The Head Covering

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  1. What is the Head Covering in 1 Cor and Does it Apply to Us Today? |
  2. Commentary
  3. I Corinthians 11:2-16.
  4. Christian headcovering

When a woman wore one in the church, she was showing her subordination to her husband, but was not out of place with society. One could easily imagine a woman walking down the street to the worship service with a head covering on without being noticed. Today, however, the situation is quite different, at least in the West. For a woman to wear a head covering 7 would seem to be a distinctively humiliating experience. Many women--even biblically submissive wives--resist the notion precisely because they feel awkward and self-conscious.

Today, ironically, to require a head covering for women in the worship service would be tantamount to asking them to shave their heads! The effect, therefore, would be just the opposite of what Paul intended. Second, what symbol should we use? First, the justification comes from several angles. If forced to make a choice, it is wiser to take a view that is in keeping with the spirit of the text rather than the letter.

The NT writers do not seem to push ritual and symbol, but reality and substance. But even if the symbol loses some of its symbolism, the point needs to remain the same. It is appropriate because there is much that is symbolic in the Eucharist and this celebration is also one of those traditions that Paul handed down 1 Cor The symbols of the wine and unleavened bread are taken directly from the Passover.

In the first century the Passover involved the use of four mandatory cups of wine, lamb, bitter herbs, unleavened bread. And, of course, real wine was used. Is it necessary for us today to use unleavened bread and real wine? Some churches make this a mandatory practice, others an optional one. Still others would be horrified if real wine were used. Few today have unleavened bread saltine crackers do have some yeast in them. Should we pronounce an anathema on these folks because they have broken from the tradition--a tradition which has both historical and biblical antecedents?

Second, if the actual symbol used is not the issue, but what it represents is, what symbol should we use today? If we were to canonize one symbol--especially one not mentioned in the Bible--then we would be in danger of elevating oral tradition to the level of Scripture and of externalizing and trivializing the gospel.

Having said that, each church needs to wrestle with an appropriate symbol for the present time. I would like very much to hear from you! Still, some controls do exist. As much of the spirit and symbolism of 1 Cor 11 as can be conveyed ought to be. Some have suggested that a wedding ring would be an acceptable symbol.

There are some good points to this. It is a symbol that is accepted in large segments of society.

What is the Head Covering in 1 Cor and Does it Apply to Us Today? |

A woman would not feel self-conscious wearing a ring. It certainly shows her bond to her husband and therefore picks up the force of 1 Cor However, there are problems with this symbol. The ring is insufficient for the following reasons: What other symbols are available?

At the present time--and I emphasize the tentative nature of this position--I think the wearing of a modest dress is an appropriate symbol. It does not pick up every correspondence in the passage, but it does do justice to many. In particular--and this is most important--a woman who wears a provocative dress too feminine or who pushes the boundaries of propriety in the other direction such as jeans, business suit 9 is often not showing proper submission in her very attitude.

I hope and pray that this paper is not too offensive to any who would read it.


My concern at all times is first to be faithful to the Scriptures. And second, I wish at all times to be sensitive to real people with real needs. Some may object that this paper is not biblical enough; others may object that it is out of step with modern culture. If someone disagrees with my position, that is fine. But to convince me to change requires a refutation of the exegesis. I may well be wrong in my exegesis, but I will need to see it.

As much as I sympathize with the feminist movement and I sympathize with much in it , I cannot betray my conscience or my understanding of Scripture. I am open to other views on the text, but will not change simply because of ad hominem arguments. All believers need to be convinced of their views in light of Scripture; none should depart from what the Bible teaches simply because such views are not popular.

The real danger, as I see it, is that many Christians simply ignore what this text says because any form of obedience to it is inconvenient. At issue here, however, is the combination of real head covering and present-day applicability. Evangelicals strongly affirm the ontological equality of Son with Father. Yet it is difficult to find doctrinal statements—either in churches or in seminaries—in which the Son is said to be functionally subordinate to the Father.

Since these same books strongly affirm the ontological equality of Son with Father, the subordination in view must be functional. A head covering, however, was intended to veil her glory. That will have to be left for another occasion.

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I mean, rather, that in some parts of the country for a woman to wear jeans to the worship service is tantamount to disrespect to those in authority. In the northwest, however, jeans are almost the choice of the fashion-conscious, even when attending Sunday services. My brother has his dress jeans and his casual jeans. Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". Retrieved 6 February Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity, Volume 1.

Wipf and Stock Publishers. Two Centuries of Costume in America, Vol. She has never gone to church services bareheaded. Art and Identity in Southern Italy. University of Pennsylvania Press. Many Christian women also covered their hair, as enjoined by Saint Paul 1 Cor. Our Lady of Good Counsel Church. Are women permitted to enter a Catholic church bareheaded?

In answer to the above question, the Rev. John Price in the Pittsburg Observer , has the following: Paul is responsible for interdicting women with uncovered heads from taking part in the liturgical services of the Church. On the Veiling of Virgins. The Apostolic tradition of Hippolytus.

I Corinthians 11:2-16.

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary. The Church's Bible 1 Corinthians. The Letters of St. Letters and Select Works Vol. Retrieved 28 April Women in Eighteenth Century Europe. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Pinpricks in the Curtain: India Through the Eyes of an Unlikely Missionary. Retrieved 14 January Cultural Diversity in Russian Cities: Retrieved 27 October According to Russian Orthodox tradition women cover their heads when entering a church.

Poujade , noted that Christian women frequently used white veils. Long after independence from Turkey, elderly Orthodox women in Elbasan could be seen on the street wearing white veils, although usually their eyes were visible. Turkish influence upon the Christian community is seen also in latticework partitions in the rear of the Orthodox churches, the women being kept behind the screen during mass.

Retrieved 13 November During the 20th century, the wearing of head coverings declined in more assimilated groups, which gradually interpreted the Pauline teaching as referring to cultural practice in the early church without relevance for women in the modern world. Some churches in the midth century had long and contentious discussions about wearing head coverings because proponents saw its decline as a serious erosion of obedience to scriptural teaching.

Ritual in Early Modern Europe. In England radical Protestants, known in the seventeenth century as Puritans, we especially ardent in resisting the churching of women and the requirement that women wear a head covering or veil during the ceremony. The Book of Common Prayer, which became the ritual handbook of the Anglican Church, retained the ceremony in a modified form, but as one Puritan tract put it, the "churching of women after childbirth smelleth of Jewish purification.

The holy kiss is practiced and women wear head coverings during prayer and worship. Women, Gender and Religious Cultures in Britain, — Several ardent Methodist women wrote to him, asking for his permission to speak. Mar Bosanquet — suggested that if Paul had instructed women to cover their heads when they spoke 1. Printed for the Bannatyne Club , IV: Presbyterian Heritage Publications, , pp. At that time, official practice still dictated that Catholic women cover their heads in church.

Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. A white veil or coif, called velamen dominicale, was worn by females at the time of receiving the eucharist during the 5th and 6th centuries These veils were ordered by the councils of Autun and Angers. The Church Quarterly Review. Pauli ad Corinthios lectura". Dominican House of Studies. This stance, symbolized by the uncovered head, is going to have consequences for the way in which a man worships God and lives out his faith. Religious Tract Society, n. Harper and Row, Wilbur Gingrich, second edition revised and augmented by F.

Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. University of Chicago Press, Harvard University Press, John Murray, , pp. Clark, Man and Woman in Christ: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A. Fathers of the Second Century: Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians , in the Hermeneia commentary series Philadelphia: Religious Tract Society, Eerdmans, , pp.

Introduction and Exegesis by Clarence T. Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father: Grudem and Piper, Recovering. Wayne Grudem and John Piper, eds. Grudem and Piper, Questions. Zondervan, , p.

Christian headcovering

Hays, First Corinthians , in the series Interpretation: John Knox Press, A Consideration of 1 Corinthians Translating 1 Corinthians Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Augsburg Publishing House, Reprinted from the original edition of Biblical and Historical Essays Presented to F. Bruce on his 60th Birthday , eds. Ward Gasque and Ralph P. The Paternoster Press, , pp. Le voile des vierges. Editions de Cerf, Translated from the Fifth Edition of the German by Rev.

Douglas Bannerman New York: New Updated Edition, edited by David M. William Ramsay, The Cities of St. Their Influences on his Life and Thought London: Hodder and Stoughton, Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament 6 vols.

Should Women Wear Head Coverings? 1st Cor 11:2-16: Bible Walkthrough

Rouse, Greek Votive Offerings: Cambridge University press, Thelwall, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers , volume iv, ed. Winter, After Paul Left Corinth: Winter, Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The same rhetorical feature may be seen in several of his letters, and in his speeches in Acts cf. There is no need to ask what traditions in particular he may be referring to here, because he is appealing in a very general way to the willingness of the Corinthians to maintain the Apostolic traditions note the plural.

The idea that Paul could be referring to any such tradition stemming from himself in If any particular tradition is meant, it is of course the headcovering custom. Hurd believes that Paul changed his position on this, while the Corinthians were holding to his original practice. Egalitarian scholars such as Gordon Fee have not been able to make sense of this passage, and in particular they are incapable of giving an adequate explanation for the sentence in verse 3, which is the keystone verse of the passage.

He surmises that the statement about headship in verse 3 is only a convenient rhetorical way of approaching the headcovering issue broached in verses , after which it simply drops from view. But how can he say that verses do not resume the thought expressed in verse 3? How can Fee make such an assertion, then? In Greek usage the word, when metaphorical, may apply to the outstanding and determining part of a whole, but also to origin e.

In this sense it is used theologically, as in an Orphic fragment 21a: That this is the sense of the word here is strongly suggested by verse 8 f. The one from Herodotus is plural, and it seems to be an idiom. He is not the least bit interested in putting some egalitarian meaning on the word in 1 Corinthians The egalitarians cannot tell us why it matters.

Hays supposes that sexual egalitarianism was the main source of the headcovering problem in Corinth. Crossway Books, , pp. Harvard University Press, , p. A comprehensive study of this interpretive issue is available in a conference paper by Michael R. Riley discusses the present passage very thoroughly. Clark in Man and Woman in Christ: Servant Books, gives an interesting discussion of the matter. Hence the central focus of the passage is husbands and wives.

Yet other women and other men follow the same patterns because their identity as women and men is more fundamental than their unmarried state. A man is the image and glory of God and has Christ as his head even if he is unmarried. Since God created him as a male, he must assume a role that expresses this fact.

This role finds its fullest expression in marriage, but is also expressed if he is unmarried through his responsibility in the community. The same is true of a woman. She assumes a role as a woman that finds its fullest expression in marriage, but it is also expressed if she is unmarried through her relationships and responsibilities in the community. This answer is based upon the social structure of the time, in which there seem to have been no unattached women. Celibate women and widows were either still part of their families and hence under their fathers or the next responsible male family members or possibly under the bishop or other representative of the community.

The early church, according to patristic evidence, had an order of widows and an order of virgins but no corresponding order of widowers or of male celibates. In addition, unmarried women and widows wore veils among the Jews, even though the veil had some marital significance. It is a case of the nature of man and woman as such. Paul marshalls a number of arguments; the argument concerning the status of the two in marriage is not mentioned. The assertion made by Bruce W. At that time, the headcovering was prescribed by canon law in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Code of Canon Law promulgated in stipulates: Viri in ecclesia vel extra ecclesiam, dum sacris ritibus assistunt, nudo capite sint, nisi aliud ferant probati populorum mores aut peculiaria rerum adiuncta; mulieres autem, capite cooperto et modeste vestitae, maxime cum ad mensam Dominicam accedunt.

Religious Tract Society, , p. The cutting of hair to express mourning was widespread in the ancient world. References to it as an Israelite custom appear in the Old Testament: For a full discussion of the hair-offerings among the Greeks see W. Rouse, Greek Votive Offerings Cambridge, But there is no evidence for the existence of any such class of Greek women in the first century.

The truth is, he mentions the hair-cropping only because he is drawing an analogy between an uncovered head and a shorn head, and he takes it for granted that none of the women want to have cropped hair. I take up this subject again in the discussion of verses 14 and 15 below. Hendiadys is a rhetorical term referring to the use of a pair of words joined by and , in which one of the words serves as an emphatic modifier of the other e.

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It is more common in Hebrew and Greek literature than in English, and the Scripture authors often use it. So also Thayer in his lexicon, who lists 1 Corinthians When Eve separated from Adam, the original androgynous unity was broken. But Fee is on the right track when he looks for a way in which the woman brings glory to the man. For example, Athanasius in his treatise On the Incarnation writes as follows: Most Protestant writers have mentioned this quality also, along with other human qualities that seem to distinguish us from the lower animals.

The fact that in Genesis 1: He is invested with dominion. When, in Genesis 1: But in the dominion with which man was invested over the earth, Adam was the representative of God. He is the glory of God, because in him the divine majesty is specially manifested. In this scheme of things woman is conceived as a secondary and weaker image of God, through man.

Yet in 1 Corinthians It is pertinent to mention here that in Scripture, God is represented as masculine. This is designed to teach us something about the nature of God. In his dealings with mankind God speaks and behaves more like a man than a woman. Feminists in the liberal churches know what is at stake when they push for the elimination of these masculine images of God in worship. This is unavoidable, and in 1 Corinthians This is the interpretation of all the ancient commentators. Likewise, nearly all modern commentators.

It is, as we see it, more a sign of subjection hypotages , 1 Tim 2: Their Influences on his Life and Thought [London: Hodder and Stoughton, ], p. But everything that Paul has said up to this point strongly suggests that he is reacting against such claims.

Of course this interpretation is rejected by several recent commentators who resist the whole idea that Paul is placing the woman in a subordinate position, and who have exercised their ingenuity in some very remarkable ways on this passage. But Fee is even worse than Thiselton at this point. Paul is here emphasizing the interdependence of man and woman in the same way that he emphasizes the interdependence of the members of the body of Christ in chapter 12, and neither here nor in chapter 12 is it sensible to think that this interdependence implies that a marriage or an ecclesiastical body must have no head.

Harper and Row, gives some very good comments on this verse: These passages do not all express identically the same idea, but the notion common to them all is that of correspondence with things as they are found truly to be, without artificial change. The best parallel to the present passage is Rom. The idea is not an abstruse theological one; Paul is thinking of the natural world as God made it, rather than in the Stoic manner of Nature as a quasi-divine hypostasis.

There is a good parallel to the thought in Epictetus I. Is there anything less useful than the hair on the chin? Has not nature used this also in the most fitting way possible?