Question:

Hello!

I read your article about the wearing of the veil by women in the Church. I confess that I was very surprised because I always believed that it was merely a custom -- a cultural issue -- and that the hair itself was already the veil. But I was convinced by your interpretation that the hair is not the veil and that the woman should wear a veil in the church to pray. The arguments were too strong, and I am really convinced by this explanation.

But I had a question: Should this veil be worn only by married or single women as well? I am single and do not know whether I should wear the veil.

Answer:

"But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ" (I Corinthians 11:3).

Paul lays out how authority flows from God, the Father, through Jesus, the Son, to every man and then to every woman.

The Greek word for “man” is aner and for “woman” is gune. These same words are also used for a husband and wife respectively. The simple statement that men are given authority over women is so contrary to modern beliefs that many newer translations, such as the English Standard Version, attempt to change the statements from “man” and “woman” to “husband” and “wife.” The problem is that if you change all the terms to husband and wife then you have Paul implying that God and Jesus are only heads of married couples and that only husbands come from wives and wives from husbands. Thus, these modern translators do not consistently translate the two words and switch between the two sets of meaning in an almost arbitrary manner to cause Paul to appear to say that a wife only needs to submit to her husband. This switching back and forth is not demanded by the text and violates the general rule that words be translated consistently in a single context. Besides, the issue of women showing submission to men is covered in other passages: I Corinthians 14:34-38 and I Timothy 2:8-15. Interestingly, no attempt is made to change these other two passages to apply only to married couples.

All authority ultimately comes from God (I Corinthians 15:27-28; Matthew 28:18). This authority was given to Christ to rule over this age (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Colossians 1:18; 2:10). Some of that authority is given to men. In the church, positions of leadership are held by men (I Timothy 3:2, 12; 2:12). In the family, the husband is placed as the head (Ephesians 5:24).

Just as Christ is not degraded by submitting to the Father, men are not degraded by submitting to Christ, nor should women be degraded by submitting to men.

"Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head" (I Corinthians 11:4-6).

The actions of a person demonstrate whether they submit to the one above them. Paul lays down two rules for demonstrating submission:

  1. A man must pray or prophesy with his head uncovered to give honor to Christ.
  2. A woman must pray or prophesy with her head covered to give honor to man.

One argument against applying these rules is to state that since prophecy is mentioned, then it only applies to the era when miraculous gifts were present among the members. Following that line of thinking, then these rules would have only been for those who had the gifts of the Holy Spirit because not all Christians had the gifts (Acts 8:14-16; I Corinthians 12:28-30). But Paul listed two independent actions. The rules apply to Christians when they pray, and prayer does not require a miraculous gift to be accomplished (I Timothy 2:1-3, 8; Acts 16:13).

In essence, prayer is communication with our Lord. Since man is directly below God, he is to pray with his head uncovered. Since a woman is in submission to man, when she prays, she is to cover her head to show that she is skipping man to talk directly with God. As Adam Clarke notes: “This decision of the apostle was in point-blank hostility to the canons of the Jews; for they would not suffer a man to pray unless he was veiled, for which they gave this reason: 'He should veil himself to show that he is ashamed before God and unworthy with an open face to behold him.'"

Paul states that a woman not following this command is equivalent to a woman who has cut her hair short (Greek: kerio). But if she finds the idea of cutting her hair short or shaving her head (Greek: xurao) shameful, then she should wear a covering. In other words, Paul is appealing to a woman’s innate sense of propriety to show she has a natural inclination toward keeping her head covered.

Some will argue that the long hair must be the covering Paul is urging. It has several difficulties. First, the word for long hair is komao (used in I Corinthians 11:15), the word used for covered is kata or katakalupto and uncovered is akatakaluptos. These are not interchangeable words. The second problem is that I Corinthians 11:5-6 becomes nonsensical if you replace "covered" with “short hair” and "uncovered" with “long hair.” It should be clear that the covering discussed is separate from the hair.

Since the teaching is about submission, the application must be voluntary. Being forced to wear what a person thinks is unnecessary is not an act of submission. A woman choosing to wear a head covering during worship makes no impact on anyone else's worship. "For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Romans 14:7-10). You should make up your own mind based on what the Bible teaches regarding your religious practice. Fear of peer pressure is not a reason for not following a command of God.

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