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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.
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, 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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George George is offline
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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, 09:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Connie View Post
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.
Well, that just doesn't make any sense to me. Verse 15 says her hair is given her for a covering. All the history and sermons about women covering their heads with something besides their hair really isn't relevant to me, since the Bible says so clearly what a woman's covering is.

I'm not saying women can't cover their head if they want to. Honestly I don't really care what women other than my wife do.

Verse 13 says "judge in yourselves" and verse 14 says "nature itself teach you." I think it's a mistake to make legalistic rules out of such things, especially rules that add to what the Bible already laid out, as in verse 15.
Old 03-15-2008, 10:29 PM
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Default Connie

Got your message. Aren't you glad the Lord will straighten us out when we get there? He will show us what the truth is and guess what, we aren't (neither of us) even going to say I told you so. I have set my heart in believing what God says and to the best of my ability to do it. My authority is God and He speaks to me through His word. I have not gone outside of the Bible, except for my husband, (which is biblical) for spiritual understanding. The matter is settled in my heart, my hair is my covering. I commend you on your hair length. Most women our age have hair above their ears.
Old 03-15-2008, 10:42 PM
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You're very right, Renee. The Lord reads the heart and whichever of us is right or wrong He knows we both are doing it to please Him.
Old 03-15-2008, 10:37 PM
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I'm sorry people, I tend to get very intensely involved in issues like this that I think are important, but if nobody else is interested or willing to consider my point of view it's best to drop it.

To me to present a thought-out argument isn't "instructing," it's presenting it for others to think through. You'll either agree with it or not, but it would take time and thought to get into the issue. I didn't just toss off my study overnight. It took work.

Most of your post is preaching to the choir, George, that is, I agree with you, about Catholicism and your other generalizations, but I believe it's best not to discuss any of this any further.

I didn't mean to present my links as "authorities" by the way. I never heard of most of them before. I simply found their sermons or discussions and followed their line of argument myself and ended up thinking they were getting at the true meaning of the passage. It's not an easy passage to understand in our day unfortunately, it does take some time to get into it.

Let's be in the peace of Christ and consider this subject ended.

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