Saturday, January 22, 2011


Head-coverings for Women

This article is a second part to the passage in 1 Corinthians 11. The first article was on women submitting to their husbands. In this same passage the issue of head-coverings is addressed. I have heard countless people – pastors and many, many women – say that this passage about head-coverings is referring to hair. In fact, most women believe this and adamantly defend that interpretation, giving completely illogical explanations that do not hold up under scrutiny. Let us take a look at the passage from both perspectives and see which one makes logical sense.

First let us look at the passage. Just to review, in the first article it was shown that the man is over the woman, just as Christ is over the man. It is important to remember that this is the issue at hand when discussing head-coverings, as they were a component (and in the middle) of this whole authority issue being discussed in this passage.  One has to keep the context of the matter in view to discern what the meaning of the passage is.  It was a matter of submission and authority, not a fashion statement. Beginning at verse 3 through 16, “But I would have you know, that the head of very man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. 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. 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. 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 the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame, unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.”

Let us take a careful look at this passage and make sure that how it is interpreted makes logical sense. Remembering that the issue is authority, first it says that if a man prays or prophesies with his head covered, he is dishonoring himself. So a man is not to have his head covered. This part of the passage seems to be ignored when addressing the issue of head-coverings and it is obvious to see why. If insisting upon a woman's head-covering as being her hair, this insists that all men shave their heads bald. Nothing else is allowable, as it is a dishonor for a man to pray with his head covered. So by that interpretation, every Christian man should take up the present fad of shaving the head bald. Is that what this really says? I would love to have a razor and some shaving creme and present it to a pastor who has a full thick head of hair and is preaching that a woman's head-covering means hair. Would he willingly then shave his head? Or does this passage say that a man should not be wearing a hat or any other kind of head-covering when praying or prophesying?  Let us look further.

It now says that every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered is dishonoring herself. This is just the opposite of what the man is supposed to do. Further, if her head is uncovered, it is as the same as if she has her head shaved bald. Now wait, if we believe that the head being covered means having hair, then being uncovered means not having hair or being bald, so by substitution, this passage would then by paraphrasing read, “but every woman that prays or prophesies with her head bald dishonors her head: for that is the same as if she were bald.” So then, if she is bald, it would be the same as if she were bald? Does that make sense? The words “as if” imply a comparison using a similar but different situation. To say “if she is bald, it is as if she is bald” is silly. To say though, if she does not wear a type of headdress on her head, she might as well be bald, would be a comparison.

Continuing on it says (again paraphrasing) that if she is not covered, then let her cut her hair off. But if it is a shame for her to have her hair cut or to be bald, then let her have her head covered. So if we interpret this by substituting hair for head-covering it would read, “For if the woman is bald, then let her also cut her hair short, but if it is a shame for a woman to have short hair or be bald, then let her have hair.  Again, nonsensical.  How can a woman that is bald cut her hair short? That is exactly what the first part of that sentence would mean if the head-covering is hair. Now making the head-covering an actual piece of apparel or for emphasis we'll say hat,  the verse reads, (paraphrased)  “For if the woman does not have a hat on, then let her have her hair cut short, but if it is a shame for a woman to have short hair or be bald, then let her also put on a hat.” In other words, it is a shame for a woman to wear her hair short or have it completely shorn off. It is also a shame for her to not have a hat on when she prays or prophesies, so if she is refusing to wear a hat, she might as well cut her hair short or entirely off, as she is shaming herself anyhow, so she might as well go all the way. This makes a great deal more sense.

Now we go back to the man. It says that he should not cover his head, as he is the image and glory of God. If this were speaking of hair, then why would God give men hair to begin with, if He wants them to have bald heads?  Hair is not the issue here, a symbol of authority is.  Remember, authority is the issue in question in this passage.  In other words, he does not have to have a symbol of his submission on his head (and head-coverings are a symbol of spiritual submission, which is what this passage was all about in the beginning), as he is the image and glory of God. However, the woman is the glory of man. Man is her authority. She was created from him, and is to be submissive to him, so she needs to have something that publicly states the fact that she accepts that authority over her. It says that for this reason, because she was created for man and is his glory that she should have “power” on her head. The word “power” is in Greek “exousia” which has as one of its meanings “token of control”. In other words, she is to wear some sort of "token of control" on her head - something that is symbolic of her submission to God's rules of authority. Why must she do this? Because of the angels. Why would that be important? Angels are always with and around us. By wearing this token of control or submission, she is showing her respect for God and His authority in her life. Angels would be able to recognize that fact quickly. Why would this be important? It may just be that it helps the angels to do their jobs better. Or possibly it is because not all angels are good. Fallen angels may have to pay more respect to a woman who publicly announces her submission to God than they do to a woman who does not. We are not told the exact reasons, but we are told it is important for the sake of the angels. That should be enough of a reason for us. Now, would hair fit this purpose? No. Why not? Because every woman (barring medical circumstances and deliberate removal) has hair. The angels would not be able to tell who submits to God and who does not. There would be no difference between the unbelieving women and Christian women, if having hair were the symbol of submission. This passage has all been about a symbol of a spiritual attitude towards God's hierarchy of authority. It is a spiritual application with a physical object.

Paul next uses a physical comparison to show that wearing a head-covering is important. He asks us to judge whether or not it is proper for a woman to pray with her head uncovered. He then appeals to us to look at it from a logical and natural standpoint. Basically he says, (very paraphrased) “Look, this is all about having a spiritual symbol on your head. Even nature itself understands that a woman should have her head covered and a man should not. Does not the physical world teach that if a man has long hair it is a shame (as it makes him look effeminate), and if a woman has long hair, it is her glory (long hair on women is beautiful), for nature has given it to her to be a physical covering? Nature knows this fact and accommodates it, so why can't you understand the spiritual application that goes along with this idea?” He is not saying that because nature gives long hair as a covering, that is the head-covering to which he has been referring. He is making the comparison that the physical world understands she should be covered, and we should understand the spiritual counterpart to that, a token showing God's authority covering us.  So if nature can understand it, should not we?

Paul then goes on to say that if a person is argumentative about this issue, (saying that it is acceptable to not wear something on their heads) they have no such custom of women not having their heads covered, nor did any of the churches of God. The church has no other practice than that of women wearing head-coverings. These churches were begun out of Judaic origins, and the custom in Judaism was, and is to this day for women to wear a head-covering. Today they call them a kippah (a female yarmulke). It was not the custom of society at large for a woman to have to wear a head-covering, so it cannot be said that everyone was wearing them. This was a sign that set these women apart. Just as a person can spot an Amish or Mennonite woman today by her apparel, so could a woman be spotted as a Christian then.

Now comes a few more questions. Does that mean that a woman should wear a head-covering all the time, should she not cut her hair, and what serves as a head-covering? As for the head-covering being worn all the time, Paul appeals to the custom of the churches, which might indicate that this was something that should be done when people were meeting for church services or small group studies in the homes where others were going to see her. Whether it should be worn beyond that would, I guess, depend upon whether the woman literally prays without ceasing or not. Angels are around all the time, so if it is for their benefit, I guess that could imply all the time. I think that wearing a head-covering around the house as you work is something a woman would have to work out between her and God. I myself always wear a hat to a church service, whether at home or church. I also always wear a hat when working outside. I do find it an inconvenience, though, to wear one around the house when doing the cleaning, cooking, and other household chores, so I admit that I do not wear one then. I do not know whether I am wrong in that or not, but I have not felt God convicting me of it as something that is a serious disobedience. If I can find something that is not in my way when working, maybe I will reconsider that application. As to what type of head-covering, I think that is strictly personal preference.  Paul makes no comment on that subject at all.  I like hats.  Some women wear scarves.  Some wear mantillas.  Some wear little squares of cloth that look like handkerchiefs.  Some wear a kippah.  I do not think it really matters as long as there is something.

I have also discovered two other things about wearing hats. The first is that other women (not all, but many) get very annoyed and even hostile with me, making sarcastic and even nasty remarks about my hats or my wearing of them, which are completely uncalled for, as I never preach hat wearing, nor do I make a big deal of the fact that I wear them. I tend to keep my reasons for wearing them to myself unless actually confronted with a direct question. I think this must touch on a sore spot with them.  Could it be that in their hearts they know what the Bible really says and in their rebellion get angry at someone whom they see is being obedient? On the other hand, men seem to be very attracted to the fact that I wear them, and I get many, many compliments from men on the hats and how ladylike and feminine they think it makes me look. (Which may also explain the hostility from the women). Men tend to recognize, even if unconsciously, that the hat symbolizes submission, and they appreciate that fact, even if they do not understand on a conscious level why they are reacting that way.

As for long hair, I find it amusing that the very women who insist that this passage is speaking of hair, not a type of hat or apparel, do not find it necessary to wear long hair. They usually have short hair. But if you insist on that interpretation, it is imperative that you wear long hair, as it would say that to not wear long hair would be a shame upon you. So no matter how these women interpret it, it still seems that they are in disobedience, which shows the lack of logic and rebellious attitude that they have. Speaking of rebellious attitudes, is is an interesting parallel that up until the sixties, when feminism reared its ugly head, women always wore hats to church. Women have been wearing head-coverings for centuries. I remember as a child that you did not go to church without some sort of head-covering. Because I did not understand this mandate when I was young, and only wore a hat because everyone did, I gave up wearing hats during my high school and college years (70s). After college, though, I began to wear hats again, not only to church, but whenever I went out. As women rebelled against the man's authority over her, leaving their homes (to work outside the home), husbands, and sometimes children, they not only burned their bras, they also threw away their hats. Is it not interesting that they did this at the same time they were rebelling against the order of authority God set up?

If you are wondering about the length of my hair, it is almost to my waist. I believe that women are not only to wear head-coverings, but also to wear their hair long. I wear it up and I wear it down. I have a number of ways of fixing it, which is fun, as I can look different every day if I so desire, but I always make sure it looks nice and neat. That is very important when having long hair. It does require time and work and should be kept looking nice, not straggly. One thing that a woman may like to know is this secret. Long hair takes a few years off how old you look. Because I have been blessed by God with hair that is turning gray far more slowly than the average woman,  I have been mistaken by many, many people for being a good 15 years younger than I am. I love it. Who knows? Maybe that is God's reward for obedience in the hair and hat department.

As a last side note, I find it telling that the reason most women (who even admit that they believe head-coverings means a type of apparel), give me for not wanting to wear hats or head-coverings is that it will mess up their hair-do's or they don't look good in hats.  Pride and vanity seems to be a big part of the problem for them.  One of the curses that God in His wrath punishes women with for their pride and behavior is baldness. Isaiah 3:24 “And it shall come to pass that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness, and instead of a stomacher a girdling of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.” Today millions of women are suffering from cancers of the breasts as well as the reproductive organs. The treatments usually include chemotherapy, which (isn't it a coincidence) produces baldness. It is not that women have not suffered of these cancers before, but the incidences of these types of cancers seems to have grown to the point where practically all women are (or will) suffering from one or another of these female cancers. Is baldness part of the punishment of rebellion and pride? Not only does she no longer wear a head-covering, but she wears her hair shorn and shaven (some wear it as short as a man's and some actually buzz cut it or shave it off). If she values her hair so little when it is supposed to be her glory, maybe God is fulfilling the verse in Corinthians where He says if she is not going to wear a head-covering, then let her be bald. She does not even value her glory, (much less wear a head-covering) so he takes her glory from her.

Lastly, if you are a woman and find you are using the excuse that you do not look good in a hat, it is not true.  Every woman can look good in a hat, but it is necessary to find the style of hat that looks good on you.  Not every style will fit everyone's face.  However, there is one style that seems to work with every shape of face, and that is the "picture" hat.  The ones with the wide brims.  It of course looks better when one has longer hair (hmmmm).  As for the excuse that is messes up your hair-do, have you ever had a bad hair day?  I have had many, and I thank God for my hats on those days.  They cover a lot of flaws.  And in the summer, nothing is nicer than a large hat to protect you from the sun. And in the winter (if you live up north) you lose less body heat with your head covered.  So there are side benefits to wearing a head-covering besides pleasing God.  And you will find that you get compliments, which is nice (as well as some not so nice remarks from other women - but you can ignore and forgive them).  Now that you know the truth, you cannot ignore it.  You can only acquiesce or rebel.

[Following receiving the comment attached to this post, God led me to a Scripture that I realized I needed to add to this article, and did so below. ]

1 Corinthians 14:36-38 "What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?   If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.  But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant."  To understand what this passage is all about, one has to understand what was going on at Corinth.  This church was not the first church created out of Christianity.  There were others that were older.  This particular church had started developing their own traditions, ideas, and behaviors that were not common to the other churches.  That is why Paul wrote correcting them about so many things, from speaking in tongues, to wearing head-coverings, to letting their women be leaders in the church, etc.  They were creating their own practices that were not condoned by God.  One has to believe that they were not studying their Scriptures, and therefore were being easily led into error as many, if not most, churches are today.  Thus Paul asks them, "Did the Word of God originate with you?"  No it did not.  "Did it come only to you alone?"  No, it did not.  So why were they thinking that they could adopt any practices that they felt like adopting? They should be following the same rules as the other churches.  Paul then said to them that if they thought themselves so spiritually superior to the other churches, or if any thought themselves a prophet, then the real test of that fact being true would be that those people would acknowledge that what Paul was preaching was the truth - God's commandments, laws, and rules still apply - and teach these things to the people  themselves.  But, if people choose to ignore what the Scriptures clearly say, out of rebellion, let them go ahead and do as they want.  If they want to choose to be ignorant, let them be ignorant.  He is not saying that it is acceptable to be ignorant and ignore these rules, he is saying that if they are rebellious and contentious, then just leave them alone.  God will deal with their rebellion Himself.  It is not our problem.  However, he does want them to know that just because they ignore the rules, it does not mean the rules do not exist.  I can speed on the highway if I so choose, but that does not change the speed limit.  Paul's letters to the Corinthians are chastisements of their errors.  Errors that need correcting.  And the rules still apply today.  God did not say we can pick and choose what we like out of the Scriptures.  They all apply.  But we have to also study to know how they must be applied, so that we do not apply things incorrectly.


  1. From the Scriptures I may be in error but it seems headcovering issues (to wear vs not wearing) customs met something indicative to that time. Just as wearing pants at a certain time would be indicative, or a bald head, etc even today. To wear one now in a fellowship that recognizes Biblical male & female roles & honoring the worship service in a different way (i.e. open statement of faith & practice within church) would not have the same meanings. It seems to simply be more of a tradition I guess between you & God but unknow to anyone else. It was customary for then & meant something...unless in a church that still practices it the same meaning I think is expressed in what the church fellowhip promotes & practices in regards to male vs female rolee, as well as, general modest apparel.

  2. If you will go back and thoroughly read this article, I think you will see that, as I pointed out, this is not a matter of a fashion statement. It is a matter of a symbol of God's authority in a woman's life, not only for man's sake, but for the sake of the angels, who are not affected by man's fashion changes. It IS between you and God; He knows whether you care about His rules or not. If you want to not accept God's rules on that, that is your choice, however it does not change the truth of what the Scriptures say. As for gender roles in the church, I will be addressing those also, as man is also flaunting those rules.

  3. Victoria amen!I agree, could I say something else,I believe that 1 Corinthians 11 is the core [main ]the center of the church gathering first century until now,anybody that try to nullify or twist that chapter is purely carnal and does not gather under the lord's name but other names call denominations.Unfortunately today denominations hate the teaching of that chapter.Assembly [local church]gathered together under his name are the only survivor from that chaotic

  4. Also I believe from the text that the wearing of the veil for sisters were only for the time of official gathering of the church where Elders leaders are present and brothers.Because the veil is a sign of submission because of man and also of silence not to take authority over brothers and public teachings.1 Corinthians 14.Combine together because it is one letter send to them.We need to take this as it is address to a group in action not to individual.Also long hair is also a requirement from the creation stand point.