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NO MORE EXCUSES!

A SYSTEMATIC REFUTATION OF THE CREEDS THAT DISCOURAGE THE


COVERING OF WOMEN TAUGHT IN 1 CORINTHIANS 11:1-16
***
BY: A. A. BIELER

Introduction “But they all with one accord began to


•This study started out as a short make excuses…”
assignment for a hermeneutics class: make
(LUKE 14:18)
sense out of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. But, as
I started to apply the hermeneutic principles
How can a group of men who believe
I had learned in the class, I began to deduce
different things each come to the same
that this was a commandment that
conclusion? Justifications are the key. What
somehow wasn’t being taught in the Lord’s
is a justification? Webster defines it as “the
church. But, could a lowly novice be right
act of defending or explaining or making
and a thousand churches be wrong?
excuses for by reasoning.” What is an
I immediately started quizzing gospel
excuse? Again the dictionary tells us that an
preachers, investigating why they didn’t
excuse is “a defense of some behavior.”
teach headcovering for women. Their
When men and women who study the
responses and casual remarks were
Bible find this passage, they naturally begin
shocking: no two men gave me the same
to wonder why it isn’t being obeyed. Those
reasoning, and some stated beliefs that
who actually care what the Bible teaches
strongly contradicted the others! One
begin to seek out men to explain these
preacher claimed that covering was a
passages and to “defend or explain” why
cultural practice of the first-century and is
covering isn’t being done. What do they find
no longer binding, while another claimed
when they ask these priests, pastors, and
that headcovering is indeed binding, but
ministers why it isn’t being obeyed? One of
that the covering is long hair! Even worse, I
literally dozens of various complementary
found some preachers teaching these
and contradicting responses. This Baptist
contradictory doctrines at the same time!
disagrees with that Lutheran. This Catholic
(Several of these men have since claimed
disagrees with that Mormon. This
that I have misrepresented them,
Presbyterian disagrees with that
apparently because you are being
Pentecostal. This gospel preacher disagrees
“presumptuous” if you believe a preacher
with that gospel preacher. Yet they all
means what he says, or if you believe what
somehow agree to not teach women to
his relatives tell you. My advice to you is to
cover their heads.
get your preacher to commit his beliefs
In the parable of the Wedding Feast, the
about this topic to paper, if he will.)
master gave one simple order: “Come, for
The only common thread I found was that
all things are now ready.” The men so
each preacher offered a different reason
offered didn’t want to come! Instead, they
why this commandment wasn’t relevant for
made “a defense.” One man used oxen as
the church. Only one commentary I found
his defense, another used land, another a
had the courage to admit the evidences
new wife. But they were all defending the
supplied in other commentaries were
same unlawful behavior. The lame excuses
inadequate. If you search out the various
satisfied those men, but they enraged the
commentaries and sermon outline books for
master.
yourself, you will see the same things.
Jesus combated uncritical “common
NO MORE EXCUSES! - REVISION 3: 8/30/2007 1 CORINTHIANS 11:1-16

knowledge” with the truth in Matthew 5 & 6, The “Purposes & Substitutes” Problem
when he challenged the doctrines of the • It is true that the washing of feet and the
Jews who had “heard it said.” The veiling of women were both ancient
justifications of the false-teachers excused
customs, and it is true that Christians rarely
such sins as dishonoring parents, abuse ofwash another’s feet today. It has, however,
the poor, using the temple as a money- been persuasively argued that we continue
making business, swearing false oaths, andto keep the spirit of the example.
worse. In each case, the Law of Moses gave Foot-washing was a function of
an ordinance for the Hebrews to follow, and
hospitality; bare feet get filthy from the
these men found a way to “defend or road. The purpose for cleaning dirty feet
explain” why they did not follow those laws
was, for a widow, part of several activities
as they were given. The Scribes and that show a history of hospitality to others.
Pharisees preached a self-serving doctrineThis is also indicated by her helping the sick,
that could not bear the weight of God’s lodging strangers, and other good works (1
truth, but relied solely upon their position as
Tim 5:10). Since most nations now have
religious leaders and intimidation to justify
access to socks and shoes, feet rarely get
their disobedience. that filthy from travel, and washing clean
As will be shown in the following study,
feet is simply pointless. But there are still
these “defenses and explanations” are other practical ways to be hospitable today
undermined by one inescapable flaw: they that are just as humbling and useful (like
cannot be taught from the Bible. This washing dirty socks), and true Christian
apparently cannot be stressed enough. To widows will perform these acts. It should
hold a positive position on headcovering, also be said that there is no good reason for
one needs only open the Bible and read theany Christian today to refuse washing feet,
passage aloud. The Spirit gave us all the especially if they need cleaning (in fact, this
timeless and sacred reasons we’ll ever need
author personally saw to the blistered feet of
to understand this ordinance. Only for theanother at the time of this writing). The only
men and women who do not wish to cover reason that could be offered for refusing the
do these plain passages of the Bible become
act is “pride,” an unsatisfactory response at
“difficult.” Only by invoking the failures of
best (Proverbs 13:10).
human wisdom (itching-ears, poor
If we wish to compare headcovering to
commentaries, uninspired scraps of ancientfoot-washing, we must now ask: “What is
literature, proof-text, the liberal
the purpose of covering or uncovering the
hermeneutics of culture-vs-Christ, word-of-
head?” According to Scripture, a man must
mouth doctrines) do these creeds of not have something on his head when he
disobedience find any support in the prays or prophesies because men are the
churches. “image and glory of God” (1 Corinthians
11:7) and that every man “dishonors Christ”
if he covers his head when he prays or
1. “I heard the veiling of women was
prophesies (1 Corinthians 11:4). Likewise, it
just an ancient custom we no longer
is written that a woman should be covered
keep, like ‘foot-washing.’”
because women are instead the “glory of
man” and that she would dishonor her man
Summary: Those who offer up this excuse
(husband, father, guardian, etc.) to go
are attempting to equate headcovering
with the ancient custom of washing a uncovered in prayer or prophesy (1
traveler’s feet (John 12:3), which is no Corinthians 11:5). So Paul has revealed that
longer widely observed. the purpose of a man keeping his head
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NO MORE EXCUSES! - REVISION 3: 8/30/2007 1 CORINTHIANS 11:1-16

uncovered is to reveal God’s image and Egyptians.b Even the officiating minister is a
glory, and thus honor Christ before His continuation of a traditional “priestly” role
head, God the Father. The reason a woman the Catholics acquired from the heathens.c
covers her head is to cover man’s glory It should go without saying that there
before God, and thus honor her authority. is absolutely no New Testament
This begs another important question: commandment (explicit or implied), nor a
“What modern custom can replace the act of single practical reason, to observe any of
uncovering or covering the head while these archaic traditions, some of which
simultaneously keeping the purpose of predate the Law of Moses.
covering? What custom can replace the It is true that in areas where the Scripture
exposure of God’s image and glory (a man’s is silent on personal behavior, we are free to
head) to honor Christ and the concealment exercise customs that do not contradict the
of man’s glory (a woman’s head)?” The law of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:23), but
answer is “none.” Logic concludes that, whereas the Scripture is silent on these
unlike with the case of foot-washing, there is traditions, it is not silent on the role of
no satisfactory substitute for women headcovering. So Christians are using the
covering, nor for men taking covers off, nor age of headcovering to disregard the
a practical reason to find one. Once again, commandments, while maintaining other
the only real reason that could be offered is aged traditions that have no place in the
“pride.” Bible. To associate Christ’s religion with
antiquated seating or primitive marriage
traditions, while at the same time stripping
The “Everything is Ancient” Problem religious significance from an “old” God
• As is seen in the first flaw, it isn’t the given ordinance is just plain hypocrisy.
extreme oldness of foot-washing that Even more significant to this argument
discourages it, but the practicality. The are the reasons Paul gives us for a woman
custom of headcovering may be ancient, but being covered:
there are plenty of ancient customs
churches still keep, and worse, there is no • Men with Covered Heads Dishonor
Biblical precedence for many of them. Christ (1 Corinthians 11:4; John 5:22-
One relic kept in the churches today is the 23): May men decide how to honor
installment of pews in buildings, the pew Christ?
being invented in the 14th century and • Men are the Image and Glory of God
popularized in the 15th.a Even though far (1 Corinthians 11:7; Gen 1:26): Are
more comfortable, economical, and practical men no longer the image and glory of
group seating has developed over the past God?
600 years, and despite the lack of Scriptural • Women Are Glory to Men; Women
support, the tradition of pews continues to Cover to Honor Their Heads (1
be consciously associated with worship well Corinthians 11:5,7; Eph 5:22-25): Are
into the 21st century. Likewise, our churches women no longer a glory to men? Do
frequently celebrate weddings between women no longer need to be concerned
young Christians. But the special dress, the with honoring men?
bridesmaids, the rings, the flowers, the • The Shame of Baldness Should Be
flower girls and ring bearers, the cake, the Felt When Uncovered (1 Corinthians
candles, and the vows are all ancient 11:6; Isa 3:24): Are women no longer
traditions of the Hebrews, Pagan Greeks, ashamed of being bald?
Babylonians, Arabs, Romans, and • Woman was created for man and
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NO MORE EXCUSES! - REVISION 3: 8/30/2007 1 CORINTHIANS 11:1-16

should show the angels a symbol of but behavior associated with the way men
authority (1 Corinthians 11:9-10; 1 and women come before the Father in
Peter 1:12): Are angels no longer the worship. Hospitality is apples and acts of
servants of God? worship are oranges—they cannot be
• A Woman’s Hair is a Glory for Herself, equated. This is very significant.
Not God (1 Corinthians 11:15a; Song Let us imagine that a teacher came into
7:5): Is a woman’s hair no longer a your congregation and said,
glory for her?
• Creation Teaches that Women Should Jesus only used grape juice and
Be Covered (1 Corinthians 11:15b; unleavened bread because of the
Rom 1:20-21): Do we no longer look Passover traditions of the Jews; it’s
into creation to find God’s handiwork? simply all He had around at the time. It
• Everyone With Paul and Every is more important to have the ‘cup’
Faithful Church Rejected the Custom of with some ‘bread.’ Therefore, when
Uncovered Women (1 Corinthians observing the modern Lord’s Supper,
11:13,16; Eph 4:4-6): Is the re- we can safely replace the outdated
creation of first-century churches no grape juice with a culturally-acceptable
longer our goal? coffee drink, and replace the outdated
unleavened bread with the inexpensive
Contrary to the idea that each of these white bread of our culture.
reasons for covering are conditional to a
particular time, each reason given by the Then he boldly states,
Spirit of God is truly timeless.
___________________________________ Let’s face it, people think we are weird
a. The History of Pews (Cambridge, 1841)
b. Carry Me Over the Threshold: A Christian Guide to Wedding because we sing hymns. The singing of
Traditions; Seleshanko (Zondervan, 2006)
c. Ritual in Early Modern Europe; Muir (Cambridge, 1997)
hymns is an ancient custom that
developed before mankind invented
the far more popular compact discs
The “Apples & Oranges” Problem and iPods. So in order to keep up with
• In addition to the previous flaws, there is the customs of the 21st century, we
a still more important “apples and oranges” will now end the practice of
issue with this excuse. When discussing the congregational singing and instead
Biblical significance of the washing of feet, observe the modern custom of
careful study will show that it is a function of listening to recorded music.
fellowship and a matter of showing
hospitality. But can the same be said of And to top it off,
headcovering?
In 1 Corinthians 11:4-5, Paul reveals to When Paul told those Christians that
us when the head is to be uncovered or they should be benevolent, they were
covered; while a man or woman prays or living in a society that had no charities
prophesies. Neither praying nor proclaiming or food stamps. Christians were the
the inspired word of God can be considered only people who cared for the poor and
matters of hospitality, but as any serious sick. But we now live in a world where
study will reveal, these are indeed acts of governments do care, and are much
worship (See: Introducing the church of better equipped to aid the poor and the
Christ; Star Publishing, 2004). We are no sick. That frees us from the burden of
longer speaking of ordinary social customs, giving.
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NO MORE EXCUSES! - REVISION 3: 8/30/2007 1 CORINTHIANS 11:1-16

One can only imagine the outcry from the The “Which Witch” Problem
brethren at the declaration of such heretical
• It is no stretch of the imagination to
doctrines, yet here we have the identical believe that Paul and the other apostles
teaching! Because covering is an “ancient” would be opposed to Pagan worship, making
custom it is fine to disregard the Scriptures,
this a convincing argument for many. But
despite the rules of covering (for males andwhich system of heathenism was Paul
females) being a requirement of an act of supposed to be contradicting? It is a gross
worship in the exact same way as the oversimplification to assume that there was
“ancient” elements are associated to the a single set of “Pagan” worship customs in
Table (Matt 26:26-28), as the “ancient” the first-century. When someone states that
participation of the congregation is to the Paul was opposing “Pagans,” they are in fact
nature of worshipful singing (Eph 5:19; Col throwing a net over literally hundreds of
3:16), and as “ancient” benevolence is to cults and superstitions, from an equally
pure religion (James 1:27). Where is the varied number of nations.
outcry? Our brethren don’t seem to believe Ancient Corinth was a Greek city, ravaged
praying properly is a big deal. in 146 B.C. by Rome, and rebuilt in 46 B.C.
One who wishes to discard nearly as a Roman colony. Under Roman rule,
anything found in Scripture on the basis of Corinth became a major center of trade by
“antiquity” could do so just as easily as Paul’s time, having one harbor to Asia and
many have done with 1 Corinthians 11. another to Italy. Like all cities specializing in
Sadly, our brethren are compelled to discardinternational commerce, it became a
something so basic to the life of a Christian.
melting pot of cultures, akin to modern-day
What could be more important than Rotterdam or New York City.a To claim there
presenting ourselves before God in prayer was a single style of worship favored by the
exactly how he tells us to? We are supposed heathens ignores not only the superstitions
to be recreating the first-century church. of the various tribes that made Corinth their
What possible thing could a man scrounge home, but also the variety of worship styles
out of the history books to justify modifying
within the official Greco-Roman cults
the worship of our Lord as shown to us in themselves. One may as well claim there is
the Bible? Comparing ancient acts of only one type of worship in modern-day San
worship with ancient customs of hospitality Diego.
(or fellowship, or greetings, etc.) is clearly a
It is true that some cults once uncovered
faulty method for determining religious their female priestesses and mystics, but
commandment. there were also many cults that required
coverings for women during times of
worship. The virgin priestesses of Vesta
2. “I was told Paul was only trying to (“Vestal virgins”) wore a square piece of
establish worship customs directly cloth that covered their heads, or a
opposed to contemporary Pagan headband. Devotees of Demeter wore a gray
worship customs.” woolen covering upon their heads, Athena’s
Amazon worshippers wore helmets, and the
Summary: This excuse is an attempt to keepers of Saturn’s temple wore cloaks of
associate the teaching of headcovering as Galatian scarlet over their heads.b Added to
opposition to the uncovered women of this was the religious complexity of
first-century Pagans, thereby claiming immigrant Egyptians, Barbarian slaves,
that since first-century Pagan worship has Asians, Africans, Jews, Spartans,
largely ended, the need for covering has
Samaritans, Armenians, and other ethnic
ended.
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NO MORE EXCUSES! - REVISION 3: 8/30/2007 1 CORINTHIANS 11:1-16

groups, plus the Gnostic (and similar) their girls into public places unveiled,
mystery religions, not to mention the but their married women veiled, he
assorted teachings of popular philosophers.c said, “Because the girls have to find
The strongest blow to this excuse is that husbands, and the married women
Paul never mentions any Pagans at all! So, have to keep to those who have them!”
given the complexity of first-century religion
in Corinth, and the first-century world in Clever readers will have already noticed that
general, this excuse has been rendered Plutarch, instead of making a statement
moot. about headcovering being a fact, is inquiring
___________________________________ about the customs himself. He was
a. The Urban Development of Ancient Corinth; Schroeder (University
of Michigan, 1965)
conjecturing that perhaps they were doing
b. Apologetic and Practical Treatises, Vol. 1; Tertullian/Dodgson something, but he was as unsure as we are!
(Parker, 1842)
c. From Religion to Philosophy: A Study in the Origins of Western Furthermore, these quotes were penned by
Speculation; Cornford (Courier Dover, 2004)
a Pagan priest around A.D. 110, fifty years
after the Corinthian epistle in question. So
this argument is based on a quote taken out
3. “I thought Paul was only of time and out of context. Sounds silly now,
requiring the rebellious Corinthian doesn’t it? What makes Plutarch’s quotes
women to keep a Corinthian custom, even more useless to the issue (if possible)
not anyone else.” is the fact that he is making inquiries into
second-century Roman funeral customs and
Summary: Those who offer up this excuse
female Spartan fashions, not the daily
believe that uncovered women were
ignoring a cultural taboo of the clothing customs of first-century Corinthian
Corinthians, thus Paul was only chastising women.
women who were challenging social The so-called scholars who rely on
norms, not revealing an ordinance for the Plutarch’s quote about Roman and Spartan
modern church. women in the Moralia also conveniently
ignore another tidbit about the Romans in
The “Poor Scholarship” Problem the “Moralia” and another of the Spartans
• The only evidence that ancient women of from his “The Comparison of Numa with
Corinth were required to be covered in Lycurgus”:
public anyone typically bothers to provide is
taken from just two passages by Plutarch. For in fact the skirts of the frock worn
by unmarried girls were not sewn
From his work “Moralia, The Roman
together at the lower part, but used to
Questions 14,” Plutarch asks the reader:
fly back and show the whole thigh bare
Why do sons cover their heads when as they walked. The thing is most
they escort their parents to the grave, distinctly given by Sophocles: “She,
while daughters go with uncovered also, the young maid, Whose frock, no
heads and hair unbound?… Or is it that robe yet o’er it laid, Folding back,
the unusual is proper in mourning, and leaves her bare thigh free, Hermione.”
it is more usual for women to go forth And so their women, it is said, were
in public with their heads covered and bold and masculine, overbearing to
men with their heads uncovered? their husbands in the first place,
absolute mistresses in their houses,
giving their opinions about public
In his “Sayings of Spartans” he pens:
matters freely, and speaking openly
When someone inquired why they took even on the most important subjects.

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NO MORE EXCUSES! - REVISION 3: 8/30/2007 1 CORINTHIANS 11:1-16

But formerly women were not the worship of chthonic [underworld]


allowed to cover the head at all… deities (in the form of a garment drawn
the second [to divorce his wife] was over the head). But it is quite wrong
Sulpicius Gallus, because he saw his that Greek women were under
wife pull her cloak over her head. some kind of compulsion to wear a
veil in public.b
Women were not formerly allowed to cover
the head at all! Headcovering was so It is hard to see how being uncovered in
offensive that a man divorced his wife! How worship would be shameful in the cultural
amazing that this tidbit never makes it into context, Mr. Hays, but not in the religious
the commentaries! And as for the Spartan context. The veil was a matter of fashion for
women, do they sound like any women you the Greeks, akin to the modern necktie or
know? Despite the myths perpetuated by scarf. This differs greatly from the observant
feminists of headcovering being a “universal Jews and other Oriental peoples who also
symbol of ancient modesty and male made their home in Corinth and usually
oppression,” of women being practically covered their women as a matter of
slaves, and (as was shown by the flaws of modesty (see: Babylonian Talmud;
the “The ‘Which Witch’ Problem”) the truth is Mishnah; Dio Chrysostom’s Orationes). The
that Corinth was a social melting pot with a difference of customs shows that there was
great many cultural ideas of propriety and no grand compulsory headcovering for
fashion. The Jew, the Greek, the Roman, the women, especially in Ancient Greece. So in
Barbarian, and every other man in Corinth truth, no one can make a reliable statement
would each have his own cultural and about the supposed cultural taboos of
personal biases regarding the dress and Corinth. Thanks to our study of Greco-
behavior of women. Just as the wide Roman cults, evidence indicates that first-
religious gaps of Corinth makes blanket century Roman men and women probably
statements about heathenism false, the approved the fashion of covered heads for
wide ethnic gaps of Corinth makes blanket both sexes in religious or temporal contexts.
statements about culture or the treatment Conversely, Greek men and women probably
of women plainly false. The Greeks of had no problem with uncovered heads in
Corinth, for instance, had no desire for any context, and Oriental men may have
constant veiling: been covered in temporal and religious
contexts, while Oriental women probably
It was not the normal custom for covered their heads anytime they went
women in Greek and Roman outside of the home. Anyone may guess how
cultures to be veiled; thus, it is hard Barbarian tribes could have dressed their
to see how their being unveiled in
females! Since there is no true literary
worship could be regarded as
evidence for Corinth’s compulsory covering
controversial or shameful.a
of women, it is better to trust in the Bible
It used to be asserted by theologians over the scant, uninspired quips of dead
that Paul was simply endorsing the Pagan priests.
unwritten law of hellenic and hellenistic ___________________________________
a. Interpretation: First Corinthians; Hays (Westminster, 1997)
feeling for what was proper. But this b. Theological Dictionary “KATAKALUPTO”; Oepke (Kittel, 1964)
view is untenable. To be sure, the veil
was not unknown in Greece. It was
worn partly as adornment and partly The “Which Culture is Best” Problem
on such special occasions as match- • Now that we have actually investigated the
making and marriage, mourning, and
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culture of Ancient Corinth and discovered a the only times covering or uncovering
multitude of differences by race, it is no becomes a requirement? Why was the
surprise that we find Paul dealing with the uncovering of men mentioned if a culture of
issue of headcoverings for men and women. covered women was at issue? The answer is
Members of each culture in the church would simple. Because, despite the custom of the
be unsure of when to cover and when not to Semitics, a woman could go without
cover in their new religion. This is where the covering when not praying or telling forth
Scripture really shines, as opposed to the God’s inspired word, thus having her hair
“wisdom” of men. exposed at other times, and a Semitic man
As we look at the probable cultural make- would need to remove his usual covering
up of the Corinthian church, we find men when doing the same. Despite the customs
with totally different ideas of modesty and of Romans, men should no longer cover
fashion. The Romans covered male and their heads with a toga, yet women would
female alike, or not, as styles ebbed and need to be covered. Despite the
flowed. The Greeks were more interested in unconcerned attitude of Greeks toward
intellectual and physical improvement, clothing, men and women must now be
giving very little thought to dress. The conscious of modesty and what covers their
Semitic tribes, including Hebrews, had a head when they pray. In all of recorded
long-standing tradition of admiring fine history, including the Old Testament, not
clothes and covering women from head to one culture can be shown to have both
toe, even covering their faces so much as to required men to be uncovered and women
expose only one eye. One may only to be covered only when praying or speaking
speculate upon the dress of Barbarian on behalf of deity. Paul is not endorsing any
women, but archaeology shows that one nation’s practice at all, but is revealing
Germanian, Celtic, and Scythian women a single custom for a nation that supplants
probably wore the same clothing as men, them all: Christ’s Kingdom.
and that none but Sarmatae women wore ___________________________________
a. The Dictionary of Art; Turner (Grove, 1996); COWA Surveys and
dresses up to the Middle Ages.a Slaves of Bibliographies (University of Michigan, 2006)
any race could only wear whatever their
masters (or Christian brothers) would
supply. Why is this significant? Because the The “Archeological” Problem
Bible is very specific about when the • Besides the lack of literary evidence in
headcovering is to be removed or worn— compulsory covering of women, there is the
when praying and prophesying (1 fact that not one bit of archeological
Corinthians 11:14-15). evidence from Corinth, Greece, or Rome
This just makes more sense when we look supports the doctrine that first-century
at 1 Timothy 2:9 & 1 Peter 3:2 and the rules women were covered as a rule either— no
of modest hair-dressing. Why would a urns, nor busts, nor mosaics, nor statues,
woman’s coiffure be an issue if she was nor frescos. Yes, there are artworks of
compelled to wear a veil all the time? covered women, but there are just as many
Whatever she may have done to her hair (or more) that show women uncovered.
would go unseen, since that customary veil Those who would make of a case that the
would cover it up. Furthermore, why would women of Corinth always went covered
she bother working so hard on fancy braids must explain all this uncovered artwork! The
when a veil would hide her glorious locks? If reason for all this uncovered art is clear
Paul was so concerned with the taboos of when one makes even a brief study of
Corinth, why were preaching and praying Rome’s “Julio-Claudian” and “Flavian”
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dynasties. custom where women covered, but was


The Julio-Claudian dynasty is a reckoning clearly opposed to a custom that would
of the Roman Empire from 27 B.C. to A.D. permit many women to go uncovered in
68 (precisely when the church of Christ was prayer and prophesy.
being established), named for the ___________________________________
a. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Roman Empire; Nelson (Alpha
descendants of Caesar Augustus. a It is Books, 2001)
during this period that we see an explosion
of artwork depicting important Roman
women and “goddesses.” In her book The “Liberal Hermeneutics” Problem
“Imperial Women: A Study in Public Images, • As was already discussed in the flaws of
40 B.C.-A.D. 68,” S. E. Wood catalogs an the “Pagan Worship excuse,” we have with
impressive number of images and quotes this excuse another case of adding to the
about the tastes of these trend-setters. As Bible. What makes this flaw particularly
would not surprise any Hollywood heinous requires an understanding of
hairdresser, the writings, the statues, the Biblical hermeneutics, a science of literary
urns, the paintings, even the coinage from interpretation, and a science too few put to
the Julio-Claudian mints, each show these use.
women proudly displaying bare heads. This When logically studying Scripture, one of
was, of course, because the women wanted the fundamental rules is that, if the Bible is
to display their marvelously intricate braids indeed the inspired truth of God, it must
and curls, woven with jewels and pearls. harmonize with itself.a This means if an
This display of vanity is proof that at least interpretation of a particular passage is true,
the wealthy female citizens in first-century then passages dealing with the same
Roman cities (including Corinth) dictated subject matter must agree with that
what went upon their own heads, not men. interpretation. So in order to test the idea
This can also be confirmed by Scripture. that Paul was only concerned with the
Paul tells the Christian women of Ephesus (a culture of Corinth, the first thing we must do
Roman city) to “…adorn themselves in is find another passage that deals with the
modest apparel, with propriety and same subject as 1 Corinthians 11.
moderation, not with braided hair or gold 1 Corinthians 14 should do well. In verses
or pearls or costly clothing…” (1 Timothy 34 & 35, Paul tells us to “Let your women
2:9), and Peter similarly says to Christian keep silent in the churches, for they are not
wives “Do not adorn yourselves permitted to speak…” and that, “…it is
outwardly by braiding your hair, and by shameful for women to speak in church.”
wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing…” Here is a passage that deals with Corinthian
(1 Peter 3:2). It was a choice a true women, how they are to behave in worship,
Christian woman made correctly, and a male/female relationships, the order of
choice Gentile women made poorly, but it creation, shameful behavior, and an ancient
was (and is) the woman’s choice culture. Now let’s see if the same cultural
nonetheless. The vain self-adornment by argument against headcovering can be
Gentile women condemned by Paul and applied to women speaking in the church:
Peter continued into the Flavian dynasty,
and well into Constantine’s rule. These In the Greek culture, women were
women were walking around with their discouraged from saying anything in
heads uncovered to display braided and public, and they were certainly not
styled hair. Thus Paul, contrary to today’s allowed to confront or question men
popular opinion, wasn’t an advocate of a publicly… In addition, women of that
day did not receive formal religious
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education as did the men… In this rather than something which is


instance, Paul was asking the permanently binding on all
Corinthian women not to flaunt their Christians. e

Christian freedom during worship. The


purpose of Paul’s writing was to As for the passages now found in the
promote unity, not to teach about the New Testament epistles of Paul,
role of women in the church.b concerning women's non-equality with
men and duty of subjection, there is
In groups, I have jokingly been no room to doubt that they are
reminded that “women are to be bare-faced forgeries, interpolated
silent” but have seldom been assured by unscrupulous bishops, during the
that women and men are equal. In this early period in which a combined and
enlightened age, some people still determined effort was made to reduce
don’t believe that women and men women to silent submission, not only in
are equal, and many feel a woman the Church, but also in the home and in
has no business speaking in church.c the State. A most laudably intended
attempt to excuse Paul for the
Paul may have wanted to “gradual inexcusable passages attributed to
into” the equality that he talked about his authorship has been made by a
in Galatians. Remember that the clergyman, who, accepting them
women were still the property of their as genuine Pauline utterances,
husbands, under Roman law. Paul was endeavors to show that they were
very sensitive to the culture in which meant to apply only to Greek
he and the early Corinthians lived. female converts, natives of
Living the Christian life, then even Corinth, and that the command to
more than now, involved walking a cover the head and to keep silent
tightrope between the freedom that in public was warranted, both
they had in Christ and the constraints because veiling the head and face
of their society. Also, Paul possibly was a Grecian custom, and
may not have been ready, personally, because the women of Corinth
for the social revolution that the full were of notoriously bad character.f
practice of freedom in Christ would
have brought.d “How,” asked a conference participant,
“do you deal with the fact that women
The early Christians chose not to dilute are told to be silent in First Corinthians
the gospel message, but attempted to fourteen?” …In responding to this
demonstrate the social acceptability of question, I reminded the audience of
Christianity. Inevitably, this meant the eleventh chapter of that same
bringing Christian attitudes toward letter where the apostle Paul gives
women more into line with those which instructions on hair… Paul argues
prevailed in the wider community. By that women should not pray with
the end of the fourth century such uncovered heads, a rule that none
social presures [sic] seem to have led of the conference participants
to the neglect, or perhaps even were following. My intent in this
suppression, of the ministerial roles of response was to show the
women within the church. But this is to difficulties of lifting rules out of the
be regarded as a response to a set of Bible and applying them directly to
specific historical circumstances contemporary life. There are many
encountered during this early period rules and laws in the Scripture that
in the development of the church, are so bound to the customs and
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the culture of the time that they custom of Corinth? First Corinthians Eleven
are inapplicable today…g indeed “makes a fundamental argument for
the headship of man over the woman,” but
Women preachers, prayer leaders, teachers, why? Just as the “fundamental argument for
and song leaders can be found usurping the headship of man over the woman” made
men in nearly every Protestant in 1 Timothy 2 is the reason why women
denomination, including so-called churches must not have authority over men, male
of Christ. Furthermore, governments, headship and the order of creation are the
schools, companies, and families are now exact same reason for women being covered
commonly overseen by women alone. You in prayer and prophesy:
must now acknowledge that it is no longer a
shame for a woman to rule or speak publicly “For man is not from woman, but
to the churches of Western society, but is woman from man. Nor was man
instead considered a sign of enlightenment. created for the woman, but woman
Worldly women flock to preachers who can for the man. For this reason the
find ways to modify unpopular Scripture in woman ought to have a symbol of
authority on her head…”
their favor. Therefore, if it is true that the
(1 Corinthians 11:8-10)
changes in popular culture override
Scriptural arguments not bound to culture,
The reason women exist is because God
then women may indeed preach and pray
made them for men. Let that soak in a little.
aloud in churches today. But if women are
Feminists HATE the very idea, and therefore
never to be preachers to men, based on the
HATE following the Bible. But just as the
reasons given in Scripture, then they must
remainder of Scripture denies a liberal
also be covered in prayer and prophesy.
interpretation of Chapter Fourteen by
Whatever is true for one is true for the other.
appealing to the immutable creation (1
Was Paul only concerned with a temporary
Timothy 2:11-15), it also denies a liberal
cultural rebellion in Chapter Eleven? Then
interpretation of Chapter Eleven by applying
that was his concern in Chapter Fourteen!
the same rule. Headcovering is not subject
Was Chapter Fourteen meant to be binding
to culture, it is subject to the fact that
for all time? Then so too was Chapter
women were created for men. A fact that
Eleven:
has not changed. A fact that will never
The first reason given for the change, no matter how hated it is. If a
restrictions on women is the order of Christian is applying the arguments of
creation, “For Adam was formed first, creation only to Chapter Fourteen, but not to
then Eve” ([1 Timothy] 2:13, NKJV). Eleven, he is practicing the hypocrisy of a
This certainly cannot be said to “double-minded, double-tongued man” (1
deal with just a local, temporary Timothy 3:8, James 1:6).
cultural situation or with a grumpy ___________________________________
a. Hermeneutics, a Text Book; Dungan (Gospel Light, 1888)
old man. This goes all the way back b. Life Application Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Corinthians; Barton,
to the sixth day of creation and Osborne & Veerman (Tyndale House, 1999)
c. A New Testament View of Women; Stephens (Authors Book Nook,
makes a fundamental argument for 1980)
the headship of man over the d. If My People Who Are Called Baptists…: A Layman’s Challenge;
Dodd (Self-Published, 1996)
woman – “Adam was formed first, e. An Introduction to Christianity; MacGrath (Blackwell, 1997)
then Eve” (cf. I Corinthians 11:8-9)h f. The Woman's Bible; Stanton (Revising Committee, 1898)
g. Reformed and Feminist: A Challenge to the Church; Van Wijk-Bos
(Westminster John Knox, 1991)
h. The Role of Women in the Lord’s Church; Ted Clarke (Fulton
Why did Paul refer to the creation order in 1 County Gospel News, Nov 1997)
Corinthians 11:8-9 if this is simply a cultural
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The “Every Church” Problem That’s ruinous to the “Culture of Corinth”


• Once again, we find the Scriptures have excuse, but what if the opposite is true? If
provided a simple yet powerful way to every single faithful Christian and church
eliminate this false doctrine in one little DID have a custom of covering their women,
verse. After asking if it is a proper activity then Paul was telling the contentious that
for women to pray uncovered, he states: regardless of whatever culture Christians
“and if anyone seems to be contentious, we may be found in, a true Christian church is
have no such custom, nor do the churches always expected to keep women covered in
of God.” (1 Corinthians 11:16). Although prayer and prophesy. This also destroys the
some will argue this verse means that idea that Paul was limiting his remarks to
headcovering wasn’t the custom, and others Corinth alone, since it is a custom that all
say it shows it was once a universal custom, faithful churches in every sort of culture
those arguments are immaterial to this flaw, (including the vain, uncovered Roman,
so the meaning of that verse will be dealt Greek, and Egyptian cultures) were keeping,
with in another section. Of more importance as taught by Paul’s statement. Either way,
to us is what this verse implies. It is a whatever the culture of Corinth may have
declaration that everyone Paul associates been, it clearly meant nothing compared to
with and every faithful church all agree on the universal custom of the church of Christ.
one thing; either they all kept the custom of
covering, or none of them did. There is no
middle ground, and that is the significant 4. “I was told that Corinthian
point. prostitutes went uncovered, so Paul
Why is this significant? If every single was telling Corinthian women not to
faithful Christian and church DID NOT have look like prostitutes.”
a custom of covering their women, then no
faithful Christian in the world was keeping Summary: Those who offer up this excuse
the custom of headcovering at all. This believe that, unlike proper ladies, only
would by necessity include churches among prostitutes went uncovered in the first-
nations we know for a fact required women century. Thus Paul was only chastising
to always be covered, nations such as women who were dressing like Corinthian
Tarsus, Jerusalem, Armenia, Persia, etc. So prostitutes, not revealing an ordinance for
the modern church.
if we believe that no church anywhere
covered their women (even ones located in
The “More Poor Scholarship” Problem
societies that definitely covered women), it
• Probably the most common rationalization
was therefore fine for those Christian
offered up by the brethren and the
women to ignore their cultures. But here
denominationalist alike, this excuse is the
was Paul, telling the women in Corinth not to
ideological twin of the previous excuse of
rebel against culture and instead be
the “Culture of Corinth” that has been well
covered. That is a glaring contradiction!
refuted, and has many of the same flaws.
Either Paul wants Christian women in
Case in point, just as there is a dearth of
Corinth to keep the Corinthian culture and
literary evidence to support the claim of
be the only church that breaks the Christian
compulsory veiling of women in Corinth,
custom, or Paul wants them to be like every
also severely lacking is any evidence for
other church and flaunt the supposed
unveiled women being considered
headcovering culture of Corinth. There is
Corinthian prostitutes.
only one church, or there are culture-
For decades, the “logic” of preachers and
defined denominations. Which is it?
teachers has been that (1) the temple of
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Aphrodite in Corinth had “a thousand centuries before it was even conquered by


temple-courtesans” as slaves,a (2) Pagan Rome. This history was based on word-of-
cults required priestesses to worship with mouth, since no one from that time still
their heads uncovered, (3) prostitutes in lived, nor does he quote any documents
Corinthian cults must also have been himself. Strabo also states that the
priestesses, so (4) decent “non-harlot” contemporary temple of Aphrodite of his day
Christian women always wore a veil to be was small and relatively poor, not a palace
opposite of them. These teachers, asserting full of courtesans, which is also confirmed by
that prostitution was a common practice in archaeology.c Did the temples employ
the rites connected with Aphrodite (also prostitutes? Certainly, but certainly as a
Artemis), particularly at Ephesus and means to provide cultists with wealth or
Corinth, have used these prostitutes as pleasure-- there is no evidence that they
proof Paul was more concerned with women served as priestesses.
coming out of such immoral cults bringing Along with the common myth of Paul’s
their immoral cultic ways into the body of interest in temple prostitutes being
Christ than creating an ordinance for the perpetuated by poor commentaries and
modern church. Furthermore, it is taught word-of-mouth, there is only one literary
that Christian women were only told to indication of the lack of headcovering ever
cover as to not be confused with the Pagan being linked directly with prostitution. From
harlots that continued in these cults and the 12th century B.C. Assyria, in the time of
society as a whole. Tiglath-Pileser, the Middle Assyrian Laws
This would seem right if true, but it is not preserved on clay tablets contain a law
true. Professor S. M. Baugh found that requiring all Assyrian women to cover their
ancient sources on such prostitution have heads in public, with the exception of
been greatly misinterpreted as prostitutes, who are forbidden to cover their
contemporary Greco-Roman practices. heads.d So here is the original source for the
Baugh found no evidence for cultic myth that only a prostitute in Corinth went
prostitution being practiced at Ephesus or uncovered, yet it is useless as evidence
Corinth at all.b He reviewed inscriptions since (1) it is dated over one-thousand
naming priestesses of Artemis at Ephesus years before the time the Corinthian epistle
and concluded these inscriptions offer not was written, and (2) it was an Assyrian law,
only zero evidence of cultic prostitution by not a Greek law.
priestesses but, on the contrary, indicate What makes all this so significant is the
that the priestesses were daughters of fact that human knowledge is so terribly
Ephesian nobility that served the goddess unreliable. The excellent research of
(since the inscriptions state “in purity”). The Professor Baugh shows that the doctrine of
ancient sources quoted by advocates of this Corinthian cult priestess-prostitution,
doctrine actually discuss cultic prostitution already widely disseminated in churches
being practiced in foreign countries several today without any Scriptural support, is
centuries before the first-century, such as unsupported by historic documents as well.
was done in ancient Armenia. Combined with this is the fact that there is
Worse, the quote taken from “Strabo’s also no evidence of standardized heathen
Atlas” concerning Corinth’s “thousand worship between Greco-Roman cults that
courtesans” was written thirty years before would show the prostitutes of every cult
Paul’s epistle. It also was not written went uncovered as a rule, or even if any did.
concerning the current state of first-century As was already shown in the flaws of the
Corinth, but the history of Corinth four “Culture of Corinth” there simply is no
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literary evidence that any Greeks or Romans portraiture throughout the imperial
wore veils in public as a function of law or period. Because imitation of imperial
modesty, nor to prevent association with portraiture was so prevalent in
prostitution. Naturally, if this is not the case, privately commissioned portraits,
then proponents of this excuse should be modern scholars are able to date
able to easily provide us with historic proof. otherwise unidentifiable portraits by
___________________________________ making stylistic comparisons of the
a. The Geography of Strabo; Strabo/Sons (William Heinemann Ltd., treatment of the hair with well-
1966)
b. Cult Prostitution In New Testament Ephesus: A Reappraisal; Baugh documented and datable imperial
(Evangelical Theological Society, 1999) examples.”a
c. Corinth: The First City of Greece; Rothaus (Brill Academic, 2000)
d. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament;
Pritchard (Princeton University, 1954)
This is the method used by archaeologists to
date both male and female artwork to the
first-century. For specifically Corinthian
The “Uncovered Artworks” Problem
examples of this nature, we can now look to
• When deconstructing the “Culture of the museums.
Corinth” myth, the evidence of archaeology On the bronze coins struck in Corinth,
was very useful. Indeed, the abundance of Agrippina Major is shown in profile, proudly
bare-headed females in the art of Julio- showing us her elaborate braids, a hairstyle
Claudian Corinth is even more devastating which dates her coin at around A.D. 20. Her
to the “Corinthian Prostitution” excuse.
daughter, Agrippina Minor, follows suit
When looking through the various
around A.D. 50 on a coin of her own, with
museums and catalogs of first-century
another fine batch of curls. In the journal
women uncovered in Corinthian artwork,
“Corinth: Results of Excavations Conducted
women depicted in flattering statues, relief by the American School of Classical Studies
work of women carved into family tombs, in at Athens. Volume XII, The Minor Objects,”
frescos, in artwork on urns, in mosaics, Gladys Davidson catalogs nineteen different
stamped on coins and intaglio, or cast in female heads from the first- and second-
bronze, all appear with no veil and with century Corinth (artifact numbers 395-415).
finely styled hair.
Each one is bareheaded, displaying the
The identity of these women is usually a
same elaborate curls of their Italian
mystery, such as the “Portrait Bust of a
counterparts. In fact, most of the uncovered
Roman Matron” from A.D. 41–68 on display
artwork we find is made in the image of
at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, found on some woman in government, or at least
the Italian Peninsula. But the archaeology very wealthy ladies. So not only are there
department is confident that: many examples empire-wide that show
…the imitation of imperial hairstyles by women going without headcovering, the
contemporary Roman women was women of Corinth do the same, as these
common throughout the Roman women are proudly going without them. Are
period, and this work is one of many these women, honored mothers, wives,
examples in which private portraits sisters, and cousins of noblemen, the
were strongly influenced by official characterizations of revered “goddesses,”
images of the imperial family. are these ladies being depicted as
prostitutes? It does not really matter how
Furthermore, many pieces of art show covered women,
the ridiculousness of the idea that any noble
distinctive and elaborate hairstyles women would display themselves as
were a major aspect of female common harlots, along with the well-
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documented information from Rome and also dealt with in Roman law:
Greece concerning the hairstyles of first-
century women, has demolished the fictional If anyone accosts young girls, even
doctrine that uncovered Corinthian women ones dressed as slaves, he would seem
were viewed to be prostitutes. to have committed only a minor
___________________________________ offense– and it is even less serious if
a. Timeline of Art History (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000) they are got up as prostitutes and not
From the Staatliche Museen, Berlin (inv. no. 1802)
dressed like respectable matrons. Still,
if a woman was not dressed in
matronly clothes, anyone who calls out
The “Roman Laws” Problem to her or who entices away her
• Beyond the flaws in this excuse pertaining chaperon is liable to an action for
to historical literature and archaeology, injustice.b
there is the actual legal dress codes for
prostitutes given for subjects of the Roman Ulpianus doesn’t feel a bit sorry for young
Empire, of which Corinth was subject. girls who dress like tramps and foreign
Prostitutes were expected to register with slaves, nor is he surprised such would be
the state and pay taxes, and were forbidden harassed by ruttish males. We also find that
by law from wearing the stola (the usual many prostitutes went unregistered to avoid
dress of freeborn women). Also banned paying the high taxes, and disguised
were shoes, purple robes, jewelry, and the themselves to hide from diligent publicans.
colorful ribbons that Roman women used to Publicans were therefore constantly on the
decorate their hair. The law instead required look-out for women who may be
harlots to wear sandals (how odd Paul never unregistered harlots, making it unlikely that
condemns sandal-wearing!), and to wear Christian women would dress in a way that
the togas of men, but togas made with a would attract unwanted legal problems. It
floral-pattern. They were also expected to clearly took much more than a missing
dye their hair yellow, red, or blue. There is headcovering for a woman to be identified
no mention of headcoverings whatsoever, as a harlot by Roman society, and we see
and the few laws that existed were seldom that women of the Roman Empire, prostitute
enforced. Many harlots wore prohibited or otherwise, so blurred the lines of fashion
clothing. Others wore their togas in that there really was no such thing as a hard
outrageously bright colors, while others and fast “prostitute’s uniform.” Most ironic
wore nearly transparent robes of gauze. Still and fitting is this quote from John Calvin, a
others chose to wear no clothing at all, poor theologian to be sure, but an
rather they sat outside of their brothels in astoundingly accurate sociologist:
the nude, waiting for customers while
tanning in the sun. Unlike the common So, when it is permissible for the
brothel slaves, the expensive and glorified women to uncover their heads, one will
courtesans of the nobility wore clothes as say, “Well, what harm in uncovering
fine as any lady, and dressed how they the stomach also?” And then after that
wished. On the other hand, women who
a one will plead [for] something else:
“Now if the women go bareheaded,
weren’t harlots would frequently wear the
why not also [bare] this and [bare]
revealing togas of men, dye their hair yellow
that?” Then the men, for their part, will
or red, or wear red and blonde wigs made of
break loose too. …So if women are thus
slave-hair to look more like the attractive permitted to have their heads
young girls captured from Gaul, Germania, uncovered and to show their hair, they
and Britannia. This issue of wantonness is will eventually be allowed to expose
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their entire breasts, and they will come like a prostitute, or is Paul concerned with a
to make their exhibitions as if it were a woman covering her head during worship to
tavern show… In short, there will be no honor her male authority? One can draw
decency left, unless people contain only three logical conclusions from this
themselves and respect what is proper verse: (1) Paul didn’t know anything about
and fitting, so as not to go headlong supposed Corinthian prostitution customs,
overboard.c because he never mentions them and
advocates a custom that would permit
John Calvin’s “Girls Gone Wild” sermon, c. women to go uncovered like harlots outside
1540. How did Calvin know what the women of worship, (2) Paul is aware of supposed
of the 20th and 21st centuries would be uncovered prostitutes, but never mentions
getting up to? Because unrighteous women them and condones looking like a harlot at
blurred the lines of decency in century-one, any other time but prayer or prophesy, or
in century-sixteen, and it still takes baring a (3) Paul is teaching Corinthians an
lot more than a head to make a girl look like honorable worship ordinance that has
a prostitute. nothing to do with how Corinthian
___________________________________
a. History of Prostitution; Sanger (Eugenics Publishing, 1937) prostitutes may dress.
b. The Digest, 47.10.15.15 (Ulpianus)
c. Men, Women and Order in the Church: Three Sermons by John
Calvin; Skolnitsky (Presbyterian Heritage, 1992)

The “Source of Shame” Problem


• As was examined in the “Ancient Custom”
The “Time to Cover” Problem excuse, Paul gave several timeless reasons
• Once again, a study of the flaws of the why a man should have his head uncovered
“Which Culture is Best” and the “Apples & in prayer and prophesy, and why a woman
Oranges” problems have given us the key to should cover in the same acts of worship.
another flaw. Those who teach that Paul was One of these important reasons dealt with is
condemning women for looking like shame. But is it the shame associated with
prostitutes are ignoring the Bible, which playing the harlot? Is it the shame of
clearly says women only need to cover when dressing immodestly in the sight of God? Is
praying or prophesying (1 Corinthians it the shame of appearing evil or mocking
11:5,13). Where is the verse that reads “But societal decency? No, it is the shame of
every woman who walks in the way with her baldness:
head uncovered dishonors her head,” or the
verse that reads “Judge among yourselves. “For if a woman is not covered, let her
Is it proper for a woman to leave the house also be shorn. But if it is shameful
with her head uncovered like a prostitute?” for a woman to be shorn or shaved,
The diligent student has already discerned let her be covered.”
that Paul makes no mention of daily (1 Corinthians 11:6)
headcovering customs or prostitutes, but
has only associated headcovering to acts of Commentators and commentaries try
worship. desperately to confuse the meaning of this
Apply this logic to 1 Corinthians 11:5 - verse, claiming “difficulty” and attempting to
“…every woman who prays or prophesies distract Christians with notions of slave
with her head uncovered dishonors her women or prostitutes being bald,
head…” In reading this statement, would associations with cults, or times of mourning
you say Paul is concerned with a woman for Pagans. This is unscriptural,
always covering her head to avoid looking unsupportable nonsense right from the
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devil, obfuscating what is perfectly clear: is translated from the Greek word keiro,
meaning cut closely, to shear, as sheep.c
shav'-ing (in Job 1:20, gazaz, usually Paul gives the reader two choices: either a
galach; in Acts 21:24, xurao): Customs woman covers her hair or it gets shorn off
as to shaving differ in different like a sheep in spring.
countries, and in ancient and modern So if there is no evidence that baldness is
times. Among the Egyptians it was associated with societal shame, why is shorn
customary to shave the whole body or shaved hair shameful? Ask a woman!
[including the heads of both sexes] According to Global Cosmetic Industry
(compare Gen 41:14). With the researchers, in 2005 women worldwide
Israelites, shaving the head was a sign spent 51 billion dollars on hair care
of mourning (Dt 21:12; Job 1:20); products. That’s billion with a “b” and it
ordinarily the hair was allowed to grow doesn’t count appliances like curling irons or
long, and was only cut at intervals blow dryers, just lotions, dyes, and soaps.
(compare Absalom, 2 Sam 14:26). Women world-wide love their hair!
Nazirites [male and female] were
forbidden to use a razor, but when • Fashion Magazines are endlessly
their vow was expired, or if they were devoted to articles, photographs, and
defiled, they were to shave the whole advertising for hair-care or the latest
head (Nu 6:5,9,18 ff; compare Acts hair trends of popular culture.
21:24)a • Women in the American Armed
Forces have been allowed to keep long
There is also a very good chance that some hair when their male counterparts have
of the women of the Corinth church were not.
slaves, and slaves were regularly shaved by • Women suffering from diseases or
their Greek and Roman masters: medical treatments that cause
baldness and hair-loss frequently
The slave also assumed the toga or employ wigs and hats to hide the
dress of a Roman citizen, shaved his symptoms and cover their shame.
head and put on a pileus: this last • Female celebrities who shave their
circumstance explains the expression “ heads are mocked by comedians as
servos ad pileuin vocare “ (Liv. xxiv. being crazy or “taking drugs.”
32), which means to invite the slaves • A bald woman is a shocking device
to join in some civil disturbance by used frequently in the comedies and
promising them liberty. At the time dramas of popular entertainment.
when Gains wrote, the peculiar rights
of Roman citizens were of less In his excellent book “Wimples and Crisping
importance than they had been under Pins: Being Studies in the Coiffure and
Ornaments of Women,” Theodore Child
the republic. He states that all slaves
who were manumitted in the gives a grand history of women’s love of
proper form and under the proper hairstyles and hair decorations throughout
legal conditions, became complete the ages. A woman’s hair is her glory. Shorn
Roman citizens.b hair is shameful for a woman because shorn
hair makes her look strange and feel
Shaving was something a slave did as a ashamed. Isn’t this what Paul tells us in
mark of freedom, and there is nothing verses 7 & 15? Does he not confirm that
shameful about freedom! The word “shorn” women are a glory to men, and a woman’s
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long hair is her personal glory? 5. “I thought that long hair is the
This idea that a woman who refuses to covering Paul writes about.”
wear a covering to pray should be shorn is
comparable to Christ’s dialog on sinning: Summary: Those who use this excuse
believe that Paul indeed wanted women to
“And if your eye causes you to sin, be covered, but that the covering was long
pluck it out. It is better for you to enter hair, not clothing.
the kingdom of God with one eye,
rather than having two eyes, to be cast The “Katakaluptos” Problem
into hell fire.” • The greatest problem for those who wish
(Mark 9:47) to substitute “long hair” as the covering
Scripture demands of women is the
Does Christ advocate self-mutilation, or is etymology of the Koine Greek words
He illustrating the seriousness of sin? Paul is translated “covered” and “uncovered.” In
clearly saying the same thing— if you can’t this passage, Paul utilizes “kata” and
get a woman to cover normally, then give “kaluptos” extensively.
her the option of going bald and see if she The first problem with trying to make hair
makes the right choice, since women who go the covering is the usage of “kata” and
bald tend to cover their shame. Two choices “kaluptos.” In both cases, these words are
are given; a sensible one and a crazy one. verbs, not nouns or adjectives. Why is this
For a woman, being uncovered in prayer and significant? Paul is not speaking of a
prophesy should be as shameful as having particular object, including “hair,” but of an
her hair shorn: action. This means that, despite what is
popular to teach, neither “first-century veils”
“But every woman who prays or nor “hair styles” are important to Paul, only
prophesies with her head uncovered concealing and revealing the head are
dishonors her head, for that is one and important.
the same as if her head were shaved.” Suppose Mary told her daughter, “Cover
(1 Corinthians 11:5) your head when you go to the hockey
game.” Would you think Mary was telling her
The shame isn’t in being associated with daughter to have long hair, or was she
prostitution, it’s the timeless shame of telling her daughter to put on a warm hat?
looking like a “weirdo.” If women come If this really were a matter of a woman
before God in prayer uncovered, they look being required to grow her hair long, then
as shameful to Him as they would to their there would be no need for words to
husbands if they went out with a shaved describe any action other than the growing
head. Don’t believe a woman would be of hair, which Paul never uses. In fact, he
ashamed to be shorn? If you are a husband uses the opposite. He declares that
that does not believe, offer to shear your uncovered women be shorn (1 Corinthians
wife’s hair for her. If you are a woman, go 11:6), quite a stupid commandment for
ahead and shave your scalp to prove Paul women whose supposed sin is having short
wrong. hair. One may as well expect Paul to demand
___________________________________ a thief of ten drachma be commanded to
a. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “SHAVING”; Orr (1915)
b. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, MANUMISSIO; Smith
steal 100 drachma as a punishment. And
(John Murray, 1875) when does one stop shaving this woman?
c. Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, “KEIRW”; Vine
(1940) Her hair would be man-like again before it
would be woman-like.

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NO MORE EXCUSES! - REVISION 3: 8/30/2007 1 CORINTHIANS 11:1-16

Women are to “be covered” and men are confirmed by examining the Septuagint and
to “be uncovered.” Being a long-haired contemporary Greek literature. In the LXX
woman or being a short-haired woman is [Greek Septuagint], usage of “kalupto”
not a function of verbs, but of adjectives. As (also: “apokalupto,” “katakalumma,”
has already been proven several times “katakalupto,” “kalumma,” “krupto”
before, we know that the covering is “sunkalumma,” and “sunkalupto”) refers to
external, because it is for specific occasions: an external fabric covering that totally
when a woman prays or prophesies. A conceals over 80 times, but never once to
woman cannot “cover herself with long hair” long hair:
when she prays, then “uncover herself” by
cutting her hair when she cooks dinner, then • Gen 38:15 - “…she had covered her
“cover herself with hair” again if she wishes face…” (with a veil - Gen 38:14)
to pray before bed. Furthermore, how could • Exo 28:42 - “…make them linen
a woman with short hair “be covered” in breeches to cover their nakedness…”
• Num 5:18 - “And the priest shall set
order to be compliant with the epistle? She
the woman before the Lord, and
would need to wait in disobedient and
uncover the woman’s head…” (her hair
tedious shame until her hair grew enough to
also uncovered)
be considered “long.” And what of women • Ruth 3:4,7 - “…and you shall go in,
who cannot grow long hair, for whatever uncover his feet…; “…she came softly,
reason? A cloth covering (including a handy uncovered his feet…” (a blanket)
towel or blanket) never incurs these sort of • Est 6:12 - “…and having his head
problems, and fits the word “katakaluptos” covered…” (his hair also covered)
perfectly.
The second problem to this idea of hair is Plutarch, in his “Sayings of the Romans”
the usage of the word “kalupto” in other (which other scholars quote so poorly),
places in Scripture. Everywhere in the Bible, speaks of Scipio the Younger walking
when the word kalupto (or a derivative) is through Alexandria “having the garment
utilized, it refers to an external object being down the head” (kata kephales), meaning
the object that conceals, whether literal or that he concealed his head with part of his
figurative: toga to avoid being recognized by the
people. In verse four, Paul uses the exact
• Matt 8:24 - “…the ship was covered
same phrase: “kata kephales echon…” also
with the waves…”
meaning an object covering the head.
• Luke 8:16 - “No one, when he has lit
Since this covering is external, hair
a lamp, covers it with a vessel…”
cannot be the covering; it is a part of the
• Luke 23:30 - “Then they will begin to
say to the mountains… ‘Cover us!’” head (Matt 5:36, Luke 7:44, Luke 12:7, Acts
• 1 Peter 4:8 - “…love will cover a 21:24). Hair is always covered when the
multitude of sins.” head is “katakalupto” (concealed). The
contemporary Greek- and Hebrew-speaking
Kata means “down” or “about” and kalupto translators of the Law and Prophets
means “to hide,”a together indicating “hiding understood the meaning of katakaluptos to
down” or “concealment.” This word, be an external covering of some sort.
although translated as “cover,” is clearly Likewise the students of the LXX and Greek-
indicating total concealment by some other speaking Christians in first-century Corinth
thing: a light blacked-out by a pot, men would recognize Paul’s usage of the
totally hidden from sight by mountains, sins common Greek idiom referring to an
obscured by love, etc. This is further external covering, thus precluding long hair
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NO MORE EXCUSES! - REVISION 3: 8/30/2007 1 CORINTHIANS 11:1-16

from being the covering in question. or tooth as an equalizer. The word “for” is
___________________________________ used again in this case, but can someone
a. Strong’s [G2596] & [G2572]; See also: [G2813] & [G2928],
cause another’s lost eye or tooth “to be” or
“as” a missing part? Was Jesus saying “an
eye as an eye?” The other man’s eye, once
The “Anti-Peribolaion-Komao” Problem
removed, will not return vision to another
• The primary source of the “Hair as
blinded eye. If your teeth get knocked out,
Covering” myth is found in the typical
knocking out another man’s teeth will not fill
English translation of 1 Corinthians 11:15 -
your empty gums. It is clear that anti is
“But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory
used in this case to illustrate that there was
to her: for her hair is given her for a
a perceived compensational value between
covering.” It is not difficult to see how this
the different eyes or teeth of the victim and
reading would lead people to believe that
the attacker.
long hair is the covering God expects.
In Ephesians 5:31, Paul is speaking of the
The first problem is the translation of the
church’s relationship to Christ, and he uses
word “for” in the “for a covering” portion of
anti in a very enlightening way. A man and
the verse. When many Christians see the
woman becoming one flesh in marriage is
word “for” being used, it is natural to
anti to the body of Christ. The bride and
assume it is the same English “for” as found
groom of a Scriptural marriage, although
in the statement “for the remission of sins”
fundamentally different from the church, are
of Acts 2:38. We are baptized “to be” saved;
similar to Christ and His church. It teaches a
women were given hair “to be” covered. The
powerful lesson on how the church is to
New International Version even “helps” us
regard her Head, and how spouses should
believe this by translating it “as a covering.”
regard each other. It is seriously doubtful
The Greek word translated “for” and “as”
that preachers who teach hair as a covering
in Acts is not the same Greek word found in
would teach that a marriage between a man
First Corinthians. In Acts, the word is “eis,”
and a woman was given “as” the church.
but in the Corinthian Epistle, it is “anti.”
Our final and most powerful example
Greek anti is a very special word in the New
comes from Hebrews 12:2, where the
Testament, utilized by the Spirit for one
inspired writer tells us “Jesus, the author
specific task. Words like “anti-Christ,” “anti-
and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that
type,” “adversary (anti-keimenos),”
was set before Him endured the cross.”
“contradiction (anti-thesis),” all speak of
Once again, the “for” is “anti”; Jesus Christ
conflict and contrast. In the Septuagint, anti
suffered on the cross “for” the joy set before
is most often used in matters of
Him. Only by enduring that horrible
compensation— one object’s value being
punishment could Christ later receive that
compared to a different object’s value. Anti
joy he sought for us all. Although almost
is a word of comparison, always used to
exact opposites, the joy is compensation for
illustrate similarities between different
His obedience to the point of painful and
subjects and differences between similar
humiliating death. Who now will dare to say
subjects, as a short study will demonstrate.
that suffering on the cross was filling Christ
In Matthew 5:38, Jesus is quoted as
with pain “as” joy? The anti teaches here
saying “…ophthalmon anti ophthalmou kai
and elsewhere that the value of joy was
odonta anti odontos,” or in English “…an eye
worth the suffering on the cross as an
for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” This was
exchange. Clearly this word is used by the
apparently a common teaching for the Jews,
Holy Spirit to show how two very different
meaning when someone caused an eye or
objects can be related, especially when used
tooth to be lost, they also should lose an eye
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to teach a spiritual principle. The word anti “outer-garment,” so to speak. Although


placed before peribolaion is not meant to styles of these garments varied by date and
mean “to be” or “as,” but “in the place of,” the sex of the wearer, they all shared three
“against,” or “compared to.” The classic things in common: (1) a peribolaion was a
French-language “Louis Segond” Bible of square piece of cloth that protected at least
1910 correctly translates the “anti” in verse the neck and shoulders (sometimes the back
fifteen “…la chevelure lui a été donnée and chest), (2) it added color to the typically
comme voile,” or “…the hair was given to plain “inner-garment,” and (3) it was used
her like a veil.” as a blanket or luggage when traveling.a
In one last attempt to show the danger of While the Spirit directs us to have our heads
believing anti can be translated to mean “displayed” or “hidden” by using the verbs
“as,” please look at the term “anti-Christ” akatakaluptos and katakaluptos, He
once more. If anti allows for an even trade, compares the long hair of a woman to a
that would mean an anti-Christ and Christ garment which is cast about the body, not
are equals. That alone should be enough to the head. A kaluma (veil; 2 Corinthians
give a reader pause. 3:13, ) and a peribolaion (cloak) are two
The second problem is related to the first, different items with two different purposes,
since they both produce an outcome and they are not interchangeable. Yet by use
opposite of the intended message delivered of anti, we can see how a woman’s hair,
by Paul. The translators have usually made although different from clothing, can be
katakalupto, which actually means “to hide positively compared to a warm and lovely
down,” say “cover” or “veil,” That translation shawl. This makes even more sense when
is not a horrible mistake, but the real trouble we again compare peribolaion with
arrives with the translation of peribolaion, parabole. The purpose of a parable wasn’t to
which is also written as “covering” or “veil.” conceal, but to complement. By “casting
To say the translation of peribolaion is down beside” a parable when teaching,
misleading is a huge understatement. Jesus revealed the truth. His parables didn’t
Students of Greek may recognize conceal the ideas, but instead emphasized
peribolaion as being similar to parabole, our them by encouraging scrutiny. The natural
English “parable.” Both peribolaion and cast-around peribolaion of a woman doesn’t
parabole come from two Greek words conceal her glory, it emphasizes it.
meaning “something thrown” and “around” Next are the Greek words “kome” and
or “near.” The word peribolaion literally “komao,” which are mistranslated in the
means “a thing thrown around or near,” and King James and later english versions as
is used to describe an article of clothing like merely “hair” and “long hair,” (likely because
a shawl or cloak. Ironically, this is precisely of the utilization of the Latin translation,
what the English translators of Hebrews which used “comam” [“hair of the head”]
1:12 translate peribolaion to be: vesture, and “capilli” [“hair”]b).
mantle, coat, or cloak (strange they forgot These Greek words for hair are singular to
how to do this in the Corinthian epistle…). 1 Corinthians and the entire Bible. For
The word peribolaion also appears in the centuries, theologians have tried to figure
Septuagint, always used to describe a cloak out why nature would teach that long hair
(or garment) or figurative garment (Exo on a man is shameful, not bothering to
22:26, Deu 22:12, Psa 102:26, Isa 59:17). investigate the Greek words.
So what precisely is this peribolaion, or Everywhere else in Scripture where
cloak? Archaeology teaches it was a piece of ordinary male or female hair is meant, long
clothing that went over the basic tunic, an or short (also including the mundane fur of
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NO MORE EXCUSES! - REVISION 3: 8/30/2007 1 CORINTHIANS 11:1-16

animals), the Holy Spirit uses “thrix” (Matt length. Paul could have easily used “khaite,”
3:4; Luke 7:38; Acts 27:34; Rev 1:14). Yet the actual Greek word for long hair, or the
when posing the question of nature’s lesson, present subjunctive active verb-form of this
Paul asks the reader if “komao” (not thrix) word for having loose, flowing hair. The
does indeed bring shame to a man. What is words used by Paul do not indicate long hair
the difference? or ordinary hair, but the ornamental hair
Both kome and komao are derived from typical of women. Paul is simply reminding
the Greek word “komeo.”c The following is a the reader that styled hair looks shameful
list of Greek words derived from this root: on a man, but glorious on a woman.
Is it a cause of shame in our culture for a
• komeo - “care for” man to have long hair? No, it is often a
• komizo - Luke 7:37 - “bring” measure of attractiveness, as it was for
• kompsoteron - John 4:52 - “improve” David’s son Absalom (2 Sam 14:25). This is
• kosmeo - Titus 2:10 - “adorn” true of many cultures, both historical and
• kosmetikos - “skilled in adorning” contemporary:
• kosmios - 1 Tim 2:9 - “decorous”
• kosmos - 1 Pet 3:3 - “arrange” • American Indian - American Indian
men wore long hair before the arrival
All of these words are variations on the western influences on their culture. (In
theme of tending and improvement, so it is Cherokee legends, for example, males
no surprise that kome has a similar said to be handsome were often
meaning. As Strong puts it, kome is “locks, described as having “long hair
as ornamental, and thus differing from almost to the ground”e)
[thrix].”d In fact, by using the word kome,
there is more emphasis of the ornamental • Asian - Chinese men adopted a
over the hair itself, and komao is nothing hairstyle in the 1600’s called a queue,
more than a verb-form of kome, akin to the basically a long braid. This style lasted
verb komeo. well into the nineteenth-century. f
Because komao is a verb, and not a noun, Common Buddhists have long hair.g
it is very improper to translate it as such. Among the Punjab Sikhs, Kesh is the
This verb is written as a present subjunctive practice of allowing one's hair to grow
active, which is better expressed by the naturally as a symbol of devotion to
phrase “if has *expressed action* hair.” God and lack of worldliness.h
“Long” is an adjective and is thus not
accurate. The fact that it is a present tense • European - In the middle ages,
verb must not be overlooked. The present shorter hair signified servitude and
tense is described thus: The present tense peasantry. Long hair was often
represents a simple statement of action attributed to freemen, such as the
viewed as occurring in actual time. This man Germanic Goths and Merovingians. In
is doing something shameful. Why would Ireland, English colonists who wore
nature teach us it is a shame for a man to their hair long in the back were
lengthen hair? All men do it! Are only considered to be rejecting their role as
balding men right with God? Since kome is English subjects and giving in to the
the basis for this present subjunctive active Irish life. Irishman, in turn, scolded
verb, the only action availible is the common others of their race who moved into
action of all komeo-based words: tending, English culture by cutting their hair.
improving, adorning, or caring for, not Thus, hair length was one of the most
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NO MORE EXCUSES! - REVISION 3: 8/30/2007 1 CORINTHIANS 11:1-16

common ways of judging a true “Those serving are slaves of the most
Englishman in this period.i comely form and beauty, so that one
might think that they have come not so
• Grecian - Spartan men prided much to serve as to please the eyes of
themselves upon their long hair, calling their beholders by their very
it the “cheapest of ornaments” (ton presence… having been washed and
kosmen adaranotatos).j smoothly rubbed with unguents and
with their faces smeared with
As history shows, nature must be a terrible cosmetics, their lower eyelids painted,
teacher if long hair on a man is so obviously and the hair of their head nicely
shameful. Yet, if you ask a typical male on plaited in some way being tightly
the street if it would be a cause of shame for bound up.”k
him to have the elaborately styled hair of a
contemporary female from his culture, the These poor boys were not merely “long-
answer invariably is “yes”: haired,” but had hairstyles similar to
women. Nature does indeed teach that a
As we shall see, the hairstyles of man (of any culture) having a woman’s
female members of the Imperial attributes is shameful for him, from coiffure
family seem to have influenced and clothing to sexual behavior, but nature
slave boys' hairstyles that I have already already taught us this long ago.
characterized as feminized. It is There is little doubt that Paul would find this
important to note, however, that these custom shameful, but it is still not a custom
servile hairstyles generally do not copy limited to the Ancient Greeks or Romans.
female coiffures in all details but only When we take into account the errors of
adapt certain elements of them… the English translators, we can better
Feminized servile hairstyles not understand the passage and eliminate
only clearly distinguished slave “difficulty.” The English translation of 11:14-
boys from freeborn Roman boys 15 should properly read:
but also served to heighten the
androgynous look that Greek and Does not even nature itself teach you
Roman men found so appealing… that if a man has tended hair, it is a
As we have seen, his feminized dishonor to him? But if a woman has
tended hair, it is a glory to her:
hairstyle is very similar to that
because ornamental tresses are given
commonly worn by slave boys in the
to her in place of a cloak.
later Julio-Claudian period. It is
particularly like that worn by slave
Why does nature teach us that hair brings a
boys described by Philo of Alexandria
woman glory? Because unlike a man’s hair,
in his De Vita Contemplativa (A.D. 50-
her tresses (kome) were given to her like a
52), written around the time of
colorful garment, cast around her neck and
Claudius. In his highly moralizing
shoulders by the Creator to give her
discussion of the contemporary
distinctively feminine beauty. So how does a
banqueting customs of the Romans,
woman spending hours on beautification
Philo distinguishes slaves of three
honor a man before the Father? Is this the
different age groups and comments on
intended purpose of the verb katakalupto?
their appearance and functions at
No, the decoration of women is never given
some of the more opulent banquets.
as a cover in prayer, but it is a good reason
He relates the following:
to be covered— because a woman should
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NO MORE EXCUSES! - REVISION 3: 8/30/2007 1 CORINTHIANS 11:1-16

glorify God when she prays or teaches, not If “uncovered” means “not having long hair,”
herself. Why is it that in all the decades of then men must never have long hair, and
American fashion since the 1920’s, the women must never have short hair. In order
modest headcovering has never come into to qualify as “uncovered,” woman’s hair
style? Because it hides a woman’s glorious would need to be equal in length (or
hair! By mistranslating these words, a great shorter) than the hair of a proper Christian
confusion has been created where there man.
should be none. That is a real problem: why would Paul
___________________________________ command them to shave the heads of
a. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible “CLOTHING”; Beck & Myers
(Erdmans, 2000) women with short hair? If “uncovered”
b. A Copious and Critical English-Latin Lexicon…; Riddle (Oxford
University, 1850)
means having the short hair of men who are
c. Strong’s [G2865] “uncovered” before God, then that would
d. Strong’s [G2864]
e. Cherokee Myths & Legends; Kirk (Tellico Plains Mountain Press, mean that Paul was commanding women
1999)
f. The Asian Mystique; Prasso, Sheridan (Public Affairs Press, 2005)
who were already “uncovered” to remain
g. Magical Hair; Leach (Royal Anthropological Institute, 1958) uncovered by shearing or shaving her. What
h. World Religions; Fowler (Sussex Academic Press, 1997)
i. Symbolic Meanings of Hair in the Middle Ages; Bartlett (Royal would be accomplished by shaving the
Historical Society, 1994)
j. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, COMA; Smith (John
heads of women whose sin is not having
Murray, 1875) enough hair? If I find a woman in the church
k. The Warren Cup: Homoerotic Love and Symposial Rhetoric in Silver;
Pollini (The Gale Group, 1999) wearing an immodest blouse, should I
remove it and expose more of her skin? Paul
even says that it is a shame for a woman to
The “Metonymy” Problem be shaved. If long hair is the covering, it
• Metonymy is another tool of hermeneutics would be impossible to shave her AND let
used to understand meanings, very similar her be long-haired at the same time!
to metaphor or allegory. It is defined as a If hair is indeed the covering women must
“figure of speech in which one word or have, it is ridiculous to believe Paul would be
phrase is substituted for another with which advocating the removal of it. Metonymy
it is closely associated…”a and used rules that “having long hair” and “being
frequently; the “Law & Prophets” means covered” are not logically interchangeable.
Scripture (Matt 22:40), the “Body of Christ” ___________________________________
means the church (1 Corinthians 12:27), a. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4E
“METONYMY” (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)
and so forth. So if the proponents of hair as b. The Christian Catacombs of Rome; Fasola (Istituto Salesiano,
a covering are correct that the covering Paul 2004)
writes about in the first part of 1 Corinthians
11 is indeed the hair, then metonymy will
allow us to exchange “covered” with “long The “Law of Exclusion” Problem
hair,” and show an agreement. • Many preachers teach soundly on the
place of instruments of music in the church
Every man praying or prophesying, of Christ. One of the pieces of logic utilized
having long hair, dishonors his head. by these men is called the “law of
But every woman who prays or exclusion.” This law simply states that
prophesies with short hair dishonors “when God specifies a certain thing to be
her head, for that is one and the same done, by the act of being specific He
as if her head were shaved. For if a excludes all other things never mentioned.”a
woman is not long-haired, let her also There are two types of commands which fall
be shorn. But if it is shameful for a under these guidelines, a general command
woman to be shorn or shaved, let her and a specific command.
be long-haired.
A good example of the general and
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specific commands is found in Matthew excluded by “covered” would be


28:19, where Christ commands his disciples “uncovered.”
to “go” and “make disciples.” The “going” is However, if long hair is indeed the
a general command, meaning how the men covering prescribed by Paul for proper
accomplish this task is up to them; by ship, worship, the requirement is no longer a
by chariot, by hovercraft, by bicycle, general command, but a specific command.
however they can “go” is acceptable, so long If you teach that hair is the covering, then
as they “go.” On the other hand, Jesus gave all women are to be covered with long hair,
a specific command for how He wishes them and only long hair, during prayer. If men
to “make disciples”: by “baptizing them in wish to make long hair the covering
the name of the Father and of the Son and specified by Paul, then the law of exclusion
of the Holy Spirit” and “teaching them to forbids women from wearing any external
observe all things” that He commanded coverings during prayer, or having short
them. That excluded the disciples from hair, and those preachers must teach
making more disciples in any other way. We women it is a sin to be covered by clothing
now know, thanks to these principles, that in prayer or to have short hair. This also is
the specific command to “sing” given to the true for the women with short hair who are
Ephesians and Colossians by Paul (Eph to be “shorn or shaven.” If being uncovered
5:19; Col 3:16) excludes adding musical with long hair in prayer is a sin for women,
instruments to worshipful singing. Since then Paul would be teaching them to sin
Paul is also clearly concerned with other acts even more by shaving her, since she still
of worship (prayer and prophesy), we now lacks long hair, and cloth coverings are
must apply the same principle here as well. forbidden. According to the law of exclusion,
“…let her be covered.” Paul states that a it must be long hair only or an external
woman must cover her head. But with what? covering only, but it cannot be both.
There is no specific item named as a ___________________________________
a. Instrumental Music in Worship to God; Clarke (Self-Published,
covering, only that she be covered. This is a 19??)
general command, akin to “go.” The Holy
Spirit used a word that literally means “to
hide something with something else.” When The “How Long is Long” Problem
speaking of being covered, Paul never says • One of the biggest problems of teaching
“be covered with a veil.” Indeed, instead of long hair to be the covering is the ambiguity
mentioning a covering tied to a specific of length, that is to say, “How long is long?”
culture’s fashions, by not being specific, the Must it be the prevailing societal concept of
“something else” which “hides down” is left long? Must it be longer than the men of the
subject to fashion and styles from culture to church keep their hair? Is it Greek long, or
culture. The only rules that apply are the Hebrew long? Just how does one determine
ones already established for Christian length? This sort of problem with the “long
clothing: it must be modest, inexpensive, hair” doctrine has created unscriptural sects
and it must hide the head (including hair) of the Lord’s church who insist women never
during prayer and prophesy. One woman be allowed to cut their hair, forcing women
may wear a store-bought woolen shawl, to have hair to their feet, and there is
another a tan polyester snood, another a another problem with this doctrine, as we
gifted silk kerchief from China, another a shall soon see.
homemade denim bonnet, and none need Kome means ornamental hair and not
wear a first-century linen veil. Just like “go” long hair. The “long hair” translation is
excludes only “not going,” the only thing shown to be false, yet there is little doubt
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NO MORE EXCUSES! - REVISION 3: 8/30/2007 1 CORINTHIANS 11:1-16

that people will trust in their versions rather the subject of 1 Corinthians (and women in
than the Word. So for the sake of the general). If one takes the time to study the
discussion, long hair will be the assumed various commentaries on the subject of
meaning Paul gives. Since the Bible is the headcovering, an interesting fact emerges:
first and best way to determine the length of the long hair of a woman was never
hair acceptable to God, that must be the considered by any author of a historical
first place to look. commentary to be the covering of which
As has already been established in verse Paul writes. Not Irenaeus, not Tertullian, not
sixteen, Paul says a woman’s hair is Clement of Alexandria, not Hippolytus, not
comparable (anti) to a cloak (peribolaion). John Chrysostom, not Jerome, not
Also established is the description of the Augustine, not even Knox, Henry, or Calvin.
peribolaion, an article of clothing that Neither do they ever argue against such a
covered the neck, shoulders, and back of proposition— it simply isn’t an issue.
the wearer. This translation of peribolaion is Tertullian in fact mocks the women who:
borne by Hebrews 1:12. If this is true, then
Paul’s meaning is that a woman’s hair …amid [the recital of] the Psalms, and
(unlike a man’s) covers her neck, shoulders, at any mention of [the name of] God,
and back-- like a cloak. According to the law continue uncovered; [who] even when
about to spend time in prayer itself,
of exclusion, that description would be the
with the utmost readiness place a
only length of hair acceptable as the
fringe, or a tuft, or any thread
covering for prayer and prophesying.
whatever, on the crown of their heads,
Those who teach hair is the covering now and suppose themselves to be
have a problem; what to do with the women covered. Of so small extent do they
whose hair isn’t that long. It is highly falsely imagine their head to be!”a
doubtful that there is a single church in the
United States where every female member He shows us that some of the women of his
has cloak-like hair. Even if this definition of day were placing tokens of the covering
length is disputed, there is an indisputably upon their heads in a vain attempt to barely
large measure of women coming to prayer keep this commandment, yet none of them
with hair lengths equal-to or shorter-than ever dared to say long hair was their
men’s hair. Teaching that long hair is the covering. Some ancient writers speak of the
covering necessary for prayer while ignoring continuance of covering by the Corinthian
those women with hair too short to be women even to their time as weight to the
compliant is hypocrisy. Once again, we have passage, others reject the “new” gauzy
a man with the pretenses of a “double- fabrics in favor of opaque coverings. From
minded, double-tongued man” (1 Timothy the early church and through the centuries,
3:8, James 1:6). not one commentator in the history of
theology can be shown to issue the “hair-as-
covering” excuse, nor can one be found
The “History of Commentaries” Problem disputing it. Not one can be found that is,
• One thing that both Christians and until the mid-1800’s.
denominationalists have in common is Almost overnight, hair as a covering
literature. From those taught by inspired became an issue to be discussed, covered in
men, to the beginnings of the Gnostic and various commentaries and periodicals. What
Catholic denominations, and to the various is so significant about the 19th century that
Protestant denominations of today, there this issue should suddenly arise? Those who
comes a wealth of commentaries written on study the Industrial Revolution will know
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precisely why that time is significant. It is “liberation of women” entered church dialog.
the period in American and European history ___________________________________
a. On the Veiling of Virgins, Tertullian/Thelwall (160-ca. 230)
when women began to organize and b. Appeal to the Women of New York; Stanton, Mott, Rose, Wright, &
demand the political rights of men. How this Anthony (Document, 1860)

affected the Restoration Movement is


evident in a letter written in 1860 and
signed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lydia 6. “I heard that the veil is a symbol
Mott, Ernestine Rose, Martha C. Wright, and of marriage, or that Paul was only
Susan B. Anthony: worried about male headship.”

The religion of our day teaches that, in Summary: Those who use this excuse
the most sacred relations of the race, the believe that Paul is more concerned with a
woman must ever be subject to the man; proper marriage relationship than with
that in the husband centres all power and clothing.
learning; that the difference in position
between husband and wife is as vast as The “Andros Dia Gune” Problem
that between Christ and the Church; and • Some translations and commentaries have
woman struggles to hold the noble used Paul’s statements about the
impulses of her nature in abeyance to relationship of men being the head of
opinions uttered by a Jewish teacher, women to redefine this chapter into a matter
which, alas! the mass believe to be the of husbands and wives. Ironically, this poor
will of God… We now demand the ballot, method of interpretation allows Theologian-
trial by jury of our peers, and an equal A to demand headcovering as a universal
right to the joint earnings of the marriage
symbol of wifely obedience to the husband,
copartnership.”b
and allows Theologian-B to advise a women
to forgo the covering if her husband doesn’t
What a blasphemy against Christ! The
wish to press the issue. Clearly, there is
suffrage committees were attacking Christ
something wrong with a method that results
Himself, because He demands wives be
in two opposite conclusions.
something these women were unwilling to
Although “andros” can be translated as
be; humble and obedient (Titus 2:3-5).
“husband,” and “gune” can be translated as
Every commentary that attempts to teach
“wife,” both fundamentally mean simply
that the covering decreed by Paul was “long
“man” and “woman” respectively. How do
hair” has been written in this sort of shrill,
we know this? Verse 12: “For as woman
atheistic political climate, a climate we
came from man, even so man also comes
endure to this day. In fact, there is a good
through woman…” The only way a husband
chance that many female readers will even
could come through his wife is if he married
now bristle at the thought of being
his mother! No, this is a matter for all
“covered” or being a “good wife,” thanks to
believing men and women.
the godless philosophy of feminism deeply
This sort of misunderstanding is the result
implanted in our modern Western society.
of the damage done to our society by
Because denominational leaders were
feminism, both of accepting it and trying to
worried about the mass exodus of
use proof-text to combat it. Even the worldly
suffragettes from their churches, they began
women who rebel against their God-given
to adjust their doctrines. Yet all the politics
role must answer to male policemen,
and liberal commentaries in the world won’t
soldiers, judges, rulers, and ultimately,
change the fact that long hair was never
Christ. There is no such thing as a woman
offered up as a excuse to go uncovered until
not under the authority of a man; it is her
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part in creation. Unmarried girls are under Instead, this is something that both
the authority of their fathers or other male Christian men and Christian women do for
guardians (1 Corinthians 7:36-38, Eph 6:2- the reasons given in Scripture, and none
4), whether the father exercises it or not. other. When reading the Scripture, pay
Wives are the responsibility of the husbands attention to the “since’s,” the “but if’s,” the
(1 Peter 3:7; Eph 5:25-28), whether the “because’s,” and the “for this reason’s” to
husband takes it or not. Widows are the find out why we should do what God tells us.
burden of sons, grandsons, or sons-in-law
(1 Timothy 5:4,16), whether sons bear it or
not. All Christian women are the charges of 7. “I was told that Paul gave us the
the elders (1 Timothy 2:11,5:1; 1 Peter 5:2- choice to cover or not to cover.”
5), whether elders lead or not. This is not an Summary: Because a single verse reads
issue of husbands and wives, it is an issue of “judge for yourself,” some believe Paul
covering and uncovering in prayer. was giving Christians a choice to cover or
not to cover.

The “Uncovered Man” Problem The “Righteous Judgement” Problem


• Although some may try to make this • It is incredible how often this excuse is
covering simply a matter of marriage, as in used as a reason not to cover. Why would
the veil is a symbol of marriage, one large anyone judge not to cover after reading the
fact is overlooked: men are to be uncovered. many good reasons to cover given by Paul?
One can see a bit of logic in arguing women In fact, that alone is a good enough reason
were trying to pass as unmarried in the for women to cover; the majority judges not
assembly, and that Paul would find that to obey for selfish reasons, despite the
unseemly, but where then would the spiritual logic given by Christ, and the
command for men to uncover come into that majority is hellbound! (Matt 7:13-14; Luke
argument? While it isn’t a stretch to 13:24-28) But the final judgement aside,
associate a veil to a symbol of marriage for there is a very logical Biblical precedent that
a woman, how does a man being uncovered proves this passage isn’t giving women any
symbolize marriage for him? And if the veil option but the one Paul already argued in
is indeed a symbol of marriage that a favor of.
woman would need to display to others to When speaking to the Children of Israel,
show her status, wouldn’t that forbid Joshua also gives the followers of God an
married men from ever wearing a hat for the “option”:
same reasons? There is absolutely no And if it seems evil to you to serve the
evidence, Biblical or historical, to support LORD, choose for yourselves this day
the idea that married men customarily went whom you will serve, whether the gods
without headcovering as proof of their which your fathers served that were on
marriage, nor is there any evidence women the other side of the River, or the gods
wearing a covering was proof of marriage of the Amorites, in whose land you
(men who covered their women covered ALL dwell. But as for me and my house, we
their women, including the virgins, and the will serve the LORD.
bright-red Greco-Roman wedding veil was (Josh 24:15)
only worn during the ceremony, not after).
By including men in this statute, Paul has What if our hypothetical Mary was an
ruined every sort of excuse that tries to ancient Hebrew given this option, and she
make this about first-century wife customs. followed the same logic as those who
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believe Paul gives two equally valid choices one righteous choice: cover your head in
in 1 Corinthians 11:13? If she chose to prayer and the proclamation of God’s
follow the gods of the Amorites, how do you inspired word. That is the very essence of
believe God would regard her? If you believe Christianity; making the righteous choices.
God will save unrepentant idolaters, you are
in serious trouble.
After Christ established the church, he 8. “I heard that the churches had ‘no
sent His disciples out to make more such custom’ as head covering.”
disciples. Upon hearing the gospel being
taught at the temple, the Jewish leaders Summary: Since Paul says neither he nor
became disturbed and demanded that Peter the church have such a custom, some
and John preach no longer in the name of assume this refers to the custom of
covering.
Jesus. The apostles had a response for that
command:
The “Parenthetical” Problem
Peter and John answered and said to • It should be said, lest anyone confuse the
them, “Whether it is right in the sight word “tradition” used in verse two with the
of God to listen to you more than to traditions of mere men, that these traditions
God, you judge.” include the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:20), a
(Acts 4:19) tradition from Christ. The Greek word for
tradition is “paradosis,” and it literally
So in keeping the same mindset of our means “an ordinance.”a Paul is about to
uncovered sisters, may we now judge that it explain one of the basic practices of the
is right to listen to men rather than to God? church fully, so that the Corinthians might
Isn’t Peter giving mankind that choice by understand and observe it more willingly.
telling us to judge? Paul is not interested in traditional customs,
Now here is the best one, saved for last. but is teaching the church. As an example,
In 1 Corinthians 10, just a few sentences Paul warns the Colossians against those who
back from the passage on headcovering, would have them follow the philosophical
Paul was writing on the topic of idolatry. In traditions of men rather than Christ (Col
giving the reasons to not eat things 2:8), showing that Christ’s traditions are
sacrificed to idol, he writes: superior ordinances, and are to be observed
properly.
I speak as to wise men; judge for Paul proceeds in giving several sound
yourselves what I say. The cup of reasons why women should be covered, not
blessing which we bless, is it not the the least of which is the order of creation.
communion of the blood of Christ? The At this point, Paul tells us in verse sixteen,
bread which we break, is it not the
“But if anyone seems to be contentious, we
communion of the body of Christ?
have no such custom, nor do the churches
(1 Corinthians 10:15-16)
of God.” Did Paul really make all those
sound spiritual and physical arguments for
Well ladies, shall we judge that the cup of
headcovering, only to negate them in just
blessing is not the communion? That is the
one verse?
consequence of claiming verse thirteen
Using this verse to claim that the custom
allows a freedom of choice. The rhetorical
of headcovering was not practiced by the
questions given by these men of God do
churches of Christ is a textbook case of
indeed allow choice, but only one righteous
proof-texting, the sinful art of picking verses
choice. So too does verse thirteen allow only
that seemingly support whatever doctrine
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one wishes to uphold. bearing witness, and between


For example, our imaginary friend Mary themselves their thoughts accusing or
has decided that no one needs to repent or else excusing them) in the day when
be baptized for the remission of sins. She God will judge the secrets of men by
looks for a verse to prove this, and finds one Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
which reads: “These things I have written to (Romans 2:12-16)
you who believe in the name of the Son of
God, that you may know that you have Paul interrupts that statement with
eternal life, and that you may continue to parenthetical facts midway, then finishes the
believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 sentence. He does the same thing here. He
John 5:13). By proof-texting, she has has a question and he answers it: Is it
chosen a verse which she claims teaches proper for a woman to pray to God with
belief alone is sufficient for salvation. But in her head uncovered? …we have no such
so doing, she ignores Luke 13:3-5 and 1 custom, nor do the churches of God.”
Peter 3:21, which contradict her ideas, thus Verse sixteen isn’t a conclusion to the
creating an unsatisfactory doctrine. How entire subject of headcovering, but it is
does quoting verse sixteen to claim answering the rhetorical question with an
headcovering wasn’t a custom of the argument-destroying fact. “Is it proper for
churches qualify as an act of proof-texting? her to pray with her head uncovered?” Paul
Because it ignores the verses that come asks. Are uncovered, praying women proper,
before it, especially verse thirteen. yes or no? Paul says that, regardless of
In verse thirteen, Paul asks, “Is it proper however we may judge, allowing uncovered,
for a woman to pray to God with her head praying women is a custom the faithful
uncovered?” Paul has started a new churches of God do not observe.
___________________________________
thought, going from a lecture on the various
a. Strong’s [G3862]
reasons why women should be covered to a
rhetorical exercise to remind the reader of
the physical differences God created
The “Contentious Ones” Problem __
between men and women. Verses fourteen
• The word “philoneikos” translated as
and fifteen form a parenthetic statement
“contentious” means “a lover of strife,”a that
between the question asked in verse
is, someone who makes excuses even
thirteen and an answer given in verse
though he is wrong because he wishes he
sixteen. We can observe another example
were correct. The disciples were given to
of Paul’s parenthetical expression from
such a childish “dispute” over which of them
Scripture:
was the “best” in Luke 22:24. A good
For as many as have sinned without comparison of this behavior would be a
law will also perish without law, and as spoiled child who noisily and persistently
many as have sinned in the law will be demands a toy, even though her parents
judged by the law (for not the hearers have given several logical and reasonable
of the law are just in the sight of God, reasons why she cannot have her own way.
but the doers of the law will be It is a waste of time to attempt to reason
justified; for when Gentiles, who do not with such an obstinate person (Proverbs
have the law, by nature do the things 14:16). Just as is the only way to end a
in the law, these, although not having futile argument with a spoiled child, the only
the law, are a law to themselves, who thing left to do after the logical arguments
show the work of the law written in have been exhausted is rely on the basis of
their hearts, their conscience also final authority: “Because I said ‘No!’” After
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NO MORE EXCUSES! - REVISION 3: 8/30/2007 1 CORINTHIANS 11:1-16

giving all the good reasons to cover, and their mouth, And honor Me with their
giving the wise men one more appeal to lips, But their heart is far from Me. And
nature, Paul gives his ammunition for those in vain they worship Me, Teaching as
who must deal with the contentious: “Is it a doctrines the commandments of
proper custom for a woman to pray men.’”
uncovered? None of the churches or inspired (Matthew 15:3-9)
teachers observe it.” Those who would
continue to argue for uncovered women, for The true sin of the Pharisee, no matter what
whatever reasons, would now know that century he lives in, is the failure to abide by
only one practice was recognized among the the truth. The Pharisees and scribes
churches— faithful brothers uncover their believed themselves to be experts in the
heads and faithful sisters cover their heads Law. They relied upon tradition and the
in prayer and prophesy. In addition, the obedient masses as evidence that they were
practice of uncovered women was rejected indeed righteous. They looked to the
by the other apostles and disciples inspired commentaries of famous rabbis for their
by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 4:9-13,9:5), the guidance. Their excuses and allowances
only real basis for authority in church filled volumes.
practices.
___________________________________ “Why do you also transgress the
a. Strong’s [G5380]
commandment of God because of your
tradition?”
Concluding Thoughts
This paper made no attempt to challenge
• The offering of excuses and justifications
every excuse people can generate to avoid
is not new to sinners. In fact, this was the
response to the very first sins of mankind; obedience; there are literally dozens more.
both Adam and Eve attempted to excuse At the end of the day, this debate comes
their own sins before God by blaming down to just one contest: The Bible says
women need to be covered, women don’t
another for the transgressions. The
want to cover. Because women don’t want to
Pharisees transgressed nearly every
hear it, preachers created these
commandment of God, justifying these sins
justifications, and more. What could any
with the artificial doctrines of their Talmud:
man possibly say to convince you that it is
[Jesus] answered and said to them, better to find ways to discard a Scripture
“Why do you also transgress the than to accept it at face value? What could I
commandment of God because of your possibly say to convince you to stop looking
tradition? For God commanded, saying, for reasons to avoid doing what the Lord
‘Honor your father and your mother’; commands, and to start looking for reasons
and, ‘He who curses father or mother, to keep His word?
let him be put to death.’ But you say, This paper will no doubt have little
‘Whoever says to his father or mother, influence on the modern Pharisee, if only
“Whatever profit you might have because evidence has little influence on
received from me is a gift to God”; those who aren’t willing to put their own
then he need not honor his father or beliefs and behavior on trial. My only hope,
mother.’ Thus you have made the
albeit slim, is that there are still men and
commandment of God of no effect by
women who will do what the Father
your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did
commands, without making any excuses.
Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
‘These people draw near to Me with
31