Head Coverings. . . Are they law? Part 1
Because scripture does not give us a “thus saith the Lord” when it comes to the question of head coverings, we cannot definitively say that this was law. However, let’s take a look at this and search deeper. The fact of the matter is that if we refuse to do something just because Father hasn’t made it “law”, many things in our Christian life an experience would be lacking. Was it made a law for a woman to dress modestly? Or was eating meat always okay and always forbidden?
Some have suggested that scripture actually forbids the covering of the head, this I can simply not agree with, and I will touch on some of the verses used in the next portion of this study.
To begin lets start by looking at the most widely confused verse in scripture pertaining to head covering, and perhaps the most controversial.
1 Corinthians 11:2-16
2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that [a] Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of [b]Christ. 4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. 5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman [c]whose head is shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover [d]her head, let her also [e]have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to [f]have her hair cut off or [g]her head shaved, let her cover [h]her head. 7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8 For man [i]does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. 10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman [j]independent of man, nor is man [k]independent of woman. 12 For as the woman [l]originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things [m]originate from God. 13 Judge [n]for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no [o]other practice, nor have the churches of God.
Above is quoted the American Standard translation. Now for those who are King James only we will see why I chose to do this in a moment. First I would like to go over a few differences we will see in these verses according to the translation difference.
“Verse 2: In the King James Version the word “traditions” is actually translated as “ordinances.” Why does this matter? Traditions are most commonly used and applied as the traditions of men, whereas Ordinances more clearly denote that they come from God.
Verse 3: The English Standard Version translates “man/women” as “husband/wife.” They continue to use “wife” in every verse relating to women covering their heads in this chapter. Why does this matter? Some believe that head covering is only used for those who are married. The fact of the matter is that we are all to enter into a marriage with Christ. (Will touch more on this later in part 2 of this study)
Verse 6: Instead of saying, if a woman does not cover her head she should have her hair “cut off,” the ESV says “cut short.” Why does this matter? Verse 6 is a key passage that shows a problem with the view that a women’s hair is the *only* covering she needs. The ESV’s rendering of “cut short” helps show the exegetical problem more clearly.
Verse 16: The ESV, KJV, and NKJV say have “no such practice” instead of “no other practice.” Why does this matter? Some suggest that this verse indicates that head covering was not the practice of the church. Others point to this verse to show that all the churches practiced head covering.”
Without writing a whole book on each one of these points here. I will try and summarize as best I can. And as we continue with this study we will go deeper into each of these points.
It should go without saying that it would be utterly contrary to scripture for a woman to shave her head just to prove a point that she refuses to pray with her head covered. That would certainly be rebellion at its best: would also seem pointless for Paul to have to make sure of this. However, I do not believe this was the point Paul was making here. Firstly we have to understand what the topic was about in this chapter. In verse 5 Paul tells us that it is ‘praying and prophesying.’ To properly understand if Paul was referencing a women hair as a covering lets look at the Greek words used here.
In verse 5 the word “uncovered” is Akatakaluptos, which means “unveiled.”
In verse 6 the word “covered: is Katakalpto, which means “to veil or to cover up ones self”
Again, those same words are used in references to a man *not* covering his head. Clearly cannot be talking about hair, else a man would have to shave his head, or cut it really short, and common practice of men in those days was to have shoulder length hair. It’s worthy to note that throughout the centuries, and probably still currently, men when entering a church or beginning to pray removes their hat, but women on the other hand do not. Have we ever wondered where or why this strange tradition began, or is it a tradition at all?
Let’s briefly examine the popular view of a women’s hair being cut off or cut short if she does no use it for a covering.
I hope that sentence above confused you as much as it does me, as it makes absolutely no sense. If in fact long hair is the only covering mentioned in this chapter than verse 6 has a major problem. Let’s replace the words “cover her head” to the popular view “have long hair.” Or we could even simply say “has hair.”
“For if a women does not [have long hair, or have hair], let her also have her hair cut off.” (1 Corinthians 11:6)
Here’s another way it could read.
“For if a wife will not [have long hair, or have hair], then she should cut her hair short.” (1 Corinthians 11:6)
So back to the point I made earlier. If a women refuses to have long hair, or have hair at all she should have her hair cut off or cut short? But she would already have short hair or no hair! Also it is note worthy again to mention that Paul is only talking about the head being covered at certain times. This is something you can take on and take off, not what is permanent like our hair. He say’s in verse 5 “Every women who has her head uncovered *while* praying or prophesying disgraces her head.” This is referencing a TIME when the head is supposed to be covered. Let’s suppose for a moment that is was the hair, how would a woman ever again pray or prophesy if in fact it ‘were cut off or cut short?’ Would this woman be disallowed from praying or prophesying because she no longer has hair? It would seem as though that would bar her from prayer for quite a while.
I will make mention that it certainly is clear that a women’s hair is her glory, but what is the power of a women mentioned in verse 10? It’s probably more correct to translate this as a “symbol of authority.” This symbol would represent her submission, not her glory. Is
a women’s glory indeed her power? I would think not. It’s clear that two different things are being talked about here. While nature does testify to a women’s natural glory, the other is symbolic and represents power or authority which is to be worn while “praying or prophesying.”
In the next portion of this study we can look and see why perhaps women veiled themselves. I think it’s important, if not critical, to understand this point. I believe if we all realized the God we worship we would be on our faces during prayer. Society today shows such little respect for our savior and our God. We have made religious practice into something to mock at, or lightly esteem, but God does not lightly esteem our lack of reverence and respect. He does not wink or look with pity upon those who overlook even the smallest things and in their heart make the claim “God will forgive me, I am but a sinner.” Holier and still holier is what our Father is telling us. Perhaps if we were to cover ourselves in sackcloth and ashes we would see how pitiful and helpless our state is and nothing would seem too big to give to God.