Why does Jesus respect women’s uncovered hair during worship in Luke 7:44, but Paul rejects women’s uncovered hair during worship in 1 Corinthians 11:5-6?

Luke 7:44 [NIV] - Jesus Respecting Women’s Uncovered Hair during worship : “Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.”

  • In [Luke 7:44], the woman (anointing the feet of Jesus while wiping them with her uncovered hair) is repenting through worship. Her sins are forgiven in [Luke 7:50]. - Paul's later doctrine of hair covering during worship is the point in question.

In 1 Corinthians 11:5-6 [NIV] - Paul Rejects Women’s Uncovered Hair during worship: “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.”

  • 2
    Luke 7:44 is not a formal worship service; though you might call the woman's individual act worship.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 9:23
  • 2
    What exactly do you think is the point in common between these verses? Was the woman in Luke 7 praying or prophesying?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 14:04
  • The woman anointing Jesus in Luke 7 is repenting through worship. Her sins are forgiven in Luke 7:50. * The doctrine of hair covering during worship is the point in question. Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 14:15
  • 1
    @ctaylorgraphics But 1 Corinthians 7 isn't talking about worship generally - the word "worship" doesn't even occur in the chapter! Of course neither does it appear in Luke 7 either.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 14:41
  • 2
    I honestly don't understand where you get the idea that the woman in question did not wear a head cover; the conclusion does not follow from the text.
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 6:29

4 Answers 4


Paul was addressing the protocol of church gatherings. If you look at the chapter right before 1 Cor. 11, you will see Paul started talking about the Lord's Supper.

Therefore, the head covering part is Paul's way to remind the church in Corinth the proper way to worship. In the days of Paul, Greco Roman women's head covering was a sign of respect and propriety. As such, Christian worship should also show such manner. The situation with Jesus took place at a house dinner, NOT a worship setting.

  • 1
    Thanks for your interesting feedback. Does anointing and kissing the feet of Jesus not qualify as worship? Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 0:54
  • 2
    Worship, as defined in a congregational gathering type of setting, is not the case here. If you want to argue that Jesus, the woman, and the dinner host(s) make the "when two or more gather in my name" as a "congregation," then it is important to point out, the "church" was not established until after Acts 2.
    – Brandon
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 2:50

There is no contradiction at all.

Paul specifies, quite clearly :

Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoured her head [1 Corinthians 11: 5.

The woman referred to, above, was performing a domestic service - the washing of feet - which had been neglected to be organised by the host of the gathering. So she performed the service, using all she had with her to so perform it. Not having a basin of water or a towel at her disposal, she used her own tears and her own hair.

She was neither ‘praying’ nor ‘prophesying’.

It is highly likely, almost certain, in those days and in those parts, that, in any case, she would have had her head covered whilst in public and whilst in mixed company. Having long hair, as all women in that time and in that place had, she would have quite easily performed the service without removing her head ‘down-veiling’ (as is the original in 1 Corinthians 15) as the long hair would have protruded from beneath the head covering.

What Paul specifies is an ordinance in the church, witness his words :

If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom [1 Corinthians 15:16, KJV],

Meaning that they had no such custom in the churches as to leaving the head uncovered.

It is also abundantly clear that ‘hair’ is not the ‘covering’ Paul is referring to.

He says that if a woman be not ‘covered’ let her ‘also’ be shorn, indicating that being without a ‘covering’ still leaves her with hair which could be shorn off.

The reasons Paul gives for the ordinance are :

  • The Headship of Christ
  • the headship of the male
  • the image and glory of God
  • the glory of the man
  • the creation of man
  • the creation of woman
  • because of the angels
  • comeliness
  • the teaching of nature
  • shame
  • glory
  • the custom of the churches

None of these twelve reasons is anything to do with Jewish custom or with peculiar customs of the times. They are all to do with creation and the order of creation while the church waits for full and final redemption at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Every single reason he gives is as relevant today as the day Paul dictated the epistle and signed a salutation with his own hand on the parchment.

In my childhood, sixty years ago, in the Highlands of Scotland among both Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Evangelicals, it was unthinkable that a woman should attend a church meeting without a head covering.

The modern practice, which seems to me to have gained ground in the early 1960s, and is now evident in almost all self-professed Christian denominations, is an innovation, unheard of in former times.

  • Would you agree that the theocratic observance is practiced through local customs, to a large degree? Raising hands in prayers, foot washing, holy kisses, etc. were all part of the local customs of the time to express the underlying theocratic principles of humility, respect, and agape love. What might be the 21st century customs that express these principles? Also, will the same customs work in the European churches but won't go well with the Asian churches? Some denominations don't take modern medicine to express their trust in God, even citing Gal 5:20's "pharmakeia" as prohibition.
    – Brandon
    Commented Jan 8, 2021 at 8:27
  • 2
    @Brandon I have listed the twelve reasons that Paul gives. The last reason 'custom' is due to the above eleven reasons. This is an apostolic ordinance in the church, Just like baptism and the partaking of the Lord's supper. Some, faithful, people observe this ordinance to this day.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 8, 2021 at 9:04
  • Would you say that lifting hands to pray is also an ordinance? "In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God." (1 Tim 2:8). And if praying with hands down be in violation of such ordinance, (or in sin)?
    – Brandon
    Commented Jan 9, 2021 at 13:00
  • Also, would foot-washing also an ordinance, even instituted directly from Jesus Christ? "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet." (John 13:14). You have put head-covering as essential as baptism and the Lord's supper, what about adding foot-washing to your list? Some faithful people are still observing foot-washing to this day.
    – Brandon
    Commented Jan 9, 2021 at 13:04

The woman in Luke seems to have had long enough hair to use as a towel. Paul says a woman's long hair acts as a covering:

[1Co 11:15 NLT] (15) And isn't long hair a woman's pride and joy? For it has been given to her as a covering.

This is why it is wrong for a man to have long hair. By having long hair his head is covered.

  • I appreciate your time and response related to this bible study. Regarding long and short hair of his disciples, Jesus states in Luke 21:18 " But not a hair of your head will perish." - How can female disciples be rejected by Paul for worshipping with uncovered short hair, if Jesus regards the smallest hair folicle of a believer as indestructible? Perhaps Paul preached tradition instead of reforming churches to model the actual actions / teachings of Jesus. Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 2:13
  • 1
    Hi ctaylorgraphics. Paul wasn't terribly interested in the earthly behavior of Jesus since he was operating in a different dispensation: [2Co 5:16-17 NLT] (16) So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! (17) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
    – Ruminator
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 2:26

Why does Jesus respect women’s uncovered hair during worship in Luke 7:44, but Paul rejects women’s uncovered hair during worship in 1 Corinthians 11:5-6?

In the account about the sinful woman at Luke 7:36-50, Jesus takes the opportunity to teach an object lesson about those who appreciate what Jehovah God has done for mankind. Within this account, the Scriptures make no reference to the woman having a head covering.
In 1 Corinthians 11:3-10, the apostle Paul is outlining instructions for orderly worship in the congregation. Care must be taken when Paul discusses the 'head' as referred to authority and when Paul speaks of the 'head' in the physical sense.

Was the sinful woman worshipping Jesus?
Verse 36 points out, a Pharisee had invited Jesus to share a meal. The woman had come into a house that was not her own because she knew that Jesus would be there (v.37). This was a social custom for needy people during that time period. (see Watchtower 12/15/01 and The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
This was not the same as a formal arrangement for reading, exhortation, or examining scripture such as to what Paul talks about to the Corinthians. So the woman's actions were more in line with expressing gratitude, recognition, and faith in Jesus being the Messiah (v.50).

Why was Paul giving instructions about head coverings in 1 Corinthians?
To answer this question, we need to look at the cultural norms of that area. Insight on the Scriptures, under the heading of Head Covering, sheds some light:

The need for this counsel to the congregation at ancient Corinth is better understood when we realize that it was the general custom then for women always to be veiled in public. Only those of loose morals went unveiled. And the pagan priestesses at the temples evidently followed the practice of removing their veils and letting their hair hang disheveled when claiming to be under divine inspiration. Such a practice in the Christian congregation would be disgraceful and a flouting of Jehovah God’s arrangement of headship and subjection. Paul concluded his argument by saying that if anyone disputed for any custom other than what Paul set forth, the congregation should nevertheless follow the apostle’s counsel regarding the wearing of a head covering. This makes such instruction applicable at all times and places in the Christian congregation.—1Co 11:16.

As Paul points out in 1 Cor. 11:3, a woman is under the authority of the man and should, therefore, submit to proper theocratic authority.

So there is no inconsistency in the accounts of the sinful woman in Luke and Paul's instructions to the congregation of Corinth.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.