In the years before e-mail a leading gospel preacher wrote a bulletin article in which he asserted that the custom in New Testament times was for a woman to veil herself in public, and that if she appeared in public with her head uncovered she would be considered a harlot. I wrote the preacher asking for evidence of his assertion and told him that I had researched the matter and found no such custom. I did not receive a reply to my letter.
A brother recently wrote, “There is a difference in teaching a custom and teaching how to deal with an existing custom. The principles Paul set forth in the first part of 1 Corinthians 11 concerning headship would make it imperative that Christians at Corinth do nothing that would deny those principles. To ignore the custom would bring shame on man. That is not the case in our society. ‘We have no such custom.’”
This oft-repeated and almost universally-believed story is simply a fable! Though I have read this assertion in commentaries, when I look for the evidence to prove that women were required to cover their heads in public I cannot find it! In fact, there is wide-spread and easily-available evidence to prove the opposite! Let us examine the arguments from custom both from what Paul says and from the evidence we have of what customs concerning veiling were at that time.
Two different positions of those who believe Paul was only regulating custom.
There are two arguments based on custom which attempt to set aside the necessity for women in all cultures and times to cover their heads in worship, and for men to have bare heads. These arguments are the exact opposite of one another, yet they both arrive at the same conclusion. The conclusion is that where there is a strong custom that women must veil themselves in public, Christian women must conform to this custom and veil themselves. However, where there is no custom requiring women to be veiled in public, it is not necessary for Christian women to be covered in the worship.
Position 1: A general custom
The first and more generally accepted assertion is that Paul was enforcing a custom which was general throughout the first century world. Since it was customary for women to veil themselves in public as a matter of modesty, it was necessary for Christians to conform to the custom. It is not right to scandalize the world by behaving or dressing in a way that the world finds immodest or offensive. This interpretation understands verse 16 to mean that all
churches required their women to veil themselves in worship.
R. Fox uses that reasoning concerning the man’s covering. He writes: “A general principle to govern all styles in all ages is established here. Its application may be demonstrated in our attitude toward a man wearing a woman’s dress. The shame is in the fact that a ‘dress’ is an article of clothing characteristic of woman. That is the only reason we object to a man wearing one. A man with his head covered was objectionable then for the same reason.” (A Discussion of First Corinthians 11:2-16).
(However, that idea is refuted by Oster [see quote later in the chapter] who proves that Roman men worshipped with heads covered, and by much evidence which shows that men quite often covered their heads in public. There was nothing effeminate in a man’s covering his head, whether in worship or in other situations.)
Probably a majority of our brethren take the position that Paul was telling the Corinthian brethren to conform to the custom of the ancient world. Mike Willis, in his Truth Commentary on 1 Corinthians writes:
“We have no such custom. The term sunetheia only occurs here and in John 18:39 in the New Testament; it means ‘an established custom, usage, or habit.’ In John 18:39, it is used to refer to the general practice of the Roman ruler to release one of the Jewish prisoners on the Passover. The law did not require him to do so, but the gesture of good will had become customary. In this passage, netheia refers grammatically, not to the fondness of strife mentioned earlier in this verse, but to the practice of women wearing veils. Hence, the wearing of the veils was not a divine law but a custom! Paul plainly calls it a custom in this verse.
“Neither the churches of God. The universal custom in Paul’s day was for the woman to wear the veils. The different local congregations all observed the custom. The lesson from this is that the Christian should not ignore the customs of his day but should observe them as much as possible.” (Pg. 308)
Position 2: A local custom only
The second position is based solely on a peculiar interpretation of verse 16 which says in the King James Version, “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” These brethren understand this verse to say that Corinth was
the only church where the women were required to cover their heads in worship, while the other churches of God did not require it. According to this interpretation, there was a local custom at Corinth which required women to cover their heads while praying or prophesying, but this custom was not found anywhere else. This position requires Paul to be saying that no woman in any place except in the Corinthian area needed to be covered, in spite of all the reasons from headship, the angels, etc. which Paul so carefully gave.
The ones who believe that the custom was merely local to Corinth usually do not attempt to give any evidence from history, paintings, sculpture, or archaeology for their assertion. Some make general arguments from what they consider Biblical principles. But mostly they simply assert that verse 16 means that the practice of requiring women to cover themselves in worship was not followed by any other church.
I did run across this assertion in an online discussion on Markslist, 6 March 95. This statement is ascribed to Basil L. “Skip” Copeland:
“In Roman society, the MEN wore the veil when they prayed! Here, though, in a society influenced by Greek culture, it was the women wearing the veil.”
Skip does not give any documentation for this statement.
Skip’s argument is that the women at Corinth believed that in Christ there should be no difference between men and women, “like the angels”, and therefore they had the right to pray or prophesy with heads uncovered. But since we shall be like the angels only when we get to heaven, Paul is saying that the women at Corinth must conform to the custom which shows that man is the head of woman. Skip’s conclusion, like that of most who make the custom argument, is that where women understand their proper position in regard to men, and where there is no custom of veiling, the women do not have to cover their heads when praying or prophesying.
J. W. McGarvey makes a similar assertion in his commentary: “The Jew and the Roman worshiped with covered, and the Greek with uncovered, head.” He does not give any documentation, either.
If it is true, the position that Paul was telling the Corinthians to conform to local custom has some support. But I have not been able to find evidence for a difference in customs, and IF IT WERE TRUE, IT WOULD NOT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE! Paul does not base his
teaching on custom. Consider especially the section in this chapter subtitled, The Achilles heel of the custom argument.
However, the vast majority of older commentators take the position that the custom which Paul did not have, neither the churches of God, was the custom of allowing women to pray or prophesy with heads uncovered. The word “custom” therefore means “practice”, and does not refer to what was culturally acceptable or unacceptable.
The New American Standard Bible translation reflects this position: “But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.” (Note: the NASV does not give the literal translation of the Greek when it says, “we have no other practice”, but it is correct in using the word practice for the word translated “custom” in the KJV.)
Evidence of the customs
It is not necessary to understand the customs of the time in order to understand the teaching of our passage. It should be clear to the unbiased reader that Paul is giving clear commandments based on headship. He appeals to the judgment of the Corinthians only after he has taught forcefully on the question. The argument about custom does not come from the text.
However, when we look at the evidence of the customary practices of the people in Paul’s time, we cannot find evidence either that there was a universal custom which would require women to cover their heads when praying or prophesying, or that there was a local custom at Corinth contrary to the universal custom followed elsewhere. However, since the custom argument seems to be the most generally believed, and there are strong assertions that custom required the women of Corinth to be covered, it is in order for us to look at the evidence.
What David W. Bercot experienced in the denominations is what we often hear from gospel preachers. He says:
For example, when I was in a liberal church, I remember the pastor saying, “Back there in the first century, to come to church without a veil on your head would be the equivalent of today a sister coming to church without a blouse—coming topless—or something like that. It was just a shocking scandal, and the women were doing this in Corinth so Paul writes to address that. In other words, it was shocking because of their culture, and so they needed to follow their culture. But since our culture doesn’t expect women to wear a veil in public, we don’t have to follow that either.” But the pastor said the principle still applies. It would be wrong for a woman to come to church in a bathing suit, or something like that. That would be shocking to people.
OK. When I was in a so-called Bible-believing evangelical church I was told that, “Back in Corinth, the only women who didn’t go around with a veil on were prostitutes. And so Paul was giving his counsel so that the women there would not be mistaken for prostitutes, or cause disturbance in the community because they were there without being veiled.” (Sermon found in the Appendix)
A less extreme statement is found in the Pulpit Commentary: “For a woman to do this in a public assembly 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”. (Vol. 19, p. 362)
Adam Clarke writes: “…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.” (comments on 1 Cor. 11:5)
James Macknight writes: “Women being put in subjection to men, ver. 2, ought in the public assemblies to acknowledge their inferiority, by those marks of respect which the customs of the countries where they live have established as expressions of respect.”
Bro. J. W. McGarvey seems to recognize that the customs differed from place to place. He writes: “The Jew and the Roman worshiped with covered, and the Greek with uncovered, head.”
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says: “In NT times, however, among both Greeks and Romans, reputable women wore a veil in public…and to appear without it was an act of bravado (or worse); Tarsus, St. Paul’s home city, was especially noted for strictness in this regard.” (Article on “Veil”, p. 3047).
As can be seen, these men do not completely agree as to what the customs were. And when they tell about the practice of veiling in New Testament times, what they say is virtually without proof. They have almost no contemporary evidence of what they say.
We can say that in many places there was the custom of women generally veiling themselves in public as a sign of modesty. In some places this custom was very strict, in other places not so. At the time of Paul, it was certainly not universal. In Rome or Corinth it was common for a woman to appear unveiled in public. It is nonsense to say that a woman in Corinth who appeared without a veil was considered to be a prostitute!
Jimmy Short writes: “We have searched through as many museums, art books and encyclopedias as we have had opportunity to do, and have yet to find one single instance of a ‘veiled’ woman in Greek paintings and sculptures. If ‘veiling’ were such an important part of Hellenic culture, why is it not reflected in the art of the Greeks?” (From letter from Mrs. Margaret Short)
Bercot also examined the evidence. He said in his sermon printed in the Appendix:
“We have a lot of paintings. The paintings are mainly frescoes, which are paintings on wall made on wet plaster. And we have lots of sculptures of Greek and Roman women. There are numerous ones around the world, and even if you can’t visit all the places where they are, the pictures of these frescoes and of these statues are in all kinds of books. I’ve seen many of them with my own eyes in the British Museum where there are many articles there. And it is clear when you look at them that it wasn’t scandalous for a Greek or Roman woman to appear without a veil because in so many of these pictures they are not wearing a veil.”
Tertullian of North Africa made this observation (Vol. 3 page 95 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers): “Among the Jews, so usual is it for their women to have the head veiled, that they may be thereby recognized.” This shows that in A.D. 200 there was a difference in the way Jewish women appeared in public and the way other women did. The Jewish women veiled themselves, whereas other women did not always do so. There was, therefore, no universal custom that women had to be veiled.
In about 195 A.D. Clement of Alexandria wrote: “It has also been commanded that the head should be veiled and the face covered, for it is a wicked thing for beauty to be a snare to men. Nor is it appropriate for a woman to desire to make herself conspicuous by using a purple veil.” (Vol. 2 page 266 of the Ante Nicene Fathers.) The reason Clement gives for veiling was modesty. Whether this practice was predominant in Alexandria cannot be gleaned from this passage, but from what Tertullian wrote, who lived at the same time and place, it appears that it was not. Note that Clement makes a difference between veiling the head and covering the face.
G. Kittle writes in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament:
“It used to be asserted by theologians that Paul was simply endorsing the unwritten law of Hellenic (Greek pkw) and Roman feeling for what was proper. But this view is untenable. To be sure, the veil was not unknown in Greece. It was worn partly as adornment and partly on such special occasions as match-making and marriage…, and the worship of chthonic deities…. But it is quite wrong that Greek women were under some kind of compulsion to wear a veil in public…. The mysteries inscription of Andania, which gives an exact description of women taking part in the procession, makes no mention of the veil. Indeed, the cultic order of Lycosura seems to forbid it…. Hence veiling was not a general custom; it was Jewish.”
“Paul is thus attempting to introduce into congregations on Greek soil a custom which corresponds to oriental and especially Jewish sensibility rather than Greek.”
(Comments on the word “katakalupto“—“to cover”.)
But Paul does not say, “Veil yourselves when praying or prophesying in order to be modest.” He gives a specific reason, “In order to show that man is your head.” He did not tell women to veil themselves in public in order to be modest.
An essay by Richard Oster entitled “When Men Wore Veils to Worship: The Historical Context of 1 Corinthians 11.4”, New Testament Studies, Vol. 34, 1988, pp. 481-505, says that a wealth of ancient literary and archeological data show that it was a Roman custom for both men and women to pray with their heads covered. This was a part of all Roman worship, including “sacrifice and augury.” He says that since Corinth was a Roman colony and that there was a strong Roman influence there, that men were praying with heads covered in the Corinthian church.
“1 Cor. 11.4-5 states the occasion for Paul’s advice and what these undesired practices were. Specifically, while praying and prophesying some men were wearing head coverings and some women were not. According to Paul these practices should be reversed, since in his judgment the semantic [“relating to significance or meaning”] significance of men covering their heads during worship was antithetical [“directly opposite”] to the male ‘headship’ affirmed in 11.3.” (p. 504)
If this was true, Paul was NOT telling the Corinthians to follow custom. He was telling them to do the OPPOSITE of prevailing custom.
The custom argument and women preachers
Ken Craig in a private letter to me made some astute observations. He wrote:
“I would like to share one thought with you on the covering for your comment or consideration that I think reflects a lack of consistency in how brethren treat 1 Cor. 11, particularly the “cultural” argument. I notice that when we discuss with evangelicals or others the New Testament injunctions about women’s roles and participation in the New Testament, the substance of our argument is that Paul went all the way back to Genesis to explain that the basis for these injunctions was not cultural but had a scriptural basis from the beginning. In other words, there may have been a cultural or custom component to women’s roles in New Testament times, but the cultural component was driven by and reflected a scriptural injunction and basis going all the way back to God’s original plan.
“But here is the inconsistency, I think. Isn’t this exactly what happens in 1 Cor. 11? Paul first explains that the basis for the whole discussion goes back to the foundational principle of headship and authority. In this manner the covering (as well as men having long hair, etc.) is just an application of a fundamental, long-standing biblical principle. Sure there is an appeal to culture as well, but where did culture obtain the practice to begin with? In this manner I believe brethren attack women’s roles as leaders in the church using an argument and principle that they then fail to apply in 1 Cor. 11.
“I have begun to notice among the evangelicals more and more reference to 1 Cor. 11 and the use of the veil. It is used in defense of the movement to have women teachers and preachers in the church. Their argument goes like this: ‘Look, we all see in 1 Cor. 11 that women in New Testament times were to have their heads veiled [they either recognize that this IS what the passage teaches or they are using it accommodatively] and we don’t practice that any more because it was just a custom. Why is that any different from other things the New Testament teaches about women’s roles, e.g. public preaching and teaching? We now know so much more and have matured and outgrown antiquated practices.’ I saw an article the other day where a couple of Baptist missionaries were getting thrown out after over 20 years of mission work because the wife had started ‘pastoring.’ The abandonment of women wearing the veil based on enlightenment and the “custom” of 1 Cor. 11 was the cornerstone of their defense for women abandoning the other teachings about women’s roles in the church.
“The other defense of women’s roles rests on the analogy from slavery. ‘See how the New Testament used to approve of slavery, but we know better now.’ I have yet to see this argument addressed by brethren.”
If we attack these arguments consistently we can deal with slavery (not divinely ordained or defended) with the ‘customs’ of women’s roles (divinely ordained basis and defended as such) and the veil (divinely ordained basis and defended as such). In other words I believe the teachings about women’s role in the church and the covering question rise or fall together. If brethren can dismiss the teachings on the covering due to custom or culture, then I think others can just as easily dismiss the teachings on women’s role on exactly the same basis. Our evangelical friends are doing exactly this, and I have yet to read one article that deals with these two issues consistently.
Bro. Craig’s words should be taken seriously, especially when combined with the observation of Bercot (appendix) that women’s head coverings began disappearing as the women’s emancipation (liberation) movement arose.
To summarize: The oft-repeated statement that it was universal custom in Paul’s time for women to appear in public only when their heads were veiled is without foundation, and is contrary to the evidence of writings, pictures and statues which date back to Paul’s time. The evidence that men in Roman heathen worship veiled their heads argues that Paul was commanding the Corinthians to act in a different way from custom.
Paul’s legislation in 1 Corinthians 11 stands alone as God’s commands, not man’s. Regardless of what customs society has or had, the commands of 1 Corinthians 11 are to be obeyed in all times and places.
The Achilles’ heel of the custom argument
There is a story in Greek mythology about a man named Achilles. When he was born his mother took him to the river which was supposed to give magic protection and dipped him in the water. She was careful to dip him completely under the water so that he would be completely protected from the attacks of enemies. However, she gripped him by the heel and his heel did not get wet. He grew to be a fantastic warrior. Nothing seemed to hurt him. Until one day a stray arrow hit him in the heel, it became infected, and he died. Since then the phrase, “Achilles’ heel”, has meant “the weak spot where there is no protection against attack.”
When people say that all Paul is teaching in 1 Cor. 11 is that we should conform to custom, they always talk about the custom for women to veil themselves in public. But Paul just as clearly tells men that they must not have anything on their head when praying or prophesying. And this is the Achilles’ heel of their position. If Paul was merely saying, “Conform to the custom of your area,” then there must have been a custom for men to be bareheaded when praying or prophesying!
No one has appealed to such a custom, because there is no evidence that there was such a custom! In fact, the Law of Moses prescribed headgear for the high priest and the ordinary priests (Exodus 28:4, 40). These were the men who were to lead the worship under the Law. They HAD to cover their heads! And Oster’s evidence is that heathen Roman (and he thinks Corinthian) men were required to have their heads veiled. Yet Paul teaches that “Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying, disgraces his head.” (1 Cor. 11:4) And Paul says, “Christ is the head of every man.” (v. 3) There is no way that any custom of either the unbelieving Jews or the heathens would require a man to pray or prophesy with head uncovered in order to show that Christ is his head! The Jews who rejected Jesus Christ certainly would not command anything to show that Christ is the head of man! And the heathens did not believe in Christ. They certainly had no custom to show that Christ is head of man. Yet this is what would be required if Paul was simply enforcing custom in 1 Cor. 11!
Who or what is the head who is disgraced?
Some have said that the “head” which is “disgraced” when a man wears something on his head while praying or prophesying is the physical head of a man. Even if this is so, it does not change the argument. Mike Willis writes:
“Does head (kephale) refer to one’s own physical head or to one’s spiritual head, in this case to Christ? Commentators are divided over the matter. If it refers to Christ, then Paul is saying that anyone who covers his head acknowledges himself to be dependent on some earthly head other than Jesus and thereby takes the honor which is his due respect as head of creation from him. Hence, he dishonors the Christ. On the other hand, if it refers to one’s own head, Paul is saying that one disgraces himself (the “head” being used by synecdoche [’a part used to mean the whole‘—pkw] for the whole person) by wearing a token of subjection. The shame is upon the man himself for recognizing some head in addition to Christ. Which of these that Paul intended is uncertain.” — Truth Commentary on First Corinthians
Therefore it does not matter whether the word “head” in verse 4 which is “disgraced” is the spiritual head of man (Christ) or his physical head (standing for the man himself). A man disgraces his head when he prays or prophesies with head covered—BECAUSE CHRIST IS HIS HEAD! By praying with uncovered head he shows that no one on earth is his spiritual head. Jesus is His head. I repeat, neither Jews nor Gentiles had such a practice because they did not believe Jesus was their head! This is solely a New Testament command!
I have not been able to establish when the modern Jewish custom began of men covering their heads when praying. It probably was after New Testament times. But those who claim that Paul was telling the Corinthians to conform to the custom of the times must not only find that men were forbidden to cover their heads when praying or prophesying (and they cannot!), they must ALSO establish that the men were required to have uncovered heads TO SHOW THAT CHRIST WAS THEIR HEAD! Nonsense.
“What is sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander.” If the women were required to cover their heads because of custom, then the men were required to have uncovered heads because of custom—IN ORDER TO SHOW THAT CHRIST WAS THEIR HEAD! Who can believe it?
Internal Evidences of Custom?
In Bro. Mike Willis’s commentary on First Corinthians (Truth Commentaries), he writes:
“The position which teaches that the covering is binding today must confront the internal evidences from the text which lead me to the conclusion that the custom approach is the only legitimate approach.”
Then he gives a list of four evidences from the text. Let us examine each.
1) “Paul called the wearing of the veil a custom (sunetheia), v. 16.”
Comment: The word translated “custom” in the King James Version is translated “practice” in the New American Standard Bible. It does not necessarily refer to a “human” custom. And Paul in verse 16 says that the churches had no other practice. Bro. Willis writes, “The different local congregations all observed the custom.” Furthermore, we cannot restrict the practice to what women were wearing when praying or prophesying. Paul was just as clear in saying that men are NOT to wear anything on their heads. This practice, which all the churches observed, was certainly not a custom of Jews or pagans. We must conclude, therefore, that the practice of verse 16 was the practice of all the churches because it was commanded by the apostles. 1 Corinthians 4:17 says concerning Paul’s practices: “…my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.”
2) “The meaning of prepo (v. 13) alludes to what is ‘comely’ or what is agreeable with contemporary propriety.”
Comment: There are two ways in which to evaluate Paul’s use of this word. The first is that Paul is appealing to their judgment of what is “proper” AFTER he has carefully instructed them. They now have the clear word of God as to what is proper and therefore can be appealed to to apply it.
The second way to understand Paul’s use of “proper” is given in the quote from Bro. Ken Craig earlier in this chapter. Since I believe what he wrote is very important, I will quote it again here:
I would like to share one thought with you on the covering for your comment or consideration that I think reflects a lack of consistency in how brethren treat 1 Cor. 11, particularly the “cultural” argument. I notice that when we discuss with evangelicals or others the New Testament injunctions about women’s roles and participation in the New Testament, the substance of our argument is that Paul went all the way back to Genesis to explain that the basis for these injunctions was not cultural but had a scriptural basis from the beginning. In other words, there may have been a cultural or custom component to women’s roles in New Testament times, but the cultural component was driven by and reflected a scriptural injunction and basis going all the way back to God’s original plan.
But here is the inconsistency, I think. Isn’t this exactly what happens in 1 Cor. 11? Paul first explains that the basis for the whole discussion goes back to the foundational principle of headship and authority. In this manner the covering (as well as men having long hair, etc.) is just an application of a fundamental, long-standing biblical principle. Sure there is an appeal to culture as well, but where did culture obtain the practice to begin with? In this manner I believe brethren attack women’s roles as leaders in the church using an argument and principle that they then fail to apply in 1 Cor. 11. (Emphasis mine, pkw).
To put this in my words: The principle that man is head of woman is from the beginning. The cultural practice of women covering their heads probably came from this scriptural principle. Thus Paul could appeal to the practice, since it came from observing the principle of headship.
3) That going about unveiled signified the same thing as going about shaven. We can only learn the significance of each from a study of local customs.
Comment: But where did the significance of the custom come from? It is logical that it came from the understanding given by God from the beginning that woman is in subjection to man and therefore should not wear the same kind of clothing and her hair should not be short like his.
Note: The man who took the Nazirite vow (like Samson) was not allowed to cut his hair during the time of the vow (Numbers 6:1-5). This was obviously an exception to the rule that men should cut their hair. The fact that he was specifically not to cut his hair set him apart from other men. Some cite the fact that Absalom cut his hair only once a year (2 Samuel 14:26) as evidence that there was no practice that men should not have long hair. But even at the end of a year, his hair would have been shorter than the hair of women who did not cut their hair.
Paul does not appeal to any custom concerning man’s head covering. There was no Old Testament legislation concerning it, except to command the priests to wear turbans. Since the reason man must not wear anything on his head when praying or prophesying is that Christ is his head, there was no command concerning this before Christ came.
4) The veil symbolized woman’s subjection to man.
Comment: The answers given above cover this point.
Note: The custom argument NEVER appeals to any custom to show that man must NOT cover his head when praying or prophesying, because such custom cannot be found! This shows conclusively that Paul was not merely saying, “Conform to custom.” There was no custom for the man to uncover his head when praying or prophesying to show that Christ is his head! It is God’s legislation, not human customary practice, which makes it wrong for the man to cover his head when praying or prophesying. The same thing must be said concerning the woman. Paul’s words are commands, regardless of local or universal practice.
The reasons Paul gives for a woman to cover her head when praying or prophesying are facts which cannot be changed. He does not say, “Cover your head because it is the custom.”
Here are the things Paul says:
- “Hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.” (v. 2) Not human traditions, but the practices which Paul taught them.
- “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” (v. 3)
- “Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying, disgraces his head.” (v. 4)
- “But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head.” (v. 5)
- “If it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.” (v. 6) This and verses 14-15 appeal to what is considered proper in order to reinforce what Paul is teaching.
- “A man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.” (v. 7)
- “Man does not originate from woman, but woman from man.” (v. 8)
- “The woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” (v. 10)
- “Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with head uncovered?” v. 13) We can judge what is proper from what Paul already taught.
- “Does not even nature itself teach you that … if a woman has long hair it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.” (vs. 14,15) He now appeals to what is the natural practice to argue that it is right to wear a covering.
- “We have no such custom.” (v. 16). All the churches had the same practice.
Note: Nowhere does Paul say, “Conform to whatever custom is prevalent in society.” He does not say, “People will think you are a harlot if you appear in public without a covering.“And the fact that Paul teaches that it is a shame for a man to pray or prophesy with head covered shows that Paul was not talking about human customs. These words are the commands of the Lord without regard to human practices.