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What is the Biblical head covering? There are various religious groups that exalt a piece of cloth of a certain color, cut to a certain size and shape and worn in a certain manner (according to their church laws and traditions) as the head covering of Scriptures. Their head covering is also often among their chief doctrinal distinctives and is exalted to a salvation issue in some groups for the female members. At other times, the head covering isn’t quite exalted to that degree but seems to come close to it. Hence, because their interpretation of the head covering is elevated to this degree, it becomes a primary issue. QUESTION: Must a Christian woman, after hearing teachings on why the head covering is supposed to be a piece of cloth, wear such for salvation and/or close fellowship with the saints, according to the Bible?
It is the purpose of this study to Biblically examine this question/issue. For the Christian, we must remember not to go beyond what is written in Scripture (1 Cor. 4:6). Moreover, a Christian is thoroughly equipped with the Scriptures alone (2 Tim. 3:16,17). [Hence, he does not need the writings of any so-called “ church fathers” or church elders, etc.] With this in mind, let’s proceed carefully to see what God's word, final spiritual authority, says.
The only time in the Bible the Christian head covering is referred to is in 1 Corinthians 11. To get the whole context about the head covering, we must examine more than just one or two verses. Paul wrote:
Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Cor 11:3) Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. (1 Cor 11:4) And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved. (1 Cor 11:5)
● Both Christian men and Christian women are to pray and prophesy, but this is to be done in the right way or their head will be dishonored. For the man to do this he must have his head uncovered. If not, he will dishonor his head—the Lord Jesus. The opposite is true for the woman when praying or prophesying. If her head is uncovered (no head covering), she will dishonor her husband.
● If a Christian woman prays or prophesies with her head uncovered (no head covering) it is the equivalent to her head being shaven.
If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. (1 Cor 11:6)
● For a Christian woman to have her hair shaved off is a disgrace to her personally. Hence, if a Christian woman does not cover her head (have a head covering) when praying and prophesying she dishonors her husband and disgraces herself.
A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. (1 Cor 11:7) For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; (1 Cor 11:8) neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. (1 Cor 11:9) For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head. (1 Cor 11:10)
● Why Paul gave the aforementioned directives about how Christian women are to pray and prophesy is given—a woman is the glory of man, she was created for man and because of the angels. Paul also mentioned the woman’s head covering is also a sign of authority.
In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. (1 Cor 11:11) For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. (1 Cor 11:12)
Long Hair Is The Head Covering
You are now about to read, in the clearest possible terms, what the woman’s head covering was in first-century Christianity:
Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? (1 Cor 11:13) Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, (1 Cor 11:14) but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. (1 Cor 11:15) If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God. (1 Cor 11:16)
You would think the clarity of v. 16 would silence all those who wrongly say a woman’s head covering is a piece of cloth a certain size, shape, color and worn in a particular way, but often it doesn’t. Some continue to embrace their church standards and traditions and remain contentious, the very thing Paul just refuted with the woman’s long hair is her covering teaching. It seems that Biblical truth is not always the real issue for many in these circles. It is instead to go with the established flow in their group and what has been done in the past. These rules taught by men in certain circles have actually nullified these Scriptures for some.
Observations About The Head Covering
1. It is possible for a man to have his head covered (v. 4), just like it is possible to have a woman’s head uncovered (v. 5). In both cases it is done with hair.
2. It is a disgrace for a man to cover his head (have a head covering), which is done by long hair (v. 14).
3. For a man to have his head covered is to dishonor his head, who is Christ (v. 3,4), which is infinitely more serious than a woman dishonoring her husband by having her head uncovered.
4. For a woman to have her head uncovered is on a par with having her head shaven bald (v.5).
Hair was an issue in the early Christian church. Hence, if you want to conform to that early Christian church standard, then you must adjust to the hair regulations for men and women just cited in Scripture. Such can not be legalism or a works salvation.
The truth is: It is merely rules taught by men that would state the woman’s head covering is a piece of cloth. It is not the word of God that teaches that. Hence, for those who reject this and remain contentious about this issue, Paul’s Holy Spirit inspired teaching still stands about the head covering:
But that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. (1 Cor 11:15) If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God. (1 Cor 11:16)
If the woman’s head covering was not clearly stated to be her long hair, we would have no idea what it is to be since nothing else is identified as the head covering. Nowhere does it say the head covering is a piece of cloth, much less specify the color, shape and how it is to be wore. How can some be so dogmatic about such, yet claim to go by the Bible? Furthermore, how can so many just follow along with no Scriptural support?
While some insist the woman’s head covering is a piece of cloth (usually white), one could have just as much Biblical support that the head covering is instead a brown hat, a blue scarf, a fig leaf, etc., since there is absolutely no Scriptural defense for any of these. Remember 2 Tim. 3:16,17. GOD BLESS YOU.
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