Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 7, 1952
NUMBER 39, PAGE 9,11c

Hats Or Hair?

W. S. Thompson, Sylacauga, Alabama


Among the many controversial topics of the Bible relative to matters of custom and doctrine the one regarding WOMEN'S HATS, or the wearing of something in way of artificial covering in religious services, has come into a great deal of prominence in recent years. This is not to discount the fact that there has always been some discussion of it, or that there have not been many writings upon the subject throughout the past. With the new emphasis placed upon the subject by some preachers and teachers in colleges, almost to the point of making the wearing of some kind of artificial head-dress a test of fellowship among members of the church, it seems that it is sufficiently important to merit a careful study, that the truth may be presented upon it.

I realize, fully, that when any one resigns himself to the task of writing a treatise on any controversial subject, he usually finds himself confronted with the feeling of opposition; for fear that he will only be adding to the already too numerous writings upon it. He may even hesitate for fear that he will be mistaken, by some, to be adding to the conflicting theories and opinions, without making any substantial contribution toward a better understanding of it. Then, too, he may feel that because of previous writings and teachings on the subject by authors more prominent than himself, that his writings will not be accorded a fair and candid reading by the public. Knowing that most of the current writings on the subject of HATS has been done by the exponents of the theory that "women should wear hats in church," it becomes increasingly important that I divest myself entirely of any presumptions that my writings will receive an open and candid reading, immediately!

May I humbly beg, though, that in the spirit of fairness and honesty, YOU read this with the same degree of regard that you give any other treatise that claims itself an avenue of enlightenment. If this be ERROR the proponents of the HAT THEORY will certainly waste no time in assailing it, and exposing the errors publicly. If it be true you owe it to yourself to know and divest yourself of previous erroneous teachings and theories upon it.

There are some who assert that this is only a matter of custom, and that since we are no longer living under the customs current in the days of the apostle Paul, that it has no bearing on us now. This, though, is untrue, as I will show in the treatment of CUSTOM, near the end of this treatise. There is a principle involved in this, which if we violate, we are in no less error than those of Paul's day. That principle is in honoring and dishonoring God by our attitudes and relationships to him.

The Text

1 Cor. 11:3-16 — "But I would have you know; that the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

4. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonored his head.

5. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head; for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

6. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

7. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, for—as much as he is the image and glory of God: But the woman is the glory of man.

8. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of man.

9. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

10. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

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.

13. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?

14. Doth not even nature itself 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.

16. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God."

The Explanation

Certainly any one can see that the instructions here given were predicated by circumstances then prevailing in the church at Corinth, else the apostle Paul would not have given such admonitions. On the basis of what is written it is obvious that the problem was that of men covering their heads, either by putting on some artificial covering or by letting their hair grow long. The women were practicing the custom of uncovering their heads by shearing and shaving their heads. Either of these practices was wrong and violated the principle of the relationship between Christ and man and man and the woman.

The practice of cutting the woman's hair had, throughout the ages, been associated with shame and disgrace. It had for the most part been practiced on prostitutes and lewd characters. It was also a symbol or mark of captivity. (Deut. 21:12) The custom that had been held in contempt and disrepute had become fashionable among many of the Corinthians and some of those converted to Christianity were still practicing the custom. The men were adapted to the custom of covering their heads with hoods or tunics, as worn by the Orientals, and heathen worshippers. Some were wearing long hair in honor to the Hero-Gods. Thus, the occasion for the warning by the apostle against such practices.

It does seem, that were it not for the theories that have been propagated by the exponents of the HATS THEORY, that this would be all the explanation necessary for the passage. Since further treatment is necessitated by the theories I proceed to note further, giving attention to the various arguments produced by the advocates of the theory.

Means By Which We Can Know

Certainly God has not required something of us that we are unable to learn. If one should ask you, WHAT PART OF THE BODY IS UNDER CONSIDERATION in this writing, you would think him a very simple person indeed. And such, evidently, he would be. And, who would allow himself to be thought so simple that he could not understand the portion of the body under consideration, when the apostle has so plainly stated—the HEAD? To persons with any degree of intellect there is not a doubt: THE HEAD IS THE PART THAT PAUL IS WRITING ABOUT.

But, have you stopped to consider, many have not, that the apostle has just as plainly told us the COVERING under consideration, as he has the part of the body to be covered? And, would not I, or any other, appear just as simple to reason that there was some other COVERING under consideration, as we would to reason that it was the FEET Paul was writing about? Some one tell, Please! Verse 16 — "But if a woman have LONG HAIR it is a glory to her: FOR HER HAIR IS GIVEN HER FOR A COVERING." Who can miss it? ? ? (more to follow)