Bible study: Should a Christian woman pray with her head cover or uncovered?

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By Babatope Babalobi

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1 Corinthians 11:1-15 King James Version (KJV)

11 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.

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.

Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

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.

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.

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.

For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.

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.

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.

16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

  1.   This is one of the contentious scriptures and  it is capable of being interpreted in two opposite ways.
  2. The vexed question is what does the scriptures mean by ‘head covering’? It is covering of the head with hair or covering of the head with scarf/veil for women or cap for men?
  3. I pray the Holy Spirit will give us a dispassionate understanding of these scriptures in Jesus name
  4. Most orthodox churches insist their women should cover their head with scarf or head tie during church service, prayer or worship believing this is what head covering means.
  5. However, most of the Pentecostal churches do not make this a rule that their female worshipers to wear head tie or hat, to cover the head. Pentecostals generally interpret head covering to mean hair covering rather than scarf covering.
  6. The differing interpretations of these  scriptures have divided the church, so much that a Christian woman with head  not covered with scarf or veil or head tie is viewed  as an apostate or unbeliever in most orthodox churches, while the Pentecostals are generally indifferent whether a woman covers or uncovers her head with scarf during church service.
  7. Let’s us also remember that these issues generate much contention especially because most girls,  young ladies and young adult women prefer to dress leaving their hair uncovered with scarf or head tie, as it regarded as more fashionable
  8. A reader needs to study these passages patiently with an open mind to understand the scriptures
  9. There are two interpretations of ‘head covering’ in these passages.
  10. The first tendency is to define ‘head covering’ to mean wearing a scarf, beret, hat or head tie by women.
  11. The second definition is to define head covering by women in the church to mean having  hair on their head rather than being completely shaven
  12. Let’s examine the main scriptures in this chapter:
  • Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.– The verse could not be referring to HAIR as covering for the man’s head, because men naturally maintain hair on their head.  having his head covered,  in this verse could only mean covered by cap not by hair.
  • 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…. If covering in the previous verse means covering with cap, then it should have the same meaning here, particularly as uncovered head is equated to mean being clean shaven. If Paul’s statement of uncovering of the women’s head is taken to mean hair rather than scarf/veil; Paul would not have mentioned ‘being shaven’ in the last phrase.
  • 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. .The next verse supports Paul’s flow of thoughts. Uncovering of the head is compared to being shaven, as such covering of the hair does not mean covering with hair but covering with a cloth
  • For a man indeed ought not to cover his head,…in other words, a man indeed ought not to cover his head with a cap during worship. It does not make sense if we interpret it as a man indeed ought not to cover his head with hair during worship. Again, it is obvious here that covering means covering with a cap or scarf or veil, not covering with hair
  • 13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?- This verse continues Paul’s support for the need for a woman to cover her head with a veil or scarf
  • 14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him...In this verse and the next Paul speaks about hair as a covering of the head in place of cap as a head covering. In this verse, Paul is saying that Christian men are not supposed to keep long hairs like Rastafarians 
  • 15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering...Here Paul now gives the only condition under which women can worship God with head uncovered. If a woman has long hair, then she may decide to take the long hair as a covering
  • 16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God...Paul ends the discussion by saying that if any man disagrees with this argument, then he should remember it is against the custom of the Corinthians and the practice in the Churches of God in Corinthian. By this Paul, was simply saying that the custom in the church then was for every man to not to cover his head with a cap, and for every woman to cover her head with a scarf or veil in the church, However, women that have long hair are free to use this to substitute head covering with scarf or veil, and this should not generate contention among  men who see this as contrary to the customs of the Church of Corinthian 

 

 

Summary

  • These scriptures support the position of those for or against  Christian women covering their head with veil or scarf during worship.
  • Paul starts by saying that in line with the custom of the Corinthians and the Church, women should pray with God with their head covered, though the word veil or scarf was not used, it is obvious that what covering means in the context was covering with a cloth
  • However, Paul ends by saying if a woman has long hair, it is good covering, and glorious substitute for using a cloth as a covering
  •  Churches that hold differing positions on this issue, are really speaking from different sides of the same coin.
  • My advice- If you attend a church that believes women should cover their head with a scarf, veil, or head tie, please obey the custom in order not to offend anyone.
  • Otherwise if you attend a church that gives you the option of covering your head with a scarf or covering your head with you long hair, you are also free to choose this option. How long should be a women’s hair? Hair is hair, what is not expected is that a woman should not completely shave off her hair, otherwise she should cover her head with a scarf

 

 

Babatope Babalobi    babalobi@yahoo.com +2348035897435  Join Whatsapp prayer group

2 thoughts on “Bible study: Should a Christian woman pray with her head cover or uncovered?

    Bereket Kelile said:
    February 7, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    I appreciate you addressing the issue and I think you do it in a sober, serious, but also loving way. I have to disagree that the covering is referring to a woman’s hair because it creates problems in understanding the text.

    After re-reading the passage I would say that verse 6 most explicitly shows that the covering is not the hair. Paul says that a woman who is uncovered might as well shave her head bald. If the covering is her hair then this statement makes no sense.

    I think that it’s fair to assume that when Paul talks about a head covering he means the same thing when he talks of men and women in this chapter. Paul commands men to be uncovered but he doesn’t say they must shave their heads bald. If hair is the covering then the men would be violating the commandment.

    The last thing I’d mention is similar to Paul’s final reason for the command: that this is the custom of all the church. The last 2,000 years of church history has shown that believers clearly understood the head covering to mean something the woman wears on her head. I’m not aware that there’s ever been any dispute prior to our recent times.

    Well, I hope that helps. And, I hope you’ll check out my blog as well, “The Road To Emmaus”: http://wp.me/3gtV3

    Like

    Authentic.G said:
    April 16, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    Wemen should cover their head while worship dont misinterprete the bible

    Like

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