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If Paul appeals to the Creation Order, why didn’t Eve wear a Head Covering?

Why didn’t Eve wear a Head Covering?
The Objection: You say that Paul appeals to the creation order in 1 Corinthians 11 and I agree that it appears that way. The thing is, if that is the case, where was Eve’s head covering? Genesis 2 says she was naked, and not ashamed. And you can’t turn around and say that it only began after the Fall, because then it wouldn’t be a Creation mandate. How would you respond to such an argument?

In 1 Corinthians 11, the Apostle Paul grounds his argument for head covering in the pre-fall creation order. This is one of the strongest arguments for why veiling is not a cultural practice but rather is something that is to be upheld by all Christians. In making a distinction between the principle (biblical manhood and womanhood) and the symbol (head covering), some hold that only the principle needs modern affirmation. The symbol is seen as a cultural practice that pointed to proper gender roles in the first century, but that has no meaning today. Many complementarian theologians arrive at this conclusion because of a wrong expectation of continuity in practice. Meaning if the veil was truly grounded in the creation order, then not only would Eve have worn it before the fall, but also every godly woman throughout biblical history.

Head covering is not a practice that was required under the Old Covenant (though many women did cover throughout this time). It is only a requirement for those under the New Covenant (like us). So let’s first state up front that I agree that head covering was not supposed to be practiced in continuity from Eve onward. But that does not deal a death blow to the creation order argument. My position is that God has taken something common (a covering) and has infused it with creation order meaning. So he has set up a brand new symbol which he designed and gave meaning to, and then had His apostles deliver it to the churches for them to practice. This is not an anomaly as God has always been about creating symbols to visually teach different truths. Many of these symbols (like head covering) were only to be practiced under one covenant. For example, the sacrifices and the feasts (Col 2:16-17) were only to be practiced under the Old Covenant whereas Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are only for the new covenant.

Now complementarians take it seriously when the creation order is appealed to. They reject the idea that gender specific roles (like male only eldership) are cultural because Paul appeals to the creation order as his reason for the rule.  To get around the inconsistent application of holding to male eldership only, while disregarding head covering, some theologians such as Dr. Benjamin Merkle have argued that they are not similar appeals. You can read my response to his specific arguments here but for now I just want you to see these passages side-by-side.

But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. (1 Tim 2:13-14 NASB)

For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head… (1 Cor 11:7-10a NASB)

I’d like to show you why I see these two passages as delivering a similar appeal and why we must be consistent in applying them (affirming both for today). So in 1 Timothy 2:13, Paul appeals to the creation order as an argument for why women cannot teach or exercise authority in the assembly. But notice how he’s not speaking of continuity here either. He’s speaking of an office (elder) and function (preaching the word) that did not exist in Genesis. Yet he still appeals to it. What he’s doing is saying that women preaching or teaching would be in violation of the principles laid out in the creation order. He’s not appealing to Genesis to show an unbroken chain of women not being elders (for the office was new) but rather, it’s the creation principles finding expression in this new office.

I think it’s the very same with head covering. Head covering is a brand new symbol, which was not commanded in Genesis. It teaches men and angels biblical manhood and womanhood and therefore if disregarded, would visually teach a distortion of the creation order. So it’s not that Paul is saying that there’s an unbroken chain of veiling from Genesis to today, rather it is that this symbol is the carrier of those beautiful truths taught to us in Genesis. The New Testament practice of head covering is based on Creation principles, not Creation practices just like Paul’s gender requirements for church leadership.

Though there certainly are cultural practices in the Bible, we cannot say something is cultural just because it’s uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Since the Apostle Paul himself explains his reasoning for this practice and his reasons are not based on culture, we must see it as a Christian symbol that should be embraced by believers today.


For more about how head covering relates to Creation, see Chapter 3 in Head Covering: A Forgotten Christian Practice for Modern Times.

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.
  • Cody Goldsbury

    I looked over your article about creation order; but it’s comments are closed so I can’t ask anything there. Since I’ve begun looking into this subject, I’ve always gotten lost at this point. To me, it’s like insider short-hand which an outsider wouldn’t be aware of. So bear with me here – but I’m not sure some of the ideas you’re defending are substantiated by the Bible. Basically, “Creation Order” means that every difference in the story of Adam and Eve amount to Adam being given authority over Eve; as a husband has authority over his wife, but also in terms of gender; males having authority over females – particularly in the context of church leadership. So you would say: “Adam was made first, therefore he has authority.” But there’s no verse in the Bible that says “whoever was made first has authority.” And you would say: “Adam was made from the ground, Eve was made from the Adam, so Adam has authority.” But there’s no verse that says that Adam has authority over Eve because she was made from him. Isn’t it presumptuous to base a whole theology on this idea? Perhaps I’ve read up on it in all the wrong places and learned it wrong.

    • Hi Cody, thanks for the question. The New Testament interprets the old infallibility, so it’s important to see what God says about Genesis 2 in the NT. Let’s look to His commentary based on one of your questions.

      You said: “So you would say: ‘Adam was made first, therefore he has authority.”‘ But there’s no verse in the Bible that says “whoever was made first has authority.”

      That comes from 1 Timothy 2 where Paul quotes the order of creation between Adam and Eve as a reason why woman cannot teach or exercise authority. He says, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve”. So the actual order as interpreted in the NT is a headship indicator. We gain more indications from 1 Cor 11 as well. Also in Genesis 2:18 it says Eve was created as a “helper suitable for [man]”. This shows her created function. She was to help, not rule.

      • Cody Goldsbury

        And the other? How else can we be absolutely sure and it’s not our sin nature that’s doing some wishful interpretation of something we might have wanted it to say? (Namely, that one kind of person gets special treatment over others and that one kind of person is always us.)

        • Hi Cody, Complementarianism doesn’t teach that one person is better or gets special treatment. Authority just means responsibility over someone. There’s authority within the Godhead (1 Cor 11:3) and we know that one of the persons of God is not more special than the other. From Genesis I point to the order of creation (Adam being made first), the fact that Adam bore the responsibility of the fall (1 Cor 15:22, Rom 5:12) and the fact that Adam named Eve as all indications of headship. But if you’re looking for absolutely clarity, look to the New Testament which makes male headship clear. See 1 Cor 11:3, Eph 5:23, Col 3:18

          • Amy Unruh

            There’s also the scripture of Genesis 3:16, though it had to do with sin and not creation order, but that throws a chink in the armor. Had it already been Adam’s role to have headship over Eve, why then would God make it a result of sin? Also, I’m a bit confused. Why make a new order in the new covenant that was not in the old if headship was from creation? It seems like, since women in that culture already veiled themselves, that there was already a mandate that’s simply not overt in scripture, since there are a couple of headcovering scriptures in the OT. I’m not defending headcovering here. Personally, in studying it and studying male and female leadership, there are incredibly smart people supporting both sides very intelligently. Just when I think I’m convinced on one side, I see the other side of the argument and doubt the argument that had just convinced me. I now see why God holds teachers to a very high standard. I personally think that Paul saying he didn’t allow women to teach was cultural, given the arguments for several female leaders/ teachers in the Bible (Deborah, Priscilla , some argue, was spiritually the head of the household given that her name is mentioned before Aquila, one person that was thought to be a make but whose name, historically, was female and was called an apostle….
            Anyway, this argument doesn’t convince me. It’s not logical to suddenly have a headcovering order in the new covenant that appeals to creation order. For what reason would it be mandated in a new covenant but not the old with this argument?

          • Hi Amy, here’s a paragraph on Gen 3:16 from ch 3 of the Head Covering book:

            “Some argue that submission and authority is a curse from the Fall, based on Genesis 3:16, which says, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” This verse isn’t introducing post-Fall roles but rather explaining how the Fall is going to negatively affect our roles. Women would now struggle with a desire for their husband’s position of authority, and husbands would be tempted to tyrannically rule over their wives. The curse is a distortion of God’s order, one we must war against.”

            Also I wouldn’t say there’s a “new order” in the new covenant. Headship transcendants all covenants. There’s only a “new symbol” in the new covenant. Headship can be in place without headcovering as demonstrated by Eve who was a helper in a pre-fall world, and naked (so no garment on her head either).

            Since you have quite a few questions regarding Complementarianism, check out this free resource. It’s a booklet by Piper and Grudem answering 50 questions on the topic: http://www.hocc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Piper-50_crucial_Questions.pdf

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