Vol.XVIII No.XI Pg.7
January 1982

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Please write something on 1 Cor. 11:1-16. (A new P.T. reader.) M.B.


This was discussed in V.15, N.8, P.7; and in V.8-N.7-P.7 — for those who have bound volumes of P.T.

Paul says, "the head of the woman is the man." This is no more "degrading" than his statement, "the head of Christ is God;" but is an order established by deity for beneficial ends. Such headship is a valid principle everywhere, for all time; but the way one showed this submission was subject to change. Even when saying, "we have no such custom" (as women with heads uncovered, v.16) he put the manifestation of subjection in the realm of "custom."

When Paul wrote this, a woman who prayed or prophesied with uncovered head, failed to keep her proper place with respect to man. There seems to be pretty good historical reason to believe this was a custom not limited to "worship service" but in all public appearances. Kittel says this was a Jewish custom, chiefly in the east, but not common among Greeks. No lace doily or modern "chapel veil" is under consideration. The LXX uses a like word re. a supposed "covered" harlot — disguising herself by veiling (Gen. 38:15).

Some make a reasonable case for considering the hair as the covering, giving stress to the relation of v.14 to v.13, and the summation of v.15: for her hair is given her for a covering." (Write Jesse Jenkins, 200 Parkway Dr., Cedar Park, TX. 78613 if you wish a tract setting forth this explanation.) Various commentaries deal with "covering" as both hair and artificial; most of them seeming to treat the first section as having to do with an artificial covering.

For my part, it seems the way Paul argues his case puts the covering in its proper category (subject to custom, relative to changing times). He appeals to their sense of "shame" and that has the latitude of varying cultures. What clearly shocks one culture may have no such effect on another. He says, "judge in yourselves" as though they were equipped to handle this matter subjectively. "Is it comely" (or "proper") like the preceding must find its authority in concepts of that day and time. And the "nature is certainly not saying hair will not grow long on a man. "Nature" is used in four or five senses — here, as the "long-standing practice" of society. (See McKnight notes on Eph. 2:3)

I believe Paul is stating a divine principle (man is over woman) and saying this should be demonstrated or manifested by appropriate dress, i.e., whatever dress indicates that submission or subjection to the society in which you live. A distinction in man and woman (via dress and hair length) is clearly indicated, and should be maintained. In some places of today's world an unveiled (short-haired?) woman may be considered immodest, or an affront to man. If this is the case where you live, then modesty, propriety, and general public judgment dictate that you be dressed and groomed to show proper respect to your head.