A few days ago, I posted an article about headcovering on my Facebook wall. A reader had comment that caught my eye:
“Where is headcovering in the Torah? Is Paul adding to scripture in this case?”
That’s an excellent question, especially since YHVH commands us, “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32).
If Paul is adding to the Scripture, we’ve got a very serious problem indeed!
Back to the Beginning
When the writers of the New Testament wanted to quote Scripture, they didn’t use chapter-and-verse citations like we would today. Rather, they would simply use wording from that passage and assume two things:
- That the readers would be familiar with the Scriptures and know where the quotation was from.
- That the readers would be familiar with the context of the original passage and would go back to it to get a fuller understanding.
Let’s see how Paul does this in 1 Corinthians 11.
“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Messiah. Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to know that the head of every man is Messiah, the head of woman is man, and the head of Messiah is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.
“Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God” (1 Corinthians 11:1-17).
Paul takes us back to the very beginning of Torah, to the record of Creation.
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27-28).
It’s a rather heated question to ask in our feminist culture, but according to these verses, who was made in the image of God? The man (Adam) was made in the image of God.
“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him…”
And as Paul affirms, in whose image was the woman made? Woman was made in the image of Adam.
And Yehovah God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’ (Genesis 2:18).
You can read the entire story in Genesis 2:18-23, but Adam looked at all the animals, to see if he could find one that was made like he was, looking like himself. Later, we’ll read that his wife brought forth a son, and he was also in the image of his father.
“In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created. And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” (Genesis 5:1-3).
This is just as Paul says:
“For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God” (1 Corinthians 11:8-12).
Just as Yeshua would prove his arguments by taking people straight back to the beginning of the Torah (Matthew 19:3-6), Paul does the same by taking us to the Creation of the world, to how things were originally supposed to be.
Headship and Order
Adam and Eve’s sin brought consequences. The serpent, Eve, and Adam were all “put in their place” by Yehovah. Adam was given the responsibility of ruling over his wife, in addition to the original intent of God, which was to only have mankind rule over the animals (Genesis 1:28).
“To the woman [Yehovah] said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you‘” (Genesis 3:16).
Paul repeats this in 1 Corinthians 11.
“I want you to know that the head of every man is Messiah, the head of woman is man, and the head of Messiah is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3).
There are actually so many amazing prophecies and pictures in this passage! At the moment of the curse, Yehovah promised that a chosen seed (a “Messiah”) would come, to crush the serpent’s head and to restore all things (Genesis 3:15).
However, this is where Yehovah instituted an authority structure that makes us chafe. The Messiah will rule with a rod of iron over mankind! He is the head of man, and whether we like it or not, this is when husbands became heads over their wives and families.
If this “instruction” (torah in Hebrew) is followed, a man and his family will be protected from deception by Satan.
“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control” (1 Timothy 2:11-15).
As a woman, I can tell you that this passage rubs me the wrong way. However, I’m trying to think biblically. I’m trying to see that my Creator instituted laws to protect me, not to harm me or to squash my rights.
However, just as these Scripture passages tend to make people upset, so does a piece of cloth covering my hair. As Paul says, it’s a symbol of authority to the messengers (Greek, angelos).
“For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels” (1 Corinthians 11:10).
Whether he means literal angels or the messengers of the people of God (Revelation 1:20-2:1), the way we live sends a clear symbol to everyone around us. Will we submit to God’s order of things, or will we throw off all restraint?
“Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the Torah” (Proverbs 29:18).
“There is no truth or mercy
Or knowledge of God in the land.
By swearing and lying,
Killing and stealing and committing adultery,
They break all restraint” (Hosea 4:2).
God’s order is marriage between a man and a woman, where they are one flesh. As a protection against deception and sin, God’s order is for a man to be the head of his wife, as he is in submission to Messiah.
“Then the rib which Yehovah God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.
“And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:22-24).
In this week’s Torah portion (Numbers 5), we see that a wife’s covering is removed if marital unfaithfulness is suspected. In adultery, she has become one flesh with another, tearing apart her original union. If she has thrown off God’s order, her headcovering is to be removed.
“If any man’s wife goes astray and behaves unfaithfully toward him, and a man lies with her carnally… then the man shall bring his wife to the priest…. Then the priest shall stand the woman before Yehovah, and uncover the woman’s head” (Numbers 5:12-15, 18).
She has left the authority of her husband, so her headcovering is removed.
Covering Our Shame
It is only by seeing God’s original design that we can understand sin and the need for both Torah and a Savior.
“I would not have known sin except through the law” (Romans 7:7)
When Adam and Eve first sinned, the Torah says they felt shame.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:6-7).
In their desperation, they tried to make clothes for themselves.
“…and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:7).
And like small children who disobey their parents, they tried to hide.
“And they heard the sound of Yehovah God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yehovah God among the trees of the garden.
“Then Yehovah God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’
“So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.'”
In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul reminds us of that first sin and how an animal was slain, his blood spilled so that their shame could be covered.
“For Adam and his wife Yehovah God made tunics of skin, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).
Clothing is to be a reminder to us every day that we are sinners, under the death penalty and with no ability to stand in the presence of a Holy God. However, because blood was shed on our behalf, our sins can be covered.
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” (Romans 4:7).
Nakedness is a picture of shame, whether it’s a woman’s shaved head or a lack of clothing on our bodies.
“But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered” (1 Corinthians 11:5-6).
In fact, the prophet Isaiah gives us Yehovah’s definition of shame that was to come on the people of Babylon for their treatment of His people Israel.
“Come down and sit in the dust,
O virgin daughter of Babylon;
Sit on the ground without a throne,
O daughter of the Chaldeans!
For you shall no more be called
Tender and delicate.
Take the millstones and grind meal.
Remove your veil,
Take off the skirt,
Uncover the thigh,
Pass through the rivers.
Your nakedness shall be uncovered,
Yes, your shame will be seen” (Isaiah 47:1-3).
This very specific definition of nakedness and shame is so opposite of what we see in our culture that I have a hard time wrapping my head around it! Headcoverings are extremely rare, who wears a skirt, and thighs are uncovered so often that we think it’s normal!
Yehovah calls our nakedness shame, because it’s a reminder of the sin of Adam and Eve, the sin that brought a curse of death and destruction on our world.
Like rebellious teenagers, we flaunt our shame, revel in our wickedness, and call nakedness normal. We do that so we won’t be reminded of God.
However, when a woman comes around with modest clothing and a covered head, everyone is reminded again of a Creator to whom they are accountable. Rather than submit to their Creator’s instructions, his rules and commands, they say that these things are no longer for today, throwing off His authority and flaunting their own power.
It would be better for us to be like Adam and Eve, ashamed of our sin when we approach the presence of a Holy God and thankfully accepting the covering He has provided.
“Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?” (1 Corinthians 11:13).
Paul Upheld the Torah
So in my mind, the answer to this reader’s question is clear. Paul upheld the Torah, the instructions of God, by teaching the Gentile women to cover their heads.
As Paul said in his defense before Governor Felix,
“This I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:14-16).
Peter even defends Paul, by giving Paul’s words the weight of the other Scriptures and warning us to stay away from “lawless” men who would have us throw off the “restraints” of the Torah.
“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position” (2 Peter 3:14-17, NIV).
Headcovering is a big deal to me, for several reasons. First of all, in these last days, I want to live a pure life, in submission to the order that my Creator set in place. It’s my statement that He is indeed the Creator!
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:1-7).
Secondly, headcovering is my statement that I am a follower of Yeshua, my Messiah and Master. Yes, I follow Him from a distance, 2000 years later, with only the writings of men like Paul to guide me. However, I have determined to take the instructions God providentially moved Paul to write down to Gentiles like me, and to obey with the same motivation I would any other Scripture.
“But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions… But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them” (2 Timothy 3:10-14).
Finally, headcovering is my statement that all Scripture — even Paul! — has been given to me for my instruction and good. In a time when people conveniently ignore the Torah, have never read the prophets, and explain away the Apostles, I want to be different. I want to declare the authority of the Word of God, as His inerrant truth, unchanging from beginning to end.
“From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Messiah Yeshua. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).