Head covering

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Elisabeth, Mar 8, 2015.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Headcoverings being cultural doesn't necessarily do away with the obligation of the practice. See this thread for some discussion of that view: http://www.puritanboard.com/f15/headcovering-women-prohibited-preaching-85306/ There are also a number of other old threads that have some discussion of this view.

    (For my own part, I'm still going back and forth between the worship ordinance view and the cultural-but-applicable view.)


    I've heard a number of opinions on this.

    (1) Some take "praying" to be ordinary prayer in a public assembly as we do today but prophesying to be extraordinary (as was mentioned earlier) and so there is still reason to cover; some will say that no permission is given for prophesying but rather that Paul was addressing one issue here, and waiting to deal with prophesying until chapter 14.

    (2) Some take both praying and prophesying to be ordinary ("prophesying" would be "singing of psalms").

    (3) Some take praying and prophesying as a synecdoche for the actions of worship; extraordinary actions having ceased, the ordinary actions are what the passage applies to; some here will thus be comfortable taking both to be extraordinary in their original context.

    (4) Some take the praying and prophesying to be implicitly forbidden by 11:3 with Paul's argument being that since it would be a shame for women to uncover their heads (which they would need to do in order to pray or prophesy) in the public assembly, they should not be praying or prophesying; the explicit prohibition then comes in chapter 14.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2015
  2. Miss Marple

    Miss Marple Puritan Board Junior

    I guess my question about the prophesying is leading me to think, if I am supposed to have a physical covering on my head, I'm supposed to be prophesying, too. Which I don't think I'm doing.

    It seems the two go together.

    Is this a true propostion: If we are to be physically covering our head, we should also be prophesying.

    If times of women prophesying in worship have passed away, so then has any physical covering of the head.
  3. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    John Murray addresses the question regarding praying/prophesying here. The basic gist is provided below:

  4. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    And people say the cultural view has to jump through hoops. This doesn't even let the plain reading of the text speak for itself. It is clear that women could in fact prophesy in the Corinthian church. To what extent does the word "prophesy" mean? I'm not sure, and neither is most since the text is not clear enough on the matter. However, I can also quote people like Dr. Kim Riddlebarger who states the following in his commentary:

  5. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    Mr. Cunningham,
    Prof. Murray has provided a reading of the text which harmonizes incredibly well with the Apostle's statement in the same letter, "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law" (1 Cor. 14:34). It seems to actually be the least contorted interpretation of the letter's teaching as a whole, In my humble opinion.
  6. BGF

    BGF Puritan Board Sophomore

    Here are my thoughts on the passage as a layman. I am interacting only with the ESV translation and not the Greek manuscript, since I am no Greek scholar. I will rely on the expertise of the translators and trust that they were faithful in rendering. Many of the following thoughts are surely not original to me, but I wouldn’t be able to say who or what the influences were (very likely could be other PBers!).

    2. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.

    I take this to mean that head coverings are part of the traditions that Paul delivered and that the Corinthians were faithfully adhering to it with some notable exceptions, therefore he offers what seems to be a mild rebuke for some who fail to adhere. Or perhaps he is explaining the rationale behind the practice that the Corinthians were faithfully following. What is interesting to me is that this section is prefaced by a commendation but the next section on the Lord’s Supper has a stern rebuke.

    3. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

    This passage begins to set up the authoritative structure that controls the rest of the argument. The word “head” here is important in the next two verses.

    4. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head,

    The word “head” in this instance is used in two different ways. The first refers to the physical head. The second refers to Christ as the authoritative head. The next verse has the same distinctions: physical head and authoritative head (this time the husband).

    5. but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.

    In both verses 4 and 5 the words “prays or prophesies” is interesting because, as Bryan pointed out above, 1 Cor. 14:34 seems to not allow for the women to engage in the very act that they are supposed perform only when covered. So “prays or prophesies” would make more sense in the larger context if understood to have an alternate meaning than the usual understanding. I will disagree with Dr. Murray (respectfully, of course) in that I think this phrase may refer to the general act of worship that the assembled believers are engaged in.

    6. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head.

    This is where I cannot see that covering = hair. The reading would then essentially mean this: For if a wife will not have hair on her head, then she should cut her hair short. This makes no sense. The more natural understanding would be that Paul is making a point by analogy. Just as it is disgraceful for a woman to shave her head, it is disgraceful for her to have it uncovered.

    7. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.

    I do not know why the disparity between man and woman in the practice of covering the head. I would be fascinated to know what others think of this verse.

    8. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.

    9. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

    These two verses ground Paul’s argument in something other than culture. In fact, it’s the only reason (other than the next verse) that is given for the command. There is not even a hint of cultural or pagan religion references.

    10. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

    This verse is fascinating. I’ve heard that “angels” here could refer to heavenly beings or to visiting emissaries from other churches. I don’t know why or how the heavenly angels would be affected by a woman’s uncovered head but if this is the meaning then I will take it even if I don’t understand it. What is does show is that it’s not cultural. Angelic beings, I would argue, do not operate within human cultural contexts. If “angels” refer to human agents, then I suppose one could argue that they may be offended if the women were disregarding an otherwise ubiquitous practice. If, however, the head covering was a distinctly Corinthian custom, as some might argue, then I don’t see how visitors would be offended.

    11. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman;

    12. for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.

    These verses almost seem to argue against everything that precedes. But, a consistent reading would say that Paul is not contradicting himself, but he is reminding his readers that regardless of the authority structures that God has put in place, the sexes are interdependent, and ultimately fully dependent on God. This would guard against mistreatment of the “weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7) by husbands.

    13. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered?

    14. Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him,

    15. but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

    This is interesting. Paul calls for the Corinthians to judge for themselves and then, by way of analogy again, leads them to come to the conclusion for which he just argued.

    16. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

    Again, a consistent, natural reading would say that it’s the contentiousness that is in view here, and not the practice of head covering. But I can’t say I am certain of this interpretation.

    This is how I understand the passage using only my Bible and no other sources, other than 20 years of being influenced by reading and interacting with others. As I’ve said before, we do not practice head covering in my family, nor is it practice in my church. But if this is a good and proper understanding of the text, then my only conclusion can be that head covering in worship is proper for the church in all ages. It seems I may have to have a conversation with my pastor to gain some guidance and wisdom. He is not a head covering advocate (as far as I know) but he is a discerning and godly man.
  7. Mihai

    Mihai Puritan Board Freshman

    I remember visiting a Reformed church in the Netherlands where some kind of head coverings were being passed in the church foyer for all women who did not have one, as it was a mandatory condition for a woman to be allowed to enter the church.

    Regarding 1 Cor 11, there is some interesting background information that is supported by archaeological evidences from the 1st century Mediterranean world:
    - Roman men were covering their head in pagan worship while Greek men were not covering their head in worship
    - Women were generally covering their head in both Roman and Greek pagan worship except for some lascivious cults like the one of Dionysus
    - Corinth was a Roman colony in Greek lands, meaning that the whole Corinthian society was a cultural Roman island within a sea of Greek culture. Corinth was a suburb of Rome who just happened to be in Greek land, but otherwise everything is Corinth was just like in Rome, including the rituals involved in worship

    Having in mind the above 3 archaeological facts, here is the most likely scenario that was taking place in Corinth
    - Roman Corinthian men were covering their head in worship as per Roman custom, and Greek men were outraged by their acting as Greek women
    - If women would be to stop covering their hair, they would look like the women of the cult of Dionysus, something looked down by many respectable Roman and Greek pagan women (let's say that the women of the cult of Dionysus were doing more than just uncovering their head)
    - Roman men are called to stop acting like Romans (i.e. covering their head in worship) because they are coming across as dressing like women to the Greeks who were not used to this, but women are called to keep wearing had coverings
    - We have extra biblical writings in which pagan Greeks are mocking pagan Roman Corinthians for covering their head, i.e. this issue was not only a Christian "problem" but a general problem caused by the fact that Corinth is a cultural island

    This background information helps us interpret the text in its historical context. I should also note that there is no connection between feminism and interpreting 1 Cor 11 as a cultural issue. That would be (i think) a post hoc propter hoc fallacy. Besides this, one can trace this interpretation to the ages of the church when feminism did not exist, yea, even in the age of High Reformed Orthodox (for example Francis Turretin follows a similar interpretation even though he did not have access to all the archaeological data we have now).

    HT: Dr. S.M. Baugh
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2015
  8. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior


    I think it is important to preface this section with the previous section. In the previous section, Paul starts out by saying "“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up." He continues on to eventually get to this point: " So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved."

    Then he further says this: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you."

    I think that it's important to understand the commendation and the word "traditions" in light of the context of being "imitators" of Paul. What is he commending them for, who "remember [him] in everything and maintain the traditions"? What are the traditions? I do not think it would be consistent to say the tradition handed down is wearing a piece of cloth on your head (or not wearing one) but rather being "imitators" of Paul by furthering the Gospel by trying to "please everyone in everything [we] do, not seeking [our] own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved."

    With this in mind, I think it is more applicable to say that wearing a head covering (or not wearing one) in worship is more of the idea of giving "no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God" I.E. cultural context (for the sake of unity).
  9. nick

    nick Puritan Board Freshman

    Reading and singing of Scripture.
  10. oeco

    oeco Puritan Board Freshman

    Absolutely agree that this section needs to be read in light of 1 Corinthians 10, but is there a sense in which the δέ at the start of 11:2 in the Greek is suggesting a break between the topics and, as such, separate in a way from that which has just been said?
  11. BGF

    BGF Puritan Board Sophomore

    I also agree that the greater context is important. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Interesting. I wish I knew Greek so I could readily pick up on those things. The body of the text also seems to indicate a shift. In the prior passage Paul does appeal to cultural and religious context in order to make his case for the unity of believers. In Chapter 11 he makes is appeal based on creation and universal authority structure. Does this have a bearing on the interpretation?
  12. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior


    Thank you for your response.

    I need clarification on what you mean by "Universal Authority Structure". Are you saying that the passage is indicating that all men have authority over all women without distinction?

    I think it's interesting that the ESV translators use "wife" instead of "woman" in verse 3. "But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God."

    Here is what they say about these passages:

    I think that "universal" is not the correct word, since I am not the head of your wife, nor are you the head of mine. This passage would be better understood in light of "wife" rather than "woman", in my opinion.
  13. BGF

    BGF Puritan Board Sophomore

    Yes, clarification is needed. By "universal" I mean that the authority structures are in place for all people at all times. God is always the head of Christ, Christ is always the head of man, the husband is always the head of the wife. I don't argue here for the universal heads hip of man over woman.
  14. nick

    nick Puritan Board Freshman

    You may find this series of sermons helpful as you continue to study this matter:

    Please see 26-28 in this list of "Reformation Distinctives" by Rev. Ruddell (also on PB).

    Side note: When my wife and I first started attending the church he pastors at, the head covering thing was a little jarring as I had never even heard of it before. We listened to these sermons and found them very informative.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page