In 1 Corinthians 11, the Apostle Paul commands the practice of head covering when praying and prophesying. One of the most common objections to this being practiced today is the belief that Paul only commanded it for that specific culture. Whenever someone says this, the first thing I want to ask them is, “which culture?” Corinth was multi-cultural city. So which culture was Paul telling the Corinthian believers to adapt to? In this series of posts we will examine the three different cultures that are relevant, which are Greek, Roman, and Jewish cultures. Today we will answer the question, did Paul command head covering so that believers would not offend Jewish culture?
The Jerusalem Council
Around A.D. 48-49, the apostles and elders met together in Jerusalem to debate what was required of gentile believers who were coming to God. Some of the Pharisees said that Gentiles had to “be circumcised and to keep the Law of Moses” (Acts 15:5). This belief was what led to the council being called. After discussing and debating the issue, they came to a conclusion. They articulated this by letter which was delivered to the churches. Here’s what it said:
For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you [gentiles] no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. (Acts 15:28-29 ESV)
The Gentiles were instructed to abstain from four different things so that they would not offend Jewish custom. There was nothing further to be required of them so that there may be “no greater burden”. They didn’t need to be circumcised, they didn’t need to observe feasts and festivals, they didn’t need to do specific washings, and they didn’t need to cover/uncover their heads. No other Jewish practices would be required of Gentile believers. This is significant as the church in Corinth was comprised primarily of gentiles (1 Cor 12:2). So, if Paul were to command the Gentile Corinthians to practice headcovering in order to avoid offending the Jews, that would be contradictory to edict passed down from the Jerusalem council. Read more
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