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Sender's name: John

Can you provide some insight into the "covering" that women wear?  You touched on it when discussing prophetesses.  I know a lot of women, old and young alike, who feel compelled to wear the covering and even go so far as to tell my wife she should wear one.




There are women who wear a head covering due to a passage in 1 Corinthians:


"Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.  But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.  Every man who has {something} on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head.  But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.  For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.  For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.  For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake.  Therefore the woman ought to have {a symbol of} authority on her head, because of the angels.  However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.  For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man {has his birth} through the woman; and all things originate from God.  Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God {with her head} uncovered?  Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.  But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God (1 Cor 11:2-16)."


Before getting into the actual instructions, Paul lays down the principles behind those instructions:


1)  The principle of headship:  God - Christ - Man - Woman.

2)  A woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head

3)  Men are to be men, and women are to be women


These are the principles that underlie these instructions.  In that culture, respectable women covered their heads.  The words used in this passage indicate not a hat, but a veil, which was customary of the times.  A good, honorable, respectable woman did not go around with her head uncovered.  Paul uses the shaved head as an illustration.  If one were to see a woman with a shaved head, they would know that she is a prostitute.  They would definitely not be considered a respectable woman.


In the same way, Paul says that a woman ought to carry herself as a respectable woman, with her head covered.  This is likely the meaning of having "authority on her head."  Respectable women that were to be treated with respect and honor wore the covering.  To have it uncovered would be the same as going around with a shaved head.  It was dishonorable not only to herself, but also to her husband.  This was especially true when a woman is engaged in prayer or prophecy.  When praying or prophesying with uncovered head, not only was she dishonoring her husband, but now she is also dishonoring God.  Christian freedom did not mean one could begin to do whatever they wanted.


So this is about propriety.  The head covering did not originate with Christianity and has not always meant the same thing.  There was a time when a veiled woman was considered a harlot as in Genesis 38:14-15.  However, when we come to New Testament times, the opposite was true.  What the teaching of this passage does is regulate a custom of the times.  This is why Paul uses "nature" as an example.  By nature, women dressed and carried themselves a certain way, and the same was true for men.  Women had long hair by nature, and men had shorter hair by nature.  Women dressed as women, and men dressed as men.  For a woman to pray with uncovered head would have the same effect as a man in modern times praying to God in church in a dress, high heels, and pantyhose.  It is dishonorable not only to themselves, but to their spouse and especially to God.


Veils and head coverings do not have the same meaning today as they did in ancient times.  However, there are still meaningful gender differences today and still signs of honor in the way you dress and wear your hair.  These should line up with the principles behind the passage.


There are women who wear a head covering today because they feel it is proper dress for a woman in worship.  If that is how they feel, then by all means, they should wear it.  But it is important to note that our culture for years has not considered a head covering a necessary component of respectability for women. 


John Telgren

P.O. Box 452

Leavenworth, KS 66048


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