For all of Christian history up until the 1960s with the advent of second wave feminism women wore some type of head covering whenever they went to church for worship. The practice of women wearing head coverings is not simply a Christian tradition, but it is actually commanded in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 11:4-5(KJV):
“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.”
Many Christians today argue that Christian women do not have to wear head coverings any more. And believe it or not, there were Christians even back during the Apostle’s time that were arguing against the requirement of women wearing head coverings as is seen in I Corinthians 11:16 (KJV):
“But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.”
And the great irony is that many Christians today have taken Paul’s rebuke of those who were arguing against women being required to wear head coverings and they attempt to use his rebuke to say women don’t have to wear head coverings! It really is enough to make your head explode if you let it.
In I Corinthians 11:2-16 Paul answers three very important questions about head coverings for women. He answers WHY women must wear head coverings, WHAT head coverings are, and WHEN head coverings should be worn.
Click here to listen to my 3 part podcast series “Why Women Should Wear Head Coverings”
WHY God Wants Women to Wear Head Coverings
Paul gives the reason why woman must wear head coverings as an introduction to the conversation on head coverings in I Corinthians 11:3 (KJV):
“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.”
So, the reason women must wear head coverings is because “the head of the woman is the man”. Head here refers to man’s authority over woman.
Egalitarian Christians claim that “head” in verse 3 refers to man as the “source” of woman. The problem with that interpretation is it would then make God the father the source of Christ and that is heresy according to John 1:1-3 (KJV) which tells us the following:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
The context of I Corinthians 11:3 is not the source of man or woman, but rather the authority structure God has created.
But after showing the Egalitarian argument to be faulty, we must now address the Complementarian argument. Complementarians believe in male headship but they limit it to the home and the church. They do not believe male headship over women extends to all areas of society.
The problem for Complementarians is that nothing in the language of verse 3, or the entire discussion of male headship in I Corinthians limits the man’s headship to just the home and the church. It is a broad and sweeping statement of man’s headship over woman.
Is God the Father the head of Christ in all things? Is Christ the head of man in all things? How then can Complementarians claim that men are only the head of women in the home and in the church but not outside those two areas?
And then we must consider the practical implications of the Complementarian attempt to limit man’s headship over woman to just the home and the church. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 5:24 (KJV) “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing”. So, this presents a problem for Complementarians who believe women may take authority over men as long as it outside the home or church.
Let’s take a man and his wife. His wife runs for mayor of their town and she wins. So that means if he were to go to a town hall meeting where his wife is presiding, she now becomes his authority in that sphere. But yet God calls her to submit to her husband in everything. That means in every part of her life. The only exception to her submission to him is the rule the Apostle Peter gave us in Acts 5:29 (KJV) that “We ought to obey God rather than men” if our earthly authority is violating God’s law in what they are asking us to do. The same would go for if his wife was his boss at work.
This is the conundrum the Complementarians run into when they attempt to limit the headship of man over woman to just the home and the church.
For a larger discussion of why women should not be in politics see my article “Does the Bible allow for a woman to be President of the United States?”
But I Corinthians 11:3 is only one part of the Apostle Paul’s answer as to why women should wear head coverings. Later in this passage Paul actually dives into a deeper “WHY” question.
WHY is Man the Head of Woman
God does not always tell us why everything is the way it is. But sometimes he does tell us why some things are the way they are. And in this case of head coverings God caused Paul to fully explain why man is the head of woman in all areas of this life.
Paul writes the following statements just a few verses down in I Corinthians 11:7-10 (KJV) after telling us man is the head of woman and he now explains why man is the head of woman:
“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.”
I can’t tell you how many times I have been in Complementarian churches’ where they basically take the attitude of “Well God had to put someone in charge, so he picked the man and we just have to accept that”. God did not flip a cosmic coin to decide if man was the head of woman or woman was the head of man. Man being the head of woman was God’s design before he ever created man or woman!
This passage I have just shown from I Corinthians 11:7-10 tells us why man is the head of woman.
Man is the head of woman because man is “the image and glory of God” and “neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man”. This is a simple and yet profound truth that will change the direction of every man and woman that reads it if they will only accept it and apply it to their lives.
Man was created to image God by living out his attributes and thereby bring him glory. Woman was created by God for man to serve man and bring man glory and in doing so she serves God and brings him glory as well.
And it is “For this cause”, because man is God’s image and glory and because of that woman’s head, that woman ought “to have power on her head because of the angels”. The “power on her head” is the head covering Paul is talking about in this entire first half of I Corinthians 11.
When a woman wears a head covering, she is proclaiming to the world that she fully accepts God’s authority over her life and the fact that God has placed her under man’s headship in all areas of life whether that be in the home, the church or elsewhere. Such a woman who fully accepts what her head covering means would never seek to be in any position that would place in her in authority over a man.
Now that we have fully covered the Apostle Paul’s explanation of why women should wear head coverings, we will now dive into what the head covering is that he is referring to.
WHAT is the Head Covering for Women?
Paul gives his answer to what the head covering is in I Corinthians 11:5-6 (KJV)
“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.”
The English word “uncovered” in verse 5 and the phrase “not covered” find their root in the negative form of the Greek word “Kalupto” which means “to hide or to veil”. So, Paul is saying when woman does not veil her head, she dishonors her head.
Paul goes on to use a cultural norm that the Corinthians would understand. For a woman to have her hair cut short (shorn) or have her head shaved would be for her to dishonor herself. Paul then goes on to explain where this cultural norm originated in I Corinthians 11:13-15 (KJV):
“13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? 14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? 15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.”
Man did not invent this cultural norm, but rather it came from the human nature God designed in man and woman. God put this knowledge into our original nature as human beings to know that long hair on a man is a disgrace, but long hair on a woman is her glory.
Paul talks about this original human nature, our original programming, which tells us right from wrong in Romans 2:14 (KJV):
“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves”
In the garden of Eden God created Adam with a perfect male human nature and he created Eve with a perfect female human nature. These nature’s had God’s law directly written into them. Their original human natures told them things like assault, murder and theft were wrong. Adam’s original masculine human nature instinctually told him he needed to lead, protect and provide for his wife. Eve’s original feminine human nature told her she needed to submit to and serve Adam as his subordinate helper.
But both Adam and Eve did not listen to the perfect natures God gave them which told them what to do – instead they went against the perfect human natures they were given and they sinned against God.
From that point forward both human natures, the masculine and feminine, became corrupted by sin. Yet even in its corruption, our human nature can still tell us when something is right or wrong according to God’s law.
Now before anyone misunderstands me – I am NOT saying our human natures (either masculine or feminine) are always right and that we can always trust them.
To know where our natures are right and where they are corrupt, we must look to our owner’s manual which is the Word of God. It tells us where our nature is wrong and has been corrupted by sin and where our nature is functioning as God designed it to.
The same thing goes for our culture. If what our culture condemns matches up with what God condemns and if what our culture promotes matches up with what God promotes then we can follow those things in our culture. But if what our culture condemns God approves and what our culture approves God condemns then we must disregard what our culture teaches in that area.
A Woman’s Long Hair is NOT the Covering
The woman’s long hair is “a covering” but it is not THE covering God requires when women pray or prophesy. Let’s apply the “long hair” argument to the passage we have already looked at below:
“5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth without long hair dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. 6 For if the woman has not long hair, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her have long hair.”
Now let’s apply some basic logic.
A woman without long hair = a woman shorn (with short hair) or a woman with a shaved head.
Now let’s apply this to the passage again:
“5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head shaven dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. 6 For if the woman be shorn, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her have long hair.”
You can’t make a comparison by comparing something to itself. It is like saying “Eating ghost peppers is like eating ghost peppers”. But rather if you wanted to tell someone what eating ghost peppers is like, you might say “Eating ghost peppers is like putting gasoline in your mouth and lighting it on fire”. The comparison of lighting gasoline in your mouth might be a little exaggerated – but it communicates the point of what it is like when you eat ghost peppers.
This is why we can confidently conclude that the veil that Paul exhorts women to wear while praying and prophesying is NOT a woman’s long hair. Paul is speaking of two coverings. One is the natural covering (veil) God wants women to wear which is their long hair and the second is the additional physical covering (veil) God wants women to wear over their natural covering when they are praying or prophesying.
Now that we have discussed why God wants women to wear a head covering and we have shown it to be a separate veil in additional to their natural veil we will now show according the Bible when women are to wear this second veil as a spiritual symbol.
WHEN Does God Want Women to Wear a Head Covering?
Before we give the answer as to when women should wear head coverings we need to have a discussion about prophesy since this along with prayer is a central theme of this passage on head coverings.
The English word prophesieth is a translation of the Greek word “Propheteuo”.
Propheteuo is one of those words that you really have to pay attention to the context it is used in. In certain contexts, it refers to someone supernaturally foretelling the future like Christ did in the Gospels or the Apostle John did in the book of Revelation and like the Apostle John these prophets were also ordained by God to speak and write his Word.
But in other contexts, propheteuo simply refers to someone teaching, reproving or admonishing others based on the truths of God’s Word.
The Apostle Peter spoke of the prophecy of Joel being fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was first poured out on Christians in Acts 1:16-18 (KJV):
“16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
17 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: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy”
Peter is addressing both types of prophesy in this one statement. He talks about the young men seeing visions and old men dreaming dreams. That is exactly what happened to the Apostles and they wrote about the visions they had in the New Testament. But he also talks about “daughters” and “handmaidens” prophesying. So, what does he mean by this?
In I Corinthians 14:3 (KJV) we read the following statement about prophesy:
“But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.”
Before I explain this passage, I want to make two points. The first thing I want to say is that I love the KJV because even though it has a very old form of English, it is often the most literal rendering of the original text. But like any other translation of the original texts, it sometimes is either confusing because of the old English or it is not as precise as it should be. The second thing I want to say is that I can’t stand all these gender-neutral translations of the Bible. The fact is that the Bible is written in a very masculine tone because God’s nature is represented by the masculine human nature and translations should be faithful to that tone.
But sometimes in the Bible the language used is gender neutral and I Corinthians 14:3 is actually one those passages.
First, where the King James version says “he” as in “he that prophesieth” the Greek Word which is “ho” is actually gender neutral and it would be more accurately translated as “the one”.
Secondly when the KJV refers to hearers of the prophesy it calls them “men” but that is not as precise as it should be when used together with the gender neutral “ho”. The Greek word that is translated as “men” is “Anthropos”. This word can be translated as “man”, “men”, “mankind” or as “people” or a “person” depending on the context it is used in. It is a less precise word than the Greek word “Aner” which is specifically used to refer to male human beings in the Bible or to “gune” which specifically refers to female human beings in the Bible.
With all that being said I believe in this rare case the NIV actually is actually closest to the original meaning with one minor correction:
“But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.”
Where I think the NIV is wrong is in their use of the word “strengthening” where the KJV and other translations like the NASB translate the word as “edification” which is a better translation of the Greek word “Oikodome”. Even Thayer’s Bible dictionary states that Oikodome which literally means “the act of building up” also is used metaphorically to mean edifying or edification. The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of edify means to “to instruct and improve especially in moral and religious knowledge”.
So, what is I Corinthians 14:3 saying? It is saying that “the one” (man or woman) that prophesies speaks to people (men or women) using the Word of God to instruct them, exhort them and comfort them.
The next verse, I Corinthians 14:4 (KJV) actually mentions the church:
“He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.”
Again we have the gender neutral “Ho” for which is translated as “He” and the gender neutral “Heautou” which can be translated as “himself, herself, itself or themselves” depending on the context it is used. And since it is used with the gender neutral “Ho” once again the NIV is the most accurate translation of this verse where it says:
“Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.”
And on this subject of prophecy I want to mention one more verse which is found in Acts 21:8-9 (KJV):
“8 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. 9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.”
So here is the point I have been building to with all these passages on prophesy. We who believe in the doctrines of Biblical gender roles cannot deny that God gifts some women with the gift of prophecy. And I do not mean the “foretelling of the future and writing God’s Word” kind of prophecy. I mean the kind of prophecy that edifies, exhorts and comforts people and edifies the church as the Scriptures say.
Acts 21:8-9 shows this to be true and the central passage we are talking about here – I Corinthians 11:5 which exhorts women when they prophesy to wear a head covering proves this to be true.
I know that many Christian wives have been led astray by false female prophets of God only to see their marriages destroyed. I have had many men write me emails testifying to this fact. Far too many. And it would be easy to say women can never prophesy in any form or venue because we are afraid of false teachings. But gentlemen let me remind you all that women don’t have a monopoly on being false prophets. There are many male false prophets out there today as there have always been.
The Scriptures tell us that God gifts some women with the gift of prophecy so the question then becomes where can they use this gift to edify, exhort and comfort?
Some would wrongly say because I Corinthians 14:4 (NIV) says “the one who prophesies edifies the church” that women can instruct and exhort men in the Church. But such an interpretation ignores clear prohibitions against women teaching men in the Church such this one found in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 (KJV):
“11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”
And in the same chapter of I Corinthians that we have just mentioned with gender neutral language about people prophesying to the church we find this restriction on women once again in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (KJV):
“34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. 35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”
So how do we explain this? We are told in the Scriptures that prophesy edifies, exhorts and comforts all people and it also edifies the church and we are told that God gives this gift to both men and women. He even tells women when the prophesy to wear a head covering. Yet he tells women to remain silent in the church and learn from their husbands at home.
The answer my friends is found in Titus 2:3-5 (KJV):
“3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”
When we combine the fact that Bible says some women have the gift of prophecy which includes edification, exhortation and comfort along with this passage we have a clear picture of God’s vision for women.
God gifts some women with the ability to be able to edify and exhort other 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” and to comfort them when they are in difficult situations.
Before I show you the final answer as to when a woman must wear a head covering according to the Scriptures, we need to understand one more point. When the Scriptures say “the one who prophesies edifies the church” this is not limited to a local church assembly of men and women together in a worship service.
The church, the body of Christ, is both universal and local. When you go down the street and see a physical church building and see Christians meeting there on Sunday mornings for worship that is a local manifestation of the body of Christ coming together for worship and instruction in the Word.
But then we have the universal body of Christ which includes all saints. There are many ministries which minister to the church on a universal level. A Christian radio show is an example of a ministry which ministers to the universal church. This blog ministry, BiblicalGenderRoles.com, is another example of a ministry which ministers to the universal church. And in this same way Christian women can have blogs which minister to the universal church and are specifically tailored toward women. Even on a local church level woman can have ladies Bible studies or ladies Sunday school classes where women with the gift of prophecy can exercise their gift within the bounds of God’s law.
But as I have said before on this blog – all ministries which are conducted by women, even by those women who have the gift of prophesy, must be done under the headship of man. If it is a single woman with no family that might mean she operates under the authority of the Pastor of her local church. If it is a woman with a Christian father and no husband then she operates under the spiritual authority of her father. And certainly, if a woman has a Christian husband then she operates her ministry to women under the spiritual authority of her husband.
And now we can finally answer the question of WHEN women are scripturally required to wear head coverings.
A woman should wear a head covering, a veil of some sort, during worship services because she certainly should be silently praying together with her local church during worship. Secondly, if a woman is prophesy to other women such as through a podcast or in person in a Sunday school class or a ladies Bible study, she also should wear a head covering.
What about prayer? Well if Paul were talking about prayer and did not mention prophecy then I would lean toward women must cover their head for prayer at any time. But since Paul is linking prayer and prophecy together as the occasion, and we know prophecy can only occur in a church ministry setting (either to the local or universal body) then I believe his command was for women to veil is when they are ministering to the local or universal church. A woman who teaches Sunday school should veil before she opens the class in prayer. A woman who does podcasts to other women and prays and teaches other women should veil as she prays during their podcasts. But if a woman is silently praying at home on her couch, or doing bed time prayers with her children, I do not believe she is required to veil in those instances. Those times are not ministering to church, but rather those times are her ministering to her children.
The “All Times” Argument
Before I conclude I wanted to address the “All Times” argument as to when Christian women should wear head coverings. There are some Christians like the Amish, Mennonites and Anabaptists and others outside those denominations that believe women are to wear head coverings at all times.
Their argument is that the prayer Paul is referring to is not limited to that which occurs in the context of church ministries like worship services or other women’s ministries outside the worship service setting. And they point to 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV) which exhorts all Christians to “Pray without ceasing” to say that since Christian women should be in a constant state of pray that they should always have their head coverings.
The Biblical command to “Pray without ceasing” is like the Biblical command for us as Christians to be “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” in Hebrews 10:25 (KJV). In the same way the call to not forsake assembling within our local church bodies does not mean we must be at church 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so too the call to pray without ceasing does not mean we must pray 24 hours a day 7 days a week at all minutes of the day.
Taken together these commands are telling us not to stop the regular practice of meeting together in our local churches or of praying. We as Christians should have regular habits of praying and going to church. This the command of the Scriptures.
Otherwise if we took “pray without ceasing” the way some of these groups have tried to portray it – we could never talk to anyone else because we would be constantly talking to God and if we applied that to forsaking not the assembling of ourselves in the church we would never leave the church building or stop praying. That is not God’s will for our Christian lives. God simply wants prayer and church attendance to be a regular habit for all Christians.
I hope this study has been a blessing to you, I know it was for me as I studied this out again. I have believed in women wearing head coverings within the context of church ministry for many years but God really fined tuned this for me as I studied his Word on this subject once again.
So, we answered here from the Scriptures the three important questions when it comes to Christian women wearing head coverings. We answered the why, the what and the when.
The reason why God wants a woman to wear a head covering is because it is a public acknowledgement by that woman that man is the image bearer of God and man has been designated by God as the head of woman in all areas of this life. It is a testimony to all the people who see her as well as the angels who are watching that she acknowledges the male headship that God has placed her under and she would never seek to take authority over a man.
What is the head covering which God requires when women pray or prophesy? It is the second veil which God requires women to cover their heads with when praying or prophesying. The first veil God requires women to have is the one he naturally gives them the ability to have – and that is their long hair.
When should women wear their head covering or a second veil? Any time a woman prays or prophesies in the context of a local church setting, a ladies Bible study group in her home or even if she did an internet podcast.
As I conclude I just want to give one more “why” answer.
Why did the church abandon the teaching that women should wear head coverings? Why have so many pastors and other Christian teachers and writers gone to great lengths to say it was a “temporary cultural requirement” Even if they agree it is still required, they make the argument I have shown to be logically false that the woman’s long hair is the only covering Paul was talking about.
The answer is that Christian men over the last century or so gradually abandoned their God given headship over the women in their lives. And this leadership vacuum allowed for a poisonous ideology called Feminism to form. And Feminism since its inception has decimated God’s institution of gender roles and marriage and it brought the divorce rate from 3 percent to 45 percent causing more than 60 million divorces. Feminist ideology has also led to the deaths of over 60 million babies in abortion.
Whether it is their wives, their daughters or the women under their ministries in their churches most Christian men have neglected their duty in this regard. They now seek to appease women in their churches or marriages. They are more concerned with making the women in their lives happy than pleasing God.
If you are a God fearing, Bible believing Christian man or woman I ask you to pray for the men around you that God will give them the strength and courage to lead the women in their lives even it that may cause some momentary or even long-term unhappiness for them. I also ask you to pray for the women in your lives that they will have the courage to take a stand and if they do not have the two head coverings God requires for women (long hair and a veil for church ministry) that they will make this right before God and start doing what is right.
To listen to my 3 part podcast series on head coverings go to BGRLearning.com below:
46 thoughts on “Why Christian Women Should Wear Head Coverings”
Excellent article, BGR. I can say from experience that I have battled both my wife and her (my old) church on head coverings while in the church and the response was pretty much as you say: “That was an old cultural thing, we don’t have to do that anymore”. My wife just flat out told me she would not be wearing anything and that’s that.
How sad that christians can so willingly disregard the words of scripture, even when pointed out to them and in-depth discussion show where the words are not “an old cultural thing”, but something that God still fully expects from us as His followers. What is really bad about it is the fact that the scripture reads that women dishonor themselves by NOT wearing the head covering. Despite this many refuse to wear them. Just as the bible says that “it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church”, no one cares about being a shame or dishonoring themselves, so long as they can feel good or not be made uncomfortable.
Let us hope that some day christians will turn to and embrace the whole word of God, and not just those parts that make them feel warm and fuzzy.
And it is “For this cause”, because man is God’s image and glory and because of that woman’s head that woman out “to have power on her head because of the angels”. I think a coma is supposed to be after the second “and in in this sentence, and the second half I think you mean’t “and because of that woman’s head that woman OUGHT, not ‘out’, to have power on her head because of the angels.” “God gifts some women with the ability able to edify and exhort other 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” and to comfort them when they are in difficult situations.” I think you mean’t “God gifts some women with the ability to be able to edify and exhort other 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” and to comfort them when they are in difficult situations.” You don’t just pray or prophesy in church, as you’ve shown here. The Bible’s command for women wearing external head covering refers not just to in church or when in performance of Christian ministries, but to all times they pray as the command in 1 Corinthians 11 is written in the form of an absolute statement. Excellent article for the most part, though I can’t share it.
Thank for your continued editorial suggestions both to syntax and in theology. I have made the syntax changes you gave me. As to the theological difference, I had you and a few other friends I have in mind when I wrote the “The All Prayers Argument” section where I speaking of the customs of the churches, i.e. customs of church worship and ministry.
On the issue of prayer itself, I know of some people who think the only way they can pray is bowed on their knees with their head bowed and eyes shut. Where I believe and have prayed while driving my car on a long trip with my eyes wide open – obviously so I don’t get in a car accident.
But again I respect the difference on this. I would encourage you to rethink sharing the article as I often will share articles where I agree with 75 percent of what is said and I just clarify where I disagree. We as believers will never have 100 percent agreement with one another in our understanding of the interpretation or applications of the Scriptures. Just something to ponder.
The custom of church worship mentioned in the final verse of this section in chapter 11 was not in reference to the head covering command, but in reference to be contention-loving. He said we(the apostles who were writing and delivering God’s Word under Divine Inspiration) have no such custom as being contention-loving(contentious as translated in the KJV of this chapter) toward a command of God. But the statement didn’t directly pertain to the head covering command. And the illustration in nature of the long hair Paul gave was in answer to the question he asked in verse 11. First he asked the question, then he gave the answer. Just as it is disgraceful for a man to have long hair, which is a woman’s natural clothing, and thus her glory, it is likely not comely for a woman to pray to God with her head not covered by an external head covering. Both verse 11’s question, and the command for women to wear external head coverings when praying or prophesying in verse 5, as well as verse 6’s commanded punishment for women who violate it are written in the form of absolute, unconditional statements. They don’t say “just in church,” “in church,” or any other phrasing that would verify that as being the meaning, Therefore, when saved women pray or prophesy, wherever they are, they are to wear an external head covering, be it in church or anywhere. As to the people you mentioned who think you can’t pray except on bowed knees, with head bowed, and eyes closed, I have seen no bible verse to say that is the only way it can be done. It does say to pray everywhere, with uplifting of hands. Mentioning that disproves nothing I said. As to reconsidering sharing the article, the answer is no because this is not a matter of opinion(things about which believers can agree or disagree), it is a matter of fact, for the reasons I have explained above. Your article on this one point(women not having to wear head covering when praying except when in church or performing ministry services) is biblically inaccurate. Therefore, I can’t share it as I can’t fully support and back it. Though I will go on the page you shared it to(Not Ashamed of Christ), and post a correction in the comments of this point for anyone to learn from.
“And that neither do the churches of God” was supposed to be on the top part of my comment, as part of the “He said we(the apostles who were writing and delivering God’s Word under Divine Inspiration) have no such custom as being contention-loving(contentious as translated in the KJV of this chapter) toward a command of God.” sentence.
Also, I mean’t verse 13, not 11 in the previous comment about the illustration from nature.
I just wish girls would stop wearing yoga-pants to church. It’s one reason why I stopped going. Weak, gutless preachers would say nothing about it.
I have “sharpened” my position on this issue of when women should wear head coverings. See the when section for the changes as well as an Update section at the bottom of the article.
@BGR for your edification on the subject
Spoiler- John Murray a well known reformed theologian concurs with you.
The real question is why so many refuse to teach and obey so simple a command; a command that takes little effort and little sacrifice of liberty. It seems to me the issue is both teachers and women enjoy a little female moxie, a dash of rebellion added to their independence. What is to be a symbol of being under authority the want of the symbol is the display of independence from authority. The temptIon of Eve displayed in a micro-aggression against her created position.
Magnificent BGR! And glad I was a blessing and help, of it is alright to say that. I’m sharing this article with the hope of it being a blessing and deleting the comment I made on it share post on “Not ashamed of Jesus Christ.”
“Since the discussion of head coverings for prayer is not qualified with the command itself like I Corinthians 14:34-35 and it also does not qualify the command about head coverings for prayer as part of a list of many commands like 1 Timothy 3:15 then we cannot know with a 100 percent degree of confidence that it is only speaking of prayers done in the context of church ministry.” I think you mean’t to write something like “Since the discussion of head coverings for prayer is not qualified with ‘in the church, or the house of God,’ or some other statement just like it as part of the command itself.” judging from what you said after and built up to. Not trying to be ride though. Please forgive me if I have come across that way.
In this case I meant the statement as is – I was leaving “qualified” with the implication of a qualification in the home or church.
Oh I see now. Sorry. Didn’t quite catch it at first.
Christian women shun this show of authority because they don’t want to be under the authority of their husbands. Case in point: A woman who goes to work at a job may be required by her boss to wear a uniform, headgear, protective gear, etc. and will gladly do so. If her boss is a man she may dislike him but she will respond to him with respect toward his authority because she recognizes him as having authority over her.
Her husband, however, is another story, and here we see the curse in action! She is full aware that her husband has been given authority over her, but she will fight him tooth and nail over it. The slightest request that goes against her will and desires will be protested, regardless of how small. Did he just issue an order? How dare he! Does he require I wear a head covering into church? Absolutely not! Why? Because it is a PHYSICAL INDICATOR OF HER SUBMISSION AND HER HUSBANDS AUTHORITY OVER HER! To wear such a thing is to betray the sisterhood and let every other man and woman who see’s her know she is an owned woman, and in this modern society such a thing is anathema! Woman is powerful! Woman is free! Woman is kick-ass! No woman wants to be the weak pillar, much less advertise it to other women.
There was a time when being cared for and caring ones spouse was seen as a virtue, but now such a thing is seen as weakness, and being a weak woman in the herd is not only to draw ridicule upon oneself, but also to damage the precious gains feminism has made over the past half a century. First christian women are wearing head coverings! Next they’ll be cooking big meals, giving their husbands sex without restriction and, gasp, teaching others to do the same!
Now, we can’t have that, can we?
I wrote a brief blog post on your article:
This is interesting to me. Your literary voice sounds informed and strong, yet you expresss discomfort over those cultural changes that afforded you literacy and voice. I don’t understand why you would make the case for subjugation of your fellow woman, but in general, I respect your perspective as it defends your personal choice. What it doesn’t seem to cover is the great diversity of women of whom you speak so broadly. I keep thinking about what this would mean for the global Christian woman. The woman who is a leader in her business, the unmarried, the gay, the widow, the teenager from a tiny Latina village who’s never read this scripture in the original Greek. I worry about the narrow stance that says, “this is what being a Christian is,” to so many who will legitimately never be able to accommodate your privileged world view. Why increase the burden on unbelievers with a vague/arguable mandate that Jesus never set?
Jesus Christ, whom you reference, said:
There are many ways that go to destruction, but there is a narrow way which leads to God.
During his earthly incarnation Christ’s primary focus was the Gospel and what he came to do in redeeming mankind. So beyond divorce and celibacy he said little about gender roles and marriage or the specifics of worship, church structure and practice. And yes, you can become a Christian and a child of God by believing in the Gospel that Christ spoke that is recorded in the four Gospels. But if that is all you do you will never grow in your faith. And you will be ashamed in the day of judgment because you chose to ignore everything Christ said through his Prophets before him and his Apostles after him.
The Apostle Paul by whom God spoke after Christ’s ascension tells us what will happen with many Christians and that would include those who only will listen to what is in the Gospels and not what came before or after the Gospels:
So yes the foundation for our faith is Christ, believing that he was the sinless Son of God, God in the flesh and his death paid the penalty for our sins and that he rose again on the third day. But we are called to build upon that foundation. And you cannot build upon that foundation without believing ALL his Word and that includes what he spoke through his Prophets before his incarnation and what he spoke through his Apostles after his Ascension. You are taking what you like and leaving the rest.
And look at Christ’s Words on the moral teachings of the Old Testament:
I would also like to address this statement you made:
If you read this article, I wrote extensively on the fact that the Bible does NOT prevent women from being literate or having a voice. I showed from the Scriptures how God has given the gift of prophesy to some women(for edification, exhortation, comfort and teaching in the Scriptures) but that this “literacy” and “voice” of women which you allude to must be exercised within the bounds of God’s law. And that means women can teach other women as long as they do so under the spiritual authority of men.
So while there have been many instances throughout history where men did block women’s ability to be literate or exercise their gift of prophesy, this was not God’s will.
The “cultural changes” which you allude to that have taken place in the last couple centuries have gone FAR beyond restoring the ability of women to exercise their spiritual gifts. They have overturned the spiritual authority God has established in placing the man over the woman and thus today these cultural changes you allude to are promoting lawlessness and anarchy by God’s standards. And that is what we are seeing playing out in our culture and it is what will eventually destroy western civilization.
@alyssereams “Why increase the burden on unbelievers with a vague/arguable mandate that Jesus never set?” This head covering command is not mean’t for unbelievers, as Paul wrote it to saved people. Not sure where you got off thinking that. And for saved women this isn’t a burden, it is quite easy to obey if only they will. All they have to do is wear an external head covering other than a wig(like a veil or hat) whenever and wherever they pray or prophesy. If they have nothing to serve as such, they could buy something as soon as possible to be able to obey this command. And if they don’t, they sin.
What if a husband doesn’t want his wife to cover in church and at home? Interestingly, he is not ok with it when we attend an evangelical church, but he expects it when we attend Mass.
What if the husband asks his wife to dress more provocatively at home, and it is just weird for her to be dressed for sex and wearing a covering? The covering seems to demand for her to dress modestly as well.
I cover for my devotions, but I do not cover for every little prayer I say.
If your husband doesn’t want you to, then you do it anyway, as it is a command of God, and your husband can’t overrule your requirement to obey a command of God. If he wants you to dress provocatively at home, within sinless limits such as not in the presence of guests, then do it and wear an external head covering. Such is not sinful, or immodest as it is for your husband. Not wearing an external head covering for all your prayers is failure to obey this command, and now that you know that if you don’t obey it, God will no longer hear your prayers as you are deliberately sinning against Him, which is you regarding iniquity in your heart in deciding that sinning against God matters more to you than true obedience, which is synonymous with love, for which God says He will not hear someone(Psalm 66:18, John 14:15).
Honest to goodness questions:
@BGR….[This part of comment removed. Please add this comment to an article I have dedicated to this subject which you can find by clicking here as I don’t want this to distract from the subject of head coverings. I am more than happy to discuss it with you on that other thread.].
Also, if a woman is uncovered, does that mean she has to conciously not pray? If I am showering and washing my hair, does that mean my contemplative quiet shower time cannot include listening to a sermon or worship music? Or I cannot pray?
Some say the marital sex is an act of worship. Should a wife stay covered for that?
@BGR….ok, now I understand better. Do you agree with Tyler that I ought to cover even though my husband doesn’t want me to and doesn’t agree with your position/interpretation of the Biblical passages?
It is not a matter of interpretation or application of this scriptural command, as what I and this article have represented is simply what the Bible itself said in the original languages directly. So yes, you are to cover all the times you pray or prophesy, regardless of whether your husbands wants you to or not, as BGR said in his most recent response to you. We obey God over man if man contradicts God’s commands, and if your husband were to contradict God on this command, that principle applies to it.
Living in blurred lines,
My husband feels the same way about head coverings. He doesn’t like me to wear them either. When we go out, I don’t. Instead I pray silently in my head, or I put my hand on top of my head as if to cover it. Which is what I saw my grandmother do when I was a child. (She and my grandfather also attended a plymouth brethren assembly.) But when I am home praying in my prayer closet, I do cover with a scarf. I usually wear a scarf tied up around my head while I’m cleaning and doing household chores as well. Some days I wear one all day long, especially when my husband isn’t home.
I forgot to add, I also pray in the shower. I usually cover my head with my hand when I do. But you could also use a shower cap.
Even if your husband doesn’t like you doing so, do so anyway as you are to obey God’s commands no matter what. And using your hand to cover your head doesn’t obey this command as it requires external head coverings like your scarf. Your hand is not an external head covering.
Finding this site has been a blessing and this article in particular addresses something I have often thought as my mind continues to be renewed to God’s Word.
Wow! Thank you for describing this so well. I’m so tired of people just looking at scripture and saying “ well if there is any contention there is no such law, well I don’t have to do it”. And they are not diving into scripture enough. Thank you for setting the truth out!
While I am still very firm in the main thrust of this article that God does wants women to wear headcoverings for prayer and worship, after a recent study I did on in Matthew 6:3-5 I have altered my view slightly when it comes to opposition of husbands to head coverings for prayer and worship:
Christ says it is not a sin do good deeds toward God or others in secret, or to pray in secret. Therefore I do not believe it is wrong for a woman to cover herself in secret or in secret ways.
I agree with Soul sister’s approach. She covers her head with her hand, and she veils secretly in an effort to not openly defy her husband, while still obeying what God wants her to do.
We must remember that believers have worshiped in secret for centuries since the beginning of Christianity, and there is no sin worshiping and praying in secret when you have a husband opposed to not just head coverings, but even to Christianity itself.
My point is that woman of God should do everything in her power not to have to openly defy her husband. And if God provides a way to do something in secret, then she should do it in secret.
I realize you and I will butt heads on this again probably. But I have made a slight alteration to my view on headcoverings, specifically in regard to women defying their husbands on this issue.
During a recent study I did in Matthew 6 I came to mediate upon this passage from Matthew 6:3-5:
I came to the realization that God honors secret worship and prayer of him. Christians have had to do this for centuries since the beginning of Christianity. Christians around the world worship and pray to God in secret.
And then when I consider that the head covering is presented as symbol of the man’s authority over the woman, it would seem ironic that that she would defy his authority, to acknowledge his authority.
In addition, the word “wear” as in “wear a veil” is not found in this passage. It simply says women should “veil” or cover. And yes that covering is different than her hair. I absolutely belief that. But if she cannot find a physical veil or her husband is not a Christian or a Christian and forbids it, if for any reason she must worship and pray in secret this is honorable before God.
And by worshiping and praying in secret because of her husband’s opposition, she continues to submit to him and to God. And woman bowing her head and covering it with her hands is her veiling her head with something other than her hair. And God knows her heart and knows exactly what she is doing.
Again I know this is a real hot button issue for you, but I would encourage you to look closely at the passage again. And also see it light of Christ’s honoring of prayer and worship in secret along with the fact that the second veil or covering represents a woman’s acknowledgement of God placing man over her.
Hi BGR, quick question:
What about wearing a head covering all the time? Also, is it required for all women, or just those that are married?
1 Corinthians 11:1-16 speaks to a woman covering her head for prayer or prophesying. So it is limited to her praying or her prophesying(proclaiming the Word of the Lord) which refers to her teaching other women the Word of God. And yes it is required for all women as it speaks to man’s general authority over woman, not specifically only to a husband’s authority over his wife. When a woman covers her head for prayer or for prophesying, she is showing that she acknowledges the general authority of man over woman in God’s creation. Now her specific direct male authority may be her father or her husband, or if she has neither than she would seek out a male spiritual authority perhaps in the form of her pastor. Rather than seeking to be free of male authority, a godly woman seeks out and fully embraces the authority of man over her.
So, if one was to wear a head covering all the time as part of her everyday outfit would that count for when she prays as well?
Yes absolutely. For instance Amish and Mennonite women wear covers on their heads all the time and that would absolutely count. Any cover will do. It could be a hat, it could be a veil of some sort, and as I have said in comments in this article I think in a pinch it could be a woman putting her hand over head to pray. The language of the Bible here is that she is “veiled” or covered. It does not specifically say the phrase “wear a veil”, but the meaning is clear that her head is covered with something other than her natural covering which is her hair. It compares her not having this second covering, to if she had her head shaved or hair cut short so we know its not her hair.
So if a women is to remain silent in a church, how/when is she to prayer and prophesize? Not around men?
In regard to your question:
Yes – you haven answered your own question. “Not around men” is the answer. Titus 2:3-5 states the following:
The prophesying of a woman is in regard to her proclaiming the Word of God to other women as it relates to their purpose in God’s creation to be wives and mothers. I have seen women’s lives completely transformed through Christian woman’s mentoring and teaching programs. You just have to make sure that the woman doing the teaching and mentoring is a woman in total submission to her husband, who teaches under the authority and direction of her husband and she is sober(in control of her emotions), spiritually mature, wise and apt to teach.
So yes a woman might mentor or teach an individual woman or a woman’s group and as she prays and prophesies during this time helping other women to spiritually grow to be better wives and mothers, she should wear a head covering.
You’re 100% right about the authority, but I don’t agree on veils. Verse 15b says:
The Greek word translated “for” there is “ἀντί” (anti). According to every lexicon it means “instead of” or “in exchange for”; you can double-check me here. In verse 15, the Greek word translated “covering” is “περιβόλαιον” (peribolaion), which specifically refers to a cloth covering. (It’s the noun form of “περιβάλλω” (periballó), which means to “clothe yourself”.) Since, “anti” means “instead of” and peribolaion specifically refers to a cloth covering, it should be translated:
The “woman who’s head is shaved” in verse 5 almost certainly refers to the female inhabitants of the Isle of Lesbos (from which we get the word “lesbian”) located near Corinth. These women shaved their heads to symbolize rejecting male authority. Paul is making an analogy of the “covering” of long hair equals being under the “covering” of male authority, using Lesbos’ inhabitants as an example.
This passage is the Bible’s most complete treatise on authority between the genders. Reducing it to “women must have a cloth covering” contradicts Paul – and thus God – and also destroys the point of the passage. (how women are required to be under male authority.)
BGR: I think you would enjoy my article on this passage because there’s a half dozen layers of context/brilliance to Paul’s writing here that aren’t usually discussed, (Like its chiastic structure) and I think you especially will appreciate Paul’s point.
I agree with this statement you made that “We need to understand the context before we can understand the content”.
And I greatly appreciate your passion for studying God’s Word and looking to the meaning of the original Greek Words. Also, while I usually quote from the KJV, I also have a great respect for the NASB (much more so than the NIV) as I see it as perhaps the most literal modern translation of the Bible.
The subject of men and women “praying and prophesying”, and the way in which they are to present themselves to God while doing this, is the context of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16.
I agree with you, that the Apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of God, uses this opportunity in explaining why men and women must approach prayer and prophesying in different ways to show a greater underlying truth regarding God’s reason for creating the two genders. Each time a woman or man come to God in prayer or they proclaim his Word to others, it is to display God’s creation order, with man under the authority of Christ, and woman under the authority of man. Amen and Amen.
But to say the context is not proper conduct for praying or prophesy and it is only about gender roles is not being faithful to the full reading of the text in my view.
The Apostle Paul does not say “Every man who has something on his head disgraces his head”. But rather he says “Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head” (1 Corinthians 11:4 NASB). Again, in reference to women, the Apostle does not say “But every woman who has her head uncovered disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved”. But rather he says “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 whose head is shaved”.
Being covered or uncovered while praying or prophesying is the context of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, yet in discussing covering or uncovering for prayer or prophesy, God reveals the greater truth underlying his rules for these practices.
I will have more to say in another comment.
Let me remind my readers of this portion of the this article where I showed long hair makes no sense when you you insert it into 1 Corinthians 11:5-6:
And you recognized this very problem when interpreting this section literally. And this is how you solved it the problem in your article:
The problem is this passage does not say “uncovered by male authority”, it simply says “uncovered”. And it says uncovered while praying and prophesying to keep the context.
Again I do not disagree that a woman’s natural covering is is her hair. And I do not disagree that women having short hair is a shame to them before God, as well as well men having long hair is a shame to them before God. But there is both the natural covering and the second spiritual covering that are called for here.
And on the subject of “ἀντί” in verse 14-15 (NASB):
You argue that that “for” should be interpreted as “instead”, yet you acknowledge that in some places in the Bible it is not used this way:
If we allow that 1 Corinthians 11:4-5 are the context of this passage, that of how men and women should conduct themselves while praying or prophesying, then we know the right translation of this “ἀντί” in the case of verse 15 is “for” and that is why even the NASB translators, who have been very literal, translated it as “for”.
Again I appreciate your passion in this. But I have to respectfully disagree. I will give you the last word here, but I probably won’t keep arguing this point with you. In the end we may have to agree to disagree on what the covering is in 1 Corinthians 11:4-5. Yet we can fully agree with one another, than in speaking to the covering for women for prayer and prophesying, Paul teaches us a much greater underlying principle which is that he created man to image him and thereby bring him glory and he created woman for man to be his glory. And each time a man and woman go to pray or prophesy, they are to reflect this great and powerful truth.
We might have to agree to disagree, though we agree on a lot overall. Your website was a wonderful resource when I first started questioning the egalitarianism I was taught as a youth, and I owe you a great debt of gratitude for that. Thank you. 🙂 Also, thank you for the compliment on my passion. 🙂 I actually learned Greek solely to understand the New Testament better.
(1) – I quoted “an eye for an eye” to show that our English word “for” can be used in the same sense of exchange/substitution that “ἀντί” (anti) has in Greek, not to say that anti sometimes doesn’t indicate exchange/substitution. Anti always means “in exchange for” or “instead of” (except when it’s used as a causative and means “because”), and you can see all 22 places anti is used in the Bible here. In every single one, it’s either used for exchange/substitution (“in exchange for” or “instead of”) or as a causative (“because”). There are no exception to this. None. Not even one.
(2) – I would say the context begins in verses 2-3, not 4-5. Verse 3 especially is solely about authority. Praying and prophesying are the two way we interact with God (praying = us to Him, prophecy = Him to us). It seems Paul is saying women ought not to interact with God unless they are properly “covered” (which I say means authority because of verses 2-3 and 9-10.)
Regardless, I appreciate you taking the time to read my article and respond to my comment so thoroughly. 🙂
P.S. I edited my article to include point #1 above.
Brilliant and well-researched. I agree with just about everything. I don’t personally use the KJV, but that’s no big deal.
My wife recently started doing both head coverings and silence in mixed church gatherings. It’s been a blessing to me, her, and our daughter, and other women are starting to take note. She asks me her Bible questions at home, which the Bible says to do, and it has led to some excellent conversations and even research on my part.
I’ve become a lot more jaded about other women speaking in church – almost never is it needed, and it often devolves into personal anecdotes, life stories, and virtue signaling. Yes, men can do that too, but far less often in my experience. Amazingly, I’ve talked to several wives who say that being silent in church would be a huge relief – they often worry about what to say but feel like they should be contributing.
One thing that led me to really get into this in the past few years is the disparity between how traditions are enforced. I’m a bit of a rebel, and in the past I’ve been corrected for wearing a hat. In courtrooms, in church buildings, in prayer. But I have *never* seen or heard of a woman being corrected for not covering up. Why is it still considered rude or improper or disrespectful for a man not to remove his hat at certain times, but women can do whatever they want? It didn’t used to be this way. It was this disconnect that led me to study what the Bible said about both genders. I now remove my hat in prayer in mixed gatherings, and my wife puts her covering on. We both have a role to play!
I am a woman and I am a firm believer in the Word of God and what the Bible said to do or not to do. Love your teaching and the way you rightly divide the word of truth as it said in (2 Timothy 2:15 kjv). I see women calling themselves bishop. Reverend. And all different titles behind their names. I would not attend a Church if the woman is the pastor. But as you said we have to pray for our men too and all so the woman so they will to do the right thing. Pray God will pour back into you what you have poured out onto us. Continue to teach thus saith the Lord.
Excellent!!!! Thank you!!!!
You briefly touch on women praying with their children, but how about a homeschooling mom who frequently teaches lessons to do with God’s Word to her children? Should a mother put on a veil before teaching formal lessons to her own children? I’d appreciate your input on this. I’m leaning towards she should.
I think verse 16 of 1 Corinthians 11 answers your question:
“But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.”
This is speaking to that of how men and women ought to behave in context of church gatherings – this could be a worship service, Sunday school, men’s conference, woman’s conference or even a woman’s Bible study at someone’s home conducted under the authority of the church.
But I don’t think it would apply to a woman homeschooling her children, that is now done in the context of and authority of the home, not the church.
However, if a woman wants to wear a head covering even for teaching her children, I see no issue with that at all. I just don’t see it as a Scriptural requirement.