1 Corinthians 11:2-16 – An interactive Bible Study

A few years ago, I was teaching a class on hermeneutics while I was struggling through my antiviral therapy for Hepatitis C.  In that class, we would spend part of the class going through the hermeneutical rules we had learned and attempt to apply them to difficult texts.  It was a very enjoyable exercise for most, and one of the difficult texts we tackled was 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.  I’ve recently been asked about 1 Corinthians 11 and the issue of head covering, and that question comes up regularly for me.  Knowing that convictions on an issue come through personally working through the Scripture instead of having someone spoon-feed you an answer, I wanted to provide my bible study on 1 Corinthians 11 for the benefit of a few readers.

I’ve modified it a slight to incorporate a little more interpretive helps, seeing that I’m not there personally with you to help answer questions.  Also, you may want to refresh yourself on the basic rules of Bible study here.  Also, here’s some basic rules that are part of every Bible study I write:

  1. The text upon which the study is based is ESV.
  2. No flippies.  Scripture interprets Scripture, sure, but the main focus of the way I study the Bible is to draw meaning from the text at hand.  That means no flipping to other chapters, unless you’re told otherwise.  Most Christians love to toss out the “Scripture interprets Scripture” line, but in practice it becomes an excuse for what I call “concordant exegesis”: using a concordance to interpret the text rather than the nouns and verbs in their various ascending circles of context (sentence, paragraph, pericope, logical argument, book, testament, theology, history, geography).  One should never use one verse to “interpret” another just because they share a common term in an English translation.  Dragging the meaning of terms from one passage, in an entirely different context, into another, is a guaranteed way to misunderstand whatever text is  currently in front of your eyes.  It’s a horrible interpretive habit that has become sanctified simply because it’s common.
  3. Dig here.  Most of the questions are actually as simple as they seem.  In my Bible studies, I try to “go deep”, which means I go deep into what the author wrote in this text.  That means getting the surface reading right: the terms, the grammar, and the argument/example/principle being put forward.  If you miss that but find a whole bunch of cool speculative intertextual or typological connections, you’ve ultimately missed the meaning of the text.  When that happens, your Bible Study becomes the exegetical equivalent of all icing and no cake.  It might sound great at first, but around 4 pounds into a 9 pound pail of chocolate buttercreme icing, you’ll have an involuntary change of heart (and stomach).chocolate-buttercreme
    Believe me, I’ve tried…and painfully lost a bet in the process.
  4. Harder questions are marked.  An asterisk (*) question is a “think a little more about this” question.  That’s my indication that the question is not a surface level question.

With that small foundation laid, let’s dig through it!

Dealing with a Difficult Text: 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

11:2 – What does Paul commend the Corinthians for?

a.
b.

11:3 – What does Paul say he wants the Corinthians to understand?

a.
b.
c.

– *What is the main idea here that Paul wants the Corinthians to understand?

note – The debate here will be on the meaning of “head” (kephale in Greek), but the debate will boil down to people who say kephale is a figure of speech meaning either “authority” or “source”.  The idea of kephale meaning “source” may be possible in the first two clauses, but certainly not in the third.  The only reasonable understanding of kephale in the third clause is “authority”.  It’s also worth pointing out that the whole “kephale means ‘source’ ” argument is based on demonstrable and objective error.  Wayne Grudem has done an exhaustive study of kephale in all ancient Greek literature, essentially eradicating all debate on questions related to the meaning of the term.  The word never means “source”, anywhere in Greek literature, ever.  People who claim otherwise are simply misinformed and in error…but don’t take my word for it.  Both journal articles, though quite technical, are highly comprehensive and freely available online:

a.  http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/tj/kephale_grudem.pdf
b.  http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/kephale.pdf

11:4-5 – What word comes up in 11:4-5 that also came up in 11:3?

– Is Paul using that word in the same way in 11:4-5 as he was in 11:3?

– If husbands cover their heads when prophesying, who is dishonored?

– If wives uncover their heads when prophesying, who is dishonored?

– If a wife uncovers her head while prophesying, what is that parallel to?

11:6– What does Paul suggest for a wife to do if she refuses to cover her head while prophesying?

– Why would she not do this?

– When Paul says that it’s disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair/shave her head, is he quoting Scripture?  If so, which chapter and verse?

11:7-9 – Why should a husband not cover his head?

– In v. 7, is Paul quoting Scripture? If so, which chapter and verse?

– Why is the woman the glory of man?

– Does this idea come from a clear teaching of scripture? If so, chapter and verse?

– What is the obvious change between 11:6-7 and 11:8-9?

11:10 – What is the conclusion of Paul’s argument in the previous verses?

– *What is the principle here?

– *Why do you think Paul connects that principle to the angels?

– *How does the principle in vs. 10 connect with the main point of the passage as expressed in vs. 3?

11:11-12 – What is the contrast between 11:11-12 and the previous verses?

–  *How does Paul direct the application of the principle in 11:10 via 11:11-12?

– What is the new principle introduced in 11:11?

– How does Paul support this principle in 11:12

11:13-15 – Does the equality of men and women “in the Lord” overturn the created order?

–  What is the specific activity to which Paul applies his argument here?  (note – Paul’s already mentioned it in vs. 4)

11:16 – In the light of 11:11-15, what angle is Paul anticipating regarding people who are contentious against his teaching?

– Will Paul tolerate some sort of overriding of the created order on the basis of male/female equality in the new birth?

That wraps it up.

Normally, I would walk through a passage and give a limited interpretation of it, but this is a little different.  I haven’t used a bunch of pictures so as to not distract from the task at hand.  Also, I’ve provided this for readers who want to sort through the passage on their own without being told the answers (though I did provide a note on the most contested component to help focus discussion and remove the most common element of confusion).  If there are further questions, feel free to fire away in the comments and I’ll do what I can for you.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “Just Trying To Understand The Text” Unger

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30 thoughts on “1 Corinthians 11:2-16 – An interactive Bible Study

  1. I would like to print this study so I can use it as a personal study. Is there a way to do this without getting all the sidebars, etc. that are on the blog itself?

  2. Having read Wayne Grudem’s research, he really didn’t do all that much, he let a computer database (that somebody else created) search itself (that somebody else programmed) to tell him what he wanted to know; but just as our computers can’t tell us everything if it’s not in the computer, it’s not as if it’s truly exhaustive – he says as much when he says that he could have had his helper use the computer’s entire database to compile the information, but he didn’t. He didn’t look at each individual instance of the what, three thousand something uses of the word to see whether or not it means authority (it usually didn’t.) As it turns out, “head” mostly meant “head”, like the head on your shoulders – that kind of head.
    That said, Americans are already predisposed to understand “head” as “authority”, we have a hard time not seeing the connection – from head honcho, to heads of state, to being appointed to the head of something or other – looking at the definitions of the word head, it’s number 4&5 on the list of nearly a hundred uses of the word “head”: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/head
    Paul could have used “archon” to mean “authority”, but He didn’t. In terms of “source”, it’s connected to the verses: “woman comes from man (source, not authority), man comes from woman (source, not authority), all things come from God (source, not authority).”

    • Thanks for your thoughts and questions Jamie.

      So Grudem first looked at the main biblical and classical lexicographical arguments of where “kephale” was claimed to mean “head” outside the New Testament, and that list was a grand total of 5 references. The biblical were 1 Corinthians 11:3, Colossians 2:19, and Ephesians 4:15. The classical references were found (exclusively – no modern lexicons contained these references) in the lexicon of Liddell & Scott (a well known, though certainly dated, classical Greek lexicon) and they were Herodotus 4.91 and Orphic Fragments 21a. He interacted with those at length, and that whole discussion comprised the first 8 pages of the pdf.

      Then, Grudem looked at the arguments against understanding “kephale” as “authority over”, and dealt with those arguments. That composed the next 2 pages.

      Then Grudem went to search through all the classical works that we know, which are compiled in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae. That’s a well known compendium of every single ancient Greek work that is currently known, although it’s not technically comprehensive since there are still some works being inserted into the TLG (but not much). It contains all the known works of all the major ancient authors, and when Grudem did a broad search he found 12,000 occurrences of kephale. He narrowed it down to Classical authors, and that gave him the 2,336 number. He then wrote “I looked up every instance
      available to me and included them all in the following summary”. That’s a quote from page 11 of the pdf.

      So Wayne Grudem claims to have actually looked at all 2,336 occurrences of “kephale” in Classic Greek literature. That’s also the only way he could have classified each individual reference to obtain the statistics on page 13 of the pdf, and it explains the interaction with all the occurrences of “kephale” in a metaphorical usage in the rest of the article.

      I don’t know why you think there some sort of negative point in that Dr. Grudem didn’t make the computer database. That’s a multi-million dollar project that has taken dozen of people dozens of years to do.

      I don’t know why you think there some sort of negative point in that the database, the most comprehensive one on the planet, was searched using it’s own search engine.

      Grudem explains why he didn’t look at all 12,000+ occurrences of “kephale”: they weren’t in the Classical period. That means they weren’t remotely extant to the time of the New Testament. So, he didn’t really look at the references of “kephale” in the Attic period, since that period ended hundreds of years before the time of the New Testament. It’s parallel to not including Shakespearean usage of certain terms in modern dictionaries; words change meaning over a period of several centuries.

      And scholars of Wayne Grudem’s caliber aren’t ignorant enough that they blindly import modern usages of terms like “head” into their studies of Biblical or Classical Greek. “Head” may mean many things in English, but that’s irrelevant to Classical Greek or the New Testament, unless you think guys with PhD’s in fields relevant to lexicography or classical studies are dumb enough that they blindly import modern usage of terms back into Ancient sources.

      Paul could not have used “archon” to mean “authority”, since it’s always used in the New Testament to refer to a person who is in a position of rulership or preeminence (being “first”, not chronologically, but in office).

      When Paul wrote “the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3), “archon” may have arguably worked for man’s relationship to Christ, but not a wife’s relationship to her husband and certainly not Christ’s relationship to God. God’s not the boss of Christ, not the King or governor over him. Husband’s aren’t the boss nor governing official over their wives either. Feel to do your own lexicography work by looking up every single reference of archon in the New Testament here.

      You may also be interested to know that neither “archon” nor “kephale” occur in 1 Corinthians 11:12. Instead, it’s an interesting construction. The woman is “of” (“ek” in Greek) the man, the man is “by the means of” (“dia” in Greek) the woman, and all things are “of” (“ek” in Greek) God. So in that verse, neither source nor authority are being discussed, but rather a parallel equality in connection that is contrasted with a difference in functional relationship. Even there, Paul was careful with his words.

      It seems kinda like the author was really good with language and didn’t say things willy nilly…as if the author were God himself.

      • When you see his footnotes, he clearly thanks a number of people for their involvement, so it’s not as if he’s sitting there by his lonesome toiling over the computer. The point is, he didn’t enter each entry, he didn’t see each entry, he didn’t figure out if each use of the word kephale was a noun, a verb, a metaphor, or the whatever the equivalent was. He’s not exactly a young guy and odds are not that great with computers in the first place – precious few members of his generation are computer savvy. Thing is – most people just accept it as a word of God type thing (meant as this metaphor: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WordOfGod) that because Wayne Grudem says so, it must be true. Never mind that for two thousand years words change meanings and cultures change their minds – or die off completely. What was true for a point and time in Scripture isn’t necessarily true for all time – unless you want to bring back things like slavery just to be consistent.

        • Well, the footnotes say that one T.A. did a preemptive search of Aristotle (seeing that he’s written so much), and another did a preemptive search of “Philo, Josephus, the Septuagint, and some minor Christian and Jewish writings.” So Grudem had help sorting through all the biggest, or most significant, bodies of literature.

          Grudem would have looked through the entries and would have had his TA’s categorize them into the categories he used for his statistical analysis in order to facilitate focusing on the entries that were anything other than a physical “on top of your shoulders” style “head”.

          Every single occurrence of “kephale” is a noun, since “kephale” is a noun.

          As for his computer proficiency, that’s funny.

          Anyone who regularly writes books, teaches in a seminary, and publishes regularly in the field of biblical studies has absolutely no choice but to be proficient in computers. When I was in seminary, every single one of my professors was more proficient in specific computer-related things (like Microsoft Word) than I was, because that comes with the job. Dismissing someone because they’re old is hilarious. All seminary-level biblical scholars know how to publish highly complex documents (in Word or Publisher), utilize complex exegetical software (i.e. Logos or Accordance, which absolutely everyone has and uses regularly), create presentations (since every class I’ve ever seen utilizes some form of presentation software instead of slides or overhead projectors), etc.

          Precious few members of his generation are indeed computer savvy (though he’s only 68), sure, but precious few members of his generation are fluent in Koine Greek, Biblical Hebrew, Latin, French and German. Wayne Grudem isn’t a typical senior citizen.

          But who’s claiming that since Wayne said so it must be true?

          Wayne did the hard work of digging through thousands of references, and he published his findings. You’re more than free to sign on to the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae. It’s right here and it’s $140/year of 5 years for $500. You can do the same work yourself…assuming you can read Greek (the sources are all in their original languages).

          Wayne Grudem can, and a few other rather special senior citizens (the majority of whom are Professors of Classics or Evangelical Scholars).

          But your last comment shows your cards.

          Words DO change their meanings over time, but we can look at words from distinct eras and know what they meant. For example, that’s why we have Shakespearean Lexicons (like this). We can look at how the words are normally used in Shakespearean writings and understand their distinct meanings. That’s something that scholars in innumerable subjects do all the time.

          But you’re not REALLY concerned with understanding what the Scripture means, hence you suddenly turned to the issue of consistency and brought up…

          SLAVERY!

          Dun! DUN! DUNNNNNN!

          What an interesting change of topic.

          I mean, where exactly are the contemporary Christians who advocate for slavery on the basis of the Scripture?

          Where were they in history?

          Can you even name a single person who made an authentic exegetical case from scripture advocating the American Slave Trade (cause we’re clearly NOT talking about slavery in Ancient Israel, or even Ancient Rome)?

          Of course not because there weren’t any. There were fools, proof-texting from the Bible, but there was no one publishing an exegetical tome on how the American Slave Trade was fitting with the explicit teaching of Scripture. Biblical Slavery was nothing like the American Slave Trade.

          Slavery in the Bible was indentured servitude that, in Israel, was voluntary and lasted 7 years. Slavery in the Bible was given as a measure of saving lives for people who would have otherwise died. Slaves were given rights and weren’t allowed to be kidnapped into service, except in a time of war where, again, that was to prevent the death of those left behind in the aftermath of war.

          When you look at history, there were INDEED people arguing for slavery and appealing to passages like Exodus 21, but the opponents of the slave trade rightly pointed the specific content of Exodus 21, not just the fact that the word “slave” appears in the passage. The specific biblical rules about slavery found in Exodus 21 overtly condemned the manifestation of slavery practiced in Europe and the Americas (i.e. Exodus 21:1, 21:20, 21:16, 21:26-27).

          No Christian is advocating Slavery as practiced in the Americas, and that is because we do seek to be consistent. The people fighting slavery were the Christians…and that because of the overt and explicit teaching of the Scripture.

          If I were a betting man, I’d lay huge money that the slavery issue is just a rhetorical smokescreen because you don’t like what Paul says about women in 1 Corinthians 11:4-16…

          …but not nearly as much as what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:3 – “the head of every man is Christ”. That’s the real anvil on which most of us are smashed.

          We’re not our own. We don’t get to do what we want because it fits with whatever reasoning we find palatable. We belong to Christ and have to submit to him, not only because it’s right but also because it’s best…and our sinful hearts continually war against that. God has made you, and he has defined your nature, purpose and role, and you will never escape him. The only real problem with talk of submission is how we don’t want to submit to Jesus.

          If you’ve submitted to Christ, than submitting to others is a snap.

        • It’s more of a God’s word thing, He didn’t say “don’t do slavery”, we continued to do slavery because all believed the Bible says it’s okay. So it is with head covering, it continued into the what – 1960s because everybody thought that the Bible says that God wants women to wear something on their heads. Why is that? Is God a God of symbolism and holy head coverings – if it’s a sign of submission, then why just the women in submission to men and not the men in submission to Christ and not Christ in submission to God? Or is it something cultural, something that had meaning to them? And how are we to be sure they knew “kephale” as “authority” and not any of it’s other meanings? Some lexicons do indicate that kephale took on the meaning of authority – in the middle ages, well after this passage was written – in which case, modern people are reading into an ancient text a meaning it cannot possibly have had.
          Now what I find interesting is that the Sikh scriptures contain a parallel: “From woman, man is born;
          within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married.
          Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come.
          When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound.
          So why call her bad? From her, kings are born.
          From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all.”
          Odd, isn’t it – that one religion would lift up women to be the equal of men only in spiritual terms, and the other would make lift up women to be the exact equal of men – even allowing them to preach and teach!

        • The reason women wore coverings in church into the 1960s but dropped it since is because in BOTH instances they ignored what what the Bible actually taught and adhered to unbiblical tradition. The Bible teaches the head-covering only for specific times, as I note in my study.

          Also, the only people who I’ve ever read who want to deny that “keyhole” means “authority” are those who are either egalitarians themselves or supporting the egalitarian position, and they are trying to justify their unbiblical beliefs! As Grudem conclusively demonstrated, regardless of your denial, “authority” is indeed the meaning of the word in the context of this passage. No other meaning makes sense.

        • “source” isn’t the only possible metaphorical meaning though, what about “top, as in prominent” like the person sitting at the head of the table? Considering how it says that woman is the glory of man, and man is the glory of God, then it seems to be pointing to something prominent.

        • 12,000 possible examples in database
          2336 examples selected to be reviewed
          2034 physical head (87% of the uses)
          302 metaphoric uses:
          119 head (refer to person, like head of cattle) 39% of uses
          69 head (start of line, top, head of row) 22% of uses
          49 head (as in person in authority) 16% of uses
          taken overall, head meant authority in 2% of the 2336 uses.
          his numbers say it doesn’t mean “authority” all that often, it meant a person or the starting point two to three times more frequently than it meant “authority”. You call that solid proof, I don’t.

        • In the context of the discussing, head cannot mean source/origin. The context is about authority. Funny, isn’t it, that for hundreds of years commentators understand the meaning to be authority but when egalitarianism reared its ugly head, suddenly we’ve found a new meaning? If it’s new, it isn’t true; if it’s true it isn’t new.

          I’m finished with this conversation, since you are not going to be convinced no matter how much evidence is presented.

        • So every ancient idea is right because they’re old and they can’t be wrong about anything ever? And every new idea is wrong because nobody thought it up before? You do know the ancient world believed that women were second class citizens, completely unequal, subjects of the oldest male relative in their families? I guess they’re right because they’re old?

        • Thanks for practicing eisegesis with my comment. The context is doctrine. And it is a general proverb in the apologetics field.

          The point is, you have to declare hundreds of years of scholarship to be wrong to support your ideology. The same way modern liberalism redefines the Bible to say God is okay with same-sex unions.

          I am now totally finished. Have the last word, revel in your deception.

  3. Pingback: Rock Your Role: A Head of the Times- Head Coverings for Christian Women? (1 Corinthians 11:1-16) | Michelle Lesley

  4. Dear brother, your site and insight are a precious find for me. Thank very much for all your time and effort. If it’s not too difficult, could you write a post about “the hills to dies on” so to speak. I am in a kind of quandary now which I will explain a bit later. I found the Lord and grew up in a post-Soviet Baptist church in Ukraine. There was little Biblical education among members or ministers, lots of zeal and devotion though, and in many matters, I feel, I was more opinionated than educated. Those, who weren’t with us, were against us and bound for hell. The battle was for (or to) the last button. A small, quiet minority allowed for some margin. There are lots of good things I am thankful for, but there were thing to learn… I grew up and matured, saw people, heard viewpoints, read a lot, dabbed in theology, moved to US. I saw that the world is not so simple and black-and-white. There are issues, opinions that need not to be fought over and the Bible is big on unity. It’s awful to excommunicate people for every little thing, to condemn those whom Christ loves (those that don’t walk with us). The Bible is also very categorical, very stern when it comes to false teachings – no mincing words here. I’ve been thinking and thinking – where do we draw a line? I know it’s not and easy question, otherwise I would’ve known the answer by now. A specific example that is hot now – Russian Orthodox Church? What do you think of their theology? (Some of our members joined it, my parents are in it too, so it’s not and idle question.) I tried to find out from their websites if they see salvation as by works or by grace. It was very confusing and inconsistent. Same goes for other theological points. I don’t buy their defense of prayers to the saints and angels, holy images etc. But I can allow that for some Orthodox believers people it’s not necessary apostasy or idolatry though it’s a useless exercise and such theology is foggy and misleading rather than enlightening. Their Christology seems to be right. They venerate Mary but not to the extent Catholic do. I am no theologian and our church doesn’t have a definite position just yet. WHere do I dig? Where’s the hill to die on? I don’t want to pick up little fights. Can you help, detective?

    Thank you and God bless, I appreciate your time.

    Oksana Germakovski

    On Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 3:02 AM, Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely… wrote:

    > mennoknight posted: “A few years ago, I was teaching a class on > hermeneutics while I was struggling through my antiviral therapy for > Hepatitis C. In that class, we would spend part of the class going through > the hermeneutical rules we had learned and attempt to apply them to” >

  5. I’ve also read round the Kephale debate as to whether ‘head’ denotes ‘authority’ or ‘source’. It can mean source when referring to the head, i.e. source or origin of a river. There is a use of this some 400 years before Paul, and I believe one use only. Hardly contemporary, but how often have I read “this is how Paul’s original audience would have understood the word”!

    The egalitarianian attempt to amend the translation of kephale from head to source is based on this one incidence: they have incorrectly transferred a metaphor that works in Greek to English, where the metaphor does not work. (This doesn’t work in the German translation of 1 Cor 11 either, where ‘Haupt’ for ‘head’ cannot ever mean source.) You just can’t do this with metaphors in different languages.

    I think Grudem overdoes it a bit by implying head simply means ‘authority’ – i.e. is nothing more than a synonym for authority, whereas I think an element of authority is intended. A head of department is someone who has authority, but is also under the authority of more senior management.

    I have asked egalitarians – but to date without reply – that if head actually means source, and God is the source of Christ, doesn’t this mean Christ is a created being? Paul has already referred to the pre-incarnate Christ earlier on in the epistle, so I don’t think you could limit God being ‘head of Christ’ to the incarnate Christ only.

    In fairness, some egalitarians react against the use of the word head as ‘authority’ because this has been misused or abused to grant men a kind of absolute authority over their wives, which I don’t believe to be the intended meaning. The women or wives covering their heads to prophesy is a sign of their authority to do this, not their submission!

    • The reference that you’re referring to with regard to the river is addressed in the second article I linked to (I believe).

      I’ve found that many egalitarians have an allergic reaction to the word “authority” because they see it as a synonym for “tyranny”. There’s a rebellion against God’s created order, and God himself, in many, if not most, manifestations of Egalitarianism.

      • If there is one thing I have learnt from the (female) watchblog community over the last three years or so, it is that some men really are authoritarian tyrants. The headship doctrine is being abused and is causing suffering in churches and marriages.

        That said, the right use of this doctrine is also rejected, and I completely agree with you about the rebellion at the back of this amongst egalitarians. In fact you get to see 1 Tim 2 being worked out in practice (‘but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor’) with mini-Genesis threes happening before your very eyes. Believing Kephale means ‘source’ is one of them. Submission is mutual is another, as is a woman saying ‘the Holy Spirit has shown me I must exercise my gift of leadership in the church’.

        Almost without exception, egalitarian women are ‘living epistles’ that deny the rightness of the very thing they are compaigning for.

        Incidentally, isn’t the ESV here a marked improvement over the RSV upon which it is based, with its too specific translation of covering as ‘veil’.

        So, do women need an extra covering – hat or scarf – in church or is their long hair sufficient and ‘instead of a veil’?

        • Ken,

          Because v. 15 says the woman’s long hair was given to her for a covering, does this mean that the hair is the covering discussed as some claim? If that is the case, then, in context of the man having no covering, the man would have to be shaved! Logic dictates that this is wrong, so hair could not be the context of vv.4-10. V.6 says if her head isn’t covered, she should be shorn; this implies that she has hair already and that the covering is something separate. Even v.5 seems to imply that she has hair. So, what is the purpose of vv.14-15? I think it is to demonstrate that as in the natural realm God has given the woman long hair for a covering, so in the realm of relationships between men and women there should also be a separate covering – it is an analogy. So, the answer to the this question is that the hair is not the covering spoken of.

          What form should the head-covering take?
          Since the Greek word for veil means “something that covers completely and hangs down,” I would say the covering should be something the woman can drape over her head at the time of prayer, such as a scarf or shawl. The idea is obviously to drape over the head an item that covers it. I do think it is enlightening that the art from early Christian times shows various forms. The attitude of the heart has to be in line with the sign. If the attitude is to just wear a tiny doily so no one would even notice the sign, or to fulfill a legal requirement, then the purpose is defeated. And a small doily certainly doesn’t cover completely and hang down!

          These paragraphs are from my study at:
          http://watchmansbagpipes.blogspot.com/2010/05/let-her-be-veiled.html

          1. Is the head covering the woman’s hair?
          2. Is the head covering cultural or for all time?
          3. Is the head covering for all women or just those who are married?
          4. When should the head covering be worn?
          5. Why should the head covering be worn?
          6. What form should the head covering take?

  6. Glen – thanks for the reply. I first got interested in this theme when part of a church in the old charismatic restoration groupings in the UK. It became the norm for women to wear a headscarf in meetings – except in our church because no-one saw the need for this! In fact some considered it a bit eccentric.

    I must admit to having got over-preoccupied with this subject in the past, endlessly muilling over 1 Cor 11 to see if a head covering still is a current requirement. The actual issue itself is not that important, but Christian liberty and conscience, and freedom from legalistic rules are all important. So it wasn’t a waste of time by any means.

    God can see right through a head-covering to a disobedient heart! I’m afraid a lot of what I’ve seen was little more than conformity with group expectations.

    The reference to this being ‘because of the angels’ takes this out of the culture of the first century. I think the principle is that women should look and behave like women, that the church avoids any kind of unisex appearance. The long hair is a natural outworking of this, and shows the difference. I was in a church in Germany once made up of ethnic Germans from the former Sovet Union, and there the women all wore skirts or dresses. This was an obvious policy which I take was their way of obeying the spirit of 1 Cor 11.

    Personally, a woman’s long hair is given to her ‘for a covering’, which literally means ‘instead of a veil’, and I think is enough to meet the requirement of a covering today. This does not mean a woman isn’t free to wear a hat or scarf if she so chooses. If you think this would entail men not having hair as a covering, well at least in this I am of an age to practice what I preach !!

    Paul’s reference at the end of the section to those who are disposed to be contentious about this shows the ‘role of women’ so hotly debated and argued about today was also a controversial subject back then, it is nothing new.

    I’ve enjoyed having a look over your blog, and will visit again.

    • Ken,

      The only problem with the hair being the covering noted is that it doesn’t make sense with the rest. The hair is the covering in the natural realm while an addition covering is necessary for the spiritual realm, as noted above.

      Thanks for visiting my blog; I hope you find things of interest. 🙂

  7. I apologize because this comment is off-topic. I was wondering if you might possibly at some point in the future, when you are feeling better, address “by his stripes we are healed” in connection to charismatic faith healing. I have SLE and rheumatoid arthritis and my inlaws are pentecostals— they tell me I would be healed if only I had enough faith. I think that God is sovereign over the decision to cause or heal sickness— but I am not articulate enough to counter their arguments. Could you help me? Please don’t post this comment because I sent a link to your blog to some of my husband’s family.

    Many thanks for your blog. I have read almost every post. Some twice.

    In Christ,

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