Should Women Wear Head Coverings?

Were head-coverings (for women in church) a cultural rule or a permanent rule? This 1-minute devotion explains.

Note: This devotion is designed to help us identify cultural commands. 

When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, godly women covered their heads as a symbol of submission to their husbands (1 Corinthians 11:3-16)

Submission is a biblical principle, but head coverings were simply a cultural practice based on that principle.

We know this because: 

1. The context confirms it.

Paul introduces this passage as holding to the traditions(verse 2).(1)

He calls head coverings a practice” (verse 16).(2) 

2. Paul uses "conditional" wording.

If it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head” (verse 6).(3)

Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?” (verse 13) 

Let's judge for ourselves. Is it proper? Yes. In most cultures today, praying without a head covering isn't disgraceful. It doesn't mean a woman is rejecting submission. 

3. Cross-references confirm it's cultural.

Besides head coverings, Paul says long hair on men is a disgrace  (verse 14). We know that's cultural because God commanded the Nazarites not to cut their hair (Numbers 6:1-21). 

So what does this passage mean for us today? It means Christians should reflect godliness in ways appropriate in their culture.(4) 

Cultural commands are rare in the New Testament, so beware of false teachers who use culture to disregard biblical principles.(5) 


Footnotes:

Were head-coverings (for women in church) a cultural rule or a permanent rule? This 1-minute devotion explains.

(1) The Greek word means an instruction, tradition.” (source)

(2) The Greek word means a custom, a habit, a practice.” (source)

(3) The word translated if is present in the original Greek and it's a conditional participle. (source

(4)  This doesn't mean we follow ungodly cultural practices. It means we reflect godliness as is appropriate in our culture and Christian communities. If a woman feels she should wear a head covering in church out of respect for her husband and God, we should not criticize her or persuade her to do differently. Nor should those who wear head coverings criticize those who don't (Romans 14). 

(5) Please note that there is a principle behind the cultural practice: submission. Submission remains a biblical principle even when the cultural expressions of that principle change. False teachers deny principles, claiming they are cultural. If you want to read about an example of a false teaching that does this, see Apples and Oranges.

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4 comments:

  1. I wonder what you would say about
    I Corinthians 1:2...unto the church at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with ALL that in EVERY PLACE call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, ...
    I just have a hard time referring to ch 11 as cultural in that day.

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    1. By using 1 Cor. 1:2, I assume you are saying that every specific command in 1 Cor. 11 is meant for today, that nothing in 1 Cor. is cultural.

      If a woman's head covering is a sign of submission, not a cultural or church practice, then she should wear it at all times shouldn't she? Not just in church when praying.

      And the same would be true for the man having no head covering since it is a sign that he is "the image and glory of God" (verse 7). So, if this is not a cultural command or a church practice, Christian men should never wear hats inside or outside the church, not even to keep their heads warm.

      And then we have to explain why God told the Nazarite men in the Old Testament not to cut their hair if it is a permanent principle, not a cultural principle. Because 1 Cor. 11 says long hair on a man is disgraceful.

      And 1 Cor. 11:22,34 tells the people to eat at home, not in the church, so since that wasn't cultural, that would mean that having church suppers is sinful.

      I believe there are principles underlying all of these practices, and the principles are unchanging but the practices are changing. If you are going to believe as you believe, there are many things besides head coverings that you must practice.

      I have friends who wear head coverings out of respect for God, their husbands, and their church beliefs, and that is fine. But it's not a moral command that all godly women in today's culture must practice.


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  2. I think when we start picking and choosing what might be cultural and what is not we are in danger of being our own God. I believe the Scripture is God’s word to us and that he inspired the writers to write. See 2 Timothy 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 2:13.
    And yes, I believe 1 Cor 11 is meant for today, as much as it applied to those in Corinth.
    https://youtu.be/WT2yCvJAzi8

    P.s.I would be glad to communicate by email if you’d rather not clog up your blog.

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    1. This is an area addressed in Romans 14. You can wear a head covering out of respect for the Lord, and I shouldn't try to convince you to do otherwise.

      And you also need to respect that 95% of Bible-Believing Christians who don't wear head-coverings are not simply "picking and choosing" what might be cultural.

      If you believe that not wearing a head-covering is disrespectful to the Lord and a lack of correct doctrine, that means that the majority of Christian women throughout history, past and present -- those who gave their lives sacrificially for the Lord's work and those who were martyred for Jesus -- the majority of these women had less faith than women who wear head-coverings.

      The reason I addressed this subject is because many people are claiming that submission is cultural, and I wanted to show the clear differences between cultural practices and principles. Old Testament commands often dealt with externals like diet and head-coverings. New Testament commands deal with the heart.

      For example, modesty is a heart issue but modesty is applied differently in different times and cultures. There was a time when it was considered immodest for a women to show her ankles.

      Meeting together for fellowship is a heart issue, but it is applied differently in different times and cultures. Some meet in homes, some in buildings, some in large gatherings, some in small.

      Submission is a heart issue, but it is applied differently in different times and cultures.

      You can hold tightly to your belief in head-coverings and I can respect your wearing of head-coverings knowing you are doing it out of respect for the Lord. But it's not a sign of submission or respect in my country and in my culture, and while the Lord has convicted me of many things since becoming a Christian, He has never convicted me about head-coverings. I love the Bible. I believe it is God's Word. I study it regularly. If you think my not wearing a head-covering means I am picking and choosing which parts of Scripture to obey, then there is nothing I can say that will convince you otherwise.



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