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Is a Woman’s Hair “Pinned Up” Her Covering?

Head Covering Objections
The Objection: The Greek word “Akatakalyptos” is incorrectly translated as “uncovered” or “unveiled” in English translations of the Bible. A more accurate rendering would be “unloosed”. Paul is not commanding women to wear a head covering, but is telling them to pin/bundle their hair up instead of letting it hang down their backs.

This view was articulated by James B. Hurley (Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy, RTS Jackson) who said:

…the custom in view was not the wearing of the shawl but rather the wearing of that hair style which marked a woman in proper relation to her husband or father. It was the custom of women to wear their hair pinned up in a “bun” rather than hanging loose. 1) Did Paul Require Veils or the Silence of Women? A Consideration of 1 Cor 11:2-16 and 1 Cor 14:33b-36 (Volume: WTJ 35:2 – Winter 1973)

How is this view supported? Dr. Hurley says the most “fruitful text” to study is how the Septuagint translates Leviticus 13:45. The Septuagint (also known by the abbreviation, LXX) is a Koine Greek 2) The language the New Testament was written in. translation of the Old Testament. It was the Bible used by Greek speakers in the time of Jesus and the Apostles. So let’s first take a look at this passage Dr. Hurley mentioned with a special focus on the Hebrew 3) The language the Old Testament was written in. word behind hair “hanging loose”.

“The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose [pâra‛], and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ (Lev 13:45 ESV)

The LXX takes the Hebrew word [pâra‛] (rendered “hair hanging loose” in the ESV) and translates that as “Akatakalyptos” in Greek. If you recall, that is the same word that is translated as “uncovered” in 1 Corinthians 11. Therefore this is how they would understand Paul’s command.

But every woman who has her [hair hanging loose] while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. (1 Cor 11:5)

There are a few points that lead me to disagree with that interpretation.

  1. Ancient Greek usage: Thomas Schreiner has done the church a great service by compiling non-Biblical usage of the word “Akatakalyptos” around Paul’s time. He quotes Philo (30BC-45AD) & Polybius (2nd Century BC) showing that they used that word to refer to being uncovered or having a head covering removed. 4) Thomas R. Schreiner ‘Head Coverings, Prophecies and the Trinity' This understanding is reflected in Greek lexicons, (Thayers, BAGD, 5) Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker LSJ 6) Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon ) which unanimously offer “uncovered/unveiled” as the only definition. Greek Scholar Daniel Wallace says “This definition is based on the available Hellenistic and classical evidence. Thus, Hurley’s argument lacks sufficient basis.” 7) Daniel Wallace – ‘What is the Head Covering in 1 Cor 11:2-16 and Does it Apply to Us Today?'
  2. English Translations: While the ESV (and a few others) translate Lev 13:45 to convey hair that is let loose/unkempt, it is not unanimously rendered this way. Other respected translations such as the NASB translate it, “the hair of his head shall be uncovered” and the KJV/NKJV “his head bare”. They give the sense that there’s nothing on top of the lepers head (he’s uncovered).
  3. Men’s hair: Paul not only argues for women being “covered” but he tells the men to do the opposite. If the premise were granted that Akatakalyptos should be understood as hair unloosed then Paul wants men to have their hair let loose rather than being “put up”. This interpretation seems less plausible when applied to men since they would have short hair (1 Cor 11:14).
  4. Unanimous Church History Support: All early church fathers understood that 1 Corinthians 11 was speaking of a veil, rather than bundled hair. Men such as Tertullian, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, John Chrysostom & Augustine all articulated this in their writings.

For these reasons, I believe that “Akatakalyptos” is faithfully translated as “uncovered” and is referring to having nothing on your head.

References

1.
 Did Paul Require Veils or the Silence of Women? A Consideration of 1 Cor 11:2-16 and 1 Cor 14:33b-36 (Volume: WTJ 35:2 – Winter 1973)
2.
 The language the New Testament was written in.
3.
 The language the Old Testament was written in.
4.
 Thomas R. Schreiner ‘Head Coverings, Prophecies and the Trinity'
5.
 Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker
6.
 Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon
7.
 Daniel Wallace – ‘What is the Head Covering in 1 Cor 11:2-16 and Does it Apply to Us Today?'

Jeremy Gardiner

Jeremy is the founder of the Head Covering Movement and the author of Head Covering: A Forgotten Christian Practice for Modern Times. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and is a member of Fellowship Baptist Church. He is a husband to Amanda and father to four young children. Jeremy is also the founder and operator of Gospel eBooks, a popular website that provides alerts for free and discounted Christian e-books.

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  • Normal Education

    Thank you – it’s great to know where that objection comes from! The alternative translation certainly doesn’t make much sense of verse 5 – how could having your hair hanging down loose, as opposed to tied up, be ‘one and the same’ as having your head shaved??

    I’m so enjoying this great blog… will pray for those who are working on it as you will probably experience some personal and even spiritual attacks. God bless you!

    Tani Newton

    • Thank you for your prayers, they are needed as it is a yes to both (personal and spiritual).

  • Cari

    Thank you so very much for this blog! I love it!

  • Alisha Jackson

    Great article.I do not believe in using the Septuagint so I wouldn’t take any thing from it.A great article on the Septuagint being incorrect is http://www.chick.com/ask/articles/septuagint.asp.
    Thanks for your article it helps me know why people are against it:)

    • Actually the Apostles, particularly the Apostle Paul, reference the Seputagint translation of the Tanak in their writings far more often than the Hebrew Tanak and in many areas, it’s more reflective and accurate than the Masoretic text.

  • clarinetlaj

    i liked this article! to the point and well written.

  • Sara June Thompson

    I visited a conservative church this past Sunday where all the women and girls had their hair up in buns. The very little girls had pony tails with fabric scrunchies, bows, fabric headbands etc. Yet only one other woman was wearing a hat (her hair was in a bun under it). I think this church probably believes these elaborate buns are their covering on their heads. The denomination was Apostolic. Does anyone know if that is their point of view, or if any Apostolic churches practice fabric head coverings?

    • Sojourner

      We practice fabric head coverings for ladies.

  • There is a Messianic scholar who strongly believes that the issue of uncovering/covering is an issue of bound v. loose hair.

    http://tnnonline.net/faq/H/Headcovering_Garments.pdf

  • Cynthia Schletzbaum Gee

    When is a covering not a covering? When it’s wadded or rolled up in a ball instead of allowed to hang down and cover its intended target.

    If I were to wear my long skirts twisted up into a ball and pinned at my waist, I would likely be arrested for indecent exposure, and to say, “But Your Honor, I WAS covered – I was wearing a nice long skirt!” probably wouldn’t cut much ice with the judge.

    The Bible says that hair is given to women as a covering – the word is peribolaion, which translates to mantle, or garment which covers the head, neck, and shoulders – but if we wear our “mantles” twisted up into little balls and pinned under a caps or doilies, what then do they cover? It’s all the same as if our hair were cut short to begin with.

    • Cynthia, I think you bring up a valid point. I do agree with what you’ve said. The only disagreement is that you’ve added some additional words to “peribolaion” that are not part of the definition. “Covering neck and shoulders” is not found in any of the Greek lexicons I’ve consulted. I just quickly referenced 5 of them to double check. Paul says throughout this passage that it’s the kephale (head) that is to be covered. Neck and shoulders are never mentioned. Peribolaion has a wider semantic range than a mantle. It’s used to refer to a robe in the Septuagint (LXX-Psalm 102:26) and a chariot cover in other Greek writings (Plutarch). So it’s anything that is “thrown/wrapped” around as opposed to a mantle specifically.

      • Amy Unruh

        Based on what I’ve been reading from early church history, though, the church fathers believed that the neck was part of the head and ended where the robe began.

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