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What Did John Bunyan Believe About Head Covering?

Head Covering: Church History Profiles

[Series introduction: This post is part of a series that will examine what certain leaders in church history believed about head covering. Their arguments, choice of language and conclusions should not be misconstrued as an endorsement from us. The purpose of this series is to faithfully show what they believe about covering rather than only selectively quoting the parts we agree with.]

John Bunyan (1628-1688) was an English, Baptist, Puritan author and preacher. He is the author of more than 60 books but most famously known for his classic novel, “The Pilgrim’s Progress“. Bunyan’s writings share the same clear and direct style as his immensely popular sermons, which were known to draw crowds of around 3,000 individuals on Sunday.
What Did John Bunyan Believe About Head Covering?

In 1683 Bunyan published a tract entitled “A Case of Conscience Resolved” dealing with women who segregated themselves and were gathering together privately for worship (with no men present). He was asked for his opinion on this practice and to respond to a Mr. Keach who permitted and defended these womens meetings. In his tract John Bunyan expresses disagreement with the practice and lays out a case for why worship must be men and women together, with men taking the lead.

Near the end of this tract John Bunyan refers to 1 Corinthians 11 several times and sheds light on his understanding of head covering. Read more

Is Head Covering “Majoring in the Minors”? Is it a Distraction?

Is Head Covering "Majoring in the Minors"? Is it a Distraction?
The Objection: Head Covering is “majoring in the minors”. It’s taking an obscure passage that’s only mentioned once in the Bible and forming an entire practice out of it. Rather than debating this issue we should be worried about more important things like feeding the poor and sharing the Gospel.

The head covering passage (1 Cor 11:2-16) is often classified under the “obscure” category in Scripture. One theologian said, “head covering here and the man of sin in II Thessalonians are two of the three most obscure passages in the New Testament“. But is that so? This section of Scripture is debatable and there are good objections to the practice that require much thought and study. But obscure? A truly obscure verse is not expanded upon, explained or defended. The meaning cannot be easily discerned because of its vagueness. Good examples of obscure verses are 1 Cor 15:29 (baptism for the dead), 1 Tim 2:15 (women saved through childbearing) and 1 Cor 11:10 (covering “because of the angels”). Now even though there’s an obscure verse in the head covering passage (1 Cor 11:10b), the section as a whole is not. Read more

Is Head Covering Cultural? What about the Corinthian Prostitutes?

What About the Corinthian Prostitutes?
The Objection: In Paul’s day, prostitutes wore their hair short and did not cover their heads. Because it was customary in that culture for women to wear a head covering, failure to do so would readily identify a woman as a prostitute. Since the situation was local, a head covering is not necessary today.

While looking at the culture of the time can often be helpful, it becomes dangerous when we start assigning reasons for a command that are different than what the author gives.

R.C. Sproul says, “If Paul merely told women in Corinth to cover their heads and gave no rationale for such instruction, we would be strongly inclined to supply it via our cultural knowledge. In this case, however, Paul provides a rationale which is based on an appeal to creation not to the custom of Corinthian harlots.” 1) R.C Sproul – Knowing Scripture, 1977, ch 5, pg 110. He goes on to say, “We must be careful not to let our zeal for knowledge of the culture obscure what is actually said.” 2) R.C Sproul – Knowing Scripture, 1977, ch 5, pg 110.

In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul appeals to the creation order, nature’s witness and angels, all which transcend culture. He tells us that head covering is a part of official apostolic teaching and is the practice of all churches, everywhere. So that means a local situation in Corinth cannot explain head covering since it was the standard practice outside of Corinth as well. Read more


 R.C Sproul – Knowing Scripture, 1977, ch 5, pg 110.
 R.C Sproul – Knowing Scripture, 1977, ch 5, pg 110.

Can we symbolize our roles using a different symbol?

Head Covering Objections
The Objection: Having your head covered today doesn’t have the same meaning it did in that time and culture. Using a different symbol would keep the spirit of the text and could more meaningfully symbolize our roles today.

This view would understand 1 Corinthians 11 essentially the same way we would, but proposes a different symbol than a head covering. In other words, they think only the principle is unchanging whereas the symbol itself can be modified. Joshua Harris, in his sermon on 1 Corinthians 11 proposed that we use wedding rings instead of a head covering. 1) ”Head Coverings” by Joshua Harris. Preached on Sept 2, 2007. Daniel Wallace listed some concerns with using wedding rings and proposed wearing modest clothing instead. 2) http://www.bible.org/article/what-head-covering-1-cor-112-16-and-does-it-apply-us-today Those are two of the most commonly suggested replacement symbols.

I’m concerned about the hermeneutic of separating the principle from the symbol and believe it can have dire consequences when taken to its logical conclusion. As you’ll see in a minute, this concern isn’t unfounded. A head covering is a visual picture of our gender roles and what scares me about the proposed hermeneutic is both baptism and the Lord’s supper are in that same category. They are symbols (visual pictures) that point to a greater reality. Read more


 ”Head Coverings” by Joshua Harris. Preached on Sept 2, 2007.

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

Is A Woman's Hair "Pinned up" Her Covering?
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”. Read more


 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)
 The language the New Testament was written in.
 The language the Old Testament was written in.

Is a Woman’s Long Hair Her Covering?

Is A Woman's Long Hair Her Covering?
The Objection: The Scriptures tell us that women must pray & prophesy covered. This should not be understood as an artificial covering on top of her hair since 1 Corinthians 11:15 states that a womans covering is her long hair. The fact that men should have short hair and women have long hair was Paul’s point.

While we affirm that a woman’s long hair is her natural covering, we see two different coverings being talked about in this chapter. One of them is a woman’s long hair which is natural, permanent  and a glory to her  (1 Cor 11:14-15). The other would be a fabric covering which is artificial, removable (1 Cor 11: 5) and a symbol of authority (1 Cor 11:10). Read more

Where are Head Coverings to be Practiced? In Church or Everywhere?

Where Is This To Be Practiced?

“…the head covering for women was understood to belong to the decorum of public worship.” -John Murray [1898-1975] (Professor, Westminster Theological Seminary) 1) Head Coverings and Decorum in Worship: A Letter’ by John Murray. Point #5

The Scriptures tell us that head coverings are required when praying or prophesying. However, an important question we should be asking ourselves is praying and prophesying where?

One side understands this command as pertaining to both public and private life. They would say since we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17) women should be covered almost all the time.

The second understanding is that head coverings are only commanded for when the local church gathers together in worship. This view gets its understanding from the context the passage is found in.

Let’s jump in by examining how the passage regarding head coverings is laid out. Read more


 Head Coverings and Decorum in Worship: A Letter’ by John Murray. Point #5

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