Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 3, 1952
NUMBER 47, PAGE 8-10

Hats And Hair — Reviewed — No. 2

Bryan Vinson, Dallas, Texas

In a preceding article devoted to a review, in part, of three recent articles of brother W. S. Thompson on "Hats or Hair?" we closed with the expressed intention to continue this review further. The construction brother Thompson places on the latter part of the sixth verse of the eleventh chapter of First Corinthians constitutes the crux of his contention. At this juncture we want to closely appraise his reasoning and discover, if able to, the truth or falsity of his position.

"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. 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."

Read this statement carefully and then notice the prideful parallels so proudly paraded by the good brother. Bear in mind, however, that it is not the province of parallels to prove or establish truth. They are but a species of an illustrative character, and the design of an illustration is to assist in the elucidation or clarification of existing truth. Hence, the effect of their use may be good or otherwise, depending on whether they actually clarify or obscure the truth involved. Brother Thompson takes the latter part of verse six and sets it forth in capital letters apart from the context, and also in bold type formulates attending statements structurally parallel to this quotation of a part of verse six. The use he makes of these parallels is to convey the idea that only the shorn lamb needs covering, the naked woman needs clothing or the shorn or shaven woman needs to put on a covering of an artificial nature.

Now let us place two of these beside each other and study them briefly: (1) If it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. (2) If it be a shame for a woman to be stripped or naked, let her be clothed. In the case of the naked woman, how did she become such, and with what shall she be clothed? Was her covering prior to her nakedness a natural and God-given covering, or rather was it an artificial one of human creation? To ask such a question is but to answer it, for we all know it is the latter. In the parallel posed by brother Thompson let us note an interesting feature suggested by his position of how much hair is required to meet the sufficiency of covering. Remember he takes the position that just as long as a woman has enough hair left to differentiate her from the appearance of a man it is adequate to meet the demands of the divinely designed covering. Presumably the poodle bob of current style will satisfy his requirements in the case. Now, to some points in the parallel: These two women — the one uncovered as respects the head, and the other naked as respects the body. Before, however, they reached their respective conditions something occurred. In the case of the uncovered head her hair was cut off; but it wasn't an ordinary bobbing of the hair according to brother Thompson. Her hair was cut short — so short as to make her appear as a man, and unless and until it attained that reduced dimension in length she was not uncovered. But something had to occur to bring to pass the parallel condition of this other woman. Before becoming naked she was clothed, and in keeping with the parallelism in the case we are interested in learning just when she reached that state of nakedness which required her to be clothed. If the parallel obtains, since the first woman didn't become uncovered until she lost virtually, or almost, all of her hair the second one doesn't become naked until she loses almost, if not all, of her clothing. A strip tease act would not be immodest by such reasoning, and a sarong would likely be deemed sufficient attirement. And beyond a doubt the current fad of women wearing shorts in public along with the practice of mixed bathing should be regarded as no affront to modesty nor any breach of propriety.

In introducing these parallels he makes the following sage observation: "If it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. This does not say that it would be a shame if she were, or it could be a shame for her to be. This is stated in the present tense and denotes the need of the woman who is shorn or shaven. Who can fail to see it?" In other words, his position is that no covering is needed unless and until her hair is cut off, or shorn, severely short; and in his parallel the woman but scantily attired would not need clothing, and only a modicum of clothes preserves her against the shame of nakedness. Too, in this statement he suggests that Paul does not teach that it is a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, but that the woman shorn or shaven needs to be covered. But the need to be covered is predicated on it being a shame to be shorn or shaven, and if it is no shame to thus be there can be no need to be covered. He would pose the question of shame to be a hypothetical one, and thereby render forever indeterminate the issue thereof. Thus disposed of, the matter of it being requisite that women with shorn or shaven heads to wear an artificial covering can never be ascertained. If it be no shame to be shorn, then it is unneedful that she be covered with a hat, veil or any other form of covering.

His (Thompson's) contention is that it is no shame for a woman to be shorn — just left long enough to distinguish her from man — hence, it removes all need of, or occasion for, women with bobbed or unbobbed hair to wear hats in the assembly of the saints. Thus he dispenses with the demand for a covering other than the hair and thereby returns to his initial stand that the hair is the only covering taught in the chapter. Turning from the teaching of brother Thompson for a while let us direct our attention to the teaching of brother Paul in the fifth and sixth verses. We should not become too enamored with the former lest we lose a taste for the precepts of the latter.

Paul's Teaching In 1 Cor. 11:5-6

In the first article reviewing brother Thompson the verses preceding these were noted. It was observed that whatever Paul imposed on men in the fourth verse he enjoined the opposite of that in the fifth and sixth verses on the women.

"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. 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." For a woman to pray or prophesy with her head uncovered is to dishonor her head; and in dishonoring her head she is in a position equivalent to having a shaven head. It is "even all one" as that of a shaven head. In dishonoring her head she is acting equally as shameful as she would in having her head shaven. This being true, and the apostle so says, she may as well cut her hair off and even shave her head as to be uncovered in the assembly of the saints. Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other; hence, an uncovered head is, when viewed with respect to the shame or dishonor attaching to it, equal to, first a shorn head, and in the finality of it a shaven head.

But someone interposes with the observation that since the hair is the covering in verse fifteen, that it is the covering of these verses. Let us see if such is possibly true. "If the woman be not covered, let her ALSO be shorn." Carefully read this and ask can the hair possibly be the covering. This is the part of verse six that brother Thompson, for some reason, utterly ignored in his treatment of this subject, and which absolutely refutes the argument he endeavors to make on the rest of this verse. If she be not covered, let her also — in addition to, and therefore, distinct from — be shorn. Then she may be NOT COVERED and at the same time NOT BE SHORN. And if she isn't shorn she has her hair, and having her hair she has the covering the hair affords. And having the covering the hair affords she is yet uncovered, as this verse describes her; hence, the hair is not and cannot be the covering this verse speaks of. Irrespective of what the covering here may be it cannot be the hair. To be without this covering creates a situation with regard to the inspired appraisal of it which constitutes a breach as serious as cutting the hair off or shaving the head. This being true it needs no other proof than here found; but in order to render some assistance to those who may have difficulty in seeing it, I wish to present a parallel statement.

(1) For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn.

(2) For if the man be without a coat, let him also remove his vest.

In this second statement is it not readily discernible to all that it poses a situation wherein it is clearly possible for a man to be without his coat and yet have on his vest? Even so also in the first statement, the language of inspiration, the situation is suggested of a woman being without the covering and yet having all of her hair.

In the expression, "If it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered" are we justified in regarding the use of "if" as implying doubt? While the term does often so suggest yet in this and many other occurrences such isn't true. For instance, in Colossians 3:1 we read "If then ye be risen with Christ--" it does not suggest doubt or impossibility. This is so because in the second chapter verse twelve we read "Buried with him in baptism wherein also ye are risen with him." Both here and in the verse we are studying "if" is used as a connecting term in the progression of thought from one premise to a logically succeeding one. It WAS and IS a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven. Paul knew it, the Corinthians knew it and we should know it. Then from this acknowledged premise he appeals for the acceptance of the equally true, but less obvious, premise — that is, that it is dishonoring and shameful to be in the assembly with uncovered heads — and in recognition thereof to be covered. These people to whom he was writing knew it was a shame to be shorn and a disgrace to be shaven. And as it is dishonoring to appear in the worship with an uncovered head, the apostle endeavors to impress this fact on them by saying if they are uncovered they may as well take step number two and cut their hair, and step number three and shave the head, thereby reducing to an absurdity any objections which might arise to his position.

Brother Thompson, and perhaps many others, think a hat or its equivalent is required only if the hair is shorn. Thus "if she be shorn let her be covered" would express their idea. Paul says, "If she be not covered let her also be shorn." These two statements are pointing in opposite direction, and must either yield, one of them to the other, or collide. And it would be a fearful thing to collide with an apostle on any subject — so much so that I cherish a strong desire to travel the same path with him, the path of truth, and in so doing to go in the same direction.

It should not be considered amiss to notice some other views which are sometimes heard expressed. Among them is the idea that the restrictions and conditions imposed by the apostle here relative to the women is applicable to only a particular group. These women, we are told, exercised publicly the gift of prophesy before mixed groups in meetings distinct from the regular and ordinary assemblies of the saints. I am unable to see what such a position rests on as there is no evidence to sustain such a contention so far as I know. Furthermore, to identify such activities on the part of women with the worship would create an anomalous situation, indeed. This, the eleventh chapter, with the twelfth and fourteenth, deal with the procedure and behavior of the church assembled for worship. To understand Paul as instructing the women how to dress in publicly teaching the church here and in the fourteenth chapter to forbid them to thus teach would present a contradiction in the apostle. Conceive, if you can, of a mother giving her daughter directions of how to dress for a social event, and in the same conversation tell the daughter she cannot attend. What estimate would you form of the intelligence, consistency and stability of judgment possessed by such a mother? Likewise the aspect of the apostle telling women how to attire themselves while teaching in the public assembly and in the same letter also forbid them to thus teach would cast a similar reflection on the inspired writer. The praying and prophesying is to be regarded as representative of the entire procedure of worship. All the worshippers of God are, therefore, to respect the instruction given in this section of scripture as it applies respectively to men and women.

In the verses following the sixth, the seventh through the fifteenth, Paul directs the attention of those who read to a series of statements calculated to enforce the authoritative position of verses four through six by an appeal to reason. Their reason is directed to the consideration of creation, relation, nature and angelic interest in mankind. In creation man was made in the image of God, and as His glory; hence, the man should not cover his head. But not so with respect to woman; she is the glory of man. Further, this is true in consequences of man not being made for the woman, but the woman for man. Creation established the relative position of man and woman, and as thus established they must remain true with becoming regard and respect for the gradation of rank divinely created. Correspondingly, the gradation of authority must be observed as set forth in the first part of the chapter. In order to manifest a recognition of this authoritarian relationship the Lord has given the directions to this church at Corinth, and also to all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place. Too, the angels are introduced as affording an added reason for observing the instruction of the apostle. We are taught elsewhere in the scriptures that angels have a lively and intense interest in humanity insomuch that they rejoice when a sinner comes to repentance. In their relation to the saints we read that they are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation. From this it becomes highly presumptive that they, the angels, would be mightily pleased to behold the proper respect for, and adherence to, the instruction presented by the beloved apostle on this question. In heaven they observe the will of God as it appeals to them with perfect obedience thereto, and in so doing display that respect for the authority of the Lord.

The sixteenth verse, the final statement on this subject, has been subjected to some strange interpretations which deserve some notice. "But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God." Let us note, first, brother Thompson on this verse: "Some think the contention here mentioned was the thing to which Paul referred when he said, we have no such custom. This is faulty, however, as can be seen by the text. It was some prevailing act or established usage, namely the UNCOVERING OF WOMEN'S HEADS TO WHICH HE REFERRED. Or else it must have been the custom of putting on veils or hats as of today...Let the hatters take their choice; if they say the custom was that of putting on hats, Paul says 'We have no such custom.' Why, then, do you want to make a custom of putting on hats when Paul said they had no such in his day? IF YOU SAY THE CUSTOM HE REFERRED TO WAS PULLING OFF HATS OR VEILS, THEN WHERE IS YOUR AUTHORITY?" I'll answer this last question by referring to his own affirmation above quoted. If there is no authority for saying the custom or practice apostolically disavowed was the removing or leaving off of hats, veils, or some form of artificial covering, why did brother Thompson say it WAS THE UNCOVERING of the head? To take off or leave off the hat or its equivalent is to uncover or leave uncovered the head. Thus he affirms above that which he here below disavows and, hence, he crosses himself.

Now if brother Thompson says the uncovering of women's heads to which Paul referred is the cutting off the hair in saying 'We have no such custom,' then the brother should cease endorsing women cutting their hair. If he grants that the artificial covering is contemplated in the statement by Paul, then his entire position is a contention against the apostle's position.

The obvious truth of the verse is that if every appeal to authority and reason as well as to nature is disregarded then let those who are disposed to oppose or contend against such an appeal know that the apostles as the ambassadors of Christ will not yield to such opposition. The changing fads and fancies of the world shall not invalidate apostolic teaching, and the church is not to submit to or give recognition to any practice subversive to that herein taught. In the fourteenth chapter verse thirty-seven Paul says that which he has written are the commandments of God. The great majority of the members of the church regard this issue of little significance and of no consequence at all, and, therefore, unworthy of much consideration. By the construction they put on the sixteenth verse they find a justification for their disregard.

They so construe this verse as to suggest that Paul here says, in effect, if any be disposed to contend against that which is taught to forget it, skip it — it doesn't amount to anything anyway. Thereby they place him in the ridiculous position of penning fifteen verses, and in one verse invalidate the fifteen. No such custom as what? It can only mean that the apostle and the churches of God have no other practices than those enjoined; they sanction no such custom as men wearing long hair and appearing in worship with hats or some other covering on their heads. The term "hats" has been used as representative of any type of artificial covering which may preferably be used. The requirement is generic and no particular type of covering is required to the exclusion of others. Just as in the case of baptism, water is necessary but no particular body of water is required to the exclusion of others where immersion may be effected. As to the length of the hair for it to be short for men, and long for women, we all know that such terms are relative. The safe thing for women to do is to let nature determine the length of the hair. To be shorn means to cut off, to sever; and for a woman to bob her hair is to cut off part of it — usually most of it. Her hair being her glory it does suggest that she should desire the retention of her glory, and not suffer any diminution of it.

In conclusion, may I suggest that a free and frank discussion of questions of issue is to be desired by all who love and seek the truth. The ascertainment of truth is the only acceptable motive which can impel and justify the discussion of any issue. We all must, in the interest of our souls salvation, maintain an open mind ever ready to revise, alter and if necessary reverse our position on any question when evidence and sound reasoning is presented contrary to our cherished views. May our love for Christ ever increase, and our reverence for his word and love for the truth always render secure that love as we are nourished up in the good words of faith and doctrine.