Head Coverings

Posted: December 17, 2008 by cthoward in Doctrinal Question, Scriptural Question
Tags: , , , ,

Does Paul teach in 1 Cor. 11:3-16 that women must wear a head covering when they are “praying in worship” or not? Please prove by sound exegesis.

Submitted by Brian.

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Comments
  1. cthoward says:

    Brian,
    I would like to ask a question for clarification….it won’t affect exegesis at all, but for the sake of addressing this brother…

    Does he say the head covering is for “praying in worship” only? Where does the passage indicate that this practice applies only to the assembly (I assume that’s what “praying in worship” would mean)?

    Anyway, something you might ask him about…

  2. coreydavis says:

    I think some historical context is needed to properly understand this passage. In Corinth there was a temple to the local goddess. The women “priestesses” there were really just prostitutes. The men would give money to the goddess, but they were really paying for admission into an orgy. The identifier of these priestesses was a shaven head.

    It is also helpful to note that it was a local custom to wear a head covering (possibly they went all the way to the ground) to show submission to their husbands. Now let’s look at the passage:

    4Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head.

    This actually would read “having something hanging down over his head”. We think of hats, but Paul is not referring to artificial covering. Instead he refers to hair that would hang down over the face.

    So, the man is not to have a covering, but we read that the woman is to have a covering. What type of covering is in question is actually answered in the passage:

    14Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him,15but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

    There it is – a man’s head shouldn’t be covered with hair that hangs down in a womanly fashion. The covering that the woman should have is natural & God given – it is her hair. Remember the shorn hair of the prostitutes.

    I think this passage is specific to the church at Corinth, and a matter of respecting the local customs. Look at the following:

    13Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?

    Paul seems to indicate that this is a matter of personal judgment for them. This is reinforced when he wrote:

    16But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.

    In other words, if this is an issue of contention, then there is no such practice of coverings.

    I think that the issue is really one of subjection (verses 7 -12). We are to obey customs as long as they don’t violate God’s laws in the spirit of removing stumbling blocks (Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8). A woman who had been one of the priestesses might have caused problems by showing her shaved head, so she should cover her head artificially. A woman who didn’t cover her head in order to show subjection to her husband may have caused problems.

    I think the issue was, first, an issue of subjection and second, an issue of local custom. There is no need in our society for women to wear an artificial covering. However, should she labor for the Lord in a muslim country it would be wise to observe their custom of covering so she wouldn’t make anyone stumble.

  3. Brian King says:

    Clint,

    He INSISTS firmly, and vehemently that this passage IS talking about a woman “praying in worship” to God i.e. in the corporate assembly of the saints. Sorry for the strange language, but it was in quotation marks because that was the language that he uses in talking about it.

    Yeah, I already told him that the context actually PROVES that Paul, in fact, is not and CANNOT be talking about the public assembly (because he speaks of women prophesying and we KNOW they can’t do that in the assembly 1 Cor 14:34). But when I showed him that his reply was simply “you have bad hermeneutics.”

    I don’t want to be unloving with this brother (he is more than twice my age) but he is being very contentious.

  4. cthoward says:

    Wow….all I can say is speak the truth in love…and try not to let the comment about your hermeneutics get to you. It’s a genetic problem…you can’t help it.

  5. cthoward says:

    Corey,
    Good thoughts. You did a good job of concisely explaining this interpretation.

    What do you think about the fact that the Greek word used for “covering” in 11:15 where Paul says that hair is woman’s covering is different than the word he uses throughout the rest of the context to say a woman’s head must be “covered”? Some take this to mean that Paul’s point in verse 15 is to support his argument for a covering garment by pointing out that a woman has a natural covering.

    Also, what about the comparison, in 11:5, between having an uncovered head and a shaved head? Some take this as definitive evidence that the covering Paul advocates is separate from the hair…since he says having an uncovered head is like having a shaved head. 11:6 also seems to support this because he says that a woman with an uncovered head might as well cut her hair short. If the hair is the covering, and her head is uncovered, then her hair is short or shaved…how can she cut her hair short if it already is?

    I like the interpretation you gave, especially in light of 11:15…but these details give me pause.

  6. coreydavis says:

    Clint,

    I think that the differences in coverings is because of the local custom of wearing an artificial covering to show subjection. These women should have worn an artificial covering if it was an area of contention. I think Paul is showing that beyond the cultural norms or Corinth that it is a woman’s hair that is the covering that God has given women.

    Again, an uncovered head and a shaved head would be of little difference in a society where women wore artificial coverings to show respect to the men. A shaved head would show that she had once been a prostitute. An uncovered head would show that she didn’t acknowledge the headship of her husband. Either way, she is causing problems (this is what I think Paul is getting at in verse 6).

    I’ve heard of a brother who said that there is nothing wrong with a woman carrying a red purse. However, if carrying a red purse became the common identifier of prostitutes in the US, he said he’d preach against Christian women carrying red purses. Failure to acknowledge local customs can cause problems in the church.

    I think verses 13 and 16 are key to understanding that this was a matter specific to the church at Corinth and not directly applicable today. While the issues of headship and submission remain, they are expressed differently in different societies.

  7. npulpit says:

    Corey,

    I must respectfully disagree with your exegesis of v.16. To think that when Paul makes this entire argument around the head covering that he would suddenly rescind this “tradition” (v.2) simply because of a “contentious” person…I mean imagine if that were the case with all contentious brother – Paul just throws in the towel. In fact, that is not the case. Rather, when Paul says we have no such practice, he is saying we have no such practice of women praying without their head covered, the very thing the contentious brother would be advocating. This quarrelsome brother disputes Paul’s conclusions concerning the head covering, which would go so far as to dispute his apostolic authority. Paul says the churches of God have no practice of women without the head covering; that is, their practice is to pray with their head covered.

  8. npulpit says:

    Well, I suppose I will play the role of antagonist in this discussion and present why this was a binding practice for the church then and now.

    In the first place, Paul calls this practice of the head covering for women (and for that case, men with uncovered heads) a tradition in v.2. This is the same langauge that is used for the Lord Supper: both were traditions passed on (or delivered) to the church by Paul.

    In the second place, Paul shows us the severity of not upholding this tradition when he says it is disgraceful for a woman to not practice this (v.6). Also, he ties this to the spiritual realm when he says it is for angels the women is to cover her head (v.10). And if the woman does not practice, it is as if her hair were short or shaven (a shameful thing) in v.5-6). All this to show how serious an offense this is if not practiced.

    In the third place, the head covering is a physical symbol of a spiritual truth. That is, it is a sign of a woman’s submission to man’s authority (v.3, 7-10). The spiritual truth is that the woman is under the authority of man. The sign of this is the head covering.

    In the fourth place, Paul’s admonition for the church to practice this was a conforming of Christian to any known custom at the time concerning men and women in worship. It was not Jewish for men worshipped with covered heads (Edersheim and Lightfoot document this). It was not Roman for in the Roman culture both sexes worshipped with covered heads. And it was not Greek for both sexes worshipped with uncovered heads (Expositor’s New Testament, Robertson’s Word Pictures, and Kittle’s TDNT document the last two points). Hence, this is a purely Christian practice for men to pray uncovered and women covered.

    It would seem to me that this was a tradition delivered by apostolic command meant for the church then and always based upon the preceeding.

  9. coreydavis says:

    In the first place, Paul calls this practice of the head covering for women (and for that case, men with uncovered heads) a tradition in v.2. This is the same langauge that is used for the Lord Supper: both were traditions passed on (or delivered) to the church by Paul.

    I don’t believe verse 2 applies to the discussion of the artificial head covering. The discussion of the head covering begins after verse two and beings with “now” or “but”, signaling a change in thought. Perhaps this word doesn’t appear in the greek, but the various translations I looked at all have some word to signal a change in thought.

    In the second place, Paul shows us the severity of not upholding this tradition when he says it is disgraceful for a woman to not practice this (v.6). Also, he ties this to the spiritual realm when he says it is for angels the women is to cover her head (v.10). And if the woman does not practice, it is as if her hair were short or shaven (a shameful thing) in v.5-6). All this to show how serious an offense this is if not practiced.

    I would agree that it is STILL improper for a woman to not acknowledge the headship of the man. The issue would be how that is shown from culture to culture. Coffman wrote:

    What was the veil, actually, that was worn in those days? It was a large loose mantle which the woman wrapped around her head and face, leaving only the eyes visible, and sometimes only one eye. The word “veil” used by our translators is extremely misleading.

    Furthermore, if you are going to uphold the notion that women should wear an artificial covering, you must also uphold the notion that they mustn’t have closely cropped hair. You can’t have one without the other.

    In the third place, the head covering is a physical symbol of a spiritual truth. That is, it is a sign of a woman’s submission to man’s authority (v.3, 7-10). The spiritual truth is that the woman is under the authority of man. The sign of this is the head covering.

    I agree with this in a sense. A covering has already been given to all women though – by God – and it is their natural hair (verse 15). The hair is given to her as a covering by God instead of any artificial covering. Whatever the cultural sign of respect is it should be observed – be it a veil, a wedding ring or whatever.

    In the fourth place, Paul’s admonition for the church to practice this was a conforming of Christian to any known custom at the time concerning men and women in worship. It was not Jewish for men worshipped with covered heads (Edersheim and Lightfoot document this). It was not Roman for in the Roman culture both sexes worshipped with covered heads. And it was not Greek for both sexes worshipped with uncovered heads (Expositor’s New Testament, Robertson’s Word Pictures, and Kittle’s TDNT document the last two points). Hence, this is a purely Christian practice for men to pray uncovered and women covered.

    As to the men, remember that the covering that is prohibited is not artificial – it would be hair that fell down over the face. I agree that Paul wanted men to pray uncovered and women to pray covered, but the covering in question is hair, to symbolize the relationship of man to God and woman to man (verses 7-9). More from Coffman:

    Is there any word in this whole passage that unmistakably means the type of veil under consideration? Yes, the word [peribolaion] in 1 Cor. 11:15 refers to that type of covering; and this is the only word in the whole passage that does so; but this is also the verse where Paul said the Lord had given woman her hair “instead of” any such garment!

    What is Paul’s subject in these verses? Whatever it was, it could not have been the type of veil or mantle that obscures the person of women, that having been mentioned only once. On the other hand HAIR is mentioned three times, “shaved” or “shorn” is mentioned four times; and, in this light, it appears certain that Paul’s subject here was HAIR. One could not speak of a mantle’s being shorn or shaved.

  10. npulpit says:

    First, it must be understood that the “hair” given to the woman for a covering in v.15 is not the same covering with which she is to be covered with in v.6. The corresponding noun to the verb “cover” (katakalupto) is kalumma (Thayer). Hence, these coverings are not the same: in verse 15 she is to be covered (periballo) with a covering (peribolaion); in v.6 she would be covered (katakaluto) with a covering (kalumma, the corresponding noun to this covering). These verbs and nouns are not interchangable, Coffman notwithstanding. (For more on this, see Merrill F. Unger, The Two Coverings of 1st Corinthians 11.3-16).

    Further, if we follow the logic that v.2 is a separate thought from v.3 because of the word “but” or “now” (Gk. de), then it would necessarily follow that v.15 begins a completely different (albeit unrelated) thought that has nothing to do with the current discussion because it too begins with “but” (Gk. de). No, this will not do. Rather, 2-16 is a thought unit concerning headship and the appropriate sign of this for men and women. It was indeed as much a tradition delivered to the church as the Lord’s Supper; again, exact same language used for both.

    As for “Furthermore, if you are going to uphold the notion that women should wear an artificial covering, you must also uphold the notion that they mustn’t have closely cropped hair. You can’t have one without the other.” You are right; why aren’t there more preachers and teachers speaking about the “glory” of a woman being her hair? This whole passage has been relegated to the realm of “culture,” and we have ignored this rather serious passage of Scripture, sweeping it under the theological rug and bearing glossing over it, labeling it cultural and moving right along to the Lord’s Supper.

    Finally, the covering was artificial for men and women as shown above with the corresponding nouns and verbs.

  11. coreydavis says:

    1. I read verse 6 like this – If a woman won’t wear a veil, let her cut off her hair, but if it is disgraceful to cut off her hair (and it is) let her wear a veil.

    I think that verse 15 then would read – If a woman has long hair, isn’t it a glory to her? This is the covering that God has given her as a covering instead of a veil.

    I see verse 15 as showing us that the natural covering that God intends for the women (cultural norms withstanding) is her hair.

    2. Why are verses 2-16 one thought, but verse one is not included? Regardless of the words “but” or “now” there seems to me a shift in thought between verses 2 and 3. I would agree that the word “traditions” includes those things delivered like the Lord’s Supper. I just don’t see verse 2 flowing into the thoughts beginning at verse 3.

    3. We have no more ignored this subject than the command for the holy kiss. We understand that Paul was addressing the manner in which we are to greet the saints, not the mode in which we are to deliver it. Likewise, we observe the commandments for the women to recognize the headship of the man without having to replicate the cultural norms of greetings or signs of submission.

    I seriously doubt you believe the things you have written and defended here. I am not one to argue for arguments sake, so I will defer to others who would like to discuss this.

  12. cthoward says:

    Corey,

    I hope you understand npulpit and his sincerity. He is not trying to be argumentative, but to honestly explore the passage (I know because he and I have discussed this before).

    You said:
    “I read verse 6 like this – If a woman won’t wear a veil, let her cut off her hair, but if it is disgraceful to cut off her hair (and it is) let her wear a veil.

    I think that verse 15 then would read – If a woman has long hair, isn’t it a glory to her? This is the covering that God has given her as a covering instead of a veil.”

    So, you seem to admit that an article of clothing is advocated in verse 6 (correct me if I am wrong). You also seem to say that long hair could be a replacement for the veil according to verse 15 (correct me if I am wrong). And I am assuming that your point in general is that if a woman had short hair she should have worn a veil, but if she had long hair then she already has a covering and doesn’t need a veil. Am I understanding you okay?

    If I am, and this is what you are saying, then I have to ask again about verse 6. It seems that Paul is telling a women with long hair to wear veils in verse 6 since he says that if they won’t they should cut off their hair. If they already had short hair (b/c of being a former prostitute or whatever) then they would not have any hair to cut off.

    Let me also add that I am not trying to be argumentative, but to thoroughly explore the text. I would agree that the principle is submission, and that the sign of submission changes with culture. Corinthian culture determined that the sign was a veil…our culture might have something different (you suggested wedding ring…I would say more like feminine clothing). Npulpit gave some interesting info about why this might not be cultural…but, still I agree…so far. I just don’t think I can conclude that the covering is just hair.

    But, I do appreciate your study and thoughts. They have been well-presented and have given me some things to think about. Thanks for your participation.

  13. cthoward says:

    Nick,

    I outlined my problems with Corey’s take…so now for my major issue with yours.

    Paul defines this as a cultural issue in verses 14-15a (should have been one verse I think):
    “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?”

    Here Paul appeals to “nature” to make his argument about head coverings. Men “naturally” have short hair and women long. Since a woman “naturally” has her head covered she ought to take this as evidence that she needs a veil while praying or prophesying. At least this is what Paul’s logic seem to be to me.

    The question I have is about Paul’s use of the word “nature.” In our sense of the word, “natural” refers to the way we are born, our physiology, a state without artificial interference or human alteration. But, can this thought be transferred to the text and to Paul’s use of the word? No. We do not “naturally” have men with short hair and women with long. Men have short hair because they cut it, but “naturally” it can be as long as a woman’s. Furthermore, women among some ethnicities cannot grow long hair “naturally.” Paul certainly does not mean to say that men have a physiological tendancy toward short hair, and women toward long (unless he is talking about male-pattern baldness 🙂 ). The word is used in the NT in reference to the physiological, to the way we are born, but this is not always the case (see Ephesians 2:3 reference to sinners, which cannot mean born that way since sin is a choice; Romans 2:27 refers to “natural,” or physical circumcsion…which is obviously not “natural” in the physiological sense).

    So, Paul must have a different understanding of the word “nature.” I would contend that Paul is appealing to culture. It is “natural” for men to have short hair and women to have long, not because of physiological restrictions, but because society has determined it so. But, not every society has made the same determination. For example, physiology restricts the growth of hair of tribal women in Africa. They cannot grow long hair. So, women having long hair is not “natural” in either the strict, physiological sense, nor in a cultural sense. Paul’s argument would not mean much to them.

    Paul must be appealing to culture in this context. Therefore, it is not a stretch to say that the appeal for veils is cultural, as well. And, if cultural, then not literally applicable to every society, just as women having long hair is not applicable to every society. This does not mean that there are not principles of submission to be considered, but simply that the application of those principles might vary from culture to culture.

  14. coreydavis says:

    So, you seem to admit that an article of clothing is advocated in verse 6 (correct me if I am wrong). You also seem to say that long hair could be a replacement for the veil according to verse 15 (correct me if I am wrong). And I am assuming that your point in general is that if a woman had short hair she should have worn a veil, but if she had long hair then she already has a covering and doesn’t need a veil. Am I understanding you okay?

    As to verse 6, I think that the artificial covering seems to be advocated.

    As to verse 15, I believe that Paul is saying that womanly hair is the covering God has given her. I think that this indicates that normally (outside of Corinth) the woman’s hair is her covering.

    The problem, I think, is that in Corinth the natural covering given by God was not enough to recognize the authority of the men. They saw the veil as the physical sign of authority, so for them, the veil should be worn whether or not their hair was shorn.

    If I were to summarize this passage I wouldn’t even mention veils or any type of artificial covering. I would put it as this – the head of man is God. The head of woman is man. Whatever must be done (without violating any other commandments of God) to acknowledge these relationships should be done. To refuse to acknowledge these relationships, even in a physical way, is displeasing to God.

  15. Brian King says:

    Exegesis before application right? Right.

    Well, I have a problem with what I have read MOST commentators to say on this passage. Most ASSUME that because in verse 17 Paul begins to discuss the assembly of the saints that he also is discussing the assembly in these verses. The context makes this impossible. Furthermore, the context also, I think, sheds some light on why the “veil issue” is mentioned by Paul at all here (because it is not mentioned anywhere else in the scriptures…).

    How do we know that Paul did not have in mind the assembly of the saints in 1 Cor. 11:3-16?

    Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:34 that women must remain silent in the assembly. That is, in the corporate assembly of the saints on the Lord’s Day gathered together to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

    As you read through chapter 14 you notice that 3 groups are told to remain silent in the assembly. The tongue speaker is to “keep silent” under the given condition that there is no interpreter (14:28). The second one told to “keep silence” is a prophet in (14:30). The prophet is told to “keep silent” under the given condition that another prophet has received another revelation. In essence he is told to “round off” his message and be silent. The context of the chapter clearly reveals that being told to “remain silent” does not mean they are not to speak the congregational “amen” or that they cannot sing with the brethren, but rather that they are to “not speak so as to lead.”

    Then there is a 3rd one told to “keep silent” in this context of “speaking so as to lead the assembly.” It is woman. She is not to speak so as to lead the assembly under any circumstances. The other groups were given conditions for WHEN they were to “keep silent” but the woman’s “condition” (if you will) is her created order. Woman was created to be the follower, not the leader. Again, as with the other ones told to “keep silent” this does not mean that a woman cannot sing along with the assembly, or give the congregational “amen.” So, the speaking Paul must have in mind is a speaking so as to lead. She must not speak so as to lead the assembly. Period. Whether she has a gift of prophecy or not, women are to be in their created role of learner, subjected, in the public assembly, women COULD NOT lead the assembly.

    We know that Paul does not contradict himself. He was a divinely inspired apostle that wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So if we take two things that Paul has said and interpret them so that Paul contradicts himself, then we know that we have made a mistake and not Paul, if we find ourselves in that situation we know that we have interpreted Paul’s statements wrongly.

    Paul clearly states that women cannot lead the assembly of the saints. So anywhere I find Paul speaking of a woman leading I know that he is not contradicting himself. In any passage where Paul speaks of a woman leading I know that in that passage he is not talking about the public assembly of the saints. It had to be a context in which it was acceptable for a woman to lead. So it was a context that is NOT the public assembly.

    Now we have just such a context in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16. In this section Paul gives instruction to women who were “praying or prophesying.”

    As you have noted, prayer may be private, but prayer may also be public. And prayer is also something in which one can lead others. Simply the fact that Paul says “prayer” does not insinuate any of these specific and distinct situations. Paul could be speaking of a woman leading other women in prayer, or he could mean a woman praying alone in her home, or he could mean a woman being led in a prayer by a man while present at the assembly of the saints. We cannot tell simply from Paul’s use of the word “prayer,” because that word is ambiguous as to the circumstances. So we must learn from the rest of the context what the writer, in this case Paul, has in mind.

    In his discussion here, in this text, Paul links prayer with another act, prophecy. If Paul had meant to discuss a scenario in which one was not leading, he WOULD NOT have spoken about prophecy. Whereas prayer could be private or public, prophecy cannot be private and must be public. Prophecy is for the edification of those who hear. That is the nature of prophecy, it must have an audience. Furthermore, the one prophesying is leading those who listen to them. The simple fact that Paul says “while prophesying” necessitates that he is, in fact, talking about a scenario in which a woman is leading, certainly for the act of prophecy. But he also says while a woman is “praying.” But again, prayers could be public or private, leading or following, so which does Paul have in mind and how can we know? The only evidence we have to base our decision on either way is the context. And in this context Paul links one act which MAY be so as to lead, prayer, together with another act which MUST be so as to lead, prophecy.

    The natural conclusion is that Paul means prayer in this discussion to be understood as “praying so as to lead.” To say that in one sentence Paul was speaking about two entirely different scenarios as though they were the equitable is unjustified, and unwarranted. To say that Paul had in mind to speak of a woman leading others in prophecy outside of the assembly (because we know she could not lead in the assembly) and a woman being led in prayer within the assembly is not congruent. One would not do so naturally, only if there was a strong reason to believe this was what Paul had in mind. There is not. There is no evidence within this text of any other to say that Paul had in mind two entirely different scenarios in the same thought! To do so and read into the text what is not already present is to eisegete, not to exegete, which means to simply bring forth the meaning within the text. This is why exegesis must always precede application. We must know what it meant to THEM before we can possibly decide how it applies to us. If we simply ignore what is said concerning prophecy because the miraculous gifts are gone, we will be ignoring the context of the passage which reveals that Paul is MOST LIKELY addressing a situation where a woman is leading others.

    Now we know that a woman cannot lead in the assembly. So, Paul’s discussion in this context in which a woman may prophesy, cannot be the context of the public assembly. Because a woman could never exercise her gift of prophecy there! Whatever you may dispute concerning prayer, you MUST accept the truth that a woman could not prophecy in the public assembly. So to say that Paul meant prophecy outside the assembly, but prayer within the assembly is to pull the text apart into an unnatural division that the text itself does not create.

    The most natural and un-forced conclusion is that Paul’s discussion in 1 Cor. 11:3-16 is NOT a discussion of a woman’s conduct in the public assembly.

  16. Brian King says:

    Nick,

    As I just pointed out, I do not believe that the passage supports a view that Paul has in mind a discussion of woman’s conduct in the assembly.

    So, if you say that a woman must wear a veil when she prays… is that every time she prays?

    Alone in her room, when singing a song of that is a prayer to God…?
    What about when Paul says “pray without ceasing?”

    Would that necessitate that a woman wear the veil 24 hours a day? Or at least every time she prayed? (which could be every waking minute)

    I have another question as well in trying to understand this position better…

    Why does Paul single out the acts of “prayer and prophecy” specifically and say that a woman must wear the veil at those times?

  17. cthoward says:

    How about another couple questions…

    Could it be that prayer and prophecy are singled out because he means tongue speaking (prayer)? Is he commenting on the exercise of miraculous gifts only? After all, these are the two categories, along with women, addressed in chapter 14 (interesting parallel, isn’t it?). If so, does that restrict the application of this passage to miraculous times (1st century)?

  18. Arthur Sido says:

    Wouldn’t the exegetical burden here fall on those who claim that headcovering is not normative? The statement by Paul is pretty clear:

    “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.” (1 Corinthians 11:4-5)

    The covering of men is dishonoring and the uncovering of women who pray is dishonoring. That is not vague at all, nor is the command:

    “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.” (1 Corinthians 11:6-7)

    Her hair is not used as a sufficient substitute, the argument is that she should have her head covered and if she is not going to cover her head in rebellion, she might as well just shave her hair off which is also shameful.

    So the remedy Paul is giving to the church is for women, I would argue in public and private prayer (i.e. in corporate worship or in the home), to cover their head when in prayer. It is not merely a cultural command or one directed only to Corinth and only at that time. 1 Corinthians is addressed to the church in Corinth but not JUST the church in Corinth:

    “Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:1-3)

    Note that Paul is addressing the church at Corinth AND all those in every place who call upon Christ. This is not directed specifically just at Corinth but all believers everywhere, and I would say at every time no differently that the Lord’s Supper or his later admonitions to Timothy. The command to cover is no different than any other command in 1 Corinthians because Paul specifically addressed his letter to the church in Corinth and the universal body of believers as an apostle.

    Paul is not merely arguing from a cultural norm, he appeals to the creation order and the covenant headship of man over woman…

    “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. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” (1 Corinthians 11:7-10)

    A wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, and it is not long hair. There is no substitute in our culture. A wedding ring is not a substitute because it is not indicative of authority over her, it is if anything an egalitarian symbol. Her hair is not a covering sufficient for the command. The plain reading of these verses clearly points to a command for wives to cover their heads in prayer, at a very minimum in corporate worship. There are lots of accompanying questions regarding the specifics of the passage, but those questions do not detract from the imperative for women to cover their heads (unless you argue that women do not participate in public prayer?)

    It was the tradition in church for women to cover their heads up until recently. If you elect to not have your wife cover her hear in public worship and prayer it would seem that you should be able to argue in the negative regarding this commandment. We don’t treat most other commandments this way.

  19. cthoward says:

    Arthur,

    Thanks for the comments. You have clearly articulated some issues that do need to be addressed (and many of them have been in this thread…I would encourage you to read through all of the other comments if you haven’t already).

    For the sake of time I will only respond to a couple things you said. First, you claim that Corinth is not the only intended audience, but “all those in every place who call upon Christ.” I would suggest that you look closely at the first few verses of the letter again. Paul says, “To the church of God that is in Corinth…” His next statement is a clarification/expounding of what it means to be part of the church, “to those sactified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…” The meaning of his next statement is the place I would disagree with you: “together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is not part of the address, but part of the clarification of what it is to be part of the church. He is not addressing every Christian everywhere, but only declaring that every Christian everywhere is called to be saint, just like those in Corinth. The emphasis is on unity through Christ. Paul simply wants to call the attention of the Corinthians to the fact that they have a bond with every other saint no matter what their location. So, the thought reads properly: “called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Again, this is not part of the specific address, but part of the explanation.

    I certainly agree that the letter applies to us…in principle, although not always in specific practice. The principle in chapter 8 of not causing a brother to stumble does not apply to us in practice…we do not have idol temples to eat in…but it does in principle…there are certainly “temples” to be avoided for the sake of weaker brethren.

    The same could be said of the head coverings of chapter 11. It is possible that the head covering applies to us in practice AND principle, but, as we see in chapter 8 it may also be that it applies ONLY in principle, and present-day application must be determined. So, it is important that we distinguish principle from practice.

    It seems that the principle of chapter 11 is submission/headship, and the practice is head covering. For this principle, Paul appeals to the creation order, as you have indicated (vv 7-10). The question is, does the creation order dictate practice, as well? Certainly the practice is derived from the principle, but can it be derived directly from the creation order? If it cannot, then it remains possible that it is cultural.

    I assume you have read my comments about Paul’s appeal to culture from his use of the word “nature,” so I will not revamp that…but just re-emphasize that Paul does appeal to culture in the context. Yes, he also appeals to creation. But he does so to establish the principles of headship. It seems that practice is derived from his cultural argument (again, as i already discussed in a previous comment, #13).

    But, I would like to hear your take on verse 15 where Paul says, “For her hair is given to her for a covering.” This statement seems pretty clear that hair is a satisfactory covering. What is Paul saying with this verse?

    Thanks for the discussion.

  20. Brian King says:

    Question:

    What do you make of Paul’s “therefore” statement in verse 10 that

    “therefore a woman ought to have authority (GK: exousia) on her head, because of the angels.”

    How does all that Paul has said up to this point show that a woman needs a “symbol of authority” on her head?

    Whose authority? Why does she need it while praying or prophesying? What do the angels have to do with the veil?

    Also, depending on your exegesis to answer those questions… do women still need to wear this symbol of authority today?

  21. Brian King says:

    Clint,

    I would like to ask you a personal favor or sorts… I have been continuing to study 1 Cor. 11:3-16 and have run across so many inconsistencies regarding the “practice of the ancients in head-covering” that it is just ridiculous.
    It seems that the custom of most commentators is to simply make a statement about historical practice as fact whether or not there is proof for it.
    However, today I stumbled across a guy who has put a lot of study and effort into the issue.

    The “favor” I’m going to ask of you is to read it and tell me what you think. Its a favor to me for you to read it because it is pretty long… not like a book, but I dunno… 50-60 pages or more.

    Here is a link to his exegesis of 1 Cor. 11:1-16:

    http://www.bible-researcher.com/headcoverings.html

    but you also need to read the background work he has done on the topic that is found here

    http://www.bible-researcher.com/headcoverings3.html

    I would appreciate it.

    And of course anyone else on this blog site is welcome to read it as well.

  22. cthoward says:

    Thanks, Brian, for the links. I will take a look at them. And, I agree…most commentators seem to make assumptions rather than actually exploring the historical practices. Hopefully we can find some good resources to help resolve the issue.

    Clint

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