Hair Coverings for Women?
What is this passage saying? 1 Cor 11:1-16
This heart of this passage is similar to other reminders for the relationship between husbands and wives,
reminding that there is order. And just like in other passages, one important factor must be highlighted.
The Greek word for ‘women’ is the same word for ‘wives’, so every time it’s written, the translators had
to decide which is correct for the context. One signal that this is about wives and not just women is
found in verse 3 “the head of woman is man”. It should likely be “the head of the wife is the husband.”
How can we be so sure? Because every man is not the head of every woman. I am certainly the head of
my own wife. But no other man is. And no man is head over an unmarried woman. So in verse 11, same
thing—“neither is man independent of woman” should clearly be translated with husband and wife,
since certainly unmarried men are independent of unmarried women.
One reason this instruction is important is because wives are also expected to prophesy and speak out in
church, but in doing so, they should keep an attitude of respect toward their husbands and not use that
liberty to usurp authority. The angels care about that. They care about order, humility, and submission.
The other emphasis here is symbolic custom of hair and coverings that were a visible sign for women
under authority. It was a cultural signal that all knew about, so it became important. But Paul
understood that cultures have certain nuances, for he even said, “if it is shameful for a woman to be
shorn or shaved”. Notice the IF. In America, we have no such custom. Whether right or wrong for how
women wear their hair, it’s our culture. So, whereas it would be strange in Paul’s day to NOT have
correct hair and coverings, today it would be much more strange to require them. The result of not
following the hair rules in Paul’s day would be a distraction from the gospel and ministry in the church.
Today, requiring the hair rules would be distracting in church and limiting for our gospel work, just as it
is with the United Pentecostals and Apostolic groups.
You can see some further teaching along this line that I did to clarify women being allowed to preach.
1Co 11:1-16 NKJV
1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. 2 Now I praise you, brethren, that you
remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to
know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 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. 6 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. 7 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. 8 For man is not from woman,
but woman from man. 9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this
reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11
Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12
For as woman came from man, even so man also come through woman; but all things are from God.
13 Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does
not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman
has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if anyone seems to be
contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.