During a brief phone conversation I had with my dad yesterday, he asked me what I thought of women and head coverings. Although I didn’t answer him at the time, (because I was traveling) I was already set in my mind that it wasn’t for us today because it was based on the culture at the time. But I said I’d read it and I did. Below are my comments according to my understanding.
1 Corin. 11:2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
Paul is about to explain one of the basic traditional practices of the church more fully so that the Corinthians might understand and observe it more willingly, not merely as a traditional custom but as a teaching.
1 Corin. 11:3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
Paul is establishing a hierarchy; one of leadership, not worth.
God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of man, and man is the head of woman. He wants every male and female to honor their head. (not the one on their shoulders) A similar hierarchical conception was expressed in 1 Corin. 3:21-23 when he speaks of teachers being under the church, which is under Christ, who is under God.
1 Corin. 11:4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
Paul started with men. If a man prays or prophesies while his head is covered (with a hat or any form of head covering) he dishonors his head which is Christ. (again, not the one on his shoulders)
1 Corin. 11:5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
Paul wanted to show how dishonorable an uncovered head of a woman is and he used a shaved head as a comparison. Even today, it is very odd and/or strange to see a woman with a shaved head. A woman’s head covering is an emblem of her submission. It follows then that a man should not wear such a head covering. As the image of God’s authority he should not dress like a woman because this would involve a symbolic violation of his headship.
1 Corin. 11:6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
Paul is reiterating the verse 5 above. If the woman is going to remain uncovered, then she may as well be shaven because it brings just as much shame. Why? Because it dishonors her head, which is man.
1 Corin. 11:7,8,9 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of man. 8For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. 9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
The majesty of God belongs to men according to the mandate, “Let them have dominion,” and for a man this is part of what it means to be the image of God. Man was created to symbolize God’s dominion in the earth. But the woman is not designed to represent God in this way that the man does. Instead, she is “the glory of man,” that is, she reflects the glory of the man by her submission. Even a well ordered marriage explains submission of the wife and is compared to Christ and the submission of the church. (Eph 5:32)
It’s all about headship, honoring, and giving glory to ones head. A physical example is given, (the head on your shoulders), to better illustrate his point on headship. Jesus oftentimes used word pictures (earthly examples) to illustrate that which is spiritual and here, Paul uses the same method.
1 Corin. 11:10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
“Because of the angels”, this one’s a tough one. Perhaps this is a simple reminder that the “angels who kept not their first estate” lost heaven and they should not go beyond the limitations that God has set forth, and so women (and men) should follow in kind. It could also refer to the Seraphim covering themselves in Isaiah 6:2. Or perhaps she covers her head in co-operation with the angels that remained faithful to God as a testimony of submission and obedience. Remember angels and demons see us.
1 Corin. 11:11,12 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord 12For as woman came from man, even so man comes through woman; but all things are from God.
There is really no such thing as an independent woman – or an independent man for that matter. There is nothing to be gained by either sex in pretending that the one can be independent of the other.
1 Corin. 11:13,14,15 Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 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.
Some translations say “hair is given as a substitute for coverings” (International Standard Version)
“because the hair instead of a covering hath been give to her” (Young’s Literal Translation)
I tend to follow the KJV primarily and that version doesn’t say that her hair is given to her instead of a covering. If this were the case, then that would nullify verses 5 and 6. And if by “uncovered” Paul means only a shorn head in the first place, then his argument in the same verses (5 & 6) would be nonsensical. So it cannot mean her hair is a substitute for the veil.
The Greek word used for ‘covering’ in 1 Corinthians 11:15 (“for her hair is given her for a covering”) is completely different from the one translated ‘covered’ prior to this in Chapter 11. This Greek word (peribolaion – 4018), here in verse 15, means to ‘wrap around’. Hence the meaning would be … “for her hair is given her for ‘to be wrapped around'”. The words translated “covering”, “covered” or “cover” prior to verse 15 in Chapter 11 use an entirely different Greek word (katakalupto – 2619). This one means to ‘veil or cover up oneself’.”
Some might think that this head covering issue is a tradition originating from Paul when establishing the church due to 1 Corin. 11:2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
But if we start from the beginning, we find that the earliest reference to a head covering is found in Gen 24:65.
“For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself.
So this could not have originated with Paul.
1 Corin. 11:16. But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.
Some might think that this is proof that there was no practice of head coverings in the church but that is not what this verse is referring to. It is referring to them not having the practice of arguing over this head covering issue.
Conclusion: I do believe this practice of women covering their heads is a tradition not born of Paul, but from the beginning in Genesis. Although it is not expressly stated by God, it was taught by Paul who was lead by the Holy Spirit in his epistles. I also believe that women are not to cover as part of their daily dress but only during prayer and prophesying. (1 Corin 11:5) I believe the church has lost sight of this teaching because nowhere have I ever seen this in practice and I have never been taught this. I probably don’t have a thorough grasp on this subject like some theologians do but the Bible is for everyone, including lay-persons like me, and from what I’ve read, I believe this head covering teaching to still be in effect today.
Interesting note: Covering your face, as the Muslims do, is not only NOT in the Bible, but is the dress of a harlot!
Gen 38:13-15 13And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep. 14And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her up a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; fo rshe saw tha tShelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife. 15When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.
Our attire tells a tale. Proverbs 7:10 says “And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtle of heart.” The harlot has her attire and the people of God has theirs; but that’s another study.