Thursday, March 24, 2011

To Cover or Not to Cover Day 81

"I'm trying to obey a New Testament passage in the Bible that says women ought to cover their heads when they pray."

Chapter 11

1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Head Coverings

2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 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. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

1 Cor 11:1-16 (ESV)

In almost 40 years of following God I have read this particular passage dozens of times. I knew of no woman who covered her head when she prayed. Every commentary I had ever read said it was a cultural custom that did not affect us “modern women.” I believed it for years and years, confident I understood the passage correctly. That is until I was having a discussion with son number 1 and his wife. We decided to go our separate ways and study on our own. I studied, I prayed, I looked up the original language and then I did what we as humans do, I argued with God.

You remember what happened to Jacob when he wrestled with God? He got a broken hip! I had perfect reasons why I would never cover.

1. I believed that modesty meant not to stick out, I would definitely stick out if I covered

2. I did NOT want to be the only woman wearing something on her head

3. Hubby was a minister at the time and I did NOT want to cause any controversy

4. I did NOT want to be different from the rest of the women

5. Last but not least, how could thousands of churches not practice covering if it was what we are supposed to do?

So those were my “excuses” or reasons

Then I went back to the scriptures and I could not escape what God was calling me to. The scripture never even mentions covering for cultural reasons. In fact the three reasons that are given have nothing to do with the culture

1. The headship order, head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God

2. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

3. Because of the angels which the Bible never elaborates more

None of these reasons has a thing to do with the culture of the day. The church in Corinth was a mixture of both Jews and Greeks. Most people say that the woman’s hair IS her covering. If you use that logic and then be consistent and take it further then men would have to shave their heads and keep them shaved if they are to pray without shame.

Here is the Greek word for covering katakaluptestho – (Strong’s number 2619)

1Cr 11:6 For1063 if1487 the woman1135 be26190 not3756 covered2619 , let her27510 also2532 be shorn2751 : but1161 if1487 it be a shame149 for a woman1135 to be shorn2751 or2228 shaven3587 , let her be covered2619 . 11:7 For1063 a man435 indeed3303 ought3784 not3756 to cover2619 [his] head2776, forasmuch as he is5225 the image1504 and2532 glory1391 of God2316: but1161 the woman1135 is2076 the glory1391 of the man435.

The Greek word means 1. To cover up 2. To veil or cover one’s self

Saying all of that I go back to this:

"I'm trying to obey a New Testament passage in the Bible that says women ought to cover their heads when they pray." There are times when I wish I didn’t “understand” the passage this way. Most people have been very gracious to me. My friends have all been fabulous and don’t shun me after I explain my understanding. The congregation I worship with has been nothing but loving towards me for which I am eternally grateful. I have absolutely no judgment in this matter for anyone else. I am simply trying to obey, nothing more and nothing less.

I would love your thoughts. Feel free to post a comment or email me.

In Christ Alone,



"Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up"


  1. Hi Jill, just a little note on the subject. I have a Greek to English New Testament and the actual translation of the original greek words in verse 15 is
    "A woman but if wears long hair a glory to her it is? Because the long hair instead of a covering has been given to her."
    Something to think about.
    Also, I'm curious as to why you have instrumental music accompanying worship songs on your site when the Bible doesn't authorize use of instruments but only vocal singing.
    PS- I don't know what the profile thingy is so I chose Anonymous (smile). Debi Robinson
    In Christ's Love, Debi

  2. Dear Jill,

    My husband and I have begun to really question some of the things we have been taught. Just because that someone had a degree or was revered by a congregation, we believed them without digging in ourselves to determine what is true. Our jaws have hit the ground several times in the last few weeks due to diligent study. We have found our beliefs to be contrary to what we see God teaching us through his word. Your post is very intriguing to me. I will be reading through it to determine if I too should be veiled when I pray. We have started using the Complete Jewish Bible for our studies. It seems to do a better job at taking in the Hebrew background of the New Testament writers when translating. So, my translation uses the term "veiled." Humbly trying to follow Yeshua.

  3. @ Debi robinson. there are plenty of times in the Bible especially in the Old Testament where instruments were used.

  4. There are many issues hidden by the translation from Greek into English. The biggest one is that from v 5 through v 13 the Greek is using the word Katakalupto and akatakalupto. The "a" in front of the word means "not" the same as when "a" is put in front of the word moral.

    Then, at the very end of the teaching a whole different word is used and that is about the hair. That word is peribolaion which is only used one other time in the Bible. The BEST translation of peribolaion is Vest or mantle.

    Long hair is like a vest or mantle. Peribolaion also means something you can throw around oneself like a shawl.

    At the close of the passage the teaching is totally different than putting a covering, a katakalupto, on your head. The passage in Greek teaches women to do that and in addition it teaches that your long hair is like a vest. When the passage says, "instead" the hair is given instead of a covering the Greek is saying that the hair is given instead of a vest, not instead of the head covering katakalupto.

    I know it's difficult. I know it would have "popped" out so much more clearly if the translators had simply translated the close of the passage the way the Greek does ...

    "A woman/wife is have long hair, glory to her it is; for the long hair instead of a vest is given to her."

    That is the exact teaching in Greek.

    There is no way the Bible is saying wear your hair instead of your vest. It's saying that your long hair could be vest-like, mantle-like it covers that well. But the passage does not say that your hair/vest is THE covering, the katakalupto, so painstakingly taught above.

    If the hair is THE covering then men need to take their hair off to pray or prophesy and it makes the passage silly because people don't put on hair and take off hair. The verb tense is in the "putting" on. An action; that's the tense when teaching the katakalupto covering.

    I too looked for any way to get out of covering. Any way to get out of it would have worked for me. I too noticed that with 3 strong reasons given in the passage to cover I could not find an excuse.

    The headship order = God, Jesus, Man, Woman
    The order of creation = man, then woman
    The Angels = which have been around a long time

    No cultural reason is given, only "long-term" reasons are given.

    This is why Christians obeyed I Cor 11 for 2000 years and only stopped around 40 or 50 years ago. Coverers are outnumbered now, but that was not the case for 2000 years. This "not" covering situation is new in church history.