As the parents of five daughters (from 9 months through 12 years), my husband and I have had to consider whether or not we want them to wear a head covering to church — and if so, at what age they should start. I think this question is very common in families where the mother has started to cover. In this article I’d like to consider this question of age from three angles:
- What does the Bible say?
- What does this look like practically?
- What have we done as a family?
What Does The Bible Say?
When considering any sort of life change, it’s always important to observe what God Himself has said about the subject. So, does the Bible offer any guidance that would help us decide at what age females should start head covering? I believe that it does.
1 Corinthians 11:4-5 says:
“Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.”
So, every woman must pray or prophesy with her head covered, or else dishonor her head. But, since the New Testament was originally written in Greek, what does the word woman specifically mean in the original language? Could it mean all females, both children and adults?
An excellent Greek lexicon often utilized in New Testament scholarship is “A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature”¹ (often referred to as “BDAG”). It notes these three meanings of the word “woman” (or gune in Greek):
- an adult female person, woman
- a married woman
- a newly married woman
So, gune refers to either married or unmarried women, but it apparently does not include female children. In 1 Corinthians 11, this same word is used in verses 3, 5 (quoted above), 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 15. In other words, gune is used throughout the whole passage to indicate an adult woman.
According to Bible Study Tools (an online Bible study aid), this same word is used 221 times in the New Testament. In 129 occurrences it refers to “women,” and 92 times it refers to a “wife.” Never is it used in the Bible to describe female children.
Rather than gune, Scripture uses the Greek terms thugatrion (translated as “little daughter”) and korasion (“girl” or “little girl”) when referring to female children. For example, Mark 5:42 uses korasion to describe a 12-year-old girl that Jesus raised from the dead. Along similar lines, Matthew 14:21 lists “women” separately from “children,” indicating that the Greek word for “women” refers to adults. Read more
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