The regulative principleWhat Does Church History Teach on Head Coverings? by Greg Price
What Does Church History Teach?
Each of the following witnesses cited agree on one point: the headcovering mentioned in 1Co 11:4,5,6,7,10,13 was a fabric headcovering to be worn by the women in worship. There may be differences amongst these witnesses as to the application of the headcovering, but they are uniformly in agreement that that Paul’s reference to women being covered in worship was to a fabric headcovering and not to the hair of a woman.
1. The Catacombs (100-300 a.d.)
a. “Most of the catacombs were constructed during the first three centuries, a few may be traced almost to the apostolic age.”1
b. “The name of the catacombs is of uncertain origin, but is equivalent to subterranean cemeteries or resting-places for the dead. First used of the Christian cemeteries in the neighborhood of Rome, it was afterwards applied to those of Naples, Malta, Sicily, Alexandra, Paris, and other cities.”2
c. “In their catacombs the Christians could assemble for worship and take refuge in times of persecution. Very rarely they were pursued in these silent retreats.”3
d. “The catacombs carved in the substrata rock beneath the city of Rome extend to an almost unbelievable 550 miles, are often six levels deep, and contain the room for the interment of over six million bodies. . . . Herein is the first Christian art.”4
e. The many paintings on the walls of the catacombs reveal that the uniform dress of women in worship was to cover the head and hair (not the face) with some type of cloth.
2. Irenaeus (120-202 a.d)
3. Tertullian (150-225 a.d.)
a. Tertullian addresses the practice of virgins of the church not being required to be veiled. His whole line of argument presupposes that it was the practice of his contemporaries to require those who were betrothed or married to be veiled, yet Tertullian argues very persuasively that there is no biblical reason to require one class of females (betrothed or married) to be veiled while not requiring another class of females (virgins) to be veiled.
b. “But that point which is promiscuously observed throughout the churches, whether virgins ought to be veiled or no, must be treated of. For they who allow to virgins immunity from headcovering, appear to rest on this; that the apostle has not defined ‘virgins’ by name, but ‘women,’ as ‘to be veiled;’ nor the sex generally, so as to say ‘females,’ but a class of the sex, by saying ‘women:’ for if he had named the sex by saying ‘females,’ he would have made his limit absolute for every woman; but while he names one class of the sex, he separates another class by being silent. For, they say, he might either have named ‘virgins’ specially; or generally, by a compendious term, ‘females.'”6
c. In commenting on 1 Corinthians 11:4,5, Tertullian notes, “Behold two diverse names, Man and Woman ‘every one’ in each case: two laws, mutually distinctive; on the one hand (a law) of veiling, on the other (a law) of baring.”7
4. Clement of Alexandria (153-217 a.d.)
b. “And she will never fall, who puts before her eyes modesty, and her shawl; nor will she invite another to fall into sin by uncovering her face. For this is the wish of the Word, since it is becoming for her to pray veiled” [1 Corinthians 11:5 GLP].8
5. Hippolytus (170-236 a.d.)
a. To Hippolytus, a church father from Rome, is wrongly ascribed the following canon for worship (though perhaps wrongly ascribed to Hippolytus, it appears to represent the practice of the church of that time in worship).
b. “Canon Seventeenth. Of virgins, that they should cover their faces and their heads.”9
6. John Chrysostom (340-407 a.d.)
c. Especially to the point of a woman needing a separate head covering other than her long hair (cf. 1Co 11:15) is the following remark: “‘ And if itbe given her for a covering,’ say you, ‘wherefore need she add another covering?’ That not nature only, but also her own will may have part in her acknowledgment of subjection. For that thou oughtest to be covered nature herself by anticipation enacted a law. Add now, I pray, thine own part also, that thou mayest not seem to subvert the very laws of nature; a proof of most insolent rashness, to buffet not only with us, but with nature also.”11
7. Jerome (345-429 a.d.)
a. Though Scripture does not endorse the practice of virgins shaving their heads (rather the Scripture condemns such a practice in 1 Corinthians 11:14-15), nevertheless Jerome is quoted here because he clearly understood Paul to be teaching that a woman ought to wear a fabric head covering upon her head (this is especially obvious in this case for the virgin’s head was shaved of all hair).
b. “It is usual in the monasteries of Egypt and Syria for virgins and widows who have vowed themselves to God and have renounced the world and have trodden under foot its pleasures, to ask the mothers of their communities to cut their hair; not that afterwards they go about with heads uncovered in defiance of the apostles command” [1 Corinthians 11:5].12
8. Augustine (354-430 a.d.)
a. Augustine, perhaps the greatest post-apostolic theologian prior to the Reformation, quotes 1 Corinthians 11:4,7 with regard to men as follows: “‘Every man praying or prophesying with veiled head shameth his head;’ and, ‘A man ought not to veil his head, for so much as he is the image and glory of God.'”13 Now if it is true of a man that he is not to veil his head, then the opposite is true of a woman, that she is to veil her head.
b. “We ought not therefore so to understand that made in the image of the Supreme Trinity, that is, in the image of God, as that same image should be understood to be in three human beings; especially when the apostle says that the man is the image of God, and on that account removes the covering from his head, which he warns the woman to use, speaking thus: ‘For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man.'”14
9. John Knox (1505-1572)
a. “First, I say, the woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man, not to rule and command him. As saint Paule doth reason in these wordes: ‘Man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. And man was created for the cause of the woman, but the woman for the cause of man; and therfore oght the woman to have a power upon her head,’ (that is, a coverture in signe of subjection).”15
b. Knox quotes Chrysostom with wholehearted approval: “‘Even so, (saith he) oght man and woman to appeare before God, bearing the ensignes of the condition whiche they have received of him. Man hath received a certain glorie and dignitie above the woman; and therfore oght he to appeare before his high Majestie bearing the signe of his honour, havinge no coverture upon his heade, to witnesse that in earth man hath no head.’ Beware Chrysostome what thou saist! thou shalt be reputed a traytor if Englishe men heare thee, for they must have my Sovereine Lady and Maistresse [Queen Elizabeth–GLP]; and Scotland hath dronken also the enchantment and venom of Circes [the enchantress represented by Homer as turning the companions of Odysseus into swine by means of a magic drink–GLP], let it be so to their owne shame and confusion. He procedeth in these wordes, ‘But woman oght to be covered, to witnesse that in earth she had a head, that is man.’ Trewe it is, Chrysostome, woman is covered in both realmes, but it is not with the signe of subjection, but it is with the signe of superioritie, to witte, with the royal crowne.”16
10. John Calvin (1509-1564)
a. The great theologian of the Reformation preached three sermons from 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 from which the following excerpts are taken. “So if women are thus permitted to have their heads uncovered and to show their hair, they will eventually be allowed to expose their entire breasts, and they will come to make their exhibitions as if it were a tavern show; they will become so brazen that modesty and shame will be no more; in short they will forget the duty of nature. . . . So, when it is permissible for the women to uncover their heads, one will say, ‘Well, what harm in uncovering the stomach also?’ And then after that one will plead [for] something else: ‘Now if the women go bareheaded, why not also [bare] this and [bare] that?’ Then the men, for their part, will break loose too. In short, there will be no decency left, unless people contain themselves and respect what is proper and fitting, so as not to go headlong overboard.”17
b. “When he says ‘her hair is for a covering [1 Corinthians 11:15 GLP],’ he does not mean that as long as a woman has hair, that should be enough for her. He rather teaches that our Lord is giving a directive that He desires to have observed and maintained. If a woman has long hair, this is equivalent to saying to her, ‘Use your head covering, use your hat, use your hood; do not expose yourself in that way!”18
11. George Gillespie (1613-1648)
a. Gillespie, the youngest and one of the most brilliant commissioners at the Westminster Assembly, addresses the issue of women speaking as a voice of one in the public worship services of the church when he says, “But where find we that women who were prophetesses, and immediately inspired, were allowed to deliver their prophecy in the church? I suppose he had a respect to 1 Cor. xi:5, ‘But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered, dishonoreth her head,’ which is meant of the public assembly, for the Apostle is speaking of covering or uncovering the head in the church. . . . So that the Geneva annotation upon ver. 5, gives a good sense of that text, ‘That women which show themselves in public and ecclesiastical assemblies, without the sign and token of their subjection, that is to say, uncovered, shame themselves.'”19
b. “As for the veils wherewith the Apostle would have women covered whilst they were praying (that is, in their hearts following the public and common prayer), or prophesying (that is, singing, 1Sa 10:10; 1 Chronicles 25:1), they are worthy to be covered with shame as with a garment who allege this example for sacred significant ceremonies of human institution. This covering was a moral sign for that comely and orderly distinction of men and women which civil decency required in all their meetings. . . .”20
12. A Group of Presbyterian Ministers from London during the time of the Westminster Assembly (1646)
13. Matthew Henry (in his Commentary on the Whole Bible, published in 1706)
a. “The woman, on the other hand, who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head [1 Corinthians 11:5-6GLP], namely, the man, v.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.”22
b. “She ought to have power on her head, because of the angels [1 Corinthians 11:10]. 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.”23
c. “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” [1 Corinthians 11:16].24
14. Henry Alford (1810-1871)
b. “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 their coming forward to pray and to prophesy, as their removing the veil: here however he blames the latter practice only, and reserves the former till ch. xiv. 34.”26
c. “The woman ought to have power (the sign of power or subjection; shewn by the context to mean a veil.”27
15. Frederick Godet (1812-1900)
b. “And since the woman does not naturally belong to public life, if it happen that in the spiritual domain she has to exercise a function which brings her into prominence, she ought to strive the more to put herself out of view by covering herself with the veil, which declares the dependence in which she remains relatively to her husband.”29
16. Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898)
a. “Two principles, then, are laid down: first, verse 4, that the man should preach (or pray) with head uncovered, because he then stands forth a God’s herald and representative; and to assume at that time the emblem of subordination, a covered head, is a dishonour to the office and God it represents; secondly, verses 5,13, that, on the contrary, for a woman to appear or to perform any public religious function in the Christian
assembly, unveiled, is a glaring impropriety. . . . The woman, then, has a right to the privileges of public worship and sacraments; she may join audibly in the praises and prayers of the public assembly, where the usages of the body encourage responsive prayer; but she must always do this veiled or covered.”30
17. A. R. Fausset (1821-1910)
a. Fausset co-authored with David Brown and Robert Jamieson the work, A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments.
b. “In putting away the veil, she puts away the badge of her subjection to man (which is her true ‘honor’), and of her connection with Christ, man’s Head. Moreover, the head covering was the emblem of maiden modesty before man (Gen. xxiv: 65), and chastity (Gen. xx: 16). By its unlawful excitement in assemblies is avoided, women not attracting attention. Scripture sanctions not the emancipation of woman from subjection: modesty is her true ornament. Man rules; woman ministers: the respective dress should accord. To uncover the head indicated withdrawal from the husband’s power; whence a suspected wife had her head uncovered by the priest (Num. v. 18). . . . 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: she ought, therefore, to add the other head-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.”31
18. Thomas Charles Edwards (A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians was published in 1885)
a. Edwards was the Principal of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth.
b. “It is not improbable that the custom censured by the Apostle was an attempt to symbolize by unveiling the face in public worship the spiritual equality of the woman.”32
c. “The man shames his natural head by wearing a veil; that is, he shames himself by wearing a symbol of subjection to the woman, whereas Christ has given the man supremacy over the woman in Church order, and that supremacy is expressed by the symbol of an unveiled face.”33
d. “He proves [in 1 Corinthians 11:6 GLP] that a woman that uncovers her head is one and the same with a woman whose head is shorn or shaven. The proof is that woman’s long hair is intended by nature and understood by all nations to be a symbol of her subjection to the man. . . . This, the Apostle argues, shows the fitness of the veil to be a symbol of the same subjection in the Christian order. In the Church the veil is added to the symbol of long hair, because the subjection which nature has imposed upon the woman receives a special character when it enters into the Christian series of subordination’s.”34
19. M. R. Vincent (His Word Studies in the New Testament was published in 1886)
a. “The head-dress of Greek women consisted of nets, hair-bags, or kerchiefs, sometimes covering the whole head. A shawl which enveloped the body was also often thrown over the head, especially at marriages or funerals. This costume the Corinthian women had disused in the Christian assemblies, perhaps as an assertion of the abolition of sexual distinctions, and the spiritual equality of the woman with the man in the presence of Christ. This custom was discountenanced by Paul as striking at the divinely ordained subjection of the woman to the man.”35
b. Commenting on 1 Corinthians 11:16, Vincent notes: Not the custom of contentiousness, but that of women speaking unveiled. The testimonies of Tertullian and Chrysostom show that these injunctions of Paul prevailed in the churches. In the sculptures of the catacombs the women have a close-fitting head-dress, while the men have the hair short.”36
20. G. G. Findlay (no specific date cited for his work on 1 Corinthians in The Expositor’s Greek New Testament, but it was written in the late 19th century)
a. “For a woman to discard the veil means to cast off masculine authority, which is a fixed part of the Divine order, like man’s subordination to Christ (3 f.).”37
b. In 1 Corinthians 11:4-5 “the high doctrine just asserted applied to the matter of feminine attire. Since man is man has no head but Christ, before whom they worship in common, while woman has man to own for her head, he must not and she must be veiled. The regulation is not limited to those of either sex who ‘pray or prophesy’; but such activity called attention to the apparel, and doubtless it was amongst the more demonstrative women that the impropriety occurred; in the excitement of public speaking the shawl might unconsciously be thrown back.”38
c. “And this ‘glory’ [that is the glory of the woman’s long hair in 1 Corinthians 11:15 GLP] is grounded upon her humility: ‘because her hair to serve as a hood (anti perilolaiou) has been given her not as a substitute for [the GLP] head-dress (this would be to stultify Paul’s contention), but in the nature of a covering, thus to match the veil.”39
21. A. T. Robertson (His Word Pictures in the New Testament was published in 1931)
c. “. . . . it is the sign of authority of the man over the woman. The veil on the woman’s head is the symbol of the authority that the man with the uncovered head has over her [1 Corinthians 11:10].”42
22. William Barclay (The Letters to the Corinthians was published in 1954)
b. “The problem was whether or not in the Christian Church a woman had the right to take part in the service unveiled. Paul’s answer was bluntly this the veil is always a sign of subjection; it is worn by an inferior in the presence of a superior; now woman is inferior to man, in the sense that man is head of the household; therefore it is wrong for a man to appear at public worship veiled and it is equally wrong for a woman to appear unveiled.”43
23. H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey (A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament was published in 1955)
b. Again they translate 1 Corinthians 11:6,7 consistently with verse 5 above: “But if it is a shame to a woman to be shorn, let her be veiled. Now (gar) a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and glory of God.”45
24. John Murray (1898-1975) was Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary
a. These excerpts are taken from a letter to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (Australia) concerning the matter of women being veiled in worship.
b. “Since Paul appeals to the order of creation (Vss. 3b, vss 7ff), it is totally indefensible to suppose that what is in view and enjoined had only local or temporary relevance. The ordinance of creation is universally and perpetually applicable, as also are the implications for conduct arising therefrom.”46
c. “I am convinced that a head covering is definitely in view forbidden for the man (Vss 4 & 7) and enjoined for the woman (Vss 5,6,15). In the case of the woman the covering is not simply her long hair. This supposition would make nonsense of verse 6. For the thought there is, that if she does not have a covering she might as well be shorn or shaven, a supposition without any force whatever if the hair covering is deemed sufficient. In this connection it is not proper to interpret verse 15b as meaning that the hair was given the woman to take the place of the head covering in view of verses 5,6. The Greek of verse 15 is surely the Greek of equivalence as used quite often in the New Testament, and so the Greek can be rendered: “the hair is given her for a covering.” This is within the scope of the particular argument of verses 14,15 and does not interfere with the demand for the addtional covering contemplated in verses 5,6,13. Verses 14 and 15 adduce a consideration from the order of nature in support of that which is enjoined earlier in the passage but is not itself tantamount to it. In other words, the long hair is an indication from ‘nature’ of the differentiation between men and women, and so the head covering required (Vss 5,6,13) is in line with what ‘nature’ teaches.”47
d. “On these grounds my judgment is that presupposed in the Apostle’s words is the accepted practice of head covering for women in the assemblies of the Church . . . .”48
25. J. Vernon McGee (1904-1990)
a. “Apparently some of the women in the church at Corinth were saying, ‘All things are lawful for me, therefore, I won’t cover my head.’ Paul says this should not be done because the veil is a mark of subjection.”49
26. William Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich (The classic work, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, was published in 1957)
27. Charles Caldwell Ryrie (The Role of Women in the Church was published in 1958)
a. “If angels desire to look into things pertaining to salvation, then they should see as they look at veiled women in the assembly of Christians the voluntary submission of a woman to her head. Thus the early church (for this was the custom of the churches generally) while offering religious equality in spiritual privilege insisted on showing in public worship the principle of subordination of women by their being veiled.”51
28. Albrect Oepke (A contributor to the highly acclaimed Theological Dictionary of the New Testament which was published in 1965)
a. “The veiling of women is a custom in Israel. A disgraced woman comes veiled to judgment (katakekalummene, Sus.32). Yet one may suspect that a woman muffled up (katekalupsato to prosopon) and lurking by the wayside is a harlot (Gen 38:15). This opens the way for an understanding of the relevant NT passage. The veiling of women in the NT and the contemporary world. In the NT katakaluptein occurs only in 1 C. 11:6f in the middle voice. In support of his requirement that women should not pray or prophesy with uncovered heads, Paul appeals to the following considerations of natural law: [Oepke then quotes 1 Corinthians 11:6-7 in Greek].”52
29. Robert H. Gundry (A Survey of the New Testament was published in 1970)
a. “Paul’s instructions concerning the veiling of women also demand knowledge of prevailing ancient customs. It was proper in the Roman Empire for a respectable woman to veil herself in public. Tarsus, the home city of Paul, was noted for its strict adherence to this rule of propriety. The veil covered the head from view, but not the face. It was at once a symbol of subordination to the male and of the respect which a woman deserves. The Christian women at Corinth, however, were quite naturally following the custom of Greek women, who left their heads uncovered when they worshipped. Paul therefore states that it is disgraceful for Christian women to pray or to prophesy in church services unveiled. On the other hand, Paul goes against the practice of Jewish and Roman men, who prayed with heads covered, by commanding Christian men to pray and prophesy bareheaded as a sign of their authority.”53
30. Bruce Waltke (“1 Corinthians 1:2-16:An Interpretation” was published in Bibliotheca Sacra in 1978)
a. “Although Paul does not use the word veil [kalumma GLP], it seems reasonable to suppose that he has this article of apparel in view. . . . To appear at the public assembly, then, with inappropriate headdress would disgrace one’s head.”54
b. “The logical particle ‘for’ (gar ) introducing this section [1 Corinthians 11:7-12–GLP] relates it to the preceding statement that
improper headdress disgraces one’s social head. In 11:7a Paul argues that a veil on a man would disgrace Christ because it would veil the image and glory of God mediated to man through Christ, and in 11:7b-10 he shows that a woman without a veil would in effect be displaying positional equality with the man and would thereby usurp the glory that properly belongs to him by the Creator’s design.”55
c. “In this writer’s judgment, however, it would be well for Christian women to wear head coverings at church meetings as a symbol of an abiding theological truth.”56
31. Gordon Fee (His commentary, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, was published in 1987)
a. “But what specifically does it mean for the woman to pray and prophesy ‘uncovered as to the head’? There are three basic options: (1) The traditional view considered her to be discarding some kind of external covering. This seems to be implied both by the verb ‘to cover’ and by the words about the man in v. 7, which imply an external covering (‘he should not have his head covered’). . . . (2) Because of v. 15, it has been argued that the ‘covering’ contended for in vv. 4-7 and 13 is actually the long hair of vv. 14-15, because some of the women were having their hair cut short. . . . (3) More recently several scholars have suggested on the basis of the usage in the LXX [Septuagint GLP] that the adjective ‘uncovered’ refers to ‘loosed hair,’ that is, to letting her hair down in public and thus experiencing shame. [After presenting a critique of each of the views above, Fee gives his judgment–GLP] On the whole, a modified form of the traditional view [modified in the sense that the covering is a shawl that covers the head, rather than a veil that covers the face GLP] seems to have fewer difficulties, but ‘loosed hair’ remains a viable option [this is not a ringing endorsement, however, the scales are tipped in favor of viewing the covering as being a fabric head covering rather than the hair according to Fee.].”57
32. Noel Weeks (The Sufficiency of Scripture was published in 1988)
a. “There is something ludicrous about being the head or authority while one at the same time hides one’s physical head. It follows therefore that praying and prophesying are authoritative functions which call for an unveiled head, unshrouded head. Hence any woman engaging in those activities must also be bare-headed. 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 dishonorable to her. What does it mean for a woman to be bare-headed? As Paul says, it is equivalent to being shaved or having her hair shorn off. That of course is dishonouring for a woman. Hence she should not uncover her head.”58
33. Robert D. Culver (Contributed “A Traditional View” to Women in Ministry Four Views which was published in 1989)
a. “God distinguishes sharply between the sexes as to appearance and activity in formal Christian assemblies. A man’s hair is to be short and his head uncovered by hat or shawl, while a woman’s hair is to be uncut and, in visible recognition of submission to God’s order, she is to wear an additional head covering in order to veil, not her face (as in Muslim practice), but some of the rest of her head.”59
34. Susan Foh (Contributed “A Male Leadership View” to Women in Ministry Four Views which was published in 1989)
a. “The reason for covering heads is directly connected with the head ship of the husband; the head is significant here. To suggest some other cultural expression, such as wedding bands to signify the wife’s submission to her husband, ignores this integral connection. . . . The discontinuance of coverings for women, by most denominations only in this century, was not done for theological reasons but for cultural reasons (hats went out of style and became too expensive).”60
35. George E. Meisinger (no date given for The Hat: God’s Visual of Headship in Creation )
a. “The term ‘uncovered’ [in 1Co 11:5 GLP] consistently refers to taking off some item of clothing, the term ‘covered,’ [in 1Co 11:6GLP] on the other hand, consistently is used of putting on an article of clothing. Either way, when one’s head was in view, it was normally used in connection with the ancient veil being a sign of feminine subordination.”61
b. “This verse [1Co 11:6 GLP] shows that the apostle is not talking about the woman growing hair as opposed to putting on an actual head covering of
some sort. The verse says that she is without a cover already. Now, if her cover is her hair, it is nonsense to tell her to take off what is already off. If her cover is a hat or veil, however, then it makes sense to tell her to take of her hair, too!”62
36. Thomas R. Schreiner (Contributed “Head Coverings, Prophecies and the Trinity 1 Corinthians 11:2-16” to Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism )
a. “One of the perplexing questions in this passage is this: What custom regarding adornment is referred to here? We cannot treat this complex question in detail, but the two most probable suggestions can be set forth: (1) the custom Paul recommends is for women to wear shawls. (2) Paul objects to long, loose hair that falls down the back; he wants women to follow the usual custom of piling their hair up on top of their heads. . . . Despite these arguments in favour of the view that Paul is commanding the wearing of hair on top of the head by women, it is probable that Paul is speaking of wearing a head covering of some kind, such as a shawl.”63
37. R.C. Sproul (this is added to the article by F.Chin)
The problem in Corinth, however, was not that men were prophesying in the public assemblies with their heads covered, but that women were appearing in public assemblies with their heads uncovered. One’s dress reflects the principles that one lives by, and that 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, as a symbol of authority, is inconsistent with the position of the man, but it is required for women, who are subordinate to men. If they appear in the public assemblies with their heads uncovered, then they are acting in such a way that challenges the authority of men because they have removed the symbol that they are under masculine authority.
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.
Though the many authors cited above differ on various issues associated with headcoverings, one important issue upon which they are all agreed is that Paul was not commanding the women in Corinth either to let their hair grow long so as to use their long hair as a headcovering in worship, or to neatly place their hair upon their heads as a headcovering in worship, but rather to place upon their heads a fabric headcovering when they worship before the Lord. This conclusion is reached by scholars from various denominational backgrounds, from different geographical locations, and from many periods of church history. The wearing of fabric head coverings in worship was universally the practice of Christian women until the twentieth century. What happened? Did we suddenly find some biblical truth to which the saints for thousands of years were blind? Or were our biblical views of women gradually eroded by the modern feminist movement that has infiltrated the Church of Jesus Christ which is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1Ti 3:15)?