Of Male and Female Head Covering
This document sets forth my personal faith regarding the subject matter at the time of the writing. The Holy Spirit through Paul reminds us that now we see through the glass darkly seeing in part and knowing in part (1 Cor 13:12). I am mindful that even saved sanctified Holy Ghost filled Peter had to learn about dealing with the Gentiles (Gal 2:11-14; Acts 10:34). Indeed, I must admit I have grown in my understanding of this matter. I therefore caution myself and all to be open to a deeper understanding of the subject matter and not to be so dogmatic/rigid/insistent about one’s position especially when one is not the decision making authority. This does not mean one has to speak and/or act in a way that violates one’s integrity. This does not mean one should avoid sharing one’s belief, publicly or privately, when the circumstance warrants it. It does mean one should do so with care giving preference to private sharing unless public sharing is absolutely warranted.
Male headship is the biblical norm for spiritual matters in the home, church, and nation in general. But this does not apply to non-spiritual matters and heading entities such as a computer business, construction company, or a non-profit organization whose mission is not primarily preaching and teaching of spiritual doctrines. Here non-profits include government entities since their primary role is not preaching and teaching of spiritual doctrines although they are to apply spiritual doctrines in their job capacity.
Nothing in this document should be misconstrued as justifying abuse of females by males or males by females. Indeed all forms of abuse to include but not limited to mental and physical abuse are forbidden by scripture. Occurrence of physical abuse is self-evident when the event occurs. Mental abuse may be more difficult to determine; but biblical love will prevent its occurrence.
Head Covering Symbolism – Male and/or Female?
Exodus 28:4, 37, 40 speaks of Aaron and his sons wearing head coverings, that is some form of hats called mitres (turbans; Strong’s Hebrew H4701) and bonnets (H4021). 2 Sam. 15:30; Jer. 14:3–4; and Esth. 6:12 speak of others covering (Strong’s H2645) their heads using some kind of veil. In Ester 7:8 the same Hebrew word used in 2 Sam 15, Jer 14, and Ester 6 for covered is also used for covering Haman face. This suggests that some form of veil was also sometimes used by men in the Old Testament. Indeed, Exodus 34:33-35 speaks of Moses putting a veil (H4533) on his face. Genesis 24:65 speaks of Rebekah using a veil to cover her as well as Tamar in Genesis 38:14, 19; here both Genesis 24 and Genesis 38 use the same Hebrew word (Strong’s H6809) for cover. Rebakah uses a veil for an honorable purpose; but, Tamar uses one for a dishonorable/sinful purpose. So we see the use of head covering of various types for both males and females in the Old Testament. But the different Hebrew words suggest these may have been different types of veils.
It seems under the New Covenant the Holy Spirit through Paul modifies this Old Testament head covering practice as set forth in 1 Cor 11.
In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul speaks of women wearing head covering when praying or prophesying. Under Christianity women are clearly allowed to sit together in the assembly. Under the Old Testament, men and women sat/sit separately. Sitting separately means the head covering provision set forth by Paul in 1 Cor 11 would not be applicable. The head covering provision and/or its modification of 1 Corinthians 11 arose because men and women sat together.
In 1 Cor 11 Paul establishes that men are not to cover their heads or at least not to completely cover their heads as done with a veil (1 Cor 11:7) or scarf where a veil or scarf completely covers the head and sometimes some part of the sides of the face/jaws.
Note that 1 Cor 11:7 which forbids male head covering uses the Greek word Katakalupto which means hanging down or cover wholly as in the case of a scarf or veil. Hence, he may not have forbidden a mitre or skull cap or similar caps/hats which mainly cover the top of the head. Hence, the Catholic Pope and others such as Orthodox Judaism use of a skull cap or similar covering would not be in violation of this scripture. Yet, a male wearing of nothing on the head also would not be in violation of this scripture.
On the other hand, in 1 Cor 11:6 for women he specifically requires a scarf-like veil (Greek word Katakalupto) or similar covering that completely covers the woman’s head and perhaps some part of the sides of the face/jaws.
1 Corinthians 11:1-16 provides important headship symbolism provisions for both male and female in the assembly; this symbolism reminds both males and females that biblically, females are to have no spiritual authority over adult males and are to avoid giving the perception that they do. Note that all of God’s prescriptions he gave in Genesis 3:16-19 are yet in effect.
The specified 1 Corinthians 11 head covering symbolism is the best universally and understood practice within a church assembly. Its meaning and significance is recognizable within the assembly when taught and adhered to by all women and girls who prophesy or pray before the assembly. One should be mindful that the church is to influence society and not allow society norms to produce non-adherence to sound biblical doctrines and principles.
The head covering symbolism applies within the assembly rather than outside the assembly. Therefore, its usage and applicability should not be affected by changing society norms.
Since women according to the account of Rebekkah in Genesis 24:65 were not required to wear a veil while out in society at all times, the fact that women today are also not required to do so does not invalidate the 1 Cor 11 head covering provisions. Indeed, if a female does not desire to wear a head covering into the assembly, she may carry a veil or scarf with her in her purse or something and put it on when she prophesies or prays. One would expect the Holy Spirit to timely lead her into proper attire when it is time to prophesy or pray. This should not prevent a woman from prophesying or praying as any woman who refuses to prophesy or pray in the assembly because of the 1 Cor 11 provision is a woman who is disobedient and rebellious and who needs to check her heart.
Note that in America many Nation of Islam women wear head coverings called the Hijab out in American society. They seem to do so primarily for modesty reasons rather than primarily for male headship reasons. 1 Cor 11 establishes the primary reason is male headship which of course includes the principle of female modesty. The Hijab tends to not only cover the head and some part of the sides of the face/jaws but also the chest area. On the other hand, biblical veils may not have tended to cover the chest area as well although doing so would be useful in modern times given the revealing dress code some females tend to follow now. Perhaps the expected existence of different religions in a society is one reason 1 Corinthians 11 does not require Christian women to wear head covering other than in the assembly and then only when praying or prophesying. If the requirement extended to society in general there might be confusion between Christian women and other women. Yet, in the assembly there is generally the expectation that all women are Christian women or considering to become Christian women; therefore, no confusion should exist if females have on a scarf or veil or similar item.
Some say the submission principle and therefore the head covering provision only applies to married women. Indeed, Gen 24:65 concerning Rebekah indicates she did not walk around before all men wearing a veil. She only put on her veil as she approached Isaac, to whom she had been given for marriage (Gene 24:51). Tamar, the widow, when acting in the capacity of a prostitute did wear a veil (Genesis 38:14); yet, since Tamar uses the veil to conceal her identity for a dishonorable/sinful purpose we certainly do not want single or married women to wear one because she did.
In any case, 1 Cor 11 shows the head covering provisions instituted under the New Covenant included both married and unmarried women. For Christ is head of both the married and unmarried man (1 Cor 11:3) and one would expect both married and unmarried men and women to potentially pray and prophesy (1 Cor 11:4-5). Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the unmarried man is also the head of the unmarried woman and of the married woman in the absence of her husband (1 Cor 11:3). But even if it was the case that the scripture here applies to only the married woman, why is it that even the married woman does not abide by the scripture in modern times?
The pulpit provision where females are not allowed in the pulpit does implement some aspects of the head covering symbolism. Yet, the pulpit existed prior to the head covering provision of 1 Cor 11. The pulpit therefore is not intended to be a replacement symbolism for the head covering symbolism.
Having established that men ought not to be covered but that women ought to be covered, Paul then turns to the question of strife in the body of Christ. In 1 Cor 11:16 Paul establishes that the head covering symbolism is not to be focused on to the point of strife or contention. In 1 Cor 11:16 Paul establishes that the church leadership has no expectation that people ought to contend (quarrel) with men and women who do not follow the head covering doctrine he gave in the previous verses. That is to say, the churches of Jesus Christ everywhere have no such custom or habit of so contending or being quarrelsome about such a matter. Consequently, a man should not contend with others about it less such a man create strife within the membership. Let each man and woman be persuaded in his/her own mind as to whether to follow the doctrine or not. After all, the symbolism only applies when a person prophesies or prays which would not be the case for most men and women in a given assembly.
Note that Paul does not say that the head covering provision should not be taught. He does not say it should not be followed. Indeed, he goes into extensive details concerning it because there is the expectation that it be taught and followed by both male and female in every generation. In fact, conforming to the head covering provision serves to remind and teach the male headship and female submission principles to the young and not so young. Whether a female wears a head covering or not she is to comply with the male headship and female submission principles present in scripture.
Also, note that 1 Cor 11:16 does not say that enforcement of the male headship principle is to be ignored. Indeed, Paul in 1 Timothy 2:9-15 and elsewhere enforce the male headship principle.
For article on Mesianic Jews (Jews who accept Jesus as the Messiah) see Why We Wear Kippot
For historical info on why Catholic do not admit females to the priesthood see ON THE QUESTION OF ADMISSION OF WOMEN TO THE MINISTERIAL PRIESTHOOD
For a discussion of the male headship principle and role of females in ministry see Of Male Headship and Women In Ministry
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