Head Coverings: Taking I Corinthians 11 Seriously

For those who have known me for awhile, this may be a surprise…

I have recently started covering my head during prayer at church.

This decision came after looking closely at Scripture, a lot of prayer, and many discussions with my husband. I feel like writing about this because I am interested in what other women have to say – women who are already covering their heads, women who would never even consider covering their heads, and women who are just interested in engaging in the conversation with me.

I should preface by saying that I grew up in a family with a very strong “female” presence and I learned feminism from my mother. She grew up in the 1950s, got married and had children early, and looked on as women across the country burned their bras, marched for the Equal Rights Amendment, and fought for reproductive choice. I know that she has always wondered what her life would have been like if she would have grown up in a big city, gone to college, and been part of the feminist movement. But in her own small way she instilled feminist ideals in me. I remained a feminist activist well into adulthood, taking classes in Women’s Studies in college, marching for choice, working for Planned Parenthood, etc. But things have slowly been changing since my relationship with Christ was reconciled about 8 years ago.

I believe that there is the world’s definition of feminism, and there is God’s definition of feminism. I believe that if we claim that God’s word contains everything we need to know about living in this world according to God’s will and God’s design, then He has everything to say about who women are, our nature, our role and place in the world, and how He plans to bless us as His unique creatures. But that’s the subject of another post…

What does I Corinthians 11 have to say about women covering their heads? It says this:

(3) But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
(4) Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, (5) but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.
(6) For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head.
(7) For a man 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 was not made from woman, but woman from man.
(9) Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
(10) That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
(11) Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; (12) for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.
(13) Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? (14) Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, (15) but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

The Greek word for “head” used in all of these verses is kephale, literally meaning a person or animal’s head and metaphorically meaning anything supreme, chief, or prominent (a husband in relation to his wife; Christ as Lord of the husband and the church). (Thayer’s)  God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of man, and the husband is the head of the wife. The Greek word for “cover” is katakalupto, meaning to cover up or to veil or cover oneself wholly. (Thayer’s)

Men should not cover their heads, since they are the image and glory of God and covering their heads would dishonor the One who is supreme over them (God). Women are called upon to cover their heads because they are under the authority of man, and to have their heads uncovered would dishonor the one who is supreme over them (husband). The head covering is the symbol of this authority.

So why am I choosing to cover my head during prayer? I believe that no part of God’s Word is void of meaning or significance. I don’t believe that this part of the Word is simply “cultural” or has been over-ruled by the modern feminist movement. I believe that there is blessing in this practice.

Will I forever continue to cover my head during prayer? Not sure yet. But I am confident of this: God is aware of what we do and the intention of our hearts. My only goal is to learn more about Him and thereby learn more about myself as a woman created in his image. I hope that by choosing to walk with God in a certain manner, even for a season, I will receive His blessing and experience His majesty.

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23 thoughts on “Head Coverings: Taking I Corinthians 11 Seriously

  1. great post–Stefan and I always find it interesting that in movies portrayed in the 60’s and earlier, when there is a church scene, the men always take their hats off (to uncover their heads) and women cover theirs up. It is so ironic to us that this was somehow lost.
    I have a slightly different opinion though, which Stefan and I agree to disagree on–because I was raised Catholic and did a lot of unnecessary rituatls growing up–therefore they lost all significance for me because I was forced to do them. I have no conviction to continue to do things without sincerity, in fact, I believe if I were to do certain things *(i.e. cover up my head)* it would only be because Stefan wanted me to….and I don’t think that is a very good reason! It took me a long time to even begin to sing in church…God opened me up after YEARS of never singing in church, to “mute singing” to now singing joyfully to Him. If he would someday give me a conviction to wear a head-covering, I believe it would be in the same gradual, “explaining way” (i.e. I would learn for myself why/how/for what reason…etc.) and I would joyfully do it. But out of duty, it is nothing.
    Sarah
    PS-totally unrelated topic- I made about a gallon of detergent, and using 1/2 c. per load I would assume I have to “refill” it in about 2-3 months….Also, because I have so much of the ingredients left, I could easily make 5-6 batches (with all my leftovers) that would last me all year….for abotu $10.

  2. Found you through ThoseHeadCoverings blog. Thoughtful and interesting post. Thanks for giving me something to think about – it’s a topic my husband and I have been discussing, praying, thinking about for some time.

  3. Hello,
    I traced steps to you via Those Headcoverings.
    I’d be interested to know what bible you are reading; the word husband is not in the Greek, nor in most bible versions. “Man” is the head of woman. If a woman is unmarried she was still created second and for man. I am addressing this because the purpose of headcovering is spiritual in God’s point of view as it adheres to His creation of roles, etc. Though all are equal at the cross, praise His name!

    I too was raised in the period of your mom. What a world! The things happening in the world I wrote about in some articles; the point being that the church went through one of its many dark periods, where sincerity waned, and women were drawn to the world by natural fleshly inclinations; thus the removal of the headcovering.

    I began wearing a covering five years ago; been saved for 30. An amazing transformation, let me tell you. LOL. Anyway I will close. I will pray the Lord will cement the purpose and give you understanding as you walk this journey with Him.
    In Jesus,
    Auntie eM
    http://saltydisciplines.blogspot.com

    • Auntie eM — thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving your comments. I appreciate them very much! I read the English Standard Version, which does use “husband” in verse 3. My Strong’s dictionary indicates that ἀνήρ (or anēr) means a man (properly an individual male), also fellow, husband, man, or sir. My Thayer’s dictionary adds that anēr can mean a male, a husband, or a betrothed or future husband. I definitely agree with you that this should not be simply translated as “husband” because people could mistakenly think that this verse only applies to married women. Not so!

      I am currently working through the “hows” of wearing a head covering. Questions like: do I only cover during prayer? Should I cover the whole time I’m in church? Is it distracting to others to cover/uncover during the service? I would be interested in your thoughts on this. God bless!

  4. This was very interesting to read . I Have been doing reasearch and study on this to try and figure out what I Should do. I have covered for about a week now not really knowing what is right. But I love what you have to say. thanks for you post

  5. Hi,
    I am 24 and stared covering my head during prayer (in church and just whenever I pray) about 4 years ago. I am glad that it was pointed that the headcovering command is not just for married women. I’m single and understand that it’s for women regardless of martial status, as not covering is for men regardless of their martial status. My mother covers as well, so I don’t feel that alone. I know no one else who covers, but I’ve looked this passage up in the Greek and am convinced that it isn’t just “cultural”. I think that headcovering has been practiced by Christian women for centuries, and it’s just this last century that it’s disappeared with the help of womens “liberty” movement. God is the one who liberates us and there’s nothing in His word that keeps us women “down” or in bondage! His Word is truth, and that truth sets us free from sin, error and ungodliness. We just need to trust His truth, His reasons and understanding and keep His commandments. :)
    Blessings to you!
    ~Narobi

  6. Hi,
    I am very interested in all of this. I come from a Christian home (anglican) with a very strong female influence. I have friends who cover their hair and I am not willing to say I will NEVER cover my hair (God often ends up humbling me if I say never!!) but I am not comfortable with having to do it. Nowadays it is not a disgrace to cut your hair as a woman, I have worn my hair both long and short.
    I talked to a friend yesterday about covering (husband) but also have an issue with this. My husband is a non- christian and, although a sweet and kind man, has in the past done things (both through his behaviour and financial decisions) that have certainly not protected me or my young family. He does not want the guidance of God nor does he want to follow the example of Jesus. How can I trust in his covering? Therefore why would I cover my head as a representation of that?
    I believe that the bible needs always to be taken in context and people are apt to take verses and small parts of the bible here and there, the interpret them without looking at the bible as a whole. We also have to count in that Paul was also a human, so have to take Jesus as our ultimate authority. HE did not tell women to cover their heads which is, ultimately, why I would not.
    If you look at some of the context Paul was in Greece (Corinth) where the goddess Aphrodite was worshipped. This would have given Corinth a strong female influence and in fact the cult of aphrodite carried out ritual prostitution, therefore a strong sexual female influence. Long, beautiful female hair was seen as sexual and may have been a temptation to the men in the church (both used purposefully by women and, lets face it, men can get easily distracted and may be turned on visually, therefore hair may be a distraction! )The covering of the head may well have been to do with this. Certain women could not encourage sexual immorality by wearing their hair long and on show and men could not partake in sexual immorality because they were too weak and tempted.
    Times have now changed, Hair is not seen as sexual. I would never dream of wearing a short lycra dress, a bikini or a pair of tight jeans with black stiletto boots to church or at fellowship, which would be the modern day equivalent, surely!!
    I also note you did not mention the verse
    “In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.” 1 Corinthians 11 vs 11-12

  7. I just found this post thru a google search for “Christian feminist housewives.” Weird link but I think this is an interesting topic. One thing that comes to mind is the verse that tells us we are to pray continually, which I interpret to mean live in a constant attitude of prayer. While covered prayer in church is “convenient,” it seems a bit impractical to run and grab your scarf to pray while cooking dinner or try to wrap it around your head while driving the car! So then is the solution to just buy yourself a hejab or burkah and cover all the time?

    I think it is clear from Paul’s writings that much of what he says IS actually cultural (like here, when he says, “Judge for yourselves…” and other times when he basically says, “well, that’s just me, but the spirit might say otherwise.”). Whether this is an example of cultural relativity or not, I’m unclear. But I do know that there are other, more culturally relevant ways for women to show honor to their husbands- I’m thinking specifically of dressing and acting modestly while I’m away from my husband at work.

  8. to explain away the prayer covering as cultural is not to pay attention to the letter. Verse 2 of Chapter 1 clearly states that the letter is written to all Christians everywhere in all time. Reading it in Greek clarifies that even more. Also if you put “hair” in the place of “covering” or “veil” you will know how ridiculous it sounds to say that the hair is the covering. Christian women covered their heads during prayer for over 1800 years and jewish women for centuries prior. For us to think we are somehow “more informed” is to be foolish and do what is right in our own eyes rather than through the eyes of Christ, who, by the way, spoke only to Jews in His ministry who were already covered by Jewish tradition (see Isaiah). I would take issue with was v_presh said as well. Long hair is still considered “sexy”. Ask most men if they think long hair is sexy and they’ll quickly tell you “yes”. I covered for worship for ten years before the Lord clearly revealed to me that to pray without ceasing meant to be covered all the time. It was a big jump that caused some repercussions within my family, but sixteen years later, they’re used to it. I’ve found over the years that other “Christian” women are my worst critics. Sad. I truly think it’s because the Spirit speaks to them in a whisper and it bothers them. No one likes to appear different from the norm, but being separate is all about being different.

  9. I hope that my choice of not covering my head is not an indication of a criticism of those that do cover their heads. I certainly respect those of my friends for their choice and likewise I have never felt I had to.
    I would also say that long hair is not really sexual in modern society unless it is alongside an attractive face and a figure e.g. on a plain, middle aged woman, dressed sensibly long hair would not necessarily be construed sexy or sexual, nor would it be considered sexy on an old 80 year old woman. It is only considered sexy as a ‘whole package’ of sensualness…. often belonging to the young or beautiful!
    I think perhaps the reason people may be critical with head covering is to do with the fact that in modern day society fundamentalism is seen to be frightening to many and to be viewed with suspicion. Fundamentalism can also be oppressive (particularly of females) and head covering may perhaps be construed as fundamentalist? I’m not sure.
    I think, however, when push really comes to shove God does not care if we cover our heads, whether we have a shaved head or if we grow our hair to our feet. As Christians we are walking a journey with God, through the Spirit and through the love of Jesus. As long as we try to become more like Jesus as people and walk the earth trying to do as He taught us do you think our prayers are harder to hear and answer or our worship means less to God if we do/ do not choose to cover our heads?

    • I think God prefers that we obey Him rather than worry what other people think. The headcovering is not a saving issue, but it is certainly an issue of obedience. Even if long hair is considered sensual “alongside an attractive face and figure” perhaps that’s all the more reason that “young” sisters in Christ ought to think about covering their hair and the curvature of their bodies, but that’s another subject all together. I am not trying to be contentious. I am trying to understand why the headcovering is such a issue of refusal for the American female. And, admit it or not, it is. Even those that come out of the “covering culture” of some denominations shed the covering first because it stands out so much. For something so little to cause an impact so big, I have to think there is more to it spiritually than most of us care to admit. Who took the “fun” out of fundamentalism any way? jk

      Blessings of peace, janet

      • I found this thread through Google. I agree with you on the head-covering issue. And, I agree that it seems only our Christian brothers and sisters have a problem with it. I have a friend that admonished me for bringing up 1 Cor 11 initially. She said it was not my place to bring up the head covering issue . . . that it was my husband’s. I asked where she found that in the Scriptures and she couldn’t answer. Anyway, I’ve been wearing a covering in worship only when a friend of mine (just 3 weeks ago) asked why it was only then. I took my Bible and showed her that it said in the “title” of the chapter, “How To Worship”. WOW! As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I realized how ignorant I had been! Those things are not inspired, only the words! So I’ve now been wearing one all the time for 3 weeks now. So my next question is, why do the women I see who wear a covering all the time wear their hair in a bun and have no bangs. I’ve worn bangs all my life. I don’t see where I can’t cut my bangs. I think it means not to cut your hair like a man’s. But I could be wrong . . . What’s your take, Janet?

        From another Janet

      • Hi Janet — not sure if you were talking to another Janet who has posted? My name is Meg :) Anyway, I admire your decision to begin covering all of the time. How is that going? I’m very curious to know how your decision has affected you. I also cut my bangs and will admit that this is simply because I like the way bangs look with the shape of my face and eyes as opposed to no bangs. I read in I Cor 11 that a woman is not to “cut off her hair or shave her head” (vs 6) and I believe this builds on the end of the previous verse “it is the same as if her head were shaven.” (vs 5) I would be interested to know if any other women out there have any thoughts on the “bangs” issue.

  10. Pingback: Follow-up thoughts on head coverings… « Women In His Image

  11. I have been covering my head for prayer and devotion for three years now. I agree with many of the posters, it is an act of obedience to the Word of God, and it does bring many spiritual blessings. My family is not supportive of my covering as they take the “cultural” view point and do not see it as necessary. I have been convicted about covering for a long time, mostly I think it has to do with submission issues. My husband, while a believer, is not living nor acting as my head (aka, spiritual head). This makes it very sticky for me, because on the one hand, I want to obey and please the Lord, but on the other hand, I have to live with my husband in peace. My views are that a woman’s long hair is her covering (short hair is literally shorn — and was not done culturally for any other reason than to mourn the dead or for religious sacrifice). A woman’s naturally long hair is her glory and her covering. However, if the woman has headship issues (like I do), then adding an additional covering shows my respect for my “head”/my husband and brings great glory to God. I know that personally, when I cover my head (at home), I am much more content and at peace, than when I don’t. I also don’t lose my temper, say things I shouldn’t, and generally act in ways that bring displeasure to the Lord. Therefore, the prayer covering acts as a reminder to me that my first love is the Lord; my second love is my husband.

    • Carol – thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate your honesty and your desire to serve the Lord! I wish you peace in all of your decisions and most of all peace and harmony in your marriage. Thanks again for visiting my site and posting your thoughts.

  12. Hi Janet,
    I’ll change my “name” to Janet E to differentiate. With regard to cutting of bangs I would say that many would take to the “letter of the law” road to say that no cutting is permitted, but I don’t get too hung up on that. Cutting your bangs is not shearing, but it is cutting. However, by not cutting the rest you are keeping the spirit of that text and since the covering is a matter of obedience, as is the cutting, I’d let my spirit be my guide. I don’t wear bangs because I don’t like hair on my face, but I would if I felt better suited to. I do trim my hair simply because it gets to thin at the ends it breaks off. When it reaches the length of my coccyx I usually trim it back to mid-back range. Some would see that as cutting. That is not to say the other camp is “wrong”, but it is to say that God looks upon the heart and by covering you are taking His Word at face value and looking toward obedience, so your heart imho, is scripturally, in order. So, that’s “my take”. I believe God is glorified when we are willing to step out in faith even against our peers to obey Him. Blessings as you seek to serve, J

  13. I have been Covering for 21 Years now. I find that it is a blessing to obey the word. I Cover Full Time, In my home as well as Church. So many Women miss the point of Covering full Time. We are to pray at all Times, Not just in Church. What a blessing to see this truth
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/submissionandcovering/
    studyingtheword77@gmail.com

  14. Elaine………….
    Wow, didn’t think anyone cared about head coverings. I have worn head coverings before and got away from wearing my head covering when i joined a Baptist Church some years ago. By the way I am a single woman and I believe that head coverings apply to all women married or single. I don’t care that others may find it odd or out of context for women for today. It is interesting though having read many blogs about whether head coverings was for the Corinthian church or for that particular era. I believe in head coverings and had a positive experience behind wearing one. One Sunday while attending church there was an Evangelist who spoke to each one in attendance a prophetic word. Following that service the Lord used me to give a few people assistance concerning the prophetic word the Evangelist had spoken to them. To me this experience was the Lord’s way of saying to me I see you and I will honor you for keeping my word. (wearing a head covering) God could have used any one of the people that were at church that morning but I believe he choose me because I choose to honor him and it was his way of saying to me that because I had chosen to honor him openly he would do the same for me.

  15. I have been a disciple of The Lord for 9 years now, and my love for Him and His word, and my natural rebellion and stuborness came head to head two weeks ago, and Praise The Lord, The Holy Spirit prevalied and had His way in me!! I battled and battled against covering, came up with every excuse in the book, hated reading 1 Corinthians 11 and avoided it all costs. Why? Because I knew deep down that I was disobeying the One I love. I have a wonderful husband who I cheerily do anything for, but the pride of life prevented me for years from being willing to wear a physical sign of submission to him. This is a big deal in an era that rebels against authority, and that spirit of rebellion had a hold on me.
    5 years ago I dabbled at covering (at home only) and felt very silly and hated every moment. I need help from The Lord on this one, I wanted to obey but was overcome by the flesh. As I have gone on and grown in my love for God and had a deeper sincere desire to be separate from the world, I have pondered more and more on the spirit of worldliness in the church, and have wanted no part of it. I had a dream a year ago that I was standing on a huge courtyard balcony with lots of Christian women who were wearing head coverings, and I was too, and I woke feeling repulsed, so strong was this anti covering in me, I am sad to say.
    But I am pleased to say that I am typing this delightfully covered, smiling with joy that The work of God goes on in changing me, releasing me from the things that hold me back from walking in obedience, and it just happened out of the blue with no resistance!! This surely is a work of God, because I assure you it wasn’t me! I have had two happy weeks checking out youtube on wrapping tilches and headscarves, and discovering that covering doesn’t have to look islamic or old fashioned. I am 30 years old, with long hair(that I considered to be my best feature) which is now something set aside purely for the pleasure of my hubby, who didn’t make a big deal out of me suddenly covering, but encouraged me and praised me for wanting to honour The Lord.
    My journey so far has been short, I am wearing hats(with hair under) or headscarves at home and when out, but I am on the lookout for something suitable for work which will be done over the holidays, and I’m sure there will be comments about it, but hey, more opportunities to speak of God!! Family so far have not commented, although there were visual signs of shock and horror from my Christian sisters during our Hanukkah celebration but nothing was said.
    So to all you ladies who are debating and struggling, or just plain old disobeying, the scriptures are clear, ladies cover, the only debate is over if you will obey or not. If you sincerely love God and want to follow His ways, but have a real struggle with this, ask Him to release you, and He will, but be prepared for covering after, because that IS His desire! I am now in a place or wonderful rejoicing because I know I am a light to the Jews, a light to the Muslims, and a light to other Christian ladies, and it’s all glory to God!!!! There is not better place to be in than the place of surrender, submission, and obedience to His word, pland and order. God bless you!!!!! (And sorry this got longer than expected!)

  16. Hello ladies I have read the post and every comment and I feel God calling me to cover again!
    I am a Mennonite and for a long time I covered cuz I was told to, then I stopped because my husband and I started attending a Gospel Church and no one else was covering so I stopped. Now that I have come closer to God I feel I need to cover to glorify God and honer my husband, he wants me to cover.
    I have studied 1 corr 11 so many times and I have looked for every excuse not to cover but I know in my heart now that I should cover and why i should its personal to me now.

    Thank you for your post

    Mary

    • Mary, thank you so much for your response! I am so glad that you found this post and the great conversation that has happened between the fabulous women regarding this issue. I have been greatly inspired and touched by the things everyone has had to say. I am so glad that you are so open to God’s calling on your heart. Blessings to you!

  17. Hi,
    I’ve enjoyed this blog post. Perhaps you’d be up for giving your feedback on my study: tinyurl.com/coveredglory

    Thanks,
    David

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