Head Covering and hair Length
1 Corinthians 11:1-16
Jerry A Collins
Ø How does a woman dishonor her head when praying?
Ø How does the order of creation relate to hair?
Ø In what sense is a woman’s long hair her ‘glory’?
One of the most debated issues in our culture and also within the church has been the roles and positions of men and women. Just what are these and how do we address them not only in light of our culture but specifically the view of the scriptures? 1 Corinthians 11 addresses this issue by discussing the use of headcoverings and the length of hair. It does seem like an odd way to address such a significant subject but this is the basis upon which this subject is discussed and taught. So we will learn some things about the roles and positions of men and women as we understand the issue of headcoverings and hair length.
Having concluded a large section on the issue of eating meat offered to idols, 11:2 opens up the new subject of headcoverings and hair length. It seems that in spite of their problems, the Corinthians respected Paul’s authority and wisdom. Holding firmly to the traditions means that which was passed along by teaching—that is the inspired apostolic teaching given to them by Paul. Not just some man-made ideas or practices. This was teaching specifically delivered to these. Not hearsay or second hand. So the headcovering and hair length teaching is also from the same source. That is, that women should display their submission with a symbol of authority when praying and prophesying 4-5, 13. This is argued from five vantage points.
1. BECAUSE OF DIVINELY ESTABLISHED ORDER 3
The principle is that order and subordination are present in the whole universe and are essential to it’s being. The use of the word ‘head’ means to have authority over. In this case that of the Father over the Son, Christ over man, and man over woman. In each case one has the role and function of leading the other. This is not about who has more worth or value. We would never say, for instance, that the Son is inferior to the Father. Nor could we say that of the men and women. Jesus even said, I always do the things that are pleasing to Him John 8:29. So (1) Women are safeguarded by fact that man is under headship of Christ and as such must exercise that headship based on Christ’s commands. (2) No matter of relative worth but only task and responsibility. (3) As head there is also a body attached making headship important and responsible for health of the whole. (4) Since the order divinely established, both men and women should act accordingly.
2. BECAUSE IF NO SYMBOL OF SUBMISSION IT IS DISGRACEFUL
First, vs 4 it is obvious that it is not a man’s hair referred to but some kind of covering, like a hat or object while either praying or prophesying. Praying would be speaking to God—public prayer here or prophesying—speaking from God. This specific kind of prophesying was necessary before scripture but once recorded and passed on by apostles no longer needed. If a man does these with a covering he disgraces (shame or loss of respect) his own head. Uncovered, his head reflects leadership. Covered symbol of submission and loss of respect to his position as head. Second, thing to be corrected was women being uncovered when praying or prophesying 5. In each case performing these one is in direct contact with God. This would be proper time for woman to have symbol of authority so as not to shame herself. Since both men and women practicing prayer & prophesying the way to distinguish them would be wearing a head covering. Otherwise for the woman her shame would be like being bald. Not disgrace for a man but for a woman, she will wear a wig say from chemotherapy or something. Third, so just as a bald head on woman shameful, so not having symbol of submission on her head when she prays is a disgrace. So let her cover her head symbolizing she is not trying to be the head.
3. BECAUSE OF OUR ORIGINS
First, uncovered the man reflects his role and position before God vs 7. He was created first from the dust in the image of God. She completed him created in image of God for the glory of man. By giving glory to man she is giving glory to Christ both thru hierarchy and submission. (Yesterday Ruth asked me t get out all autumn decorations—then she said she could not wait t get it out all over the house because she knows that I like it so much!) Second, Fashioned from side of man, she was created from him and for him. This is the reason she is the glory of man and the man is the glory of Christ. So the woman was created for the man’s sake and this is another reason why she should wear a symbol of submission when praying to God in public prayer. 4. BECAUSE OF THE ANGELS
Angels were spectators of the church (1 Cr 4:9; Eph ; 1 Tim ; cf Psa 103:20-21). Head covering is a symbol designed to covey a message to God, humans and angels. This is a radical thot on matter or prayer and prophecy relating to rela between women and angels. Satan lacked reverence for God. Interaction in Job 1-2 seems to also indicate this. He also demanded to sift Simon like wheat Lk 22:31. Maybe, angels watching godly women practicing submission with proper symbols reflecting that when they are approaching God I prayer or giving messages from God to others, are learning to reverence God? What we do and what we say expresses to angels what we believe about God and His Word and properly reflecting the woman’s submission when praying is significant within the angelic network.
5. BECAUSE IT IS COMMON PROPER & UNIVERSALLY TRUE
First in 11-12, we need each other. We literally cannot exist without the other. Eve came from Adam and each man comes from a woman’s womb. God created them both for each other. So there is no superiority or inferiority here. Second, it is suggested that we judge for ourselves whether it is proper for a woman to pray with her head uncovered vs 13. We do this, thirdly, by observing as a general rule that men all over the world have shorter hair than women vs 14. If there hair is longer than women’s hair it is shameful. This is the way that mankind instinctively distinguished between he sexes. But long hair is considered beautiful. Nature teaches us that this is both proper and fitting. Indeed, her hair was given to her as a cloak or a veil as a natural covering and as such submission not evidenced by being like every other woman. Something else is needed for that. This is a different word that the covering referred to in vss 2-14. If covering here equals hair then all en should be bald or shave heads because the men are to have heads uncovered. The woman’s head covering functions as symbol of submission while her natural hair shows her glory. So they must be different. Fourth, if you disagree with what he has to say, too bad, because there is no other practice which you may pray out loud in presence of men properly. (1) Some will choose to wear a literal head covering that hangs down over the hair as proper.
(2) Some will not regard real head covering as essential since it does not speak same message today but may choose modest dress as appropriate symbol. (3) Since there is a case being made, whatever symbol a woman is to wear should indicate her submission to her husband and/or if not married to the male leadership in the body of Christ.