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    Should Women Cover Their Heads Today?

    Should Women Cover Their Heads Today?

    This is not a popular subject to talk about and one that most pulpits never address. I believe the reason is because it may be considered 'not necessary' or 'too controversial'. After all, who would comply? It is my hope to address this as I am not one to believe that the Holy Spirit stopped speaking through Paul when Paul spoke of this to the Corinthians in his first epistle to them. If he felt it necessary to address this issue, it is because he was prompted by the Holy Spirit to do so. So, whether you are one of those that Paul was only speaking as a man addressing only cultural issues or whether he was speaking under the inspiration of God, I hope you will take the time to read this through and give the Holy Spirit a chance to break through to your heart and show you WHY He prompted Paul to speak as he has spoken.

    To start with, I am including various study notes from a variety of sources to show what is readily available and what is the various perspectives. Interspersed among these notes, I will add my own thoughts. To differentiate between the study notes and my own, I will have my thoughts indented and highlighted with a greyed background.

    From the Life Application Study Bible Notes:

    11:2ff In this section Paul’s main concern is irreverence in worship. We need to read it in the context of the situation in Corinth. The matter of wearing hats or head coverings, although seemingly insignificant, had become a big problem because two cultural backgrounds were colliding. Jewish women always covered their heads in worship. For a woman to uncover her head in public was a sign of loose morals. On the other hand, Greek women may have been used to worshiping without head coverings.
    In this letter Paul had already spoken about divisions and disorder in the church. Both are involved in this issue. Paul’s solution came from his desire for unity among church members and for appropriateness in the worship service. He accepted God’s sovereignty in creating the rules for relationships
    (1 Corinthians 11:2 LASB:NKJV Study Notes)

    11:2-16 This section focuses primarily on proper attitudes and conduct in worship, not on the marriage relationship or on the role of women in the church. While Paul’s specific instructions may be cultural (women covering their heads in worship), the principles behind them are timeless:respect for spouse, reverence and appropriateness in worship, and focus of all of life on God. If you are doing something that might easily offend members and divide the church, then change your ways to promote church unity. Paul told the women who were not wearing head coverings to wear them, not because it was a scriptural command, but because it kept the congregation from dividing over a petty issue that served only to take people’s minds off Christ
    (1 Corinthians 11:2 LASB:NKJV Study Notes)

    I want to add what Paul is often NOT quoted as saying regarding this whole matter.
    16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, WE HAVE NO SUCH CUSTOM, nor do the churches of God.
    (1 Corinthians 11:16 NKJVS) (my emphasis)

    A woman wearing a head covering displayed her recognition of her role in the eyes of God and as such, sought to bring honor to God and to man that He created first of whom she was brought forth. I see it as an attitude of heart being manifested physically through the head covering. But we must keep in mind, if there are those who are weak in the faith, we must walk in the freedom we know if that freedom causes our brethren to stumble in their own faith. This does not mean we allow the weaker in faith to “dictate” to us what we must do but rather, we take the attitude of love much in the same way we do when we are raising our own small children. We make ‘allowances’ for their sake until they grow older in knowledge and wisdom. After all, what a small price to pay if it means we will all come to the full knowledge and understanding as sons and daughters of the Most High God.

    Here are more commentary from other sources:

    From the ESV:

    11:2–16 Head Coverings and Worship. Paul first comments on whether certain women, probably wives, may continue to pray and prophesy in corporate worship with their heads uncovered (see v. 13). By uncovering their heads in public worship, Paul says, they bring shame instead of glory to their husbands, and this is not proper.
    (1 Corinthians 11:2 ESVSB)

    11:3 But shows that Paul has quickly moved from commendation (in v. 2) to correction. wife. See esv footnote. Since a woman's head covering in first- century Roman society was a sign of marriage, Paul's practical concern in this passage is not with the relationship between women and men generally but with the relationship between husband and wife. head. It is sometimes said that this term (Gk. kephalē) means “source,” but in over 50 examples of the expression “person A is the head of person(s) B” found in ancient Greek literature, person A has authority over person(s) B in every case. Therefore it is best to understand “head” (kephalē) here as referring metaphorically to “authority” (see also Eph. 1:22; 5:23; Col. 2:10). As with the authority of Christ over the church, this is not the self- centered exercise of power but leadership that takes care to serve the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of the wife. See Mark 10:44–45; Eph. 5:23, 25–30. The head of Christ is God indicates that within the Trinity the Father has a role of authority or leadership with respect to the Son, though they are equal in deity and attributes (see notes on John 5:19; 14:28; 1 Cor. 15:28). Paul applies this truth about the Trinity to the relationship of husband and wife. In marriage, as in the Trinity, there is equality in being and value but difference in roles (see Eph. 5:22–33)
    (1 Corinthians 11:3 ESVSB)

    11:4 head covered. The Greek phrase (kata kephalēs) literally means “down from the head” and may refer either to long hair that hangs loose (vv. 14–15), or to a veil that covers the face, or to a piece of cloth pulled over the head (like a modern shawl or scarf) that leaves the face revealed. As background for understanding Paul's point in this verse, Roman men sometimes practiced the custom of pulling the loose folds of their toga over their head as an act of piety in the worship of pagan gods. Paul thus draws on the example of this pagan custom (which everyone in the Corinthian church would have thought absurd) to make the point that men should not dishonor Christ by praying according to pagan custom (8:4). He then uses the idea to prepare the way for his argument that it is equally absurd for wives to pray or prophesy in public with their heads uncovered (11:5, 11)
    (1 Corinthians 11:4 ESVSB)

    11:5–6 head uncovered. A married woman who uncovered her head in public would have brought shame to her husband. The action may have connoted sexual availability or may simply have been a sign of being unmarried. In cultures where women's head coverings are not a sign of being married, wives do not need to cover their heads in worship, but they could obey this command by wearing some other physical symbol of being married (such as a wedding ring). While a shaven head or short hair was considered shameful for a woman in first- century Corinth, long hair was considered to be a woman's “glory” (see v. 15)
    (1 Corinthians 11:5 ESVSB)

    11:7–9 See Gen. 1:26–27; 5:1; 9:6. Woman is the glory of man probably uses “glory” in the sense of “one who shows the excellence of.” Paul argues that a woman, by the excellence of her being, also shows how excellent man is, since she was taken out of man at the beginning (1 Cor. 11:8) and also was created as a helper for man at the beginning (v. 9; see also Gen. 2:20–24). Paul does not deny that the woman was also made in God's image, something that Gen. 1:27 explicitly affirms, nor does he deny that the woman reflects God's glory. Paul probably continues to think primarily of husband and wife here since the first man and woman were also the first married couple (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31). Paul's appeal to the order of creation (cf. also 1 Cor. 11:3, 11–12) shows that his words are not merely directed to the cultural situation of his day. The principle of male headship in marriage continues through all generations, though some cultural expressions of that principle (e. g., that women should wear head coverings) may vary
    (1 Corinthians 11:7 ESVSB)

    11:10 wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head. More literally, a “wife ought to have authority [Gk. exousia] over her head,” where the word “authority” refers to a head covering, which was a symbol of authority. This probably means, in the context of the Corinthian church, that the wife should wear a covering over her head as a sign that she is under her husband's authority. Others, however, suggest that a head covering is a sign of the woman's authority to prophesy in church, or to participate generally in the church assembly. because of the angels. This probably refers to the invisible heavenly beings (6:3; Heb. 1:7) who are present with the Corinthians when they worship (cf. Ps. 138:1) and whose presence makes propriety in worship that much more important. The NT elsewhere uses the fact that angels are watching as one motive for obeying God's commands (see 1 Tim. 5:21; Heb. 13:2; 1 Pet. 1:12)
    (1 Corinthians 11:10 ESVSB)

    11:11–12 nevertheless. Paul does not want what he has just said to be misinterpreted as a diminution of the importance of women. Women and men are both God's creation and are mutually interdependent at a basic level
    (1 Corinthians 11:11 ESVSB)

    11:14 Here the word nature probably means “your natural sense of what is appropriate for men and women”:it would be a disgrace for a man to look like a woman because of his hair style. Although the norms of appropriate hair style (and dress) may vary from culture to culture, Paul's point is that men should look like men in that culture, and women should look like women in that culture, rather than seeking to deny or disparage the God- given differences between the sexes.

    11:16 See 1:2; 4:17; 7:17; 14:33, 36 for Paul's appeal to the practice of other churches. no such practice. That is, “no such practice” as that of those who disagree with Paul (therefore some translations render this “no other practice,” giving about the same sense). Paul's objective is to bring the Corinthians into conformity with generally accepted Christian behavior
    (1 Corinthians 11:14-16 ESVSB)

    From DAKE’S study bible notes:

    Notes For Verse 3

    a [the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God] Three headships in 1Cor. 11:3:
    1. God is head of Christ.
    2. Christ is head of man.
    3. Man is head of woman-- husband is the head of the wife.
    b [the head of Christ is God] God and Christ are two separate and distinct persons (1Tim. 2:5)
    (1 Corinthians 11:3 DakeStudyBibleNotes)

    Notes For Verse 4
    a [Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head] Every man praying or prophesying with a cap or turban on his head, dishonors his head, Christ (1Cor. 11:3). This was in direct contrast to the canons of the Jews which did not permit a man to pray or prophesy unless veiled. Their idea was that man is unworthy to have an open face before God.
    b [dishonoureth] Greek:kataischuno (G2617), shame (Lk. 13:17; Rom. 5:5; 9:33; 10:11; 1Cor. 11:22; 2Cor. 7:14; 9:4; 1Pet. 3:16); confound (1Cor. 1:27; 1Pet. 2:6); and dishonor (1Cor. 11:4- 5). Christianity is an open- faced religion and nothing is to be done in secret or under cover
    (1 Corinthians 11:4 DakeStudyBibleNotes)

    Notes For Verse 5
    a [But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonourwth her head:for that is even all one as if she were shaven] Women were to remain under their customary veils when praying or prophesying.

    Ten reasons women were to be veiled:
    1. It had been a custom for ages for woman to be veiled (Gen. 24:65; 38:14, 19; Ruth 3:15; Isa. 3:23; Song 5:7).
    2. It was a Jewish law that no woman be seen in public unveiled.
    3. Among Greeks, Romans, and other nations it was also a custom.
    4. Only public prostitutes in the East went without veils, hence to pray or prophesy without a veil would be identifying Christianity with harlotry.
    5. If a woman appeared in public without a veil, she would disgrace her head-- the husband (1Cor. 11:3). It would be the same as women who had hair shorn off as punishment for whoredom and adultery (1Cor. 11:5- 6 Num. 5:18)
    6. The man was not to wear a veil because he was the image and glory of God. The woman needed one because she was the glory of the man being created for him (1Cor. 11:7- 9).
    7. The woman needed to wear her veil on her head as a sign of the husband's authority over her, thus setting an example of humility and submission to her head-- the husband. She would thus be a lesson to angels to submit to God (1Cor. 11:10; 4:9; Eph. 3:10- 11 Eccl. 5:6; 1Tim. 5:21).
    8. The woman needed to cooperate fully with the husband and keep the customs as being equally blessed by God (1Cor. 11:11- 12 1Tim. 2:9; 1Pet. 3:1- 7).
    9. It was becoming to a woman in that day to be veiled and not common for a Christian woman to pray or prophesy unveiled. That would make her like the heathen priestesses who prayed and delivered the oracles bareheaded or with disheveled hair
    10. It was natural for women to have long hair thus indicating they should be veiled.
    b [prayeth or prophesieth] This is proof that women did pray and preach in the church (1Cor. 11:5; 14:3, 23- 25, 31 Acts 2:16- 21 21:9; Joel 2:28- 32).
    c [uncovered] Greek:akatakaluptos (G177), unveiled (1Cor. 11:5, 13)
    (1 Corinthians 11:5 DakeStudyBibleNotes)

    Notes For Verse 6
    a [covered] Greek:katakalupto (G2619), veiled (1Cor. 11:6, 7)
    (1 Corinthians 11:6 DakeStudyBibleNotes)

    Notes For Verse 13
    a [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?] Questions 75- 76. Next, 1Cor. 11:22.
    (1 Corinthians 11:13 DakeStudyBibleNotes)

    Notes For Verse 15
    a [covering] Greek:peribolaion (G4018), something thrown around anyone (Heb. 1:12). The long hair of a woman is given her for a mantle, veil, or covering. That is, long hair can be used as a veil if she insists on her new freedom of deliverance from old customs of always wearing a veil
    (1 Corinthians 11:15 DakeStudyBibleNotes)

    Notes For Verse 16
    a [But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God] It appears that some Corinthian women claimed for their sex equality with the men on the basis that there is no difference in benefits in Christ (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11). They overstepped their authority in coming forward to pray and prophesy unveiled. This is what the apostle disapproves of in 1Cor. 11:1-16. He sums up his argument here by stating that if any man sets himself up as a defender of such new freedom for women, then a woman may pray of prophesy with uncovered head and a man may have long hair if each one wants to bear the reproach and shame of such action. Paul makes it plain that there is no set law or custom governing such in the churches of God
    (1 Corinthians 11:16 DakeStudyBibleNotes)

    What I see standing out in Dake’s notes is that the wearing of a head covering for women was ‘culturally’ driven. Several good reasons for this were cited especially where those who were of other false religions and cults wore nothing to cover their heads and especially how the prostitutes also kept their heads uncovered. It was a cultural stigmatism for a woman to NOT put a covering over her head or to keep herself unveiled.
    In modern times, we do not have such cultural ‘requirements’ as our western cultural has, shall I say it, ‘devolved’ into a culture of rebellion as in the ‘me generation’ that we saw arise during the time of the Vietnam conflict in Asia. A ‘counter-culture’ emerged that defied all the traditions and expectations of the previous generations and ‘declared’ themselves ‘free’. This was nothing more than another level of rebellion being expressed by mankind as they chose to extricate themselves from all that is God and Godly and find their own expression.
    Today, especially in western society, it is not a shame for a man to wear long hair and not a shame for a woman to prophecy or pray in public without a head covering. Is this because WE are right or is it because we have strayed so far from God’s ways and have adopted our own ways instead of His? This question, at this time, cannot be answered without much controversy. Even the faithful of God would have issue with this. Could it be that we, as a people, have strayed so far down this path of rebellion that we are unable to see or understand the true attitudes and purposes of God because we ‘interpret’ God’s will and attitude based on our own ‘standards’. 
    We have not truly ‘measured’ OUR OWN ‘standards’ against those that God has established in His Word. Nor have we ‘grown’ to the point where we are even ‘willing’ to challenge ‘our standards’ against those we see in the Word of God. Anyone attempting to challenge the ‘status quo’, which is accepted by the world and the church, will be labeled as either ‘religious bigots’, ‘restrictive’, ‘legalistic’, etc. As a society of believers, we still have not fully removed ourselves from the influences of our societal ‘standards’. We have not bought into ‘all’ of the world’s standards but we continue to accept and adopt many of them, especially where the culture ‘dictates’ those standards to be regardless if they are an offense to God.

    From the Holman Christian Study Bible Notes:

    11:3. Paul issued a principle for application in corporate worship—the principle of voluntary submission to authority. As Christ is the head over the church, He certainly has supreme authority over every man (cp. 3:23; “you belong to Christ”). The phrase “head of every man” means “authority over” and fits the letter’s dominant theme of submission to Christ. God is the head of Christ refers to the Father’s authority over the incarnate Messiah, who as the God- man voluntarily submitted to God.

    Word Study: “kephale”
    Greek Pronunciation [keh fah LAY]
    HCSB Translation:head
    Uses in 1 Corinthians:10
    Uses in the NT:75
    Focus passage:1 Corinthians 11:3

    The Greek noun kephale means head and usually refers to that part of the body for humans or animals. In the NT, kephale is also used figuratively in several passages, especially in Paul’s writings and Revelation.

    Paul used the body as a metaphor for the church. In 1Co 12, Paul explained that unity in the church is promoted through mutual dependence and cooperation among the individual members who make up Christ’s body (v v. 12- 27). This metaphor is modified in Ephesians and Colossians to emphasize the dependence that the body has on its head, who is Christ (Eph 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Col 1:18; 2:19). Paul taught the husband’s role as head of the home in two passages. Just as Christ is the Head of His church, so the husband is the head of his wife (Eph 5:23). Divine and human headship are joined in Paul’s hierarchy:God is the head of Christ; Christ is the head of man; man is the head of woman (1Co 11:3). A wife’s subordination to her husband does not mean that she is inferior to him, for Christ is subordinate to the Father but is also equal with Him (see Jn 5:18; 1Co 15:27- 28; Php 2:6)
    (1 Corinthians 11:3 HCSB-SB)

    11:4. The situation in this verse assumes a public setting where corporate worship was taking place. Paul applied the principle (“Christ is the head of every man”) to the praying man. Outward manifestations of piety should not dishonor a believing man’s head (“Christ”). The phrase with something on his head is literally “having down alongside the head.” This refers not to a hat but to the Roman practice of pulling down the toga over the head while bowing for pagan worship, to prevent distractions. Because of the association of this practice with pagan worship, a male believer dishonored his true head (“Christ”) when he covered his physical head with the toga. By imitating pagan practice, he shamed Christ and himself
    (1 Corinthians 11:4 HCSB-SB)

    11:5a. In the first century, a woman would speak with her head uncovered only in private settings. For example, women sometimes led prayer with their “head uncovered” at pagan clubs meeting in private homes. Paul did not give a reason why women in the church at Corinth were uncovered. It may be that they brought into the church religious practices that paralleled habits in the pagan meetings
    (1 Corinthians 11:5 HCSB-SB)

    11:5b- 6. Paul explains why a Corinthian woman’s uncovered head dishonored her head. A woman who prayed or prophesied with her head uncovered was one and the same with the one having her head shaved (Gk te exureymeney). Paul equated the shame of a “head uncovered” (imitating the practice in pagan private religious clubs; see note at v. 5a) with the shame of a person who publicly expressed pagan dedication (i. e., to have her hair cut off or her head shaved). Pagan women at Corinth sometimes sheared their hair and dedicated their locks as a token of worship or fulfillment of a vow to a god. In the Corinthian setting, the “uncovered head” paralleled practices in pagan clubs and thus blurred the divisions between devotion to the true God and false gods, resulting in dishonor to a believing woman’s husband and to Christ
    (1 Corinthians 11:5 HCSB-SB)

    11:7a. A man’s uncovered head honored his head because it permitted the immediacy of his reflection of the image and glory of God, perhaps especially in light of the fact that man was created first (Gn 1:27; 2:7). Therefore, he should not cover his head in imitation of pagan practice, which viewed human creation as an ignoble creation of warring and vain gods
    (1 Corinthians 11:7 HCSB-SB)

    11:7b-9. Paul’s second reason for saying a woman’s uncovered head dishonored her head is that the first woman was created from man (Gn 2:21- 22). Woman completes man in God’s created order in the sense that man mirrors the image of God, and woman reflects man ’ s glory. This does not mean woman is inferior to man. She completes God’s creation of man as male and female (Gn 1:27), and brings glory to man (Gn 2:23).
    11:10. This third reason why a woman’s uncovered head dishonored her head is difficult to interpret. Perhaps the church’s witness to the angelic hosts would be adversely affected by an uncovered female head. The phrase authority on her head seems to refer to an outward symbol that signified to the angels her deference to leadership
    (1 Corinthians 11:7-10 HCSB-SB)

    11:11-15. These verses are obscure and have yielded various interpretations. It is best that interpreters remain tentative in their conclusions
    (1 Corinthians 11:11 HCSB-SB)

    Now regarding what verse 10 states:“For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, BECAUSE OF THE ANGELS.” 
    I think it is interesting that the Holy Spirit brings in this statement of “because of the angels”. There are several thoughts about this found in the study notes above but not one is addressing what I believe are the real reason why the angels are mentioned. Angels are spiritual beings and not natural and being as they are fully in submission to the will and purpose of God UNHINDERED by the flesh and the dictates of society, I cannot accept that the reasons the angels were mentioned is because of what the culture or society may dictate. 
    I believe they were mentioned to show that there is a level of perfection in submission to God that man has not yet attained but the angels of God have already. They have never tasted of sin and cannot understand that condition of fallen man to which the Son of God was sent to redeem.
    Coming from their perspective, any form of submission to the will of God is received with great admiration and praise to the Father for the work He has accomplished and is accomplishing in His crown of creation. We must remember that man was created a ‘little below’ the angels but once redeemed when mortality is swallowed up with immortality, we will be positioned above the angels. THIS is a mystery to the angelic beings which has never been known nor seen. They too wait with great anticipation for the revelation of the sons of God and when we are ‘redeemed’ from the earth to join the heavenly family.
    The angels are here to minister the grace of God to us as commanded them by the Father and as we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit’s words and revelations, the angels are ready to do the Father’s bidding to dispense that which He instructs them to give to us, the heirs of the kingdom of the Father along with the Son. 
    Now, I do not believe that Paul is making a doctrine about angels here but is mentioning them because of his own previous experiences. Remember when he mentioned about having seen heaven but never talked much about it. I believe it is from this reference point he is speaking in this verse. Since he has been made keenly aware of the presence of angelic beings in his life, he can only speak of that which he knows. 
    Personally, I too wish he had spoken more about this subject but whether he wanted to or not, like us all, he would only write what he heard from the Spirit of the Lord. I am certain also of this. Had the Spirit of the Lord seen our ‘need’ to know more about this and if the knowledge of the angels is necessary for the perfection of our faith, He would have mentioned more about it in His Word. So, like so many of the ‘mysteries’ of God that cannot be explained, when it is time, IF it is time, we can trust that God will reveal it and all according to His plans and His purposes in the earth and in our lives. 
    In conclusion, let me just say how excited I am that I have had the reason to search this subject out about the covering of the head regarding women. The priests who served in the temple of God were required to cover their heads as symbolic of ‘covering up’ their own authority and as a sign of God’s authority over them. Even when Moses’ brother, Aaron, lost his two oldest sons because of the strange fire they brought unbidden to the Lord and were consumed in a fiery judgment from the Lord, Aaron was warned not to ‘uncover’ his head lest he die. As long as he remained in service to the Lord, he was to keep that symbol of God’s supreme authority over him. Removal meant instant judgment. 
    In our present world, there are yet many things God wants to reveal to His church which, heretofore, has not been recognized nor practiced by the Body of Christ primarily due to both the present status of our rebellion and its overall affect in our understanding and perceptions. God has been restoring to the church, at every new outpouring and move of His Spirit, various truths that brought about necessary changes in the understanding and knowledge of God’s desire and will. Each move met with much resistance from the established communities but for those who embraced Him, these were brought into that greater revelation and understanding. God continues to build line upon line, precept upon precept and bringing us, His church, from one level of glory to a higher level of glory that reflects a greater level of His glory. 
    In the meantime, each man (woman) must walk in that truth that the Holy Spirit has persuaded them in and not let the prevailing attitudes of others prevent them. Yes, all who ‘desire’ to live godly in Christ Jesus ‘shall suffer persecution’. It is a given and since God is also glorified when we suffer because of His instructions in righteousness He gives to us, then let us with great joy enter into His presence and give the sacrifices of praise and honor and glory and power to Him who is deserving of all our praise!
    To learn more about this subject, I recommend the following links: VIDEO and WEBSITE

    Jerry Sundberg

    Soon after I received the Lord in 1976, I started receiving prophetic visions and warnings about the future of the church and the United States. I share my visions on my Hidden Manna websites and offer free of charge my two ebooks entitled “Hidden Manna” and “Hidden Manna 2”.

    Website: Hidden Manna

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