fbpx

Navigate / search

What is a Head Covering? Is it a Woman’s Long Hair or a Veil?

In 1 Corinthians 11, the Apostle Paul instructs women to cover their heads while praying or prophesying. For 1900 years, the church understood Paul to be speaking of an artificial covering such as a veil or scarf. However, in the 20th century, a view began to gain popularity which argued that Paul wasn’t speaking about veils, but hair lengths. In this video we’ll overview this debate and provide 5 reasons for why we believe a woman is to cover her long hair with an artificial covering when praying or prophesying.

This video is an adaptation of an article we wrote here.

Jeremy Gardiner

Jeremy is the founder of the Head Covering Movement and the author of Head Covering: A Forgotten Christian Practice for Modern Times. He is a member of Fellowship Baptist Church and a student at Moody Bible Institute. He lives in Alberta, Canada with his wife and five young children. Jeremy is also the founder and operator of Gospel eBooks, a popular website that provides alerts for free and discounted Christian e-books.

Comments

Jeremy Gardiner
Reply

Thanks for sharing Teresa. I gave it a quick read. In addition to the content on the video, we also address his “shorn” point in this article: http://www.headcoveringmovement.com/articles/is-a-womans-long-hair-her-covering

We’ve never created a specific article dealing with the OT yet, but I guess it’s time we get around to it. Really quickly though, we believe head covering is a new symbolic practice only for those who are under the New Covenant (which includes all believers since Christ). Before Christ, women could uncover their heads SCRIPTURALLY and it be of no shame. Likewise men could cover theirs SCRIPTURALLY and it be of no shame. The symbol didn’t carry that meaning then and it was only set-apart as an apostolic Christian practice sometime after Christ came.

Sara June Thompson
Reply

Good teaching. That is one of the biggest arguments used, that long hair fulfills the covering today. I was taught that many times, and even taught that to others. But actually you are right, it does not fit the text at all. Women wanted it to because they did not want to wear head coverings.

Colin
Reply

Just a quick word from someone who does not believe in the perpetual and moral basis for head coverings. I know people who hold to this interpretation and many of them have their hearts in the right spot, but there are definitely some that seem to adopt the position solely to have some way of getting around that fact that Paul said what he said (I want to be careful not to impute motives falsely, but sometimes it really does seem that way.)
As someone who does not hold to head coverings, I completely agree that the whole “long hair is the covering” seems to do a lot of violence to the text. It makes so much more sense that Paul is using hair length as an analogy for the comeliness of the covering. Anyways just my two cents, and have a great day!

Blessings in Christ,
Colin

Sara June Thompson
Reply

There is also a church around where I live (Apostolic) where the women sincerely believe in long hair as the covering. They believe they should not cut their hair and always wear it up in a bun in public, especially to church. The believe that is their covering. When I visited their church ,there was only one woman besides myself in a hat but all up in buns. Even little girls had bows, fabric headbands, fabric scrunchies or something “in” their hair. This group and others like it to sincerely hold to the ‘long hair as covering” belief. They are willing to not look like the world, as evidenced by their long skirts, no makeup, no jewelry and other standards. I do not think this group (and others similar) are doing this b/c they do not wish to cover. My comment was about most women in most churches, who lay aside the hats and veils back when I was a child and since then because they do not wish to cover and look “different’ and do not like the whole idea of female submission.

Jeremy Gardiner
Reply

Hey Sara, I’m not sure if you just visited that church once, or if you’re going to it regularly. I just wanted to give you the heads up that I believe this group rejects the teaching of the Trinity (which is a core teaching of Christian orthodoxy). You could always ask them just to be sure.

Sara June Thompson

I am quite sure you are right. While in the service, they mentioned a backslider who had “gone Trinitarian” and the congregation gasped. I visited once. (I have also had online discussions in the past with a group of ladies from this church and they also were Oneness). .. Our family was in the process of praying about whether or not to change churches at the first of the year and were visiting other churches in the area. My husband asked me to go “spy out the land” at this church as I was likely the only one in the family who would at all fit in there with the long skirts, etc. I was able to bring back a report to the family that this was not a good fit for our family without my my dh, and our 22 yo ds having the embarrassment of walking in in jeans and being embarrassed at being completely out of dress code. (even the other kids would not have been dressed up enough). Don’t worry, I am orthodox in my theology.

Sara June Thompson

And by the way, thanks for caring. That shows a pastor’s heart.

Sara in Texas
Reply

I’m a 35 yr old single female and have just recently been arrested by this head covering debate. I feel torn between the two views, though I have begun to use a prayer shawl at home. I’ve been considering your first point in the video where you compare the original Greek words used that have all been translated equally as “covering” or “covered” or “uncovered”. So, I looked this passage up in the Greek Interlinear text online: http://biblehub.com/interlinear/1_corinthians/11.htm . I discovered (no pun intended 🙂 that the word “katakalupto” or its negation “akatakalupto”, are words that are either verbs (to cover; to uncover) or adjectives (covered or uncovered); whereas the word “peribolaion” is a noun (a covering). In English we often use the same word for a verb and a noun (e.g., “I drive my car down the drive,” or “He hit the ball! What a good hit!” or “I need to go get some sleep./ How did you sleep?”) However, in Greek, could Paul simply be using a noun (peribolaion) that directly corresponds to the verb (katakalupto), but the noun is the thing doing the action? The Greek Interlinear website defines “peribolaion” as a mantle, a covering, a vesture, a robe. Is this like what we do in English: “I covered the jar with a lid (covering).” Anyway, enough of the details…….does any of this make sense? I’m still grappling with the possibilities and I want to please the Lord in how I respond to His word. Any thoughts?

Jamie Carter
Reply

What you are saying does make sense.

http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/NTpdf/1co11.pdf here is the Greek so you can see it for yourself as you study. I hope you find the answers you’re looking for. The majority of users here are for head covering, I’m one of the few that are against it.

First, it’s important to notice that not wearing a head covering is not a sin. Paul says it’s a ‘shame’ which points to a major difference in our societies. Not having your hair covered or pinned up does not have any connotation of sexual immorality for us (Numbers 5:18 – the basis for the head covering of women in Jewish society. Jewish men also had a sort of head covering during prayers, there was also the Nazarite Vow which was when God ordered men to grow out their hair long, and God ordered the OT Priests to wear a covering on their head. As far as I can tell, there was not a directive that required all Roman women to wear head coverings, but there was a Roman Tradition where men covered their heads in religious rituals. The Point is, without cultural context, the verse is difficult to decipher and much of the cultral context was lost to history and time and wasn’t included in Scripture).

Should we teach that loose, uncovered hair is a sign of sexual immorality on the part of the woman applies to us today because that what was taught in Paul’s culture? We do not do that with many other teachings of Jewish origins, why this one? Another element is hair length, pointing to that women needed to have longer hair than men.

While I think we can gain general wisdom from Scripture, we are not bound to it’s directives for all times and in all places. I think all you really need is Jesus, no more and no less.

Jeremy Gardiner
Reply

Hey Sara, thanks for the comment. Glad to hear you’re working through this and giving it such great thought. Truly you’re imitating the Bereans (Acts 17:11).

To assist you in your study let me point you to this study http://write2david.github.io/CoveredGlory.pdf (page 57) which overviews that word and talks about it’s use in Scripture and outside as well.

The point you’re bringing up is valid. My only objection would be that “peribolaion” never refers to a head covering in Scripture and I don’t think it ever refers to one outside of Scripture (I haven’t done an exhaustive search). It does refer (outside of Scripture) to body coverings, bed coverings, ship coverings and chariot covers. It refers in Scripture only to a coat.

This point isn’t a standalone but is coupled with the other arguments.

Harry
Reply

Did any of the early Christian pioneers, not out of the Roman Vatican fruit, promote or speak about 1 Corinthians 11 and promote the head covering? Such as Martin Luther (Lutheran), John Wycliffe,  Cotton Mather (Congregational Theologian), John Wesley ( Methodists) , Thomas Cranmer (anglican), Roger Williams (First Baptist Pastor in America), John Knox (Scotch Presbyterian), Ellen G white (7 day Adventist), John Calvin (Presbyterian)  and many more, if so do you have the studies or quotes they gave? Thank you

Nisa Crutchfield
Reply

So how can a woman prophesy and keep silent at the same time? Also–is this passage mentioned as often as the passage about baptism for the dead? My point is that since there is some controversy over this, why do we make this such an important topic? Are we focusing on this one passage to the neglect of the overwhelming passages that address our relationship with the Lord and with each other?

Jeremy Gardiner
Reply

Hi Nisa, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. We have addressed the fact that it’s only mentioned once, and that it’s majoring in the minors in the same article. That can be found here: http://www.headcoveringmovement.com/articles/is-head-covering-majoring-in-the-minors-is-it-a-distraction

Regarding harmonization with 1 Cor 14, we haven’t written an article on it yet (though I think I need to speed it up). The three main views are 1) Paul is not giving permission for women to pray/prophesy but is only speaking hypothetically. 2) Paul is not dealing with the worship service in 1 Cor 11, whereas he is in 1 Cor 14. Different contexts. 3) 1 Cor 11 allows women to pray/prophesy in the worship service and 1 Cor 14’s “silence” is not total, but rather he’s forbidding women from certain types of speech in the service.

I personally hold to the 3rd view.

Amy Unruh
Reply

I’d have to agree with the 3rd view. I’m looking forward to reading the article. I’m curious to see what the defense of reason 1 is. It would seem to me that if he was speaking hypothetically and not giving women permission to pray or prophesy in corporate worship, there would be no reason for a veil.

Amy Unruh

This guy actually had a degree in theology? He has to ignore several key parts of the scripture in order to make his defense feasible.

Jamie Carter
Reply

She cannot – and that’s something of the point, that is how modern people interpret the passage; but there’s more than one interpretation to any given passage. I was told that the 1 Cor. 14’s comment on silence happens to be a quote from the letter that was written to Paul and it is followed by a sarcastic: “or did the word originate with you? or are you the only people it has reached?” Followed by “Therefore, brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy …” He’s more concerned that they are orderly in worship, not which gender can do what. (one of the other ‘silent’ verses refers to ‘as the law says’ but nowhere in the OT does it say that women are to be silent – this is a reference to Jewish practice which most would say does not apply to us.) It’s just right now conservative leaders are running scared because the world at large is changing it’s mind on gender and they only just realized that they need to be counter cultural by emphasizing gender. I just read about a church that ‘disciplined’ one of it’s members because the guy wasn’t manly enough. If a church will discipline a guy for not leading, then to be consistent they would have to discipline women for not submitting. I figure it is only a matter of time.

Amy Unruh
Reply

Hmmm, interesting argument. If it’s true, I like it. I’ve always understood it was because the women of the time were doing something relatively new that they hadn’t been admitted to before and so were asking many questions, disrupting the service. That would definitely be a cultural argument to me, but I could see it possibly being him commenting on a law that was man-made. I’ll definitely want to look into that further.

Jamie Carter
Reply

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/category/women-and-ministry/

This blogger has been reviewing a book called: “Women and Worship at Corinth: Paul’s Rhetorical Arguments in 1 Corinthians” and most of the series has been on 1 Cor 11. In one of the other books I’ve read, it points out that there was quite a bit of back-and-forth communication between Paul and the Corinthian church. It only makes sense for Paul to quote from the original letter only to refute the idea. This post: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2015/04/13/paul-and-the-women-of-corinth/ refers to both 1 cor 11 and 1 cor 14 as an example of the back and forth – quote and response.

Phoebe
Reply

I have found Wayne Grudem’s analysis to be helpful on the topic of women speaking in the church. (although he is inconsistent by not teaching head covering is for today.) His journal article on this is called “Prophecy – Yes, But Teaching — No.” You can find a link by googling that title.

Sharon Hope Betron Delabar
Reply

I just came into clear understanding in Spirit over the argument of these verses. I have my final answer, if I may share:

1 Corinthians 11:14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? 15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

These verses are only giving the examples of how in the natural (by nature) God created man and woman with physical traits representative of their roles (short hair/long hair). The verses are not to cancel out what Paul said prior to this, as far the instruction to cover our heads.

Modern Christianity has made so many selective interpretations in the Word, presuming in bias that certain verses cancel out others, just as many seem to abuse understanding of New Covenant and Old Covenant. CHRIST clearly stated that He did not come to abolish but to FULFILL.

MATTHEW 5:17″Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18″For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

The Word is not only applicable in some instances and inconclusive in other situations. It is to be followed in fullness. Not added to or subtracted from.

Deuteronomy 4:2 – Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish [ought] from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Sharon Hope Betron Delabar
Reply

I have found that in all that is spirit, there is a physical representation as well. Just as the teachings of the Word. It’s part of everything in life falling in line with the Word. If you read the entire passage in speech of age, and can hear Paul’s tone in mind, it is read as a separate understanding in which Paul gives a parallel illustration by way of nature of what God intended women to do (cover your head AND let man lead), by describing that God even showed us by way of creation in nature what He wanted. Simple.

Heidi Miller
Reply

This the Bible did say “Pray Without Ceasing”

Leave a comment

name*

email* (not published)

website

Send this to a friend