women shaved their heads and the males grew their hair long. That’s a conjecture based upon the reading of 1 Cor (imagining what the situation must be like for Paul to make the claim) rather than any historical evidence. My hope in writing this Ben is that if you come to the conclusion that there is no source information that you’ll remove the claims from the article as it’s unfortunate that this type of historical misinformation is getting repeated and stated as fact. If you have any source information that shows I’m wrong, I do honestly want to see it.

        This article may also be of help: http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_ephesus_baugh.html

        • Ben October 10, 2013 at 4:49 PM #

          Thanks for your comments. There is some debate as to whether Strabo was exaggerating when referring to the 1,000 temple prostitutes; whether there really were that many. We can be certain, however, that there were a lot of them. My understanding is that Strabo used the past tense because he wrote about his visit to Corinth several years later. He visited Corinth around 29 B.C., and is figured to have written his volumes of Geography between 7 A.D. and 24 A.D. (when he died). I could very well be wrong about this, however.

          Scholars have long affirmed the penalty of harlotry/adultery in the ancient world was the shaving of the head. Note the long list of theologians and historians who have affirmed that very fact in relation to Corinth (http://www.faithdefenders.com/church-life/headcoverings.html).

          While this is not an easy issue, the evidence I have seen continues to weigh significantly more heavily toward the notion of a very sexually-busy temple of Aphrodite, and that the punishment for prostitution was the shaving of the head. For me to deny this would be to place myself in opposition to most of the scholars I have read concerning this matter.

  8. John October 9, 2013 at 11:22 AM #

    Ben, I appreciate these good thoughts. They were communicated very clearly and brought out a few points I had not considered before (most notably with respect to verse five and how that clearly would not be applying to the worship service).

    I do not believe a veil is necessary, nor that this passage is binding a veil on women. While we agree on that, we would disagree on a few other things in this passage; but not to a degree that would/should create any animosity.

    Thank you for giving me some additional things to consider about this challenging passage.

  9. Levi October 10, 2013 at 6:04 PM #

    Ben,
    I also appreciate your effort to study this topic. However, I must respectfully point out that you have utilized a flawed argument as the basis for all of your subsequent arguments.
    1. Your argument is: The Christian is subject to the cultural norms if violating them would harm the church. Notice how many times you use the phrase ‘cultural norm’ in your article and you will begin to see the pattern and the inherent dangers of this argument. Let me post a quote from your article as an example: “Paul told these early Christians they needed to stop violating the cultural norms of appearance (cf. 11:4-6, 13).” To state that we, as Christians, are subject to the social (i.e. cultural) norms is to allow a Christian to violate God’s law in certain situations (hence the term situation ethics). This philosophy allows a Christian missionary to run naked with the pygmy tribes because their culture is one of nakedness. This same argument could be used by many to excuse inappropriate dress because the cultural norm is pants down to the knees or halter tops and short shorts. Obviously, you see the problem with this thinking. (See Bro. Jim Waldron’s book entitled “Is There a Universal Code of Ethics?” obtained from http://www.waldronmissions.org/tracts.htm for the cost of shipping only).
    See replies for a couple more points that I think might need considering.
    In Christ,
    Levi

    • Ben October 10, 2013 at 6:25 PM #

      Good point, Levi. You know I agree with you on the topic of Christians and “cultural norms,” but I am glad you raised this point because there are less discerning and less mature readers who may have misunderstood what I actually mean.

      Allow me to elaborate on what I meant: Christians should bow to cultural norms so long as those norms are not contradictory to God’s Law. The same principle should be applied to Christians and government (Rom. 13:1-7). Christians must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29), even if culture says otherwise.

      For example, if the cultural norm is to wear banana slippers every Tuesday (and to be seen without banana slippers on Tuesday would send a message to society that you are profane and dishonest), then Christians better wear banana slippers on Tuesday. They would be bound to do so according to 1 Cor. 10:23-11:16. However,
      If the cultural norm is to publicly bow down and worship a golden calf every day at 3:00pm, then Christians must refuse.

      Thank you for asking me to elaborate on this, as my single blog post on head coverings did not allow me to expand on everything that needed to be said.

    • Levi October 10, 2013 at 6:46 PM #

      Continued…
      2. Also of note, the word tradition, in the Greek is used to denote ordinances and doctrine, Paul going so far as to command the Thessalonians to hold them fast whether they had received them via word or by epistle (II Thes. 2:15) and withdraw from those who did not (II Thes. 3:6). As Bro. Gary Hampton points out in his commentary on this book: “However, when Paul spoke of them in 1Co_11:2, he was speaking of the doctrine passed from Christ to the apostle to the Corinthians. Notice, Paul did not create the traditions but “delivered” them.” This being true, it then would be indicative of a divine instruction rather than the cultural practice.
      3. Now, in the outlines and commentaries that I have been studying, the authors denote a change in context beginning in verse 2 of this passage. Wilkins and Boa in their book “Talk Thru The Bible”, for example, show that from 11:2 through 14:40, Paul is indeed discussing worship. This also seems to be the general consensus from Darby to Henry to Wesley, Hampton, Dunagan, etc. As you read the chapter, watch how in verse 2, Paul starts out by praising them, but then in verse 17, he suddenly rebukes them for their actions. Has he totally switched gears on them or is this a continuation of what began in verse 2? I suggest the latter. “I praise for holding these traditions… but rebuke you for changing these…”
      to be continued…

      • Ben October 11, 2013 at 7:24 PM #

        You are exactly right concerning #2. “Tradition” is in fact the doctrine of Jesus passed on to the apostles. As I pointed out (though this young preacher probably articulated it poorly), Paul congratulated these Corinthian Christians for maintaining the [doctrine] as “delivered” by Paul (v. 2). By taking off their head-coverings, they were not directly violating any doctrine as taught by Jesus and His New Testament. Otherwise, Paul would not have commended them.

        You also correctly point out, concerning #3, that an impressive list of theologians note a change in context at verse 2. I understand McGarvey and Barnes also make this distinction. However, the chapter and verse divisions of 1 Corinthians (as well as every book of the Bible) are foreign to the text, and often distort our perception of context changes. The scholarly field is not wholly unanimous concerning the supposed switch in verse 2, and I (though I am by no means an authority on this issue) am not yet convinced. The flow, to me personally, seems unnatural until it is pointed out that verse 17 changes to the assembly.

  10. Levi October 10, 2013 at 6:58 PM #

    I promise this to be my last continuation :)

    And continued again… (isn’t the 250 word limit fun? :D)

    4. Now, it is also important to note that Paul begins this dissertation on the covering by stating, not a cultural norm, but a creation standard. It is well established that there is a specific hierarchy in our personal and spiritual lives: God, Christ, Man, Woman. This in no way demeans the woman, it simply means God established it that way for a reason, and we are not to go beyond it. This principle leads into the next part: To cover or not to cover (to draw from Shakespeare). What then is the purpose of the covering? to show ones’ submission to another person. According to the context of 2-16, as I read through it, the woman must be covered, HOWEVER, because of verse 13, I do wonder if the apostle is leaving the HOW she is covered or showing that submission up to her head. To wit, does the husband desire a physical scarf, hat, veil, etc or is her hair sufficient for her.
    Again, let me praise you for taking on such a topic/passage. Your blog encourages me to greater study of the Word and that always is a blessing. May God bless you in your service to Him…
    Levi

    • Ben October 11, 2013 at 7:35 PM #

      I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of your comments.

      You make some good points concerning the ‘how’ of all of this. Certainly we may reasonably conclude that the husband would have final say in the ‘what’ she is to where. Paul also fails to define how long “long” is, and how short “short” is. Perhaps this was to be determined in the context of culture. Either way you look at this issue, culture definitely plays a significant role.

      In conclusion, there are two significant ways to look at this issue. There is the view that the head covering in 1 Cor. 11 represented the ancient world’s perception of God’s scheme of authority. Then there is the view that the head covering in 1 Cor. 11 should be permanently glued to the divine hierarchy of authority (regardless of how differently culture perceives the veil today). Personally, at this point in my continued study of this subject, that the evidence weighs more heavily to the former rather than the latter. Yet, because of the complexity and ambiguity of this passage, I can most reasonably conclude that it is wrong to bind head coverings on other women. It should be a personal judgment call.

      Thanks for your comments. Send me an E-mail if you’re ever going to be in Louisville.

      -ben

      • donevy October 13, 2013 at 8:15 PM #

        Ben, First, I do think it is a good thing to study this issue. I have a couple of questions. 1) have we done away with God’s scheme of authority? -as mentioned in para. 3 in your last reply –how does culture perceive the veil today? (and does that have a bearing on our reaction, or our fulfillment of God’s commands?) A husband is given the charge to rule his house, but that ends where God’s commands begin. (I know you agree.) My aunt (not a christian) used to tell me that, ‘women keeping silence in the church’ didn’t apply today. I have heard of men loosing that command in the Lord’s church, because they were ‘head of the congregation’.
        One must be careful not to lump issues together. Length of hair for women is not an issue here, although women should always strive to be feminine. Example of why: I know several who have undergone chemo and/or opperations, and through no ‘fault’ of their own have a hair loss. Women, whose hair because of hormone imbalance, can’t grow their hair past a certain length. But women who shave their hair off into a manly style are wrong. Men/masculine, women/feminine–that is a universal principle old and new testament. These are my thoughts/questions.

    • donevy October 13, 2013 at 7:52 PM #

      Levi, is this the verse you are referring to? 1Co 11:13 Judge ye in yourselves: is it seemly that a woman pray unto God unveiled?
      That is simply a rhetorical question, the answer to which Paul knows they would understand as, ‘it is not seemly that a woman pray to God unveiled’. Nothing here about a woman’s husband deciding what she should use. Did you fully read the link we discussed? This verse is covered in that article. I am like most people when I become convinced of something I am convinced. Maybe that’s good. The problem w/covering is it isn’t fashionable. You can’t really tell a woman anything, to do so is taboo, and covering is soooo archaic. It isn’t cultural teaching. Some say that women leading in services is a cultural thing that can be determined by the husband/elders. That is a real slippery slope.

  11. Emily V. November 19, 2013 at 7:44 PM #

    This passage always gives me a hard time, and I do understand it better, but I am still a bit confused. I am the only one in my family who is part of the church (my parents are denominational and my siblings are catholic), and so my faith gets put to the test a lot. I find myself in a lot of debates about what is or isn’t a command in the Bible (for example, my mom insists that instruments are not prohibited in service and that people can be saved without baptism). That being so, it is hard for me to discern what is literal and what is not and how best to defend my views to my family and friends. My question is, what is the difference between saying that cultural changes allow women to leave their heads uncovered and saying that cultural changes make female preachers, homosexuality, etc.. okay?

  12. Mick Alexander November 29, 2013 at 6:47 PM #

    I think that the author has wrested the context of women’s head covering away from the ‘headship of man’ and into ‘not giving offence’ (1 Cor. 11:3 gives the context as being headship). To me, the issue is headship and that a woman should wear a ‘sign of authority’ to show her subjection to man – both in the home church when praying or prophesying and in public assemblies even though commanded to be silent there.

    I agree that public assembly is not mentioned until 1 Cor. 11:17 but this does not automatically mean that wearing the veil does not apply to public assemblies. In public assemblies women are given the extra directive to be silent (while still wearing the veil). What a woman does outside of a Christian assembly is her business.

    My belief that the context of this passage is headship is added to by 1 Cor. 11:4 which tells a man NOT to wear a head covering because 1 Cor. 11:7 tells us that he is the image and glory of God. The passage is not just about women wearing a covering but that a man should not wear one – because of headship. (As you would know, unconverted Jews wear a little cap when praying).

    If the passage is to be understood as women giving offence for not wearing a head covering publicly then we must also believe that men were giving offence by wearing a head covering. It doesn’t add up.

    I wrestle with this often and, in a way, wish I could agree with the article but it does not add up. I also think it is dangerous to use history books to govern our interpretation of scripture. If we need other books to interpret the Bible then those who don’t have, or know of, these books are seriously disadvantaged. Also, if we rely on history books then our doctrine would be dependent upon what book we read. Surely God has not planned things that way. I think Sola Scriptura must be our guide.

    God bless,
    Mick

    • Emily V November 30, 2013 at 10:24 AM #

      Personally, I agree with a lot of what you said, up until the point about history books. I do not believe that it is wrong to use history books to help us understand the Bible. I would LOVE to be able to just get it without outside resources, but the fact is language has changed a lot, and sometimes we can misinterpret passages if we do not look carefully at what things meant at the time they were written. I believe we need to be very careful about what we use and always put the Bible above all other books, but using history can be quite helpful. On a side note, to further illustrate my point, we can use science to prove and understand the Bible. I think it is sad that so many Christians think science is one thing and the Bible is the other. Again, we need to be VERY careful with this. For example, not everything out there being called “science” is really science (i.e. evolution), but the fact is science can be used in conjunction with the Bible because GOD CREATED SCIENCE! In the same way, history happened, and it doesn’t hurt to utilize it to help us understand why a writer may phrase things certain ways. We just need to be careful and use reliable sources, cross-reference everything, and put the Bible above all else. In fact, using history can help us prove to people who are skeptical that the Bible is true. My favorite example is that we actually found letters from King Herod saying that the guards in front of Jesus’ tomb fell asleep and the disciples stole the body and in the letter the king gives instruction NOT to punish the guards… this just does not add up to what we would expect out of the king, until we look at the Bible and see that he chose not to punish the guards because he knew that Jesus had risen from the dead. In short, history can be very useful. Sometimes we can not fully understand the Bible, even without outside resources, and that’s OK, but we can use those resources when available to fortify our faith and give us better arguments to help non-believers.

    • Ben November 30, 2013 at 10:54 AM #

      Paul has inseparably tied the principle of “not giving offense” to the principle of “headship.” The focus is not merely on headship/submission, but headship/submission as it appears to the church and society. It is lazy hermeneutics to separate the two in this passage, since Paul has presented them as complimentary issues. The point of Paul’s discourse: women and men should demonstrate to one another, and the world, that they respect God’s principle of headship.

      What Paul told the Corinthian brethren certainly applies to the worship assembly, but not exclusively to the worship assembly. Paul’s command was to permeate every aspect of social life. Paul is most certainly referencing how women – and men – are to interact and dress publicly. The article does in fact add up.

      We most certainly don’t need history books in our attempt to accurately interpret the scripture. But history can certainly be helpful, as this article demonstrate. But we can stay within Paul’s writings to know that head-coverings in 1st century Corinth were a cultural expedient, not a timeless practice. Paul told Timothy to instruct the women in 1st century Ephesus not wear braided hair (1 Tim. 2:9). How would people know whether their hair was braided or not if it was already covered? Obviously, the Ephesian Christian women did not cover their heads, as doing so would not have illustrated their mindset of headship/submission in their own cultural context. Corinth practiced ‘head-coverings,’ while Ephesus did not. Paul rightly said to the Corinthian church, “If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we (writing 1 Corinthians from Ephesus) have no such practice, nor do the churches of God” (1 Cor. 11:16).

      It is not wrong for someone to personally believe he/she should follow the specific practices Paul commanded the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthian 16:2-16. But it is wrong to bind this on others as a 21st century command, as the Bible provides abundant evidence to the contrary.

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