November 5, 2008 at 6:52 pm (posted with permission by Love4Holiness)
I have written this blog post not expecting hundreds of people to see it via the world wide web, but as a means to share my thoughts with the people who already know me and who have already asked (or are dying to ask) the question, “So what’s that thing on your head?” I thought I’d write something that gave an explanation so I could share it with most of the people on my contact list as a way of answering the question to several people all at one time! I would like to preface this post by saying I do not claim to be Biblical scholar, I am not a minister or any sort, I have not gone to seminary, etc. I’m just a lady who seeks the Lord and in this one particular matter, I have made a decision based upon the information I have found. So here goes…
Seeing a woman wearing a religious head covering is not completely uncommon in America. However, it’s not only Muslim women, Amish women, and Mennonite women who wear them. There are a growing number of Christian women (of many different denominations and affiliations) who are wearing a head covering today. After much study, I believe women are commanded to wear a head covering in the Bible. I do not believe the hair alone is the covering, but that the Bible refers to an additional head covering which can be put on and taken off at different times. The main passage of scripture I’m referring to is found in 1 Corinthians, the 11th chapter. Let me say, it is not my intention to try to prove anyone else wrong, but to explain my understanding of these scriptures in the hopes that other Christian women would better understand my reasoning.
The Bible says: “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.” (1 Corinthians 11:5) This verse alone is enough to convince many Christian women to cover their heads while in prayer. The fact that we are also instructed to “‘Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians5:17) also seems to indicate to many Christian women that they should cover their heads at all times. I decided to cover my head on a full-time basis (as opposed to during prayer and worship only) because the Bible commands women to cover their heads while praying (which I already pointed out we are told do do pretty much all the time, or are told to at least be ready to pray at a moment’s notice) or prophesying (which most scholars I’ve read agree means to read, study, meditate, or talk about the things of God) and I do both these things many times during the course of any one day. If I had to take my cover off, put it away, keep it handy, then whip it out every time I did one of these things, I’d be a busy lady! I decided to wear my covering full time for convenience and to represent God’s divine order on a full-time basis. Thankfully, my husband has been fully supportive and I attend a loving, wonderful Apostolic Pentecostal church which does not practice headcovering, but where I feel I am at liberty to follow my own conviction in this matter.
I came to the decision to cover my head after a great deal of research and prayer. Believe me, I had no desire to stand out in a “strange” way in the world’s eyes any more than I already did! But at one point, I became so convicted that I felt heavy-hearted and disobedient because I believe God had revealed this truth to me and I was ignoring it until later when I could “study the matter further” (which was my way of just putting it off because the thought of covering my head seemed, well, LESS than appealing!)
I have been taught that my hair should remain long and uncut (which I still believe) because the Bible tells us that a woman’s hair is her covering and that it is a shame for it to be shorn (which means to cut, the Bible does not indicate any certain lenth) or shaved (which means to cut completely off) in 1 Corinthians Chapter 11. But I was convinced about the headcovering as a separate piece of fabric or material when studying the following verse: “For if the woman be not covered, let her alsobe shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.” (1 Corinthians 11:6). The word ALSO was a big one for me…
Here’s the way that verse would read if the only covering being referred to here is the woman’s hair: For if the woman be not covered [with her hair], let her ALSObe shorn [have her hair cut]: So then I’m thinking, “Ok, OK… so if she isn’t covered with her hair, meaning she has already cut it partially or completely off, then she should her cut it again? HUH? WHAT?!” This made no sense to me. It’s that one little word “also” that throws a kink in the argument that the only covering being referred to here is the woman’s hair. But it does make complete sense when I understood that the covering being talked about is an additional, separate covering. That same verse would then read like this: For if the woman be not covered [with a veil or separate covering], let her ALSO be shorn [have her hair cut.] To me, this scripture is clearly saying that if a woman refuses to wear a veil, a separate covering over her God-given natural covering (her hair), then she might as well have her hair cut because it’s such a shame to her that she refuses to follow this command.
There are some arguments against women wearing a headcovering. The main arguments I’ve encountered are that the covering simply isn’t relevant today – that it was just the custom during that time period or that it was something that Paul commanded to the Corinthian women (and only those particular women) to do for a specific reason. But Paul also addresses that a man’s head should be UNcovered during prayer and worship and to this very day, men still remove their hats when praying and entering a house of worship. That all goes back to this same command in the Bible.
I’d like to make another point for your consideration: if one’s natural hair was the onlycovering Paul was referring to in this scripture, that interpretation would mean that a man should be shaven bald every time he prays or worships since he is commanded to be UNcovered during these times. It makes much more sense to say he should be UNcovered by removing any additional covering, like a hat, that he might have on his head. Likewise, it makes sense that a woman should do the opposite by putting on an additional covering, like a hat, scarf, or covering of some kind during prayer, worship, etc. to obey the covering command.
Further, I do not feel it was something commanded only for the Corinthian women because the main thing the head covering shows is God’s divine order and that order is a spiritual truth that pertains to all humanity and will do so for all time! In fact, there are references to godly women in the Old Testment who also wore head coverings. Have you ever studied art throughout history? Nearly all artistic renditions of godly women will show them with their heads covered. Even in America it was common practice for women to wear something on their heads during church or worship until the early 1960’s. Just take a look at old photographs taken in churches! But that all changed with… you guessed it… the women’s “liberation” movement. (Isn’t it just like Satan to tell us we’re liberated by bringing us into the bondage of his deceit which keeps us from obeying God’s commands and enjoying true liberation?)
Paul talks about the Lord’s supper (communion) immediately following the section in which he addresses the head covering – it’s in the same chapter of the Bible and all Christian people that I know feel that the act of taking communion is still relevant (and even commanded) for Christians today. No one is saying that taking communion was only a custom during that time or was only for the Corinthian people to which Paul was writing. Ironically, Paul dedicated the same amount of verses to the topic of the head covering as he did to the topic of communion. Additionally, many people choose to ignore the head covering teachings in 1 Corinthians as being a cultural custom, but in this same portion of scripture, Paul refers to Creation, to nature itself, and to the other churches of God and thus indicates it is not just a cultural custom in Corinth. There are references to women covering their hair with veils all the way back in the book of Genesis! If we choose to ignore Paul’s teaching about a head covering, should we also ignore the rest of the chapter about communion? It is inconsistent to accept only PART of chapter 11 and not the whole chapter. To me, if the Lord felt it important enough to inspire Paul and urge him to address the necessity of a woman covering her head, and if Paul dedicated the same amount of writing and explanation to it as he did holy communion, that’s good enough reason for me!
IT WAS ALL GREEK TO ME!
In most of the verses of the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul uses the Greek word, “katakalupto,” which is a word that refers to the covering a woman places on her head (one which the scripture uses in a way which indicates it can be put on and off again, which is not possible with one’s natural hair). This word is composed of the prefix “kata” which when translated means “come down” and then “kalupto” which when translated means “to cover.” This is exactly what a shawl, a scarf, or a head covering does – it comes down from the top of the head and covers the woman’s hair/head and can be taken on and off again.
There are those that say that the only covering a woman needs is her own hair, her natural covering, based 1 Corinthians 11:14-16: “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory for her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” But it is my belief that these verses do not indicate that the hair is the only covering Paul says is necessary, but that Paul is using the “nature” reference as a life lesson to reinforce the command he just gave to women to cover their heads with a veil. In essence, I think he is telling us (this is my own interpretation): “Women, you need to cover your heads with a veil when you pray or prophecy. You should know this already because even nature itself should teach you this fact! After all, your natural hair is given to you as a covering – a sort of everyday object lesson – showing you that you should instinctively KNOW to cover your heads. If you have a problem with this, i’m sorry. We have no other custom – this is what should be done not only in Corinth, but in all of God’s churches everywhere.”
In verse 15 Paul is obviously speaking about the woman’s natural hair that grows from her head, but I discovered when I researched the original Greek words, that Paul uses a completely different word for the hair covering a woman’s head. In this verse Paul uses the Greek word “peribolaion” which is simply translated as “covering.” It is a completely different and unrelated word from the word “katakalupto,” meaning to “come down and cover” used in the previous verses. If Paul were talking about the same covering in every verse, would he not have used the same words each time? But he doesn’t use the same words. Instead, when talking about the hair itself, Paul uses a different word. I think he did this so that when we read it we would not confuse the woman’s natural covering (her hair, “peribolaion”) with the additional, necessary headcovering (her veil, “katakalupto”) which she chooses to willingly place on her head to cover her hair out of obedience.
Another note: the word “katakalupto”(the separate veil or headcovering) that I just spoke of is the same Greek word used in Esther 6:12 “…But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered.” In this Bible verse, Haman was in mourning due to the fact that he was so humiliated and shamed so he covered his head while running back to his home. Obviously Haman did not immediately grow long and/or uncut hair to use as his covering while running home! He used a separatecovering that he threw over his head in shame. Again, this is the same Greek word Paul uses when telling women they need a separate covering to cover their heads when they pray or prophecy in 1 Corinthians! If this Greek word meant “hair” and not “a separate covering” in the book of 1 Corinthains, it would mean the same for Haman in the book of Esther as well. It just doesn’t make sense, does it? It is much more reasonable when we understand that both scriptures are reffering to a piece of cloth or some kind of covering.
Also, in my personal opinion, I view it this way: I have no control over how fast my hair grows, how long my hair grows, how thick it is, or even whether I have any hair at all on my head (some women do not have any hair on their heads due to various reasons – like alopecia and other health conditions.) Only the Lord decides how much, if any, hair we have. If wearing my natural hair is the only way I can obey this scriptural command, then am I really obeying it at all if I have no control over my own hair other than how it is cut, combed, or kept? I don’t understand why Paul would have mentioned it at all if a woman was to have so little choice in the matter if her hair is her only covering. I mean, were all the women in the church at Corinth actually bald and Paul felt the need to write to them to tell them to allow their hair to grow back so it could be their covering? I seriously doubt it! That doesn’t seem rational to me. Some argue that not cutting one’s hair at all is the control one has – the decision to let it grow long and uncut. But even that shows no effort on the part of the woman, only constraint. I don’t feel Paul commanded constraint here, he talked about an action; he was telling women to do something when he told them to cover their heads. I feel women were (and still are) given the choice to obey this command of wearing an additional covering. It shows effort on our part when we choose to obey this command. After all, there must be an effort on our part to obey the Lord in all other scriptural commands. Even in the acceptance of the free gift of salvation there are steps one must take in obedience to Scripture!
For those of you who might think that this was a “new” commandment being taught by Paul, please understand (as I have briefly stated before) that we also see many uses of the woman’s veil in the Old Testament as well. Some of the OT references to women wearing a covering are found in Genesis 24:65, Numbers 5:18, Ruth 3:15, Song of Solomon 5:7, and Isaiah 47:2 to name a few. Women have worn coverings on their head throughout most of human history – that is until recently. Modern women have been brainwashed into thinking they have been ”liberated” from this ”opressive” practice by the liberation movement. Today, women have stopped doing something that has always been a common practice since creation of mankind! But because it is not common today, women like me have found it challenging to start the practice of covering their head once they understand it is a scriptural command and not a mere suggestion. If you are struggling with this as I was, please remember that every time we submit to the Lord, we lose a little bit more of our wicked self, become a little more like Jesus. When we strive to be more like Him, only then do we truly begin to understand liberation!
AM I ANY HOLIER NOW?
So what if you are a Christian woman reading this and you disagree with my above thoughts and/or you do not cover your own head? Do I think I am “holier” than you now? Ummmm, NO. Do I think any less of you now? Nope, not one little bit. Does it bother me that you don’t agree with me? Nope, not at all.
Wearing a head covering so far has been a very humbling experience. It was only after I outgrew my more immature phase… you know, the one where I might think or say things like, “Oh, look at that outfit that woman is wearing, I would never be caught dead in an outfit that terrible!” or “Did you see her hairdo? What’s up with that?!” — that I was able to truly examine myself and my motives more deeply. It was only then that I was able to honestly evaluate the reasons why I dressed a certain way, why I wore my hair a certain way, why I did some of the things I did and said some of the things I said. This new phase in my life has made me really ask myself, “For WHOM am I living, talking, doing my hair, and dressing?” I realized that if it was for anyone else other than for the Lord and for my own husband, then I was doing these things for the wrong reasons.
For me, wearing a head covering has been a wonderful, spiritual experience so far. I no longer have the vanity of my hair needing to be styled a certain way. My hair barely shows now. I no longer spend 15-20 minutes in front of the mirror each day deciding how to wear my hair, putting it up then taking it down again because it doesn’t suit me, and getting frustrate with it. I no longer have a “good hair day” only to then look at it several more times (with a spirit of vanity) and think, “Wow, my hair looks good! It’s going to be a good day!” (It’s no wonder the Lord said our hair is a glory to us! It sure can feel glorious when our hair is particularly lovely in a certain hairdo we’ve taken the time to created.) You see, my hair no longer dictates my mood. My hair no longer has “control” of me in this way. It is no longer a source of vanity for me. Instead, every morning, I pin my hair up in an easy, modest way, then put my covering on which covers most, if not all, of my hair. When I place the covering over my hair, I pray and am again reminded of the submission I am supposed to show in God’s divine order: God is the head of the man, Jesus – Jesus is the head of my husband – my husband is the head of me. I don’t mind this divine order, it is not oppressive, it is comforting to me. This divine order is also scriptural: “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.” (1 Corinthians 11:3). Everyday, my covering reminds me of the ultimate submission Jesus showed in dying on the cross for my sins. It reminds me that in placing this piece of fabric on my head, I am saying to the world, “I belong to Jesus and I understand and respect the fact that I am a part of His divine order.”
Another bit I’d like to add is that I have a problem controlling what I say sometimes. People who know me know this is true! It’s a problem I’ve struggled with my whole life. I’m opinionated. I’m a little too loud sometimes. I am too blunt sometimes. Through the years, I’ve tried to curb this problem I have. But it is something with which I constantly struggle. (Do you have any problems you constantly struggle with or am I the only one?) Since wearing my head covering, I feel it has forced me to be more conscious of what I say when I open my mouth. The covering on my head makes me think twice about being too direct, too blunt, or too opinionated. I know it sounds strange, but this seemingly small piece of fabric on my head constantly reminds me that I am commanded to have a meek and quiet spirit (of which I need to be constantly reminded because my flesh and my will is in direct opposition to this Biblical truth a lot of the time!) “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master.” (1 Peter 3:1-6) So, if you are a woman reading this and you don’t wear a head covering, I do not feel any more special or any holier than you… I really don’t. I just feel thankful that Jesus has redeemed me by His precious blood that also COVERS all of my faults and sins! (The fact that God covers the things He cares for most – His creation: Adam & Eve after the fall, His tabernacle in the wilderness, etc. – and the fact that the angels were given a separate set of wings to physically cover themselves in God’s presence – is another Bible study completely!)
Most Christian women who practice head covering do not feel it is a salvation issue (or as some would say, a heaven or hell issue) and I put myself into this category. It is my belief that salvation is the free gift of God made possible by God himself coming to earth, wrapping Himself in human flesh, dying on the cross for our sins, then raising from the dead three days later. Yes, I believe there are Biblical steps to salvation that one must follow to be saved. I am an Apostolic Pentecostal believer, so I believe one must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (evidenced by speaking in tongues), then try lead a holy life as directed by the Scripture. Some people do not agree with these steps that I think are obvious in Scripture… but that’s ok! We can all agree to disagree and still walk in LOVE together. After all, we’re all on our own journey in this life.
I do not believe I can earn my way into heaven by any particular deed or act, but I do try to obey when I see something in the Bible as a way to show my love and reverence for God. I do not cover my head as a means of winning “brownie points” or “extra credit” with the Lord, nor do I judge women who choose not to cover their heads as I do. The Bible tells each of us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling — that’s exactly what I’m trying to do. I hope the people who know and love me will be kind and supportive even if they think I’m a bit looney. (smile) “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12)