The regulative principle

What I believe: Head Coverings by Vaughn Ohlman

What I believe: Headcoverings by Vaughn Ohlman

The issue of headcoverings, as addressed in the first half of I Cor 11, is one that has been taught by the church over the last two millennia. Except for the last hundred years or so, the church has always been in agreement that women should worship with their heads covered, as,indeed the Christian custom was that women should have their heads covered generally.

However recently much of the church in the ‘developed’ world has abandoned this belief. Instead they teach that the passage was purely cultural, teaches only about long hair, or is irrelevant in some other way. This belief is new and, in my opinion, is, like any other departure from Scripture, dangerous.

First let us look at how the old commentators exegeted this passage:

Matthew Henry

1Co 11:1-16 Paul, having answered the cases put to him, proceeds in this chapter to the redress of grievances. The first verse of the chapter is put, by those who divided the epistle into chapters, as a preface to the rest of the epistle, but seems to have been a more proper close to the last, in which he had enforced the cautions he had given against the abuse of liberty, by his own example: Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ (1Co_11:1), fitly closes his argument; and the way of speaking in the next verse looks like a transition to another. But, whether it more properly belong to this or the last chapter, it is plain from it that Paul not only preached such doctrine as they ought to believe, but led such a life as they ought to imitate. “Be ye followers of me,” that is, “Be imitators of me; live as you see me live.”
Note, Ministers are likely to preach most to the purpose when they can press their hearers to follow their example. Yet would not Paul be followed blindly neither. He encourages neither implicit faith nor obedience. He would be followed himself no further than he followed Christ. Christ’s pattern is a copy without a blot; so is no man’s else.
Note, We should follow no leader further than he follows Christ. Apostles should be left by us when they deviate from the example of their Master. He passes next to reprehend and reform an indecency among them, of which the women were more especially guilty, concerning which observe,
I. How he prefaces it. He begins with a commendation of what was praiseworthy in them (1Co_11:2): I praise you, that you remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you. Many of them, it is probable, did this in the strictest sense of the expression: and he takes occasion thence to address the body of the church under this good character; and the body might, in the main, have continued to observe the ordinances and institutions of Christ, though in some things they deviated fRom. and corrupted, them. Note, When we reprove what is amiss in any, it is very prudent and fit to commend what is good in them; it will show that the reproof is not from ill-will, and a humour of censuring and finding fault; and it will therefore procure the more regard to it.
II. How he lays the foundation for his reprehension by asserting the superiority of the man over the woman: I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. Christ, in his mediatorial character and glorified humanity, is at the head of mankind. He is not only first of the kind, but Lord and Sovereign. He has a name above every name: though in this high office and authority he has a superior, God being his head. And as God is the head of Christ, and Christ the head of the whole human kind, so the man is the head of the tow sexes: not indeed with such dominion as Christ has over the kind or God has over the man Christ Jesus; but a superiority and headship he has, and the woman should be in subjection and not assume or usurp the man’s place. This is the situation in which God has placed her; and for that reason she should have a mind suited to her rank, and not do any thing that looks like an affectation of changing places. Something like this the women of the church of Corinth seem to have been guilty of, who were under inspiration, and prayed and prophesied even in their assemblies, 1Co_11:5. It is indeed an apostolical canon, that the women should keep silence in the churches (1Co_14:34; 1Ti_2:12), which some understand without limitation, as if a woman under inspiration also must keep silence, which seems very well to agree with the connection of the apostle’s discourse, ch. 14. Others with a limitation: though a woman might not from her own abilities pretend to teach, or so much as question and debate any thing in the church yet when under inspiration the case was altered, she had liberty to speak. Or, though she might not preach even by inspiration (because teaching is the business of a superior), yet she might pray or utter hymns by inspiration, even in the public assembly. She did not show any affectation of superiority over the man by such acts of public worship. It is plain the apostle does not in this place prohibit the thing, but reprehend the manner of doing it. And yet he might utterly disallow the thing and lay an unlimited restraint on the woman in another part of the epistle. These things are not contradictory. It is to his present purpose to reprehend the manner wherein the women prayed and prophesied in the church, without determining in this place whether they did well or ill in praying or prophesying. Note, The manner of doing a thing enters into the morality of it. We must not only be concerned to do good, but that the good we do be well done.
III. The thing he reprehends is the woman’s praying or prophesying uncovered, or the man’s doing either covered, 1Co_11:4, 1Co_11:5. To understand this, it must be observed that it was a signification either of shame or subjection for persons to be veiled, or covered, in the eastern countries, contrary to the custom of ours, where the being bare-headed betokens subjection, and being covered superiority and dominion. And this will help us the better to understand,
IV. The reasons on which he grounds his reprehension.
1. The man that prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonoureth his head, namely, Christ, the head of every man (1Co_11:3), by appearing in a habit unsuitable to the rank in which God has placed him.
Note, We should, even in our dress and habits, avoid every thing that may dishonour Christ. The woman, on the other hand, who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head, namely, the man, 1Co_11:3. She appears in the dress of her superior, and throws off the token of her subjection. She might, with equal decency, cut her hair short, or cut it close, which was the custom of the man in that age. This would be in a manner to declare that she was desirous of changing sexes, a manifest affectation of that superiority which God had conferred on the other sex. And this was probably the fault of these prophetesses in the church of Corinth. It was doing a thing which, in that age of the world, betokened superiority, and therefore a tacit claim of what did not belong to them but the other sex.
Note, The sexes should not affect to change places. The order in which divine wisdom has placed persons and things is best and fittest: to endeavour to amend it is to destroy all order, and introduce confusion. The woman should keep to the rank God has chosen for her, and not dishonour her head; for this, in the result, is to dishonour God. If she was made out of the man, and for the man, and made to be the glory of the man, she should do nothing, especially in public, that looks like a wish of having this order inverted.
2. Another reason against this conduct is that the man is the image and glory of God, the representative of that glorious dominion and headship which God has over the world. It is the man who is set at the head of this lower creation, and therein he bears the resemblance of God. The woman, on the other hand, is the glory of the man (1Co_11:7): she is his representative. Not but she has dominion over the inferior creatures, as she is a partaker of human nature, and so far is God’s representative too, but it is at second-hand. She is the image of God, inasmuch as she is the image of the man: For the man was not made out of the woman, but the woman out of the man, 1Co_11:8. The man was first made, and made head of the creation here below, and therein the image of the divine dominion; and the woman was made out of the man, and shone with a reflection of his glory, being made superior to the other creatures here below, but in subjection to her husband, and deriving that honour from him out of whom she was made.
3. The woman was made for the man, to be his help-meet, and not the man for the woman. She was naturally, therefore, made subject to him, because made for him, for his use, and help, and comfort. And she who was intended to be always in subjection to the man should do nothing, in Christian assemblies, that looks like an affectation of equality.
4. She ought to have power on her head, because of the angels. Power, that is, a veil, the token, not of her having the power or superiority, but being under the power of her husband, subjected to him, and inferior to the other sex. Rebekah, when she met Isaac, and was delivering herself into his possession, put on her veil, in token of her subjection, Gen_24:6
5. Thus would the apostle have the women appear In Christian assemblies, even though they spoke there by inspiration, because of the angels, that is, say some, because of the evil angels. The woman was first in the transgression, being deceived by the devil (1Ti_2:14), which increased her subjection to man, Gen_3:16. Now, believe evil angels will be sure to mix in all Christian assemblies, therefore should women wear the token of their shamefacedness and subjection, which in that age and country, was a veil. Others say because of the good angels. Jews and Christians have had an opinion that these ministering spirits are many of them present in their assemblies. Their presence should restrain Christians from all indecencies in the worship of God. Note, We should learn from all to behave in the public assemblies of divine worship so as to express a reverence for God, and a content and satisfaction with that rank in which he has placed us.
V. He thinks fit to guard his argument with a caution lest the inference be carried too far (1Co_11:11, 1Co_11:12): Nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord. They were made for one another. It is not good for him to be alone (Gen_2:18), and therefore was a woman made, and made for the man; and the man was intended to be a comfort, and help, and defence, to the woman, though not so directly and immediately made for her. They were made to be a mutual comfort and blessing, not one a slave and the other a tyrant. Both were to be one flesh (Gen_2:24), and this for the propagation of a race of mankind. They are reciprocal instruments of each other’s production. As the woman was first formed out of the man, the man is ever since propagated by the woman (1Co_11:12), all by the divine wisdom and power of the First Cause so ordaining it. The authority and subjection should be no greater than are suitable to two in such near relation and close union to each other. Note, As it is the will of God that the woman know her place, so it is his will also that the man abuse not his power.
VI. He enforces his argument from the natural covering provided for the woman (1Co_11:13-15): “Judge in yourselves – consult your own reason, hearken to what nature suggests – is it comely for a woman to pray to God uncovered? Should there not be a distinction kept up between the sexes in wearing their hair, since nature has made one? Is it not a distinction which nature has kept up among all civilized nations? The woman’s hair is a natural covering; to wear it long is a glory to her; but for a man to have long hair, or cherish it, is a token of softness and effeminacy.”
Note, It should be our concern, especially in Christian and religious assemblies, to make no breach upon the rules of natural decency.
VII. He sums up all by referring those who were contentious to the usages and customs of the churches, 1Co_11:16. Custom is in a great measure the rule of decency. And the common practice of the churches is what would have them govern themselves by. He does not silence the contentious by mere authority, but lets them know that they would appear to the world as very odd and singular in their humour if they would quarrel for a custom to which all the churches of Christ were at that time utter strangers, or against a custom in which they all concurred, and that upon the ground of natural decency. It was the common usage of the churches for women to appear in public assemblies, and join in public worship, veiled; and it was manifestly decent that they should do so. Those must be very contentious indeed who would quarrel with this, or lay it aside.

John Calvin:

2. Now I praise you. He passes on now to another subject-to instruct the Corinthians, what decorum ought to be observed in the sacred assemblies. For as a man’s dress or gesture has in some cases the effect of disfiguring, and in others of adorning him, so all actions are set off to advantage by decorum, and are vitiated by the want of it. Much, therefore, depends upon decorum (to prepon,) and that not merely for securing for our actions gracefulness and beauty, but also to accustom our minds to propriety. While this is true in a general way as to everything, it holds especially as to sacred things; for what contempt, and, eventually, what barbarism will be incurred, if we do not preserve dignity in the Church, by conducting ourselves honorably and becomingly? Hence he prescribes some things that are connected with public order, by which sacred assemblies are rendered honorable. But in order to prepare them the more for obedience, he commends, in the outset, their obedience in the past, inasmuch as they observed his ordinances; for inasmuch as he had begotten that Church to the Lord, (1 Corinthians 4:15,) he had delivered to them a certain system, by which it was to be governed. By retaining this, the Corinthians gave reason to hope, that they would also in future be docile.

It is surprising, however, that, while he now bestows upon them this commendation, he had previously blamed them for many things. Nay more, if we consider the state of the Church, such as has been previously described, they were far from deserving this praise. I answer, that there were some that were infected with those vices which he had previously reproved, and indeed, some with one, others with another; but, in the meantime, the form which he had prescribed to them had been retained by the entire body. For there is nothing of inconsistency in saying, that very many sins, and of various kinds, prevail among a particular people —some cheating, others plundering — some envying, others quarrelling, and another class guilty of fornication — while, at the same time, in respect of the public form of the Church, the institutions of Christ and his Apostles are maintained. This will appear more clearly when we come to see what Paul means by paradosein; (traditions;) and independently of this, it is necessary to speak of this word, for the purpose of replying to Papists, who arm themselves with this passage for the purpose of defending their traditions. It is a common maxim among them, that the doctrine of the Apostles consists partly of writings and partly of traditions. Under this second department they include not merely certain foolish superstitions, and puerile ceremonies, with which they are stuffed, but also all kinds of gross abomination, directly contrary to the plain word of God, and their tyrannical laws, which are mere torments to men’s consciences. In this way there is nothing that is so foolish, nothing so absurd — in fine, nothing so monstrous, as not to have shelter under this pretext, and to be painted over with this varnish. As Paul, therefore, makes mention here of traditions, they seize, as they are accustomed to do, upon this little word, with the view of making Paul the author of all those abominations, which we set aside by plain declaration of Scripture. I do not deny, that there were certain traditions of the Apostles that were not committed to writing, but I do not admit that they were parts of doctrine, or related to things necessary for salvation. What then? They were connected with order and government. For we know that every Church has liberty to frame for itself a form of government that is suitable and profitable for it, because the Lord has not prescribed anything definite.

Thus Paul, the first founder of the Corinthian Church, had also framed for its regulation pious and seemly enactments — that all things might be done decently and in order, as he afterwards enjoins. (1 Corinthians 14:40.) But what has this to do with those silly trifles of ceremonies, which are to be seen in Popery? What has it to do with a worse than Jewish superstition? What has it to do with a tyranny worthy of Phalaris, by which they torture miserable consciences? What has it to do with so many monstrous rites of idolatry? For the foundation of all right enactment was this: to observe the moderation that Paul made use of —not to compel persons to follow their enactments, while, in the meantime, contriving everything that might strike their fancy, but to require that they should be imitated, in so far as they are imitators of Christ. But now, after having had the audacity to criticize everything agreeably to their own humor, to demand obedience from all is exceedingly absurd. Farther, we must know that Paul commends their obedience in the past, in order that he may render them docile also for the time to come.

3. But I would have you know. It is an old proverb: “Evil manners beget good laws.” As the rite here treated of had not been previously called in question, Paul had given no enactment respecting it. The error of the Corinthians was the occasion of his showing, what part it was becoming to act in this matter. With the view of proving, that it is an unseemly thing for women to appear in a public assembly with their heads uncovered, and, on the other hand, for men to pray or prophesy with their heads covered, he sets out with noticing the arrangements that are divinely established. He says, that as Christ is subject to God as his head, so is the man subject to Christ, and the woman to the man. We shall afterwards see, how he comes to infer from this, that women ought to have their heads covered. Let us, for the present, take notice of those four gradations which he points out. God, then, occupies the first place: Christ holds the second place. How so? Inasmuch as he has in our flesh made himself subject to the Father, for, apart from this, being of one essence with the Father, he is his equal. Let us, therefore, bear it in mind, that this is spoken of Christ as mediator. He is, I say, inferior to the Father, inasmuch as he assumed our nature, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. There is somewhat more of difficulty in what follows. Here the man is placed in an intermediate position between Christ and the woman, so that Christ is not the head of the woman. Yet the same Apostle teaches us elsewhere, (Galatians 3:28,) that in Christ there is neither male nor female. Why then does he make a distinction here, which in that passage he does away with? I answer, that the solution of this depends on the connection in which the passages occur. When he says that there is no difference between the man and the woman, he is treating of Christ’s spiritual kingdom, in which individual distinctions are not regarded, or made any account of; for it has nothing to do with the body, and has nothing to do with the outward relationships of mankind, but has to do solely with the mind — on which account he declares that there is no difference, even between bond and free. In the meantime, however, he does not disturb civil order or honorary distinctions, which cannot be dispensed with in ordinary life. Here, on the other hand, he reasons respecting outward propriety and decorum — which is a part of ecclesiastical polity. Hence, as regards spiritual connection in the sight of God, and inwardly in the conscience, Christ is the head of the man and of the woman without any distinction, because, as to that, there is no regard paid to male or female; but as regards external arrangement and political decorum, the man follows Christ and the woman the man, so that they are not upon the same footing, but, on the contrary, this inequality exists. Should any one ask, what connection marriage has with Christ, I answer, that Paul speaks here of that sacred union of pious persons, of which Christ is the officiating priest, and He in whose name it is consecrated.

4. Every man praying. Here there are two propositions. The first relates to the man, the other to the woman. He says that the man commits an offense against Christ his head, if he prays or prophesies with his head covered. Why so? Because he is subject to Christ, with this understanding, that he is to hold the first place in the government of the house — for the father of the family is like a king in his own house. Hence the glory of God shines forth in him, in consequence of the authority with which he is invested. If he covers his head, he lets himself down from that preeminence which God had assigned to him, so as to be in subjection. Thus the honor of Christ is infringed upon. For example, If the person whom the prince has appointed as his lieutenant, does not. know how to maintain his proper station, and instead of this, exposes his dignity to contempt on the part of persons in the lowest station, does he not bring dishonor upon his prince? In like manner, if the man does not keep his own station — if he is not subject to Christ in such a way as to preside over his own family with authority, he obscures, to that extent, the glory of Christ, which shines forth in the well regulated order of marriage. The covering, as we shall see ere long, is all emblem of authority intermediate and interposed. Prophesying I take here to mean — declaring the mysteries of God for the edification of the hearers, (as afterwards in 1 Corinthians 14.) as praying means preparing a form of prayer, and taking the lead, as it were, of all the people — which is the part of the public teacher, for Paul is not arguing here as to every kind of prayer, but as to solemn prayer in public. Let us, however, bear in mind, that in this matter the error is merely in so far as decorum is violated, and the distinction of rank which God has established, is broken in upon. For we must not be so scrupulous as to look upon it as a criminal thing for a teacher to have a cap on his head, when addressing the people from the pulpit. Paul means nothing more than this — that it should appear that the man has authority, and that the woman is under subjection, and this is secured when the man uncovers his head in the view of the Church, though he should afterwards put on his cap again from fear of catching cold. In fine, the one rule to be observed here is to prepon— decorum. If that is secured, Paul requires nothing farther.

5. Every woman praying or prophesying. Here we have the second proposition — that women ought to have their heads covered when they pray or prophesy; otherwise they dishonor their head. For as the man honors his head by showing his liberty, so the woman, by showing her subjection. Hence, on the other hand, if the woman uncovers her head, she shakes off subjection — involving contempt of her husband. It may seem, however, to be superfluous for Paul to forbid the woman to prophesy with her head uncovered, while elsewhere he wholly prohibits women from speaking in the Church. (1 Timothy 2:12.)It would not, therefore, be allowable for them to prophesy even with a covering upon their head, and hence it follows that it is to no purpose that he argues here as to a covering. It may be replied, that the Apostle, by here condemning the one, does not commend the other. For when he reproves them for prophesying with their head uncovered, he at the same time does not give them permission to prophesy in some other way, but rather delays his condemnation of that vice to another passage, namely in 1 Corinthians 14. In this reply there is nothing amiss, though at the same time it might suit sufficiently well to say, that the Apostle requires women to show their modesty — not merely in a place in which the whole Church is assembled, but also in any more dignified assembly, either of matrons or of men, such as are sometimes convened in private houses. For it is all one as if she were shaven.

He now maintains from other considerations, that it is unseemly for women to have their heads bare. Nature itself, says he, abhors it. To see a woman shaven is a spectacle that is disgusting and monstrous. Hence we infer that the woman has her hair given her for a covering. Should any one now object, that her hair is enough, as being a natural covering, Paul says that it is not, for it is such a covering as requires another thing to be made use of for covering it. And hence a conjecture is drawn, with some appearance of probability — that women who had beautiful hair were accustomed to uncover their heads for the purpose of showing off their beauty. It is not, therefore, without good reason that Paul, as a remedy for this vice, sets before them the opposite idea — that they be regarded as remarkable for unseemliness, rather than for what is an incentive to lust.

7. The man ought not to cover his head, because he is the image. The same question may now be proposed respecting the image, as formerly respecting the head. For both sexes were created in the image of God, and Paul exhorts women no less than men to be formed anew, according to that image. The image, however, of which he is now speaking, relates to the order of marriage, and hence it belongs to the present life, and is not connected with conscience. The simple solution is this — that he does not treat here of innocence and holiness, which are equally becoming in men and women, but of the distinction, which God has conferred upon the man, so as to have superiority over the woman. In this superior order of dignity the glory of God is seen, as it shines forth in every kind of superiority. The woman is the glory of the man. There is no doubt that the woman is a distinguished ornament of the man; for it is a great honor that God has appointed her to the man as the partner of his life, and a helper to him, and has made her subject to him as the body is to the head. For what Solomon affirms as to a careful wife — that she is a crown to her husband, (Proverbs 12:4,) is true of the whole sex, if we look to the appointment of God, which Paul here commends, showing that the woman was created for this purpose — that she might be a distinguished ornament of the man.

8. For the man is not from the woman. He establishes by two arguments the pre-eminence, which he had assigned to men above women. The first is, that as the woman derives her origin from the man, she is therefore inferior in rank. The second is, that as the woman was created for the sake of the man, she is therefore subject to him, as the work ultimately produced is to its cause. That the man is the beginning of the woman and the end for which she was made, is evident from the law. (Genesis 2:18.) It is not good for a man to be alone. Let us make for him, etc. Farther, God took one of Adam’s ribs and formed Eve. (Genesis 2:21, 22.) 10. For this cause ought the woman to have power. From that authority he draws an argument in favor of outward decorum. “She is subject,” says he, “let her then wear a token of subjection.” In the term power, there is an instance of metonymy, for he means a token by which she declares herself to be under the power of her husband; and it is a covering, whether it be a robe, or a veil, or any other kind of covering. [“C’est la couuerture de teste, soit un chapperon, ou couurechef, ou coiffe, ou chose semblable;”—”It is a covering of the head, whether it be a hood, or a kerchief, or a coif, or anything of that kind.”] It is asked, whether he speaks of married women exclusively, for there are some that restrict to them what Paul here teaches, on the ground that it does not belong to virgins to be under the authority of a husband. It is however a mistake, for Paul looks beyond this — to God’s eternal law, which has made the female sex subject to the authority of men. On this account all women are born, that they may acknowledge themselves inferior in consequence of the superiority of the male sex. Otherwise it were an inconclusive argument that Paul has drawn from nature, in saying that it were not one whit more seemly for a woman to have her head uncovered than to be shaven — this being applicable to virgins also.

Because of the angels. This passage is explained in various ways. As the Prophet Malachi 2:7 calls priests angels of God, some are of opinion that Paul speaks of them; but the ministers of the word have nowhere that term applied to them by itself — that is, without something being added; and the meaning would be too forced. I understand it, therefore, in its proper signification. But it is asked, why it is that he would have women have their heads covered because of the angels — for what has this to do with them? Some answer: “Because they are present on occasion of the prayers of believers, and on this account are spectators of unseemliness, should there be any on such occasions.” But what need is there for philosophizing with such refinement? We know that angels are in attendance, also, upon Christ as their head, and minister to him. When, therefore, women venture upon such liberties, as to usurp for themselves the token of authority, they make their baseness manifest to the angels. This, therefore, was said by way of amplifying, as if he had said, “If women uncover their heads, not only Christ, but all the angels too, will be witnesses of the outrage.” And this interpretation suits well with the Apostle’s design. He is treating here of different ranks. Now he says that, when women assume a higher place than becomes them, they gain this by it — that they discover their impudence in the view of the angels of heaven.

11. But neither is the man without the woman. This is added partly as a check upon men, that they may not insult over women; and partly as a consolation to women, that they may not feel dissatisfied with being under subjection. “The male sex (says he) has a distinction over the female sex, with this understanding, that they ought to be connected together by mutual benevolence, for the one cannot do without the other. If they be separated, they are like the mutilated members of a mangled body. Let them, therefore, be connected with each other by the bond of mutual duty.” When he says, in the Lord, he by this expression calls the attention of believers to the appointment of the Lord, while the wicked look to nothing beyond pressing necessity. For profane men, if they can conveniently live unmarried, despise the whole sex, and do not consider that they are under obligations to it by the appointment and decree of God. The pious, on the other hand, acknowledge that the male sex is but the half of the human race. They ponder the meaning of that statement — God created man: male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:27, and Genesis 5:2.) Thus they, of their own accord, acknowledge themselves to be debtors to the weaker sex. Pious women, in like manner, reflect upon their obligation. Thus the man has no standing without the woman, for that would be the head severed from the body; nor has the woman without the man, for that were a body without a head. “Let, therefore, the man perform to the woman the office of the head in respect of ruling her, and let the woman perform to the man the office of the body in respect of assisting him, and that not merely in the married state, but also in celibacy; for I do not speak of cohabitation merely, but also of civil offices, for which there is occasion even in the unmarried state.” If you are inclined rather to refer this to the whole sex in general, I do not object to this, though, as Paul directs his discourse to individuals, he appears to point out the particular duty of each.

12. As the woman is of the man. If this is one of the reasons, why the man has superiority — that the woman was taken out of him, there will be, in like manner, this motive to friendly connection — that the male sex cannot maintain and preserve itself without the aid of women. For this remains a settled point — that it is not good for man to be alone. (Genesis 2:18.) This statement of Paul may, it is true, be viewed as referring to propagation, because human beings are propagated not by men alone, but by men and women; but I understand it as meaning this also — that the woman is a needful help to the man, inasmuch as a solitary life is not expedient for man. This decree of God exhorts us to cultivate mutual intercourse. But all things of God. God is the Source of both sexes, and hence both of them ought with humility to accept and maintain the condition which the Lord has assigned to them. Let the man exercise his authority with moderation, and not insult over the woman who has been given him as his partner. Let the woman be satisfied with her state of subjection, and not take it amiss that she is made inferior to the more distinguished sex. Otherwise they will both of them throw off the yoke of God, who has not without good reason appointed this distinction of ranks. Farther, when it is said that the man and the woman, when they are wanting in their duty to each other, are rebels against the authority of God, the statement is a more serious one than if Paul had said, that they do injury to one another. Doth not even nature itself. He again sets forth nature as the mistress of decorum, and what was at that time in common use by universal consent and custom — even among the Greeks — he speaks of as being natural, for it was not always reckoned a disgrace for men to have long hair. Historical records bear, that in all countries in ancient times, that is, in the first ages, men wore long hair. Hence also the poets, in speaking of the ancients, are accustomed to apply to them the common epithet of unshorn. It was not until a late period that barbers began to be employed at Rome — about the time of Africanus the elder. And at the time when Paul wrote these things, the practice of having the hair shorn had not yet come into use in the provinces of Gaul or in Germany. Nay more, it would have been reckoned an unseemly thing for men, no less than for women, to be shorn or shaven; but as in Greece it was reckoned all unbecoming thing for a man to allow his hair to grow long, so that those who did so were remarked as effeminate, he reckons as nature a custom that had come to be confirmed. [I1 appelle Nature ceste coustume desia confermee par vn long temps et vsage commun;”—”He gives the appellation of Nature to this custom, already confirmed by length of time and common use.”]

16. But if any man seem. A contentious person is one whose humor inclines him to stir up disputes, and does not care what becomes of the truth. Of this description are all who, without any necessity, abolish good and useful customs — raise disputes respecting matters that are not doubtful — who do not yield to reasonings — who cannot endure that any one should be above them. Of this description, also, are those (akoinwnhtoi) would be singular persons who, from a foolish affectation, aim at some new and unusual way of acting. Such persons Paul does not reckon worthy of being replied to, inasmuch as contention is a pernicious thing, and ought, therefore, to be banished from the Churches. By this he teaches us, that those that are obstinate and fond of quarrelling, should rather be restrained by authority than confuted by lengthened disputations. For you will never have an end of contentions, if you are disposed to contend with a combative person until you have vanquished him; for though vanquished a hundred times, he would argue still. Let us therefore carefully mark this passage, that we may not allow ourselves to be carried away with needless disputations, provided at the same time we know how to distinguish contentious persons. For we must not always reckon as contentious the man who does not acquiesce in our decisions, or who ventures to contradict us; but when temper and obstinacy show themselves, let us then say with Paul, that contentions are at variance with the custom of the Church.—Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.

John Gill:

1Co 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. &c. These words more properly close the preceding chapter, than begin a new one, and refer to the rules therein laid down, and which the apostle would have the Corinthians follow him in, as he did Christ: that as he sought, both in private and public, and more especially in his ministerial service, to do all things to the glory of God, and not for his own popular applause, in which he imitated Christ, who sought not his own glory, but the glory of him that sent him; so he would have them do all they did in the name of Christ, and to the glory of God by him: and that as he studied to exercise a conscience void of offence to God and man, in doing which he was a follower of Christ, who was holy in his nature, and harmless and inoffensive in his conversation; so he was desirous that they should likewise be blameless, harmless, and without offence until the day of Christ: and that whereas he endeavoured to please men in all things lawful and indifferent, wherein he copied after Christ, who by his affable and courteous behaviour, and humble deportment, sought to please and gratify all with whom he conversed; so he would have them not to mind high things, but condescend to men of low estates, and become all things to all, that they might gain some as he did: and once more, that as he sought not his own pleasure and advantage, but the salvation of others, in imitation of Christ, who pleased not himself, but took upon him, and bore cheerfully, the reproaches of men, that he might procure good for them; so the apostle suggests, that it would be right in them not to seek to have their own wills in every thing, but rather to please their neighbour for good to edification.

1Co 11:2 Now I praise you, brethren,…. The apostle prefaces what he had to say by way of commendation of them; though some think that this is said in an ironical way, because there are many things both in this chapter, and in the following part of this epistle, delivered in a way of reproof; but whoever considers the change of style in 1Co_11:17 will easily see, that this must be spoken seriously here, and is designed to raise the attention to what he was about to say, and to prepare their minds to receive, and take in good part, what he should say by way of rebuke; who could not well be angry when he praised them for what was praiseworthy in them, and reproved them for that which was blamable. The things he commends them for are as follow,

that ye remember me in all things; that is, either that they were mindful of him, though at a distance from them, and had such a veneration for him, and paid such respect to him, and to his judgment, as to write to him to have his sense about any point of doctrine, or case of conscience which had any difficulty in them; or that they bore in memory the doctrines of the Gospel which he had delivered among them; see 1Co_15:2 The Arabic version reads, “that ye remember my sayings and deeds”; the doctrines he preached among them, and the examples he set them:

and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you; meaning, among the rest, if not principally, baptism and the Lord’s supper, which he received from Christ, and delivered unto them; see 1Co_11:23 and which they, at least many of them, kept and observed in the faith of Christ, from a principle of love to him, and with a view to his glory, and that as to the form and manner in which they were delivered to them by the apostle, agreeably to the mind of Christ; but was the apostle alive now, would, or could he praise the generality of those that are called Christians on this account? no; neither of these ordinances in common are kept as they were delivered: as to baptism, it is not attended to either as to subject or mode, both are altered, and are different from the original institution; and the Lord’s supper is prostituted to the vilest of men; and, what is “monstrum horrendum”, is made a test and qualification for employment in civil and military offices under the government.

1Co 11:3 But I would have you to know,…. Though they were mindful of him, and retained in memory many things he had declared among them, and kept the ordinances as delivered to them; yet there were some things in which they were either ignorant, or at least did not so well advert to, and needed to be put in mind of, and better informed about: and as the apostle was very communicative of his knowledge in every point, he fails not to acquaint them with whatsoever might be instructive to their faith, and a direction to their practice:

that the head of every man is Christ; Christ is the head of every individual human nature, as he is the Creator and Preserver of all men, and the donor of all the gifts of nature to them; of the light of nature, of reason, and of all the rational powers and faculties; he is the head of nature to all men, as he is of grace to his own people: and so he is as the Governor of all the nations of the earth, who whether they will or no are subject to him; and one day every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue confess that he is the Lord of all. Moreover, Christ is the head of every believing man; he is generally said to be the head of the church, and so of every man that is a member of it: he is a common public head, a representative one to all his elect; so he was in election, and in the covenant of grace; so he was in time, in his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to, and entrance into heaven; and so he is now as an advocate and intercessor there: he is the political head of his people, or an head in such sense, as a king is the head of his nation: he is also an economical head, or in such sense an head as an husband is the head of his wife, and as a parent is the head of his family, and as a master is the head of his servants; for all these relations Christ sustains: yea, he is a natural head, or is that to his church, as an human head is to an human body: he is a true and proper head, is of the same nature with his body, is in union to it, communicates life to it, is superior to it, and more excellent than it. He is a perfect head, nothing is wanting in him; he knows all his people, and is sensible of their wants, and does supply them; his eye of love is always on them; his ears are open to their cries; he has a tongue to speak to them, and for them, which he uses; and he smells a sweet savour in them, in their graces and garments, though they are all his own, and perfumed by himself: there are no vicious humours in this head, flowing from thence to the body to its detriment, as from Adam to his posterity, whose head he was; but in Christ is no sin, nothing but grace, righteousness, and holiness, spring from him. There’s no deformity nor deficiency in him; all fulness of grace dwells in him to supply the members of his body; he is an one, and only head, and an ever living and everlasting one.

And the head of the woman is the man, The man is first in order in being, was first formed, and the woman out of him, who was made for him, and not he for the woman, and therefore must be head and chief; as he is also with respect to his superior gifts and excellencies, as strength of body, and endowments of mind, whence the woman is called the weaker vessel; likewise with regard to pre-eminence or government, the man is the head; and as Christ is the head of the church, and the church is subject to him, so the husband is the head of the wife, and she is to be subject to him in everything natural, civil, and religious. Moreover, the man is the head of the woman to provide and care for her, to nourish and cherish her, and to protect and defend her against all insults and injuries.

And the head of Christ is God; that is, the Father, not as to his divine nature, for in respect to that they are one: Christ, as God, is equal to his Father, and is possessed of the same divine perfections with him; nor is his Father the head of him, in that sense; but as to his human nature, which he formed, prepared, anointed, upheld, and glorified; and in which nature Christ exercised grace on him, he hoped in him, he believed and trusted in him, and loved him, and yielded obedience to him; he always did the things that pleased him in life; he prayed to him; he was obedient to him, even unto death, and committed his soul or spirit into his hands: and all this he did as to his superior, considered in the human nature, and also in his office capacity as Mediator, who as such was his servant; and whose service he diligently and faithfully performed, and had the character from him of a righteous one; so that God is the head of Christ, as he is man and Mediator, and as such only.

1Co 11:4 Every man praying or prophesying,…. This is to be understood of praying and prophesying in public, and not in private; and not to be restrained to the person that is the mouth of the congregation to God in prayer, or who preaches to the people in the name of God; but to be applied to every individual person that attends public worship, that joins in prayer with the minister, and hears the word preached by him, which is meant by prophesying; for not foretelling future events is here meant, but explaining the word of God, the prophecies of the Old Testament, or any part of Scripture, unless singing of psalms should rather be designed, since that is sometimes expressed by prophesying: so in 1Sa_10:5 “thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place, with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp before them, and they shall prophesy”. The Targum renders it thus, ואנון משבחין, “and they shall sing praise”; upon which Kimchi observes, that it is as if it was said, their prophecy shall be שירות, “songs” and praises to God, spoken by the Holy Ghost. So in 1Sa_19:23 it is said of Saul, that he “went on and prophesied”. The Targum is, he went on, ומשבח, “and praised”. And again, “he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied”. Targum, ושבח, “and praised”, or sung praise. Once more, in 1Ch_25:1 it is said of Asaph, and others, that they “should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals”; which Kimchi explains of Asaph’s singing vocally, and of his sons playing upon musical instruments.

Having his head covered; which, it seems, was the custom of some of them so to do in attendance on public worship: this they either did in imitation of the Heathens (r), who worshipped their deities with their heads covered, excepting Saturn and Hercules, whose solemnities were celebrated with heads unveiled, contrary to the prevailing customs and usages in the worship of others; or rather in imitation of the Jews, who used to veil themselves in public worship, through a spirit of bondage unto fear, under which they were, and do to this day; and with whom it is a rule (s), that

“a man might not stand and pray, neither with his girdle on, ולא בראש מגולה, nor with his head uncovered; nor with his feet uncovered.”

Accordingly it is said (t) of Nicodemus ben Gorion,

“that he went into the school grieved, and נתעטף, “veiled himself”, and stood in prayer;”

and a little after that

“that he went into the sanctuary and “veiled” himself, and stood and prayed;”

though the Targum on Jdg_5:2 suggests,

“that the wise men sit in the synagogues, בריש גלי, “with the head uncovered”, to teach the people the words of the law;”

and on Jdg_5:9 has these words,

“Deborah in prophecy said, I am sent to praise the Scribes of Israel, who when they were in tribulation did not cease from expounding the law; and so it was beautiful for them to sit in the synagogues, “with the head uncovered”, and teach the people the words of the law, and bless and confess before the Lord;”

but it seems that a different custom had now prevailed; now from this Gentile or judaizing practice, the apostle would dissuade them by observing, that such an one that uses it, “dishonoureth his head”; meaning either in a figurative, spiritual, and mystical sense, his head Christ, in token of the liberty received from him, and because he is above in heaven, and clear of all sin, the head must be uncovered in public worship; or otherwise the reverse is suggested of him, which is highly to dishonour him, and is the sense many interpreters give into: rather the reason should be, because Christ, the believer’s head, appears for him in heaven, opens a way of access for him, gives him audience and acceptance in his person, and through his blood and righteousness; and therefore should appear with open face and head uncovered, as a token of freedom and boldness; otherwise he dishonours his head as if his blood and sacrifice were not effectual, and his intercession not prevalent: but the natural head, taken in a literal sense, is rather meant; and the sense is, that by covering it, it looks as if he was guilty and ashamed, and in subjection; whereas to appear uncovered expresses freedom, boldness, and superiority, like himself, who is the head of the woman; whereas to be covered, as with a woman’s veil or hood, is effeminate, unmanly, and dishonourable.

(r) Macrob Saturnal. l. 3. c. 6. Alex. ab. Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 14. & 19. & 22. (s) Maimon. Hilch. Tephilla, c. 5. sect. 5. (t) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 20. 1.

1Co 11:5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth,…. Not that a woman was allowed to pray publicly in the congregation, and much less to preach or explain the word, for these things were not permitted them: see 1Co_14:34 but it designs any woman that joins in public worship with the minister in prayer, and attends on the hearing of the word preached, or sings the praises of God with the congregation, as we have seen, the word prophesying signifies,

with her head uncovered. It may seem strange from whom the Corinthian women should take up this custom, since the Jewish women were not allowed to go into the streets, or into any open and public place, unveiled (u). It was a Jewish law, that they should go out no where bare headed (w): yea, it was reckoned scandalous and ignominious to do so. Hence it is said, (x) שגלוי הראש גנאי להם, “that uncovering of the head is a reproach” to the daughters of Israel: and concerning the adulterous woman, it is represented as said by the priest (y),

“thou hast separated from the way of the daughters of Israel; for the way or custom of the daughters of Israel is להיות מכוסות ראשיהן, “to have their heads covered”; but thou hast gone “in the ways of the Gentiles”, who walk with head bare.”

So that their it should seem that these Corinthians followed the examples of the Heathens: but then, though it might be the custom of some nations for women to go abroad bare headed; yet at their solemnities, where and when they were admitted, for they were not everywhere and always, they used to attend with their heads veiled and covered (z). Mr. Mede takes notice indeed of some Heathen priestesses, who used to perform their religious rites and sacrifices with open face, and their hair hanging down, and locks spreading, in imitation of whom these women at Corinth are thought to act. However, whoever behaved in this uncomely manner, whose example soever she followed, the apostle says,

dishonoureth her head; not her husband, who is her head in a figurative sense, and is dishonoured by her not being covered; as if she was not subject to him, or because more beautiful than he, and therefore shows herself; but her natural head, as appears from the reason given:

for that is even all one as if she were shaven; to be without a veil, or some sort of covering on her head, according to the custom of the country, is the same thing as if her head was shaved; and everyone knows how dishonourable and scandalous it is for a woman to have her head shaved; and if this is the same, then it is dishonourable and scandalous to her to be without covering in public worship. And this shows, that the natural head of the man is meant in the preceding verse, since the natural head of the woman is meant in this.

(u) Maimon. Hilch. Ishot, c. 24. sect. 12. (w) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 72. 1. (x) R. Sol. Jarchi in Numb. v. 19. (y) Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 9. fol. 193. 2. (z) Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 4. c. 17.

1Co 11:6 For if the woman be not covered,…. That is, if her head is not covered with some sort of covering, as is the custom of the place where she lives,

let her also be shorn; let her hair be cut short; let her wear it as men do theirs; and let her see how she will look, and how she will like that, and how she will be looked upon, and liked by others; everybody will laugh at her, and she will be ashamed of herself:

but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven: as it is accounted in all civilized nations: the very Heathens (a) speak of it as a thing abominable, and of which there should not be one single dreadful example: then let her be covered; with a veil, or any sort of covering in common use.

(a) Vid. Apul. Metamorph. l. 2. p. 21.

1Co 11:7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head,…. The Ethiopic version adds, “whilst he prays”; which is a proper interpretation of the words, though a wrong version; for the apostle’s meaning is not, that a man should not have his head covered at any time, but whilst he is in public worship, praying, prophesying, or singing of psalms: the reason is,

forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God. The apostle speaks of man here as in his first creation, in his state of innocence before his fall; but now he has sinned and defaced this image, and come short of this glory; which lay partly in his body being made after the exemplar of the body of Christ, the idea of which God had in his eternal mind, and according to which he shaped the body of Adam: and partly in his soul, in that righteousness and holiness, wisdom and knowledge, and all other excellent gifts in which it was formed. So the Jews (b) say, the understanding is כבוד השם “the glory of God”. And it chiefly lay in the power and dominion he had over all the creatures, and even over the woman when made; at least this is principally respected here, in which there is such a shine and representation of the glory and majesty, power and dominion of God; and therefore man ought to worship him with his head uncovered, where this image and glory of God is most illustriously displayed: not but that the woman, is the image and glory of God also, and was made as man, after his image and likeness, with respect to internal qualities, as righteousness, holiness, knowledge, &c. and with regard to her power over the other creatures, though in subjection to man; but yet man was first originally and immediately the image and glory of God, the woman only secondarily and mediately through man. The man is more perfectly and conspicuously the image and glory of God, on account of his more extensive dominion and authority:

but the woman is the glory of the man; being made out of him, and for his help and assistance, and to be a crown of honour and glory to him. The apostle speaks the sense, and in the language of the Jews. The words in Isa_44:13. “After the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man”, are by the Targum rendered, “after the likeness of a man, after the glory of a woman”; and the note of a famous (c) interpreter of theirs upon the last clause is, “this is the woman”, שהיא תפארת בעלה “who is the glory of her husband”; but why is she to be covered for this reason, when the man is to be uncovered? it is to be observed, that it is in the presence and worship of God that the one is to be uncovered, and the other covered; the one being the glory of God, and therefore to be uncovered before him; and the other the glory of man, and therefore to be covered before God; and especially, since being first in the transgression, she who is man’s glory has been the means of his shame and disgrace. The Jews seem to make this the reason of the difference; they ask (d),

“why does a man go out with his head uncovered, and a woman with her head covered? it is answered, it is like to one that has committed a sin, and he is ashamed of the children of men, therefore she goes וראשה מכוסה, “with her head covered”.”

(b) Maimon. in Misn. Chagiga, c. 2. sect 1. 1. (c) R. Sol. Jarchi in Isa. xliv. 13. (d) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 17. fol. 15. 1.

1Co 11:8 For the man is not of the woman,…. In the present state of things, and according to the ordinary course of generation and propagation of mankind, man is of the woman, though not without the means of man; he is conceived in her, bore by her, and born of her; but the apostle respects the original formation of man, as he was immediately made by God out of the dust of the earth, before the woman was in being, and so not of her:

but the woman of the man; she was made out of his rib, and took both her name and nature from him; God was the author, and man the matter of her being; her original under God, is owing to him; and therefore as he was first in being, he must be superior to her: this serves to prove all that has been as yet said; as that man is the head of the woman, the woman is the glory of man, what he may glory in as being from him; and therefore there should be this difference in their appearance at public worship.

1Co 11:9 Neither was the man created for the woman,…. To be subservient to her; for she was not in being when he was created; and though it is the proper business of man to provide for, take care of, and defend the woman, as the weaker vessel, yet these were not the original ends of his creation; he was made for God, for his service and glory:

but the woman for the man; to be an help meet for him, who was already created; to be a companion and associate of his, both in religious worship and in civil life; and for the procreation and education of children.

1Co 11:10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head,…. The generality of interpreters, by power, understand the veil, or covering on the woman’s head, as a sign of the man’s power over her, and her subjection to him; which Dr. Hammond endeavours to confirm, by observing that the Hebrew word רדיד, which signifies a woman’s veil, or hood, comes from a root which signifies power and dominion; but in that he is mistaken, for the word is derived not from רדה, to rule, govern, or exercise power and authority, but from רדד, to expand, stretch out, or draw over, as a woman’s veil is drawn over her head and face. The Greek word εξουσια more properly signifies the power she had of putting on and off her covering as she pleased, according as times, places, and persons; made it necessary:

because of the angels; various are the senses given of these words, some taking them in a proper, others in a figurative sense: some in a proper sense of angels, and these either good or bad. Tertullian (e) understands them of evil angels, and that a woman should cover her head in time of worship, lest they should lust after her; though much rather the reason should be, lest they should irritate and provoke lust in others: but it is better to understand them of good angels, who attend the assemblies of the saints, and observe the air and behaviour of the worshippers; wherefore women should cover their heads with respect to them, and not give offence to those pure spirits, by an indecent appearance: it is agreeable to the notions of the Jews, that angels attend public prayers, and at the expounding of the word; they often speak (f) of an angel, הממונה על התפלות “that is appointed over prayers”; hence (g) Tertullian seems to have took his notion of an angel of prayer: and of angels being present at expounding of the Scriptures, take the following story (h);

“it happened to Rabban Jochanan ben Zaccai, that he was riding upon an ass, and as he was journeying, R. Eleazar ben Arach was leading an ass after him; he said to him, Rabbi, teach me one chapter in the work of Mercavah (Ezekiel’s vision); he replied to him, not so have I taught you, nor in the Mercavah a single man, unless he was a wise man by his own industry; he answered him, Rabbi, give me leave to say one thing before thee, which thou hast taught me; immediately Rabban Jochanan ben Zaccai alighted from his ass and “veiled himself”, and sat upon a stone under an olive tree; he said to him, Rabbi, why dost thou alight off from the ass? he replied, is it possible that thou shouldst expound in the work of Mercavah, and the Shekinah be with us, ומלאכי השרת מלוין אותנו, “and the ministering angels join us”, and I ride upon an ass?”

And a little after,

“R. Joshua and R. Jose the priest were walking on the road, they said, yea, let us expound in the work of Mercavah; R. Joshua opened and expounded, and that day was the solstice of Tammuz, and the heavens were thickened with clouds, and there appeared the form of a bow in the cloud, “and the ministering angels gathered together”, ובאין לשמוע, “and came to hear”: as the children of men gather together, and come to see the rejoicings of the bridegroom and bride.”

Moreover, this veiling of the woman in public worship because of angels, may be an imitation of the good angels, who when they sung the praises of God, and adored and glorified his perfections, covered their faces and their feet with their wings, Isa_6:1. Many understanding these words in a figurative sense, and in this also they are not agreed; some by angels think young men are meant, who, for their gracefulness and comeliness, are compared to angels; others good men in general, that attend religious worship; others ministers of the word, called angels often in the book of the Revelations; which last seems to be most agreeable of any of these senses; and the women were to cover their heads, that they might not offend either of these, or stir up any impure desires in them; see Ecc_5:6 but as these words follow the account given of the creation of the woman from the man, and for his sake; this may have no reference to her conduct in public worship, but to the power she had of using her covering, or taking it off, or putting it on, at the time of her espousals to a man; which was sometimes done by proxy, or messengers, whom the Jews call שלוחים, “angels” (i); their canon is,

“a man may espouse (a wife) by himself, ובשלוחו, “or by his angel”, or messenger; and a woman may be espoused by herself, or by her angel, or messenger:”

wherefore because of these angels, or messengers, that came to espouse her to such, she had power over her head to take off her veil, and show herself, if she thought fit; or to keep it on, as expressing her modesty; or just as she pleased, when she by them was espoused to a man, for whose sake she was made; which sense, after Dr. Lightfoot, many learned men have given into, and seems probable.

(e) De Veland. Virg. c. 7. (f) Shemot Rabba, sect. 21. fol. 106. 2. Zohar. in Gen. fol. 97. 2. (g) De Oratione, c. 15. (h) T. Bab. Chagiga, fol. 14. 2. (i) Misn. Kiddushin, c. 2. sect. 1.

1Co 11:11 Nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman,…. This is said, partly to repress the pride and insolence of man, that he might not be too much elated with himself, and his superiority over the woman, and look with any degree of disdain and contempt upon her, and treat her with indifference and neglect; and partly to comfort the woman, that she might not be dejected with the condition and circumstances in which she was, since the one is not without the other; nor can they be so truly comfortable and happy, as not the man without the woman, who was made for an help meet for him,

so neither the woman without the man in the Lord. The phrase “in the Lord” is added, to show that it is the will of God, and according to his ordination and appointment, that the one should not be without the other; or it may design that lawful conjunction and copulation, of one man and one woman together, according to the will of the Lord, which distinguishes it from all other impure mixtures and copulations. The Arabic version reads it, “in the religion of the Lord”; and the sense is, that the one is not without the other in religious worship, and in the enjoyment of religious privileges; that though the woman may not pray publicly and expound the Scriptures, yet she may join in prayer, and hear the word preached, sing the praises of God, and enjoy all ordinances; for in Christ no distinction of sex is regarded, men and women are all one in him, and equally regenerated, justified, and pardoned, and will be glorified together.

1Co 11:12 For as the woman is of the man,…. Originally; so Eve was of Adam, made out of one of his ribs:

even so is the man also by the woman; now man is born of a woman, he is conceived of one, and brought into the world by one. This is the way in which mankind is propagated, the species preserved, continued, and increased; and therefore there is no reason why the woman should be despised, or the man should be lifted up with himself above her, since they are so dependent upon, and so useful to each other:

but all things of God. The Arabic version reads it, “all creatures are of God”; which is true, but not the truth of these words, which are to be restrained to the subject of the discourse; as that both the man and the woman are of God; they are made by him, and after his image and likeness; that the man is the glory of God, and the woman the glory of the man; the authority of the man over the woman, and the subjection of the woman to the man, are of God, and according to his constitution and appointment; as also that the woman should be of the man, and for his sake, and that the man should be by the woman, and neither should be without the other: these are not things of human constitution, but are settled by the wise counsel of God, and therefore to be cheerfully submitted to, as the best order of things.

1Co 11:13 Judge in yourselves,…. The apostle having gone through a variety of reasoning and arguments, showing the superiority of the man to the woman, by which he would prove, that the one should be covered, and the other uncovered, returns to his subject again, and appeals to the common sense and understanding of the Corinthians, and makes them themselves judges of the matter; suggesting that the thing was so clear, and he so certain of what he had advanced being right, that he leaves it with them, not doubting but that they would, upon a little reflection within themselves, join with him in this point:

is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? in you judgment you can never think so, however pleasing and gratifying such a sight may be, to the lust of the flesh, and to the lust of the eye; he does not mention prophesying, only instances in praying; but it is to be understood of one, as of another; and his meaning is, that it is an uncomely thing in a woman to appear in public service with her head uncovered, whether it be in joining in the public prayers, or in singing of psalms, or in hearing the word expounded; and though the apostle does not put the case of the man’s praying to God, or prophesying in his name with his head covered, yet his sense is the same of that, as of the woman’s.

1Co 11:12 For as the woman is of the man,…. Originally; so Eve was of Adam, made out of one of his ribs:

even so is the man also by the woman; now man is born of a woman, he is conceived of one, and brought into the world by one. This is the way in which mankind is propagated, the species preserved, continued, and increased; and therefore there is no reason why the woman should be despised, or the man should be lifted up with himself above her, since they are so dependent upon, and so useful to each other:

but all things of God. The Arabic version reads it, “all creatures are of God”; which is true, but not the truth of these words, which are to be restrained to the subject of the discourse; as that both the man and the woman are of God; they are made by him, and after his image and likeness; that the man is the glory of God, and the woman the glory of the man; the authority of the man over the woman, and the subjection of the woman to the man, are of God, and according to his constitution and appointment; as also that the woman should be of the man, and for his sake, and that the man should be by the woman, and neither should be without the other: these are not things of human constitution, but are settled by the wise counsel of God, and therefore to be cheerfully submitted to, as the best order of things.

1Co 11:13 Judge in yourselves,…. The apostle having gone through a variety of reasoning and arguments, showing the superiority of the man to the woman, by which he would prove, that the one should be covered, and the other uncovered, returns to his subject again, and appeals to the common sense and understanding of the Corinthians, and makes them themselves judges of the matter; suggesting that the thing was so clear, and he so certain of what he had advanced being right, that he leaves it with them, not doubting but that they would, upon a little reflection within themselves, join with him in this point:

is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? in you judgment you can never think so, however pleasing and gratifying such a sight may be, to the lust of the flesh, and to the lust of the eye; he does not mention prophesying, only instances in praying; but it is to be understood of one, as of another; and his meaning is, that it is an uncomely thing in a woman to appear in public service with her head uncovered, whether it be in joining in the public prayers, or in singing of psalms, or in hearing the word expounded; and though the apostle does not put the case of the man’s praying to God, or prophesying in his name with his head covered, yet his sense is the same of that, as of the woman’s.

1Co 11:14 Doth not even nature itself teach you,…. By nature is either meant, the law and light of nature, reason in man, common sense, or rather custom, which is second nature; and which, in this case, must be restrained to the Greeks and Jews; for though among the Grecians the men cut their hair, and did not suffer it to grow long, as also did the Jews, yet there were many nations (k) who did not, even at that time, observe such a rule or custom; but as the Jews and Greeks were the persons chiefly, if not solely, known to the Corinthians, the apostle signifies, that the usages of these people might direct and inform them in this matter:

that if a man have long hair it is a shame unto him; he looks unmanly and womanish, and exposes himself to ridicule and contempt.

(k) Alex. ab. Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 5. c. 18. Servius in Virgil. Aeneid. l. 10. prope finem.

1Co 11:15 But if a woman have long hair,…. And wears it, without cutting it, as men do:

it is a glory to her; it is comely and beautiful; it is agreeable to her sex, she looks like herself; it becomes and adorns her:

for her hair is given her for a covering; not instead of a covering for her head, or any other part of her body, so that she needs no other: we read indeed of the daughter of Nicodemus ben Gorion, that she was obliged to make use of her hair for a covering in such a sense (l);

“it happened to R. Jochanan ben Zaccai that he rode upon an ass, and went out of Jerusalem, and his disciples went after him; he saw a young woman gathering barley corns out of the dung of the Arabian cattle; when she saw him, נתעטפה בשערה, “she covered herself with her hair”, and stood before him:”

but this covering was made use of, not of choice, but by force, through her poverty, she having no other; this was not the custom of the nation, nor was the hair given to women for a covering in this sense, nor used by them as such, unless by Eve before the fall; but is rather an indication that they want another covering for their head, it not being so decent that their long hair should be seen. The Jewish women used to esteem it an immodest thing for their hair to be seen, and therefore they took care, as much as possible, to hide it under another covering;

“one woman, whose name was Kimchith, had seven sons, and they all ministered in the high priesthood; the wise men said unto her, what hast thou done, that thou art so worthy? she replied to them, all my days the beams of my house never saw קלעי שערי, “the plaits of my hair” (m);”

that is, they were never seen by any person, even within her house.

(l) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 66. 2. (m) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 47. 1.

1Co 11:16 But if any man seem to be contentious,…. That is, if anyone will not be satisfied with reasons given, for men’s praying and prophesying with their heads uncovered, and women’s praying and prophesying with their heads covered; but will go on to raise objections, and continue carping and cavilling, showing that they contend not for truth, but victory, can they but obtain it any way; for my part, as if the apostle should say, I shall not think it worth my while to continue the dispute any longer; enough has been said to satisfy any wise and good man, anyone that is serious, thoughtful, and modest; and shall only add,

we have no such custom, nor the churches of God; meaning, either that men should appear covered, and women uncovered in public service, and which should have some weight with all those that have any regard to churches and their examples; or that men should be indulged in a captious and contentious spirit; a man that is always contending for contention sake, and is continually cavilling and carping at everything that is said and done in churches, and is always quarrelling with one person or another, or on account of one thing or another, and is constantly giving uneasiness, is not fit to be a church member; nor ought he to be suffered to continue in the communion of the church, to the disturbance of the peace of it. This puts me in mind of a passage in the Talmud (n).

“The Rabbans teach, that after the departure of R. Meir, R. Judah said to his disciples, do not let the disciples of R. Meir enter here, מפני שקנתרנין הן, “because they are contentious”.”

(n) T. Bab. Nazir, fol. 49. 2. & Kiddushin, fol. 52. 2.Tertullian (160 – 215 A.D.) said, “It behooves our virgins to be veiled from the time that they have passed the turning point of their age.”Hippolytus (170 – 236 A.D.) said, “And let all the women have their heads covered with an opaque cloth.”Augustine (354 – 430 A.D.) said, “It is not becoming, even in married women, to uncover their hair, since the apostle commands women to keep their heads covered.”Martin Luther (1483 – 1546 A.D.) said, “The headcovering is a protection from being out of relationship with God. By fulfilling the commands, the women have a sense of peace and love in their relationships with God.”

Peter Martyr (1500-1562).

 “A woman ought seeing her hair is given her of God, to follow this his institution, and to imitate her Maker, and cover her head; which if she will not do, as much as is in her, she throws off the natural veil”.

Henry Bullinger (1504-1575).

 But the apostle Paul biddeth the woman to pray, or to come into the congregation to hear a sermon, with her head covered, for none other cause, but for that she is not in her own power, but subject to another, that is to her husband”.

John Knox (1505-1572).

 “First, I say, that woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man, not to rule and command him. As St. Paul does reason in these words: ‘Man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. And man was not created for the cause of the woman, but the woman for the cause of the man; and therefore ought the woman to have power upon her head’ (that is, a cover in sign of subjection)…Chrysostom, explaining these words of the apostle, ‘The head of woman is man’, compares God in his universal regiment to a king sitting in his royal majesty, to whom all his subjects, commanded to give homage and obedience, appear before him, bearing every one such a badge and cognisance of dignity and honour as he has given to them; which if they despise and contemn, then do they dishonour their king. ‘Even so,’ says he, ‘ought man and woman to appear before God, bearing the ensigns of the condition which they have received of him. Man has received a certain glory and dignity above the woman; and therefore ought to appear before his high Majesty bearing the sign of his honour, having no cover upon his head, to witness that in earth man has no head.’ Beware Chrysostom what you say! You shall be reputed a traitor if Englishmen hear you, for they must have my sovereign lady and mistress;…He proceeds in these words, ‘But woman ought to be covered, to witness that in earth she had a head, that is man.’ True it is, Chrysostom, woman is covered in both the said realms, but it is not with the sign of subjection, but it is with the sign of superiority: to wit, with the royal crown.” (‘The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women”, Work vol. 4, Presbyterian Heritage Publications, pp. 383-4 & 402-403).

‘Because the Spirit of God and of Christ in the New Testament is pleased often to argue from the light of nature in condemning of sin, in commending and urging of duty, as in case of the incestuous Corinthian: “It is reported commonly, that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles” (who had only the light of nature to guide them, 1Cor. 5:1) [and] in case of the habits of men and women in their public Church-Assemblies; the women’s heads should be covered, men’s uncovered in praying or prophesying: “Judge in yourselves, is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you, that if a man have long hair, it is a shame to him? But if a woman have long hair it is a glory to her, &c.” (1 Cor. 11:13-15). Here the Apostle appeals plainly to the very light of nature for the regulating and directing of their habits in Church-Assemblies. And thus in case of praying or prophesying in the Congregation in an unknown tongue (unless some do interpret), he strongly argues against it from light of nature (1 Cor. 14:7-11); and afterwards urges that women be “silent in the churches” (ab indecoro naturali) from the natural uncomeliness of their speaking there: “for it is a shame for women to speak in the Church” (1 Cor. 14:34-35).
Now if the Spirit of God condemns things as vicious, and commends things as virtuous from the light of nature, is there not a jus divinum in the light of nature? May we not say, that which is repugnant to the light of nature in matters of Religion is condemned jure divino. And that which is correspondent to the light of nature is prescribed jure divino? And if not, where is the strength and force of this kind of arguing from the Light of nature?” (The Divine Right of Church Government, Naphtali Press, p. 11).

William Greenhill 1581-1671

“They (the angels – DS) reverence the greatness and majesty of Christ. Though they be high and glorious, yet they see so vast a distance between Christ and themselves, that they cover their faces, Isa. vi. And their bodies, here; they come not into his presence rudely, but with great respect and reverence. As God is to be had in reverence of all that are about him, Psalm 89:7, so Christ is reverenced of all the angels that are about him. Women are to be veiled in the assemblies, because of the angels, 1 Cor. 11:10, to show their reverence and subjection to them being present; and angels are covered, to show their reverence and subjection to Christ. It is an honour to the angels, that in reverence to them the women are to be veiled; and it is a great honour to Christ, that angels reverence and adore him.” Commentary on Ezekiel (Ch. 1:23), by William Greenhill, member of the Westminster Assembly.

William Gouge 1575-1653

“Heading 3. – Of an husbands superioritie over a wife, to be acknowledged by a wife.
….6. The very attire which nature and custome of all times and places have taught women to put on, confirmeth the same: as long haire, vailes, and other coverings over the head: and the former argument doth the Apostle himself use to this very purpose, 1 Cor. 11:7 & c. …’And if it (i.e. the hair – DS) be given her for a covering (vail), say you, wherefore need she add another covering (vail)? That not nature only, but also her own will may have part in her acknowledgement of her subjection’ (Chrysostom).
‘Of Domestical Duties’ by William Gouge, member of the Westminster Assembly.

John Cotton 1585-1652

“How is the public worship of God to be ordered and administered in the church? All the members of the church being met together as one man (i) in the sight of God (ii) are to join together in holy duties with one accord (iii) the men with their heads uncovered, the women covered.”
“For a woman to cover her head in time of public prayer, or prophesying, and for a man to uncover his head, the Apostle warranteth from both the light of nature, and the custome of the churches, 1 Cor. 11:4 to 16.”

John Lightfoot 1602-1675

“Therefore the Apostle requires the vailing of women in Religious worship, by the same notion and reason, as men veiled themselves, namely for reverence towards God. But certainly it may be required, whether he so much urgeth the vailing of women, as reproves the vailing of men. However, by this most fit argument, he well chastiseth the contrary custom, and foolishness of the men: as though he had said, do ye not consider, that the man is doxa theou the glory of God, but the woman is only doxa andros, the glory of the man; that the woman was made for man; that man is the head of the woman: and how ridiculous is it, that men should use a vail, when they pray, out of reverence and shame before God, and women not use it, whose glory is less?” Commentary on First Corinthians (ch. 11:5), by John Lightfoot, member of the Westminster Assembly.

Thomas Manton 1620-1677

“In the assembly you meet with angels and devils; angels observe your garb and carriage and devils tempt you. Therefore, be covered because of the angels. The practice of women (who come hither with a shameless impudence into the presence of God, men and angels) neither suits with modesty nor conveniency…(Such boldness) feeds your own pride, and provokes …others of your rank to imitate your vanity. Now we should rather please God than men; better never please men than offend God” Sermons on Titus 2:11-14, Complete Works, vol. 16, p. 138 of Thomas Manton.

Christopher Love 1618-1651

“Eighth, the angels are present with us, beholding us in our church assemblies when we come to worship before God. When you are in the worship and service of God, the angels are with you, beholding you, though you see them not. This is hinted at in 1 Cor. 11:10 ‘For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head, because of the angels.” Some refer these words to ministers, who are elsewhere called angels, but we may understand it of the angels themselves because they delight in the things of the gospel. Here the apostle speaks of women not coming into church without covering. Why? Because of the angels, not the ministers. It is meant of the angels of heaven, and therein the women are to take heed how they come into the church, because the angels are spectators and behold how you behave yourselves, they being fellow-worshippers of God with you in church assemblies. And this should make you take heed of your carriage; for although they do not know your hearts, yet they behold your carriage as you come into the presence of God.” A Treatise of the Angels by Christopher Love.

James Durham (1622-1658)

“It (the veil) hath a threefold use, 1. For decoration, as in Isaiah 3:23. 2. For a sign of modesty, pleaded for by the Apostle, 1 Cor. 11:6. 3. And mainly a sign of women’s subjection to their own husbands…” (Commentary on Song of Solomon, Banner of Truth, p. 280).

John Bunyan 1628-1688

“For this cause ought the woman to have power”, that is a covering, “on her head, because of the angels” 1 Cor. 11:10…Methinks, holy and beloved sisters, you should be content to wear this power or badge…”

Ezekiel Hopkins 1633-1690

“The apostle tells us (1 Cor. 11:10) that the woman was ‘to have power on her head, because of the angels’. Which place, especially the latter clause of it, is diversely interpreted. But I think all agree in this, that this power which they were to have on their heads was a vail or covering, which at other times, but most especially in the congregation, women ought to wear on their heads…But the men were uncovered in their assemblies, as the apostle tells us (v. 4) to signify that they had nothing over them, but were superior to all visible creatures, and subject only to God.”

Benjamen Keach 1640-1704

“The thing signified is sometimes put for the sign materially…1 Corinthians 11:10, ‘A woman ought to have power on her head,’ that is a garment signifying that she was under the power of her husband.”

David Dickson

[extracted from David Dickson’s Commentaries on the Epistles. Printed 1659.]

The seventh Article of the Epistle concerning the observation of Order and Decency, in the publike meetings of the Church.
There are two parts of the Chapter. I. About the comely habit of men and women in religious performances, to vers. 17. The other part, concerning the right Administration of the Sacrament, to the end.
Vers. 1. Bee yee followers of mee, even as I also am of Christ.
2. Now I praise you, Brethren, that you remember mee in all things, and keep the Ordinances as I delivered them unto you.
As concerning the first part, hee premises a command to imitate him, so far as hee followed Christ: Hee also commends the Corinthians, that for some time they observed the Doctrine and Precepts delivered to them, partly by letter, partly by his lively voice, concerning Religion, and things which appertain thereunto, so far at least, that they deserved some commendation.
Vers. 3. But I would have you know, That the head of every man is Christ: and the head of the woman is the man, and the Head of Christ is God.
Furthermore hee sub-joyns to the following admonition a maxim concerning order divinely stablished in the mystical body of the Church, viz., that Christ is nearest subordinate to God, as hee is God-man, the Mediator and the Head of the Church, and that the man next succeeds in dignity unto Christ, and the woman to the man, which so far as it appertains to the honour of the sex, shee is made subordinate to the man as Head; whereupon they may understand that order in Church-Assemblies is to bee observed.
Vers. 4. Every man praying, or prophecying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
It is apparent that the Corinthians did not sufficiently observe this order, because their women in the publike Assemblies (after the manner of Heathens) laid aside their veils, and the men covered their heads and faces; (they are said to pray and Prophesie, who met publikely, and consented to promote this publike Worship of God.) This uncomeliness he reproves both in the men and women, by nine Arguments.
Dishonours] Argum. I. The covering of the man is not agreeable to the dignity of his sex, and against the honour of Christ, whom hee ought to represent: Therefore it is uncomely.
Vers. 5. But every woman that prayeth, or Prophesieth with her head uncovered, dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if shee was shaven.
6. For if the woman bee not covered, let her also bee shorn: but if it bee a shame for a woman to bee shorn or shaven, let her bee covered.
Argum. 2. It is dishonourable to the Female Sex to lay aside her veil, and against the dignity, as well of her natural head, as of her metaphorical head, to wit, the man to whom shee ows subjection for the honour of the Masculine Sex; the reason whereof hee gives, because it was not less unseemly for the woman to bee without her veil, than to bee shorn: Here therefore the woman is reproved for undecency, which shee ought to amend.
Vers. 7. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as hee is the Image and Glory of God, but the woman is the glory of man.
Argum. 3. The man (seeing hee is the Glory of God, and the representation of his glorious Excellency in respect of the woman over whom hee is appointed head) ought to shew forth the Glory of God in his manly deportment: Therefore hee must beware of this unseemliness in the use of a veil.
The woman] Argum. 4. The woman is the glory of the man, or the image of his dignity, in whom (as in a Glass) the excellency of the man (for whose sake shee was created ) is seen, to whom shee ought to profess subjection by the covering of hereself: Therefore seeing the woman behaves herself otherwise amongst you, shee is blamed for uncomeliness. This does not any whit hinder but the woman is created, in respect of her Soul and spiritual state, to the glory and Image of God, as well as the man.
Vers. 8. For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man.
Argum. 5. The man is the material principle of the woman, because shee was made out of the ribs of man: Therefore it becomes the man and the woman to testifie the priviledge of their original, in the observation of the aforesaid decency: Therefore you are guilty of undecency which do otherwise.
Vers. 9. Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.
Argum. 6. Seeing the man hath the respect of the end, and the woman is destined for the end; it is fitting that this difference of their excellency should bee expressed by the observance of decency: Therefore when it is not observed, you are deservedly to bee reproved.
Vers. 10. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head, because of the Angels.
Argum. 7. Even because of the Angels, who behold and are witnesses of comely and uncomely deportments in the Church, although you would not regard that men look upon you, yet it becomes Women to testifie the subjection of their Sex, and the power of the Man, by putting a veil over their head as a sign of it? Therefore you are guilty of indecency when your behaviour is otherwise.
Vers. 11. Nevertheless, neither is the Man without the Woman: neither the Woman without the Man in the Lord.
12. For as the Woman is of the Man, even so is the Man also by the Woman; but all things of God.
That this comparing of the Man and the Woman, may not bee drawn out further to the desiring of the Woman, in a threefold respect hee equals the Woman to the Man. First, In respect to Christ our Lord, or in respect to our state of Grace in Christ: The Man and the Woman are equal, bought with the same price, and alike ordained to their service of Christ. Secondly, In respect to the same Original; for as in the Creation the Woman is of the Man, so by ordinary propagation the Man is by the Woman. Thirdly, In respect to the first and principal efficient cause, i.e., God; (who hath made the Man and the Woman, and all things else) the Man and the Woman are equal.
Vers. 13. Judge in you selves, is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
14. Doth not even nature it self teach you, that if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
15. But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given her for a covering.
Argum. 8. Common sense, and nature it self, or natural inclination (so hee calls settled custome, and agreeable to nature, in respect to what is comely) dictates that it is unseemly for a woman to pray uncovered, or that a man should wear long hair, and the contrary is decent: Therefore you observe no decorum when you behave your selves otherwise. Hair is said to bee given to the woman for a covering, because it is given to that end, that shee may know her head ought to be covered.
Vers. 16. But if any man seem to bee contentious, wee have no such custome, neither the Churches of God.
Argum. 9. If any perhaps should not bee moved by these Arguments, but should contend, the Apostle opposeth to their contentious Apologies, the received and established custome of the Jews, and the rest of the Churches: Other Churches have no such custome, that women should bee present at publick assemblies, with their heads uncovered, and the man with his head covered: Therefore your custome not agreeing with decency, either according to natural use, or of the Churches, is altogether unseemly.

John Wesley (1703 – 1791 A.D.)

  “…if a woman is not covered — if she will throw off the badge of subjection, let her appear with her hair cut like a man’s. But if it be shameful for a woman to appear thus in public…let her, for the same reason, keep on her veil.”

John Angel James (1785-1859)

“If the veil were thrown aside, they might as well cut off their flowing hair, one of the woman’s distinctions from the man, the ornament, as well as the peculiarity of the sex. Constantly and completely Christianity is the parent of order, and the enemy of indecorum of every kind.
Why were not the women to lay aside their veils? Because it would be forgetting their subordination and dependence, and assuming an equal rank with man. This is the gist of the apostle’s reason. It was not merely indecorous, and contrary to modesty, but it was ambitious, and violating the order of heaven.” (Female Piety, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1994, pp. 67-69)

Henry Alford (1810-1871)

“1 Corinthians 11:2-16 – The law of subjection of the woman to the man (vv. 2-12), and the natural decency itself (vv. 13-16), teach that women should be veiled in public religious assemblies.
The women overstepped the bounds of their sex, in coming forward to pray and to prophesy in the assembled church with uncovered heads. Both of these the Apostle disapproved, as well as their coming forward to pray and prophesy, as their removing the veil. Here, however, he blames the latter practice only, and reserves the former till chapter 14:34.” (Alford’s Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids,MI: Guardian Press, 1976, pp. 562f.)

Robert L. Dabney (1820-1898)

“Thus he who stands up in public as the herald and representative of heaven’s King must stand with uncovered head; the honour of the Sovereign for whom he speaks demands this. But no woman can present herself in public with uncovered head without sinning against nature and her sex. Hence no woman can be a public herald of Christ… (Discussions Evangelical and Theological, vol. 2, pp. 98)
…secondly, verses 5, 13, that, on the contrary, that for a woman to appear or to perform any religious function in the Christian assembly, unveiled, is a glaring impropriety, because it is contrary to the subordination of the position assigned her by her Maker, and to the modesty and reserve suitable to her sex; and even nature settles the point by giving her long hair as her natural veil. Even as good taste and a natural sense of propriety would protest against a woman’s going in public shorn of that beautiful badge and adornment of her sex, like a rough soldier or a labourer, even so clearly does nature herself sustain God’s law in requiring the woman always modestly covered in the sanctuary. The holy angels who are present as invisible spectators, hovering over the Christian assemblies, would be shocked by women professing godliness publicly throw off this appropriate badge of their position (verse 10). The woman , then, has a right to the privileges of public worship and the sacraments…but she must always do this veiled or covered.” (Discussions Evangelical and Theological, vol. 2, p. 104)

Frederic Louis Godet (1812-1890)

“If the Apostle’s reasons were true then, they will be to the end:
…(if) solely a matter of time and place, so that it is possible to suppose, that if (Paul) lived now, and in the West, the apostle would express himself differently? This supposition is not admissible; for the reasons which he alleges are taken, not from contemporary usages, but from permanent facts, which will last as long as the present economy.
The physical constitution of woman (vv. 13-15) is still the same as it was when Paul wrote, and will continue so till the renewing of all things. The history of creation, to which he appeals (vv.8-12), remains the principle of the social state now as in the time of the apostle, and the sublime analogies between the relations of God to Christ, Christ to man, and man to woman, have not changed to this hour, so that it must be said either that the apostle was wholly wrong in his reasoning, or that his reasons, if they were true for his time, are still so for ours, and will be so to the end.” (Commentary on First Corinthians, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Reprints, 1977, p. 561)

A. R. Fausset (1821-1910)

“As woman’s hair is given by nature as her covering (v.15), to cut it off like a man would be palpably indecorous, therefore, to put away the head-covering like a man would be similarly indecorous. It is natural to her to have long hair for her covering, to show that she does of her own will that which nature teaches she ought to do, in token of her subjection to man.” (Commentary of Jamieson, Fausset & Brown on 1Cor. 11:2-16)

Robert L. Dabney (1820-1898)

“Thus he who stands up in public as the herald and representative of heaven’s King must stand with uncovered head; the honour of the Sovereign for whom he speaks demands this. But no woman can present herself in public with uncovered head without sinning against nature and her sex. Hence no woman can be a public herald of Christ… (Discussions Evangelical and Theological, vol. 2, pp. 98)
…secondly, verses 5, 13, that, on the contrary, that for a woman to appear or to perform any religious function in the Christian assembly, unveiled, is a glaring impropriety, because it is contrary to the subordination of the position assigned her by her Maker, and to the modesty and reserve suitable to her sex; and even nature settles the point by giving her long hair as her natural veil. Even as good taste and a natural sense of propriety would protest against a woman’s going in public shorn of that beautiful badge and adornment of her sex, like a rough soldier or a labourer, even so clearly does nature herself sustain God’s law in requiring the woman always modestly covered in the sanctuary. The holy angels who are present as invisible spectators, hovering over the Christian assemblies, would be shocked by women professing godliness publicly throw off this appropriate badge of their position (verse 10). The woman , then, has a right to the privileges of public worship and the sacraments…but she must always do this veiled or covered.” (Discussions Evangelical and Theological, vol. 2, p. 104)

C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

“Do you think you and I have sufficiently considered that we are always looked upon by angels, and that they desire to learn by us the wisdom of God? The reason why our sisters appear in the House of God with their heads covered is ‘because of the angels’. The apostle says that a woman is to have a covering upon her head, because of the angels, since the angels are present in the assembly and they mark every act of indecorum, and therefore everything is to be conducted with decency and order in the presence of the angelic spirits” (Sermon on Eph. 3:10, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 8, p. 263)

Noel Weeks (in 1988)

“If we may set aside one teaching of Scripture that is unpopular today, then surely we may set aside other teachings….Consequently Paul turns to what such unveiling must mean for the woman. In contrast to the man, when she prays or prophesies, the unveiling of her head must be dishonourable to her…In 14:36 as in 11:16, Paul attacks the Corinthian deviation from the uniform practice of the churches. What he is dealing with is not a local rule for the Corinthian situation. It is a universal rule in the churches.
Paul makes a clear distinction between what is permissible in the church and what is permissible in the home. In her home, naturally, the wife may speak. Thus the assembly of the church is a special event, surrounded by special requirements.
Often it is argued that Paul is requiring women to conform to the Oriental custom of wearing a (face) veil. His teaching is thus asking women to conform to the normal standards of propriety in the culture.
However, Paul’s appeal is not to community standards. It is to creation. Nowhere does Paul tell women to wear (face) veils. Indeed nowhere does he even refer to the face…Corinth was a Greek city. It is highly doubtful that women in that city would have veiled their faces. Jewish women did not veil their faces…
In defence of the idea that Paul was appealing just to popular customs, some have cited his discussion about long hair in 11:14. He refers there to ‘nature’.
A consideration of the use of ‘nature’ in Paul will show that it does not mean custom (e.g., Romans 1:26; 2:14, 27; 11:21, 24; Galatians 4:8). It is a reference to the inherent or constituent character of a thing or person. When Paul says in Romans 2:14 that the ‘Gentiles…do by nature the things of the law’, he obviously refers to some remaining inherent sense of what is right or wrong…In 1 Corinthians 11:14…Paul appeals to an inherent sense that long hair is appropriate for women, but not for men.” (The Sufficiency of Scripture, Banner of Truth, 1988, pp.127-133)

The modern church has laid this custom, taught by the Apostle Paul as a universal custom of the church, aside in our day. At least the modern church in the United States and much of Europe. As you perhaps know, much of the church outside the US continues to teach the custom; as do denominations and individuals in the US. Some individals are exceptions, however.One such individual is RC Sproul. One can find a great deal on what he teaches on the web. I found here a nice summary:

RC Sproul, Sr.

R. C. Sproul, Sr. teaches that headcovering is applicable today. He has expressed this in both his audio tape ministry (Ligonier Ministries, Tape #675, “Hard Sayings of the Apostles,” Side B: “To Cover or Not to Cover?”) and his Coram Deo daily devotional magazine. In June 1996, Coram Deo exegeted 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 as part of its systematic Bible teaching for devotional purposes. Here are quotations from Sproul in Coram Deo. Head Coverings Are Required for Women:

“One’s dress reflects the principles that one lives by . . . . even our exterior must conform to the order that God has established, especially in matters pertaining to public worship. The apostle makes the point that the veil [a.k.a. head covering], as a symbol of authority, is inconsistent with the position of the man, but it is required for women, who are subordinate to men.” (18 June 1996)

The Woman’s Hair Does Not Qualify As the Head Covering:

“It is obvious from this comparison between men having their heads uncovered and women having their heads covered, that the covering is not hair. For if the covering in this context were hair, verse 6 would make no sense in the context of this passage.” (18 June 1996; cf. 19 June 1996)

The Head Covering Command Is Binding Upon All Cultures:

“Nowhere does [Paul] give cultural reasons for his teaching, i.e., abusive practices of a pagan society that placed prostitutes with shorn heads in the temples. Paul points us back to God’s established order in nature. Whenever a teaching in Scripture refers to ‘creation ordinances,’ that teaching is binding for all cultures in all ages.” (20 June 1996)

The Head Covering Is God’s Command:

“While [Charles] Hodge says that women should conform to the ‘rules of decorum,’ it must be maintained that these rules, regarding the worship of God, are established by God Himself not by the whims of culture. It is proper for a woman to have a symbol of authority upon her head; what that symbol consists of does not matter, but the necessity of the symbol remains fixed even as the authority of man remains fixed. . . . As in all things regarding worship, we must strive to be conformed to God’s regulations in all things, no matter how seemingly insignificant.” (21 June 1996)

What should I do if I am unsure of the Bible’s teaching regarding head coverings? What if I am partially but not wholly persuaded? “What if, after careful consideration of a Biblical mandate, we remain uncertain as to its character as principle or custom? If we must decide to treat it one way or the other but have no conclusive means to make the decision, what can we do? Here the biblical principle of humility can be helpful. The issue is simple. Would it be better to treat a possible custom as a principle and be guilty of being over scrupulous in our design to obey God? Or would it be better to treat a possible principle as a custom and be guilty of being unscrupulous in demoting a transcendent requirement of God to the level of a mere human convention? I hope the answer is obvious.” (Knowing Scripture, pp. 11-12)


William Einwechter

An excellent teaching on this subject, which goes quite into depth on the issue, is a series of sermons by William Einwechter:

The first part of his series is available in PDF: short article on the subject from RJ Rushdoony:


RJ Rushdoony

By R.J. Rushdoony
Jun 1, 2003 – 10:23:00 PM
[Note: We realize that the topic of headcoverings and hair length is a “hot” one and widely debated. But Rushdoony’s take on the woman’s authority really puts the whole issue in a different — and surprising — light. This is a topic well worth thinking about and studying, since it relates to a central issue of our place as women, both in the family and in the church. A good related article to read is A Woman’s Place, also by Rushdoony.]
The definition of woman given by God in creating Eve and establishing the first marrige is “help meet” (Gen. 2:18). This is literally “as agreeing to him” or “his counterpart.” [1] Robert Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible renders it “an helper–as his counterpart.” … The covered head is a sign of being under authority to another person; hence, the man, who is directly under Christ, worships with uncovered head, the woman with covered head. A man therefore who worships with covered head dishonors himself (I Cor. 11:1-4). The uncovered woman might as well be shorn or shaven, because it is as shameful for her to be uncovered as to be shaven (I Cor. 11:5-7). As Leon Morris notes with reference to vss. 8,9, “Neither in her origin, nor in the purpose for which she was created can the woman claim priority, or even equality.” [2]
Accordingly, St. Paul continued, “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels” (I Cor. 11:10). James Moffat rendered “power on her head” as “a symbol of subjection,” following thereby popular opinion rather than the Greek text. “Power on her head” means rather, as Morris and others have pointed out, “a sign of her authority.” [3] Because angels are witnesses, a godly witness must be rendered. To many, a serious contradiction seems to be involved here: first, St. Paul insists on subordination, and then, second speaks of what seems to be a sign of subordination as a sign of authority. This seeming contradiction arises from the anarchic concept of authority which is so deeply imbedded in man’s sinful nature. All true authority is under authority, since God alone transcends all things and is the source of all power and authority. A colonel has authority because he is under a general, and his own authority grows as the power, prestige and authority of those above him grow, and his unity withthem in mind and purpose is assured. So too with the woman: Her subordination is also her symbol of authority. Very frequently, in various societies, prostitutes have been forbidden to dress themselves in the same manner as wives and daughters, for to do so would be to claim authority, protection and power they had forfeited. Thus, in Assyria an unmarried prostitute who covered her head was severely punished for her presumption. [4] Similar laws existed in Rome. On the American frontier, the woman who was a wife or daughter carried an obvious authority and normally commanded the respect and protection of all men.
Men and women, St. Paul declared (I Cor. 11:11), are “mutually dependent. The one cannot   exist without the other.” [5] “The one is not without the other, foras the woman was originally formed out of the man, so the man is born of the woman.” [6] Church councils very early censured long hair in men as a mark of effeminacy, as had the Romans before them. There is no evidence to support the usual portrayal of Christ and the apostles as long-haired men; the evidence of the age indicates very short hair.
It is thus with Biblical grounds that a woman’s hair is spoken of as her “crowning glory,” and her delight in wearing it as an attractive crown is God-given when done within bounds, although the time some give to it is certainly not so.


Thus what I believe and teach on this issue is this:
1) That those women under my authority should always wear a headcovering when engaged in any public worship (ie a church service, a gathering of a smaller group for purposes of worship, or family worship).
2) That those women under my authority should also wear a headcovering when meeting together with Christian women who wear the headcovering at other times (Romans 14).
1. H.C. Leopold, Exposition of Genesis (Columbus, Ohio: Wartburg Press, 1942), p. 129 f.

2. Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958), p. 153.

3. Ibid., p. 153 f.

4. J.M. Powis Smith, The Origin and History of Hebrew Law (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1931, 1960), p. 231 f.

5. Charles Hodge, I Corinthians, p. 211.

6. Ibid., p. 212.

7. Ibid., p. 213.
To a woman, however, in all ages and countries, long hair has been considered an ornament. It is given to her, Paul says, as a covering, or as a natural veil; and it is a glory to her because it is a veil. The veil itself, therefore, must be becoming and decorous in a woman. [7]

Some additional resources
In Favor of Headcoverings: (Includes a long list of quotations throughout history)

Against Headcoverings: