Well, I was just reading a post in one of the blogs I regularly read, and I saw that she had written on the topic of head coverings. I started wearing a head covering during worship last fall, so I thought I’d reply to her post, even though — poor thing! — she didn’t ask me to! So in a spirit of humility, and not trying to say that I’ve got anything figured out, I would like to explain why I wear one.
I agree with her — a head covering is not “commanded” in the Bible, per se. However, if I am to take Scripture literally, then I must admit that 1 Corinthians 11 says I should wear a head covering IF I want to pray or prophesy in the context of the local church, otherwise I am dishonouring my “head” and that it is a shame.
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. 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. (1 Cor. 11:5-6)
Yes, head coverings were a custom in Old Testament times. We can see examples of this in Genesis 24:64-65, Numbers 5:18, and several places in the prophets. Were they necessarily a custom in Corinth? Not all scholars agree. An interesting view on this is written about here.
She writes that veils are something that hide, that separate, that cover. I agree! Yes, the vail (KJV spelling) in the temple was to separate us from a holy God, because of our sinfulness. This veil was torn when Christ, our passover Lamb, spilled His blood (Matt. 27:51). Today, we don’t need that veil because we have direct access to God through Christ.
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)
But the reason given for covering our heads in 1 Corinthians 11 is not the same context as free access to God through Christ. Paul gives several reasons for head covering:
1. To show proper honor to our God-given authority.
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. (1 Cor. 11:3)
Christ showed authority to His head, His Father. (See John 14:10-13 as just one example.) When we pray or prophesy without showing the chain of authority to which we willingly submit, we are giving dishonor to our head — our husbands. I believe God enjoys object lessons; we are children, and we need visible, tangible reminders of His ways. (Examples: Deuteronomy 11:16-21, Exodus 12 with Passover, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 with the Lord’s supper, among many others) Some women may be able to show proper honor and respect without heeding the object lesson, but I’ve found it’s much easier with it on my head.
2. To show that I am made in the image of man.
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. 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. (1 Cor. 11:7-9)
This isn’t something I’d want to get too dogmatic about, but I do find it interesting that this is what Paul says. (Different opinion? Send me a comment.) Notice also what Genesis says.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:27)
Notice that it says, “created he him.” What does that mean? I’ve never heard a sermon on this!
3. Because of the angels
For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. (1 Cor. 11:10)
Paul also writes that someday we will judge angels. I believe angels are watching us. If we are not willing to submit to God and to our husbands, why should we be deemed competent to judge angels someday?
4. To show marital interdependence
Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. (1 Cor. 11:12-12)
5. Because it has been a custom throughout history!
Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? 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. (1 Cor. 11:13-15)
I find it very interesting that head coverings are still normal for most women in cultures around the world today. I find it interesting that even here in the United States, head coverings were normal, especially in church worship, until only a few decades ago. I don’t believe we should lightly cast away almost 6,000 years of traditions, simply because it isn’t the custom now. Rather, we should ask why it was the tradition. Could it be that, as you research this issue, you’ll find that the tradition was based on a careful understanding of Scripture? I’ll let you do your own searching on this, as I have.
In the blog I was reading, the author mentioned that Paul did not wish to be contentious about this issue:
But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God. (1 Cor. 11:16)
I don’t believe that the King James Version is inspired of God (although I do believe God’s Word is inspired in its original texts), so I’d like to note on how others have translated this verse:
- But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God. (NASB)
- If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God. (NIV)
Notice also how Paul opened his argument:
Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep (Strongs #2722, to hold down) the ordinances (Strongs #3862, transmission, that is, (concretely) a precept; specifically the Jewish traditionary law), as I delivered them to you. (1 Cor. 11:2)
To me, though, none of these arguments are the reason I started to cover my head. To me, this is not a social or cultural issue; nor is this solely an issue of submission (since I know a few Godly women who are submissive to their husbands yet do not cover their heads). To me this is an issue of the authority of Scripture. Covering my head is not politically correct. It is not “church” correct, either. I’ll look a little odd, won’t I? (Not necessarily; I agree with the conclusion this author comes to; therefore, I wear headcoverings that are simple and don’t draw a lot of attention to me.)
When the Bible says to do something, will I obey? This is a question I have been asking myself repeatedly in many areas over the last year. Sadly, I’ve often had to answer, “No, Lord, I’m not obeying.” To obey makes me “peculiar” (1 Peter 2:9), and it requires laying down my own will.
Do our churches obey the last half of 1 Corinthians 11? Then why is the first half a “cultural issue”? If the first half is “not for today,” then what about every other verse in the Bible? Can I explain away all of those, too? Get out your scissors! Let’s cut out everything that we don’t like! Snip, snip…
So, while I may not understand and I often don’t like it, I will choose to obey. I am praying that my obedience in this outward, obvious thing will prompt others to ask me why I’m doing it!
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price… But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. (1 Peter 3:1-4, 14-16)
Sorry for such a long post! I welcome your comments!