What Does the Bible Mean When It Asks Women to Cover Their Heads?

See The Position of Women in the Bible

In 1Corinthians 11:4-14, Paul gives instructions regarding headcovering in the Church. He instructs that women should cover their head while praying or prophesying in the public. However, with regard to men, he says that a man ought not to cover his head. His arguments are as follows:

1. A man who prays or prophesies, having his head covered, dishonors his head.
2. A woman who prays or prophesies, without having her head covered, dishonors her head.
3. A man ought not to cover his head since he is the image and glory of God.
4. A woman ought to cover her head since she is the glory of man.
5. Headcovering is seen as a symbol of authority (1Cor.11:10), at least in that culture.
6. A woman ought to cover her head because of the angels (1Cor.11:10).
7. “Nature” (that is laws of understanding, in this regard, as related to the culture) teaches that it is shameful for a man to have long hair, but it is an honor for a woman to have long hair (1Cor.11: 14)

Conclusively, a woman’s hair ought to be long and, during prayer, must be covered.

It is important to note here that headcovering for men, as well as uncut hair, was common among the Jews (Lev.16:4; Zech.3:5; Num.6:5). However, the same was not considered “natural” among the Romans. Of course, commentators like John Gill believe that this change in the New Testament is because Christ the head of the man is now in heaven and man is so liberated; however, since the head of woman is man, she ought to cover her head. Nevertheless, the very language that associates covering with headship and honor suggests a semantic association rather than an ontic one; that is, the relation doesn’t appear to be compelled by a logical necessity but only by the grammar of a culture that gives a practice its semantic sense. The chief point of the instruction is that one must not disregard the cultural sense of honor and shame in public worship. Of course, culture is not static and undergoes changes as its elements also undergo semantic changes – their meanings change. For instance, folding of sleeves might be symbolic of vandalism at some time, some where. It might symbolize a common style at some other time at some other place. Whatever, one must not be insensitive to cultural language (especially, when elements that have one meaning in our culture have another meaning in some other culture).

One important thing to note is that the Bible doesn’t lament a culture if that culture properly functions to safeguard the Christian virtues. However, it does oppose any culture that turns the natural into unnatural, that promotes a false sense of shame and honor and despises what God has divinely instituted in nature. Therefore, whenever a clothing or even hair style is culturally distinguished as masculine or feminine, violation of the same within that culture is considered unnatural by God – not because a dress form is absolutely masculine or feminine, but because the dress form in the language of the particular culture means either masculine or feminine (Deut.22:5; 1Cor.11:14). Therefore, violation of the dress form becomes a violation of nature itself in the same manner that one cannot violate grammar of a particular language and still make sense in that language. The argument that the violation doesn’t exist in another language will not apply in this particular language. (Clothing and Culture)

In every rule stated in the Scripture, it is important to look not at the letter of the law but at the spirit of the law (2Cor. 3:6).

For More Questions and Discussions Check Theology of Clothing

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April 13, 2016
HEADCOVERING AMONG GREEKS AND ROMANS
(From Wiki article Veil)
Classical Greek and Hellenistic statues sometimes depict Greek women with both their head and face covered by a veil. Caroline Galt and Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones have both argued from such representations and literary references that it was commonplace for women (at least those of higher status) in ancient Greece to cover their hair and face in public. Roman women were expected to wear veils as a symbol of the husband’s authority over his wife; a married woman who omitted the veil was seen as withdrawing herself from marriage. In 166 BC, consul Sulpicius Gallus divorced his wife because she had left the house unveiled, thus allowing all to see, as he said, what only he should see. Unmarried girls normally didn’t veil their heads, but matrons did so to show their modesty and chastity, their pudicitia. Veils also protected women against the evil eye, it was thought.

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