1 Corinthians Chapter 11
The Principle of Headship (v.3)
God is the head of
Christ, who is the head of
Man, who is the head of
The Application of Headship (v. 3-6)
Men should have their head uncovered when praying or prophesying.
Women should have their head covered with praying or prophesying.
The Argument of God’s Glory in headship (v. 7)
When praying or prophesying (proclaiming about God), man uncovers his head because he is the image and glory of God. This honours his Head, Christ. Woman covers her head because she is the image of man. This honours her head, man. More specifically, woman covers her glory (her hair, vs. 15).
Thus, woman’s glory is covered (her hair), man’s glory is covered (the covered woman), and only God’s glory is exposed (the uncovered man).
The Argument of Headship in Creation (v. 8-9)
Man was created before woman. And God created woman from the man and for man. Therefore, the man has headship over the woman.
The Argument of Angelic Beings (v. 10)
A women needs a symbol of authority on her head because of the angels. Evidently, a woman needs either a symbol on her head that grants her authority to pray and prophesy, or she needs a symbol on her head that declares that she is under authority.
Why does she need this symbol? Because of the angels. The Bible does not explain why the angels need the symbol, but does it have to? Ephesians 3:10 says that “through the church, the manifold wisdom of God” is made known to the “rulers and authorities in heavenly places.” Perhaps the symbol helps them understand why women are allowed to pray and prophesy, or helps them understand submission. God knows, and he says “Wear the symbol for the angels’ sake.”
A Clarification of Headship (vs. 11-12)
I love this little parenthetical statement. In case any woman is feeling inferior or second-class, Paul inserts a little clarification. Although woman is under man in headship, both are interdependent and equal in the Lord.
The Argument of Nature (vs. 13-15)
Paul’s question “Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?” causes some to say, “In our culture, yes, it is proper.” But I don’t think that can be the answer. Paul has spent the previous ten verses explaining how improper it would be for a woman to ignore headship by praying uncovered. Then he asks this rhetorical question which must be answered “NO, Paul, according to what you’ve told us already, it is NOT proper.” He then answers his own question with the argument of nature.
Nature teaches that long hair is a disgrace for man. Whether “nature” means that his hair does not naturally grow long and beautiful, or whether he means that most cultures’ natural decision is that men have short hair, the statement is clear. Long hair is a disgrace on a man.
For a woman, her long hair is a glorious covering. It should be noted that this word “covering” is a different Greek word than all the other instances of “covering” in this passage. In this instance alone, he describes the long hair as a “wrap” that nature has given her. He is saying, “Look, woman, your long hair is a beautiful wrap, a glorious covering that nature gave you. If even nature thinks you should be covered, HOW MUCH MORE should you cover yourself when you come before God?”
People who still insist that the “covering” of verses 4-7 is hair must deal with the illogical statements this creates. “Men must pray uncovered” becomes “men must pray without hair.” Time to get out the shears! And “If a woman will not cover, let her be shorn” becomes, “if a woman doesn’t have hair (or doesn’t have long hair), cut her hair.” Both of these make no sense.
(An irony worth noting is that many women who say “the covering is hair” have their hair cut shorter than many men.)
The Argument of Unity (v. 16)
Paul recognizes that some people may be contentious about this issue, but reminds them that ALL the churches of God were unanimous in the wearing of head coverings. To pray uncovered was not the practice for any of the churches.
Some people say this verse means that Paul didn’t want this to be a big deal: “If you want to be contentious, just don’t wear the head covering.” Then why did Paul spend fifteen verses prior explaining from creation and nature why a woman should be covered?
Many people say that this passage is merely cultural. I think this is a very precarious position. Paul does not present the view from a cultural perspective. He does not say, “Women, don’t dress like the pagan prostitutes” (which is a no-brainer anyway) or “Men, only unbelieving Jews wear head coverings.” Instead, he issues a declaration: “Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head (Christ).” His supporting arguments? Creation, angelic beings, and nature. These don’t sound cultural to me.
What is cultural? I believe that the style of the head covering is cultural. As long as it “covers,” I don’t see why a hat is any different than a veil, scarf, or bonnet.