Head Covering for Christians
Teaching Them To Observe… HEAD COVERING
You need to understand that we are to be practicing the same faith as the first century apostolic churches had. This
is vital. All the commentaries that I have read, which deal with the historical setting of I Corinthians 11, all admit
that the practice of the first century churches was that of the women wearing a head veil. So, before we begin to
discuss the subject, let me ask you: Do you believe that we are to contend for the “faith once delivered to the
saints”? Do you believe that what “all the churches of God” did in the first century, we are to be doing in the 20th
century and the 21st?
There are many good books and studies on this subject, and my purpose is not to exhaust the resources, as there are
many. “Let Her Be Veiled” (Tom Shank); “Demons In The Church” (Skolfield); Symbols of Divine Order in the Church
(Shelter & Shank); The Head Covering (Timothy Nelson); “The Veiling Of The Virgins” (Tertullian); and many others
are available if you want to study the subject further.
I’ve never met a humble seeker of truth who tried to refute or avoid this issue.
In the first century, for women to be seen in public without a head veil was considered immodest. A Jewish man was
allowed to divorce a woman who went abroad without a veil. The veil was not just a “prayer veil” or “symbol of
authority”, etc.; but it was proper feminine modest apparel. The apostle Paul sets forth, not just the cultural
practice, but also the Christian practice in I Cor. 11:1-16. Each church Paul established in the Roman empire had its
core members as Jewish converts from the local synagogue or Jewish community. We know what the Jews believed
about head covering, and it seems Paul’s inspired writing is in agreement.
The Pulpit Commentary says for a woman to be in a public assembly with her head unveiled was “against the
national custom of all ancient communities, and might lead to the gravest misconceptions. As a rule modest
women covered their heads with the peplum or with a veil when they worshipped or were in public.”
Historians all agree with the following quote from Adam Clarke, “It was a custom, both among Greeks and Romans,
and among the Jews an express law, that no woman should be seen abroad without a veil. This was, and is, a
common custom through all the east, and none but public prostitutes go without veils.”
Verse by Verse Through 1Cor. 11
VS. 1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
-Does this apply to us? It sure does. Are you willing to follow a Holy Spirit inspired apostle?
VS. 2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to
-Are you remembering Paul in all things? The context is speaking of church ordinances. What is an ordinance?
What is a city ordinance? It is law. This is part of the Law of Christ. It is part of the traditions spoken of in II
Thess. 2:15 and 3:6 — The Greek word translated ordinance in I Cor. 11:2 is the same Greek word translated
traditions in II Thess. 2:15 & 3:6. You don’t have liberty to disobey God’s Word. Christian liberty is not liberty
to disobey the Word of God.
-John said that the world could not contain all the books that could be written about what Jesus said and did —
now, since God hand picked what we have in our small New Testament; you can be sure it is all important.
Every tradition of the apostles that God wanted us to know about is in the Word. If God saw fit to put it in the
New Testament, then it is important enough for us to obey. In the first century, you ladies would be wearing
head veils in submission to the teachings of the apostles, or you would be excommunicated — and lose your
hope of Heaven.
VSS. 3,4 But I would have you to 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. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
-Preachers who disregard the head veil ordinance for the women in their church always take their hat off to
pray, and would never wear one in the pulpit — but never ask themselves why.
VS. 5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head:
-EVERY WOMAN is what it says. That is pretty clear to understand, if you want to obey Jesus.
-Prayeth or prophesieth is a simple summation of “spiritual business”. We are either talking to God, or talking
to men for God. This in no way implies women leading in the church. Do we accuse Paul of senility? Or worse
yet, the Holy Spirit?
-“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are
commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their
husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” I Cor. 14:34,35 — see context in vss.
-“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp the
authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not
deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” I Tim. 2:11-14
-The prohibition is not against women singing, with the men, songs chosen for the church by the men; but
against “leading” in prayer, teaching, singing in front of the church — which is ministering in song (she doesn’t
qualify for a minister); or even asking questions in the assembly, because that can be used to argue, or lead
the discussion. God said it, and you ladies will be best off to follow. Is your pastor “teaching you to observe
VS. 5b ..for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
-Do men take off their hair when they pray? No. Is short, or cut hair “even all one as if she were shaven?”
No. Paul says for a woman to pray with an “uncovered” head is even all one as if she were shaven. This
cannot be said if the “uncovered head” was just the absence of “long hair”; because short or cut hair is not
“even all one as if she were shaven” It simply is not so.
-This cannot be said if the “uncovered head” was an actual shaven head, because it would also not be “even
all one as if” she were shaven–she would be shaven. This cannot be said of just having long hair up in a
“bun” and then letting it down — that is definitely not “even all one as if she were shaven”. This can only be
said if she took off her veil; and the shame of taking off her material veil (all at once) was equal to the
shame of losing her natural veil (long hair) all at once. In this situation only can it be rightly said, “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”.
-Men took of their hat or turban, etc. and women were not to remove their veil. Paul is making a parallel
between the natural covering (hair) and the material covering (veil). To remove the material covering (all at
once); is compared to removing the natural covering all at once — shaven. He is about to show that the
common knowledge of shame associated with the shaven woman, is to be also for the uncovered woman as
well. It is the same shame.
VS. 6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven,
let her be covered.
-“For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn:” Now, pay attention: If the covering is nothing but
long hair, then Paul would not say, “let her also be shorn” — for she would already be shorn. What he is
saying is this: “If the woman is going to be unveiled, let her also be shorn” — there, that makes sense, doesn’t
it? Paul says that if you are going to be so immodest and bold as to take off the material veil, then you might
as well cut off your hair also, like one of the pagan temple prostitutes at Corinth. Both, the cutting of the
hair short, and the removing of the veil is usurping the man’s position – feminists have now done both!
-This speaks of wearing the head covering all the time, not just in church. The women of the east who are
not even Christians still wear the veil in public, if they are decent women. It is a shame to shear off your
hair, and you should feel the same way about being without your material head covering. This is a covering
with spiritual significance, that covers the hair (the woman’s glory) for modesty, and humility, in the
presence of God, the angels, and man. See. Is. 47:1-3 to understand the Old Testament shame of
uncovering the locks of the head. The long hair was to be covered.
VS. 7-12 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the
woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man
created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head
because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in
the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
-Where is the argument for following local custom? It is not here. Paul’s reasons for this CHURCH
ORDINANCE are all SPIRITUAL. 1. Man’s relation to woman. 2. Order of creation. 3. Man and woman’s
relation to God. 4. Women’s relation to the angels.
-Jewish tradition has it that Angels are present at worship services and will flee from an unveiled woman,
because she is promoting rebellion. A woman ought to be covered whenever she is in public, especially
when being a light to the world, teaching her children, praying with the neighbor, witnessing at the market,
etc. It is rebellious to do spiritual business when you are rejecting God’s spiritual order and design. Does
this attract evil angels to you, and drive good ones away? It may. Paul seems to agree with the Jewish
-The idea here is that, as man is the glory and image of God, created for God’s pleasure; so woman is the
glory of man, created for man — for this cause the woman should have a symbol of authority (submission to
this order) on her head, because not to do so reveals rebellion to God’s order. This spiritual neon sign tells
the spirit world (angels) whose side you are on. When you are under your canopy of authority, you are
protected in ways you may never know. There is no hint of Paul just telling them to follow local custom.
VS. 13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
-Remember Paul is asking people who lived in the east about 2000 years ago, not an American. In that day
and age the obvious answer of anyone, other than some grievous wolf, was NO. It wasn’t even comely to be
seen in public with your head bare showing off your locks of hair to men other than your husband. When a
woman “lets her hair down” (letting it be seen down and flowing), she is understood to be laying aside her
-Adam Clarke says this: “…it was a custom, both among the Greeks and Romans, and among the Jews an
express law, that no woman should be seen abroad without a veil. This was, and is, a common custom
through all the east, and none but public prostitutes go without veils.”
-If it was so uncomely to be seen in public without a veil; was it comely to be in public praying, prophesying,
and thus representing Christ without a veil? If you can’t think your theology back to the first century, then
you will never find truth.
VSS. 14-15 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 to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
-What is the lesson of nature? Does it back up Paul’s teaching about the veil? Since he used it as a parallel
for his argument in verses 5 & 6, lets look at it. Yes, men cut off their natural veil, and don’t wear a material
veil. Yes, women wear the natural veil, and also should wear the material veil — Doth not even nature teach
– I find it shamefully humorous that so many argue that the hair is the covering, and then go around with
obbed, chopped, and permed hair. They are just rebelling.
-The Greek word for the spiritual veil is katakalupto: kata — down, kalupto — hide or cover. Something
hanging down the head, which hides and covers the head.
-The Greek word for the hair being a covering in vs. 15 is peribolaion: peri — around, ballo — cast, throw,
thrust. The hair was usually worn “around” the head — thrust around; and is compared to putting a coat on
the body. The hair was a coat for the head — usually wrapped up around the head. This is the Greek word
used in Heb. 1:12 for “vesture”. So, even though some translations give “covering” for both words, yet even
the Greek testifies that the veil and the hair are two different coverings: One which hangs down, and one
which is wrapped around.
VS. 16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.
“In spite of all I’ve taken my time to explain, if someone wants to argue about it, then forget all I’ve said
under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, forget the angels, nature, order of creation, pleasing God, and the
authority of the church, and just forget it” — IS THIS WHAT PAUL IS SAYING? NO. GOD FORBID. Yet, some
false prophets actually teach this.
Here is what Paul is saying: If someone wants to argue, and say women don’t have to cover their heads as I
have just explained, then he must stand alone; because we apostles and all the churches of God have no such
custom of women going without their heads veiled.
Notice that Paul says all the churches of God had the same practice — how foolish it is, in light of this, to say, “it was
just a local custom”, or “it was just long hair”. We know what the churches practiced in the first century, and these
churches were scattered over the Roman Empire. You could find what any one of them practiced, and thereby know
what they all practiced. Are you one that “seems to be contentious”? There were some in Corinth, and let me share
what else Paul said about them:
I Cor. 14:37,38, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things
that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”
Is this how you want the Holy Spirit to think of you, because you are over impressed with your argumentive opinion?
YOU CAN’T ARGUE WITH HISTORY. Paul said that all the churches had the same custom about women wearing
head coverings –SO WHAT DID ALL THE CHURCHES OF GOD DO IN THE FIRST CENTURIES OF CHRISTIANITY?
NAY, WHAT HAVE THEY DONE FOR THE LAST 2000 YEARS, EXCEPT THE APOSTATE DENOMINATIONS. The
burden of proof rests on the contentious person to prove that “all the churches of God” did not have their women
wear veils — I wouldn’t want that job. History is unanimously in agreement with this pamphlet.
Tertullian (c.160-230) “So, too, did the Corinthians themselves understand him. In fact, at this day, the Corinthians
do veil their virgins. What the apostles taught, their disciples approve.”
Tertullian was not in a controversy concerning whether or not women should veil, but how young. Some were not
veiling their young unmarried daughters in some local, and Tertullian is pointing them to Corinth as the example of
what Paul intended.
Did all the churches of God just wear the veil in church? No. Some will argue that since men can wear hats in public,
women can also take off their veil. The spiritual significance has to do with women while praying, prophesying, etc.;
but it must be also remembered that it isn’t immodest for a man to wear a hat in public — it is immodest for a
woman to be uncovered. It doesn’t affect the “angels” for a man to wear a hat in the cold, etc.; but it does for the
woman to be uncovered. Don’t argue that, “men can’t ever wear hats, if women should not be out without their
covering”. You are ignoring the historical usage and practice of those who knew exactly what the apostle meant.
Is this for us today? If you want to be the bride of Jesus, “teaching them to observe all things”, and following Jesus
through Paul with “all the churches of God” — it is.
“The region of the veil is co-extensive with the space covered by the hair when unbound…. Arabia’s pagan females
will be your judges. For they cover not only the head, but the face also.” Tertullian (Written about 207 A.D.)
Tertullian complains in his day that some of the veils were getting smaller. There was also a question as to how
young a girl should be veiled. He would have choked on some of this modern twisting of Scripture to allow women
to be unveiled altogether. Go ask Tertullian if Paul was just speaking about the hair. He lived 100 years removed
from the first century, and lived in the same part of the world, around the Mediterranean.
The early churches understood the value of the “traditions or ordinances” of the apostles. All who make Bible story
books draw the women with head veils. The real argument is whether or not we have the liberty to discard what the
faithful churches from the first century until now have died for. On which side will you stand? Is Jesus worth it to
you? [Pastor Mark Bullen]