Friday, December 09, 2005

1 Corinthians 11 & Strong's Concordance

I started wearing a headcovering to worship service a year after becoming a Christian. My Mother-In-Law and her Mother both wore hats (as did a number of women at the time), which made the practice 'normal' to me. However, my decision to begin wearing a covering was determined by the research I did into 1 Corinthians 11. Major influences for me included a sermon by Pastor Rich as he worked through Corinthians (before I joined the church, no longer online) as well as several essays I found online (linked at the bottom).

There are several arguments used against a straight interpretation of 1Cor 11. First, that it was cultural command which we can ignore, second, that the covering is simply hair, and third, that the passage actually refers to having hair 'pinned up' not 'covered'. I will go through each of the arguments.

The first argument given is that the whole head-covering instruction was cultural (something about the prostitutes having shaved heads), and it no longer applies to us. The problem with this argument is that Paul's reasoning was timeless -- he discusses Headship, Glory, Creation, Angels, Nature, and then rounds it off by saying "But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God." (1Cor 11:16) This issue wasn't cultural, it was eternal, and modern men and women must have a clear understanding of what this passage is commanding us.

The simplest argument against cloth headcoverings reasons that verse 15 ("...For her hair is given to her for a covering.") indicates that the covering discussed in the preceding verses is a woman's hair. The problem lies in verses 5 & 6
But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. 1Cor 11:5-6
You see, if the covering is really just long hair, then being "uncovered" would mean having short hair. Yet, how can she cut off her hair if it's already short? These verses simply cannot be reconciled with the interpretation that a woman's hair is her only covering. Aslo, the whole passage seems far too complicated if all Paul meant was women should have long hair, and men should have short hair. The passage is either saying what it means to say (that women should wear a cloth head covering and men should not), or it is mistranslated.

One argument I read stated that the first word Paul used for "cover" was properly translated as "long hair pinned up", and that the actual word properly translated as "cover" isn't used until v15. The same argument contends that the word often translated "as" or "for" in that same verse is properly translated as "instead of", so that the actual verse reads "For her hair is given to her instead of a (cloth) covering".

This sounded like the most convincing argument I had heard against head coverings, if in fact the translations were incorrect. Therefore, I decided to delve into Strong's Concordance, Thayer's Lexicon, and the Septuagint to get at the root of the words. Now, more than ever, I am convinced that the way a woman is to cover her head during prayer and prophesy is with a cloth veil which hides her hair. Following is the process I took to reach my conclusion. Keep in mind that although I have no expertise in languages (I can't even learn French), if you treat words like code, you can get a pretty decent understanding of their appropriate use.

Following is the passage with Strong's word numbers next to each word. The words pertinent to this discussion are in bold. I would encourage you to take out your favourite translation (no paraphrases, please), and write down Strong's word number next to the bold selections. This might help you connect the definitions to the appropriate words.
1Cr 11:3 But [1161] I would have [2309] (5719) you [5209] know [1492] (5760), that [3754] the head [2776] of every [3956] man [435] is [2076] (5748) Christ [5547]; and [1161] the head [2776] of the woman [1135] [is] the man [435]; and [1161] the head [2776] of Christ [5547] [is] God [2316].

1Cr 11:4 Every [3956] man [435] praying [4336] (5740) or [2228] prophesying [4395] (5723), having [2192] (5723) [his] head [2776] covered [2596], dishonoureth [2617] (5719) his [846] head [2776].

1Cr 11:5 But [1161] every [3956] woman [1135] that prayeth [4336] (5740) or [2228] prophesieth [4395] (5723) with [her] head [2776] uncovered [177] dishonoureth [2617] (5719) her [1438] head [2776]: for [1063] that is [2076] (5748) even [2532] all one [1520] as if [846] she were shaven [3587] (5772).

1Cr 11:6 For [1063] if [1487] the woman [1135] be [2619] [0] not [3756] covered [2619] (5743), let her [2751] [0] also [2532] be shorn [2751] (5669): but [1161] if [1487] it be a shame [149] for a woman [1135] to be shorn [2751] (5670) or [2228] shaven [3587] (5745), let her be covered [2619] (5744).

1Cr 11:7 For [1063] a man [435] indeed [3303] ought [3784] (5719) not [3756] to cover [2619] (5745) [his] head [2776], forasmuch as he is [5225] (5723) the image [1504] and [2532] glory [1391] of God [2316]: but [1161] the woman [1135] is [2076] (5748) the glory [1391] of the man [435].

1Cr 11:8 For [1063] the man [435] is [2076] (5748) not [3756] of [1537] the woman [1135]; but [235] the woman [1135] of [1537] the man [435].

1Cr 11:9 [1063] [2532] Neither [3756] was [2936] [0] the man [435] created [2936] (5681) for [1223] the woman [1135]; but [235] the woman [1135] for [1223] the man [435].

1Cr 11:10 For this [5124] cause [1223] ought [3784] (5719) the woman [1135] to have [2192] (5721) power [1849] on [1909] [her] head [2776] because [1223] of the angels [32].

1Cr 11:11 Nevertheless [4133] neither [3777] is the man [435] without [5565] the woman [1135], neither [3777] the woman [1135] without [5565] the man [435], in [1722] the Lord [2962].

1Cr 11:12 For [1063] as [5618] the woman [1135] [is] of [1537] the man [435], even so [3779] [is] the man [435] also [2532] by [1223] the woman [1135]; but [1161] all things [3956] of [1537] God [2316].

1Cr 11:13 Judge [2919] (5657) in [1722] yourselves [5213] [846]: is it [2076] (5748) comely [4241] (5723) that a woman [1135] pray [4336] (5738) unto God [2316] uncovered [177]?

1Cr 11:14 Doth [2228] not even [3761] nature [5449] itself [846] teach [1321] (5719) you [5209], that [3754], if [1437] [3303] a man [435] have long hair [2863] (5725), it is [2076] (5748) a shame [819] unto him [846]?

1Cr 11:15 But [1161] if [1437] a woman [1135] have long hair [2863] (5725), it is [2076] (5748) a glory [1391] to her [846]: for [3754] [her] hair [2864] is given [1325] (5769) her [846] for [473] a covering [4018].

1Cr 11:16 But [1161] if any man [1536] seem [1380] (5719) to be [1511] (5750) contentious [5380], we [2249] have [2192] (5719) no [3756] such [5108] custom [4914], neither [3761] the churches [1577] of God [2316].

First, let's take a look at when this directive is in place.

Praying [4336] proseuchomai pros-yoo'-khom-ahee from 4314 and 2172; to pray to God, i.e. supplicate, worship:--pray (X earnestly, for), make prayer.

Prophesying [4395] propheteuo prof-ate-yoo'-o from 4396; to foretell events, divine, speak under inspiration, exercise the prophetic office:--prophesy.

Chapter 11 is often prefaced with the title "Directions for Public Worship", however, the instructions for the covering/uncovering of one's head do not specify whether the praying or prohesying are on the Lord's Day, in public worship. In the preceeding chapter, Paul discusses the Lord's Supper, and then broadens the topic to the eating of sacrificed meat (outside of public worship). Paul then thanks the church for holding fast to the traditions as he delivered them, and goes on to address head coverings, before veering back to the Lord's Supper. At the very least, one may conclude that head coverings apply to Lord's Day assembly (the "traditions"), however, an argument could easily be made that the instructions apply to all praying and prophesying, regardless of time or location.

Second, let's see who we are dealing with.

Man [435] aner an'-ayr a primary word (compare 444); a man (properly as an individual male):--fellow, husband, man, sir.

Woman [1135] gune goo-nay' probably from the base of 1096; a woman; specially, a wife:--wife, woman.

"Gune [1135]", according to Thayer's Lexicon, can mean "1. a woman of any age, whether a virgin, or married, or a widow", or specifically, "2. a wife, or a betrothed woman". Therefore, at the very least, Paul is referring to married or betrothed women. This interpretation makes sense in light of Paul's argument concerning headship. Not every man is the head of every woman, but rather a Husband is the head of his own Wife.

Third, let's look at the various words used for "cover" and "uncover". The first word "kata [2596]" is only used by itself in v4 in relation to men. Afterwards, it is used in combination with "kalupto [2572] to form "katakalupto [2619]" and "akatakaluptos [177]". Notice that when hair is referred to as a "covering", a completely different word (peribolaion[4018]) is used. I believe this means that although hair is given as a type of covering, it is not the covering required while praying or prohesying. For reference, I have included the definitions for "shaved" and "shorn", as well as "hair" and "long hair".

[2596] kata kat-ah' a primary particle; (prepositionally) down (in place or time), in varied relations (according to the case (genitive, dative or accusative) with which it is joined):--about, according as (to), after, against, (when they were) X alone, among, and, X apart, (even, like) as (concerning, pertaining to touching), X aside, at, before, beyond, by, to the charge of, (charita-)bly, concerning, + covered, (dai-)ly, down, every, (+ far more) exceeding, X more excellent, for, from ... to, godly, in(-asmuch, divers, every, -to, respect of), ... by, after the manner of, + by any means, beyond (out of) measure, X mightily, more, X natural, of (up-)on (X part), out (of every), over against, (+ your) X own, + particularly, so, through(-oughout, -oughout every), thus, (un-)to(-gether, -ward), X uttermost, where(-by), with. In composition it retains many of these applications, and frequently denotes opposition, distribution, or intensity.
1) down from, through out
2) according to, toward, along

[2572] kalupto kal-oop'-to akin to 2813 and 2928; to cover up (literally or figuratively):--cover, hide.
1) to hide, veil
a) to hinder the knowledge of a thing

[2619] (5743) katakalupto kat-ak-al-oop'-to from 2596 and 2572; to cover wholly, i.e. veil:--cover, hide.
1) to cover up
2) to veil or cover one's self

[177] akatakaluptos ak-at-ak-al'-oop-tos from 1 (as a negative particle) and a derivative of a compound of 2596 and 2572; unveiled:--uncovered.
1) not covered, unveiled

[4018] peribolaion per-ib-ol'-ah-yon neuter of a presumed derivative of 4016; something thrown around one, i.e. a mantle, veil:--covering, vesture.
1) a covering thrown around, a wrapper
a) a mantle
b) a veil

[3587] xurao xoo-rah'-o from a derivative of the same as 3586 (meaning a razor); to shave or "shear" the hair:--shave.
1) to shear, shave
2) to get one's self shaved

[2751] keiro ki'-ro a primary verb; to shear:--shear(-er).
1) to sheer: a sheep
2) to get or let be shorn
3) of shearing or cutting short the hair of the head

[2863] komao kom-ah'-o from 2864; to wear tresses of hair:--have long hair.
1) to let the hair grow, have long hair

[2864] kome kom'-ay apparently from the same as 2865; the hair of the head (locks, as ornamental, and thus differing from 2359; which properly denotes merely the scalp):--hair.
1) hair, head of hair

The following definitions are taken from Numbers 5:18. The Septuagint uses "apokalupto [601]" (a derivitive of "kalupto [2572]") to translate "para [06544]". Some arguments against head coverings use this verse to prove that "katakalupto [2619]" means "long hair pinned up", and therefore "akatakalupto [177]" means "long hair let down", or something to that effect. However, by examining the use of the Hebrew "para [06544]" one understands that is not the case. Although "para [06544]" does mean "to let loose", it appears to have the connotations of uncovering and nakedness, rather than of disheveled hair.

[601] apokalupto ap-ok-al-oop'-to from 575 and 2572; to take off the cover, i.e. disclose:--reveal.

[06544] para paw-rah' a primitive root; to loosen; by implication, to expose, dismiss; figuratively, absolve, begin:--avenge, avoid, bare, go back, let, (make) naked, set at nought, perish, refuse, uncover.

1) to lead, act as leader
2) to let go, let loose, ignore, let alone
a) (Qal)
1) to let go, let loose
2) to let alone, avoid, neglect
3) to loosen
b) (Niphal) to be let loose, be loosened of restraint
c) (Hiphil)
1) to cause to refrain
2) to show lack of restraint
3) to let loose restraints

Fourth, let's look at the definition of "anti [473]" in v16.

[473] anti
an-tee' a primary particle; opposite, i.e. instead or because of (rarely in addition to):--for, in the room of. Often used in composition to denote contrast, requital, substitution, correspondence, etc.
1) over against, opposite to, before
2) for, instead of, in place of (something)
a) instead of
b) for
c) for that, because
d) wherefore, for this cause

Although "anti [471]" can be translated as "instead of", most translations use "for" or "as".

Finally, let's examine the implications of saying the covering is "long hair pinned up". If you are using this intepretation of the text to avoid wearing a cloth head covering, do you wear your hair long and pinned up? If not, then the text says you should shave your head, for doing so is disgraceful. However, since it is a disgrace to have a shaved head, you should wear a cloth veil to cover your shame.

If you are preaching this interpretation, then you must also be teaching women to a) wear their hair long; and b) pin their hair up; otherwise, c) they must cover their short or long, unpinned hair with a cloth veil.

It is interesting to note that of all the depictions of female believers throughout the ages, not one is shown with "long hair pinned up", but rather they are shown wearing a cloth head covering. It appears that even Paul's first audience took his words as instructions to wear a cloth veil.

To recap, at the very least, you should be covering your hair with a cloth veil or scarf if you are a believing married woman praying/prophesying in public worship on the Lord's Day. I would encourage believing married women to keep the cover on during the entire service (otherwise it becomes an unnecessary distraction). I believe it would be highly beneficial to wear the same head covering during group bible studies and prayer meetings, as well as private study and prayer. I believe Paul's argument for wearing a head covering applies to prayer and prophesy every day, not just on Sunday. Also, there is nothing wrong or sinful with wearing a head covering at all times. I believe this practice blesses sporadic, spontaneous prayer. It could also be beneficial to women struggling in areas of Godly submission towards their Husbands and God.

As I mentioned earlier, there are several eteranl reasons Pauls gives for headcoverings: Headship, Glory, Creation, Angels, Nature, and then rounds it off by saying "But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God." (1Cor 11:16). I believe the simplest reason he gives has to do with Glory, so let's work through that chain: The glory of God is man (v7), the glory of man is woman (v7), and the glory of woman is her hair (v15). When we're worshiping God, who's glory are we exalting? God's or our own? Since we are exalting God, we should be uncovering the glory of God and covering the glory of man and woman. Since God's glory is man, he should be uncovered. Since man's glory is woman, she should be covered. Since woman's glory is her hair, it should be covered. Therefore, we have two reason here to cover our heads and our hair -- to cover man's glory as well as our own. You may disagree with the idea that nature teaches that long hair on men and short hair on women is shameful, and you might not comprehend what angels have to do with signs of authority, but the notion of uncovering God's glory and covering man's should be easily understood. Afterall, isn't that what worship is all about?

As important as the headcovering may be, please keep in mind that souls are far more important than any garment a person may or may not be wearing. Before taking a woman to task for not wearing a proper covering, or a man for wearing an improper covering, it is essential that you determine that they are indeed a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. God sees beyond the external, into the heart. A woman can wear a headcovering at all times, but if her sins were not paid for on the Cross, then she is little more than a white-washed tomb. This principle should be applied to all areas of life. There is no sense in dealing with anyone's sins unless they are in a saving relationship with Jesus.

Additional Resources
Headcovering in Public Worship (Pastor Brian Schwertley, sermon)
Headcoverings II (Pastor Brian Schwertley, sermon)
Sermons on Headcoverings (all sides)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this, quite old post ;-)
Have you opted for covering in public prayer or at all times? I am curious as to what reactions you have received as well as how doing so has affected you.

Elaine said...

Hi there :)

I wear a covering (a pashmina in the winter, and a light scarf in the summer, losely wrapped over my head and thrown over a shoulder) during public worship on the Lord's Day. It's a non-issue at our church in Ottawa. Not many women cover these days (more used to, but stopped -- I never asked them why), particularly the younger bracket, but I don't feel odd doing so.

We just moved to Kingston, however, and we have to find a new church (no RPs here). It's not a common practice outside of Reformed/Dutch/Brethren churches, but I don't intend to stop.

I find wearing a veil assists me in worship... You know how children often act out "putting on the full armour of God" every morning as a way of preparing for the day? In the same way, putting on a veil helps me prepare for worship; it's a reminder that this is God's time, not "me" time.

By covering my glory, I am honouring my head, my Husband, and my God. I might not completely grasp why the angels care if my hair is covered, but because they do, the command transcends time and cultural boundaries (so does the whole headship reasoning).

I don't personally feel compelled to cover at all times (since the passage is discussing proper etiqutte during worship services), but I often wear a wide fabric headband (especially when I need an extra reminder to pray). I commend women who choose to cover at all times, and recommend it if you're having trouble with prayer.

While I believe married women *should* cover their hair, I don't believe it's my responsibility to point it out to a Sister. I gladly discuss the topic when its raised (which is very rarely), but I've never told someone they are erring for not doing so. I'm pretty sure it's a heart/conscience issue, akin to dressing modestly.

As with all things, the most important consideration is a solid relationship with Jesus Christ. Without that, headcoverings are just "filthy rags".

Oh, as an added bonus, wearing a veil makes getting ready on Sunday quick & easy :) It's also an interesting topic of conversation with Muslim women (whom often know the verse better than Christian women do).

Anonymous said...

thanks friends n thank God for sharing! praise God praise The LORD!

the strong's translation for v16 seems a bit diff. than the initial one you'd posted, as if perhaps 'he nor the churches of God' Lord Willing had such a practice vs. he and 'the churches of God' had no other practice....Lord Forgive Lord Willing be i or any wrong or offbase PLGB

Elaine said...

It depends on the translation you use. Most modern translations use "no other custom/practice", rather than "no such custom/practice". The question is what is the "custom" referred to in v16? Most commentators seem to agree that either there was "no such custom" of being contentious, or "no such custom" of women worshiping bare, and men wearing a headcovering.

Modern translations attempt to clarify this verse by stating "no other custom/practice" instead of the more verbose "we have no such custom as the participation of unveiled women in public worship" used in William Barclay's translation.

Some modern commentators argue that "no such custom" is referring to the command Paul has given in the previous verses, as if he would spend so much time laying something down only to throw it out with one sentence. This is nonsensical.

A well thought out argument can be found here:

Thanks for your comment!