South African Bible Believers
| Woman's Head Covering &
The Glory of God
Dr Peter H.L.Wee
It is a credit to very many assemblies practising New Testament principles that the sisters in their meetings -worship and remembrance meetings, prayer meetings, ministry meetings etc - do follow this injunction to cover their heads, and the brothers follow the companion injunction not to cover their heads. The reasons, however, may not be clear for some of them but, because the Word of God says so, they obey it and make provision for this practice. This is highly commendable.
Reasons Against the Practice
Try as I would, however, I find no such reason adduced in the Corinthian passage. It is simply a human explanation of convenience, and the holder of such a view makes the difference between a believing and an unbelieving woman a matter of mere externals, not of deep spiritual and total transformation by the Lord.
This stretches the argument too far. The head covering is a symbol and surely a symbol does not have to conform to all measurements of the actual piece! We shall see what it symbolises later on.
3. Individual conviction
This is a personal matter between the sisters of the assembly and the Lord. If they are convicted of the necessity to cover their heads, let them do so by all means. If not convinced, let their heads be uncovered!
Here we see the danger of selecting Scripture to suit our theology, instead of letting Scripture guide us. This wilful choosing of Scripture passages, picking out what one believes should be followed and rejecting what one thinks to be wrong (!), is reminiscent of two errors of the past. Marcion in the 2nd Century AD dissected Scripture according to his own liking, keeping only Luke's writings and some of Paul's epistles, discarding everything else! The Holy Scripture then comes under one's own personal judgment which is put above Scripture itself! One becomes God's judge!
We are also reminded of the Israelites in the time of the Judges, when each man did what was right in his eyes, and not according to God's Word (Judges 21:25).
4. Paul's apparent contradictory statements
In verse 15 Paul writes, "a woman's hair is given to her for a covering". Why then should Paul mention in verse 6 that "she should be covered" with a piece of material when her hair is already a covering? It seems superfluous and Paul's statements appear contradictory.
This apparent contradiction will be resolved when we consider the passage itself.
5. The question of female subjugation or subjection
This takes two forms: (a) The passage must refer to married women only, as only married sisters are to be subject to their husbands. Unmarried sisters, therefore, need not wear head coverings. (b) The apparent implication of male superiority and domination, and women's subjugation to men, all men, is abhorrent and appalling to many women, and rightly so, and in the Church of God this notion is to be shunned. If the putting on of head coverings implies that all women are in subjection to all men, young and old, mature or immature spiritually, then the women will not, understandably, accept this injunction laid on them.
We will see that the question of male superiority, wifely subjection, and female subjugation to men generally, either in the married or unmarried state, is not at all under consideration by Paul. Rather a far nobler purpose is being dealt with in this passage.
There may be other arguments put forward to circumvent the wearing of a head covering, but the passage remains unequivocal.
Support For The Practice
I have always thought that assemblies of believers (the distinctive mark of which is faithfulness to the whole Word of God) which left the question of head covering to the sisters' conviction or whim or fancy were not obeying the Word of God all the way, but I could not put my finger on the exact reason for disobedience, as the whole passage under consideration has been vague, even after I had referred to many commentaries on First Corinthians - eg W.E Vine, F.F Bruce, Leon Morris, Matthew Henry, William Barclay - and several dictionaries and other books.
Recently having developed much interest in the opposite attitudes adopted by different assemblies towards this practice of head covering, and convinced that it should not be treated simply as a matter of a wife's subjection to her husband, as many commentaries have it, or, as other commentaries maintain, a local convention to distinguish a respectable woman from a harlot, I spent much time and prayer studying the passage, and came to the conclusion that Scripture is very plain as to why women should wear head coverings and not men, and that it should not be left to individual discretion to accept or reject the Holy Spirit's injunction. It is for the whole Church of God, for every assembly to obey the command as the visible expression of an important doctrine. I realised that the injunction is not just to women or wives alone, as is so commonly thought, but to both men and women, married and unmarried, and the purpose of this is given in verse 7.
Head coverings have nothing to do with women's subjugation to men or husbands' domination over wives, not directly related to "Church order" or any of the vague reasons given. It is indirectly related to Creation order, the man coming before the woman. The injunction to men NOT to have their heads covered and the injunction to women to have their heads covered have to do primarily with the glory of God.
This controversial passage has a direct bearing on and
definite relationship with the rest of First Corinthians. It would do well to
look at the whole epistle briefly before continuing with the disputed passage.
|A Fresh Look At First Corinthians|
Terminology - "Glory" and "To Glorify"
A word similar to this self-glory is physioo meaning "I puff up" - a figurative way of saying "arrogant", "boastful", "conceited", "made proud". It occurs in 1 Cor 4:6,18,19; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4.
These three words recur frequently throughout First Corinthians, the first associated with the glory of God and the glory of man, the latter two used for self-glory or boasting and arrogance.
Misconduct and Abuses - And The Glory Of God
Paul commences by expressing his gratitude to God for the Corinthians' position in grace, their high calling, and their many gifts. He praises the Corinthians for adhering to his teachings. He then begins to deal with their problems, about which he has been informed.
Admonishing them for their sectarianism and their following of mere human leaders, putting them on a pedestal, Paul applies the corrective, "No flesh should glory in His presence" (1:29), "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (1:31).
Next, dealing with their exaltation of human wisdom, knowledge and eloquence, Paul says that "God's wisdom is our glory" (2:7) not man's skill with words; the ignorance of God's wisdom led the princes of this world to "crucify the Lord of glory" (2:8). It is not man's wisdom but the Holy Spirit Who helps us to understand the things of God.
Then, writing about their carnality and inadequate and unworthy concept of Christian service, Paul tells them that there will be a reward or a loss of it at the Judgement Seat of Christ, reminding them that "ye are the temple of God, which is holy". "Therefore let no man glory in men" (3:16,21).
He continues telling them that they should not "be puffed up for one against another" (4:6) because there is nothing that we have received that does not come from God Alone. "Why do you glory, as though you had not received it?" (4:7). Paul adds a note of sarcasm here and warns them about being "puffed up" (4:18,19).
Going on to sexual immorality, especially fornication and laxity in marriage, Paul says that they were worse than the pagans and yet were "puffed up and did not rather mourn" (5:2). "Your glorying is not good" as a little leaven (= evil) leaveneth the whole lump (5:6).
Talking about judging one another, Paul points to the shame of believers suing one another in the world's courts in their own self-interests and deals also with the sanctity of marriage. He concludes - "Ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God's" (6:20), repeating the fact that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and that we are not our own (6:19, 20). Paul enlarges upon the marriage relationship emphasizing that we are bought with a price - not to be the servants of men (7:23) implying again that we must glorify God, not men.
Regarding being stumbling blocks to those with tender
consciences in respect of food and drink offered to idols, Paul admonishes
knowledgeable Christians among them not to be puffed up, but to allow the love
of God to guide them
Paul now turns to his own commission. Coming down to their own level and resorting to purely natural reasoning he affirmed that "it were better for me to die than that any man should make my glorying void. For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of" (9:16).
Drawing upon Old Testament examples and warning the Corinthian Christians not to follow the example of the Israelites who left Egypt, Paul enumerates God's discipline with many of the latter - for lusting after evil things, for idolatry, for fornication and sexual immorality, and for murmuring against God, and cautions believers not to be presumptuous - "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor 10:12). Paul mentions separation at the Lord's Table and reiterates his warning against causing offence in meat and drink - and comes to the chief exhortation - 1 Cor 10:31 - "whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God".
Now we come to the disputed passage. Having considered
the individual believer's life lived to the glory of God, Paul talks about
corporate Christian living to the glory of God - in Christian gatherings for
worship and prayer, participation in the Lord's Supper, the exercise of
spiritual gifts as an assembly of God's people (Chs. 11-14) and cautions
against being puffed up in the use of spiritual gifts, offering the
counterpoise, love - "which suffers long, is kind, envies not, vaunts not
itself, is not puffed up, seeks not its own" (13:4, 5) - the remedy for
self-glorification in all its ugly manifestations. Finally Paul rounds up his
teaching by explaining the resurrection and the crowning glory of our
resurrection body, which is the culmination of our Christian living for the
glory of God. "There is one glory of the sun, one glory of the moon, and
another glory of the stars So also is the resurrection of
the dead" (15:40-42). He finishes by saying in v.58, that we should "be
steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord" - glorifying
Him with our good works.
|The Head Covering|
The setting is the gathering of saints for worship and remembrance of the Lord in the Lord's Supper. Angels are present as witnesses of the believers' worship, although not seen. But there is disorderliness because women are praying and speaking and are not having head coverings, whilst some men, in praying and speaking, have their heads covered.
At this juncture, we should note the conventions of Paul's day. When praying, Jewish men and women both covered their heads. Roman men and women also covered their heads. Greek men and women, perhaps because of their lack of that same awe of God as the Jews, prayed and sacrificed with heads uncovered.
Perhaps this particular congregation had a mixture of saved Jews, Romans and Greeks. This would explain the situation which confronted Paul. Paul now seeks to explain why the Church, made up of fallen men and women redeemed by God, cuts across the conventions of the day, since the Church is God's New Creation, of Jews and Gentiles. Paul is not telling them something new, for the Church was by then 30 years old. He is merely enunciating and reiterating a practice already familiar to the Christian Church of his day. Paul is simply reminding the Corinthian believers of this practice among the assemblies everywhere, a practice which the Corinthians ignored or neglected to observe, just as they flagrantly ignored or abused the Christian code of conduct. Christians, in contradistinction to Jews, Romans and Greeks, adopted a practice all their own because of the revelation they had received from God.
Paul takes the matter up and explains how Christian gatherings should be conducted in an orderly manner for worship and praise in the presence of the angels, to the glory of God.
Before we go further; let us see what the average reader thinks when he reads this passage. He will think that Paul is directing all his energy to tell the woman that she must put on a head covering; if she does not do so, she is disobeying the Lord. Paul has nothing to say to the man, the man is free from an injunction, so it seems.
When we consider the whole section closely, however, we will notice that Paul is not singling out the woman to tell her that she should put on a head covering. In fact Paul is addressing himself to both men and women, and both must obey the paired injunction from the Lord, for a definite purpose. Paul's object is to tell them that the man cannot cover his head and the woman must have her head covered.
Paul then has to answer two questions that he himself posed:-
The Importance Of The Practice
1. The Authority for Head Covering - the Lord Himself
Guided by the Lord Jesus Christ, through the inspiration of His Holy Spirit, and in anticipation of every possible objection to the teachings in this epistle, the apostle Paul included in his greeting a little phrase not found in any of all his other epistles.
Surely the Lord of past, present, future and eternity knew that the Laodicean spirit of our 20th Century would drive even believers to doubt the importance and relevance of 1st Corinthians especially in the matter of the head covering!
And so this little phrase, seemingly insignificant and yet of tremendous implications, was providentially inserted in the apostolic greeting in 1 Cor 1:2 "Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth with all that in every place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours".
This little phrase alone should have produced immediate, willing and humble obedience towards the teachings in this epistle, as it had done for almost 2000 years, until liberal theology invaded the professing Church, and even influenced New Testament assemblies of believers.
The epistle to the Romans was addressed to the Romans, yet we rightly accept the teachings as binding on and applicable to all believers of all generations in all places.
2 Corinthians was written to the assembly in Achaia, Galatians to Galatia, Philippians to Philippi and so with other epistles of Paul, yet we acknowledge that whatever was written in them was relevant to all assemblies of all times despite the fact that no such statement was made.
Yet, when Paul specifically included this remarkable phrase "all that in every place" in 1 Corinthians, the reaction is incredulity, unbelief, rejection - a denial that 1 Corinthians is for all believers, that Paul was not writing simply for the instruction of the Corinthians but for all assemblies and all believers. No, people argue, 1st Corinthians is for the Corinthians, not for the whole Church of God, despite the specific statement "all that in every place" found nowhere else!
Nothing can be clearer than that this epistle was not restricted or confined to Corinthian believers, but was meant to be read, acted upon, obeyed, followed and practised by every believer in every assembly in every place in the whole of the Church period. No one is excepted or exempted. Time has no bearing on the truths contained in this epistle, whether saints lived in the 1st Century or the 20th Century. All assemblies during the Church age are to heed the inspired instruction in the epistle, and the Lord Who caused it to be written brooks no excuses for not heeding His teachings.
To make it impossible for anyone to doubt, question or reject the universality of its application, that all believers of all periods of Church history should obey Paul's instruction in 1st Corinthians, Paul emphatically, unequivocally further states, towards the end of his epistle (1 Cor 14:37) "the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord".
Paul did not specify only the Lord's Supper or only the
exercise of gifts in gatherings of God's people. He meant also that the
teachings on the head covering in Chapter 11 and the different roles of men
and women in Chapter 14 were also the commandments of the Lord!
Dare any of us dispute this? Dare any of us object to it, resist it, flout it or deny it? Dare any of us disobey it?
If we do then we shall have to answer to the Lord Himself, Who issued these commandments, at His Judgement Seat (1 Cor 3:12-15; 2 Cor 5:10; Rom 14:10). I tremble when I think of my many years of doubt and unbelief concerning this important truth, and am very thankful to the brother who drew my attention to it.
Dealing directly with the head covering and other aspects of assembly gathering in Chapters 11 to 14 Paul prefaces his teachings with the words, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ". 11:1
Many commentators link this verse with the section of the epistle preceding it, and not with the subsequent verses, perhaps being influenced by the English adverb, "Now", which appears to begin a new topic.
However, the Greek particle de translated "now" in verse 2, is also translated "But" in verse 3. Arndt and Gingrich state that it can also be translated "and", when a simple connective is required for linkage. The particle de therefore can be variously translated "now", "but", "and", depending on the translator's choice.
So if we use "And" instead of "Now" for verse 2, we can see the force behind Paul's statement in v 1. "Be ye followers - imitators - of me, even as I also am of Christ". This statement connects the preceding section, Chapters 1:1 -10:33, with the later verses, Chapter 11:2 to Chapter 16, straddling both divisions of First Corinthians and indicating the Source of Paul's authority.
To "imitate" is to do exactly what another does and to "be imitators of me", is to do what Paul tells us, to follow him in his teachings and practices.
But he did not stop there, else he would be pointing to himself as the authority. Instead he continues, "as I am also of Christ".
There we have it - the apostle was the follower of the Supreme Example, the Final Authority, the Amen (Rev 3:14), the Lord Jesus Christ Alone, and no one else.
If the Lord had not directed him to write more than a dozen epistles, he would not have done so. If the Lord had not instructed him to write what we know as 1st Corinthians, he would not have done so. If the Lord had not directed him to write the passage on head covering he would not have done so.
It is the same with all the other apostles. The Authority behind all their writings, the Authority behind all Scripture, is our Lord Himself.
It is the Lord Jesus, the Ultimate Authority Who has the right to tell His redeemed ones, the Church, what to do, and to expect complete and total obedience to His commandments, by virtue of His being Creator, Redeemer and Lord.
If Paul's authority was his own, self-derived authority, we might argue that we need not heed it at all (although apostolic authority is still binding on believers), but to disobey the commandments of the Lord is very serious, and to deny His Supreme Authority would invite most drastic consequences.
Therefore we can see how very vital, very important, this teaching on the head covering is. We must not ignore it or disobey it.
2. Revelation and Inspiration from the Lord
Paul has not exhausted the reasons for the necessity of the head-covering practice. He now brings in Revelation and Inspiration. "And I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you". v 2
Not only did the Lord command us on His Supreme Authority, He specially revealed it to Paul to be received by him and delivered to all believers - just as the other apostles had received their teachings directly from the Lord Himself. The doctrines and practices that Paul was about to elaborate upon had been received by him and taught and explained by him for many years.
How did he receive these teachings?
Paul used the word "revealed", and "revelation", "made known", on many occasions - Gal 1:12,16; 2:2; 2 Cor 12:7, Eph 3:3, 5; and Col 1:26, 27.
In 1st Corinthians and other epistles, we should, in addition, note three special words used by Paul:-
The word "tradition" (Gk. paradosis) also translated "ordinance" (1 Cor 11:2), actually means "something handed down or given over." It is related to the word "to deliver" paradidomi) meaning to "hand over".
The source of this handing down may be man, or God. Our Lord spoke of the "traditions of the elders", of men, which the Jews blindly followed. In Paul's usage in the relevant passages he is talking not about man as the source but the Lord Jesus Himself.
Paul received all his teachings from the Lord Jesus, and handed down these teachings to the assemblies.
He did not receive his teachings from man, whether apostles or others before him, but directly from the Lord. The Greek word for "receive" in this case is paralambano, having the meaning of "receiving from another".
Paul received these teachings not only with respect to head covering but also to the Lord's Supper (1 Cor 11:23) and the doctrine of the resurrections and the rapture (1 Cor 15:3).
As a faithful apostle he delivered or handed over paradidomi) these teachings or instructions originally handed over (paradosis from paradidomi = traditions) by the Lord Himself to him.
We see then that the topics covered in Chapters 11 to 15 had all been received by Paul through revelation from the Lord Jesus, and written for our instructions through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Do we now see that important doctrines - Authority of the Lord (Matt 28:18), His commandments, Revelation and Inspiration of Scripture - are involved in the practice of head covering?
3. The Recognition of Headship
"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 (the Father)" (v.3).
The doctrine of the Headship of Christ first of all assumes and implies salvation, and secondly indicates subordination.
A. Headship and Salvation
If a person is not a true Christian - a born-again believer - would he ever think of the Lord Jesus as Head -Head of creation, Head of the Church, Head of the family, Head of the man? Of course not. The thought would hardly have occurred to any unbeliever, who will have nothing to do with the Lord whatever.
Who then would bow before the Lord Jesus and acknowledge Him as Head? Only the one who realises his indebtedness to the Lord for His grace and mercy, pardon and peace, the one redeemed by the blood of Christ shed on the cross at Calvary. Yes, only a truly saved person would acknowledge Him as Head.
The head covering therefore not only implies but actually incorporates, necessitates and involves the doctrine of salvation! A redeemed, saved soul, man or woman, would joyfully acknowledge His Headship, and since head covering has to do with headship, the Headship of Christ, the truly saved one would joyfully obey His command regarding the practice. He or she would be showing to the world by this practice that he or she has been saved by the Lord, belongs to Him, and honours Him as Head of the Church and Head of the man.
An unsaved soul would never practise head covering, as he does not acknowledge the Headship of Christ.
May not this corollary be valid? One who does not practise head covering does not acknowledge the Lord Jesus as Head, because he or she does not acknowledge the Lord as Saviour! Or, he or she may simply acknowledge the Lord Jesus as Saviour, and not as Head!
The brother or sister who does not practise head covering comes dangerously close to this situation!
So a brother or sister who practises head covering (non-head covering for men and head covering for women) acknowledges His authority, revelation, inspiration and redemptive work!
One who does not do so may not acknowledge the above doctrines!
This is how serious the practice of head covering is, and how important it is especially in today's society, when many are abandoning the Lord's teachings and embracing the ideas of a Christ-rejecting world.
B. Headship and Subordination
In the relationship between our Lord Jesus and humanity, the Lord Jesus is the Head of the man. The man is subordinate to the Lord Jesus.
In the relationship within mankind, the man is the head of the woman; woman is subordinate to man. This is called Creation order in which man was created before woman. So the woman coming after the man is subordinate to the man.
a) Terminology - "Man" and "Woman"
Before considering the question of subordination, let us look at the words "man" and "woman". The Greek word aner means "man" as distinct from "woman", or "husband" as distinct from "wife". The word gune means "woman" or "wife". Different versions translate the words differently, and the same version may also translate the words differently in different verses. Some versions translate the words as "husband" and "wife", giving the impression that only husbands' heads should be bare whilst only wives' heads should be covered. The implication is that unmarried men and unmarried women are not involved here. But when we see the purpose of the head covering, then we will understand that this cannot be the case, for all men, married and unmarried, and all women, married and unmarried, come under Paul's injunction. So the more correct way of translating the words aner and gune should be "man" and "woman" throughout, not "husband" and "wife".
b) The Question of Subordination
Adam was created first, then Eve. Therefore, in Creation order, man comes before, precedes, woman, and
in this sense woman is subordinate to man, coming after man. Unlike the world's military system, however, this subordination of woman to man does not require that woman should take orders from man, from just any man. Apart from priority in Creation, man and woman are equal.
i. Subordination is not inferiority
Woman's subordination to man is, therefore, not tantamount to her being inferior, or in subjugation to man to be ruled as a servant or slave or subject. Just as the Son is subordinate to the Father, yet equal to Him and is of the same essence of Deity, the Godhead, so woman is subordinate to man yet is equal to him and is of the same human essence. Subordination is not the equivalent of inferiority.
ii. Subordination is not subjection
An unmarried woman, although subordinate to man in Creation ord&, is not subject to any man at all. There is no injunction in Scripture for an unmarried woman to be in subjection to any man, married or unmarried, except to her father; but this comes under father-child relationships where obedience is enjoined. An unmarried woman is not asked to be in subjection to any man outside the family although woman is subordinate to man. Subordination simply means that woman was created after man, an established, unalterable fact of Creation. Subjection is only within the family, of wife to husband voluntarily, and here the husband is not asked to dominate his wife or force her to submit to him, but to love her. There should be mutual submission (Eph. 5:21-33; Col 3:18,19; 1 Peter 3:1,5,6).
The family order of wifely subjection or submission to the husband is not under consideration here at all, but the Creation order of subordination of woman to man is significant, as we shall see.
Paul, having established the principles of authority, revelation, inspiration, obedience, headship and subordination, and having given unassailable reasons for the practice of head covering, continues.
Glory of God
Reasons For Man's Uncovered Head And Woman's Covered Head
The Symbols - Man's uncovered head
v.4 "Every man praying or prophesying having his head covered dishonoureth his head".
Here it is appropriate to look at the word "head covering". In this verse (v.4), the Greek phrase kata kephales echon literally means "having down over one's head" a covering, the word for "covering" being understood, although omitted.
In all verses concerning the head covering, the noun "veil" is not found in the Greek but a participle or another part of speech is used.
Present Participles Passive:
Akatakalupto = uncovered (v.5)
Akatakalupton = uncovered (v.13)
Present Indicative Passive:
Katakaluptetai = is covered (v.6)
Present Imperative Passive:
Katakaluptestho = let (her) be covered (v.6)
Present Infinitive Passive:
katakaluptesthai = to be covered (v.7)
In verse 16 only is a veil mentioned, but a different word entirely is used - the word is peribolaion in the phrase anti peribolaiou (instead of a veil). This refers to the long hair of a woman given her as a covering. Some think that this "veil" is a covering for the whole body, so that a woman's long hair is like a covering for the whole body. So we see in these verses that the head of a woman is to be covered (vv. 5 6,13), the head of a man is not to be covered (vv. 4, 7) and the hair of a woman is given to her for a covering or veil (v.16).
What Paul says in v.4 would be a shock to a male Jew or Roman, both of whom would cover their heads when praying. A male Greek would readily acquiesce, though he might not know the reason yet. But in the New Creation - the Church of God - the covering of a man's head would be a dishonour to his head. The "head" here may mean either the Lord Jesus Who is the metaphysical Head of the man, or simply the anatomical head of the man himself. Both would be acceptable. He would dishonour the Lord, his Head, and he would dishonour his own head. The male Jew or Roman who had become a Christian had to be prepared to discard his old practice and accept the new revelation from God. The reason for this will be seen soon.
Woman's covered head
vv. 5, 6 "But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head, for that is even all one as if she were shaved. 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 shaved let her be covered". A Hebrew Christian woman and a Roman Christian woman would acknowledge this readily, but a Greek female convert might entertain some questions. Still, under divine guidance all should bow to the injunction.
Here Paul is dealing with two problems: first, the mafter of women speaking and praying in a mixed assembly and, secondly, the matter of head covering. He would deal with the head covering first since it is more relevant, and later on he would deal with the mafter of women praying and speaking in a mixed gathering for worship and prayer (1 Cor 14:34, 35) when he deals with participation in worship, and says that a woman should be silent in the gathering of believers before God. In this verse, v.4, Paul is simply making allusion to another abuse in the Corinthian assembly, women praying and prophesying, and he corrects this practice later on. The verse does not imply that Paul consented to women praying and prophesying ("audibly" is understood).
Paul says that when a woman prays in a mixed assembly, silently as is the general, proper practice, or, as in the Corinthian misconception, audibly, she ought to have her head covered. If her head is not covered, she should have it shaved! But if she does not want it shaved, she should have it covered! The argument is inescapably clear.
What Paul is telling both the man and woman, as we have noticed, goes against all current practices in Judaism and the Gentile religions. It was observed only by the Christian Church. Why is this so?
The Purpose of head covering
1. Expression of glory
"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".
Here then is the purpose of the head covering. God's glory is to be demonstrated by the Church of God coming together for worship. The Church of God is made up of men and women of all races and is the only entity on earth upon which He is pleased to place His glory. No other group has been chosen by God except His redeemed people.
In Isaiah 42:8 the Lord says, "My glory will I not give to another", because none is able to reflect His glory. Our Lord Jesus Who is the very expression or effulgence of His glory (Heb. 1:3) just before His Crucifixion gave the glory of God to His Church. "I have glorified Thee on the earth ... And now, Oh Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine Own Self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was ... I have manifested Thy Name unto the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world ... and I am glorified in them .... and the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them, that they may be one, even as We are One ..." (John 17:4, 5, 6, 10, 22).
The Lord Jesus has been pleased to put His glory upon His Church, made up of redeemed men and women, Jews and Gentiles. The Church in the world is to display that glory. And so Paul comes to this important verse. We are to display the glory of God in corporate Christian testimony. The symbolism, however, is not complete if the Church reflects only the glory of God. The Church comprises fallible human beings who have fallen into sin but are redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus. So as man's fallen glory is present in the Church, which is not a perfect organism, reflecting the glory of God alone would not be the correct position of the Church. The Church must also reflect its true nature, the fallen but redeemed glory of humanity. The Church, therefore, is the only vehicle that has been given the responsibility and privilege of reflecting the glory of God in a sin-darkened world and the fallen glory of man, and this is done in gatherings for worship and prayer.
2. Man's uncovered head reflects the glory of God
3. Woman's covered head reflects the fallen glory of man
In earlier chapters Paul has told the Corinthians that God's glory is far superior to man's glory. Therefore "no flesh should glory in His presence"(1:29). "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (1:31) "Let no man glory in men" (3:21). Now he tells them that because the woman is the glory of the man , and man's glory is fallen glory, the woman must have her head covered to symbol ise this fallen glory. If there had been no Fall, when our first parents disobeyed God, there would not have been need of the woman's head covering. But because there was the Fall man's glory is marred, and this is shown in the woman's head being covered. But the Fall involved both man and woman, as both Adam and Eve sinned; therefore the covering of the woman symbolises the fallen glory of both man and woman.
The covering of the woman is not, as we can now see, the symbol of woman's subjection or submission to man, or simply an ancient outmoded custom. It speaks of an important doctrine, the doctrine of the fallen glory of man and woman who have been redeemed. If the woman's head is uncovered, the glory of man assumes a status equal to the glory of God. Therefore, man's glory must be placed in proper perspective, completely overshadowed by God's glory. While God's glory is properly revealed by men's heads being uncovered, man's fallen glory is depicted by the head covering of the woman in Christian gatherings. Therefore, both man and woman fulfill their respective functions of manifesting glory.
The woman's head covering is symbolic of the glory of both man and woman being covered, that is the fallen glory of the whole of mankind is pictured as being represented by the woman's head being covered. Both man and woman come under the same symbolic covering, as both have sinned and have been redeemed.
How clear all this is. When the people of God gather for worship there are heavenly or angelic observers looking down on our assemblies, and they are pleased when the whole assembly reflects
The Reason - Creation Order
Why Man Reflects God's Glory And Woman Man's Glory
Someone may understandably object, saying, "Why does it have to be the woman who has to reflect man's glory; why can't she reflect God's glory and the man reflect man's glory?" For answer Paul turns to the Creation order. He has already laid down the reasoning based on Creation in v.2. "The head of every man is Christ and the head of the woman is the man". Now he enlarges on this - "For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power (or authority) on her head because of the angels" (vv. 8, 9).
In Creation, man (Adam) was formed before woman (Eve) and Eve was taken from Adam's side. So Adam was not of Eve but Eve of Adam; that is, Adam was the source from whom Eve was created. Further, man was not created for the woman but the woman was created for the purpose of being man's helpmeet, man's companion, and together they form a complementary whole or unit.
Because of the order and purpose of Creation and the headship of man, it is the woman who has to reflect man's inferior glory and must display the symbol of God's authority over man. The word exousia primarily means "authority", although other meanings such as power and privilege are possible. Some interpret it here as the woman's individual authority, others the husband's authority, but it would be more reasonable to think of this as God's authority over fallen man.
The verse makes it clear that this authority is on the woman's head. What in the context does the woman put on her head? The head covering of course! The authority is the head covering. It cannot be the woman's individual authority, or the man's authority, it is the head covering which is the symbol of God's authority, and this authority is over man. So the woman ought to have this covering as the emblem of God's authority over man on her head, to differentiate between the glory of God and the fallen glory of man under God's authority.
Equality And Interdependence Creation And Procreation
Paul tells us that both are interdependent in the Lord. He says that although in Creation woman came from man (v. 12) in procreation every man is born of woman. Without the woman, therefore, there would be no men on earth, and without the first man, Adam, there would be no women on earth. There is beautiful reciprocity seen here. All things are of God. He is the One Who is responsible for our existence on earth. So men and women are equal, neither one is subject to or inferior to the other, but they complement each other.
The Significance Of The Practice
Let us look at the implications in the following situations:
Man's head covered, woman's head uncovered
There are religious systems where the clergy cover their heads with hats in worship, and the female members of the congregation are mixed, a few with covered, the majority uncovered, heads.
Having understood the above verses we realise that this is tantamount to denying or minimising the glory of God and exalting the glory of man to that of God. This is unscriptural, and irreverence and confusion reign. There are other implications that we shall soon see.
Man's head covered, woman's head covered
Here the glory of man is placed in its correct position after the Fall, but it is still equal to the glory of God, as God's glory has been minimised, equated with fallen glory. Again this is unscriptural, again resulting in irreverence and confusion.
Man's head uncovered, woman's head uncovered
God's glory is acknowledged, but man's fall into sin and the lesser glory of man are not acknowledged. It is equal to God's glory, being elevated to its level. Again this is unscriptural. This situation applies to many denominational churches and to some assemblies today. Let us consider the implications arising.
The head of the man is uncovered. God's glory is acknowledged, revealed.
The head of the woman is uncovered. Since woman reflects the glory of man, this glory is put on the same level as that of God. We see the following sequence of denial, although unwittingly committed:
This is tantamount to the exaltation of the glory of man to the level of the glory of God! Do we dare to entertain even the smallest iota of such an extremely abhorrent idea! We dare not, but we do so when this situation obtains in our assemblies. This may not be deliberate, but the consequence is there nonetheless. Once again there is irreverence and confusion.
Man's head uncovered, woman's head covered
This is entirely scriptural as it presents the perfect God-given picture of His unveiled, undiminished glory, and man's fallen glory, with God's provision of redemption.
So when the Church of God meets in many assemblies of God's people and in denominational churches, and Scripture is obeyed, God's glory is displayed and man's glory is covered. Only the Lord can be exalted, not man. In meeting together for worship in this manner we testify to the glory of God, to man's fallen glory and to God's provision for our redemption. Thus we fulfill 1 Cor 10:31 - "Do all to the glory of God".
We can see now that the matter of head covering is not simply a custom or practice to be decided upon or discarded at whim, but that it is based on a concrete doctrine of tremendous significance, the doctrine of the glory of God in Christian gatherings. It is no wonder that the angels show keen interest in meetings of God's people, and we can imagine their disappointment when they see assemblies of God's people misrepresenting the glory of God and the glory of man.
The Personal Glory Of The Woman
Dismissing long hair as a shameful display for men, Paul says that with regard to woman, however, long hair is given her for her personal glory. So while the woman herself represents the glory of the man and the woman, i.e. mankind, the woman's personal individual glory rests in her long hair; which is given her for her own covering. So woman has a dual function to fulfill in worship - her long hair is both a glory and a covering for her, and the head covering she wears symbolises the fallen glory of man and woman. (Another view possible is that woman's own fallen glory is symbolised by her long hair which is both her glory and her covering). The word for "veil" is peribolaion, and is different from that for head covering (kata kephales echon). The veil distinguishes a woman from a man, and the long hair of the woman distinguishes her from a man, being figuratively the veil of woman.
The Custom Established
The meaning is that the practice had not been in existence before, as before Pentecost there had been no Church. But with the coming of the Church and the full revelation of the glory of God and man's fallen glory and redemption in the Lord Jesus, this practice is necessary. There was no such custom as this before in Jewish or Roman or Greek circles, but now the assemblies of God's people must put it into practice. Also Paul is saying that there is no other practice or method or manner apart from this when it comes to displaying the glory of God in gatherings of the saints.
The practice is linked with, and is an expression of, the following doctrines: the authority of the Lord, the authority of His Word, revelation by the Lord, inspiration of the Holy Spirit, headship and its implications with regard to salvation, subordination and submission to the Lord, the glory of God, the glory of man, the glory of woman, the fact of creation, equality and interdependence of man and woman, angels, and the believer's response of obedience to the Lord's commands.
Head-covering practice is the simplest demonstration and minimal external evidence and expression of a believer's willingness in the realm of submission and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. It should be observed with joy and gratitude.
Disregard and rejection of the practice can in all
likelihood lead to disregard and rejection of other New Testament truths and
practices that the Lord has commanded us to observe, and constitute the thin
end of the wedge that could open the door to ultimate rejection of all New
Testament truths. This is especially to be seen in our day, the Laodicean and
final phase of Church history. May the Lord preserve the assemblies from going
the way of many churches today, which have conformed to the false system of
Babylonianism (or the harlot, or Jezebelism), which will be cast into Great
The Woman's Part
As we have seen the word gune here correctly refers to "woman" and not to "wife", so it follows that all female believers who have identified with the Lord Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection through baptism in water out of obedience to His command, should have their heads covered. As long as they have believed and been baptized, whether they are teenagers, or senior citizens, whether married or single, whether their husbands are believers or not, all the sisters in the assembly should put on this head covering. No sister is exempt from the Holy Spirit's injunction, in order that the fallen glory of man may be properly depicted.
Some assemblies carry this practice further, and I personally think this delightful and highly commendable. Since woman came from man before sin made its appearance, and since man reflects the glory of God and woman the glory of man, this glory may be manifested even through little boys and girls. So some parents encourage their little daughters to have a head covering and their little sons to remove their hats at assembly gatherings, even when salvation and baptism may not have been experienced, as glory can be manifested by all - men, women, boys and girls, being related to creation rather than redemption.
Paul mentions women praying and prophesying with uncovered heads. From this some conclude that women are permifted to speak in public assemblies of believers. Paul is, however; pointing out to the Corinthians that in this respect, they were committing two errors:
The Corinthian assembly was noted for many abuses which we have already observed, all of which were receiving corrective treatment from Paul. In 1 Cor 11 he deals with the topic of head covering first, and in 1 Cor 14 Paul enlarges on women speaking and praying in a mixed gathering. Paul explicitly states that the women should be silent (Gk. sigatosan = let them be silent), it is not permiffed to them to speak (Gk. lalein = to speak), it is a shame for a woman to speak (= lalein) in assembly (34, 35).
In 1 Tim 2:11-14 Paul also reminds the female believers of this injunction of the Holy Spirit not to teach but to be in silence. The words used are en hisuchia (= "in silence"). The reasons given by Paul are twofold, based on Creation and the Fall - a) the man was formed first, therefore authority is vested in the man; b) Adam was not deceived, although he transgressed deliberately, but Eve was deceived. Here may I say, with all possible grace and tact, would it not be that Paul is saying that women generally are more easily deceived than men, and being so ought not to teach, else the likelihood of imparting false teaching is increased when women function as teachers above the men? But the sovereign Lord is gracious and the Church has been blessed with many women able to teach and instruct in the Scriptures where there have been no capable male teachers. But when male teachers emerge the lady teachers should surrender their teaching role to the men. So comparing Scripture with Scripture we see that women ought to put on head coverings in general assembly gatherings and not participate in audible prayer or speaking, or exercise authority, or teach in the presence of men.
In what circumstances then can women teach? They do so in meetings for women, for children and for young people, eg in ladies' meetings, in Sunday Schools and in circumstances where no men teachers are available - what some call "missionary situations", which we have just considered. (Here we are not considering the role of women. If we do, we shall see that a woman's scope for serving the Lord is very wide, in the home, in the assemblies, and if she has to work to support herself, or supplement the family income, she can be of tremendous influence in her place of work).
Head coverings therefore should be worn in all circumstances when men and women gather for worship and prayer; and when women "prophesy" (preach) or teach in the situations mentioned.
The type of head covering
As the head covering is a symbol of the fallen glory of man and woman, it should be a simple one - specifically, a piece of material to cover the head. Now some contend that the whole face must be veiled, but there is no justification for this. The men are told to put off their head coverings. Jewish men pray with prayer shawls, or talliths, covering the top, the sides, and the back of the head. Roman men also did the same. Arab men use a keffiyeh also to cover the top, sides and back of the head. All such head coverings are to be put aside. Women would use veils for social reasons, to cover the face completely. The purposes of these usages are different from that enjoined in Christian worship, where the head signifies glory and the face is not of significance. The context and symbolism require a simple form of covering for the head, so a veil to cover the face is not necessary. Besides, the true veil of the woman is her long hair; given her as a covering. The symbolism is complete in simply covering the head. Many sisters use ordinary scarves, or a type of mantilla.
What about hats? Hats are also head coverings, but they are subject to dictates of fashion and fancy and may therefore, be extremely colourful, and of various shapes and sizes, and being vanity pieces they may distract worshippers around the wearers. The simplest requirement is a single piece of material, not distracting in colour and shape, but one that will help to enhance the atmosphere of worship.
These are not stipulations of Scripture but they appear to conform to the requirements of the symbol of the fallen glory of man and woman.
The Man's Part
The Elders' Part
But if someone, male or female, refuses to obey the
Lord's command, because he or she does not accept it as such, and continues in
ignorance or unbelief or disobedience, there should be no compulsion (1 Cor
14:38) - simply continue to teach and practise the truth ourselves, pray for
the brother or sister, and commit the matter to the Lord. He Himself will be
the Judge at His Judgement Seat.
God's glory has never diminished and the Church will continue to reflect that glory till the Rapture. If we ignore or discard the practice of displaying the glory of God as distinct from the glory of man, we are in danger of disobeying one of the important injunctions of the Lord Himself.
At a time when more and more religious systems and religionists are abandoning important tenets of our Faith, those believers who endeavour to follow the Lord and obey His word must be ever diligent and zealous to display His glory in their own lives and in the life of their assemblies.
May the Lord receive all the glory.
Should Christian Women Wear a Head Covering in the Church? Woman's Head Covering & The Glory of Man or The Glory of God
Should Christian Women Wear A Head Covering In The Church? Is That Covering Her Hair or Hat?
Covering in Scripture and Church History.
South African Bible Believers.