I get so much mail asking the question on how I believe when it comes to Head Coverings. If it is a personal conviction of yours fine,I am not here to debate that. This is written according to what I believe the BIBLE (Our final authority) to say to ME. I am sure that this will prove to be an issue that many of us will have to agree to disagree, but just for the record here it is:

Wait! One more 'disclaimer' - NO, my hair is NOT this long,[nor my girls] I just loved this picture and decided it was perfect for here.

A covering? What was God telling us through Paul?

1 CORINTHIANS 11:6 -- "For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered."

        One of the problems with this passage is discerning the nature of the head covering required for the woman. It is obvious that God requires that the woman have a token of submission to authority on her head. She is to be covered. Verse 15 says her hair is given for a covering. There are two different interpretations which are commonly adopted in this regard: (1) The hair is intended to be the covering throughout the passage. (2) The hair is the natural covering, but there is to be an additional covering spoken of in verses 4-7.

I believe the first position is correct

        Those who believe verses 4-7 refer to a separate veil or head covering point to two things to prove their position: (a) The Greek word in verses 4-7 is different from that used in verse 15. (now dont go yelling at me, I dont use the Greek - im saying what 'others' use as their 'proof') I don't believe this is significant, though. Both words mean basically the same thing: a veil, a covering. The Authorized Version correctly translates both words by the same English word, "covering."

         I don't believe this proves that a different covering is referred to in verse 4-7 as in verse 15. The Greek New Testament frequently uses different Greek words as synonyms, just as we do in the English language. (b) The phrasing of verse 6, they say, proves that a covering separate from the hair is being discussed. This is a stronger argument, but I do not believe it is necessary to interpret verse 6 as speaking of a separate covering. I believe the verse means this: If a woman refuses to wear her hair long for a proper covering and token of authority, if she wants to bob it like a man's hair, let her go ahead and shave it all off. By saying this, the Apostle is emphasizing with the strongest language the seriousness of this matter. It is obvious that is not proper for a woman's head to be shaved.

        The Apostle's conclusion, therefore, is this: since it is disgraceful to be shaved, let the women be covered with their natural long hair. I believe there are some serious problems with the view that the woman's hair is to be covered with a separate covering or veil.

(1) If that is what the Apostle intended, why did he not give clear instructions about the nature of this separate covering? How large is it? What is its design? How is it worn? Someone might reply that the exact nature of the covering is not important, only the fact that some type of covering is used. Perhaps that is the case. It still seems strange to me that God would require a covering and not describe it for us. If, on the other hand, the covering is the hair itself, there would be no need to describe it (which further establishes my belief). The woman's natural long hair would be the covering. This is what I believe is the case.

(2) Similarly, if the Apostle intended to require women to wear a separate covering, why does the Scripture not give plain instructions as to exactly when and how these are to be worn? Is this covering only worn at church? Is it worn anytime the woman prays? Some groups which practice head coverings have devised long lists of laws about this. The problem is that they have set up a man-made legalism, because the Bible does not detail any instructions about coverings for women. (Quick deterant if you ask me, just keep thinking IF God says it i believe it,........ but did he?) If, on the other hand, the covering is the natural long hair itself, there is no need for detailed instructions. The woman wears her hair all of the time, so she has her proper covering at all times.

        It has been asked how this verse would apply to racial distinctives. My thoughts are that long hair on a woman in any race or culture would be in contrast to the men of that culture. Hair does differ according to race, but the women of any particular race can have long hair by contrast to the men of that race.

        Another question which invariably arises in the context of this passage is "How long is long?" It is similar to the question which long-haired men ask, "How short is short?" The answer is not difficult. Long hair on a woman, defined by this passage, is hair that is long enough to cover her head (11:6,15) and to mark her as distinctively female (11:14-15). The Bible does not say that she can never cut her hair. It does not say that her hair must be to her waist. It simply says it is to be long enough to be a covering of her head and to mark her as distinctively female in contrast to the man's short hair.

         If a woman's hair is short like a man's, she is dishonoring her head and is sowing confusion in the created realm. If there is any question as to whether or not her hair is too short, it is too short. There should be no question in the minds of those who observe us that we are obeying God's Word. The Lord exhorts us to approve things that are excellent, not things which are mediocre and borderline (Phil. 1:10).

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

        Commentators often express amazement and great uncertainty at this verse. I am amazed at the amazement! Why should this verse be considered so difficult to understand? Admittedly, we do not understand it thoroughly; we do not understand all of its implications. Like all Scripture, though, this verse means exactly what it says. God has not chosen to reveal everything to us, but He has revealed that which He wants us to know (Deut. 29:29). In plain language, the Bible states that women ought to have the sign of authority on their heads because of the angels. The context leaves no doubt that this refers to the hair which has been given to the woman for a covering (verse 15). That is plainly what the Bible says. To cut her hair short and manly is to disgrace her head and is to bring confusion into the created order. This is not something intended only for churches of the first century, and it is not an instruction intended simply for a special situation which existed in the church at Corinth. The Apostle says the things taught in this Epistle are ordinances of God for all churches (1 Cor. 7:17; 11:1-2; 14:33,37). The Apostle's arguments are based on permanent facts which will not change as long as this present earthly economy exists.

1 CORINTHIANS 11:14-16 -- "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God."

        In this passage (verse 1-15), the Apostle teaches the created distinction between the man and the woman, and he applies this distinction to the issue of appearance and worship. The man worships God with his head uncovered, because he is the image and glory of God. The woman worships God with her head covered, because she is in a subordinate position to the man and is the glory of the man. There are two views of the head covering. Some believe this is a separate veil or covering of some sort which is placed over the head. In these churches it is customary for the women to wear a veil over their hair. In South Asia, it is customary for women to pull their soirees over their heads in the church services, particularly during times of prayer. This portrays a lovely and submissive attitude, and is commended. The custom in Western culture that men remove their hats when entering a church is based on this passage. This is a proper custom. I believe, though, that the covering spoken of in this passage is the hair itself. Verse 15 says, "if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering." The hair is the natural covering God has given to the woman to signify her humility and submission. If she cuts it short, she is dishonoring herself and is displaying a rebellious spirit.

 Likewise, the man's hair is to be short to signify his headship under Christ. The Levites in the Old Testament had to keep their hair short (Ezek. 44:20).

        The meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:1-15 is not difficult to understand. What, though, does verse 16 mean? "If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God." In the context, the contention would be over the issue of hair and the distinction between the man and the woman in position and authority. There is, of course, great contention on this subject in our day. Women are ignoring the biblical injunctions which restrict them from teaching men and from taking authority over men. Both men and women are ignoring the biblical injunction pertaining to the proper hair length and its significance. Women are cutting their hair short, and men are wearing their hair long, all the while professing to love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ. What is Paul saying in verse 16 about such contention? It appears that there are two possible meanings.

(1) It is possible that Paul is saying that the distinction between the man and the woman in position and authority and the significance of one's hair length is not very important and if someone does not agree with these things, the churches should not make an issue of it. If this is the meaning of verse 16, though, it would be a very strange thing. Why would God inspire this passage about authority and position and hair if it can be disregarded by the churches? If this is the meaning of verse 16, Paul would be saying, in essence, I have spent 15 verses teaching you the significance of hair length on a man and a woman, but it is not very important; and if you don't agree with it, we will not make an issue of it. I don't believe this is the meaning of the verse. Nowhere else in the Bible do we find the man of God telling us, "This is the will and law of God, but you are free to disagree with and ignore it if it doesn't suit you."

(2) I believe the true meaning of verse 16 is two-fold. First, it has to do with the spirit of contention itself. Paul is saying that if someone in the church is contentious about these matters, we have no such custom of contention. The church is not an institution in which each member can decide for himself what he will and will not obey in the New Testament Scriptures. In this same passage, in verse 2, Paul commended the Corinthian church for keeping the ordinances he had delivered to them. It makes no sense for him to say now that they are at liberty to disagree with the things he is teaching. In 1 Corinthians 14:37 he tells them that the things he was writing to them are the commandments of the Lord. The things Paul wrote in His epistles are for all churches of every century. Second, verse 16 is saying that if any person is contentious about these matters and claims that it is proper for a woman to have authority over men or to wear her hair short like a man, such an one should consider the custom of the churches. It was customary in all of the churches for women to assume a position of submission to the man and to wear their hair long as a symbol of their submission. Thus Paul concluded this subject by strengthening his argument in pointing to general custom among the apostles and churches.

Well there you have it ;-)



©ccheedie 2000

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