1 Corinthians 11 1-16 Should women wear prayer veils?

Should women wear prayer veils?

  • Yes

    Votes: 7 63.6%
  • No

    Votes: 4 36.4%

  • Total voters
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Puritan Board Freshman
I would like others to weigh in on this particular portion of scripture. I found the below commentary on this scripture from "MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1785–1787). Nashville: Thomas Nelson." which I have to say I personally think was written extremely well and I agree as to its biblical exegesis.

I personally believe the Apostle Paul would not waste almost half a chapter of Holy Scripture on a "fashion statement" or "cultural mandate" of the time as to women wearing a prayer veil. Yet, it may apply only during praying and prophesying in and out of the church.

Below are a few visual examples of prayer veils I am referring to amazon.com
FANFAN Mantilla Veil Mass Headband Kerchief Tie-style Head Covering Church Veil Y025
Soft and Comfortable Mantilla Veils 4 Colors Spanish Style Lace Infinity Veil Mantilla Latin
BLESSUME 1pc Women Triangle Pattern Veil Classic Mantilla Soft Lace Chapel Veil

"Principles are those commands God that apply to all people at all time in every culture and in every life situation.

Customs are those things that are variant local applications of principles.

Example: For example, in the NT the principle of tithing was there and in those days it was done in the Denarius or the Shekel. Does that mean that the only way we can please God today is by paying our tithes in Denarius or Shekel? Of course not! The monetary unit was customary the clothing styles those are the things that are subject to change from culture to culture from place to place. The principle of modesty applies to all generations, but how that modesty is manifested will differ from one country to another and from one time to another. We understand that those things are customary. So many times distinguishing between custom and principles is a relatively easy matter, but not always sometimes it is excruciatingly difficult to make that distinction.

Here is the Principle to apply if can't decide if you can't decide if something is a custom or principle. The biblical principle would be whatever is not of faith is a sin. So the burden of proof is always going to be on those who argue that such and such a command is custom and not principle. If you are not sure then the principle that applies is treat it as a principle, because if you treat a custom as a principle then the only guilt you bear is being overly scrupulous, but if you take a principle of God and treat it as a local custom and don't observe it you have sinned against God."

By Dr. R.C. Sproul

I do believe that in regards to women wearing a prayer veil that it should not be "required" by the church of women since it would make it to no "effect," becuase the biblical principle here is "voluntary submission." As a Pastor, I believe I am required to preach the "whole" word of God to the congregation and let the women in the congregation make their own personal "choice" on the matter as to be in proper fellowship with the Lord. Basically, I believe I am held accountable for preaching it, but they are held accountable for its execution.

A woman without a veil is like a man, without being really so. It is to renounce, as far as the act goes, the subjection she owes to man; it is one and the same thing as if she were shaven. Let her also be shorn, says the indignant servant of the Lord; but if either be shameful for a woman, he adds, let her be covered. (Vers. 2–6.)
Kelly, W. (1878–1882). Notes on the First and Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians: Notes (Vol. 1, p. 173). London: G. Morrish.

indignant /ɪnˈdɪgnənt/

■ adjective feeling or showing annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment.
—DERIVATIVES indignantly adverb
Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (Eds.). (2004). Concise Oxford English Dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Grace and Peace to all.
Wilmer, TX
Senior Pastor, Living Word Bible Church of Texas

1 Corinthians 11:1-16 (KJV)
1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
5 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.
7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
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.
16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

1 Corinthians 11: 5-16 Biblical Exegesis

11:5 Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, that is, the man. She is saying, in effect, that she does not recognize man’s God-given headship and will not submit to it.

If this were the only verse in the Bible on the subject, then it would imply that it is all right for a woman to pray or prophesy in the assembly as long as she has a veil or other covering on her head. But Paul teaches elsewhere that women should be silent in the assembly (1 Cor. 14:34), that they are not permitted to teach or to have authority over the man but to be in silence (1 Tim. 2:12).

Actually meetings of the assembly do not come into view until verse 17, so the instructions concerning the head-covering in verses 2–16 cannot be confined to church meetings. They apply to whenever a woman prays or prophesies. She prays silently in the assembly, since 1 Timothy 2:8 limits public prayer to the men (lit., males). She prays audibly or silently at other times. She prophesies when she teaches other women (Titus 2:3–5) or children in the Sunday school.

11:6 If a woman is not covered, she might as well be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, then she should be covered. The unveiled head of a woman is as shameful as if her hair were cut off. The apostle is not commanding a barber’s operation but rather telling what moral consistency would require!

11:7 In verses 7–10, Paul teaches the subordination of the woman to the man by going back to creation. This should forever lay to rest any idea that his teaching about women’s covering was what was culturally suitable in his day but not applicable to us today. The headship of man and the subjection of woman have been God’s order from the very beginning.

First of all, man is the image and glory of God whereas woman is the glory of man. This means that man was placed on earth as God’s representative, to exercise dominion over it. Man’s uncovered head is a silent witness to this fact. The woman was never given this place of headship; instead she is the glory of man in the sense that she “renders conspicuous the authority of man,” as W. E. Vine expresses it.

Man indeed ought not to cover his head in prayer; it would be tantamount to veiling the glory of God, and this would be an insult to the Divine Majesty.

11:8 Paul next reminds us that man was not created from woman but woman was created from man. The man was first, then the woman was taken from his side. This priority of the man strengthens the apostle’s case for man’s headship.

11:9 The purpose of creation is next alluded to in order to press home the point. Nor was man created primarily for the woman, but rather woman for the man. The Lord distinctly stated in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

11:10 Because of her position of subordination to man, the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head. The symbol of authority is the head-covering and here it indicates not her own authority but subjection to the authority of her husband.

Why does Paul add because of the angels? We would suggest that the angels are spectators of the things that are happening on earth today, as they were of the things that happened at creation. In the first creation, they saw how woman usurped the place of headship over the man. She made the decision that Adam should have made. As a result of this, sin entered the human race with its unspeakable aftermath of misery and woe. God does not want what happened in the first creation to be repeated in the new creation. When the angels look down, He wants them to see the woman acting in subjection to the man, and indicating this outwardly by a covering on her head.

We might pause here to state that the head-covering is simply an outward sign and it is of value only when it is the outward sign of an inward grace. In other words, a woman might have a covering on her head and yet not truly be submissive to her husband. In such a case, to wear a head-covering would be of no value at all. The most important thing is to be sure that the heart is truly subordinate; then a covering on a woman’s head becomes truly meaningful.

11:11 Paul is not implying that man is at all independent of the woman, so he adds: “Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord.” In other words, man and woman are mutually dependent. They need one another and the idea of subordination is not at all in conflict with the idea of mutual interdependence.

11:12 Woman came from man by creation, that is, she was created from Adam’s side. But Paul points out that man also comes through woman. Here he is referring to the process of birth. The woman gives birth to the man child. Thus God has created this perfect balance to indicate that the one cannot exist without the other.

All things are from God means that He has divinely appointed all these things, so there is no just cause for complaint. Not only were these relationships created by God, but the purpose of them all is to glorify Him. All of this should make the man humble and the woman content.

11:13 The apostle now challenges the Corinthians to judge among themselves if it is proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered. He appeals to their instinctive sense. The suggestion is that it is not reverent or decorous for a woman to enter into the presence of God unveiled.

11:14 Just how does nature itself teach us that it is a shame for a man to have long hair is not made clear. Some have suggested that a man’s hair will not naturally grow into as long tresses as a woman’s. For a man to have long hair makes him appear effeminate. In most cultures, the male wears his hair shorter than the female.

11:15 Verse 15 has been greatly misunderstood by many. Some have suggested that since a woman’s hair is given to her for a covering, it is not necessary for her to have any other covering. But such a teaching does grave violence to this portion of Scripture. Unless one sees that two coverings are mentioned in this chapter, the passage becomes hopelessly confusing. This may be demonstrated by referring back to verse 6. There we read: “For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn.” According to the interpretation just mentioned, this would mean that if a woman “does not have her hair on,” then she might just as well be shorn. But this is ridiculous. If she does not “have her hair on,” she could not possibly be shorn!

The actual argument in verse 15 is that there is a real analogy between the spiritual and the natural. God gave woman a natural covering of glory in a way He did not give to man. There is a spiritual significance to this. It teaches that when a woman prays to God, she should wear a covering on her head. What is true in the natural sphere should be true in the spiritual.

11:16 The apostle closes this section with the statement: “But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.” Does Paul mean, as has been suggested, that the things he has just been saying are not important enough to contend about? Does he mean that there was no such custom of women veiling their heads in the churches? Does he mean that these teachings are optional and not to be pressed upon women as the commandments of the Lord? It seems strange that any such interpretations would ever be offered, yet they are commonly heard today. This would mean that Paul considered these instructions as of no real consequence, and he had just been wasting over half a chapter of Holy Scripture in setting them forth!

There are at least two possible explanations of this verse which fit in with the rest of the Scripture. First of all, the apostle may be saying that he anticipates that certain ones will be contentious about these matters, but he adds that we have no such custom, that is, the custom of contending about this. We do not argue about such matters, but accept them as the teaching of the Lord. Another interpretation, favored by William Kelly, is that Paul was saying that the churches of God did not have any such custom as that of women praying or prophesying without being covered.1

1 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1785–1787). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
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Regi Addictissimus

Completely sold out to the King
Forgive me for not being able to respond at length as I am at work. I believe, as does my wife that women are called to cover their heads during worship. My wife studied this topic quite thoroughly and came out with this conclusion. This has been discussed quite a bit on here. I would ask you to read the following by John Murray:




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Puritan Board Sophomore
Maybe add an option for "unsure", for those who haven't studied it much? Asking for... ahem, a friend.

Scottish Presbyterian

Puritan Board Freshman
I said yes, but with the caveat that I would mean head-covering. I understand something different by a veil, and dont think that's what is required.


Puritan Board Freshman
I said yes, but with the caveat that I would mean head-covering. I understand something different by a veil, and dont think that's what is required.
This book can be purchased for $1.99 on amazon.com
Gardiner, Jeremy. Head Covering: A Forgotten Christian Practice for Modern Times Head Covering Movement. Kindle Edition.

It would appear the church had a rich history of veiling for women up until the feminist movement launched a specific attack against the practice. Please refer to the bold text at the bottom.

As for your vote, I would somewhat agree. A veil, hat, or whatever covering is customary for the day. As long as the woman's head is covered is what the Apostle Paul was driving home in this half a chapter of Holy scripture over the topic. Yet wearing a "hat" during church services may come across as a bit rude a veil would not. I try not to be dogmatic about what type of head covering it should be, yet as a "symbol" and given our church history being a veil I would personally feel safer and more comfortable if it is a veil.

It was the "meaning" of this act that the feminist movement took offense to as does our current day society regarding "male headship in the home," which is God's order of creation that the Apostle Paul touched on in several of his epistles.

We currently live in a post-feminist society. This world view has also infiltrated the churches.

Every serious student of the Word of God first seeks to discover its meaning and standards and then, and only then, to bring practice into conformity with it. Biblical principles determine Biblical practice.

Grace and Peace to all.
Wilmer, TX
Senior Pastor, Living Word Bible Church of Texas
ETERNITY! Know your final destination? (R)-(Registered)

The National Organization for Women (NOW) is a feminist organization founded by Betty Friedan (author of The Feminist Mystique). In 1968 they rallied their troops to have a “national unveiling.” Here’s what they said: “Because the wearing of a head covering by women at religious services is a symbol of subjection with many churches, NOW recommends that all chapters undertake an effort to have all women participate in a "national unveiling" by sending their head coverings to the task force chairman. At the spring meeting of the task force of women and religion, these veils will be publicly burned to protest the second class status of women in all churches.” [25] NOW rallied their various chapters to “undertake an effort” to stop the practice of head covering. They were so disgusted with the symbol and what it represented that they had a public burning of women’s veils. Sadly, their efforts achieved what they hoped it would.

A History of Christian Head Covering “I do know this, that until fifty years ago, every woman in every church covered her head. . . . What has happened in the last fifty years? We’ve had a feminist movement.” [4]
R.C. Sproul Jr., founder, Highlands Ministries; Chair of Philosophy and Theology, Reformation Bible College Head covering is not a new doctrine. Since the time of the apostles until the twentieth century, this practice was upheld by most Christians. In fact, it still is the majority view in much of the Eastern world. However, in the West the practice has fallen out of favor and is now held only by a minority. But this wasn’t always the case. Alice Morse Earle (American historian, 1851–1911) documented in her book Two Centuries of Costume in America, written more than one hundred years ago: “One singular thing may be noted in this history, – that with all the vagaries of fashion, woman has never violated the Biblical law that bade her cover her head. She has never gone to church services bareheaded.” [5]
So an American historian tells us that looking back on two hundred years of history, even though fashions changed, the one thing that did not was all Christian women covered their heads in church. Now, before we explore what happened for the practice to be largely abandoned, we need an overview of what the church has said about this symbol throughout the ages. Let’s take a tour through history, starting with the early church, as we see what influential pastors and theologians have said about this practice. The Early Church Pre-Nicene Churches [6]
We learn from the writings of Tertullian (approx. AD 200) that the Corinthian church was still practicing head covering about 150 years after Paul wrote his letter to them. Tertullian said, “So, too, did the Corinthians themselves understand [Paul]. In fact, at this day the Corinthians do veil their virgins. What the apostles taught, their disciples approve.” [7]
He also stated that it was practiced in other regions: “Throughout Greece, and certain of its barbaric provinces, the majority of Churches keep their virgins covered. There are places, too, beneath this (African) sky, where this practice obtains.” [8]
Though his comments may give the impression that some churches did not practice head covering, it should be noted that he is speaking only of churches that veil all women, not only those who are married. Head covering for wives was not debated, but not everyone agreed with Tertullian that single women needed to be veiled too. So, as part of his case, he points to other areas where veiling virgins was the majority practice. Irenaeus (AD 130–220), bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul (modern-day Lyon, France), was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the apostle John. Irenaeus is the earliest church father to comment on head covering. He only does so in passing and, because of that, he does not articulate his view. However, he quotes 1 Corinthians 11:10 as “A woman ought to have a veil upon her head, because of the angels.” [9]
By saying “veil” instead of “authority” Irenaeus shows that he understood it to refer to a fabric covering, not a woman’s long hair. Clement of Alexandria (AD 150–215), a Christian theologian and dean of the Catechetical School of Alexandria, said, “Woman and man are to go to church decently attired . . . for this is the wish of the Word, since it is becoming for her to pray veiled.” [10]
Hippolytus (AD 170–236), presbyter of the Church of Rome at the beginning of the third century, while giving instructions for church gatherings said, “Let all the women have their heads covered with an opaque cloth.” [11]
Tertullian (approx. AD 155–225), a prolific writer and apologist from Carthage, North Africa, wrote the earliest and longest defense of head covering that we possess today. He said, “I pray you, be you mother, or sister, or virgin-daughter—let me address you according to the names proper to your years—veil your head.”[12]
John Chrysostom (AD 347–407), the archbishop of Constantinople, wrote a commentary on 1 Corinthians 11. In this, he said, “The business of whether to cover one’s head was legislated by nature (see 1 Corinthians 11:14–15). When I say ‘nature,’ I mean ‘God.’ For he is the one who created nature. Take note, therefore, what great harm comes from overturning these boundaries! And don’t tell me that this is a small sin.” [13]
Jerome (AD approx. 347–420), a renowned Christian scholar and theologian, is best known for translating the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate). He said that Christian women in Egypt and Syria do not “go about with heads uncovered in defiance of the apostle’s command, for they wear a close-fitting cap and a veil.” [14]
Augustine (AD 354–430), bishop of Hippo (modern-day Algeria), wrote theological books, including The City of God and Confessions which are still widely read today. He wrote, “It is not becoming, even in married women, to uncover their hair, since the apostle commands women to keep their heads covered.” [15]
The Middle Ages through the Twentieth Century Church Councils In various councils and synods throughout the early to middle ages, Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 11 were upheld as binding in the present day. A veil was ordered for women receiving the Eucharist during the fifth through the seventh centuries by the councils of Autun, Angers [16], and Auxerre.[17]
The Synod of Rome in 743 said that “[A] woman praying in church without her head covered brings shame upon her head, according to the word of the Apostle.” [18]
Pope Nicholas I declared ex cathedra in 866 that “The women must be veiled in church services.” [19]
Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), an Italian Dominican friar, priest, and influential philosopher and theologian, is considered by the Catholic Church to be its greatest theologian and one of the thirty-three Doctors of the Church. He said, “A veil put on the head designates the power of another over the head of a person existing in the order of nature. Therefore, the man existing under God should not have a covering over his to show he is immediately subject to God; but the woman should wear a covering to show that besides God she is naturally subject to another.” [20]
William Tyndale (1494–1536), an English biblical scholar and foundational figure who translated the New Testament and the Pentateuch from the original languages into English, said, “I answer, that Paul taught by mouth such things as he wrote in his epistles. And his traditions were . . . that a woman obey her husband, have her head covered, keep silence, and go womanly and Christianly appareled.” [21]
Martin Luther (1483–1546), a German theologian who was the catalyst behind the Protestant Reformation, said, “The wife has not been created out of the head, so that she shall not rule over her husband, but be subject and obedient to him. For that reason the wife wears a headdress, that is, the veil on her head, as St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians.” [22]
John Knox (1514–1572), a Scottish clergyman and leader in the Protestant Reformation, with five other reformers wrote the Scottish Confession of Faith and established the Reformed Presbyterian Church. He quoted John Chrysostom’s writings advocating the practice of head covering and then shared his agreement by saying, “True it is, Chrysostom.” [23]
Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892), a Baptist pastor in London, is highly regarded cross-denominationally and is known as the “Prince of Preachers.” He said, “The reason why our sisters appear in the House of God with their heads covered is ‘because of the angels.’” [24]
Historical Summary As we’ve seen, the attestation to the practice of head covering is documented from the second century and beyond. Many of Christianity’s brightest and most influential theologians taught that the practice should be followed in their own culture and day. This is not a new doctrine—rather it is a teaching with a rich history that has only recently fallen out of practice.
Why Was It Abandoned?
In North America, head covering was practiced in virtually all churches up until the beginning of the twentieth century. This date is interesting because it coincides with the first wave of feminism. Although the practice continued in most churches, from that time forward it was a symbol in decline. Then in the 1960s and 70s, the number of women who practiced this symbol radically dropped. Once again, this coincided with another movement of feminism. During the 1960s, the Women’s Liberation Movement swept America.
You may be wondering if the link between feminism and the decline of head covering is a mere coincidence. We know that it wasn’t a coincidence because feminists were making organized efforts to try to eradicate the symbol. They understood that a woman covering her head was a symbol of her submission to male authority, and they hated that.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) is a feminist organization founded by Betty Friedan (author of The Feminist Mystique). In 1968 they rallied their troops to have a “national unveiling.” Here’s what they said: “Because the wearing of a head covering by women at religious services is a symbol of subjection with many churches, NOW recommends that all chapters undertake an effort to have all women participate in a "national unveiling" by sending their head coverings to the task force chairman. At the spring meeting of the task force of women and religion, these veils will be publicly burned to protest the second class status of women in all churches.” [25] NOW rallied their various chapters to “undertake an effort” to stop the practice of head covering. They were so disgusted with the symbol and what it represented that they had a public burning of women’s veils. Sadly, their efforts achieved what they hoped it would.
The New York Times also published an article showing how feminism was largely responsible for shutting down the industry of millinery (manufacturing of hats and headwear). They said: “But as the beehive hairdo gained popularity in the 1960s and the feminist movement made it acceptable for women to leave their hats at home, the industry faded.” [26]
Theologian R.C. Sproul Sr. notes the disturbing connection as well: “It does disturb me, that the . . . tradition of the woman covering her head in America did not pass away until we saw a cultural revolt against the authority of the husband over the wife.” [27]
We cannot be naive to the fact that we are influenced by the culture around us. Egalitarian thought has permeated the church, popularizing the beliefs that: Men and women serve no functional difference in the home. The man does not have a God-given responsibility to lead and the woman does not need to submit to her husband. Within the church, all offices are open to women.
This belief system, along with pressure from the culture, made the symbol of head covering fall out of favor until it was abandoned. Head covering was not innocently lost in North America, but is tied to the rejection of the biblical roles of men and women.

Gardiner, Jeremy. Head Covering: A Forgotten Christian Practice for Modern Times (pp. 9-17). Head Covering Movement. Kindle Edition.
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