Must the Woman's Head be Covered?

By Wendell Tenison

Introduction:

Should the custom of women wearing scarves to worship reappear, or are they just as well being left off? However, there are a few women who still wear a covering as a sign of authority upon their head. Today, there does not seem to be much division in this area among those who believe the new testament is the inspired word of God. On the other hand, there are those of beliefs not supported by the new testament who strongly enforce the practice of women not only covering their heads with a garment, but also their faces.

Rebekah covered herself with a veil when she saw Isaac, Gen.24:65. Judah's daughter-in-law covered her face with a veil and deceived him into thinking that she was a harlot and he lay with her and she conceived twins, Gen.38:14-15.

Moses covered his face with a veil after he came down from the mountain, because his face did shine. The priest uncovered the woman's head and was to test her fidelity, because of her jealous husband, Num.5:11-31. However, that is not to say the covering of a woman's head was required by the law of Moses. We should all understand that the law of Moses is now null and void and only the law of Christ is binding.

Exo 34:33-35 "And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face......But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded......And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone: and Moses put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him."

Num 5:18 "And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover the woman's head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse:"

The lesson text:

The lesson text will clearly indicate the matter of covering or uncovering the head will apply only in the act of praying or prophesying and not to the custom and tradition of head covering practiced in ancient times.

1 Cor 11:1-16 "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ……Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you……But I would have you know, that the head of every 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."

Thayer's rendition for shorn, page 343: 1Cor.11:6; Acts 18:18, for shorn

"To sheer. Absol. of shearing or cutting short the hair of the head."

The apostle Paul explains later in this study that nature reveals the proper length of either a man or woman's hair.

Cases where men had their heads shorn or shaven:

Acts 18:18 "And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow."

Acts 21:23-27 "Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;.....Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law......As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication......Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them......And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,"

Make no mistake about it, men were not condemned by God, nor looked down upon by others for having their heads shorn or shaven.

We should all be aware that women's head coverings are not commanded in the law of Christ and therefore, that practice was tradition in those times. Does custom and tradition nullify the commandments of God? Our Lord said in Matt.15:3, the Scribes and Pharisees transgressed the commandment of God by their tradition.The ordinance of Paul regarding the uncovering of a man's head during praying and prophecy still stands for all times. Man does not cover his head as a sign of authority to his head (Christ), but merely for protection against the elements. Likewise, women do the same.

By comparison, foot-washing is not a practice in the church today, because there is no need. However, in Paul's first letter to Timothy, having washed the saints feet was one of the requirements for a widow sixty years of age and above to be taken into the number for financial support. If it be the case of a widow in the church today and she qualifies for support except in the matter of foot-washing, is she therefore disqualified? The answer is no.

The same is true with fasting seeing that it is not a custom in the church today. In 1Cor.7:5, Paul wrote concerning defrauding one the other in the matter of sexual abstinence; only prayer and fasting was a valid reason for their incontinence. In a matter of this nature would fasting be required today? The answer is no. Prayer has never been a custom or tradition, but a commandment. However, one may give himself to fasting and prayer, but only in private.

Summary of the quoted verses:

Verse 1:

1 Cor 11:1 "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."

The apostle Paul was dearly chosen by Christ, therefore, his intructions to the Corinthians were binding.

Verse 2:

1 Cor 11:2 "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you."

It is very important to remember what the apostle is about to say regarding these ordinances of God. These are not mere suggestions, but instructions that the Corinthians must ahere to regarding praying and prophesying.

Verse 3:

1 Cor 11:3 "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God."

Thayer page 345; "Metaph. Anything supreme, chief, prominent; of persons, master, lord: of Christ, the lord of the husband."

Why? Because Christ is the only begotten of the Father.

Why? Because he is his creator.

Why? Because the woman was taken from him.

Under no circumstance can any of these ordinances be reversed.

Verse 4:

1 Cor 11:4 "Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head."

Public places; in the church; with family at home; private; alone at home; in an automobile; woods, etc.

Public places; in the church; with family at home.

Thayer page 553; "to teach, refute, reprove, admonish and comfort others."

Whether in or out of the church, Christ is the head of all men.

When man prays with his head (own head) covered, he dishonors his head who is Christ.

1. Man might cover his head (own head) with a hat, cap, turban, or some other garment.

2. By failing to end his prayer in the name of Christ, he dishonors his head (Christ).

Exactly the same way as in prayer.

Verse 5:

1 Cor 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."

It might be assumed that these instructions are applied the married only and single women are relieved of any responsibility. That assumption is very unwise.

Acts 2:17-18 "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:…..And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:"

Acts 21:8-9 "And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him……And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy."

Whether or not these handmaidens and daughters were foretelling future events or just teaching is a moot point. What matters here is the place and circumstance by which they did it. However or wherever, it was in accordance to divine instruction.

With family members, privately and with other women.

Titus 2:3-5 "The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;.....That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,…..To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed."

Anything that covers her head.

In prayer and prophesy by failing to cover her head (own head). Paul is saying, this is the same as if a woman shaved her head in defiance of her husband for other reasons. It is apparent that women's head covering was an issue in the church at Corinth. Question? What if the wife's head covering was not an issue with her husband? If head covering was not an issue with the husband, he would not be dishonored. The same is true today, because women in our society do not cover their heads as a sign of authority.

Verse 6:

1 Cor 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."

The apostle is not saying, that if a woman refuses to cover her head, then she should shave it. But, to the contrary in a scornful way he is saying, that there are no options but to cover her head.

It is accepted by nature that women are not to shave their heads.

Women who conspired with the Nazi Party during WW11 in France were caught and their heads were shaven for a display of public shame.

Verse 7:

1 Cor 11:7 "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."

It is difficult to say just what is the exact meaning of this verse. We know that God is a spirit and not flesh and blood, therefore, the image and glory spoken of has to do with the intellectual and spiritual attributes of God. However, man is the masterful creation of God and when he approaches God in the avenue of prayer, or as his representative in prophesy, he should appear open and naked in the eyes of his creator. There is a vast difference of man covering his head to protect himself from the elements as to praying or in prophesy as God's messenger. The relationship between man and Christ regarding prayer and prophecy will never change and applies to all men everywhere in the church.

As man came from God and is the glory of God, woman came from man and therefore, is the glory of man. This also confirms that man is the head of the woman. Man covering his head while engaged in prayer and prophesying is tacitly the same shame as a woman uncovering her head in the same.

Verses 8-9:

1 Cor 11:8-9 "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."

As much as God is hated for these verses, they cannot be reversed. There is no question about it, in the home and in the church, women cannot usurp authority over the man. These two verses apply to both man and woman regardless of their situation in life.

This can become a huge problem for a Christian woman who is in authority over a Christian man in the secular world, but as pertaining to matters in the church, the authority is reversed. What if while working together in the same city, they are members of different churches? This is why the subject of the man being the head of the woman is avoided as if it had the plague.

1 Pet 3:7 "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered."

Verse 10:

1 Cor 11:10 "For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels."

Eccl 5:5-6 "Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay……Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?"

Mat 18:10 "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven."

There is nothing withheld in secret from God, but all things are open and naked unto his eyes, Heb.4:13. The Greek rendition for power is "authority." In other words, exercise control over herself.

Verses 11-12:

1 Cor 11:11-12 "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."

In marriage man and woman become one flesh, neither is one without the other. The Greek New Testament rendition for verse 11; "However neither [is] man apart from the woman, nor woman apart from man, in [the] Lord." The same is true with those who are married, but not in the Lord.

Man being by woman indicates the final solution in God's union of man and woman. All men born after Adam and Eve comes by the woman. Adam and Eve did not get married, but were married at the instant God created the wife.

Verses 13-16:

1 Cor 11:13-16 "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."

The center margin of the KJV renders veil for covering. The problem is that some believe a woman should have her face covered also. There is absolutely nothing in any of these verses that indicates a woman must have her face covered.

Thayer page 502; "a covering thrown around, a wrapper, in the N.T.   1. a mantle 2. a veil [a.v. a covering] 1Cor.11:15"

These descriptions of the hair are the same as wrappers, mantle, veil, or covering thrown around the head. To include the face and neck as a part of the woman's head which must be covered is ludicrous. In the case of the man it is understood that his face is nowhere involved. The same is true of the woman. When man begins to add to the word of God, he is in serious trouble.

Like it or not, there is no commandment concerning the length of hair for either men or women. Paul sums it up very well when he said, nature itself tells us what length of hair should be. I do know that when you can't tell whether or not it is a boy or girl, the hair is too long or too short. In either case it is shameful.

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© 2003 by Wendell Tenison