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Does Scripture require women to wear a VEIL or other head covering? 1 Cor. 11:2-16

In many Christian and Hebraic Roots and Messianic groups, women worship in church services with their heads veiled or covered. Certainly we know Islamic women veil themselves, and in some cases all you can see are the eyes of the woman. What does scripture say about women wearing a veil for spiritual times? The Bible does discuss having a “covering”, but is a veil, hat, or some other form of man-made covering required?  And if so, for what purpose? If not, then why is a covering mentioned?

Always first pray for understanding and light whenever you look to God’s Word for guidance.  Guidance should always be from God’s word - not just someone’s opinion.

Here’s the main text used by both sides to shore up their teaching.  Key: the context of the early verses of 1 Cor. 11 is about submission to God and to one another. The head covering, whatever that is, is to show you are obediently under submission to God and to those He has placed over us. We are ALL under God and we are all to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21).Wives are told in Eph 5:22-24 to submit to their own husband as to Christ.Husbands are to give of themselves and love their wife as Christ does the church (Eph 5:25-28).  As you’ll see, this matter of submission has everything to do with a woman’s head covering.

The head of the wife/woman is the man/husband (v.3). The Greek word translated “woman” and “man” here are the same Greek words translated elsewhere as “wife” and “husband”. 

Let’s look at the text of scripture and we’ll comment a bit on it later.

1 Corinthians 11:2-12

“Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head.

5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.

6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.

7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man. 9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.

10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.

Let me talk about submission for a minute, then back to the point of head covering.  Even in marriage, two separate individuals are to become one – to work as a perfect team, as partners.  Paul makes very clear in verses 11-12 that men need women and vice versa. We’re not independent of each other.  Pastors are not to lord it over the flock but serve as overseers (1 Peter 5:2-4).  The younger are to submit to the older (1 Peter 5:5), and Peter goes on to say, “in fact, all of you be submissive to one another, in all humility”. So anything I say after this must be with the understanding that we are all to be humble to each other and submit to one another.

So the man isnot to “lord it over” his wife, though in times past I used to. My wife is part of me and I am part of her. I listen to her and many times I change the direction I was going in because of her wise counsel.  I’d be stupid not to, when a wiser view at times is shown.  She likewise submits to my lead many times in a week. Two minds are better than one.  If I never listened to my wife, why would she be needed? Only a stupid man would insist his wife say nothing and always just “submit”. But having said that, scripture is also clear that the husband is the head of the home, under Christ, who is under God the Father (verse 3). And of course Christ is really the head of all of us – men or women. And all of us also bow the knee to God the Father as Supreme Head of all.  It’s just that women also have their husband as another head besides Christ.

More on this in a minute. It will come to bear on this topic.

Click Continue Reading to the right here – to finish this blog and to learn what is clearly stated is the head covering for women. Also whether men should wear a prayer shawl or head covering.

 

In the “Old Testament”, there are several examples of specific men wearing headgear or turbans or hats – such as the high priest (Leviticus 16:4-21; Zechariah 3:5-7; Job wore a turban at times (Job 29:14); and even Ezekiel was ordered to wear a turban while prophesying (Ezekiel 24:17-24). In the case of Job, that probably was a cultural issue, not a religious ruling or requirement.  In the New Covenant, Paul addresses whether men should wear a head covering or not at church services.

Verse 4 – In the New Covenant, Apostle Paul was clear: Men are NOT to cover their heads while prophesying, preaching or praying. Paul is clear: men – no hats, no prayer shawl or veil over your head, no tallit.I realize men do wear a covering in Judaism, but according to the apostle Paul, men should not wear a head covering while worshipping in the New Covenant.  It’s even clearer in verse 7.In Judaism, the tallit or prayer shawl and head covering was also understood to show humility to a higher Power, and to show a sense of guilt and condemnation. But to true believers in Yeshua, remember: Christ died for you and your sins and took ALL your guilt and condemnation away.  “There is now NO condemnation to those who are in Christ…”  (Romans 8:1). Men, if we cover our heads, we’re dishonoring Christ our head who died for us and took away the guilt.

In any case, in the New Covenant, Paul clearly tells men NOT to wear a head covering of any kind – whether a hat, long hair, veil, prayer shawl or kippa -- when praying, preaching or prophesying.

 

Now how about women?  In the Old Testament, there was a “veil” in the temple, but that’s a different Hebrew word than a veil a woman would wear.  And a woman is mentioned as being veiled only a few times. Rebekah veiled herself before meeting Isaac (Genesis 24:65).  Tamar veiled herself to hide her identify from Judah (Gen 38:14, 19). It’s obviously not wrong for women to wear a veil, but as we’ll see, neither are women commanded to wear a veil.  Song of Solomon 5:7 speaks of the woman being stripped of her veil.  So veils are mentioned, but I can find nowhere that women are commanded to wear a veil while praying, worshipping or being “in church”.  Nowhere.  So what does 1 Cor 11:5-6 mean?

1 Cor. 11:5 – women should have their heads covered. Men should not, as a general rule. But what is the “covering” alluded to here? Some feel the Greek can refer to a veil, and apparently it could, but the context is hair! Notice that “hair” is being mentioned here now. If the topic was wearing a veil or other covering, why bring up “hair” and hair length?  If she doesn’t have her head covered, she dishonors her head – her husband (verse 3).

1 Cor. 11:6 – a dishonored woman in Judaism (such as an adulteress) might have had her hair shorn.  That was a dishonor. In those cases, she should wear a covering until her hair grew back. Paul is also making the point that women who believe in Christ will display longer hair. 

Paul speaks of a head covering and has that in context of recognizing who our spiritual head is –- and ultimately the head of all is God the Father. Again, a wife’s head is her husband, the husband’s head is the Messiah, and Christ’s head is God the Father.

So, what does Paul clearly say that “head covering” is? (Hint: it’s not a veil.)

1 Corinthians 11:13-16

“Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long HAIR, it is a glory to her; for her HAIR is given to her for a covering. 16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God”.

There you have it, in plain words: the head covering Paul wants to see women have in their worship is long hair-- longer than men should have.  Long hair is her covering.Long hair is the Biblical symbol of being under authority.  This is WHY even the men who took the Nazarite vow did not cut their hair during their vow or even during a lifetime (see Numbers 6). 

Normally a godly man should have short hair (1 Cor. 11:14) as it is a shame for a man to have long hair (1 Cor 11:14) - - with one exception:  when that man wanted to show that he had committed himself to a Nazirite vow of total submission to God, he grew his hair long. The long hair was an outward symbol of being in submission – in this case to God himself.  Famous Nazirites included Samuel, John the Baptizer and Samson.

Yeshua (Jesus) did NOT have long hair for he was not a Nazirite. He was a Nazarene – meaning he was from Nazareth. And remember, Nazirites did not drink wine or touch dead people or animals – and Yeshua did all of that! So He was not a Nazirite, and he did not have long hair. 

But again, in the normal course of events, Paul wants men to have shorter hair, to clearly look like a man and be a loving head to his wife, like Christ is to the church. He wants women to have longer hair to show they are in agreement that their husband is their head.

And of course, for all of us – Yeshua and our powerful Father are also our head. 

I don’t see any problem with a woman deciding to wear a veil, but neither is there any strong scriptural command that a veil must be worn. If a woman has particularly short hair and then later comes to understand that God Almighty wants women to have longer hair, then in church services that woman with ultra-short hair should probably wear a veil or head covering until her hair grows out longer.

In short, God gave a woman her longer hair to be her head covering (1 Corinthians 11:15). 

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Comments 1

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Guest - Janine on Saturday, 13 September 2014 06:27

Good Blog! Thank you for taking the time to clarify the meaning of this subject. It makes sense. Janine

Good Blog! Thank you for taking the time to clarify the meaning of this subject. It makes sense. Janine