There is now Brother Hutto's summary of the article at the bottom.
Command or Custom
An exposition of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16
By H. O. Hutto
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART 1—COMMENTS ON TEXT
PART 2—OBJECTIONS ANSWERED
- The covering already signified subjection by custom, not by God's law.
- Covering (hats) do not mean NOW what they meant THEN.
- SCHOLARS say it was the custom of that day.
- The covering is just like FOOTWASHING AND THE HOLY KISS.
- The covering was LIMITED TO INSPIRED PEOPLE
- INSPIRED PRAYERS?
- PROPHECY means INSPIRED SPEECH?
- The ASSEMBLY is not mentioned in the passage.
- SUBJECTION was required in the OT and from CREATION; the covering was required only at Corinth, so only a CUSTOM.
- The COVERING MUST HANG DOWN FROM—hats, kerchiefs, etc. are substitutes like sprinkling for baptism.
- LONG HAIR is the ONLY COVERING needed.
- JUDGE IN YOURSELVES (vs. 13) appeals to CUSTOM.
- COMELY (vs. 13) mean GOOD TASTE or CUSTOM.
- "COMELY" changes with custom?
- What is comely today, may not have been comely in grandfather's day.
- NATURE (vs. 14) means CUSTOM or CURRENT PRACTICE.
- Robinson and Thayer on NATURE
- Long hair not a shame everywhere (Chinese)
- CUSTOM (vs. 16) shows it was just a custom.
- Paul did not say anyone WAS CONTENTIOUS, only that someone might SEEM TO BE CONTENTIOUS.
- Paul might SEEM TO BE CONTENTIOUS by binding something (the covering) on the Corinthians that he did not bind on others.
- "We have no such custom" (vs. 16) shows CORINTH DID have such a custom, but Paul and the rest (we) had no such custom: thus, just a CORINTHIAN CUSTOM.
PART 1—COMMENTS ON THE TEXT
The first sixteen verses of the eleventh chapter of Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth have been the subject of much controversy. Some say the passage has to do with customs and/or circumstances of a people long since dead and is not binding today. Still others insist the passage does not deal simply with customs and circumstances of days gone by, but rather constitute a command to be observed throughout this dispensation. Since this is in the word of God, it cannot teach both. Let our study always be to let God be true no matter what man may say. As we study the passage, let us keep some things clearly in mind.
1. This is a discussion concerning men and women as they pray or prophesy. The discussion does not concern men and women in their everyday activities nor how they ordinarily appear in public, but how they appear when they pray or prophesy. It may be, as some contend, that women of Paul's day when appearing in public always wore a veil, [though Smith Bible dictionary says "Much of the scrupulousness in respect of the use of the veil dates from the promulgation of the Koran", and that was not in the 1st century but in the 7th. HOH] still this is not the subject the apostle discusses in these verses. His discussion concerns praying or prophesying. Hence any reference to what men and women did or did not in their ordinary activities of life is completely beside the point and a reference to such is not pertinent to the issue. This passage discusses worship-life, not everyday life.
2. All we know about the subject of covered and uncovered heads while praying or prophesying is found in these sixteen verses. It may be that other passages deal with the headship of Christ, the relationship of man and woman, the wearing of veils, and numerous other things, but no other passage in the Bible deals with the subject of covered and uncovered heads while praying or prophesying except 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. Hence to this passage we must go to find the truth on the subject.
With this brief introduction in mind, please read 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 in your Bible.
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” In all probability this verse belongs as the last verse of the argument in chapter 10, and the American Standard Version (ASV) so places it.
Now I praise you, brethren that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” The ordinances here spoken of are "the particular injunctions of Paul's instructions" (Thayer), hence the will of God as expressed through the inspired apostle. Certainly those who keep such should be "praised".
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.” The relationships here described are as unchangeable as God himself. They are not based on "custom" nor upon anything else except the word of God Almighty. Christ is not man's head because custom made it so, but because God made it so. Man is not woman's head because custom so ordered, but because God so ordered. This is the divine order and has nothing to do with custom. Custom did not make these relationships, and custom cannot change them with God. Yet it is upon the high doctrine here asserted that the rest of the argument is based. This is the very foundation of the apostle's argument and without it the rest is meaningless. Since then the very foundation transcends custom, would it not be passing strange if all the rest is completely custom?
Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.” This verse grows out of and is based upon the relationship laid down in verse 3, viz. “
"Christ is the head of man.” But verse three is not founded on custom, and therefore neither is this verse. Just as long as Christ remains the head of man, just that long will man dishonor Christ by praying with his head covered. Since man has no head between himself and Christ, for a man to cover his physical head while praying or prophesying would be to dishonor his spiritual head, Christ. As will be seen in subsequent verses, the covering under consideration is an artificial one, such as a veil, a turban, a shawl, a hat, etc. Man may not cover his head with any of these when he prays to God. He may have it covered at other times, but not when he prays or prophesies. This in itself suggests n covering that is to be "on" at certain times (when praying or prophesying), but may be "off" at other times.
Just why the covering is required at these two specific times but not at other times, the passage does not say. A number of possibilities suggest themselves: A. It may be that prayer and prophecy are elliptical expressions for the whole of public worship, in which case only two acts are mentioned but all acts are included (as in Acts 20:7 only one, the breaking of bread, is mentioned by synecdoche and includes the cup; or as in 1 Cor. 13:8-10 only three spiritual gifts are said to cease, yet all are meant). When Jesus cast those out of the temple who were selling, he said, "My house shall be called a house of prayer" (Matt. 21:13). Isn't prayer here simply an elliptical expression for worship? Would Jesus have driven them out if they had been studying God's word or singing his praise? Also, the Pulpit Comm. Vol. 6 page 399 says of prophesy, "sometimes, it seems to stand, in a very general way, for sharing in religious worship". B. If it is assumed that prophecy always means inspired speech, another possibility is that in prayer and prophecy, a person is in direct communication with God (in prophecy, God speaks to man; in prayer man speaks to God), hence the special need for significance during such. C. If prophecy always means inspired speech, another possibility would be: the covering applies whether in inspired activity (prophecy) or uninspired (prayer). D. Still another: some are of the opinion that the women, thinking that since they are one in Christ with the man are not therefore in subjection to him, were removing the covering at these specific times. All of these are interesting, but the fact is: we are not told why at these times but not at other times.
It is important to note that the injunctions of the passage do not deal with women only but include men as well. As can be seen from the next verse, whatever covering that this verse forbids a man's wearing, verse five commands a woman to wear. Whatever covering a man must leave off, a woman must put on.
[For a discussion of whether or not the word "prophesy" limits the application to people with inspired gifts, see Objection No. 3.]
But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is all one as if she were shaven.” Again, we make the observation: This verse grows out of and is based upon verse three, and since the relationship described there is not custom, neither is the statement made here. And as long as man remains the "head of woman" just that long will woman dishonor man when she prays with her head uncovered! And not only so, but in dishonoring her "head" (man), woman dishonors herself and God who made man the head of woman. So the woman who "prays or prophesies with her head uncovered" dishonors herself, man, and God. It is as much a shame for her to pray uncovered as it would be for her head to be shaved. So says the word of God in this verse, Women, think it over. If you would be ashamed to have your head shaved, God says in this verse, you ought to be ashamed to pray uncovered. Please read the verse again.
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.” In other words, if a woman will not cover her head, she might as well get her hair cut off, for to be uncovered is just as much a shame as to be shorn. Paul is not actually urging these women to get their hair cut off. He is saying that logically they might as well do that. He knew that they would not think of doing the latter (cutting off their hair), so they ought not to think of doing the former (being uncovered), Why? Because one is as much a shame as the other.
Let us pause here for a moment. God is saying that a woman who is not covered might as well get her hair cut off or get her head shaved. He also says, though, that if a woman would be ashamed to be shorn or shaven she ought to be covered. Now women, ask yourselves this question: “
Would you be ashamed to appear with your head shaved?” Be honest, now. Would you be ashamed to appear with all your hair cut off or shaved? A bald-headed woman! If you would be ashamed, God says you ought to be just as ashamed to pray with your head uncovered. Think it over and I am sure you will know what to do.
Again, the passage deals with men and women when they pray or prophesy. Women must not be uncovered then. They may be uncovered at other times, but not when praying or prophesying. The covering under consideration therefore is "put-on-able" and "take-off-able". It is removable or an artificial one.
[For a discussion of what is meant by "cover" and whether the covering must be a veil or something that hangs down from the head, see Objection No ,6.]
The word shear means "cut short" (Thayer), or "crop" (Expositors' Greek Testament).
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.” Please observe the God-given reason for a man not to cover his head: "he is the image and glory of God". Paul does not say nor even hint that a man ought not to cover his head because of some custom of the day. Note this contrast between what man says and what God says.
See the difference between those two statements? Which will you accept? Which will you believe? One is in the Bible, the other is not. Since Paul did not base his statement on "custom", why would men today do what Paul did not, and say what Paul said not? Was man's being in the image and glory of God a custom? Is not man still TODAY in the "image and glory of God"? If he is, God says he ought to cover his head because of it.
VERSES EIGHT, NINE, AND TEN
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.” In the creation, God made woman from man's rib. She was made for him, and Paul uses this as "cause" for the woman to be covered. For what cause? Does Paul say, "Because of custom"? He does notl He says because of the situation that existed when God created woman she ought to have "power on her head" or "a sign of authority on her head" (ASV). Again, notice the contrast between what man says and what God says:
See the difference between these two statements? One of them is based on the authority of man; the other is based on a plain, positive statement in the word of God. Which will you accept? Which will you believe? Why should a woman be covered? Not simply because a covering may be pretty, but because of her God-ordained station in creation — "for man". Such is an expression of her very woman-hood, and she should understand that to the extent that she fulfills her role as a woman, she is honored. There is nothing degrading about being subjected to someone. Christ is subject to God. Man is subject to Christ. A woman may rule the home (1 Tim. 5:14). And all of us are to be subject to the powers that be (Rom. 13:1). There is nothing belittling about being subject. She best serves herself and God (and so does man) by delighting in the proper role that God has assigned. After all, it is He that made both, and knows what each is best suited for. A proper appreciation of this will surely make happier people. On the other hand, for either to despise his or her proper sphere and seek to nullify it is an effort, however unwitting it may be, to frustrate the will of God. And this may well serve to introduce the next phrase.
Because of the angels. While one may not know everything connected with this statement, it is given nonetheless as an inducement for a woman to cover her head when "praying or prophesying". One explanation that seems plausible is this. Paul has been urging man to respect his proper sphere and for woman to respect hers. And in connection with people keeping their proper roles, notice Jude 6. “
And angels that kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation, he hath kept in everlasting bonds under darkness unto the judgement of the great day.” When the angels left their proper place they got into trouble, and when man or woman leaves his or her proper place, they too will get into trouble. A woman leaves her place when she is not in subjection to man. A sign that she is in subjection is for her to be covered. If this is not what "because of the angels" means, this explanation certainly does no violence to the context.
Another explanation that his been given is this: Angels, who “
minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Heb. 1:14), are interested in the affairs of this life and are offended at any breach of the ordinances.
In any case, Paul said that a woman ought to be covered "because of the angels". This certainly was not a. custom. Angels existed then, and angels exist now. Luke 20:36 shows that angels cannot die. Whatever the expression "because of the angels" means, it meant for a woman to cover her head, and since angels exist today it should compel women now to cover their heads. If not, why not?
VERSES ELEVEN AND TWELVE
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 by the woman; but all things of God.” Some men get the idea that they are more important than women; that she is some kind of second-class citizen. This verse shows that neither man nor woman should think of themselves too highly nor become egotistical. God deems one just as important as the other, and they are mutually dependent on each other for existence and sustenance. There is neither male nor female in Christ (Gal. 3:28). God took a rib from man and with it he made woman (Gen. 2:21-22), hence woman is "of the man", but now in the natural order of things, man is "born of woman" (Job 14:1), hence he is "by the woman". But "all things are of God".
Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?” Having established positively what God's will is in this matter, he now appeals to them to corroborate that revelation by their judgment of what is comely. Later (pages 24-26) it will be shown that the word here translated "comely" is not dealing with custom or good taste. Rather, the word has to do with what is appropriate and fitting depending on the nature and character of the person or thing involved. Notice, Paul does not say it is uncomely to pray uncovered. In fact, he requires some to pray uncovered—the men. What he does say is: It is uncomely that a woman pray uncovered. What is there about the nature and character of a woman that makes her praying uncovered uncomely? She was created for man (vs. 9); she is of man (vs. 8); she is the glory of man (vs. 7); man is her head (vs. 3). The covering of her head in prayer is an expression of that relationship, an expression of her very womanhood. With that impression having been made on their minds, they could be expected to "judge" her praying uncovered to be an uncomely act. But if God expected them to judge such to be uncomely—and surely he did; since women today have the same fundamental nature and character and relationship to man (man is still her head, etc.), does he not expect us to make the same judgment today: It is uncomely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
[For an extended discussion of whether their being called upon to "judge the comeliness of the covering" was based upon custom, see Objections Nos. 8 & 9.]
VERSES FOURTEEN AND FIFTEEN
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.” First of all, it should be noted that "nature" is not introduced to establish the practice of covering the head when praying or prophesying. Revelation has already done that in verses 5-12. Rather, nature is called upon to confirm what revelation is saying; namely, that it is a glory for a woman to be covered, and a shame for her to be uncovered. Nature confirms revelation's teaching about the glory of a covered woman. And how does nature do that? By giving to woman a glory, which is long hair. And why is long hair a glory? Because it is a covering. Note: if a woman have long hair it is a glory to her; for (because, Gk. hoti) it is a covering. Since her hair is a glory because it is a covering, it follows necessarily that it is a glory for her to be covered. And that is what both nature and revelation teach. They teach it, however, with two different coverings: Revelation's covering to be "on" when praying or prophesying; and nature's covering (her hair) to be "on" all the time.
Sometimes it is thought that the statement "her hair is given her for a covering" means that her hair is the only covering that is required or that is being discussed in this passage. It might be well to point out that the word in this verse that is translated "covering" is a completely different word from the word that is translated "cover" in the rest of the passage. This suggests that there are two coverings being discussed, does it not? Although the subject of length of hair is brought up as a matter of confirmation of the glory of a covered woman, nonetheless the passage shows plainly that there should be a distinction made in the length of hair for men and women. A person ought to be able to look at the hair of another person and tell whether he is looking at a man or woman. The practice of long hair on men and short hair on women is not approved by God. It ought also to be apparent that the pictures so often seen in which Jesus is portrayed with long hair are certainly in error. Would he do that which was said here to be "a shame"? Of course, not.
[For further discussion of whether the hair is the only covering that is needed to carry out the requirements of the passage, see Objection No. 7].
But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” Consider the word "contentious". [The word that is here translated "contentious" appears in Ezek. 3:7 where it is translated "stubborn" in Bagster's Sept.] Suppose someone at Corinth had insisted, in agreement with Paul, that women were to be covered and men uncovered. Would this person have been contentious? Of course not. On the other hand, suppose someone had insisted, in opposition to Paul, that it was right for women to pray uncovered and men to pray covered. Would not this person have been contentious and caused contention? Of course he would? So Paul is saying: If any man seem to be contentious (by contending for uncovered women and covered men), we have no such custom as the one he is contending for. Neither do the churches of God have his custom of uncovered women and covered men. He has no apostolic precedent, nor do any of the churches of God condone his custom. He is alone in his contention.
Since Paul has shown that none of his associates nor any church of God would agree with the man who contended for uncovered women and covered men, should we not still today say of that man's contention (bareheaded women and covered men), "we have no such custom, neither the churches of God"?
[For a consideration of the argument that "we have no such custom" means that the whole discussion is merely about matters of custom, see OBJECTION 11].
The doctrine of the passage is clear. In the divine arrangement, there are different levels of service and authority. This is true both in Deity (God is the head of Christ) and in humanity (Christ is the head of man; man is the head of woman). In humanity, these different levels are to be appropriately designated when engaged in certain activities; namely, while praying or prophesying. For man, he is to pray or prophesy with his head uncovered. The woman, on the other hand, is to be covered. For either to do otherwise is to dishonor their respective heads. While there is no particular shape or size of covering specified, as long as it covers, it is one that may be put on at times (while praying or prophesying), but is not required to be on all the time. Hence, not just the hair nor even long hair. There are many articles that will cover.
The text not only inculcates this practice and attaches this stigma to those who violate it, it also gives a number of reasons underlying the whole. In the case of man: (1) He is the image and glory of God. (2) He was first in creation; she was created for him. In the case of woman: (3) She is the glory of the man. (4) She was created for him. [Both of these are aspects of her relationship to man, of her very womanhood]. (5) Because of the angels. The Corinthians are called upon to confirm this teaching in that they would (6) judge a praying woman to be uncomely if uncovered. (7) Nature itself confirms the correctness of the requirement. Finally, (8) there is no sanction for the contrary practice, either from an apostle or any congregation of God's people.
Perhaps it should be noted that Paul did not give these reasons to establish the principle of headship and subjection. No, he gave these reasons to prompt an action, and that action was the covering and the uncovering of the head. It should be further noted that in obtaining this action. Paul had made no appeal to transitory custom. Instead he appealed to such basic and fundamental things as the very constitution of manhood and womanhood. Men are to be uncovered because of the very nature of man. Women are to be covered because of their very nature as woman. Paul could have said: Corinth has a custom about the covering of the head, and we don't want to offend their custom. Instead, he said: Man ought not to be covered because he is the image and glory of God. Woman ought to be covered because of the nature of her creation; because of the angels. It cannot be proved that he based a single argument on custom.
PART 2—OBJECTIONS CONSIDERED
Objections have been made against almost every Bible teaching, and this one is no exception. We notice some of the ones we have most often heard.
OBJECTION NO. 1: God chose the covering to show subjection—NOT because of His universal law, but because by local usage and custom the covered head already signified subjection, and the lack of it was a shame. Today, an uncovered woman is not considered shameful nor out of subjection. A hat today just does not mean to a woman what a veil meant when Paul wrote these lines.
ANSWER: It is purely an assertion that by local usage and custom the covered head already signified subjection. (See the next section). Second, it is not being taught that a woman must wear a hat. The Bible says "cover", and there are many articles that will do that. Third, perhaps a covering does not mean to some people what it did when Paul wrote, but the reason it does not is because people have failed to teach what a covering should mean. The fault does not lie in changing times and customs, but in the failure to teach faithfully God's Word on the subject.
But on the basis that a covering does not mean today what it meant in Paul's day, most every Bible doctrine could be set aside. For example, a Methodist Bishop has endorsed the use of a hamburger and Coca-Cola in the Lord's Supper because he says that the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine had significance then, but not now. Who believes that? None of my brethren. Yet it is the same argument. And marriage does not mean today, to some people, what it meant then, nor does baptism, nor 100 other things that might be mentioned. Shall we discontinue these because "they had meaning then that they do not have to many people today"? No! What we should do is teach the truth on these and the covered head as well. To the properly informed person today, the covered head of a woman as in 1 Cor. 11 still means today what it meant then, assertions to the contrary notwithstanding.
OBJECTION NO. 2: Most scholars say that the instructions here are simply the customs of that day and are not binding on us today since we do not have that custom.
ANSWER: No doubt there are some scholars who say that Paul is simply teaching the customs of the day, and that women always appeared in public with heads covered. On the other hand, there are other scholars just as weighty, if not more so, who definitely do not say this. In fact, I am convinced that the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise. Consider these quotations:
Cambridge Bible for Schools and College: “
N. the remarkable fact that the practice here enjoined is neither Jewish, which required men to be veiled in prayer, nor Greek which required both men and women to be unveiled, but peculiar to Christians.”
Morris in Tyndale Series: “
Jewish men always prayed with their heads covered (as they still do). Greek women, as well as their menfolk, prayed with head uncovered.”
Expositor's Greek Testament: “
Paul's directions do not agree precisely with current practice. Jewish men covered their heads at prayers with the Tattith . . . Amongst the Greeks both sexes worshipped with uncovered head.”
Vincent's Word Studies: “
The Romans, like the Jews, prayed with the head veiled . . .” (Vincent is speaking of men.)
Pulpit Commentary: “
Having his head covered . . . The Jewish worshipper in praying always covers his head with his Tattith.”
Moffat Series: “
Men and Women worshipped bareheaded in Greek rites.”
Robertson in Word Pictures: “
The Greeks (both men and women) remained bareheaded in public prayer.”
W. E. Vine, Commentary on 1 Corinthians: “
Among the Jews the heads of the men were covered in the synagogue. Among the Greeks both men and women were uncovered.”
Others, like Kittle's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, could be quoted to the same effect. From this information, please note the following chart:
|JEWS||"CUSTOM"||1 Cor. 11:1-16||CONCLUSION|
|Acts 18:8||Men - covered||Men – Uncovered||CONTRARY TO|
|1 Cor. 10:1||Women – covered||Women – covered||custom of JEWS|
|Acts 18:8||Men – uncovered||Men – uncovered||CONTRARY TO|
|Rom. 15:26-27||Women – Uncovered||Women – covered||CUSTOM OF GREEKS|
What shall we say to these things? According to these scholars, the chart shows clearly that even though there were both Jews and Greeks in the church at Corinth, Paul's instructions were contrary to the custom of both: contrary to the Greeks, in that he required women to pray with covered heads, whereas they "customarily" prayed with uncovered heads; and contrary to the Jews, in that he required the men to pray with uncovered heads, whereas they "customarily" prayed with covered heads. Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 is definitely not the customs of the day but is contrary to it, if these scholars are correct. It will take more than just an assertion that Paul is appealing to a local custom which exemplifies the principle of subjection, or an assertion that all scholars agree that the practice here enjoined was in keeping with the customs of Paul's day. Again, I am not saying that NO scholar says these were just the customs of that day. What is being said is that there are many, and just as important as the others, who do not so state. And I am made to wonder why it is that people who often make such an appeal to scholars on this point never appeal to the scholars here quoted. Why not quote them? In this connection, we could be content to stay with the Bible text, and it does not base a single argument on custom. He who teaches that it does deal with custom will have to get that idea from somewhere other than the text. And he won't get it from scholars, if he will take all of them.
It is often claimed that the "custom" of covering the head was just like that of foot-washing and greeting with a holy kiss: the kiss was a custom to show cordiality, and foot-washing was a custom to show hospitality, and covering the head was a custom to show subjection. I raise this question: "Who said covering the head was a custom, just like foot-washing and the holy kiss?" Did God say so? If so where? There is no such scripture. But what about foot-washing and the holy kiss. From the following scriptures (Gen. 27:26-27; 45:15; Ex. 4:27; 18:7; 2 Sam. 14:33; 20:9; Luke 7:45; 15:20) it can be seen that "kissing" had been a practice for thousands of years before New Testament times. And from these scriptures (Gen. 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; Judges 19:21; 1 Sam. 25:41; 2 Sam. 11:8; Luke 7:36-44), it can be shown that "foot-washing" was practiced (a "custom") for thousands of years before Paul said "Salute one another with a holy kiss" (Rom. 16:16). Yet no man can take the scriptures and show that the matter of covering the head was a practice (a "custom") when praying or prophesying for any years before Paul wrote 1 Cor. 11:1-16. Therefore, they are not just alike.
OBJECTION NO. 3: The passage did not require ALL women to cover their heads THEN, only those who were inspired (pray or prophesy), and it does not require ANY woman to cover her head now, for none are inspired today-and that is what the word prophesy means. The passage is limited to inspired people.
ANSWER: The passage does include all women and all men, for it says, "every man . . . every woman". Also, the passage does not say pray AND prophesy, but pray OR prophesy, that is, a person who does either one, not a person who does both. Look at this comparison:
Every person riding in or driving a car with seat-belt unbuckled breaketh the law.
Every woman praying or prophesying with head uncovered dishonoreth her head.
Sentence 1 applies to a person even if he is unable to drive. He need not be able to do both. If he does either one, he must be buckled.
Sentence 2 applies to a woman (and conversely to a man) who prays even if she is unable to prophesy. If she does either one, she must be covered. And surely ALL WOMEN and ALL MEN prayed whether they were inspired or not. If women did not pray because they did not lead the prayers, then no man prayed unless he led the prayer. No; all prayed, both men and women, inspired or uninspired, leaders and followers. If all do not pray, we should quit saying "Let US ALL pray". Furthermore, if the passage had no application to uninspired persons, then a man at Corinth could have preached (uninspired) and prayed (uninspired) with his head covered! and the women could have attended bareheaded, just as long as they did not pray or prophesy! Who believes that?
INSPIRED PRAYERS: Sometimes it is claimed that since praying and prophesying are here mentioned together, then both of them must be inspired because prophecy was. Not so. In Rom. 12:6-8 prophecy is mentioned in connection with "giving, ruling, exhorting, and ministry". Are we to conclude that all these were inspired just because prophecy may have been? Inspired giving? Inspired ruling? Certainly not. There are other passages where prophesy is mentioned in the same verse with other acts that are clearly uninspired; e.g. Amos 7:12 “
go . . . into . . . Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy.” Was this an inspired "bread-eating"? Surely not. Just because the two are mentioned together does not mean that both are inspired or uninspired.
1 Cor. 14:13-17 is often cited as an example of inspired prayer, but in that passage was not the prayer-content furnished by the man doing the praying ("my spirit prayeth" vs. 14), and only the "tongue" provided by God, so that this passage would not speak of an inspired prayer, but of an example of God furnishing the tongue in which to pray? Even so, it could be granted that "inspired praying" might take place, and it still would not mean that inspired praying is what is discussed in 1 Cor. 11. There is not one word or hint in 1 Cor. 11 about inspired prayers or praying in the Spirit! It says "pray" but says nothing about "inspired praying". It says "every man praying . . . every woman praying". It includes all people who pray, and praying was not limited then to inspired people. Since both men and women still pray today (though only one man leads in the assembly) the passage applies to both today.
PROPHESY ALWAYS MEANS INSPIRED SPEECH. Again, this could be granted and still not mean the passage does not apply today as has just been shown, for praying is mentioned, too. But is it true that prophesy always means inspired speech. No doubt it does practically every time it is used in the Bible. However, there are some places that make me reluctant to say it always means inspired speech (I Kgs. 18:29; Jer. 23:21; Is. 30:10, and Titus 1:12 to mention a few.). Also there are scholars who do not define prophesy as always meaning inspired speech (See Lenski on 1 Cor. 12:10; Willis Beecher in the Prophets and the Promise, page 103; Pulpit Commentary Vol. 6, page 399.). [For a thorough treatment of this question write for a free copy of Windell Wiser's booklet, "A Reply To Bill Cavender's 'THE WOMAN AND HER COVERING". Rt, 2, Box 417, Athens, Al. 35611]. Remember, even if prophesy always means inspired speech, it is clear that prayer is not so limited, and the passage deals with men and women who may do either. So the passage is not limited to inspired people.
OBJECTION NO. 4: Since the passage discusses women who prophesy, and such could not be done by them in the assembly (1 Cor. 14:34-35), then the passage is not discussing what takes place in the assembly.
ANSWER: In the first place, the passage discusses both men and women. Since men could pray or prophesy in the assembly, it will not do to say that the assembly is excluded from the discussion. Also, both men and women pray. Prayer takes place in the assembly. Hence the assembly is included in the passage. Again, we say if women do not pray because they do not lead the prayers (and the passage says nothing about "leading prayers") then men do not pray either, unless they are the one leading the prayers and we should quit saying, "Let US ALL pray" in the assembly, if only the speaker is praying, and the women and other men do not pray. Who believes it?
Also, if the passage is not dealing with the assembly, then it requires women to cover their heads when praying in private, but allows them to be uncovered when praying in the assembly! Imagine, she must be covered when praying in her closet, but may be bareheaded when praying in the assembly! Who believes it?
Is there any possibility that a woman could have prophesied (in the sense of inspired speech) in the assembly? According to 1 Chronicles 25:1-7, prophesying could be done by singing, and according to 1 Sam. 10:5-6; 9:13; 19:18-24, an entire group could prophesy simultaneously, perhaps even a whole church (1 Cor. 14:23-24). It is not being claimed they did, only that it was possible. If it ever happened, Paul said "let her be covered".
OBJECTION NO. 5: Women have always been in subjection to man; not only in the New Testament (1 Pet. 3:1-6; Tit. 2:3-5; 1 Tim. 2:12-15; Eph. 5:22-23), but also in the Old Testament (Gen. 3:15) and even at creation, yet nothing is said in any of these passages about her wearing a covering on her head to show this subjection, except 1 Cor. 11:1-16. This shows that the covering was for a limited people (prophetesses) and/or for a limited situation (where her covered head was the customary sign of subjection).
ANSWER: It is true that the woman has been subjected to man in all ages, and there is no scripture that says her head was to be covered in prayer under the Old Testament. However, it does not follow from this that the covered head was limited to prophetesses, for there were prophetesses (Miriam Ex. 15:20; Deborah Jdg. 4:4) under the Old Testament but these prophetesses were not required to cover their heads. Hence, the claim that this requirement is limited to prophetesses is not so. There must be another explanation.
There are many things that God requires under the New Testament that he did not require under the Old Testament. The covered head is one of them. God did not allow the Jews to eat all kinds of meat, yet they were created to be eaten (hence, from creation) (1 Tim. 4:3). God allowed the Jews to divorce and remarry but "from the beginning" (creation), it was not so (Matt. 19:8). Just because a thing (the covering) may be required now, but was not required under previous dispensations, does not mean that such is a custom. If it does, then the eating or not eating meats was just a custom for the Jew, and marriage and divorce is just a custom. This should show that though God required woman's subjection to man in all ages, while not requiring her covered head to show this as He does under the New Testament, such a matter is not just a matter of custom. If it is, so is it with marriage, the eating of meats and many other things.
OBJECTION NO. 6: The word for cover (katakalupto) in 1 Cor. 11 requires a specific type head-covering, namely, a veil. It must cover the entire head including the face, and it must hang down from the head. Anything less than that, such as hats, turbans, kerchiefs, mantillas, do not cover and are substitutions, as much as sprinkling is a substitute for baptism.
ANSWER: First of all, let it be noted that even if such a covering is intended, this does not nullify what Paul says. It would simply require such a covering. What is often done is to argue as though this is the kind of covering required, and since nobody does that today, then the rest of the passage is not binding either. No, if the passage means a "veil that covers the head and hangs down from it" that is what woman ought to wear. And in spite of the assertion to the contrary, there are many articles which will do this: scarves, shawls, mantillas, and even some hats.
The idea that the word katakalupto requires "to hang down from" is theoretically derived from the etymology of the word: "kata" meaning "down" hence "hang down from", and "kalupto" meaning "to cover"; thus to cover by hanging down from. If we are going to insist on etymology, the word translated cover in 11:15 is from the Greek word periballo, which etymologically means to throw or cast (ballo) around (peri) hence "to wrap". This is just as specific as katakalupto. To be consistent, he who would argue that a woman's covering must specifically be a veil that covers and hangs down from the head, that man ought also to argue that her hair just as specifically must cover her head by being thrown or cast (wrapped) around it. Who believes it? Strangely, even those who argue that the covering of vss. 5-6 must hang down from, will not say that her hair must be wrapped around her head. No! They will let her hair hang down!! If they are going to let that which should be wrapped around hang down from, why do they object when others want to let that which they say should hang down from be wrapped around?
While 1 Cor. 11 is the only NT passage where katakalupto is used, it occurs at least 22 times in the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint). In Num. 22:5 Balak sent for Balaam to curse the Israelites and said, "they cover the face of the earth". Did they "hang down from" it? And did they completely cover it so that none of it could be seen? No. In Ezek. 38:9 a cloud is said to cover the land. Did it hang down from it? In 38:16 the same expression "cover the land" is found, but here the word is kalupto without the kata prefix. If it be argued that the preposition kata requires the meaning "hang down from", how can it be explained that in these two verses the two words (kalupto and katakalupto) are used interchangeably? A number of other passages could be given both in the Septuagint and in classical authors, but these should suffice to show that katakalupto does not necessarily mean "cover so as to hang down from". However, I surely agree that the import of the word is "to cover", but even the English says that. Bobby pins do not cover; a one inch strip of ribbon does not cover, unless it is an unusual head! Yes, it should cover, but the passage does not specify with what. There are many articles that will do that: shawls, scarves, mantillas, veils, and even some hats. And the passage does not simply say "a sign". Rather it teaches a covering for a sign, but it is a covering, not just a sign. The passage says nothing about the face being covered. After all, her hair is given for a covering, but it does not cover her face, does it (vs. 15)?
If as some claim, the covering here discussed is to specific that it must be a veil and nothing but a veil, why do translations vary: KJ "covered"; ASV "veiled"; Berkley "veiled" and "headcovering"; Wuest: "shawl"? I have seen the noun form of the word translated variously, "turban", "mitre", "snood". It must not be quite as specific as some claim. It says cover. It does not specify with what. Neither should we.
OBJECTION NO. 7: 1 Corinthians 11:15 says a woman's hair is given her "for a covering", so if a woman has long hair, it is the only covering she needs.
ANSWER: There can be no question that a woman's hair is a covering. The text says that. But that the hair is the only covering discussed in these verses is another matter. For example, in this verse which says "her hair is given her for a covering", the word translated "covering" is a completely different word from the one that is used in the rest of the passage. This in itself suggests that there are two coverings involved: one needed when praying or prophesying; the other is the hair mentioned in verse 15 which is "on" all the time.
In this latter regard, please notice that the passage requires a covering for a woman when she prays or prophesies. The passage does not concern itself with how they appear when they go to town ,or how they appear when they plow in the field. As far as the Bible is concerned, a man may cover his head when he plows but he may not cover his head when he prays. As far as the Bible is concerned, a woman may go to the store with her head uncovered, but she may not pray uncovered. The covering, then is one that must be "on" at certain times, and may be "off" at other times. The covering under consideration, then, is "put-on-able" and "take-off-able"; it is removable. This cannot be said of a person's hair. Man cannot cut his hair off when he prays, and then quickly grow him some more when he goes to plow. A woman cannot cut her hair off when she goes to the store, and then quickly grow herself some more when she gets ready to pray. Thus it can be seen that the covering discussed when praying or prophesying is a removable one; or as it is sometimes called, an artificial one, such as a veil, a scarf, a bonnet, even some hats, etc. It is not the hair, nor even long hair. If it were, then the covering would be on all the time, and there would have been no need for Paul to have limited it to the time when "praying or prophesying". But that is the very thing he does. The hair, therefore is a covering, but it is not the only covering discussed in this passage.
Also according to this passage, a woman's hair may be long (vs. 15); it may be shorn (vs. 6); or it may be shaven. (vs. 5). When her hair is grown long, it is a covering (15), and when it is shorn or shaven it is a shame (5-6). Paul says for her to be uncovered is the same as for her to be shorn or shaven. This certainly does not mean "to be uncovered" is the same action as to be "shorn or shaven", for he says it is the same as if she were shaven. Therefore to be uncovered is not the same act as being shorn or shaven (which takes the hair off), then covering the head (vs. 5-6) is not the same act as letting the hair grow long (vs. 15). But if covering the head (vs. 5-6) is not the same act as letting die hair grow long (vs. 15), then the head is not covered as required in vss. 5-6, when the hair is grown long. This being true, letting the hair grow long (long hair) does not do the covering required in verses 5 and 6. Long hair signifies to a woman what the covering of verses 5 and 6 signifies (it is her glory), but it is not the same act. Therefore, the covering of vss. 5-6 is one act, and letting the hair grow long is a different act. Both signify the same thing, but they are not the same action. Long hair is one covering, and verses 5 and 6 another covering.
But someone might say, "If the hair is not the covering that is required, why did Paul say her hair was a covering"? The fact is: the matter of long hair was not brought up to establish the practice of covering the head when praying or prophesying. Revelation had already done that in verses 5-12. Instead, nature's teaching about long hair is introduced to confirm what revelation had been saying in verses 5-12; namely, it is a glory for a woman to be covered. How did nature say it was a glory for a woman to be covered? Why, nature gave her long hair, and that is a glory. Why is her hair a glory? Her hair is a glory because (Gk. hoti for) it is a covering (vs. 15). A covered woman is a glory. Who said so? Nature did (vs. 15), and so did revelation (vss. 5-13). But they said so with two different coverings. Nature's covering (her hair) "on" her head all the time, and revelation's covering required to be "on" only when "praying or prophesying". The hair is a covering, but it is not the only covering required. Two are required.
OBJECTION NO. 8: In verse 13 Paul's appeal to JUDGEMENT shows that he is discussing custom. He did not say, This is something you learned from the gospel. He said, This is something you can judge in yourselves. He left it up to their judgement. This appeal to judgement proves that this is a matter of custom for we do not judge matters of Divine law or matters of sin, but we can judge in ourselves about the comeliness of customs.
ANSWER: It is true that Paul appealed to the Corinthians to judge in themselves, but it is NOT true that he "left" it up to their judgement. And it is NOT true that we do not judge in matters of Divine Law or sin. In Acts 4:19 Peter and John told the council, "whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you rather than unto God, judge ye". They called on the council to "judge" in a matter of "right in the sight of God". But, did they "leave" this up to the council's judgement just because they said, "judge ye"? If the council had judged that it was "right" to hearken unto them rather than unto God, would it have been right, and would Peter and John have 'left" the matter there? Of course not. And by appealing to them to do the judging, Peter and John did not put the matter in the realm of custom either, did they? Also, these same Corinthians were called upon to "judge" about a matter (the Lord's Supper) which surely is not a custom but a "thus saith the Lord"— Divine Law. They were told, “
judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:16). Did this mean Paul "left" it up to their judgement, or that the Lord's Supper was a matter of custom? Certainly not. But they were called upon to "judge". This shows that an appeal to "judgement" is not an appeal to custom, and such an appeal to judgement does not mean that Paul is "leaving" it up to their judgment. We do "judge" some things that have to do with Divine Law.
OBJECTION NO. 9: In verse 13 Paul urged them to judge the COMELINESS of a practice. He said, Is this comely to you. The standard of judgement was to be what the people considered to be comely, and the word comely has to do with what is proper; what is in good or poor taste, with what is the custom. Comeliness varies as the customs vary. There are things that I judge to be comely, that my grandfather would not judge to be comely, because the custom of what is comely has changed. So again, this word COMELY shows that he is dealing with custom. Look at it this way:
|"Judge in yourselves:||is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered" |
A. The locale's judgement of a practice is the determining factor, if
B. The practice is a matter of what is comely.
So that if in a given locale (Corinth), an uncovered woman is judged by the people of that locale (Corinth) to be uncomely, she must not be uncovered. If, however, in that locale, such is not so judged by them, she is not required to be covered. He leaves it up to the locale's judgement of what is comely—which means custom or good taste.
ANSWER: There are many things that should be said about this, but one of the first ones is: What should she do in a locale where their judgement of what is comely is not uniform: that is. some judge it uncomely, and others judge it comely. What should she do there? If she does not wear one, she will be comely to some, but uncomely to others.
COMELY: The claim that this word means custom, or simply what is in good or proper taste, simply is not so. The word that is here translated comely appears seven times in the New Testament (Mt. 3:15; 1 Cor. 11:13; Eph. 5:3; 1 Tim. 2:10; Tit. 2:1; Heb. 2:10; 7:26), but it NEVER means custom or good taste in any of them. It deals with what is appropriate or fitting based upon the nature and character of the person or thing involved. For example, Heb. 2:10 says that it "became" (the word translated "comely" in 1 Cor. 11:13. It was comely) for God to make Christ perfect through sufferings. Good taste for God to do that! Preposterous. But it was comely—appropriate or fitting for God to do that because of the very nature and character of God. Matt 3:15 says that it "became" (the same word as translated comely in 11:13. It was comely for) Christ to fulfill all righteousness and be baptized. Good taste or custom?! Absurd. But it was appropriate for Him because of the very nature and character of Christ. And look at Eph. 5:3 where fornication, uncleanness, and covetousness are said to be things that are not "befitting" (same word as translated comely in 11:13). Are fornication and covetousness merely poor taste or custom?! Ridiculous. Hence, the claim that the word "comely" shows the passage is dealing with good or poor taste or custom is a false claim. Comeliness has to do with what is appropriate based upon the nature and character of the person or thing involved. Since woman is created for man, is the glory of man, and man is her head, the covering of her head in prayer is an expression of her relationship to man, her very womanhood, and it is not comely for one of that nature and character to pray otherwise. To do so is to reject her very womanhood, and not just a custom.
The idea that comeliness changes as custom changes—that what is comely in one time and locale may not be comely in a different time and locale—that idea has some grave consequences. Comeliness is not just a matter of taste, as some places think a woman is comely if she is plump while other places think she is comely if she is thin, for there are places that think she is comely if she is bare from the waist up! What should a woman who is a Christian do in that locale to be comely? Shall she be bare from the waist up? According to the argument we are considering she should. This shows the argument is not true. Some argue that the modern swim-suit is not uncomely on the beach, while it might be in town. Do you really believe that whatever a locale judges to be comely will be all right for the Christian? Or do you just believe that in relation to the covering? If you say, the scriptures say more about dress than just its comeliness, to this I reply, "True, and the scriptures say more about the covering than just its comeliness. They also mention headship, creation, the glory of God, and angels". Just as we are not to be governed solely by what some people might judge to be comely about women's dress, so we are not to be governed solely by what some people might judge to be comely about her being covered.
Sometimes it is claimed that Paul expected the Corinthians to judge her uncomely if uncovered because they were in the habit of seeing her no other way, hence this was a custom. This is purely an assertion, but not proof. For example, I am in the habit of seeing churches of Christ eat the Lord's Supper every Sunday, and I have never seen them do it any other way. Does that mean that such is a custom? Of course not. Paul might well have expected them to judge her uncomely, but that does not mean that he expected it on the basis of their customs. I can think of several reasons other than custom, why he might have thus expected. Again, this is just an assertion but no proof whatsoever. It might prove what they did, but it does not prove why they did it. But when we have positive instructions that such had to do with creation, the relationship between man and woman, angels; we can know why it ought to be done today; viz., the same reasons that Paul gave, and none of them was "custom".
OBJECTION NO. 10: Paul's use of the word NATURE (11:14) shows that he is appealing to custom, for nature means custom in this passage.
ANSWER: This is often asserted but not yet proved. The fact is, the word here translated nature is not easily defined and limited, and contextually it has different shades of meaning. In proof of this, just look at the following ideas on the word in this passage. Adam Clarke says it refers to woman's natural ability to grow more hair than a man. Arndt and Gingrich say that it “
may mean instinctively”; McKnight, “
reason and experience”, Vine, “
the regular law and order of nature”; Thayer and Edward Robinson both say, “
native sense of propriety” [for a further discussion of these two, see below]. In view of such diversity, it seems somewhat arbitrary and prejudiced to select just one definition (often it is the one that is thought to say "custom") and act as though no other is even suggested. Is that really being fair? Most say the verse is saying something like: "It's just natural that long hair is a glory to a woman, but a shame to a man". So much so that it is virtually universal for women to have longer hair than men. The passage calls this fact, of longer hair for women, "nature", and says that such teaches that a woman with it is a glory because she is covered. Remember, nature's teaching about hair was not introduced to establish the practice of a woman's praying with her head covered. Revelation had done that in verso 4-12. Nature's teaching about hair (one covering) was then introduced in verse 14 to confirm and illustrate revelation's teaching about the other covering. What is it that prompts so many people in so many places to have women with longer hair than men? Whatever its exact definition may be, the Bible calls it "nature", and shows that it confirms the requirement for her to be covered in prayer as a right requirement.
Sometimes a part of Edward Robinson's comments on this passage is noted in an effort to prove the word translated nature means custom. I am convinced that, taking all he says on the passage, he neither defines the word for nature to mean custom nor does he use custom as a synonym. Here is that portion of his Lexicon that deals with 1 Cor. 11:14, (the italics are his): "the nature of any person or thing, the natural constitution, the innate disposition and qualities, a Of persons, in a moral sense, the native mode of thinking, feeling, acting, as unenlightened by the influence of divine truth . . . Spec. a natural feeling of decorum, a native sense of propriety, e.g. in respect to national customs in which one is born and brought up; 1 Cor. 11, 14: oude aute he phusis didaskei humas hoti aner men ean koma atimia auto esti: doth not your own natural feelings teach you? It was the national customs among the Hebrews and Greeks, for men to wear the hair short, and women to wear it long", and then he cites the passages for his comments about hair. Please note the following points:
- His general definition of the word is "nature" in the sense of what is "natural" or "innate" (and innate means inborn).
- Specifically of 1 Cor. 11, he says, "Spec, (that is, specially in a special and particular sense. HOH) a natural feeling of decorum, a native sense of propriety" Note: "natural" and "native" (Webster says native means inborn).
- Robinson also gives us his translation of verse 14, “
doth not your own natural feeling teach you?” Especially notice that Robinson's translation does NOT say, “
doth not your CUSTOM teach you.” Instead it says, “
doth not your own NATURAL FEELING teach you.” If he thought our word for "nature" means "custom", why did he not translate it "custom". Why did he translate it “
natural feeling.” Clearly, he does not think the word translated "nature" means "custom". He plainly says it means natural feeling and translated it natural feeling. He does say, "in respect to national cusoms in which one is born and brought up" but he must not mean that these customs would be the correct meaning of the word translated nature or he would have translated it "custom". But he did not; he translated it "natural feeling". What then does he mean by the reference to "customs". His reference to customs is probably in the same vein as A. Barnes who, having said of "nature": "That sense of propriety which all men have and is expressed in any prevailing or universal custom", goes on to add later that nature "refers to a deep internal sense of what is proper and right". In other words, certain customs exist, but the reason they exist is because there is a deep internal sense (nature, natural feeling of decorum) of what is right. Custom is one thing, and nature (that deep internal sense; that natural feeling of decorum) that produced the custom is something else. Nature is not custom. Nature produced custom. Thus Robinson would be saying, “
Doth not even nature (that is, your own natural feeling) teach you in respect to your national customs.” So that with Robinson, as with Barnes, certain national customs sprang from the teaching of nature (their own natural feeling of decorum). Not that the customs were the natural feeling, but the natural feeling (nature) caused the custom to come to be. Just like godly sorrow is not repentance, but godly sorrow produces repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). On this basis, not even Robinson says "nature" means "custom". With him "nature" means "natural feeling" and certain national customs are an effort to express this natural feeling of decorum, or nature.
Thayer and Robinson both use the phrase "native sense of propriety", and Barnes' wording is virtually the same. What does "native sense of propriety" mean? Webster says that native "commonly heightens the implied contrast with what is acquired and/or artificial, and often denotes, esp. in the case of qualities, that which is inborn and inherent". Thayer says of the word for nature (italics are his), "nature, i.e. natural sense, native conviction or knowledge, as opp to what is learned by instruction and accomplished by training or prescribed by law . . . the native sense of propriety . . . 1 Cor. xi. 14". Note this comparison: Webster says that native means inborn as contrasted with what is acquired. Thayer says nature means native as opposed to what is learned etc. Aren't they both saying the same thing? Native (nature) means inborn as contrasted with what is acquired through learning and training. So Thayer does not say the word for nature means custom, and most assuredly he does not give custom as the definition of the word for nature.
It is not being claimed that none gives custom as a meaning of the word for nature. I am not even saying that inborn is necessarily the meaning of the word for nature here. It is a possible meaning. I am saying that neither Thayer nor Robinson define the word for nature to mean custom here.
Sometimes it is urged that nature in this passage could not mean inborn or instinct, because it says nature teaches long hair is a shame to a man, yet there were some cultures where men had long hair, but it was not a shame to them. They wore their hair long by nature, custom, or current practice, but nature (in the sense of instinct or inborn) did not teach them that long hair was a shame, for they were not ashamed of it. In fact, they were quite proud of it. Well, some homosexuals say that they are that way "by nature", and that there is nothing wrong with them. They not only are not ashamed of it but quite forward about it. Is that just custom, too? That's their "practice". The fact is, the Bible says that people can change the natural . . . into that which is against nature" (Rom. 1:26). This could be true whether in nature's teaching about hair, or in nature's teaching about the sexes. And when such has been practiced by them long enough, it could be said to be their "nature". But it would not be endorsed by God. [Please do not accuse me of saying that people who wear or teach long hair are no better than homosexuals. I say no such thing. I am simply trying to show that people can change what is nature in one area (sex), and people can change what is nature in another area (hair). But neither has God's approval]. Stealing is "natural" in some cultures, but it isn't right. There have been cultures where women rule the men. Such would be their "nature", in that sense, but that doesn't mean that God approves. It just shows how far some people can go from God. Long hair may be "natural" for men in some cultures—just as ruling women—but neither is right with God, nor is either one just a custom or current practice.
We ask again, What is it that prompts so many people in so many places to have women with longer hair than men? Whatever its exact definition may be, the Bible calls it "nature" and uses it to argue that the requirement for her to be covered in prayer is a right requirement.
OBJECTION NO. 12: The word custom in verse 16 shows the passage is dealing with customs. The word translated custom in 11:16 does not mean practice or usage prescribed by law. There is a word (ethos) that means that, and it is translated custom, too. If the passage were discussing a divine law it would have used this word (ethos).
ANSWER: It is true that there are two words translated custom in the NT. However, according to W. E. Vine's Dictionary, the word translated custom in 1 Cor. 11 is basically the same word as the other one, except in 1 Cor. 11:16 the word has a prepositional prefix "sun". Also in Matt 27:15 we are told that Pilate was "wont" to release the prisoner. The word here translated "wont" is etho, a verb that is akin to the noun ethos translated custom in Acts 15:1 where the Jewish law of circumcision is discussed. Yet in John 18:39 we have the same event as discussed in Matt. 27:15, but in John it is said to be a "sunetheia" (the same word as in 1 Cor. 11:16). In Matt. 27:15 it was Pilate's "wont" (etho). but the same event (John 18:39) uses the other word (sunetheia). So you might say there is something of an interchangeable use of the words. There must not be all that much difference between them. Also in Josephus' Antiquities (Book, X Chapter IV, Section 5) he says of the Passover observed during the days of Josiah “
all things were performed according to the laws, and according to the custom of the forefathers”, which looks considerably like such expressions as Lk. 2:42, Acts 15:1 etc. where the word is (ethos), but in Josephus it is "sunetheia" (the word in 1 Corinthians 11:16). There just doesn't seem to be all that radical a difference between the two words.
Neither will it do to say that this word puts it all in the realm of custom, as some had a custom of covering and some didn't. It was all a custom. On that basis, assembling ourselves together is all a custom (Heb. 10:25) "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the custom (ASV) of some is". Some had a "custom" of assembling, and some had a "custom" of not assembling! Is assembling just a matter of custom? If it is in 1 Cor. 11:16, why isn't it in Heb. 10:25? Vine shows that the word in Heb. 10:25 is the same word as 1 Cor. 11:16 except in 1 Cor. 11:16, the word has a prepositional (sun) prefix. This should show the fallacy of claiming that the matter of the covering is a matter of custom. Look at the comments already given under verse 16 for a discussion of just what that custom there is.
Recently I heard it asserted that in verse 16 (if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God), Paul was not saying that anyone WAS contentious, only that someone might SEEM TO BE contentious, though he really wasn't contentious; the reason that this "any man" might seem to be contentious (but wasn't) was that he required something (the covering) of the Corinthians that was not required of anyone else; the reason it was required of the Corinthians and not of others was the Corinthians had the covering as their custom, but no one else did; and finally, the "any man" who might SEEM TO BE CONTENTIOUS (but wasn't) was none other than — mirabile dictu — the apostle Paul himself!! This incredible exegesis has the following false assumptions:
- It ASSUMES the "any man" of verse 16 is the apostle Paul.
- It ASSUMES the word translated "seem" means "appears to be but really isn't".
- It ASSUMES the expression "we have no such custom" means that "none of the apostles or their associates or any church of God had such a custom as the ones the Corinthians had."
- It ASSUMES that the reason Paul might "seem to be contentious" but really wasn't, was he bound something on the Corinthians that was not bound on Paul, nor on his associates, nor on any other church of God except the one at Corinth.
Let me say first of all that in investigating this particular claim, I have consulted literally dozens of lexicons, grammars, commentaries, and translations. In all this, I have not found even one that agrees with a single one of these assumptions. Yet each one of these assumptions is a crucial one if this explanation is to be valid. No lexicon, no grammar, no commentary, no translation known to me agrees with any of these assertions. This does not prove nor disprove it, but to take a position for which not one grammar, not one lexicon, not even one commentary will substantiate a single part of it, surely makes the whole thing look forced and suspect. Let's consider each of these assumptions.
- The same construction for "if any man seem to be" appears at least 4 times in 1 Corinthians 3:18; 8:2; 11:16; 14:37). Not one time is the "any man" referring to Paul.
- I do not know of a lexicon, grammar, commentary or translation that says the expression "seem to be" in this verse means "appears to be but really isn't". Every one of them says the man really was contentious, or was disposed to be contentious, or some expression that denoted certainty. None of these even suggests that he might only appear to be contentious but really wasn't,
- If the expression "we have no such custom, neither the churches of God" means that neither Paul, nor his associates, nor any church except the one at Corinth practiced what is here inculcated, we have some serious difficulties. Paul and his associates let their hair grow long and covered their heads when they prayed or prophesied!! Furthermore, the women in all the churches except Corinth prayed or prophesied bareheaded; in fact they could be shorn or even get their head shaved, because it was to Corinth (not to the other churches) that Paul said, Women must be covered, must not be shaven nor shorn! Who really believes that Paul and other men actually let their hair grow long, prayed or prophesied with their heads covered, except when they were at Corinth? Who really believes that the women in places other than Corinth went bareheaded and with their hair shorn or their heads shaven. Yet the argument says, We have no such custom about the covering or the hair, but you Corinthians do. Therefore your men must be uncovered, but we (Paul and his associates) and other churches of God cover our heads in prayer and let our hair grow long. You Corinthian women must pray covered and have long hair, but women in other churches may pray uncovered and have their hair shorn or get their heads shaved because they do not have the custom that you do. Is that what "we have no such custom" means? That's what the argument says, but who really believes these consequences?
- It is a false assumption that if Paul bound something on the Corinthians that he did not bind on others, that he would thereby "seem to be contentious". He refused to circumcise Titus (Gal. 2:1-5), but he did circumcise Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). Yet he was not "contentious" in so doing, nor did he "seem to be contentious" by so doing. Assumption No. 4, like all the others, is not so.
As already noted: How would a person at Corinth be contentious? If he insisted in agreement with Paul that women are to he covered and men uncovered, would he be contentious? No. If he insisted contrary to Paul that women could be uncovered and men covered, would not that man have been contentious? Certainly. Paul says, If any seem to be contentious (by contending for uncovered women and covered men), we have no such custom as the one that man is contending for.
It has been our aim to show that the teaching of this passage is still in effect today. The reason for our believing this is that Paul did not base the requirement on custom. Instead he based it upon things that were true then (headship of Christ to man, man to woman; man the glory of God, angels, and the like) and just as true today. All of the reasons he gave then that should have compelled the action are still valid today. If the reasons he gave then compelled the action then, since the same reasons exist today, they ought to compel the same action today. If not, why not? This same conclusion has been well stated by Godet: "Was this conviction solely a matter of time and place, so that it is possible to suppose, that if he (Paul) lived now, and in the West, the apostle would express himself differently? This supposition is not admissible. For the reasons he alleges are taken, not from contemporary usages, but from permanent facts, which will last as long as the present earthly economy. The physical constitution of woman (vs. 13-15) is still the same as it was when Paul wrote, and will continue so till the renewing of all things. The history of creation, to which he appeals (vs. 8-12), remains the principle of the social state now as in the time of the apostle; and the sublime analogies between the regulations of God to Christ, Christ to man, and man to woman, have not changed to this hour, so that it must be said, either the apostle was wholly wrong in his reasoning, or that his reasons, if they were true for his time, are still so for ours, and will be so to the end".
1 Corinthians 11:1-16
Note: They were “keeping” the ordinances (and this could include the covering) as delivered by Paul (it does not say as delivered by custom). Observe the contrast between this verse of praise and verse 17 where he “praises them not” about the Lord’s supper. But though their “keeping” here might be good, they needed more instructions and enlightenment. So he “would have them know”:
Covered Man – Dishonor Head
Uncovered Woman – Dishonor (as shameful as being shaven or shorn) Head.
Man: Image and Glory of God
- Glory of Man
- From Man
- Created For Man
CONFIRMATION [AND ILLUSTRATION]: 11:13-15
Judgment about seemliness/propriety
Nature: Even it teaches covered woman is glorious. How?
Her hair is given to her for a covering.
NEGATION TO INNOVATION: 11:16
But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom (as the contentious man’s, viz., covered men and uncovered women), nor do the churches of God.
It is my hope: that this will do nothing but good; that it will draw us closer together; and that it will help us to “keep the ordinances” as Paul delivered them.