Is Hair Considered a Covering in Worship? Comparing 1 Corinthians 11:6 and 11:14, 15

Not open for further replies.
Brad, the idea that long hair is the covering finds no support in the text whatsoever. The flow of argument does not work with your proposed substitution. Praying or prophesying is an activity which comes immediately from Christ, the invisible head of the church. To engage in it one must have no visible covering for such covering is a sign of being under visible headship. For women to engage in such an activity they would be required to remove their covering. If the hair were their covering it would be a natural covering and could not be removed, which effectively destroys the argument of the apostle. The apostle's later reference to long hair is an illustration from nature that the woman should be covered, thus prohibiting her praying and prophesying in the united assembly of men and women.
Pastor, I do not find this assertion in the text. What I do find is that men should not be covered, and women should be so, when praying and prophesying. Does your interpretation mean that women in Church should remove said covering while engaged in silent prayer? I have every confidence that you have thought your position through very carefully, but then I have the same confidence in Calvin, and yet you come to different conclusions in the matter. If differing with your interpretation has told you anything about me, I hope it is similar to what it has told you about Calvin, because then I will rejoice in the fine company I'm keeping.

I have great respect for your views, sir, but there are a few points where we will differ. I find this similar to the argument for public prayer in King James English. That is preposterous, regardless of the convoluted arguments in its favor. When the KJV was translated, the churchmen of that day did not pray in language of the Angles, Saxons, or Normans, which would be the equivalent. This looks to be another example of a building a rationale to support a familiar and cherished practice rather than objectively determining if the practice is warranted by scripture. I know you are intransigent in that matter, and I'm sure you are in this one, but your intransigence is not proof of your accuracy.

I won't presume to teach you, nor would I pretend to have the capacity to engage with you on weightier matters, but in these, as with the one I am unconvinced in the other. If that marks me in some derogatory manner as inferred by your earlier veiled ad hominem, I suppose I will just have to bear that mark whatever its character, having been given no certain knowledge of what it might be. All it tells me about you is that even very great wisdom has its limitations, which does not diminish my love for you whatsoever.

Does this passage place any more prescription on us than, say, 14:1 (or 14:5!) (I'm just making the point that there are valid reasons for understanding a prescriptive passage in light of the issues of the church at the time.)

It just seems that under the new covenant, the imposition of outward signs is something we're freed from. Something seems strange about acknowledging that circumcision is nothing but that the wearing of coverings (or the length of our hair) is a matter of obedience. But I do appreciate the desire of husbands and wives who prescribe to coverings to be obedient to Scripture, and I do realize that it can't be lightly dismissed.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

I think this is a point worth considering. I don’t see how the passage can be talking only about long hair, however I have often wondered at why it is my conscience is utterly silent on this matter. (This is all going to sound very subjective, and I’m not presuming to trust my conscience above the Word.......just being open about my own feelings.) I did start to wear a head covering for church a while back, but found myself forgetting to put the thing on. I suppose I just didn’t get into the habit (pardon the pun :)) of it! However, on the days when I forgot to wear it, I didn’t sense any kind of ‘wrongness’ (bad word choice.....I’m tired) in being there in the worship of God without it on. Ultimately I just gave up altogether. Yet my conscience doesn’t hold back in other areas of life/worship! I hear it loud and clear.
What I do find is that men should not be covered, and women should be so, when praying and prophesying.

Where do you get the "should" from? It is a matter of fact that "shame" would be involved if the men were covered or the woman uncovered -- "shame" being relative to societal structure. The argument is that the woman should not be praying or prophesying in the assembly where men are present, which is required by 11:3 and stated absolutely in chap. 14. Were they to pray or prophesy they would have to remove their covering, and this would be a shame for them and all one as if they were shaven.

Your view assumes the legitimacy and authority of women to pray and prophesy in a mixed assembly with men, and overturns the fundamental point made by the apostle in verse 3. Anything which contradicts that leading statement is obviously a false interpretation of the main point of the passage.
It just seems that under the new covenant, the imposition of outward signs is something we're freed from

Jeri, if you look at 1 Cor 11 in the Greek, Paul uses the same Greek word in speaking of both head coverings and communion. Both are "delivered down, handed over, tradition". Tradition means something handed down, delivered over from the past. If Paul speaks this way of the outward symbol of the communion elements, why is it so hard to also accept that we have this symbol? ( we also have the symbol of water in baptism).

Rev Winzer....these angels (messengers) are human...just curious given past you believe in intelligent spirit beings that are not human called angels? I was under the impression you don't believe in evil fallen angels or demons, so in that context I wonder if you believe in what we commonly refer to as angels at all, or if you just don't think this section refers to them. Thanks.
Rev Winzer....these angels (messengers) are human...just curious given past you believe in intelligent spirit beings that are not human called angels? I was under the impression you don't believe in evil fallen angels or demons, so in that context I wonder if you believe in what we commonly refer to as angels at all, or if you just don't think this section refers to them. Thanks.

Sorry if I have said anything to give that impression. I affirm all that the Larger Catechism affirms in its answer on the creation and providence of God with respect to angels. I deny what is contrary to the Catechism, that they have any intermediary or independent influence in human affairs. They are a part of the providential order. Christ is exalted above them. They are no object of our worship.
Last edited:
I hadn't read Calvin on this until tonight. His comments on tradition are helpful. On 11:2, he says that there were "certain traditions of the apostles that were not committed to writing, but [were not] parts of doctrine, or related to things necessary for salvation...they were connected with order and government. For we know that every Church has liberty to frame for itself a government that is suitable and profitable for it, because the Lord has not prescribed anything definite." He says he'll go on to show how Paul infers from verse 3 that women ought to cover their heads, but I haven't read that far yet, am looking forward to understanding his thought.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
I have been wondering if in the time when these parts of scripture were written, the women wore a specific head covering for when they were in mixed worship?
One they would have worn just for that and not one they may have worn at other times also?
Thanks Rev Winzer.

Jeri....I have often wondered, in light of the same Greek usage:

2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them- paredōka-παρέδωκα- on to you.

and this 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on paredōka- παρέδωκα- to you

...if this came directly from the Lord. In verse 23 referring to communion he says that what he is delivering over he got from the Lord. In verse 2 he does not say where what he is delivering over came from. The apostles? The Lord?

I don't think we can say for sure, but I find it personally impossible to separate them into one command binding on us and one not binding on us.

In 2 Thess 2:15, Paul says So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. This is an apostolic command to hold not just to written things "delivered over" but also to oral things that had been taught. Does it matter if it came from Paul by way of the holy spirit, or from the Lord directly? I don't think do. But it did come from more than Paul and his own opinion. He is clear in other places that he is speaking personally ("I, not the Lord","in my opinion", etc.). But here he does not make that distinction.
Lynnie, I agree with what you're saying about Paul's use of paredōka... I'm not convinced about how his instruction on covering and hair relates to it, though. Wouldn't it be great to hear a discussion of this from a panel of the best Greek scholars. I'd love to hear what we do NOT necessarily have to infer from the Greek in this text, as well as what we do. I remain firmly on the side of finding it highly unlikely that Paul imposes this practice on all Christian women for all times and cultures, and believe instead that it illustrates the principle of modesty and submission (and the creation order). I don't want to sound intractable, but one has to come down eventually on one side or the other, doesn't one. It's a crazily controversial topic, isn't it? It's an important one, too, because of all its ramifications. I think women are needing real help with it; we're vulnerable because of our desire to be godly and submissive, and the head covering movement is apparently growing and influential. Panel of Greek scholars, help! (I read this interesting article today by Daniel B. Wallace, for what it's worth: May the Lord give help to us as we seek to know his will from his word.
Jeri, I read your link, and I am sorry, but I get so tired of these long essays that skip right over the fact that Paul said it was sign to the angels, and make it a sign to people around you. He does refer to Paul's angelology in passing, but moves right on to lengthy opinions about signs to the culture.

You either think the angels are human messengers like Rev Winzer does, or you think the invisible spirit being angels see things differently than they did in Corinth, and today the angels look at other signs of submission (whatever they are), or somehow you deal with the reference to angels. But please, these people that keep writing as if headcoverings were a sign to the people in the pew fail at basic reading comprehension. If somebody can't face the fact that it is talking about doing this because of the angels, they miss the point.

Also, I think his comment at the end on why hats don't qualify is poorly reasoned, and I think hats are a nice traditional way to obey this scripture. This:

Today, however, the situation is quite different, at least in the West. For a woman to wear a head covering would seem to be a distinctively humiliating experience. Many women--even biblically submissive wives--resist the notion precisely because they feel awkward and self-conscious. But the head covering in Paul’s day was intended only to display the woman’s subordination, not her humiliation. Today, ironically, to require a head covering for women in the worship service would be tantamount to asking them to shave their heads! rediculous. The stores are full of nice hats- Sears, Kohls, Target, Wal Mart. Princess Kate (or is she a Duchess?) is a knockout in her hats. So was Di. Any woman can buy a hat. Humiliating??? Maybe this guy has a difficult wife, I don't know. But wearing something on your head is not quite the horrible thing he makes it out to be.

Anyway, thanks for the comment and the link. But you need to ask yourself why Paul commanded this because of the angels. Are they the invisible spirit ones? Do they see it any differently than they did in Corinth? Is it reasonable to view them as simply that what Paul meant? Decide whatever you want, but at least get angels into the equation.
I've known people I had no reason to consider unsubmissive to have difficulty wearing hats. It's unfortunate that the option of browbeating them didn't occur to me, I suppose.
The commentaries on this passage which I have read 1 Corinthians 11 v 10 say the angels were actual angels, one or two seemed not sure and offered up a couple of possibilities. Some stated that the Jews believed angels were present in their worship assemblies.
Is Hair Considered a Covering in Worship? Comparing 1 Corinthians 11:6 and 11...

Linnie, I don't have a problem with the angels being either heavenly beings or humans. I just don't know, and I think the honest difference of opinion among able men reflects that this is a difficult passage. I was thinking this morning about the passage in 1 Peter 3: "Do not let your adorning be external-the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." This thought, in my view, is the very antithesis of interpreting Paul in 1 Corinthians to be saying that an external sign of this modesty and gentleness is any part of what God requires. I could be wrong. I don't believe that a right reading of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 yields the interpretation you have. Again, I could be wrong. I see this issue as something along the lines of holding to the dispensational view; there are the promises of land to Israel and there is the temple in Ezekiel, but biblical theology sheds light on our systematic theology (if that makes any sense).

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Last edited:
Jeri, I see commands with outward symbols to be obeyed, and of course the heart should match the symbol. What matters, being sprinkled with water in baptism or being united with Christ? Both. What matters, taking communion or truly eating and drinking of the Lord? Both. What matters, laying hands on a man who is being ordained, or that the man walk in the godly authority from God that is being granted to him? Both. I don't see the two as being separated. Both are commanded. That is how I see headcoverings.

New testament commands are a whole different thing form OT ceremonial commands that were fulfilled in Christ. Baptism, communion, the laying on of hands, and head coverings are all NT commands.
Lynnie, this passage is regulating a charismatic gift. We don’t derive an order of service from the regulations about tongues. In this case hair is cited as standing for an abiding principle that the Corinthian woman were struggling with (and I believe they were struggling with it in their own cultural context: as have a few reformed commentators) – they had received the same prophetic outpouring as the sons, and needed to be reminded that this did not overturn the order of Creation. By creation, women have a head and have a covering, and should behave accordingly – even when engaged in exercising a charismatic gift. (I think the regulation on women not speaking in the assemblies is the focus of a later passage: the focus on this one seems to be that even a direct, supernatural gift -- wherever exercised – does not nullify the created order). I am unconvinced that we are supposed to derive doctrines of angels or of headcoverings or of hair length from the passage.

I think that Jeri’s point about the vulnerability of submissive women to bad (manipulative) argumentation is worth noting – it isn’t a good argument to imply that there is some kind of character issue where a woman will not see the passage or experience the experience in whichever particular way a proponent is arguing (there are clearly a number of distinct and even opposed interpretations for both sides of the practice). I don’t think it’s kind to imply (if I read you right) that the writer of the article has a troublesome wife, if she doesn’t like standing out via what amounts in our culture to a fashion statement (citing royalty only confirms this – it’s quite a parade when they put on their hats: most people don’t see respect for order, but simple – or more complicated – display), in a place where other women are not making that statement. I didn’t read the article, so if he implied that women who are convicted of this practice are simply displaying, that is something I would very strongly disagree with. I do know first hand that even women convicted of the practice struggle with going against ‘custom’.

I don’t like to argue over what isn’t even a confessional matter, and so probably won’t be engaging further in this thread. I've stated my own understanding because it makes sense to me of a puzzling part of Scripture: God is capable of convincing my or another person's conscience, and I believe it is more important that our consciences are tender towards Him than that others should confirm our views: I think God cares a great deal about tenderness of conscience. I confess to failing in it all the time, but I am blessed to have that example in women on both sides of this discussion. I hope you are well: it's genuinely always a blessing to even think of you.
I understand the reticence to focus attention on a point like this. Nor would I say it is confessional in the proper sense. But (1) there is a Christian and confessional stance towards "nature," and 1 Cor. 11 is adduced in support of it, WCF 1.6, particularly in relation to worship. (2) Concession to anti-natural cultural relevancy can be a slippery slope. (3) Sound biblical interpretation should always be a concern for an evangelically committed Christian.

The concern with "signs" is well warranted. Romanism sought to turn basic natural and cultural norms into sacramental signs. This "sign," however (allowing a broader usage for the word), is not ceremonial, but cultural, in the same way that customary reverential gesture is required by Scripture in approaching God. E.g., bowing the head and closing the eyes in prayer is something "nature" teaches us in our culture, even though another culture may have different gestures. The point in relation to coverings is that "something" is required, and claiming cultural redundancy only serves to assist the anti-natural unisex culture of our day.
Just an observation, but some of the folks that say that the hair is a covering and no other is needed are the same one's whose women have rather short hair, and men long hair. I think it's inconsistent.
Just an observation, but some of the folks that say that the hair is a covering and no other is needed are the same one's whose women have rather short hair, and men long hair. I think it's inconsistent.
Now that's what I call a can of worms! I notice that many, men, from our early churches days wore long hair. :worms:
Well, it's been a rousing discussion and at the end of the day, it's certainly true that everyone must go by their own present convictions on the matter. I appreciate the desire to honor the Lord and his gospel of everyone who has commented, including Herald, who asked the question that quickly got sidetracked! I'm sure it's not the last time this will be discussed. I am presently convinced but hope I'm willing to change my mind if otherwise convinced by Scripture. Thanks for all the thoughtful comments; each one helped me in my thinking on this issue.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Just an observation, but some of the folks that say that the hair is a covering and no other is needed are the same one's whose women have rather short hair, and men long hair. I think it's inconsistent.
An entirely unsupported assertion in my experience, but perhaps we run in different circles. My hair is buzz-cut, and my beloved bride has beautiful flowing tresses... per the plain instruction of scripture. Not the convoluted nonsense that supports a preferred extra-biblical practice.
Just an observation, but some of the folks that say that the hair is a covering and no other is needed are the same one's whose women have rather short hair, and men long hair. I think it's inconsistent.
Now that's what I call a can of worms! I notice that many, men, from our early churches days wore long hair. :worms:

I mention that observation because as I'm trying to work out the biblical position I'm looking for consistency. Also, I'm not just referring to this topic. Culture does seem to play a role on how we interpret and enforce certain doctrines and practices. Some things are relative, or up to conscience, and others not. The Reformed sometimes are at risk of pulling out the conscience card and just brushing a doctrinal matter aside. I'm trying to stay away from that side or the overly dogmatic side on things that are genuinely up for conscience.
I do not really want to get too much into this conversation, but I did think of something that is interesting. Since Deacon is an office of the local session or consistory, what would you say about our brothers and sisters in the RPCNA, who hold to a deaconess position? Since it is an office, wouldn't deaconesses be able to pray amongst the assembly of men? If not, then what would you say concerning the office of deacon(ness)?
Heidi, I am not trying to be unkind. But IF- IF- a person believes Paul is writing this to us today, not merely to Corinth in his day- and I realize that many if not most people do not believe it is for today-

The IF you do believe it holds today, to whine about how humiliating it is to make a woman do it is simply ghastly. This is like whining about how horrible it is to say you can't have sex before marriage or be gay or get drunk run up the credit cards for a trip to Orlando. Obeying God IS hard, very hard. Americans are a culture of whining victims, and IF you DO believe it is for today, then you do it. And if you feel all humiliated and wierd and self conscious, well then, beg God for grace. Pray and fast and seek God until you can do it. It took me a while to get past the self conscious feelings. So what?

People all over the world are getting stoned to death and beheaded for their Christian faith. Going to jail, losing jobs, being disowned by families. And somebody who thinks the bible teaches headcoverings are for today does not have to do it because they might feel ....humiliated???? Are you kidding me?

That author is obviously struggling with what he used to believe and trying to be Mr. Nice Guy now about it all and twist the subject so no woman feels self conscious. I think it is wrong. I can't count the number of people who have told us to our face they believe in headcoverings but won't do it/admit it because other people will get upset, or they will look legalistic or catholic or might bother the church elders, or headcoverings look stupid.

If you don't believe it is for today, that is one thing. Your conscience is clear. But if you DO think it is a clear command binding on us today, then don't whine about how hard it is to wear a hat. ( not talking to you, I am, speaking of the link). Ask God to give you some strength and pray for people losing their life over their faith. To think it is commanded for us, but then say it is just too cruel to ask women to obey it, is disgraceful.
IF- IF- a person believes Paul is writing this to us today, not merely to Corinth in his day- and I realize that many if not most people do not believe it is for today-

I don't know that anyone is saying this isn't for today, but the question is what does the passage teach? A specific physical practice, or a general principle?

In Revelation, the letters to the seven churches were for specific churches, yet who here would say they are irrelevant? They are generally applicable.
Is 1Co 7 irrelevant? No, but it had special application for Paul's day. This is a far cry from tearing pages out of the Bible. No one here (that I know of) believes Paul is writing "merely to Corinth in his day" with respect to head coverings.
Lynnie, if the author was presenting a personal conviction he has come to that a doctrine of headcovering isn't the point of this passage, then secondary reasons (he has a difficult wife) shouldn't be sought. It is a valid point that a sense of modesty is involved in a reluctance to be singular for no good reason, and it would be unwise to overcome that without a conviction. Speculation about the character of another man's wife will not appeal except to people who find any stick good enough to beat the opposition -- or themselves -- with. I have no wish to participate in discussion where that dynamic is involved, on either side.

Rev. Winzer, your view is the only one I have heard that consistently allows that women could ever take the covering off. Yet a number of objections occur to that reading, which I don't feel able or desirous to state in this setting. (Free speech about many matters isn't worth much to me, and is only possible in environments of charity and peace.)
Last edited:
Is Hair Considered a Covering in Worship? Comparing 1 Corinthians 11:6 and 11...

Just want to say in defense of the author of the article I linked to (who is a well-respected seminary professor of Greek); the author makes no mention of his wife's preferences one way or the other. He seems to have come to a different understanding of Paul's meaning in chapter 11 from his studies of the text, not from anyone's discomfort. (Edit: In re-reading the article, I don't really agree with his conclusion anyway; it would be better not to bring how women feel into the conversation, and probably would have been better not to have posted the link.) But I don't believe he bases his change in thinking on his preferences or feelings. Nobody should.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Last edited:
Heidi- that was an out of place crack, you are correct. So let me state it more carefully-

If a man thinks that asking women to do something that they feel is humiliating is wrong, even if ( I understand we don't agree on the if) it is what the New testament commands us, I really think he has had some bad experiences with women. OK? My opinion only. I can not speculate on who the women are. I am commenting on a public link with his conclusions, and think that those conclusions probably reflect some women in his past days when he taught a straightforward belief in headcoverings. If the women had told him how glad they were that God used him to open their eyes and how grateful they are that he taught them this, I doubt we'd see him trying to finagle a new symbol that women are happier with.

I went through this with girls at church a while back and our pool and beach trips. It is SOOOOOOO humiliating and mean for me to insist on one piece bathing suits when EVERYBODY wears two piece and you look like a freak in a one piece. Uh huh.

The question is not how women feel, it is what the bible says. Every egalitarian site out there is rife with accusations of men humiliating women by denying them the right to be elders and pastors.

I think we need to teach people that humiliation is part of the package. I mean, young earth creationism? You think believeing in that doesn't bring ridicule? Gay marriage is wrong?

It is fine to not believe in headcoverings if that is your studious conclusion. It is not fine to believe in them but worry about humiliating women by saying so.
Not open for further replies.