Is a Woman’s Hair “Pinned Up” Her Covering?
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.
- 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?'
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.