The Woman’s Headcovering
Elder O. B. Mink
Now In Glory
“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.  Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.  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.  Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.  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.  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.  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.  For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.  Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.  For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.  Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.  For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.  Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?  Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?  But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.  But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God” (1 Corinthians 11:1-16).
Verse 1 “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
The text paraphrased: “Be imitators of me, even as I imitate Christ.” The apostle Paul was a worthy follower of Christ, and great spiritual profit could be realized by emulating the life of Paul; but Paul, knowing he was prone to error, points to Christ as the perfect pattern of holiness. Christ is the Christian’s supreme example, and none other person can compare with Him, but in following Paul the life of Christ would in a very great way be manifested.
This epistle was written to the “Church of God which is at Corinth” (I Corinthians 1:2). The Corinthian church as an organized body could follow Paul’s godly example in many things, such as prayer, Scripture study, charitableness, etc. Clearly the admonition contained in verse 1 applies to every church member in his or her individual capacity, but it is truly a wonderful thing when a minister is qualified to stand before the assembled church and say: “Follow me.” This is what Paul was doing by way of this epistle. It was an apostolic communiqué to the official church at Corinth. In a letter to the Philippian church, Paul says, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample” (Philippians 3:17).
It is good to follow any man as far as he follows Christ, for in so doing one is following Christ; but where the best of men leave off in their example of Christ, the saint must leave off following those men and go on into maturity by carefully copying the life of Christ. Paul told the Corinthian church “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you ... abundantly I love you” (II Corinthians 12:15). Paul’s heart was heavily burdened for the Corinthian church, for some members of the church had by evil example caused much strife and division in the church (I Corinthians 3:3). While Paul says “Follow me,” he warns the church of these evil workers, saying: “Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate ...” (II Corinthians 6:17). The inflexible rule of Scripture concerning those who walk contrary to the Word of God is, “Mark them ... and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
Verse 2 “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.”
While error permeated the Corinthian church, Paul yet finds something to compliment them for. He does not approach them with a “holier than thou” attitude but he says to them, “I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (I Corinthians 15:9). Even though infantile, Paul realized the Corinthian church was as much an official and genuine church as the church in Jerusalem or in Antioch. Paul was careful not to wound their tender conscience, and to win their confidence. He highlights a good element in their character, and then strategically proceeds to reprove them for their many and various deviations from truth.
“... Keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” The word “ordinances” in this verse is taken from the Greek word “paradosis” which was commonly used in that era of the handing down of traditions. Paul uses the word “paradosis” in I Corinthians 11:2 to refer to the handing down of the teachings of Christ to the apostles.
The word “paradosis” is used in only two ways in the
1.) The false traditions of the Pharisees being passed down (Matthew 15:2-6; Mark 7:3-13; Galatians 1:14; Colossians 2:8).
2.) Secondly, the term is used in reference to the teachings and commandments of Christ handed down to His apostles or church (I Corinthians 11:23; I Corinthians 15:3; II Thessalonians 2:15, 3:6). It is in this sense Paul uses the word (“paradosis”) in I Corinthians 11:2.
The word is in the plural (ordinances), and from a study of the immediate context it is seen that Paul has in view the ordinances of a headcovering for women, and the observing of the Lord’s Supper. Both of these ordinances are discussed at length and in great detail in this chapter, so it behooves the saints who are seeking to honor God in all things to diligently study this portion of Scripture and to obey the ordinances as applied to their lives. Let us with delight magnify the ordinances of Baptism and the Memorial Supper, but let us not neglect any of the ordinances handed down from the all glorious Head of the church.
With insatiable disdain Paul refers to the many false and hurtful traditions or commandments of the Pharisees which they had added to the Mosaic Law. In one place Peter speaks of them saying: “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we are able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). In Colossians 2:13-14 he refers again to the false traditions of the Pharisees, saying, that the death of Christ was the means of “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing to His cross.” But Paul admonishes the Corinthian church to keep the “commandments of God” (I Corinthians 7:19), and in verse 2 of our study, Paul says, speaking of the woman’s headcovering and the Lord’s Supper, “Keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you.” The traditions of men must give way to the commandments of God (Mark 7:8). Let us obviate or withstand the traditions and commandments of men, and be careful to never ridicule the ordinances of God, but rather obey them, for “His commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3).
Verse 3 “But I would have you to 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.”
Christ, in His glorified humanity seated at the right hand of His Father in heaven, is the Head of man; but He is yet positionally subordinate to His Head, which is God the Father. The omniscient counsel of God has made man the head of the two sexes on earth, and the woman’s headcovering is the divinely appointed symbol of her submission to the headship of man. The symbol does not in any way teach that the woman is subnormal, or that she is a mere supplement to man; but that she is a complement to him, and an honor unto God in obeying His ordinance.
Man looks up by faith to the Mediatorial throne to see his Head, and figuratively speaking, a headcovering such as a hat would obscure the view of his Head. But not so with the woman, she by sight looks horizontally or straight out to see her head; and a headcovering does not in the least hinder her in seeing her head. One day, as it is now with the faithful woman, the saved man will look straight out to see his Head, and will communicate with Him face to face. It is truly sad that so many otherwise faithful and God honoring women, who in every way qualify to wear the God appointed symbol, have not taken this distinction of excellence unto themselves.
God has given man headship over the woman, and charges
him with the responsibilities enjoined thereto. Man’s headship over the woman is
not like that of Christ’s over the man, for the headship of Christ is infallibly
exercised. Nevertheless, man’s headship over the woman is God given and genuine,
and the woman should not usurp the authority God has vested in man’s headship
Woman’s subordination to the man is the legislation of heaven. It is the position God has placed her in, and she should have a mind suited to her rank in God’s economy. Such a mind will serve as a shield against vitiating God’s appointments as relates to the husband and wife relationship.
For a wife to be insubordinate to her husband is to manifest a desire, not merely to be equal with him, but superior to her husband. Such insidious conduct on the part of the wife will without variance effeminate her husband. Who and where is the woman that would want Ahab for a husband? God forbid! No spiritually minded woman would want an Ahabish husband, for such a relationship demands role changes in the assignments God has given the husband and the wife. Such perversion of God’s ordinances is akin to blasphemy.
“... The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God” (verse 3). What Paul has in view in this text is not democratic equality, but graded authority. The chain of command is plainly delineated and any infraction thereof is an insult, not only to the immediate headship, but also to God, the originator of the respective headships. However, let the man remember he is to love his wife, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). Conjugal love has no room for abuse, but is the author of respect.
Verse 4 “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.”
The word “covered” in this text is translated from the Greek word “katakalupto.” In using this word, Paul, in contemporary vernacular says, “The man who prays while wearing a headcovering such as a cap or a hat dishonoureth his head.” The word “katakalupto” means “something down on the head,” and in Paul’s time the customary head-dress for both Jews and Greeks was a shawl for men and a veil for women. Surely, none would contend that the word “covered” in this text is a reference to man’s hair, for such an interpretation borders on the ludicrous, and closes the prayer access unto God to all men with unshaven heads.
It is an aberration of a serious nature for a man to pray while wearing a humanly fabricated headcovering, for in so doing he dishonoureth his Head and nullifies his prayer. For a man to appear in the official assembly in apparel unbecoming to the rank God has bestowed on him is to reproach the authority of Christ, and manifests disrespect for the church.
Verse 5. “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.”
Verse four plainly states it is wrong for a man to pray with his head covered. Verse five reveals that the contrary is true as relates women. It is wrong for women to appear in the worship service without the symbol of submission on her head, which is katakalupto, or a covering that a person can pull down on her head.
They who contend that the hair is what Paul was
speaking of charge him with being ridiculous, for it has him saying, “Women
ought to wear their hair to church, and men ought to leave their hair a home
when they go to church.” I will not charge the inspired apostle with such
absurdity, for his argument had not to do with the hair of either sex, but with
the divine ordinance which requires a headcovering to be worn by women in
addition to their hair while they are in the worship service.
God is a God of order, and His order of headship as stated in Verse 3 must be adhered to so as to avoid confusion, and usurpation of the authority omnisciently placed. For a man to question the authority and headship of Christ would make him disobedient to and ill respondent to the most merciful authority ever established.
Likewise, the same charge can be levied against women who set aside the authority and headship of man. For to do so would in essence be a rejection of God, for it is God who made man the head of the woman.
When the Bible speaks of Christ and His honor, glory,
and majesty; it also and at the same time speaks in a secondary sense of
redeemed men, for He is their Head. Man should be willing for Christ to get all
the glory, for He is the all deserving one. But sadly, man will all too often
forget his place of subordination to his Head and endeavor to assert himself.
This is a terrible sin on the part of fallen man, for he is trying to take the
honor which belongs exclusively to His Head, Jesus Christ.
The Scripture speaks of a God honoring wife, saying: “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rotteness in his bones” (Proverbs 12:4). “Virtue” is more than sexual fidelity, for such fidelity is sanctioned by the marriage vows of all people. Virtue is more than moral excellence, for such excellence is the goal of every society. Virtue is the avoidance of anything that cheapens or debases, and nothing cheapens or debases the headship of a husband more than a defiant and brawling woman. Virtue, as used in Proverbs 12:4 is manifested by the woman owning the rank and station God that has assigned her. Then and only then can it be said in truth, she “is a crown to her husband.”
Any home where God’s administrative appointments for the home are ignored cannot help but be in governmental disarray. In such a state quietude gives way to quarrelsomeness, and quarrelsomeness is one of the bitter ingredients which the recipe of marriage defeat calls for. A positive antidote for such a shameful state is found in the one infallible marriage manual, that is, the Word of God, i.e. Ephesians 4:31-32. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
This is a sinful and adulterous generation in which we live, and when the husband fails to recognize his Head and compromises the responsibility or headship divinely vested in him by his Head he is, whether conscious of it or not, aiding and abetting the evil and disruptive schemes of the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4). For marital peace and happiness, the husband must acknowledge Christ as his rightful Head, and the wife must recognize her husband as her God given head. When acknowledgment of the respective headships which God has established is properly owned, the result is a happy home, fellowship between husband and wife is the blessed experience, and their blissful state is perpetuated by their faithful adherence of God’s ordinances.
Verse 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.”
The word “also” in this text is very significant. It is, as used in the text, indisputable proof that Paul had in view a head covering in addition to the woman’s natural hair.
It is an ill supposition which contends that Paul is referring to a woman’s hair when he says: “... If the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn.” Such unwarranted supposition has Paul saying; “If a woman does not have hair on her head, let her also be shorn.” This is blather or foolish talk, for I ask, how could the woman be shorn if she had no hair? The nonsense of such a fickle supposition is glaringly apparent, and it casts a shadow on divine inspiration.
So as to avoid nonsense let us not by-pass the good sense of the text. The insuperable truth which Paul sets forth in this text is a plain and forceful rebuke of all women who would try and annul the headship which God has given to man. Paul’s perspicuous words in verse six are “If a woman does not have a headcovering in addition to her hair, let her hair be cut or her head be shaven as a badge of her shamefulness.”
Under the former dispensation if a husband was jealous of his wife, she was brought before the priest, and the priest set the woman before the Lord. The priest uncovered the woman’s head while the test of her virtue was being made. A bareheaded woman being officially set before God was a woman whose fidelity to her husband was in question (Numbers 5:18). The question has been asked, “Should Christian women, freed here from the Mosaic Law, be compelled to honor the ordinance of a headcovering? Does not their freedom allow them to set aside this inconvenience?” While Paul deals at length with the ordinance of a headcovering for women, he all but passes by the scandal which a failure to honor the practice would stir up. In Paul’s time, Christian women with uncovered heads would at once be taken as pagans, if not as prostitutes. This was so obvious, and the disgrace so terrible that this particular aspect or consequence which a neglect to honor the ordinance would bring, that Paul concluded it needed no further comment.
The man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his Head, Jesus Christ. For a man to appear in the official assembly in apparel unsuited to the authority delegated to him by heaven’s court would be a reproach of his head, Jesus Christ.
Conversely, if a woman appears in the official worship service of the church without a veil or suitable covering in addition to her hair, she shames her head, namely, the man. For her to so appear is to throw off the badge or token of her divinely obligated subjection, and minus the headcovering she appears in the awesome assembly in the dress which the Groom and Sovereign Head of the church has exclusively prescribed for man. For her to dishonor her head is to dishonor Christ, who gave the ordinance. It would be for her to lay claim to something God has given to the opposite sex. A woman should be satisfied with the station her blessed Redeemer has assigned her. Rebekah, when she met Isaac and was delivering herself into his possession took the initiative and without coercion put on her veil in token of her subjection. “And Isaac ... took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her...” (Genesis 24:67).
Man is responsible to exercise his headship, but not ever as a tyrant, nor without consideration for his help meet which God has given him. Christ, the Head of the church loved His bride, and gave Himself for her. To the same extent is the husband to love his wife and be governed by that love in the exercise of his headship over her (Ephesians 5:25).
In connection with verse six, let us look at verse fifteen, which reads, “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” The chief objection raised against the contention that a woman should wear an additional covering other than her hair in the official church assembly, is that her hair is the only covering Paul refers to in I Corinthians 11. However, the recalcitrant grievously errs, not knowing the Scriptures. At this juncture a brief etymological study of the word “shaven” used in verse 5, and the word “shorn” used in verse 6 is necessarily in order to expose the fallacy of the contention that Paul, without exception used the word “cover” and its cognates in I Corinthians 11 to refer to a woman’s hair.
The word “shaven” in verse 5 has for its origin or source the Greek word “xurao,” which means to shave entirely, as with a razor when a man shaves his face. This word (“xurao”) is used only one other time in the New Testament, i.e., Acts. 21:24. In this reference Paul identifies himself with some men who had placed themselves under the Nazarite vow (Numbers 6:1-10), and who had “shaven” all their hair off of their heads.
The word “shorn” in verse 6 comes from the Greek word “keirasthai”, which means to have their hair cut short or cropped off. There are two other places in the New Testament where the word “keirasthai” is used, Acts 8:32 and Acts 18:18. In the first reference (Acts 8:32) it speaks of a lamb whose wool is to be shorn. A shepherd never shaves his sheep, but he fleeces them; or they are “shorn”. In the second reference (Acts 18:18) Paul mentions a vow which he had made. Paul’s vow in this reference was not the Old Testament Nazarite vow, for the Nazarite vow could be absolved only by a Temple priest in Jerusalem. However, in connection with his vow Paul had his hair cut short or shorn, not shaved. “Xurao” means to shave, and “keirasthai” means to have the hair cut short. These two Greek verbs translated by the words “shorn” and “shaven” in I Corinthians 11:6, are thus translated to keep the contrast between them in view. (See: Word Pictures in the N.T. By A. T. Robertson - Vol. 3, Acts).
With the definition of the words “xurao” and “kerirasthai” as given above fixed in our minds, it is seen that the contention “uncovered” simply means short hair has no basis in Scripture. The objector is forced to concede by use of the terminology in verse 6 (“covered”), that the woman’s hair must be as short as the man’s, for the same term is used in a prohibitive sense in verse seven in referring to man. Verse 7 “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head ...”
For a woman to be “uncovered” is to dishonor her head (verse 5), and in so doing, Paul says she should have her hair cut (“shorn”) as short as that of the man, for she has by her refusal to wear a head covering made herself equal in authority to the man. However, Paul says, it is a “shame” for a woman to be found in fashion as a man; and to avoid such an ignoble state, Paul says: “let her be covered” (verse 6). That is, let her wear in addition to her hair the proper headcovering, which mutely but gloriously symbolizes her submission to her God given head.
If the objector persists in his contention that the word “covered” in verse 6 refers to a woman’s hair, then he would have to read the first part of the verse on this wise: “For if the woman have short hair, let her also be shorn.” Such a reading proves far too much for the objector and renders his contention inviable, for the evident and indisputable meaning of the word “shorn” in the text is to cut the hair short. Hence, the objector finds himself trying in vain to convince intelligent people that what the apostle Paul really says in the text is; “If the woman have short hair, let her also cut her hair short.”
Verse 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.”
This verse restates the order of headship as given in verse 3, and describes the particular stations of man and woman as glorious. The superlative language of the text should thrill the heart of every redeemed man and woman, and cause them to seriously consider the great honor and awesome responsibility connected with their heavenly assigned roles.
Various and complex are the duties which are inherent in man’s headship office, and these duties are superimposed by the Word of God, man’s first and supreme duty is unto his Head, Jesus Christ. And man’s second greatest duty is to his wife. If he fails in either of these duties, he will be derelict in all that his headship office involves. If he is faithful in the exercise of his headship he will glorify his own Head, bring honor to his family, and attain for himself a good reward at the judgment seat of Christ.
The husband’s ascendancy over his wife does not imply absolute domination of her, but his is an authority which demands loving leadership. Therefore, Paul says the husband is to “love his wife even as himself” (Ephesians 5:33). Man’s greatest duty to his wife is “to love her as his own body” and careful attendance to this all important duty will greatly enhance the discharge of all his other headship obligations.
For a husband to love his wife so ardently necessitates, or makes it incumbent on his wife that she have a devotion to her duty of submissiveness to him that will make her precious in his sight. It is not expected of any man that he love that which is unlovely. Ability to love people who are unlovely belongs to Christ exclusively. Neither can it be expected that a wife be unreservedly submissive to a husband who is deficient in his love for her. Reciprocity in these duty areas is essential to a God honoring marriage therefore it is the obligation of both husband and wife to achieve the ultimate in their particular responsibilities toward one another.
Simply put, no marriage can realize its divinely prescribed goal without consistent and positive input by both partners. This input will have a cohesive effect on the marriage relationship, and make the conjugal bond more than equal to the disparities which shall try it. Acquiescence is the chief duty of the wife to her husband. This does not mean the husband is not to consult with his wife in matters relating to family government, for the family household is affected either for good or bad by every prominent action of its head, whether it be private or public. Therefore, in all doubtful cases it behooves the husband to solicit the advice of his wife, and whether or not she consents or dissents does not in any way infringe upon his authority as her head. But if she can in truth, cheerfully acquiesce in the matter, it will afford the husband the blessed and needed assurance, and keep his house from being “divided against itself.”
Anger is inevitable, it will come from one or the other, or in most cases from both husband and wife. Nothing will destroy marital intimacy quicker and more extensively than uncontrolled anger. But anger per se is not necessarily evil. Paul says: “Be ye angry and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26). Anger is an emotion as natural as love and joy, but anger becomes hurtful when it is mis-vented. Anger must, for the sake of the marriage relationship be vented in a non destructive way; and it can be done with the due exercise of forethought owing to the sacred union. Paul follows his admonition, wherein he says: “Be ye angry and sin not,” with the greatest conciliatory prescription ever penned, and, it remedially applies to marriage. The prescription reads: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32). Taken daily and in large doses, it is a positive preventative against bitter dissension and the hateful stigma of divorce.
Let the husband be ever mindful that his headship is subordinate to the Headship of Christ, and for him to assume any of the functions which belong to the exercise of Christ’s Headship is for him to think that Christ is such a one as himself. Then too, the wife needs to be incessantly and acutely aware that her governmental position in marriage is authoritatively and distinctly inferior to her husband, and that for her to take to herself any of the authority delegated to him by Christ is to make that authority not only mis-proportioned, but ill-proportioned. But when their places in the divine order of headship are strictly adhered to, then the man is a true image of God and manifests His glory thereby. And so it is with the faithful wife; she is an extension of God’s glory by her ready submission to her husband (verse 7).
Verses 8-9 “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
These words have to do with more than the order of creation. The text (verses 8-9) points directly to and highlights the wife’s role of submission to her husband. The apostle Paul says: “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed then Eve” (I Timothy 2:12-13). Adam’s seniority over Eve in creation is not in and of itself the exclusive reason for his headship over her, nor did his first place in creation make him more noble and wiser than Eve; but it did make him first in responsibility toward God. Eden was given to Adam’s authority, and he was to answer directly unto God for the dispensation of that authority (Genesis 2:15-17). Immediately following the Lord’s commands unto Adam (Genesis 2:15-17), He said, “... It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18). Nowhere in Eden’s government did God give Eve a direct commandment, but not so with Adam; for he was the federal head of Eve and responsible to God for her conduct. “God brought Eve unto Adam” and this bringing her to Adam by God had to do with more than introductions. It had to do first of all with positions and authority as husband and wife. The first marriage covenant was formulated at this time, and it is commonly understood that where all parties in a covenant are equal there is no need for a covenant. Thus it follows that in a covenant one or more of the parties to the covenant must necessarily be subordinate to at least one other person in the covenant. It is upon this principle that Paul says, speaking of the “everlasting covenant,” “and the head of Christ is God” (I Corinthians 11:3).
When Rebekah was brought to Isaac to be his wife, she was excited and filled with joy and without a moment’s hesitation, “... she took a veil and covered herself.” Rebekah’s action in covering her head was a public acknowledgment of her submission unto Isaac. “… and she became his wife; and he loved her” (Genesis 25:65-67). When Saul of Tarsus was by the Holy Spirit brought to Christ to be His servant, Saul acknowledged the headship of Christ over him by asking, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). Henceforth, Paul was before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4).
In owning the Headship of God over Him, the Lord Jesus said, “... I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:10). From the Scriptural examples referred to in this paragraph it is clearly seen that submission to the respective and divinely appointed headships begets mutual love; and this love is manifested by noble feelings and loyal submission of the subordinates.
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