The Ancient Faith
“LET HER BE COVERED”
Don L. King
Much of this material was presented by the author at the study held by the 21st Street church of Christ, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in December 1978. Having long believed that such a tract should be among our brethren, these thoughts are presented for thorough consideration. Thankfulness is here expressed for the encouragement of a number of preaching brethren in the publication of this material.
The material for thoughts you are invited to peruse has been gathered from many sources over the last several years. In some cases the source is remembered and credit duly given. In others, the years have obliterated recollection. However, many hours of study are represented by these thoughts.
*Only the God of heaven assuredly knows how many souls have been placed in jeopardy or lost by disobedience of 1 Corinthians 11: 2-16. It is believed that many disobey out of ignorance. They, hopefully, may truly benefit from this tract. Others, apparently, disobey rebelliously. May God bless them with a genuine desire to know the truth and obey Him whose word is truth.
“LET HER BE COVERED”
The covering which is verbally portrayed in 1 Corinthians 11 has been (and still is) the ground upon which many polemical battles have been waged. Some believe a woman may cut or at least trim her hair while others do not. Some contend that an artificial veil or covering is bound by the apostle in addition to her hair. Still others believe that hair is the only covering designated by divine inspiration.
Allow me to state my position at the very beginning. I understand that the apostle speaks of “hair” as being given “instead of” or “to take the place of” a veil. I do not believe that a Christian woman may rightfully remove any part of her covering whether it is by cutting, breaking, burning or whatever. To do so is to disobey the apostle’s inspired instructions in the verses before us.
It is extremely important that we study these verses without allowing some previous belief to interfere with our ability to learn the truths therein. One must not enter into a study of any Biblical topic with a wish to justify or defend some prior idea. Any reasonable person realizes that prior ideas will influence or color any subsequent deductions, if allowed to do so. Let us put away our preconceived notions and ideas and allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves. If all will do that, we can actually learn what God would have us to do. Remember that the Psalmist said, “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” (Psalms 119:130). Some seem to think that a tremendous knowledge of Greek is necessary for a proper understanding of our topic. I deny that. While it would certainly be an aid, it is not an essential. In this study, a number of Greek Lexicons, etc., will be used to help us along. However, we maintain that one may read his plain English Bible and with study arrive at the correct conclusion.
In order to understand the central theme of 1 Corinthians 11: 2-16, it is imperative to recognize the God-ordained rules regarding women from the beginning. We may be sure that it was with a complete and thorough knowledge of all rules that Paul wrote to the Corinthians. Consequently, they must be considered by us in our own study.
In the beginning after Adam and Eve had fallen prey to the subtle wiles of the devil, God had this to say to her: “…I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shall bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Genesis 3:16). Then in the New Testament Paul wrote, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” (1 Timothy 2:12). The words “usurp authority” literally mean to “exercise authority.” Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, says it should be rendered “to have or exercise dominion over.” (vol. 4, p. 225). The point is that Paul will not allow a Christian women to domineer or exercise authority over the man. His apostolic directive is not in keeping with contemporary ideas, etc., but that is God’s will in such matters! Again: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: For it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under disobedience, as also saith the law.” (1 Corinthians 14:34). When Paul wrote to Titus he declared of women that they should “…be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” (Titus 2:51. Then to the Ephesians: “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body.” (Ephesians 5:231. The apostle Peter wrote of women being under subjection to their husbands and said: “Evenas Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord:…” (1 Peter 3:6). Do you wonder what the word “lord” means in this place? It’s from the Greek “kurios” which has a basic meaning of one who is “supreme in authority…” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament p. 44, No. 2962), The same word is used of our Lord Jesus Christ. We do not imply here that a Christian woman must call her husband “lord.” but she must certainly acknowledge him as being superior in authority! It she doesn’t, she does not accept God’s place for her. If we can manage to keep the above passages in mind as we proceed, it will help us more fully grasp God’s will regarding women and their covering. Remember, that what Paul says about the covering for Christian women, he says with the assumption that a godly woman wilt recognize and accept her position as a Christian woman; and as such, she will be in subjection to the man. It is my understanding that the reason God demands his women to be covered at all is because He desires them to have a sign or token of their subjection to the man.
Since it is generally understood that verse 1 belongs to the context of chapter 10, we will begin our study with verse 2. This verse seems to be a conciliatory preface to the rather sharp and dogmatic instruction which follows. From the context, we imply that Paul had heard from the Corinthians previously. Notice: “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” (verse 2). Dr. MacKnight in his Apostolic Epistles (p. 179). supposes that Paul had received a personal letter from them stating that they had restrained their women from publicly praying and prophesying and that it is to this news that Paul refers in verse 2. If there was such a letter; it has, of course, long since been lost. Whatever he had heard, Paul praises them in verse 2 for remembering him in all things and for keeping “the ordinances” as he had delivered. The word “ordinances” is rendered “traditions” in some translations. The general idea, however, is that the brethren had remembered his instructions, etc. Paul wisely praises them in those points in which they were worthy before getting down to the business at hand. Undoubtedly, preachers and teachers everywhere could learn a lesson from the apostle. It is much easier for anyone to receive a needed rebuke if they have been told some of their good points first.
In verse 3 Paul says: “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.” In this verse Paul lays the very basis for all that pertains to the covering of men and women: the headship. The whole of Paul’s teaching in these verses appears to deal with: (1) authority; (2) recognition of authority and (3) the sign or token signifying recognition of higher authority.
Notice that verse 3 begins with the conjunction “but.” We understand by the use of this word, that although Paul had praised them for their good points, he has more to say which may not necessarily be commendable. The headship of verse 3 put in simple form is: God is the head of Christ; Christ is the head of man, and man is the head of woman. Arranged in chart form:
The apostle makes no reference in verse 3 to the physical head of anyone, as we see it. Rather, he intends that we understand the reference to be to the “head” which has power to govern. Hence, God has power to govern Christ; Christ power to govern man, and man has power to govern the woman. However, in verses 4 and 5 reference to both the physical and governing head is made. The first time “head” is used in these two verses it refers to the physical head, while the second time refers to the governing head. Notice verses 4 and 5: “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head (physical head-DLK) covered, dishonoreth his head. (Governing head or Christ, verse 3-DLK). But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head (physical head-DLK) uncovered dishonoreth her head: (governing head or man-DLK) For that is even all one as if she were shaven.”
There are, of course, reasons for the divine headship which is quite plainly stated for us in I Corinthians 11:3. While we do not claim to fully understand all that may be embraced within it. it is plain that it affects prayer and prophesying whether by men or women! (See again verses 4 and 5.) Anything so significant that it has an effect on our prayers and prophesying (teaching) deserves our earnest attention.
We all realize, perhaps, that it is a Bible fact that when we pray to the Father we must pray through Christ Jesus. Hear Paul: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Colossians 3:171 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) This not only indicates that our passage to Heaven and God must be by or through the church (the body of Christ: Colossians 1:18;) but additionally that our prayers must be by Him, or through Him. Hence we say, that in order for our prayers to be heard they must be prayed in and through the name of Christ. Now, consider the situation. When a man prays he can pray directly through Christ as he is immediately beneath Him in the line of authority. (See the chart again but what about the woman? There is, seemingly, a dilemrna; presented to her. She cannot pray through her head of authority to God, for her head is the man. (See the chart) What is to be done? We may be sure that God does not intend to allow her to ignore her position of authority. Yet if she prays through the man, she would certainly place him in a bad position. He would be dishonored by assuming such a lofty place. So, divine wisdom provides a solution. A Christian woman is to have her physical head covered. When she has it so, she shows her recognition of her head of authority; the man. Her prayers then may, apparently, by-pass the man and go through Christ as do the man’s. Consequently, the “covering” is absolutely necessary for the woman. If we have entered this study with an open mind; however, we do not yet know of what it consists.
THE COVERING IS NOT DEFINED IN VERSES 4-7
Allow me to return to a previous statement. “A Christian woman is to i have her physical head covered.” Some declare that the word “covered” defines or at least implies an artificial veil or covering. The term I “covered” in the original text is “KATAKALUPTO.” Please be careful to i note that this word is a verb. The verb “katakalupto” signifies to be covered, but it does not specify or define the covering itself! The term is actually a compound word made up of two words: “KATA” (a preposition meaning basically “down”) and the verb: “KALUPTO” which simply signifies to cover. As we will point out later, the verb “KALUPTO” . may be found in a number of passages where it can not possibly even imply an artificial veil or covering. More on that later.
Paul plainly shows in the 5th verse that if the woman prays to God with , her head “uncovered” she dishonors her head, (The term “uncovered” is from the Greek “AKATAKALUPTOS”. a verb signifying the opposite of the verb katakalupto or “covered.” It also does not specify or define the covering. There is no noun given in the Greek text at this point to define the covering!) A similar situation would be the following: “If a man will not fix (verb) his car, let him also do without it.” Would anyone declare that the verb “fix” defines the tools he is to use? Of course not! All realize that the nature of the problem could demand various types of tools to be utilized. One man might “fix” his car with a wrench. Another might use a jack, and perhaps another would need a drill. The point is: wrench, jack, and drill, are all nouns but none of them were specified or defined by the general verb “fix.” No, they were not specified or defined any more than an artificial “veil” (noun) is specified or defined by the verb “covered” (katakalupto). We say again, that at this point in the chapter the nature of the covering has not been defined or implied. It could consist of almost any material at this point, including hair. But notice carefully the last portion of verse 5. The apostle says: “…for that is even all one as if she were shaven.” The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (Nestle text) by Alfred Marshall renders this portion: “…for it is one and the same thing with The woman having been shaved.” Whatever the covering is Paul plainly teaches that if she doesn’t have it she may as well shave her head. The covering is important then.
THE NATURE OF THE COVERING
What is the “covering”? Does it really include an artificial veil or covering as many believe? Are there, in fact, two coverings mentioned in the Greek text? (“Hair” from the Greek noun “KOMEE” and, or plus, an artificial “veil” from the Greek noun Kalumma?) This is staunchly contended for by many honest men and women. Is it a Bible fact that an artificial veil (“kalumma”) is to be worn in addition to a godly woman’s natural covering or hair?
It in indeed true that there in such a Greek noun (“kalumma”) signifying an artificial veil in the Greek New Testament. The problem is: it never appears in the entire first letter to the Corinthians! That is correct. Though there is certainly such a noun, one will search in vain to find it in the first Corinthian letter; let alone in the eleventh chapter verses 2-16. One must read Paul’s second letter to them before encountering the needed noun (kalumma) defining an artificial veil or covering. If the reader will look in W.E. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, vol. 1, p. 252, under “COVER, COVE RING “‘you will notice that the first word W.E. Vine lists under “verbs” is kalupto. This is the verb which signifies to cover but does not specify the nature of the covering. Immediately under that definition Mr. Vine has: “Note: Cp. the corresponding noun kalumma, a veil, 2 Cor. 3:13. 14. 15. 16. See Veil.” When the reader turns the pages to vol. 4, p. 184 and reads the definition there offered under “VEIL” (2. KALUMMA) this is what he will find:
“A covering, is used (a) of the veil which Moses put over his face when descending Mount Sinai, thus preventing Israel from beholding the glory, 2 Cor. 3:13; (bi metaphorically of the spiritually darkened vision suffered retributively by Israel, until the conversion of the nation to their Messiah takes place, vv. 14,15, 16…”
Notice please where Vine tells you to look for that noun in 2 Corinthians chapter 3. Not one word about it applying within our subject! Let us notice Paul’s use of the term “veil” (kalumma).
In 2 Corinthians 3: 13-16 the Greek noun “kalumma” is found no less than five times where it is rendered “vail” in the King James Version. The apostle uses it both literally and figuratively. He relates how Moses put a “vail” (Greek noun “kalumma”) over his face that the Israelites could not look to the end of that which had been abolished, referring to the Law of Moses, etc. Then he says that even at that time the same “veil” (Greek noun “kalumma”) remained in the reading of the Old Testament. Here he apparently used the term figuratively to indicate that their understanding was hindered. However, he says the “veil” (Greek noun “kalumma”) is done away in Christ. Here again the noun “kalumma” (veil) is used figuratively to show that the Law, and their lack of understanding, etc., is abolished in Christ. He points out in 2 Corinthians 3: 15,16 that the Jews were still mentally blinded to the truth in Christ by the “veil” (Greek noun “kalumma”) upon their heart. If the heart can be turned to the Lord the “veil” (Greek noun “kalumma”) will be taken away. Finally, in verse 18 Paul says: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Notice that Paul says, “with open face.” This phrase is rendered in the Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (Nestle text) by Marshall as: “having been unveiled…” It is obvious that Paul knew quite well how to use the Greek noun “kalumma” isn’t it? He could say it pretty well, and use it figuratively too. The question is then: if indeed an artificial veil (Greek noun “kalumma”) is intended in the earlier verses of I Corinthians II:2-16, why is it never once used? What better way for the apostle to get the idea across to the Corinthians and us than to simply use the noun just one time?
According to Webster’s New World Dictionary (Second College Edition), a verb is: “1. Any of a class of words expressing action, existence, or occurrence, or used as an auxiliary or copula, and constituting usually the main element of a predicate…” Anyone must agree that a verb, according to the above definition, will not usually define or specify anything. That would be the normal function of a noun. According to the same dictionary a noun is: “1. Any of a class of words naming or denoting a person, thing, place, action, quality, etc….”
Obviously, then, if the apostle had ever used a noun defining an artificial covering in these early verses, there could be no discussion about the matter. Since he didn’t, we find it difficult to accept what is never once specified or defined in these early verses, as a matter of faith. Simply, if he meant it why didn’t he say it?
The fact is, that Paul used only one noun in the entire teaching which unmistakably refers to an artificial veil and in the same verse (15) plainly says that “her hair is given” instead of it! Remember that the Psalmist tells us the word of God” …giveth understanding unto the simple.” (“Simple” is from a Hebrew word meaning: “silly i.e. seducible:—foolish, simple.” Strong’s Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary^ 96, No. 6612.) Frankly, we find it difficult to believe that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to give this instruction in terms nearly impossible to understand.
If it be objected that the apostle Peter wrote of Paul that he had written things hard to be understood, notice what Peter said: “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood.” (2 Peter 3:16) Of “these things” MacKnight says that Peter refers to Paul’s writing about the resurrection, judgement, burning of the earth, heaven, etc. So Peter is not teaching that everything Paul wrote is difficult. Rather, he shows that Paul wrote of some facts, etc., that were hard to perceive. The word “understood” in 2 Peter 3:16 in the original text means “difficult of perception.” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, p 24, No. 1425.) consequently, it is Paul’s subject matter that is difficult to perceive; not his terms.
Allow me to say again that Paul used only one noun in 1 Corinthians 11: 2-16 which unmistakably refers to an artificial veil. That noun is “PERIBOLAION.” It is found only once and that in verse 15. It reads: “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” “Covering” here is from the Greek noun “peribolaion” which is rendered “a veil or covering” by all scholars. Notice the rendering of Bullinger in his Critical Lexicon and Concordance, p 193: “Covering (noun) (then the Greek spelling for periobolaion), something thrown around, i.e. a covering, garment; of the body, a mantle; of the head, a veil, (here preceded by avti, instead of.) I Cor. 11:15, marginal veil.” There is no question about this word! It is a noun which describes an artificial veil or covering. Yet in his description of the noun, Bullinger plainly says that it is preceded by a word meaning “instead of.” Something is given “instead of” an artificial veil.
THE COVERING OF VERSE 15
It is my understanding that Paul plainly tells us what the covering is in this verse. Plain terms are used to express his thoughts. Truly, even the “simple” may receive “understanding” from this verse in the commonly used King James Version. Let’s read it again: “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” Could not anyone read and understand of what the covering consists? The apostle simply says,” …her hair is given her for a covering.” Is it possible that a study of the various Greek terms will prove our deductions wrong?
Let us see. “…Her hair is given her for a covering.” Ironically, two nouns are found in this statement. (1) “Hair” (from the Greek noun “komee” which denotes the hair as an ornament); and, (2) “covering” (from the Greek noun “peribolaion” a veil or covering). Notice carefully: Paul says her “hair” (noun) is given “for” (Greek “avti” meaning anti, instead of or to take the place of) a “covering” (Greek noun “peribolaion). Does the Christian woman have an artificial veil or covering then? No, Paul says her hair has been given to take the place of that. Brother H.C. Harper used to illustrate the point something like this: “If a farmer tells his employee: ‘today I am going to give you a spade instead of a hoe’; would the employee suppose that he was to utilize both the spade and the hoe? Of course not. He would know that when the spade was given him instead of a hoe that he would not be given the hoe at all! By the same token, then, a woman should understand that God has given her “hair” instead of a veil or covering (peribolaion). The veil is negated by the God-ordained hair. She does not have the artificial veil, but she does have her hair. One is bound, the other is not. If not, why not?
Now let’s notice all of verse 15 carefully. “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” It is easily seen at a glance that the word “hair” appears twice in this single verse. However, in the Greek text there are two different words used to express the thought of hair. The first time it is used the verb form “KOMAO” is used. Remember that a verb expresses existence, action, or occurrence. Thayer, in his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 354 says of the verb (komao): “To let the hair grow, have long hair.” Bullinger, in A Critical Lexicon and Concordance, p 349 of the same verb has: ” To let the hair grow, wear long hair, I Cor. 11: 14,15.’ Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p 443 has: “…wear long hair, let one’s hair grow long I Cor. 11: 14, 15…” Various other lexicographers give similar meanings. However, the point is that a woman must be letting her hair grow. This means that she must not cut it at all, since she can not cut it and let it grow at the same time! Paul further states that if she lets her hair grow (komao) it is a “glory” to her. “Glory” is from the Greek “DOXA” which means: “to call forth praise for her.” Hence, a Christian woman’s growing hair calls forth praise for her; but why? Because, says the apostle, her “hair” (this time from the Greek noun “komee” which according to Thayer on p. 354 denotes the hair as an ornament) is given her “for” (Greek “AVTI” meaning “instead of, in place of”; Thayer, p. 49) a “covering.” (“Covering” from the Greek noun “PERIBOLATION” meaning “a veil or covering, etc.” according to various scholars.)
There simply can be no argument as to the meaning of verse 15. As was previously shown, one may read his plain English version of the New Testament and arrive at a proper understanding of it. The covering is simply a woman’s grown hair. How does she have growing (or grown) hair? She refrains from cutting it and allows it to grow as long as nature wills it to grow. There is nothing to be gained from the useless argument that a woman’s hair grows all the time, therefore, even if she cuts it, she has growing hair. Paul said that if a woman has “long hair” (komao – to let the hair grow). In truth then, it is correct to say that Paul said: “If a woman lets her hair grow it calls forth praise to her: for her ornamental hair is given to her instead of a veil.”
SHORTENED HAIR STILL PROVIDES A COVERING?
Sometimes, in a vain effort to dodge the plain directive in verse 15, an individual may say: “How long should a woman’s hair be?” Apparently, those who ask such things suppose that no one can answer them. One brother was asked such a question once, and answered: “How long should a man’s hair NOT be?” We need to remember that according to the apostle Paul, the man is not to have what the woman is to have. If we suppose that by asking such questions we make it impossible for the woman to know what she is to have, (long hair) then one must also assume that it is impossible for a man to know what he is not to have! (long hair).
God does not intend for His Word to be impossible for us to comprehend. We have plainly shown that already. The point is that the term “long” in verse 15 (English translation) does not necessarily denote a given figure in inches or feet. It is a matter of either letting it grow to its natural length, or not letting it grow to its natural length. Every man and every woman belongs to one of two categories. Their hair is either natural length or it is not natural length. We either cut our hair or we don’t cut it-period. It is just that simple. Every woman knows whether or not she may cut her hair and still have “long hair” as per verse 15. There is no way it may be done, sister. As has been shown, the expression in verse 15 means to “let the hair grow.” One could not cut her hair and let it grow at the same time.
But suppose a woman says: “Paul taught that a woman’s hair is given her for a covering, and even though I cut my hair regularly some of it remains to cover my head; therefore, I am covered.” This is the same as saying that part of your hair will cover your head just as well as all of it will. Sister, that reasoning ignores a plain Bible statement. The apostle did not say that “part of her hair was given for a covering.” If he had, the whole discussion would be meaningless. We need to be thankful that Paul didn’t say what some wish he had said. If Paul had said that a “part of her hair was given for a covering,” it would have involved the man in a problem. Personally, though my hair is getting a little thin on the top and a bit gray around the edges, I still have “part” of it. I get regular haircuts, but I still retain “part” of my hair. You see, if “part” of your hair will suffice as a “covering,” then all men (including myself) are “covered.” That would be bad, because Paul says: “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God:… (verse 7). So we had better just leave Paul’s plain statement alone, in verse 15. He said what he meant, and meant what he said. Occasionally, a sister will say: “Well, what about the dead ends of my hair? Can’t I just trim them off?” As one man answered to such a question: “Those dead ends are still hair, they are not Bermuda grass to be trimmed.” When a godly woman allows her hair to grow as long as nature wills it to grow, she then has that which is given to her instead of a veil. Why can’t we just accept what inspiration plainly says?
The following is from the commentator, James Burton Coffman:
“It is a glory to her…’ This would have been the ideal place for Paul to have said that a mantle thrown over a woman’s head and shoulders is a glory to her, if ever he had such a thing in mind. On the contrary, it comes out here, as it does in every verse in the whole passage, his subject was ‘hair’! ‘Her hair is given her for a covering…’ Here again is an enormous mistranslation; and one may only wonder at the efforts of commentators to make this conform to the misinterpretations they have foisted upon this innocent passage. For example, Johnson declared that ‘This does not mean that her hair is her covering’; but a glance at any interlinear Greek NT will reveal the meaning instantly. Nestle gives it, ‘instead of a veil.’ The Emphatic Diaglott has ‘Her hair is given her instead of a veil.’ The Emphatic Diaglott has ‘Her hair is given her instead of a veil.’ Echols emphatically stressed this expression ‘instead of as follows:
The idea conveyed by ‘instead of is that if the noun preceding this preposition is available, the noun following the preposition is not required. Therefore, the conclusion is quite inescapable that, if a woman’s hair conforms to apostolic standards of propriety, she requires no artificial covering. (James Burton Coffman Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. Austin Texas: Firm Foundation Publishing House. pp.175, 176).
THE NAZARITE VOW
As to what the Lord considers to constitute “long,” it might help us to notice what is spoken of the subject in the Old Testament. For instance, read Numbers 6:5: “All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in which he separateth unto the Lord, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.” (emphasis mine DLK.) In verse 7 the Bible says,”…because the consecration of God is upon his head.” Both Adam Clarke and Matthew Henry in their Commentaries point out that there is a connection here to the hair in I Corinthians 11:10. Notice what Matthew Henry has to say: “…They must not cut their hair, v. 5. They must neither poll (meaning to shear or trim, DLK) their heads nor shave their beards; this was that mark of Samson’s Nazariteship which we often read of in his story. Now, (1) this signified a noble neglect of the body and the ease and ornament of it, which became those who, being separated to God, ought to be wholly taken up with their souls, to secure their peace and beauty. (2) Some observe that long hair is spoken of as a badge of subjection (I Cor. 11:5, & etc.); so that the long hair of the Nazarites denoted their subjection to God, and their putting themselves under this dominion. “
For more information about the Nazarite vow, etc., notice what Hannah said to the Lord before her son, Samuel, was born: “And she vowed a vow, and said, 0 Lord of Hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.” (I Samuel 1:11- emphasis mine, DLK.)
When the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman who was to become the mother of the famous Samson, he said: “For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:5 emphasis mine, DLK.) It is interesting to me that the angel said, “…and no razor shall come on his head: for (or because) the child shall be a Nazarite…” This plainly shows that as a Nazarite, there could never be a razor (or any cutting implement) used on his hair.
The very term “Nazarite” has an interesting meaning. In the Hebrew language it literally meant: “separate, i.e. consecrated…an unpruned vine (like an unshorn Nazarite): – separate…, vine undressed.” (Strong’s, p. 77 No. 5139 in the Hebrew Lexicon.) It is also interesting that during the Sabbatical and Jubilee years the vines were to be left “undressed.” (Leviticus 25: 5,11). This word “undressed” literally means a “Nazarite vine” or an “unpruned vine.” You see, God decreed that the vines were to be allowed to grow as long as nature willed, during those times. The point is, that just as the unpruned vine showed obedience or recognition of God’s authority; just as the unshorn hair of the Nazarite indicated that he bowed to the authority of his God, the unshorn hair of a Christian woman signifies her recognition of and subjection to, her head of authority: man!
WHAT ABOUT THE MAN?
Now we can return to the rest of the chapter. Let’s pick up at verse 4 as there is some misunderstanding about the “covered” man spoken of in this verse. Paul said: “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.” Here is where the misunderstanding of the passage develops. This clause as commonly rendered in the popular versions, is something of a commentary, not Bible. For instance, W.E. Vine says: “Note’ In I Cor. 11:4, ‘having his head covered’ is, lit., ‘having (something) down the head.” (Vol. 1, p. 252.) Lenski also translates it: “having something down from his head.” The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (Nestle Text) by Marshall has: “Every man praying or prophesying having (anything) down over (his) head shames the head of him.” The Emphatic Diaglott (Vatican Manuscript) by Benjamin Wilson has: “Every man praying or prophesying upon head having, disgraces the head of himself.” As you can see, the nature or definition of the “something” or “anything” is neither stated nor implied in verse 4. Notice the following from the commentator, James Burton Coffman:
“The logical understanding of this would refer it to ‘long hair,’ being long enough to hang down from the head, as clearly indicated by the apostle’s words a moment later: ‘If a man have long hair, it is a dishonour to him’ (V. 14). The ancients accepted Paul’s dictum on this and went so far as to define the length of hair that was considered an infraction of Paul’s words.
“The hair of the head may not grow so long as to come down and interfere with the eyes…cropping is to be adopted…let not twisted locks hang far down from the head, gliding into womanish ringlets.” (Coffman, p.169, citing Clement of Alexandria, Ante Nicene Fathers, Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1956, Vol. II, p.286).
Significantly, the words ‘hang far down’ strongly resemble Paul’s words ‘having something down from his head.’ The above is from Clement of Alexandria and was written in the second century. The notion that Paul in this place referred to the tallith (shawl), or yarmelke (skull cap) worn by Jewish worshippers is refuted by the fact that the Greek NT does not indicate in this verse an artificial covering of any kind…We may therefore interpret this verse as a simple admonition that it was a disgrace for any long-haired Christian male to participate in praying and prophesying; and this interpretation certainly harmonizes with verse 14.” (Coffman, p. 169, 170).
It is understood, then, that for a Christian man to have “long hair” (Greek-komao: to let the, hair grow, have long hair ) renders him covered; and as such, he brings dishonor upon his governing head, Christ. It is sad to see young (or old) men who are Christians so reluctant to stay within the realm of safety. Some prefer to walk on “the outer limits” so to speak. They choose to argue “technicalities” rather than wear their hair at a length which is unquestionably right. In the past, serious church trouble sometimes came about because someone insisted upon a hair style that was objectionable to others. It may well be that some “styles” could technically be classified as a liberty. However, even if that be granted, it is wrong to insist upon a “liberty” which, if given up, would allow the church to function in peace and harmony. Occasionally, even when it is known that brethren object and the unity of the church is at stake, some are still unwilling to compromise and get a haircut. Regardless of technicalities, a Christian man should be willing to keep his appearance within acceptable limits. There is no good reason why he should insist upon having an appearance that is objectionable to others. If his appearance is objectionable, his Christian influence will never be what it ought to be (even if church trouble never develops). Bluntly, there is no excuse for a Christian man insisting that his hair be long enough to harm his influence! The church is precious. Christ died for the church. Woe be to anyone who is needlessly responsible for her injury. Let’s keep our perspectives as they ought to be: we are living in view of heaven. Everything is lost if we miss it. Regardless of your success in life you are a miserable failure if you are lost.
We can also understand verse 5 to mean that it is a shame, or sin, for a woman to pray or prophesy “uncovered.” (This is from the Greek verb akatakaluptos: “…uncovered…with uncovered head…I Cor. 11: 5. In short…a woman without headcovering vs. 13”; Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, P.29.)
If the practice or action of letting her hair grow (indicated by the verb: komao renders her covered, then for her to cut, or in any other way remove, her “hair” (Greek noun: komee) renders her “uncovered.” Consequently, Paul shows that when she prays or prophesy (teaches) she must have on her head the physical covering provided by God: her natural-length hair.
It is generally advocated by those who contend for an artificial “veil” (Greek noun: kaluma) for a Christian woman, that she must wear her “veil” (Greek noun kaluma) during the public worship. Why? “Because,” we are told, “she prays during the worship and so must wear her artificial veil or covering to obey Paul’s teaching as per verse 5.” However, Paul wrote in verse 5: “…prayeth or prophesieth….” The woman must be “covered” when she teaches as well as when she prays! Brethren, it won’t do to contend for an artificial veil when she prays only, for the apostle said “… prayeth or prophesieth….” It is well known that Paul forbade women to teach in the church (I Corinthians 14:34), so it appears that she is to be covered at a time when she can teach. Her teaching must not occur in the public assembly; but she can teach privately, or informally, and when she does she is to be covered. God has taken care of this for her. He has given her a covering which she wears continually, both public and private, her hair.
In verse 6 the apostle shows that if the woman be not “covered” (from the Greek verb “katakalupto”: signifying to be covered, but not defining or specifying the material of the covering itself; we believe the context will show that the covering is her hair. D.L.K.) or does not allow her hair to grow, she is “also” to have it shorn or shaven. (The term “also” from the Greek “kai” is defined by Thayer: “…It marks something added to what has already been said, or that of which something already said holds good; accordingly it takes on the nature of an adverb, also… In this use it generally throws an emphasis upon the word which immediately follows it; …1. used simply, a. also, likewise:…1 Cor. 11:6, etc.” p. 316.) My understanding of this verse is that if the woman’s; hair is only partially there, if part of it is cut off, it may as well also be shaved close to the scalp. She will do herself no further damage in God’s sight. So far as He is concerned, if she removes any part of her hair she is “uncovered.” Consequently, she may as well shear it right off at the scalp. She will be no more “uncovered” in His sight than if she just “trimmed” it. God sees us as either “covered” or “uncovered.” Notice the last portion of this verse: “…but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.” Paul evidently assumes that his readers will agree that it is indeed a shame for her to be shorn or shaven. Hence, let her be covered. (Or, let the woman allow her hair to grow.) When she allows her hair to grow she attains that which is instead of a veil.
Paul continues in verse 7: “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head…” (The reference here is to the physical head. The word “cover” here is similar to the Greek verb “kalupto” meaning to cover, cover wholly, but not signifying or defining the material of the covering itself. For more concerning this verb “kalupto” see at the close of this tract under “Objections considered.” DLK.) In other words, the apostle teaches that a man ought not to allow his hair to grow unhindered or uncut, because he is the image and glory of God: “…but the woman is the glory of the man.”
“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.” (verse 8). This is Paul’s way of saying that in the beginning it was not the woman who was first in creation; rather, it was the other way around. The man was first created, then the woman was taken from his side. (Genesis 2: 21,22).
“Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” (verse 9). Or, it was not woman who was made first and then the man created for her; but man was first created, and because God did not wish for him to be alone a helpmate was made for him.
Now notice verse 10. This is difficult and much disagreement has arisen about this passage. The writer certainly does not claim to have a full understanding either, but perhaps a look at various translations, etc. will shed some additional light for us.
Let’s notice how verse 10 is translated in the Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (Nestle Text) by Marshall: “Therefore ought the woman authority to have on the head because of the angels.” Notice that the word “power” is translated “authority” in the above text. Berry’s Interlinear Translation of the Greek New Testament (Textus Receptus Text) translates it “authority” also. The matter of authority is very important to us in this study. Paul outlined it for us in verse 3 before he really began. That certainly betrays the fact that it is the central theme through this subject, and must be constantly kept in mind as we go along. Since the recognition of our respective governing heads (God, Christ, and man) is so important the term “authority” seems consistent with the general context. The center column reference in my personal copy of the New Testament (Cambridge University Press) has: “power: that is, a covering, in sign that she is under the power of her husband.” It appears then that Paul intends the woman to have something upon her head which serves as a sign to the whole world that she recognizes her governing head: the man. That sign, we believe with all our heart, is her natural length hair.
But what about the angels? Verse 10 reads in the King James Version “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.” We readily admit that there are probably many aspects of this subject of which we are ignorant. There are many ideas by various scholars. However, whatever else the statement may include, we know this: angels are very much in subjection to the Father. Those who are spoken of as being around the Throne, etc., seem to be totally dependent upon Him for authority. Evidently, Christian women are to receive a lesson from the angels and not only be in subjection to the men but show it as well by the sign of authority (their natural-length hair) upon their physical heads.
In verse 11 the apostle seems to show that neither sex can be independent of the other, in the Lord. One is no less important, or loved in the sight of God. For, as he continues in verse 12, even though the first woman came from the man, all men since then have been born of women. God, of course, is the Creator of all things.
In verse 13 Paul appeals to the common sense, or logic, of all. “Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman should pray unto God uncovered?” Or, does it seem right to you, that a woman should pray without her God-given “covering” or “veil,” (her hair)? To the contrary, he reasons: even nature tells us that it is not masculine for a man to have “long hair” (from the Greek verb “komao”) like the women. Paul declares that it is a shame for such to be the case. Yes, it was shameful, then as well as today!
Then after verse 15, which we have already studied, he concludes by saying: “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” There are those who would like us to believe that the apostle was saying that if one wants to argue about it, or does not wish to accept this teaching, then just forget all about it. However, if you will notice carefully, there can be no real question about this verse. Paul said: “But if any man seem to be contentious, we (apostles) have no such custom, (what custom has he been speaking of? Women being “uncovered” and men being “covered.” This has been the sum of his teaching) neither the churches of God.” (So, then, the rest of the brotherhood in Paul’s day did not accept it either. This subject was not, and is not, of local application. The churches of God were, and are, involved.)
In many cases, those who contend for an artificial veil or “kaluma” (Greek noun for veil as per 2 Corinthians 3:13, etc.) believe that the type of “veil” is left up to our judgment. We are told that it is not specified so we may use whatever we like. It may be a hat, scarf, handkerchief, etc., etc. However, we submit that if indeed an artificial veil (kaluma) is taught in the earlier verses of this chapter, a simple hat or modern-day “veil” can never hope to qualify. The following is a definition of the Greek noun “kaluma” which many believe is at least implied in the context of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16: “a covering, especially the head covering of women, a hood or veil, hiding all the face, except the eyes, and falling upon the shoulders;…” (A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, by Bullinger, p. 845.) Brethren, prove to us that the artificial veil is taught, and we will prove to you that it can be defined as above. If it is there at all, let us do our best to implement the definition of it too. We know of several good people who believe in the artificial veil for women in the church. However, we have never seen a veil which would fit the above description worn by anyone.
SOME OBJECTIONS CONSIDERED
OBJECTION 1. Some insist that the verb “katakalupto” (covered, cover, etc. verses 5-7, etc.) implies an additional artificial covering. That simply is not so. This Greek term is made up of two words. “Kata,” a preposition meaning basically “down”; and the verb “kalupto” which means to cover. The Greek verb “kalupto” is used in a number of passages where its meaning (to cover) cannot possibly have reference to an artificial veil. Notice the following:
“And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.” (Matthew 8:24). A form of the Greek verb “kalupto” is used in the word “covered” there. (W.E. Vine, p 252, vol. 1). Would any reasonable person affirm that the ship was about to be “covered” with an artificial veil? No, the covering spoken of there was water! Yet, the same verb “kalupto” is found there just as it is in 1 Corinthians 11: 5-7, etc. So, you see, it does not necessarily imply an artificial veil!
Notice again: “Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.” (Matthew 10:26). The verb “kalupto” (or a form of it) is found in the word “covered” in Matthew 10:26; so says W.E. Vine in vol. 1, p 252. Did Jesus have an artificial veil in mind when He spoke those words? No, he had reference to iniquity, or sin as being hidden. He assures the disciples that no hidden or covered up evil shall escape exposure, etc. We have no trouble with the artificial veil in this passage. Why in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16?
Hear Jesus again: “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light.” (Luke 8:16). W.E. Vine tells us that the Greek verb “kalupto” is to be found in this passage also. Did the Master have reference to covering a lighted candle with an artificial veil? No, Luke tells us the covering (noun) was a vessel. Mark tells us that the vessel was a “bushel.” You see, the verb “kalupto” was used, but it did not define what the covering consisted of. It took a noun (bushel or vessel) to specify to our minds what the material of the “covering” was.
Again: “Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.” (Luke 23:30). Again, W.E. Vine lists this passage under “KALUPTO” and he says it: “signifies to cover,…”(Vol.1, p 252) However, anyone can see that no artificial veil is even remotely implied. The verb “to cover” is used just as in 1 Corinthians 11: 5-7, etc. but the -noun is “the hills,” not an artificial veil at all.
Now hear James: “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20). The Revised Version has “cover” in place of “hide.” The reason is that a form of the Greek verb “kalupto” is found in the original text. Some insist that this verb implies an artificial veil; but as anyone may see, it is simply a general verb meaning to cover. In James 5:20 it is sins that are spoken of as being covered and conversion is the covering.
In 1 Peter 4:8 the apostle says: “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” Again the Greek verb “kalupto” (signifying to cover) is used in the original Greek Text. Are we to suppose that Peter speaks of a multitude of sins being covered with a “kaluma” or artificial veil? Of course not, in each case the context reveals of what the “covering” consists. The point is: the Greek verb “kalupto” does not specify or define a material, shape, color, or even that a “physical” covering exists. We should remember that the Holy Spirit in inspiration of the Scriptures knew perfectly well how to use nouns (to define, specify and describe persons, places and things) and verbs (to show the action, existence or occurrence of an incident, etc.).
So the fact is that the “covering” of 1 Corinthians 11:5-7 etc., could (if it were not for the context showing it to be hair) be “waves”, a “bushel”, or even “hills,” so far as the verb “kalupto” is concerned. It simply is not true that the verb “katakalupto” must refer to an artificial covering. It is a general word signifying to cover-period. When one considers these truths, plus the fact that the Greek noun “kaluma” (artificial veil) is not found a single time in the entire first Corinthian letter, how much divine authority does anyone have for contending that the “kaluma” is bound by 1 Corinthians 11:2-16?
OBJECTION 2. It is often objected that in order for the hair to be the only covering taught in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, the verb in verses 5-7 would have to be “periballo.” (This would be the corresponding verb to the noun “peribolaion” (veil or covering.) The reasoning is faulty, however, for at least two reasons.
- First, the verb “periballo” means: “to throw.” The apostle did not intend to convey the idea of a woman “throwing” her covering on! Nor did he mean for the man to “throw” his off! The point is, that Paul’s whole teaching would have been confused if he had used the verb “periballo” (to throw) in place of the verb “katakalupto” (to cover.) Neither verb would have defined a specific type of covering; however, the sense is preserved by using the logical verb which simply indicates to cover up, rather than throw a covering on.
- Another reason the aforementioned argument is faulty is that it assumes that the noun “peribolaion” (a veil or covering) is bound on the woman by the apostle in verse 15. However, the truth is that the “peribolaion” (a veil or covering) is not given to the woman! A close study of verse 15 will plainly reveal that a Christian woman’s hair is given to her INSTEAD of a peribolaion (veil or covering.) She has her hair, she doesn’t have a veil. One takes the place of the other. It is a powerful point for the noun “peribolaion” is the only noun in the entire chapter which unmistakably denotes an artificial veil or covering! There is no doubt about it, the noun “peribolaion” denotes an artificial veil or covering. However, the apostle says her hair is given her “for” (Greek “avti” meaning instead of or to take the place of) a “covering.” (Greek noun meaning a veil or covering.) So, the usage of the Greek verb “kalupto” in its various forms fits the picture exactly. A woman is to “cover” (katakalupto) her physical head with her natural length hair which is an ornament to her.
OBJECTION 3. Women sometimes excuse their practice of trimming their hair by claiming that as they get older it (long hair) is not becoming to them. One once said, “at my age I need my hair cut short, because if I allow it to grow long, it is not becoming to a woman as old as I am.” In answer to a similar statement one man said: “It is a pity that when women get older they feel they must cut their hair short. As they grow old they cut it shorter and shorter; so, rather than have long hair and look like old women, they cut it off and look like old men.” Men and women alike need to be content to look like God intended: women with natural-length hair and men with cut or short hair.
May God help us to have a genuine desire to please Him.
[From a tract entitled “Let Her Be Covered” by Don L. King]
Introducing the Church of Christ – Ronny Wade
God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter
Repentance – J. W. McGarvey