Women and head covering



DOES A WOMAN REQUIRED TO COVER HER HEAD WHILE PRAYING?

INTRODUCTION TO 1CORINTHIANS 11


Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible:

In 1Corinthians Chapter 11, the apostle Paul blames, and endeavours to rectify, some great indecencies and manifest disorders in the church of Corinth:

I.      The misconduct of their women (some of whom seem to have been inspired) in the public assembly, who laid by their veils, the common token of subjection to their husbands in that part of the world. This behaviour he reprehends, requires them to keep veiled, asserts the superiority of the husband, yet so as to remind the husband that both were made for mutual help and comfort, 1Corinthians 11:1-16.

II.     He blames them for their discord, riot, and neglect and contempt of the poor, at the Lord's supper, 1Corinthians 11:17-22.

III.   To rectify these scandalous disorders, he sets before them the nature and intentions of this holy institution, directs them how they should attend on it, and warns them of the danger of a conduct so indecent as theirs, and of all unworthy receiving, 1Corinthians 11:23 to the end.

HEAD COVERING AND WOMEN
 
1.   There are those who say that woman must cover her head with a veil whenever she prays and in worship
2.   Others say this is not necessary
3.   This confusion results from mis-translation and misunderstanding of the discussion of headship and coverings in 1Corinthians 11:3-16

1Corinthians 11:3-16
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. {power: that is a covering in sign that she is under the power of her husband}
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. {covering: or, veil}
16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

 THE STUDY
 
 1Corinthians  11:1 –“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”

1.        Paul, having answered the cases put to him, proceeds in this chapter to the redress of grievances.
2.        The first verse of the chapter is put, by those who divided the epistle into chapters, as a preface to the rest of the epistle, but seems to have been a more proper close to the last, in which he had enforced the cautions he had given against the abuse of liberty, by his own example: Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ (1Corinthians 11:1), fitly closes his argument; and the way of speaking in the next verse looks like a transition to another.
3.        But, whether it more properly belongs to this or the last chapter, it is plain from it that Paul not only preached such doctrine as they ought to believe, but led such a life as they ought to imitate.
4.        Paul is not to be followed blindly.
5.        He encourages neither implicit faith nor obedience.
6.        He would be followed himself no further than he followed Christ.
7.        Christ's pattern is a copy without a blot; so is no man's else.
8.        Note, we should follow no leader further than he follows Christ.
9.        Apostles should be left by us when they deviate from the example of their Master.
10.    He passes next to reprehend and reform an indecency among them, of which the women were more especially guilty, concerning which observe,

1Corinthians  11: 2 -“I praise you, that you remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you.”

1.   How he prefaces it. He begins with a commendation of what was praiseworthy in them (1Corinthians 11:2).
2.   Many of them, it is probable, did this in the strictest sense of the expression: and he takes occasion thence to address the body of the church under this good character.
3.   Though in some things they deviated from, and corrupted, them.


1Corinthians 11:3 – “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.”

1.       He lays the foundation for his reprehension by asserting the superiority of the man over the woman.
2.       Paul is defining the primary question under consideration: authority.
3.       The discussion of covering is only secondary, being a means of expressing subjection to the designated authority.
4.       In God’s system, physical head, in its very appearance, can bring honour or dishonour to its spiritual head.
5.       Christ, in his mediatorial character and glorified humanity, is at the head of mankind.
6.       He is not only first of the kind, but Lord and Sovereign.
7.       And as God is the head of Christ, and Christ the head of the whole human kind, so the man is the head of the two sexes.
8.       Not indeed with such dominion as Christ has over the kind or God has over the man Christ Jesus; but a superiority and headship he has.
9.       The woman should be in subjection and not assume or usurp the man's place.
10.   For that reason she should have a mind suited to her rank, and not do any thing that looks like an affectation of changing places.
11.   Something like this the women of the church of Corinth seem to have been guilty of, who were under inspiration, and prayed and prophesied even in their assemblies

1Corinthians 11:4 , 5
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.


1.   Whatever this passage teach, we must never lose sight of the reality of the order of authority God has established.
2.   The thing he reprehends is the woman's praying or prophesying uncovered, or the man's doing either covered.
3.   To understand this, it must be observed that it was a signification either of shame or subjection for persons to be veiled, or covered, in the eastern countries, contrary to the Western custom.
4.   In Western society the being bare-headed betokens subjection, and being covered superiority and dominion. 
5.   It is indeed an apostolical canon, that the women should keep silence in the churches (1Corinthians 14:34; 1Ti 2:12) 

1Corinthians 14:34 – “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.”

1Timothy 2:12 – “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

i       This some understand without limitation, as if a woman under inspiration also must keep silence.
ii     Others with a limitation: though a woman might not from her own abilities pretend to teach, or so much as question and debate any thing in the church yet when under inspiration the case was altered, she had liberty to speak.
iii   Or, though she might not preach even by inspiration (because teaching is the business of a superior), yet she might pray or utter hymns by inspiration, even in the public assembly.

6.    It is plain the apostle does not in 1Corinthians 11, prohibit the thing, but reprehend the manner of doing it.
7.    It is to his present purpose to reprehend the manner wherein the women prayed and prophesied in the church.

COVER / UNCOVER
 
1.   Throughout the Old Testament and the Jewish background of the New Testament, to “uncover” the head meant to shave it.
2.   In Leviticus 10:1, when Nadab and Abihu were killed for their sin, God forbade Aaron to “uncover” his head in mourning – he was not to shave his head, as was customary.

Leviticus 10:1,2; 6,7
1   And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.
2   And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

6   And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD hath kindled.
7   And ye shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses.

 3.   Job 1:20 records that when Job received the news that his children had been killed in a violent storm, he tore clothes and shaved his head.

Job 1:18 - 20
18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped

  
THE REASONS ON WHICH HE GROUNDS HIS REPREHENSION:
 
I.                   First Reason

1Corinthians 11:4 - 6
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.

 
1.   The man that prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonoureth his head, namely, Christ, the head of every man
2.   The woman, on the other hand, who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head, namely, the man.
3.   She appears in the dress of her superior, and throws off the token of her subjection.
4.   She might, with equal decency, cut her hair short, or cut it close, which was the custom of the man in that age.
5.   And this was probably the fault of these prophetesses in the church of Corinth.
6.   It was doing a thing which, in that age of the world, betokened superiority, and therefore a tacit claim of what did not belong to them but the other sex.
7.   If she was made out of the man, and for the man, and made to be the glory of the man, she should do nothing, especially in public, that looks like a wish of having this order inverted.

II.                Second Reason

1Corinthians 11:7 - 9
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.

1.         Man is the image and glory of God, the representative of that glorious dominion and headship which God has over the world.
2.         It is the man who is set at the head of this lower creation, and therein he bears the resemblance of God. The woman, on the other hand, is the glory of the man .
3.         She is his representative.
4.         But she is God's representative too, because she has dominion over the inferior creatures, as she is a partaker of human nature.
5.         She is the image of God, inasmuch as she is the image of the man.
6.         Man was not made out of the woman, but the woman out of the man
7.         The man was first made, and made head of the creation here below, and therein the image of the divine dominion.
8.         The woman was made out of the man, and shone with a reflection of his glory, being made superior to the other creatures here below.
9.         But in subjection to her husband, and deriving that honour from him out of whom she was made.
10.     The woman was made for the man, to be his help-meet, and not the man for the woman. She was naturally, therefore, made subject to him
11.     She who was intended to be always in subjection to the man should do nothing, in Christian assemblies, that looks like an affectation of equality.

1Corinthians 11:10 – “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.” {power: that is a covering in sign that she is under the power of her husband, power – delegated influence}


1.    She ought to have power on her head, because of the angels.
2.    Power, that is, a veil, the token, not of her having the power or superiority, but being under the power of her husband, subjected to him, and inferior to the other sex.
3.    Rebekah, when she met Isaac, and was delivering herself into his possession, put on her veil, in token of her subjection, Genesis 24:65.
4.    Thus would the apostle have the women appear in Christian assemblies, even though they spoke there by inspiration
5.    Because of the angels - that is, say some:
6.    Because of the evil angels.

i        The woman was first in the transgression, being deceived by the devil, which increased her subjection to man
ii       Now, believe evil angels will be sure to mix in all Christian assemblies, therefore should women wear the token of their shamefacedness and subjection, which in that age and country, was a veil.

7.    Others say because of the good angels.

i        Jews and Christians have had an opinion that these ministering spirits are many of them present in their assemblies.
ii      Their presence should restrain Christians from all indecencies in the worship of God.

8.    In brief, we should learn from all to behave in the public assemblies of divine worship so as to express a reverence for God, and a content and satisfaction with that rank in which he has placed us.

1Corinthians 11:11, 12
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.

1.        He thinks fit to guard his argument with a caution lest the inference be carried too far
2.        Nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord.
3.        They were made for one another. It is not good for him to be alone.
4.        Therefore was a woman made, and made for the man.
5.        They were made to be a mutual comfort and blessing, not one a slave and the other a tyrant.
6.        Both were to be one flesh (Genesis 2:24
7.        As the woman was first formed out of the man, the man is ever since propagated by the woman (1Corinthians 11:12)
8.        The authority and subjection should be no greater than are suitable to two in such near relation and close union to each other.
9.        The conclusion is, therefore, that there is an interdependence, yet all things ultimately are from God.
10.    Note, As it is the will of God that the woman know her place, so it is his will also that the man abuse not his power.

1Corinthians 11:13 - 15
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. {covering: or, veil}
16   But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

1.       "Judge in yourselves- consult your own reason, hearken to what nature suggests
2.       Should there not be a distinction kept up between the sexes in wearing their hair, since nature has made one?
3.       The woman's hair is a natural covering; to wear it long is a glory to her; but for a man to have long hair, or cherish it, is a token of softness and effeminacy."
4.       Her long hair is given so that she can be fully covered.
5.       The Greek word for “covering” in this particular verse is paribolaion.
6.       The definition is Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon is “a covering thrown around, a wrapper.”
7.       This word means a covering of a garment is used only in this verse.
8.       This verse states clearly that the woman’s long hair is given instead of the paribolaion.
9.       Paul further specified that her hair, not a veil, is a glory to her.
10.   Note, It should be our concern, especially in Christian and religious assemblies, to make no breach upon the rules of natural decency.

 LOCAL CUSTOMS

 1.                 Rebekah

1.    When Rebekah saw Isaac coming across the field to meet her before their marriage, she covered herself with a veil.

Genesis 24:65  “For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself.”

2.   The local custom prescribed the wearing a veil for modesty in an unmarried woman.
3.   The veil is an essential part of female dress.
4.   In country places it is often thrown aside, but on the appearance of a stranger, it is drawn over the face, as to conceal all but the eyes.
5.   In a bride it was a token of her reverence and subjection to her husband.


2.                 Tamar

1.  Judah did injustice to Tamar, his daughter in law.
2.  He did not give his third son to her as husband after her husband’s death.
3.  She was sent back to her home and country.
4.  So she decided to take revenge by seducing Judha.
5.  She took of her widow’s garments (which evidently did not include a veil), covered herself with a veil and wrapped herself.
6.  In that culture veil was a symbol of prostitution.

Genesis 38:14 – “And she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.”

 
3.                 Sarah and Rebekah

1.   We read of Sarah and Rebekah being taken by force into the harems of the king of Egypt and king of the Philistines, “….. because she is beautiful to behold.”

Genesis 12:14, 15
14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.
15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.

Genesis 26:7 – “And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon.”


  1. Obviously the culture did not require that women of that day and place wear a veil.
 
CONCLUSION

1.     In the catacombs (a series of underground passages and rooms where bodies were buried in the past) of Rome are numerous carvings and drawings representative of first-century Christianity.
2.     None of those drawings indicate that women during that time wore veils during the worship assemblies of the church.
3.     Their hair was their covering of modesty and glory.
4.     It was in the Middle Ages, when the Roman Catholic Church had come into existence, that paintings and sculpture began to show women with the covering of a veil in worship.
5.     Some denominations, growing out of Catholicism, retained the practice as religious law.
6.     The city of Corinth had a pagan culture in the first century
7.     Women priestesses and religious prostitutes of the goddess Aphrodite commonly cropped their hair or shaved their heads, as symbol of their profession.
8.     For a Christian woman to “uncover” herself in such a fashion was “shameful” because others may come into wrong conclusions regarding her relationship to her husband.
9.     Today, if the culture is such that a woman who is not covered by a veil is considered to be immoral or showing disrespect for her husband, it would be wise to honour the local custom.
10. Or if some other “symbol” is used in a particular custom to show a woman’s submission to her husband, then it would be preferable to follow the custom.
 ____________________________________
                                                               
In first century culture, it was considered a mark of respect for a man to remove his turban in the presence of a superior. Similarly, a man should remove his head covering when he came into God's presence in prayer. Additionally, it was the custom of pagan men to cover themselves while praying, so as to avoid distractions. Thus, men should remove their head coverings to avoid any association with paganism.
Jewish women did not normally wear veils, but reputable Greek and Roman women did. A woman's veil was a symbol of her modesty and respect for her husband. For a Corinthian woman to remove her veil in public would have been an insult to her husband and an affront to the Greek/Roman society in which she lived. Paul strongly discouraged any such rebellion or hint of scandal within the churches. In addition, some pagan priestesses removed their veils and wore their hair disheveled when prophesying. Thus, women should remain veiled while praying or prophesying to avoid any association with paganism.
It must have been a great disgrace for a woman to shave her head. So, Paul made the comparison that removing one's veil while praying or prophesying would be an equally great disgrace.


Professor Jacob Abraham

No comments:

Post a Comment