Questions and Answers

Q: In my reading this morning of first Corinthians chapter 11, it appears that Paul is saying that women should cover their head when they pray.( it's amazing to me that the number of times I've read this chapter in my life, it never really occurred to me that it appears to be overlooked by Christians of faith). When I was a kid, growing up a Catholic, women did cover the head with a hat in church. But that stopped at some point in my life and I'm not sure when or why. Appears he also says that long hair is bad for man, (my paraphrase,) yet every picture, every movie where men of that era are shown with long hair. It would appear that only Muslim women cover their heads. Just wondering if you have a minute you would tell me what you think about that chapter and those two issues.

Answer: In the passage of Scripture to which you make reference, 1 Corinthians 11: 2-16, the Holy Spirit speaks through the Apostle Paul to the Church of Corinth concerning authority and headship within the church. To do so, Paul used the cultural traditions of head coverings to parabolically illustrate this truth. The church of Corinth experienced many divisions and schisms as noted in the first chapter of the Epistle. God desires unity among His people. The passage in question identifies God's order of authority and headship to promote this unity. "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of every woman is man, and the head of Christ is God" (11:3, NJKV).

"The concept of headship does not denote qualitative or essential differences. It denotes responsibility and accountability, not superiority. The prototype is seen in the persons of the Trinity. The Father and Christ are coequal, yet they fulfill different functions (cf. 15:28; John 6:38-40; 10:29, 30; 14:9; Phil. 2:6). Paul is not a male chauvinist. On the contrary, he argues here for the equality of the sexes in personal worth but distinction in function and responsibility. The covering is symbolic, indicating the authority that exists above the woman, yet still under Christ." [1] This is confirmed in verse 12, "For as woman came from man, even so man also came from woman; but all things are from God" (NKJV).

The main message is the submission to the proper authority and decease from division and rebellion. Every culture and every generation has its own traditions and experiences its own fads. When I was a teenager long hair on a male was a symbol of rebellion toward authority. Short hair on women signified rebellion. Paul's focus was not on the women wearing a head covering or men having long hair, but the condition of the individual's heart. This was a call to submission to the Lord God and each other in order to fulfill their God given function and responsibility. This truth is reiterated in Ephesians 5:15 6:4.

These are some thoughts to ponder.

[1] Jerry Falwell, ex. ed. The Liberty Annotated Study Bible (Lynchburg, Virginia: Liberty University, 1988) 1779.