Christian Head Coverings

An Orthodox Christian Woman Praying.
1 Corinthians 11:2-16:

v. 2 Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.
v. 3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
v. 4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head.
v. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.
v. 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.
v. 7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.
v. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man.
v. 9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.
v. 10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
v. 11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord.
v. 12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.
v. 13 Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?
v. 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?
v. 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.
v. 16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

The Scripture above is plain, easy to understand, and self evident. In fact, many new believers that encounter these verses immediately understand what they mean: That Christian women must cover their heads while praying or prophesying, and that Christian men should not cover their heads while praying or prophesying -as well as all of the other details associated within the passage above.

However, after these new believers understand what Paul has written here (because it is painfully obvious), they immediately become confused and wonder why no modern church actually follows what is written. After this realization, most new believers begin looking for answers as to why no one in modern Christianity heeds these verses. Some ask their Pastors or other Christians they know, and some simply search the internet for articles on the topic. In the end, since most modern Christians hate what is written in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, the new Christian will usually find some excuse as to why they too need not heed what is written therein.

Every Pastor I have ever met (and I've met many) has his own special excuse as to why Christians do not have to obey the head covering commandments.This article is a rebuttal to all of the excuses I have heard throughout the years and a clear warning to every Christian man and woman that they must obey the commanded tradition of the head covering (2 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 John 2:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; Romans 16:17).

If you are aware of other excuses that I do not cover in this article, please send them to me and, God willing, I will cover them.

EXCUSE # 1: "These verses were only meant for the Corinthian-Christian women of Paul's time because there was a big pagan temple in Corinth where the temple prostitutes shaved their heads in order to identify themselves as prostitutes."

This is the most famous excuse that I know of which Pastors use to ignore 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. However, ask one of the pastors that use this excuse for even one single historical source, reference, quote, or any ancient witness whatsoever as to the validity of this story, and you will get the cold shoulder.This, of course, is due to the fact that this story is a fable. It is simply made up. There is absolutely no historical reference to any Corinthian temple prostitutes shaving their heads anywhere in all of known history -and especially not in the Bible.

In fact, S. M. Baugh (Associate Professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary), in his article entitled Cult Prostitution In New Testament Ephesus: A Reappraisal, shows conclusively that no evidence for cult or temple prostitution even exists. As Mr. Baugh states:

"Our conclusion will be that cult prostitution did not exist in Ephesus, and hopefully the implication that it did not correspondingly exist in other Greek cities will also at least be suggested if not definitively proven."[1]

One would do well to remember the words of the Holy Apostle Paul:

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." -2 Timothy 4:3-4

This is one example of how some Christians decide to follow fables rather than to follow the clear and simple truth displayed in Scripture.

EXCUSE # 2: "But after explaining the head covering, Paul explicitly writes, "But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering (1 Cor. 11:15)," therefore, a woman's hair is her covering, not a veil or anything else."

What people who use this excuse fail to see is what Paul wrote above that verse in verse 6, namely:

"For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn" -1Corinthians 11:6a

Therefore, one must ask the question: If a woman's hair is a covering sufficient for prayer or prophesying, why would she then be advised to shave it off if she does not cover it? Think about that for a moment. How can hair be a covering sufficient for prayer and prophesying if Paul is ordering a woman's hair to be shaved off if she does not cover it? What is she supposed to cover her hair with... more hair?

Of course, this is nonsensical. No my friends, actually It is quite obvious what Paul says about the woman's hair in verses 14 and 15 of 1 Corinthians 11. Paul is simply pointing out that even nature teaches a woman that she ought to cover her head with a veil by the very fact that:

"Does not even nature itself teach you that... if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering." -1 Corinthians 11:14a-15

This is exactly what John Chrysostom (340 - 407 A.D.) an early Church apologist was talking about when he wrote the following:
"And if long hair be given her for a covering,' say you, 'wherefore need she add another covering?' That not nature only, but also her own will may have part in her acknowledgment of subjection. For that thou oughtest to be covered, nature herself by anticipation enacted a law. Add now, I pray, thine own part also, that thou mayest not seem to subvert the very laws of nature; a proof of most insolent rashness, to argue not only with us, but with nature also." (Source: "Homilies on First Corinthians" Homily 26)

In other words, it is obvious that a woman should veil herself while praying or prophesying because even nature demonstrates that a woman looks more glorious (i.e. attractive or beautiful) with long hair (and since long hair on a woman is extremely attractive, a woman should cover it for modesty purposes as well). It is also obvious that long hair is indeed a covering: Does it not protect the head and back of the neck from the sun? -Of course it does; because it is "given to her for a covering," but not a covering sufficient for prayer or prophesy. In fact, Paul is specifically pointing out that hair is not a sufficient covering for prayer or prophecy due to the fact that he commands that a woman's head be shaved if she does not cover it during prayer or prophesy (1Cor 11:6).


Some will argue this point like the writer of a blog entitle Why Ladies Should Not Wear Head-Coverings. In it, the writer hinges their entire anti-head-covering teaching on this following statement:
 "The same passage that tells women to be covered tells men not to be covered. Therefore, if this were talking about something other than long hair (i.e. a "head-covering" or bonnet), it would be a sin for a man to wear it while praying or prophesying. This is directly in contradiction with many Old Testament passages that command the Old Testament priests to wear bonnets and mitres while ministering in the priests office..." -
Unfortunately, this writer does not understand the fact that under the Old Covenant, men (including Priests) were UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF A MAN -THE HIGH PRIEST. Therefore, Jewish men were commanded to wear head coverings while praying or prophesying (as all Jews still do so to this day) because they were under a man's authority (Lev 16:4).

Moses, on the other hand, who spoke to God Face to face, removed His veil whenever he went to speak with God in the tabernacle (Exodus 34:34) because he was a direct representative of God. No other man stood between God and Moses, which was a foreshadowing of the New Covenant that was to come, when all Christian men would come boldly to the Throne of Grace (Heb 4:16) and speak with God Face to face (Matt 18:20) with no mortal man between himself and God.

A woman, however, remains under the authority of a man. Indeed, 1Corinthians 11:5 teaches us that it is shameful for a woman to pray or prophesy with her head uncovered because of what is written in 1Corinthians 11:3, that she is under the authority of a man. Therefore, if a woman prays without her head covered she dishonors her head (whether her father, brother, or husband) because A WOMAN IS STILL UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF A MAN and she should have a "symbol" of that authority on her head (1Cor 11:10).

The principal in both the Old and New Covenants is the same: Someone who is under the spiritual authority of a man, as the Jews were under the authority of the High Priest, must put a covering over their head when praying or prophesying to God as a sign (or symbol) of that authority.

In the New Covenant men are no longer under the authority of any man on earth, but the Lord Jesus Christ is our Head (1Cor 11:3). Therefore, Christian men must UNCOVER their heads while praying or prophesying to God. However, since a woman is still under the authority of a man here on earth (1Cor 11:3) she must COVER her head (1Cor 11:6).

Indeed, a woman's long hair is given to her a covering (1Cor 11:15), but not a covering sufficient for prayer or prophesying (1Cor 11:6), therefore she must cover her head with something else, like a veil. Also, since a woman's hair is her glory (1Cor 11:15), or, in other words "glorious" (i.e. attractive or beautiful), she should cover ALL of her hair in the presence of other men for the sake of modesty (1Tim 2:9). Women who fail to obey these commandments should beware (1Cor 14:37; 1John 2:4; Prov 16:18).


EXCUSE # 3: "The head covering requirements are not necessary because Paul specifically writes, "If anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God" (1 Cor. 11:16 -NKJV). See! Paul and his companions had no such custom, nor did any of the churches of God!"

This notion is also nonsense. This is a simple reading-comprehension error on their part. Ask any Greek scholar about this verse and you will find out what Paul is -and is not- saying.

Paul is NOT saying, If anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom [of these silly head covering requirements], nor do the churches of God. Paul IS saying: "If anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom [of being contentious], nor do the churches of God."

In fact, this is why some of the newer translations of scripture translate 1 Corinthians 11:16 differently:

The New Living Translation (NLT) translates this verse as, "But if anyone wants to argue about this, I simply say that we have no other custom than this, and neither do God's other churches."

The New International Version (NIV) translates it, "If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice, nor do the churches of God."

The Message translates this verse, "I hope you're not going to be argumentative about this. All God's churches see it this way; I don't want you standing out as an exception."

The Contemporary English Version (CEV) translates it, "This is how things are done in all of God's churches, and that's why none of you should argue about what I have said."

Though these are not word-for-word translations of 1 Corinthians 11:16 (like the YLT, NASB, KJV, or NKJV) they do portray the intent of Paul's words more accurately because the way we word things in English is sometimes different from the way things are worded in Greek.

EXCUSE # 4: "Both the Apostles Paul and Peter discourage women from decorating or even braiding their hair, therefore proving that women did not wear head coverings."

Indeed, women are prohibited from decorating or braiding their hair (or from wearing jewelry or 'fancy' or 'flashy' clothing); as it is written:

"In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing" -1 Timothy 2:9

and again:

"Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel..." -1 Peter 3:3

These verses, however, do not negate the fact that women are commanded to wear a head covering during prayer, prophecy, or because of the Angels (1Cor 11:10). Both Paul and Peter are speaking about two separate scenarios when women might be uncovered. Paul speaks to women not braiding their hair (or wearing jewelry or fancy clothing) in general, whereas Peter speaks to women who wish to impress their husbands with fancy hairdos, jewelry, or fancy clothing.

The reason why many modern Christians are confused about Paul's address of this subject in this verse (1Tim 2:9), and how it relates to the head covering, is because they do not realize that Christian women are commanded to be "homemakers" (Titus 2:5). Christian women should not work outside of the home unless they have no man (1 Cor 11:3; 1 Tim 5:8) to care for them. Throughout the normal course of a homemaking woman's day, as she bares and raises children (1 Tim 2:15), cleans, cooks, and generally cares for the home, it is not necessary that she wear a head covering (excepting the times of prayer or Bible reading). It also may be that a woman has other female friends or family members visiting her throughout the day. It is these occasions when a woman does not need to wear a head covering in the first place, that Paul is addressing.

Peter, on the other hand, is addressing his verse (1 Peter 3:3) to women who desire to gain the attention of their husbands with their appearance, commanding that women should not merely dress up for their husbands, but admonishes women to impress their husbands with gentleness, quietness, submissiveness, and treating and addressing their husbands as Lord of their lives (1 Peter 3:4-6), as is proper (Ephesians 5:22).

This excuse holds absolutely no weight, and is brought up by people that simply lack understanding as to the proper role of Christian women in a Christian household. 

MODERN WITNESSES

Just to point out some things about the head covering that most people have witnessed with their own eyes in our own day, ask yourself these questions: Have you ever seen a depiction of Mary, the mother of Jesus, without her iconic veil? Have you ever wondered why the women of the worlds oldest churches (Catholic and Orthodox) still veil their heads? Have you ever seen a western movie where a cowboy removes his hat to pray? Are you aware that it is only in the last 60 years or so that women stopped wearing hats to church?

Not only are the verses in Scripture about the head covering obvious, but so are those holy and saintly women throughout history that were obedient to it. They stand out like shining pillars of holiness, always being depicted in extreme modesty with their holy veils covering their hair.

Go and watch a modern film about the life of Jesus and you will see for yourself. Have you seen the Passion of the Christ movie? Have you seen the movie called Jesus of Nazareth? Have you seen the Gospel of John film? In all of these modern films you will see women practicing the commandment of the head covering.

HISTORICAL WITNESSES
Beyond even the Biblical record, there is a vast historical record that proves that early Christian women, and not just those in Corinth, followed the tradition of the head covering, even beyond the times of the reformation.The following are a few quotes from some of Christianity's earliest or most famous writers (outside of the Bible) which provide historical proof that Christians, up until our modern day, practiced the head covering tradition. I could list many, many more, but for the sake of time and the human attention span I list the following:

Clement of Alexandria (153 - 217 A.D.) writes, "Let the woman observe this, further. Let her be entirely covered, unless she happens to be at home. For that style of dress is grave, and protects from being gazed at. And she will never fall, who puts before her eyes modesty, and her veil; nor will she invite another to fall into sin by uncovering her head. For this is the will of the Word, since it is becoming for her to pray veiled."(Source: "The Instructor" 3.12)

Tertullian (160 - 220 A.D.) writes, "I pray you, be you mother, or sister, or virgin-daughter, let me address you according to the names proper to your years: veil your head; if a mother, for your sons' sakes; if a sister, for your brethren's sakes; if a daughter for your fathers' sakes. All ages are periled in your person. Put on the panoply of modesty; surround yourself with the stockade of bashfulness; rear a rampart for your gender, which must neither allow your own eyes egress nor ingress to other people's. Wear the full garb of woman, to preserve the standing of virgin. Belie somewhat of your inward consciousness, in order to exhibit the truth to God alone. And yet you do not belie yourself in appearing as a bride. For wedded you are to Christ: to Him you have surrendered your flesh; to Him you have espoused your maturity. Walk in accordance with the will of your Espoused. Christ is He who bids the espoused and wives of others veil themselves; and, of course, much more His own." (Source: "On the Veiling of Virgins" Chapter 16)

Hippolytus (170 - 236 A.D.) writes, "And let all the women have their heads covered with an opaque cloth, not with a veil of thin linen, for this is not a true covering." (Source: "Apostolic Tradition" 18.4-5)

John Chrysostom (340 - 407 A.D.) writes, "'And if long hair be given her for a covering,' say you, 'wherefore need she add another covering?' That not nature only, but also her own will may have part in her acknowledgment of subjection. For that thou oughtest to be covered, nature herself by anticipation enacted a law. Add now, I pray, thine own part also, that thou mayest not seem to subvert the very laws of nature; a proof of most insolent rashness, to argue not only with us, but with nature also." (Source: "Homilies on First Corinthians" Homily 26)

Augustine (354 - 430 A.D.) writes, "It is not becoming, even in married women, to uncover their hair, since the apostle commands women to keep their heads covered." (Source: "From Augustine to Possidius" -Also sometimes listed as "Letter 245")

Martin Luther (1483 - 1546 A.D.) writes, "The head covering is a protection from being out of relationship with God. By fulfilling the commands, the women have a sense of peace and love in their relationships with God." (Source: Helmut T. Lehmann, ed., Luther’s Works, vol. 36 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1958), p. 152)

John Wesley (1703 - 1791 A.D.) writes, "...if a woman is not covered -- if she will throw off the badge of subjection, let her appear with her hair cut like a man's. But if it be shameful for a woman to appear thus in public... let her, for the same reason, keep on her veil!" (Source: "John Wesley's Bible Commentary Notes - 1 Corinthians 11")

GREEK SCHOLARS
Moreover, beyond the historical attestation, there are Biblical Greek scholars of the highest imminence who understand what Paul meant when he penned 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. Listen to what Dale B. Martin, Greek Scholar and current Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University, has to say on what Paul the Apostle wrote about the head covering commandments in his book The Corinthian Body (page 229):

"In 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, Paul insists that women who pray and prophesy in the Christian assembly wear veils."

At this point I would also like to add the fact that Dale Martin is admittedly not a Christian and could care less if the Christian women of our day decided to veil their heads or not. My point is this: What Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is clear to those that have a fluent understanding of the Greek language in which the Biblical text was written, and who are not bias to cultural norms.

ARE YOU ASHAMED OF THE WORD OF GOD?
Most Pastors and Biblical teachers should be familiar with the facts that I am presenting here, but, it seems, some would rather avoid confrontation with their congregations rather than tell the truth of what is plainly written in Sacred Scripture. This confuses me, especially when we see that the majority of Protestant preachers today hail Martin Luther and John Wesley (whose quotes I have posted above) as the founders of their religion. Perhaps those that preach the head covering commandments into oblivion are afraid of loosing their membership and the money they bring to their church, in which it seems that they are more concerned with the quantity of people rather than the quality of the people. -Perhaps there are other reasons. I, for one, will stand for the truth regardless of the consequences.

If you, as a Christian, are ashamed of either doing what Christ commands, or teaching what Christ commands, I would ask you to contemplate the gravity of your situation in consideration of what the Lord has said:

"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." -Mark 8:38

You see, personally, I do not really teach the head covering commandments because I am commanded to do so (though I am -Matt 28:19-20), I teach the head covering commandments because I love them! I think the head covering commandments are awesome! In fact, I think all of Jesus Christ's commandments are awesome! Other true Christians will agree and love them too -more than fine gold! Others, however, will be ashamed and feel awkward when speaking about them. Consider the words of David, a man after God's own heart (1Sam 13:14):

"Therefore I love Your commandments more than gold, yes, than fine gold! -Psalm 119:127

TWISTING THE WORD OF GOD
All of these attempts by modern, so-called 'Bible teachers' to twist what the Apostle Paul has written is the same kind of twisting expressly explained by the Apostle Peter long ago; as he wrote:

"... as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures..." -2 Peter 3:15b-16b

As I have already clearly demonstrated, Peter is absolutely correct. Paul did not write 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 for it to be ignored. One must seriously contemplate the gravity of dismissing these verses in contrast to what is stated by Paul a little after the head covering commands:

"If you think of yourself as a prophet or a spiritual person, you will know that I am writing only what the Lord has commanded. So don't pay attention to anyone who ignores what I am writing." -1 Corinthians 14:37-38 (CEV)

Let's take a closer look at these same verses from the Amplified Bible:

"If anyone thinks and claims that he is a prophet [filled with and governed by the Holy Spirit of God and inspired to interpret the divine will and purpose in preaching or teaching] or has any other spiritual endowment, let him understand (recognize and acknowledge) that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. But if anyone disregards or does not recognize [that it is a command of the Lord], he is disregarded and not recognized [he is one whom God knows not]." -1 Corinthians 14:37-38 (Amplified Bible)

And if what Paul was writing was what the Lord had commanded, one should keep in mind what John the Apostle wrote about those that do not keep the Lord's commandments:

"He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." -1 John 2:4

CONCLUSION
My point in all this is simple: If you are a man, you are commanded (1Cor 11:4; 1Cor 14:37) NOT to cover your head with anything while praying or prophesying, and NOT to have long hair. If you are a woman, you are commanded (1Cor 11:5; 1Cor 14:37) to COVER your head with something while praying or prophesying, and to grow your hair long.

[NOTE: In case you are unaware, these commandments must be practiced for even the smallest prayers, like when praying over food or drink (1Tim 4:4-5), and as you may already know, Christians are commanded to "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17)]

May the Lord bless you with the wisdom, knowledge and courage you need to stand for His Truth. Also, feel free to write us at any time with any questions you may have.


2 comments:

  1. I think women and girls my age or younger are looking at head covering with a fresh viewpoint. For me actually trying head covering for the first time really re-shaped my view on the practice.

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  2. I cover my head full time. The way I see it, it has always been a teaching of the Christian church and is clearly commanded in scripture. All women of other religions, whether Jewish, Orthodox Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc, cover their heads to this day. It is both spiritual (allows us to approach God with humbleness) and necessary for modesty. Everyone around the world views women's hair as sexual and needing to be covered except the modern West! There is something wrong with this view. We have lost all sense of modesty. What annoys me the most is Christian women who say they cover their heads but only wear a small piece of cloth or headband while their hair is exposed. This isn't head covering!! This is hair accessorising and is not modest or appropriate for prayer. Thank you for this article, it's the first I've found which expresses my beliefs. I wish all Christians would take back this practice.

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