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Which Bible Commentaries Teach Head Covering?

Which commentaries teach head covering is for today

Last Updated: Jan 19/15 (added Reformation Heritage Bible)

What follows is a list of all the commentaries that teach that head covering is for today. We will update this list as we discover new ones and verify them.

If you know of a commentary or study bible that is not mentioned, please let us know by leaving a comment below or e-mailing us so we can look into it.


The Wycliffe Bible Commentary

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary
Commentator: S. Lewis Johnson
Editor(s): Charles F. Pfeiffer & Everett F. Harrison
(Moody Press, 1962)
Purchase: Book

“In the final analysis, the hat, or veil, is not the important thing, but the subordination for which it stands. The prescence of both is the ideal.” (Pg 1248 – 1987 Version)


Believer’s Bible Commentary

Believer’s Bible Commentary
Commentator: William MacDonald
Editor(s): Charles F. Pfeiffer & Everett F. Harrison
(Thomas Nelson, 1989)
Purchase: BookLogos

“In verses 7-10, Paul teaches the subordination of the woman to the man by going back to creation. This should forever lay to rest any idea that his teaching about women’s covering was what was culturally suitable in his day but not applicable to us today.” (Pg 1785 – 1995 Version)


Commentaries on Romans and 1-2 Corinthians (Ancient Christian Texts)

Commentaries on Romans and 1-2 Corinthians (Ancient Christian Texts)
Commentator: Ambrosiaster
Translator(s): Gerald L. Bray
Editor(s): Thomas C. Oden & Gerald L. Bray
(IVP Academic, 2009)
Purchase: Book

“Paul says that the honor and dignity of a man makes it wrong for him to cover his head, because the image of God should not be hidden. Indeed, it ought not to be hidden, for the glory of God is seen in the man.” (Pg 172 – 2009 Version)


The Church's Bible (1 Corinthians)

The Church’s Bible (1 Corinthians)
Commentator(s): Ambrosiaster, Augustine, John Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret, Severian of Gabala & a dialogue of a Montanist with an Orthodox Christian
Editor(s): Judith L. Kovacs
(Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005)
Purchase: Book / Logos

“…the business of whether to cover one’s head was legislated by nature (see 1 Cor 11:14-15). When I say “nature,” I mean “God.” For he is the one who created nature. Take note, therefore, what great harm comes from overturning these boundaries! And don’t tell me that this is a small sin.” (pg 180 – 2005 version – Quoting John Chrysostom)


The Ryrie Study Bible

The Ryrie Study Bible
Various Bible Versions
Various Publishers
Purchase: Book

“Women should be veiled or covered in the meeting of the church, and the men should not. Paul’s reasons were based on theology (headship v.3), the order of creation (v.7-9), and the presence of angels in the meeting (v.10). None of these reasons was based on contemporary social custom.” (page 303 – 1976 NASV by Moody Publishers)


The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Black’s New Testament Commentaries)

The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Black’s New Testament Commentaries)
Commentator: C.K. Barrett
General Editor: Henry Chadwick, D.D
(A&C Black Publishers, 1971)
Purchase: Book / Logos

“This makes it the more necessary to ask the question whether Paul is here simply dependant on custom, so that ‘in communities where it is no longer a disgrace for a woman to be “shorn”, the argument has lost its point” (Hooker, N.T.S. x410—see below, p. 253). This is probably not so; Paul thinks that nature (see verse 14) expects a woman to be covered, so that for her to be uncovered is not only an offense against custom but also an unnatural act.” (pg 251 – 2nd Edition, 1971 Version)


Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians

Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians
Commentator: Frédéric Louis Godet (1812-1900)
(Originally published by T&T Clark, 1886)
Various Publishers offer an English reprint
Purchase: Book / Logos

“Was this conviction solely a matter of time and place, so that it is possible to suppose, that if he lived now, and in the West, the apostle would express himself differently? This supposition is not admissible; for the reasons which he alleges are taken, not from contemporary usages, but from permanent facts, which will last as long as the present earthly economy.” (pg 133 – Vol II – Zondervan, 1957)


The Numerical Bible (Volume 6)

The Numerical Bible (Volume 6)
Commentator: F.W. Grant (1834-1902)
(Loizeaux Brothers, 1902)
Purchase: Logos Read: Online

“There are some practical consequences in the exhibition of this order of things upon the earth. If a man pray or prophesy having his head covered, he dishonors his head; in itself a very small thing surely,–in that which it signifies not small at all. Everything depends upon the truth which is in it…All this has reference, of course, to present display. It is not a question of what is final, what is heavenly, what is eternal. It is God’s order as He has instituted it, and which we are bound to respect. There is meaning in it also, and we shall suffer if we refuse it…” (pg 501)


The First Epistle to the Corinthians

The First Epistle to the Corinthians
Commentator: H. L. Goudge
Editor: Walter Lock
(Methuen & Co, 1903)
Purchase: Logos

“…the Jewish and Gentile members of the Corinthian church would have grown up with diverse customs, and in the interests of orderly worship, it was well for the Christian practice to be definitely settled. S. Paul’s decision, though not ignoring the dictates of natural propriety, is based upon Christian doctrine. The rule of faith here, as everywhere, gives the rule of worship.” (page 94)


F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

F. B. Hole’s Old and New Testament Commentary
Commentator: F.B. Hole
1947
Purchase: Book Read: Online

“Now if any believer, man or woman, has to do with God and His things, whether it be in praying (i.e., addressing oneself to Him), or in prophesying (i.e., speaking forth words from Him), there is to be the observance of these directions as to the uncovering or covering of the head, as a sign that God’s order is recognized and obeyed.”


A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians

A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians
Commentator: Thomas Charles Edwards
(Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1885)
Purchase: Logos

“…the reference in [1 Cor 11:2] to the ordinances or traditions suggests that the use of the veil by the women and by them alone was a peculiarly Christian arrangement, imposed on the Churches partly to distinguish Christian worship from that of Jew or Greek, partly to symbolize the mystical doctrine of the headship of Christ.” (page 270 – from the 1979 reprint by Klock & Klock)


The Expositors Greek Testament

The Expositors Greek Testament
Commentator: G.G. Findlay
Editor: William Robertson Nicoll
(Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1956)
Purchase: Logos Read: Online

“Paul’s directions do not agree precisely with current practice. Jewish men covered their heads at prayers with the Tallith…Amongst the Greeks, both sexes worshipped with uncovered head…while Roman men and women alike covered their heads during religious rites. The usage here prescribed seems to be an adaptation of Greek custom to Christian conceptions. With us the difference of sex is more strongly marked in the general attire than with the ancients; but the draped head has still its appropriateness, and the distinction laid down in this passage has been universally observed.” (page 873)


Practical Reflections on Every Verse of the New Testament

Practical Reflections on Every Verse of the New Testament
Commentator: Anonymous Clergyman
(London : Rivingtons, 1883)
Read: Online

“Let us have no other faith or worship but such as was set up at the first, and has prevailed throughout the Church. We should believe and worship like the saints of old, that is enough for us. Stand on the old ways and you will be safe. This applies not only to small things, like women covering their heads, but to all matters which are in dispute amongst Christians.” (page 319)



Reformation-Heritage

The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible
General Editor: Joel Beeke
NT Editor: Gerald Bilkes
(Reformation Heritage Books, 2014)
Purchase: Hardcover / Kindle / Logos (Pre-pub)

“When You come to the house of God for corporate worship, how you conduct yourself matters. Paul argues for proper decorum in public worship according to His created order.” (page 1661)

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.

Latest posts by Jeremy Gardiner (see all)

  • Vaughn Ohlman

    Do you not want to add Calvin? And John Gill?

    • Gill didn’t believe head coverings were for today. Calvin is contested and used by both sides as evidence that he did/didn’t believe in covering. For Calvin we can’t just use his commentary but have to harmonize it with everything else he wrote on the topic. I hope to do that in the future but it will require some time.

      • Vaughn Ohlman

        Interesting. You will have to show me where you get that from the two. I use them extensively in my work on headcoverings and find them quite helpful.

        • For Gill, he comments on v5 “to be without a veil, or some sort of covering on her head, according to the custom of the country, is the same thing as if her head was shaved” and again on v6 “That is, if her head is not covered with some sort of covering, as is the custom of the place where she lives,”. The rest of the commentary speaks from how the Apostle would speak to his contemporaries and I didn’t see anything in there showing that he believes it would need to be done today especially since he gave weight to what the customs of the country where she lives practices.

          For Calvin here’s him being used as an advocate:
          http://baylyblog.com/blog/2010/01/helpful-pastoral-discussion-headcoverings?icn=rel-posts

          and here’s him used as a detractor:
          http://www.reformedpresbytery.org/books/headcovr/headcovr.htm (see 2A)

          • Vaughn Ohlman

            Well, this is Gills conclusion:

            1 Corinthians 11:16

            But if any man seem to be contentious,…. That is, if anyone will not be satisfied with reasons given, for men’s praying and prophesying with their heads uncovered, and women’s praying and prophesying with their heads covered; but will go on to raise objections, and continue carping and cavilling, showing that they contend not for truth, but victory, can they but obtain it any way; for my part, as if the apostle should say, I shall not think it worth my while to continue the dispute any longer; enough has been said to satisfy any wise and good man, anyone that is serious, thoughtful, and modest; and shall only add,

            we have no such custom, nor the churches of God; meaning, either that men should appear covered, and women uncovered in public service, and which should have some weight with all those that have any regard to churches and their examples; or that men should be indulged in a captious and contentious spirit; a man that is always contending for contention sake, and is continually cavilling and carping at everything that is said and done in churches, and is always quarrelling with one person or another, or on account of one thing or another, and is constantly giving uneasiness, is not fit to be a church member; nor ought he to be suffered to continue in the communion of the church, to the disturbance of the peace of it. This puts me in mind of a passage in the Talmud (n).

            “The Rabbans teach, that after the departure of R. Meir, R. Judah said to his disciples, do not let the disciples of R. Meir enter here, מפני שקנתרנין הן, “because they are contentious”.”

            (n) T. Bab. Nazir, fol. 49. 2. & Kiddushin, fol. 52. 2.

          • The issue I have is he’s not stating his conclusion, he’s stating Paul’s conclusion. It’s an exegesis of 1 Cor 11:16 (bringing out what Paul meant to his hearers), not stating what he believes about the topic himself. When I look through commentaries what I’m looking for is where they depart from trying to say what Paul specifically said/meant and they speak their own thoughts or how it applies in their own day. I don’t see that in the provided quote.

          • Vaughn Ohlman

            Well hopefully you won’t mind if I continue using Calvin and Gill to support the use of headcoverings.
            As far as I can see they both refute the various false doctrines concerning the issue: hair etc. and both ground the issues in creation.
            I noticed that the Calvin ‘detractors’ above quote very little Calvin and do a lot of reading between the lines, whereas the ‘approver’ quoted a ton of Calvin, from many diff passages.

          • Vaughn Ohlman

            And it is interesting that, when they call him as a detractor, they not only don’t quote him on I Cor 11, but they insist on reading between his lines with ‘If Calvin thought… then why did he…?”
            They would have done better to have looked to what he actually said (except that would go against their case):

            It is asked, whether he speaks of married women exclusively, for there are some that restrict to them what Paul here teaches, on the ground that it does not belong to virgins to be under the authority of a husband. It is however a mistake, for Paul looks beyond this — to God’s eternal law, which has made the female sex subject to the authority of men. On this account all women are born, that they may acknowledge themselves inferior in consequence of the superiority of the male sex. Otherwise it were an inconclusive argument that Paul has drawn from nature, in saying that it were not one whit more seemly for a woman to have her head uncovered than to be shaven — this being applicable to virgins also.

          • Colin Saxton

            Hi Vaughn, Another reason I wouldn’t use the teaching of Calvin is that he had no problem with people being put to death who went against the teachings of the day. (Like Paul the apostle before he was born again)

  • Joel Nisly

    This isn’t a complete commentary, but Bible-researcher.com has an in-depth commentary on 1 Corinthians 11 by Michael D Marlowe, in addition to other Bible study materials. I found one refererence to Marlowe on this site, but it was spelled “Marlow” http://www.bible-researcher.com/headcovering.html

    • Michael’s writings are extremely helpful. When I was initially researching head covering many years ago it was his works that helped the most. I hope many people continue to read his works so thanks for linking to them.

      However, for this post, we’ve decided to only list commentaries that are full-volume (meaning they exegete the whole book).

  • Kathy B Mast

    Adam Clarke’s Commentary supports the head covering.

    • Thanks Cathy for the recommendation. I didn’t think Clarke supported it so I wanted to have time to re-check it over. After another review, I can confirm that he holds to the cultural view. You’ll notice he puts his statements in the past tense showing that he believed what the Apostle said to be true for them. Examples: “the head being covered WAS a sign of subjection” (v4) “so in THOSE ancient times, a woman appearing without a veil would be considered in the same light.” (v5).

      Also in his commentary on verse 5 he believes that Christian practice was to be in-line with Jewish/Greek/Roman practice. Sometimes it’s tricky with commentaries because they could be just providing exegesis, saying what they think the Apostle meant to his contemporaries (not necessarily how they think it applies in modern days.)

  • Joel

    Rather than simply posting those commentaries that support your position, wouldn’t it be helpful to post a list of those who support and those don’t. By simply listing those who agree with you you do not address the topic but merely reinforce a set of presuppositions. If it is true that head coverings are for today then let the evidence do the talking, not list formed through a preconceived understanding of 1 Cor. 11.

    • Colin Saxton

      Hi Joel, for something as in-depth as the book of revelation I would completely agree with you but for head covering I would keep to those who support it because it is such a simple command of faith that even children cannot get this wrong. Its a bit like what happened with baptism. It is so obvious from scripture that we are to be baptized and that baptism is immersion – but today we have so many arguments against it you would think that Christ had never taught it – though He emphatically did and commanded the apostles to do the same.

      But, something which I have taken on board from Jeremy recently, is that it must be taught with gentleness and meekness.

      May God bless you Joel

      • Sara June Thompson

        Yes, even children cannot get it wrong. I have been discussing this with my 12 year old son. I was with him and his 17 year old sister in a park a few weeks ago. As we bowed our heads to pray for the food at the picnic table he took his cap off and put it on his sister’s head. After I prayed the grace, he turned to her and said “Don’t you know you’re supposed to wear a hat when you pray because you’re a girl?”. Sometimes the kids just get it right.

      • Joel

        Colin, you imply that the teaching that head coverings are for today, and in American culture, is obvious. Because it is obvious, you then suggest that we don’t need to hear those who disagree. But the reality is that a vast majority of people (and scholars) DO disagree that it is for today, and that was my point. It is not obvious. Only listing those that you agree with is NOT listening to the Bible, it is reinforcing your presupposition as to what you want the Bible to say. Even if you come to the same conclusion at the end as at the beginning, you must learn to listen to those that you disagree with. You just might be wrong! Personally, I recently finished reading a number of articles on this site, and others. I also read a number of commentaries on 1 Cor. 11. I came to the conclusion that head coverings are cultural, and thus not for day. It certainly is not obvious to me. (I have a Bible degree, am a seminary student and a pastor who is formally trained in exegesis.)

        • Joel,

          This particular post was not the right place for me to list all those who hold contrary views. This post isn’t a “two-sides/debate” post but is a resource for those looking for something specific. However, we did encourage (and link to) the study of contrary views for the purpose of understanding here: http://www.headcoveringmovement.com/articles/the-understanding-test

        • edmund316

          This is a while ago, but bears an answer. It is precisely because there are so many commentaries and speakers out there that have done exactly what the Pharisees did–their fancy “Corban” that they used to excuse themselves from a plain command of the Almighty (Mk 7:1-13)–that it is encouraging to have a partial list of those who do believe the blessed Word of God at 1 Corinthians 11:1-17 simply means what it says. A list of everybody, pro and con, would be hundreds, if not thousands, long, and burdensome.

          No, it is fitting to have a list of voices of encouragement, amidst a veritable sea of opposition. I hazard the guess, that everyone who visits this site has heard, time without number the opinion (note, OPINION) that it was just about local customs, the ancient near east, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum. Never mind that the “reasons” given for the headcovering have to do with the headship order of God–Christ–male–female, the order and purpose of the creation of male and female, of glory, ministry, angels, authority, the practice of all the churches–and more! Amazing! God can give us ten or so reasons for doing something, and we think that we can just dismiss it with opinions of why He’s wrong! Oh, I know that no commentator would ever say that. But that is the net effect. Yes, just like the Pharisees and their Corban, we do a fancy theological dance, and at the end of the day, teach people to disobey the Almighty. I would not want to be in the shoes of anyone who did so, standing before the blazing eyes of the Son of Man on that day, giving an account for why he taught the people to disobey something that God had meticulously explained, with more reasons given than for any other single aspect of his holy doctrine!

          Indeed, it is fitting that, for those sheep who have seen through the Pharisaic dissimulation on this issue, to find others who have done the same. Such am I. I knew from the moment I read 1 Corinthians, what it meant. I dwelt in churches which followed the herd. Put up with churches built upon (if you catch my drift) not telling hippies and surfers that God has something to say about length of hair, covering your head, and modesty, for those who claim to follow his Son.

          I remember the day I met the first group of believers whose women were covered. What!? I’m not alone? I’m not a freak?

          Besides, the commentators, at the end of the day, mean nothing. What saith the Scripture? “Every woman praying or prophesying, having her head uncovered, dishonoreth her head.” The New Revised Standard Version, which often gets a bad rap, did well on translating many phrases of this passage:

          “Any man who prays or prophesies with something on his head disgraces his head, 5 but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head– it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. 7 For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man. 8 Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man. 10 For this reason a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. 12 For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if anyone is disposed to be contentious– we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.” (1Co 11:4-16 NRS)

          Like probably everyone who has come to this page, I have heard the endless speculations on the culture of the day. And not seen one good piece of evidence. This article is the best I have seen on the subject, and his conclusion is that the society of the day–Greek, Roman, and Jewish–was a complete hodge-podge in regards to what women wore on their heads and when.

          http://www.bible-researcher.com/headcoverings3.html

          But even it it could be proved that the Corinthians had a certain custom, the Word of God does not refer to anything local: all the issues have to do with matters far beyond the ups-and-downs of the fleeting cultures of this world.

          So: let us not be as the Pharisees, so that we do not hear “In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men… For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men… Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” (Mark 7:7-9 KJV) Let us put our full confidence in the blood of Christ Jesus the King of glory–and, having been born again, let us walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we were called, giving honor and glory to the God of heaven, and to his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, by the men wearing their hair short and uncovering when they pray or prophesy, and the women wearing their hair long and also covering their heads when they pray or prophesy.

          Grace and peace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity!

  • Paul Barth

    Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, v. 16 “It was the common usage of the churches for women to appear in public assemblies, and join in public worship, veiled; and it was manifestly decent that they should do so. Those must be very contentious indeed who would quarrel with this, or lay it aside.”

    • Hi Paul, Matthew Henry is often quoted as a supporter of head covering but he believed in the cultural view. I don’t have it in front of me right now but reading his whole 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 commentary front-to-back reveals that. Sometimes quotes may seem to indicate he believes the same as we do, but that’s because he’s speaking as Paul would speak (bringing out the meaning of what Paul said) rather than giving his own take on the matter.

  • Paul Barth

    Jamieson Fausset Brown Commentary, volume 3, page 314, v. 5 “It is natural to her to have long hair for her covering: she ought, therefore, to add the other head-covering, to show that she does of her own will that which nature teaches she ought to do, in token of her subjection to man.”

    v. 8 “The woman was made by God mediately through man, who was, as it were, a veil between her and God, and therefore should wear the head-covering in public, in acknowledgement of this subordination. The man, being made mediately by God as His glory, has no veil between himself and God.”

    There are actually quite a few good quotes in their commentary on this passage, I can’t post them all.

  • Sean McDonald

    The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible, which was just released, supports the head covering in its notes on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. The study Bible’s general editor (Joel Beeke) and NT editor (Jerry Bilkes) are both strongly pro-head covering.

    http://www.heritagebooks.org/categories/bibles/reformation-heritage-kjv-study-bible.html

  • Today I added the “Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible” to this list. Thanks to @disqus_pr5yV7swZi:disqus for the heads up on this resource.

  • Judith Batchelor

    If I purchased one of these commentaries, which one would be the best and would be consistently scripture for other issues. I hope you know what I mean?

  • Micha

    Hey you missed Arno C. Gaebelein

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