2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. 3 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. 7 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 did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her ownhead, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.
-1 Corinthians 11:2-16
Background: Opinions among the Bible Scholars are divided as to whether or not the head coverings described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 are a reference to a cloth over the hair or to the hair itself. I believe the covering is a cloth in addition to a woman’s hair because in those days the punishment for prostitution in the empire was to shave one’s head. Therefore, shaving one’s head like a prostitute would be an unlikely choice for a Christian woman and would prove nothing. There is more on this but space doesn’t permit all of the details and counter-arguments to be addressed.
BLUF (Bottom Line up front): Christian women today are not required to wear head-coverings in church because of the above Bible text. Why? Because Paul is here referring to a local cultural tradition or practice specific to the times and customs of the Corinthians. How do we know this is cultural and doesn’t this also open the door to dismissing other things in the Bible as mere traditions not to be followed today? The Simple answer is that…First, Paul is talking to a congregation, of likely mixed Gentile and Jewish makeup, in Corinth. Yet He refers only to the order of creation in the book of Genesis, but not to any Old Testament (OT) laws or prescriptions about wearing head coverings, while worshiping, such as a requirement of Jewish OT law. That’s because there is none. There is an abundance of information from Jewish traditions and writings such as the Talmud, from the Apocrypha, and from the Greco-Roman sources which talk about or pictorially depict women wearing head-coverings in certain circumstances as a custom in those days. But none of this rises to the level of the authority of what the Bible has to say. This leads us to believe the wearing of head-coverings here is an application of teachings from the book of Genesis on the order of creation, as they are applied in view of the cultural context and norms of those days that were in practice in Corinth.
Paul’s words to the Corinthians sounds more like an issue of not giving offense to the weaker brother or sister and hindering
the gospel, which in this case would be a majority of people inside the church, as well as ostracizing possible converts outside the church. When the culture changes regarding the wearing of head coverings by women then Paul’s prescription goes away; although the principles behind it remain for future use with other issues. The real issue for Paul here is concern for proper use of Christian Freedom without damaging the faith of other weaker Christians.
Second, Jesus is not a new law-giver. Therefore Jesus, and His followers who wrote the NT, would not establish new laws for all times. This would especially be the case with ceremonial laws such as the wearing of head-coverings.
Therefore it is unlikely that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, and as a former Pharisee trained in Judaism, when speaking to a young Christian Congregation outside of Israel in the Roman Empire, would be establishing new laws which we would be expected to follow today.
Some Christian Scholars try to say that the covering spoken of in the above Corinthian text IS a woman’s hair which some women were having shaved. They also say that prostitutes who were caught and prosecuted by the state would have their heads shaved. Therefore some women were having their hair shaved off—for whatever reason–and were being confused with prostitutes. This is hard to maintain given the text above which refers to the order of creation as found in the book of Genesis when talking about all of this.