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Old 03-15-2008, 04:05 AM
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Default 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

I wonder how people here understand 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 where Paul teaches that the women should cover their heads in church. Very few seem to take it to mean a literal covering over the head any more, many saying it just means that whatever your culture accepts as feminine appearance fulfills it, or a smaller group say long hair is the covering. Many ministries seem to ignore the passage altogether.

I did a pretty thorough study of it myself last year, consulting all sorts of sources, sermons and articles, and my own conclusion is that it means women should be covering our heads in church.

I'd appreciate your thoughts.
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Old 03-15-2008, 08:57 AM
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I think this verse ends all debate:

1 Corinthians 11:15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

Why are people looking for something beyond that? This passage says long hair is a woman's covering - it doesn't say she needs anything else.
Old 03-15-2008, 08:58 AM
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Diligent Diligent is offline
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The Bible explains itself:
1 Corinthians 11:15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
Why add a covering when the Bible already says that a woman's long hair is a glory to her and given her for a covering?
Old 03-15-2008, 11:21 AM
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Oh many reasons why it isn't hair. First, if Paul had meant hair, he wouldn't have spent 15 verses to say it, and say it in such a roundabout way.

In context verse 15 is clearly meant to be an example from nature for why women should cover their heads.

Another reason is that women already wore their hair long so that wouldn't have been a problem in the church Paul would have needed to address. When he says "Does not even nature teach you" that long hair is a glory to a woman, obviously this implies that they already knew that and he is simply referring to this accepted fact as part of his argument why they should cover their hair.

Also, the hair IS described as a woman's glory, and in verses 7 to 10 Paul is giving the reason for women's covering the head as her being the glory of man while the man is the glory of Christ and is to leave his head uncovered. Human glory is not to be displayed because only Christ's glory is to be displayed.

Also, the Greek words translated "covering" happen to be different words with slightly different meanings. The one for hair as the covering is "parabolaion" which has a connotation of adornment, while the one Paul is exhorting women to wear is "katakalupto" which has the connotation of concealing. Paul is asking women to conceal their glory in worship.

Another reason from history is that the early church understood Paul to be requiring women to cover their heads. Tertullian writes about it, mostly complaining that most of the churches allowed what he considered to be too flimsy a covering, but making the point that in the Corinthian church of his day, to which Paul had written the exhortation, all the women covered their heads completely, his point being that they of all the churches should have understood what Paul meant best.

There are also drawings of praying Christian women in the catacombs of Rome in the 2nd and 3rd centuries showing them with their wraps pulled up over their heads.

It's also interesting, I think, that many of the churches that claim it means long hair nevertheless do not require women to have long hair.

Another reason that I think matters is that the NIV had a footnote to the passage giving an alternate reading that defined the hair as the covering Paul meant. I'd have to look that up to get it right. A later edition of the NIV retracted it, the editor saying he himself believed the covering was hair but that the passage itself couldn't be accurately translated to mean that.

Last edited by Connie; 03-15-2008 at 11:30 AM.
Old 03-15-2008, 02:18 PM
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Thought I'd add some references I used in my study last year in support of the head covering as something to be worn over the head and hair:

1. Mary Kassian, in her chapter on “Headship and Head Coverings,” in her book Women, Creation and the Fall, which is online at the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, gently recommends, based on her understanding of the passage, that a head covering should be worn by women in church: Scroll down to Chapter 9, on page 92. [It's noteworthy that in coming to this conclusion she is in disagreement with the CBMW. They endorse the position that the head covering was simply a cultural form of feminine presentation in Paul's day for which we may substitute our own culture's symbols of femininity, argued on their site by Thomas Schreiner as a chapter in a major book of theirs -- I'd have to look the title up.]

2. This is “The Bible Researcher” Marlowe’s very thorough exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16:

3. Another very thorough online discussion is by Bruce Terry:

4. Brian Schwertley has a lengthy sermon series on head coverings which can be heard at Sermon Very good discussion. This is a transcript of that sermon series:

5. Watchman Nee makes the simple point that “we should not frustrate God’s government by God’s grace” though his argument doesn’t remain quite that simple throughout. Scroll down to #84.

6. The first chapter of an online book on the subject by Tom Shank is at I particularly appreciate his remark on the headcovering as a call to die to self, which is after all THE work of Christian life for all of us -- in Amy Carmichael’s words, “A chance to die.” (And this reminds me of the period in Amy Carmichael’s life when she was helping the poor women known as the “shawlies.” They couldn’t afford hats so pulled their shawls up over their heads while in church, showing that covering the head in church was expected.)

7. Historically Paul was understood by all the churches to require a cloth headcovering, which is demonstrated by the fact that women in the Christianized West covered their heads not only in church but at all times up until very recently, which made it specifically the custom of Christendom. David Bercot has a page of pictures of this specifically Christian custom. He has also made a CD on the subject.

As anyone who reads through the above references will find out, there are many confusing points of disagreement on subordinate elements of the argument that remain unresolved even among people who agree on the main points. There is nevertheless basic agreement on these main points, and once it is clear WHAT Paul is telling us to do, his subordinate points aren’t as much of a problem.


I also tracked down the NIV footnote I referred to in my post above. There are footnotes in both the NIV and the Living Bible that give an alternative translation identifying the covering as hair. The note in the NIV reads:

11:4-7 Or 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with long hair dishonors his head. 5 And every woman who prays or prophesies with no covering of hair on her head dishonors her head–she is just like one of the “shorn women.” 6 If a woman has no covering, let her be for now with short hair, but since it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair shorn or shaved, she should grow it again. A man ought not to have long hair.
The note in the Living Bible has:

11:6 Or then she should have long hair. This would make it read: Yes, if she refuses to wear her hair long, she should cut off all her hair. And since it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut or her head shaved, then she should have long hair.
Spiros Zodhiates’ Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament has entries which make the same equation between the covering and the hair:

2619. katakalupto … to cover. To cover with a veil or something which hangs down, hence, to veil; in the pass., katakaluptomai, to be covered, veiled, to wear a veil (1 Cor. 11:6, 7). The covering here involves either the hair of a woman hanging down or, in case that may not be possible, the veil.
4018. peribolaion {this is the Greek word translated “covering” in verse 15, “her hair is given to her for a covering (peribolaion)}…a covering, cloak, wrap, cape, outer garment, or mantle. By implication, a covering for the head, a headdress, or perhaps a veil (1 Cor. 11:15).
This equivalence between the covering and hair is merely asserted without evidence or explanation, as if it were an authoritative translation, although other sources give no hint of such an equivalence.

Eventually the NIV retracted it. In an article about a new (2002) translation of the NIV, Craig L. Blomberg mentions (p. 16) that the footnote in the earlier edition is not in the new edition:

The long footnote to an alternate translation of vv. 4-7, in which the head covering in question is simply “hair,” has been dropped. While I follow a minority that think this may have been the correct interpretation, it is true that it was not as obvious a translation.
Zodhiates’ reference book and the Bible footnotes mentioned must have influenced countless Christians to believe that the headcovering is a woman’s hair.

The above is just part of what I wrote up of my conclusions from my study last year. There's lots more.

Last edited by Connie; 03-15-2008 at 02:27 PM.
Old 03-15-2008, 02:45 PM
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The Mary Kassian link above is truncated, and goes first to a list of publications, so you have to do a couple more clicks to get to the online book. I guess this system doesn't want to leave it whole.

The part that's left out is . . . onlinebooks/women_creation_fall.pdf
Old 03-15-2008, 03:32 PM
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Why all this concern about a fleshly (carnal) observance? We are supposed to concern ourselves with spiritual matters we should be observing the "weightier matters" [Matthew 23:23] not some physical "requirement" that is open to debate.

Why dote ". . . . about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, . . ." 1Timothy 6:4-5

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
16 "But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness."

I wonder Connie - Have you come here to learn or to "instruct" (teach)?

1 Timothy 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

What do you suppose is more important for a woman - observing 1 Timothy 2:11-14 or 1 Corinthians 11:2-16? 1 Timothy2:11-14 is real clear (no ifs, ands, or buts). 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is open for debate (multiple understandings). I have never read Zodhiates in 50 years of being a Christian, I do however, believe that the "covering" is long hair - and my wife of 47 years has kept her hair hair waist length or longer all during our marriage (unlike most American Christian women).

However, I don't judge Christian women who "choose" to have short hair, neither do I condemn them - that's a matter of individual conscience between them and God. I would have something to say if they were in open sin - which is another matter altogether. [Romans 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.]

I am no one's "master"; I have no "dominion" over another Christian's faith (2Corinthians 1:24); as a man and an elder I am called to pray, study, preach, teach, warn, admonish, reprove, and rebuke and that's the limit of my authority. But I do wonder why - why this emphasis on observances?
Old 03-15-2008, 04:31 PM
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It's scripture, George. Your words above are judging what scripture says. Why all this concern about a fleshly observance, you ask? It's PAUL's "fleshly observance" if so, George. It is what PAUL, that is, GOD'S WORD, says. What he says is clearly about a PHYSICAL REQUIREMENT. Should I just decide that I can ignore the teachings not to dress elaborately (braid and decorate the hair etc), or dress modestly, that that's just too physical a thing to occupy myself with? Should it then not bother you if a man shows up in church with long hair or a hat on? Isn't that just a carnal preoccupation with physical stuff?

This isn't church, where a woman is required to be silent and listen. Paul didn't say I had to have nothing to say ever anywhere. There is no pastor over the proceedings here. This is a forum. I'm not setting myself up as an authority, I simply did a study last year about a part of scripture I had come to feel strongly about that it seems is neglected and misunderstood. Just as I believe you are misunderstanding it. If you won't consider it based on the facts I've assembled, maybe some of the male teachers at the links would be more persuasive. They're all men except Mary Kassian.

I'm only a woman but nobody else is saying this so I'm running it by people here and there to see if anyone will consider it. I've come to believe that there are many things that are contributing to the powerlessness of the churches these days, and they include the rejection of the headcovering which was practiced pretty universally in the churches until about the 60s. Yes, it sounds carnal, but it's there in the Word of God and after spending much time on it I don't see any other way to rightly understand it. (Even if you think it's preaching long hair, that's a carnal concern too by the way.) The use of the false Bible versions is another reason for the powerlessness. Pursuing that subject is what got me here.

That's OK, if I'm considered out of order here for having a strong opinion I can back up with evidence, I will desist.

Last edited by Connie; 03-15-2008 at 04:35 PM.
Old 03-15-2008, 08:13 PM
Renee Renee is offline
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Default Connie

Hi Connie,
Do you have long hair?
But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
Connie do you understand english? maybe you don't and that is why you have to go to other languages.
In the next verse (16) But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God. I rest my case. Connie, if you want to cover your head go for it. My Lord has blessed me with a beautiful head of hair (it is a lot thinner now but at 64 I can still sit on it. It is also salt and pepper colored. My Lord gave me a good covering, why should I cover it. I believe exactly what the bible says...her hair is given her for a covering. If you want to hide your glory, you may. We have no dominion over you.
Old 03-15-2008, 08:39 PM
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I carefully prayed over all that, Renee, very carefully, and I wrote my answers to all of it based on my prayer and study. I only copied a small part of it here. You can be sure that I thoroughly considered your point of view, but obviously there is no point in getting too deep into this at this point.

My study involved listening to MANY sermons of godly men -- there are many on the subject at Sermon I also read many sermons and articles, a major one recommended by my pastor -- who doesn't agree with me OR you about the meaning of the passage. I no longer attend that church. The point is that I did not come to my conclusion based on some desire of my own; in fact I hate the idea of wearing something on my head and it's put me into quite a quandary. All that concerns me is being obedient to God.

I have medium length brown hair with some gray in it and I'm three years older than you and I did that study in a sincere desire to understand what God meant by it.

I simply believe your interpretation is a misreading of it. The majority of those I studied who do not agree with me nevertheless agree that Paul is not commanding long hair; he is saying that long hair is the natural covering given to a woman, which he presents as an argument for covering the head, one of his five or six arguments for covering the head in that passage (that's an awful lot of time and energy to put in on a subject if all he meant to say was women should wear their hair long.)

And covering the head is how it was understood throughout the Christian world until the last century, when it was thrown out mostly under the influence of feminism and the modern Bible versions. Perhaps that was not the influence on you but it has certainly been the influence on many.

I have not insulted anyone, but you insult me.

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