If you want to attract an honorable lady, be an honorable man.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

To Cover or not to Cover: The Big Question

I just recently ran into a certain passage of scripture that made me stop and rethink that particular section of verses in a different light than I had ever done before. Sure I had read it, but due to a recent discussion with a pastor friend, it stuck out to me with new meaning. No, this is not a post on some big in-depth theological discovery that
a. you have never heard of before
b. is only marginally applicable to you life.

Sometimes certain passages of scripture show you thoughts on certain topics that may be applicable to your spiritual life, but besides the outworking being you look and act more like Christ, there is nothing really "new" and "unique". Just you being a better Christian, dying to self, and living in Christ.

This is not one of those passages folks. This is a passage that has outward and obvious applications, if we take it the way the scripture says.

The topic, is.....

Are you ready?


*You look slightly confused and raise one (or both) eyebrows*

Seriously? Head-coverings?

Yup, I had the same reaction - till I started digging into it. It gets interesting to say the least. Here is the text.

   1Co 11:1-10  Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.  (2)  Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.  (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.  (4)  Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.  (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.  (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.  (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.  (8)  For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.  (9)  Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.  (10)  For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

Ok, so there is the text. It says

 (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.  (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.  (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.

Before I even get started it must be stated right here, because I know it is going to run through the mind of somebody. God cares about our appearance as well as the inner being. God wants every aspect of our lives to follow his standards.

Ok, back to topic again. 

If we take the text straight like that, no reading into the text, no really digging into meanings of words, it should be clear and obvious that all women should wear something on their heads while praying or prophesying in the local gathering of the church. 
That's the first reading. Lets get into it a little bit more. I found this article on Monergism.com.

   Paul instructs women to wear head coverings whenever they pray or
prophesy (v. 5). Similarly, men are instructed to keep their heads uncovered
when praying  or prophesying (v. 4). At a minimum, this means women
should have their  heads covered (and men should have their  heads uncovered) when the Body of Christ is gathered corporately for prayer, edification, and/or worship.
However,  women pray throughout the day and in  many locations.
Women often speak God’s Word to children and friends outside of church
settings. Thus 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 does not describe a situation that occurs
only in  public  church meetings.  For  these  reasons, some maintain  that
women should wear head coverings always and not only in church meetings.
This is a reasonable and defensible position. Both Old Testament Hebrew
women and Christian women throughout church history wore head coverings
all the time and not at worship services only. 
Other Christians point to the second half of 1 Corinthians 11 (which
deals with the Lord’s Supper) and argue that the context for both instructions
seems to be formal public gatherings of the Body of Christ. Accordingly,
these Christians conclude that the instructions in 1 Corinthians 1:1-16 are
applicable only in public meetings of the church. This also seems to be a
reasonable and defensible position, although this second position (in my
assessment) is weaker than the first.

This guy wound up by saying his position was that he thought all women should wear head-coverings all the time - period. 

Ok, so there is an argument for wearing head-coverings all the time. Text does not specify exactly whether it is to be only at church, so therefore wear it all the time. 
Then there is the argument to only wear it during church, since that might be the context of the whole passage. 

That's assuming (which might be a good assumption) that we are talking about a honest-to-goodness something-or-other (head scarf, hat, etc.) on your head. 

However there is another position out there. 

After some more digging (and having a pastor who believes it) I found a second view. 

They say, since the subject is brought up slightly (ever so slightly) later on in the passage, that the "covering" is referring merely to hair length. Their argument runs something like this. 

Having short hair in this passage is being compared to not having any hair at all. Praying with your head "uncovered" (having short hair) is virtually the same in shame as being bald. Therefore, women should have long hair when they pray and prophesy.
Then of course, the question comes up of "how long is long?". 

Of course, there is no length requirement in the scriptures. By this line of interpretation (meaning the interpretation that the "covering" is hair, then it is a shame for men to be "covered" i.e. have long hair. 

So men should not have long hair and women should - by this line of reasoning. Again, the question of what is long and short hair defined as, pops up merrily again.

From what I gather, women's hair should be significantly longer than men's hair, and men's hair should be significantly shorter than women's hair. No length specifications, just generalities.

I also recently heard the position that the head-covering thing was merely cultural and the application now-a-days is the long hair.  

So, that is if you take the interpretation that the covering is hair. 

However, upon more digging, some say that the word "covered" has a connotation in the Greek of being something that has the option of being "uncovered", so therefore the option exists to put on or take off the "covering" at will. 

Unless you wear a wig, that option doesn't quite apply to hair.       

So maybe the first pass by reading of the text wasn't so wrong at all. 

Then, there was another punch against the hair-covering folks, on the point of analogies. They say that the analogy comparing short hair to baldness is not as strong as comparing no covering whatsoever to baldness. They say that it is a much stronger analogy, and is therefore referring to an actual hat, or scarf, etc. on ones head. 

I must add that the affect of a lady wearing a head-scarf or nice hat, is rather phenomenal in our modern world. It definitely conveys a vast amount of messages to the observers. It denotes respect, dignity, elegance, and certainly down-home femininity. A girl can have a massive influence merely by her looks, for good or for evil. Hats (nice feminine hats) certainly aren't in the vogue, short to medium length hair uncovered is. One site I came across even stated the temple prostitutes in Paul's day had no head covering, a sign directly opposite to the "chaste" and "honorable" appearance that the Christians were trying to convey.

Granted, it doesn't mean that today, but seriously, when was the last time you saw a porn model or a rebellious teenager wearing a nice feminine hat or head scarf?? It just doesn't fit. It would look too....... sanitized..... and.... dare we say it.... submissive.

(we as Christians don't want to look like that do we??)  

Another thing I heard is that the issue of covered, hats or hair, only is applied to married women. They use the whole part where it talks about submission to husbands as saying that the passage only points to married women. A case could be made in that direction.      

So, that is the run-down on the girl part. On to the guys. 

It says that guys should be uncovered. In fact, it is a shame to not be uncovered. Now, whether this is referring to hats or hair is still up in the air (no scarfs guys - it don't look as manly as a good camo ball-cap or a good cowboy hat). : D 

So, whether or not you call it hat or hair, it is a shame for you to pray or prophesy covered. Take your hats off gents.

Wait. Sound familiar? Taking off your hat when you pray has been a habit of gentlemen for centuries, and so for that matter, (but not in recent times) was ladies wearing their hats to church.   

Wonder where that tradition came from?

Wonder were the tradition of taking off your hat when saying the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem came from?  

My guess is that it was from a direct and literal translation of this passage of scripture.

However, where has the tradition of men having shorter hair than women come from? Is it just mere genetics, or is there something more to it?

There certainly is a lot to chew over on this subject to say the least. 

My personal take is still yet undecided, but from all my research, I am certainly leaning towards the side of the "hat", over the "hair".

My personal application is pretty simple. Take off your hat when praying and when in church. I try to take my hat off indoors as a sign of respect to the host, similar to the reasons for taking it off in church, but obviously not exactly the same. 

Now, another question is, what about all those times during the day you pray silently? For guys, do you take your hat off while you work so you can pray? For girls, do you wear a hat or scarf all the time so you can pray whenever or merely haul it out when you need it?  If we are supposed to "pray without ceasing", do we wear a hat at all?  
Would the whole point of "take your hat off when praying" even be an issue if hats were not allowed?

So you have a lot to work through here. Where do you fall? Hat or hair? How long should hair be? Married or no? 

There are a few things you will have to work out yourself between you and God, but one thing is for sure -  

 - don't go bald ladies, I ain't the only one who doesn't like it. : )  


  1. Some interesting thoughts here!
    I have definitely wondered about that scripture and what it really means, but have not thought over it too much.
    I think that if someone has come to a conviction that they do need to wear a head covering then I respect them for that. I personally have not come to that conclusion.
    Also, I think that long hair is more appealing and feminine looking on a girl, but I also wouldn't condemn a girl for having short hair or think they are sinning! So that is kind of my thoughts on the subject. ;)

  2. Very interesting thoughts! Thankyou for sharing them. :) I think that this passage does refer to one's hair, because the chapter goes on to say:

    Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?
    Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?
    But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. - 1 Corinthians: 11:13-15

    If this passage was speaking of something other than hair, I don't believe it would put so much emphasis on it here, or even refer to the length of a man's hair either. However it is good food for thought. :D

  3. I've got an opinion on this, David, but I'm refraining from debate 'cause I don't have time. Just met a bunch of new friends at the Family Economics Conference, and trying to run correspondence with them.

    Dr. Philip Kayser has a great little treatise on this subject over at www.biblicalblueprints.org. Be sure to check it out.

    Stand Fast,

    Andrew R.

  4. Hello David! For a couple of years the women in my family wore headcoverings all the time. Though we do not wear them now at all, we still believe this passage is speaking about a physical covering. The reason we don't wear them now, is because of these things:

    #1. Women in the Bible at the time of this writing, publicly and out loud prayed and prophesied in church. There were prophetesses, and women who were given inspiration by God before the Bible was complete. (Acts 21:9 for example)They spoke in public worship.

    #2. The gift of prophecy has passed away, and women are now no longer "allowed" to speak in church (1Co 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:11,12)

    This is a very short answer, as a comment is a bit difficult to do full justice to any topic. Also, everyone who comes to the Word of God needs to come with a humble, submissive, attitude or the Lord will blind their eyes. Oh, and btw. If you wear a headcovering I don't think your sinning, but I do (think your sinning) if you are not wearing one and your conscience says you should be wearing one. If you ignore it (your conscience), then it becomes calloused, cauterized, and less sensitive to things, leaving you vulnerable to most any temptation (I Tim 4:2; Eph 4:19). If you reject God and His word, He can and will blind your conscience, leaving you without the candle of the LORD to direct you (Rom 1:21-28; II Cor 4:2-4).

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment! Hope this gives you some food for thought :)

    1. so sorry for the use of your instead of you're so many times! How embarrassing! :D At least you know what I meant ;)

  5. @ Brytni
    Sure does, I hadn't heard the whole thing about the gift of prophesy being taken away. I knew bout the Timothy text saying they weren't allowed to speak in church, but not in that context.
    Glad you stopped by! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Excellent thoughts, David! My family personally has done a study on this particular topic.
    Notice in verse 16 "But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God."

    He goes on in 18 and 19 saying that he has heard that they have been having contentions and divisions between themselves. This particular head covering topic was a "bone of contention" among the brethren of the church at Corinth. Did you notice that this was a problem mentioned in this book only? That's because it was just that, only a problem among the believers in this particular church.

    There were several discussions among the early church about circumcision. Whether the gentiles had to be circumcised in order to be saved or not. And Paul replied, no, they were not required to be circumcised in order to be saved. The only way you can be saved is to accept Jesus Christ as your savior and follow Him all of your days.

    I have a very good read for you. Please read Romans 14:1-13. It has cleared up everything for me. I hope it does the same for you. :) Please tell me what you get out of it.

    The church throughout history, always seems to have contentions with others about petty little things when they really should be focusing on simply "Doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God." (Micah 6:8) And may I emphasize humbly? Yes. :D

    Anyhow, those are my thoughts on the subject. :)

    In Christ Jesus,

  7. My older sister has a conviction about covering her head for corporate worship. I do not.

    Some people make this a big issue...personally, I think that it is something for families/individuals to decide on. If I marry a man who desires me to cover my head for worship, I will. Right now, I don't and I'm afraid that since it is not an issue dealing with soteriology I really don't spend that much time musing over it.


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