Should Women Wear Head Coverings According to 1 Corinthians 11?

Should Women Wear Head Coverings According to 1 Corinthians 11?

Most modern day Christians reject the wearing of head coverings for women. But there are some groups of Christianity that believe women should wear head coverings based on 1 Corinthians 11.

When you read 1 Corinthians 11, it seems like Paul is telling women to wear head coverings. Is this what Paul was actually saying? 

Paul is not instructing women to wear head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11. He was using a custom of the day to illustrate the point that Christ is the head, not him. 

The Meaning of 1 Corinthians 11

What Paul is doing in 1 Corinthians 11 is using the customs of the day to illustrate a point. 

People have taken his illustration out of context and made wearing head coverings a ‘doctrine of men’. 

Paul was an apostle to the Corinthian Church, and in this letter he was correcting things that had gone awry in the church. 

Paul had just told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 11:1 to be followers of him. 

Because he had invoked his apostolic authority and urged the people to follow his teachings, he wanted to make sure that no one was placing their commitment to him above their commitment to Christ. 

In 1 Corinthians 11:2, Paul praises those of the Corinthian church who had continued to follow his teachings and not gone off course. He urged compliance with his instructions because of his authority as their apostle. 

To avoid people thinking they should follow him above Christ, Paul began to stress that the head of every man is Christ alone. 

In order to make his point, Paul used the custom of wearing veils and head coverings that was prevalent in that culture. 

These articles of clothing symbolized submission. Man was created directly under authority to no one but God and should therefore not pray or prophesy with his head covered. This signifies his submission to God alone. 

On the other hand, the woman was created for the man and told to submit to him in marriage. Therefore, a woman wearing a covering when she prays or prophesies was an illustration they would understand to symbolize her submission to her husband as a God-given authority in her life. 

Paul used the symbolic meaning behind these customs, which these Corinthians used every day, to remind them that their head, or authority, was Christ, not Paul.

Are Head Coverings Supported by Paul? 

Even though these customs of Paul’s day had symbolic meanings that illustrated his point, the custom of wearing head coverings was not important and was not being promoted by Paul. 

Paul clearly said in 1 Corinthians 11:16 that if anyone wanted to argue about any of this, these were not the customs of the churches of God. 

Paul simply drew on a custom of the day to illustrate that he was not anybody’s spiritual head. 

The men and women in the church were under submission to Christ, and women also should submit to their husbands. That was it. That was his point. He was not trying to establish a dress code. 

The wearing of head coverings was a custom of Paul’s day that he used for illustration, not a commandment from the Lord. The length of hair and women wearing veils was not an issue to Paul.

Paul’s Point in 1 Corinthians 11- Do Not Obey Man Above Christ

Paul was emphasizing that the Corinthian Church should not blindly obey him. They were to follow Paul only to the degree that he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

The whole point Paul was trying to make in 1 Corinthians 11 is that Christ is the head, not him. 

Paul was not teaching on the proper length of hair and the veiling of women. He was illustrating that Christ is the head of the church. 

Those who were following his example needed to be corrected because they had made Paul their leader instead of Christ. 

Anyone who preaches total obedience to any leader other than Jesus is not following Paul’s teaching and will always lead people into error and bondage. 

Paul’s point was that Christ always has ultimate authority in the life of the believer. 

Is it Wrong for Men to Have Long Hair? 

Again, Paul was using the length of men’s hair as an illustration. People who have tried to use these scriptures to say men cannot have long hair have missed the point. 

According to writings of the first century, the typical Jewish man’s hair length was to his shoulders. This would be unacceptable to those who use these scriptures today to be contentious and enforce things that God never commanded.  

Paul warned us in verse 16 not to be contentious about these issues. Despite his warning, many people have taken these issues and made them divisive. 

The issues of whether men and women should pray with their heads covered and what is the proper length of hair for each gender was not his point in writing 1 Corinthians 11. 

Are Men the Head of Women? 

Scripture never says that all men are the head of all women

Anytime the Bible talks about this, it is referring specifically to the husband being head of the wife

Women are to submit to their husband in Christ, not to all men in general. This is a whole other topic for another time, but anytime we read these verses, we need to look at what they actually say. 

For example, when  we look at 1 Corinthians 11:3, it says that the head of the woman is THE man, referring to her husband. 

This is talking specifically about the positions of authority in a Godly marriage where the man is the head of the wife. 

Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 that the woman is not just a second-class citizen. The man wouldn’t exist without the woman. 

Peter said in 1 Peter 3:7 that the husband needed to give honor unto the wife, as the weaker vessel, and “as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” 

Marriage is actually a partnership. Paul, when speaking about marriage in Ephesians 5:21, said we are to submit ourselves one to another. 

The Lord didn’t make men better than women or women better than men. But He did make men and women differently, and in the context of marriage, man is the head of the wife. 

Together a husband and wife complement each other and make one new person that is superior together to what either of them could be alone.


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