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Head Coverings | History, Context, and Exegesis (Sermon)

Preacher: Dr. Carlton C. McLeod | Sermon Length: 1 hr 8 min | Year preached: May 2014


Dr. McLeod is a native of Columbia, SC and grew up in Upper Marlboro, MD. In 1987, he enlisted in the United States Navy and reached the rank of O-3 before the Lord called him into full-time ministry. In 1997, Dr. McLeod and his wife Donna established Calvary Revival Church Chesapeake. Dr. McLeod is relentless in his pursuit to compassionately teach with a biblical worldview. After spending his early years in ministry attempting to pull young people out of the kingdom of darkness with all the world’s methods, the Lord led Dr. McLeod back to the Bible to see the critical need for constant, fervent, and Spirit led biblical family discipleship. The D6 Reformation was created out of this desire. Dr. McLeod earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Science from Hampton University; a Master of Theology and Doctor of Ministry from Andersonville Theological Seminary. He and his wife Donna have been married since 1992 and they have two beautiful daughters, Dori and Aryanna and a son, Jonathan.



Victoria Belle

I would just like to say that I am glad that this issue has been brought to the light. However, I have a different point of view on this topic.
I believe whole-heartedly that women should pray with their head covered, but 1 Corinthians 11:15 (KJV Version below) teaches us that God gave women long hair as a covering. Also, verses 5-6 that a woman’s head being uncovered is one and the same with it being shorn (cut) or shaven. You see in his letter to the church of Corinth, Paul was addressing the church about contentions over the practice of cutting hair and sacrificing it to gods (Verse 16). You see in the Greek city-state of Corinth, it was a practice for women to cut off their hair and sacrifice it to the gods. So when they converted to Christianity they wanted to make the same sacrifice to the one true living God. However, they were disagreements over whether or not this was what God wanted. When verse 16 (below) says that they have no such custom, he means that women do not need to sacrifice their hair to God, but that they should keep it on their heads as a God given covering. The bible also says in verse 10 (KJV below) that women will have power on their head because of the angels because of this.

( I apologize if you have a hard time understanding KJV. I just always use KJV because my church and I believe in using the KJV).
—“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. (6)For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.” (1 Corinthians 11:5-6)
— “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. (16)But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” (1 Corinthians 11:15-16)
—“For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.” (1 Corinthians 11:10)

I would like to encourage you all to read 1 Corinthians 11 and form your own opinion. I believe having long (and also uncut because of my personal convictions. But some people believe that it just means long hair. But that is up to you to determine for yourself) hair is the covering God has already provided naturally, according to scripture. You do not need to put on an extra head covering when we pray or prophesy.
Another thing to think about is that the bible tells us to pray without ceasing. Does that mean that women would have to wear a head covering all the time! I do not believe so because God has already provided a permanent 24 hour head covering naturally.


With this understanding, vs 5 makes no sense. If she isn’t covered, then cut or shave her hair? If she wasn’t shorn or shaven already, she would already be covered, right? You refer to Paul’s reasoning as though that were clearly what the concern was, yet he doesn’t mention this in the passage. Also, were the local, cultural aspects the appeal, it wouldn’t really apply to all believers, would it?

In my understanding, covering isn’t limited to worship meetings, or only corporate gatherings. However, I don’t see an admonition to wear it at all times, or for modesty. It’s a practical, respectful approach to prayer, worship, or sharing the word of God. I don’t know many men who would pray with a hat on, no matter where or what context, unless it was impractical to remove it. (Work necessity and such) I view the woman’s covering the same way.

Victoria Belle

I would also like to add something that is still a little bit debated.
Some women, myself being included, interpret these scriptures as meaning that women should not cut their hair. If you read the scriptures (especially verse 5-6, which you can see in the comment below) the scripture says a woman’s head being uncovered is the same as it being shorn or shaven. If you look up the definition of shorn, you can see that it means cut. Some people argue that the scriptures only mean that women should not shave their heads, and that women only need to keep their hair long. However, not every woman’s hair gets “long” (due to ethnicity/genetics). And how would you define long? Also, if your hear is still covered even if you cut it, then wouldn’t that mean that a man’s head is still covered, even though the scriptures clearly say that a man’s head should be uncovered. If this interpretation were true than all men would have to shave their heads (Ugghh…I know). So I personally believe that women should not cut their hair. But you should read the scriptures and decide for yourself.


You actually mention one of the confusing aspects of adhering to this interpretation. It is impossible to view long hair as the covering unless it is not cut at all, because of the application for men. This would suggest that a man *must have cut or shaven hair.

The simplest understanding of the passage is (I believe) that a symbolic covering is in mind for the woman. If Paul, or the assemblies in other areas, had not meant or taught it in this light, history might give some insight on it. However, women covered with cloth or hat for worship pretty much universally until relatively recently.

I do continue to study this passage, and have changed on some of my preconceived or elsewhere taught understandings about it. Lord be with you. 🙂


Victoria, I too once believed that having long hair meant being “uncut”; however, after doing a thorough study on it, I have come to a different conclusion. Here is what I have found.

Overall, hair and hairs is referenced in more than 60 different verses. The first six references occur in the book of Exodus and are not referring to men or women’s hair, but actually to the use of goat hair for the building of God’s tabernacle. The next 16 verses are found in Leviticus and are discussed as part of the clean and unclean statutes of God. What is very interesting is Leviticus 13:40-41 talks about baldness, and while it specifically refers to men, we know that today some women suffer from male patterned baldness either through genetic disorders or hormone imbalances resulting in extremely thin or the complete loss of hair. Yet, these verses state, “And the man whose hair is fallen off his head, he is bald; yet is he clean. And he that hath his hair fallen off from the part of his head toward his face, he is forehead bald: yet is he clean.” Therefore, if the hair naturally falls out and a woman suffers from a baldness that is beyond her control, is she not too clean?

The book of Numbers also has several references to hair, but these pertain more specifically to those that take the Nazarite vow. Anyone taking the Nazarite vow must follow some very specific
instructions, one of which is to not cut their hair, at all, until the time the vow has been fulfilled. Upon the fulfillment of the vow, the head is completely shaved. But what is really important to note here is that both men and women were allowed to take this vow. (See Numbers 6:2.) And there was no shame placed upon that person when they shaved their head at the completion of the vow. In fact, the hair is burned on the altar under the sacrifice of a peace offering. (See Numbers 6:18.)

And so the references to hair throughout the Old Testament continue to refer to either goats’ hair or human hair, but never is there an admonition that the hair cannot be cut. It is talked about in relation to the Nazarite vow, as in the case of Samson, or the heaviness and cutting of it, as in the case of King Saul, or even the protection of it by God, as in the case of King Solomon. And hair is never referred to as being cut, but always as being plucked, pulled, shaven, or shorn. And the same holds true for the New Testament. So this means that we need to look at the terms used, such as “shave”, “shorn”, and “cut”. The Hebrew word translated as
“shaven” in English is גּלח (gâlach). This word has also been translated as shave, polled, and shaved. The Greek word is ξυράω (xuraō), and is defined in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon as (1) to shear, shave; and (2) to get one’s self shaved.The second word commonly used is shorn. In Hebrew, the word translated as shorn is קצב (qâtsab). What is interesting about this particular word is that it has been translated into English as “cut” only one time, and that was in reference
to the cutting of a stick in 2 Kings 6:6. The Greek word is κείρω (keirō) and is defined in three different ways, as (1) to sheer: a sheep; (2) to get or let be shorn; and (3) of shearing or cutting short the hair of the head. It is only in this context that we see a reference to the cutting short the hair of the head.

The only time that hair and cut are found together, in the same verse, is in Jeremiah 7:29, where God instructs Jeremiah to advise the children of Judah to “Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on high places; for the LORD hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath.” No shame seems to be cast upon them for cutting their hair, but rather, that they are instructed to do it as a sign of repentance and lamentation unto God.

The next Biblical concept that we need to understand is “short” and “long” since both of these terms are tied specifically to hair. In the English language, the word “short” is primarily an adjective that is used to describe something – especially when compared to something of equal or longer length. However, in the Bible, the word translated as “short” in English has also been translated as cut and scrape; but even when described as “cut” it is talking about cutting or removing people (2 Kings 10:32 and Habakuk 2:10) or limbs of the body (Proverbs 26:6). It is not referring to hair. This word has also been translated as scrape or scraped, both in Leviticus and in reference to the clean or unclean status of a house – not hair. The same hold true for the Greek language; the words translated as short have also been translated for a variety of words, but none of which pertained to hair length.

The word “long” is not much better when it comes to the Bible. In the Hebrew language, one of the words translated into the English word “long” was also translated into over 30 other different words, having nothing to do with length or hair. The only word translated as long, as an adjective for measurement is ארך (‘ôrek) and it is tied to specific measurement instructions for the Ark of the Covenant, the ark Noah built, and the measurements for the tabernacle. And so, that brings us to the Greek. The word used specifically in the 1 Corinthians passage discussing women’s hair is κομάω (komaō) and is defined as simply to let the hair grow, have long hair.

The final thing that we need to consider is what the purpose is for a woman to have long hair, and our answer is found in 1 Corinthians 11:15, which states, “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” Now, we are going to focus on the first half of this verse, which states that “it is a glory to her”. The word “glory” here has also been
translated as honor, praise, dignity, and worship. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon has four different definitions for this word, including: (1) opinion, judgment, view; (2) opinion, estimate, whether good or bad concerning someone; (3) splendour, brightness; and (4) a most glorious condition, most exalted state.

In conclusion, the Bible teaches us that long hair on a woman brings her honor and praise; not God honor and praise, but her. Secondly, long is an adjective used to describe something, and in some cases does include an actual length; however, hair is an exception. No specific measurement is tied to it; it is simply described as long. Third, short hair, while it can mean cut, seems to more closely be defined as shaved or shorn with a razor. The question here was
whether or not a woman should cut her hair. The Bible is not as specific as some churches and denominations may lead one to believe. I think that the Bible is saying we can cut our hair, but not shave it short; and that ultimately, we women with long here will be honored and praised for our long hair.

In today’s society though, honor and praise for length of hair is also tied to the overall health and condition of the hair. In other words, if a woman has long hair, but it is ragged, torn, dried out, or unhealthy, it is not always going to be considered beautiful or glorious. Remember, the hair is for the glory of the woman, and not God. A woman who has cut her hair in an effort to keep it healthy and well-maintained is not going to fall out of God’s favor. He is not going to love you less or offer you less protection, or decrease the protection around your family.

We live in the real world and are raising several daughters. For us, we have decided that we will continue to grow the majority of our hair as long as God determines, with minor trimming permitted to keep it looking neat, clean, and healthy. We have also cut our hair to provide bangs, eliminating eye irritations and food traps for our toddlers and young girls. As for myself, I have opted to have bangs, but ones that exceed past my chin so that I can have a softer frame around my face, eliminating the harsher appearance created when all my hair is pulled back tightly.

I hope that this helps you a bit in considering this passage. Thanks.

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