There's a passage of text that has always confused me. I'm curious if there's any special historical context for this passage or if there's some understanding of these commands that I'm completely missing.

The passage is here in 1 Corinthians 11:

1 Corinthians 11:4-6 (NIV)
Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 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.

What is this head covering referring to? Is this a specific hat that Paul is requiring? Or is he referring to any type of hat? (Or is this referring to something entirely different?)


8 Answers 8


My comments below cover the entire section, verses 2-16. The NET Bible includes a number of translator notes on this passage that are helpful.

In verse 3 Paul describes a hierarchy of authority as follows:

  • God (the Father)
  • Christ
  • Man - ἀνήρ (Strongs G435) - "man"; male (adult?); husband
  • Woman - γυνή (Strongs G1135) - "woman"; female (adult?), regardless of marital status; wife

Although each instance of "man" in this verse includes a definite article, "woman" does not. If you read Constable's notes in the NET Bible, he takes this to mean that there is a direct relationship between these two - a man and his wife. In other words, according to this view Paul does not mean that every man is an authority over every woman.

"Head" is the translation of κεφαλή (Strongs G2776) - "head"; physically, the nerve center; metaphorically, a superior, chief, lord, authority; origin or source. I've intentionally used the word "authority" here, because I think it's clear from other passages (such as Galatians 3:28) that Paul does not teach superiority of one gender over the other. Furthermore, viewing this as specific to a marital relationship dovetails into passages such as Ephesians 5 or 1 Peter 3 that use very similar language.

Moving on to verses 4-5, Paul introduces a play on words, contrasting between men and women regarding a covering or symbol on their physical head, apparently in light of their metaphoric or spiritual "head". He also uses several different words for "covered" and "uncovered". First, a man should not have his head "covered" - ἔχω (Strongs G2192); to hold or wear (something), possess - while praying or prophesying. To do so brings disgrace on his head - possibly referring to Christ, as opposed to his physical head. Likewise, a woman should not have her head "uncovered" - ἀκατακάλυπτος (Strongs G177); not covered, not veiled (Note the etymology here: the root word is 2619 below, preceded by "ἀ" to indicate an inversion of meaning) - while praying or prophesying, or she disgraces her head - possibly referring to her husband, as opposed to her physical head.

In verse 6, he introduces a new word for "cover" - κατακαλύπτω (Strongs G2619); to cover or veil. He also compares between the humiliation of a woman whose head was shaved or who had short hair - possibly a cultural reference, though I could find little information one way or the other - with a woman who did not have her head covered. The crux of his argument seems to be that it would be shameful for a woman to have short hair or a shaved head, but she brings the same shame by not having her head covered. So he establishes two contrasting statements: Head not covered -> cut off hair. If cut-off hair is shameful -> cover head.

Verses 7-9, 11-12 add a new dimension to the discussion. (Skipping 10 for a moment) Here, he says that a man should not have his head covered, because he is "the image and glory of God", while the woman is the "glory of the man". The word translated "glory" here and below in verse 15 is δόξα (Strongs G1391); opinion, judgment or view; splendor, brightness, magnificence, excellence, dignity, majesty. He then refers back to the creation account in which Eve was formed from Adam's rib. This has three implications:

  • From the definition of "head" above, man is the "source" of woman
  • Woman was created as a suitable helper for the man
  • Neither men or women are independent from one another

Backing up to verse 10 now, Paul introduces a "symbol of authority" - ἐξουσία (Strongs G1891); authority, liberty, strength, privilege, government. However, he does not specify exactly what this symbol should be. Perhaps this is another cultural reference. It is also possible that this refers to an external symbol representing her internal attitude of deference to male leadership in the church, particularly to her husband. (This alludes to a much larger topic that Paul will tackle later in the chapter - but note that his assumption here is that women are actively involved in certain "churchy" behaviors, and that's okay.)

An interesting aside also appears in verse 10 - she should have a symbol of authority on her head "because of the angels." This seems to be a reference that is now lost to us, though the NET Bible notes suggest that this might refer to Ephesians 3:10.

In verse 13-15, Paul now discusses the matter of hair as covering. First, he asks a rhetorical question that assumes (based on the sentence structure) an answer of "no" - "is it proper for a woman to pray with an uncovered head?" Next, he contrasts long hair on men vs. women - his argument states that, just as it would be shameful for a man to have long hair, for a woman to have long hair is her "glory". (See definition of G1391 above.) Furthermore, he states that the woman's long hair has been given to her as a "covering" - περιβόλαιον (Strongs G4018); mantle, veil, wrapper. This is the only appearance of this particular word in the passage, so he seems to be saying something slightly different here than in the previous contexts where a woman's head should be "covered".

Paul concludes in verse 16 with an appeal to the existing practice church-wide. In other words, his comments here mirror the orthopraxy of the church in a universal sense.

Now then, how to apply this? (Maybe a little too doctrinal here? :) )

  • If we assume from verse 2 that this was purely a Corinthian cultural teaching with no modern applicability, that seems to make it easy enough to ignore. However:
    • Where does this then leave us on the application of passages like Ephesians 5?
    • Paul seems pretty adamant in verse 16 that their violation of this is deeper than a cultural matter - it points to an issue of orthodox practice across the church. As well, he may also be pointing out the possible spiritual ramifications mentioned above.
  • We could assume that the "covering" is equivalent to the woman's hair.
    • Some denominations therefore frown upon women cutting their hair or wearing short styles. However, my personal concern with this is that it's a short road to legalism. "All women shall have hair not less than 36 inches in length.", etc... (True story, related by disconnected tangent: one of my high school teachers had a quirky yet well-kept beard. They moved to another state and joined a new church; he was required to shave, under the reasoning that not everyone was capable of growing a nice-looking beard so men in the church just weren't allowed to have beards - you wouldn't want the ones with beards to feel proud, or the men who couldn't grow one to feel inferior.)
    • We might also consider this a cultural tradition, since there doesn't seem to be much concern these days with women wearing short hair styles.
    • This view is muddled slightly by verses 10 and 15 - while verse 15 seems to suggest that the woman's hair is her covering, verse 10 suggests that whatever is in scope here should be a symbol of some kind.
    • Likewise, the text seems to set up the point that, if a woman would not have the symbol of authority, she ought to cut off her hair too. This makes it difficult to work out that the hair is the symbolic covering, since this would be redundant in these verses - "If a woman won't wear long hair, she should cut off her hair." ??
  • Perhaps the scope of the passage is intended to mean a literal, external symbol such as a veil, covering or cap.
    • This then needs to be discussed further, based on whether or not this literal symbol is still expected today. Some denominations do so, pointing to this passage as a scriptural mandate.
    • If we assume that this is still expected today, then we would need to consider the following as well:
      • Does this apply to all women, or only those who are married?
      • Do other cultural symbols, such as a wedding band, supercede this?
      • Does it apply throughout life, only within the church or (even more narrowly) only when actively engaged in a part of the worship service?
    • Likewise, if we take the stance that this was a valid, external symbol for the culture but is not a matter of orthodox practice today, why not?
      • As above, is a symbol such as a wedding ring seen as a symbolic replacement?
      • Is this ignored today because of our own cultural reasons, because it is "difficult", or because of a simple lack of desire to do so?

My understanding of this passage is probably colored by the fact that I grew up Mennonite - one of the denominations in which a physical veil or covering is still widely normative.

There are several Bible.org articles that cover these details as well, and I've linked some of them below. What's interesting as well is that they each reach somewhat different conclusions.

  • Those articles are excellent. Also, thanks for the work that went into this one.
    – Richard
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 22:23
  • 1
    +1: Excellent work! I better not follow too many of those links or there goes my day. ;-) (This article makes me wish I had an army of sock-puppets to up-vote it.) Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 23:13
  • Ha! My church has been working our way through 1 Corinthians for a while now. Guess what passage we started in on today? Commented Nov 13, 2011 at 20:02
  • 3
    @LanceRoberts The length of hair is not the point of the passage - Paul uses it only to shed light on the real point. Whether it is hair length or an external symbol, the underlying point is a matter of the heart. Commented Jan 14, 2012 at 3:58
  • 1
    @GalacticCowboy, every rule/law in scripture comes down to a matter of the heart. There is a principle behind it all, but the specifics still matter. Paul used the principle of not muzzling the ox that treads the corn to show that it's ok to pay pastors, but that didn't make muzzling the ox any less relevant. Commented Jan 14, 2012 at 4:59

The only answer which gives a clear reading is "a veil", because only it provides a very clear symmetry with the hair.

First of all, this is a perfectly logical gloss for "κατακαλύπτεται" (glossed as "cover" in many translations) given Plato's use in the Meno:


One might tell even blindfolded (κατακεκαλυμμένος), Meno, by the way you discuss, that you are handsome and still have lovers.

He certainly didn't mean "hat" or "hair", but something covering the face. Indeed, the Greek word for "veil" was "καλύπτρα". Although καλύπτω by itself can mean "cover" in a more broad set of connotations, κατακαλύπτω is clearly more narrow, easily being glossed as "to veil" when applied to body parts, or metaphorically to darkness or land.

Robertson uses "veil" throughout and, following Findlay, comments:

Amongst Greeks only the hetairai (courtesans), so numerous in Corinth, went about unveiled; slave-women wore the shaven head

...which plenty of modern scholarship bears out.

Finally, the only textual variant anywhere in this section is verse 10, where some sources (all late) substitute κάλυμμα ("veil" or "hood") for ἐξουσίαν ("authority").

Having established "veil" as a viable gloss, we see it also bears the most straightforward explanation of Paul's subsequent logic:

4 Every man who petitions or who prophesies "down head having" (κατὰ κεφαλῆς ἔχων) shames down his head; 5 but every woman who prophesies or who petitions by the un-covered-down head shames down her head, for the one is also the same as the one who has been shaved. 6 For if a woman does not "cover herself down", she must also shear herself; but if shearing herself or shaving is shameful to a woman, she must "cover herself down".

If for "down head having" we read "having a veil", then it is easy to see why "the [uncovered] is the same as the one who has been shaved", because the veil not only mirrored the position and role of the hair in front but covered the hair down the back of the head as well, making it unavoidable to analogize from one to the other. If you remove that which hangs down in the front, it's as if you removed that which hangs down in the back. Probably more strongly (since the 1 Cor text uses "head" and not "face"), if you remove that which hangs down in the back (veil), it's as if you removed that which hangs down in the back (hair). Substituting:

4 Every man who petitions or who prophesies having a veil shames down his head; 5 but every woman who prophesies or who petitions by the unveiled head shames down her head, for the one is also the same as the one who has been shaved. 6 For if a woman does not veil herself, she must also shear herself; but if shearing herself or shaving is shameful to a woman, she must veil herself.


Paul is addressing the men in Roman Corinth as mentioned in 1 Corinthian 11:2-9 to not cover their head, a practice the Romans did by pulling the toga over the head in public religious rituals.

In ancient Rome it was a common tradition for men in public religious rituals, while prayed, offered libations and sacrificed with capite velato literally “with covered head.” by a drawn toga up from the back over the head. This is often depicted in Roman art, a covered head is a symbol of pietas "piety" and the individual's status as a pontifex , augur or other priest.

“The Romans usually sacrificed with the head covered. In the case of Apollo and Ceres, however, sacrifice was made in the Greek mode, with the head uncovered, apparently because these deities were considered to retain something of their Greek origin … [Warrior, Roman Religion, Cambridge University Press at 21].”

“… they thus worshipped the Gods, either humbling themselves by concealing the head, or rather by pulling the toga over their ears as a precaution lest any ill-omened and baleful sound from without should reach them while they were praying [Plutarch, Roman Questions]

While for the sake of an all-white dress, and the distinction of a fillet, and the privilege of a helmet, some are initiated into (the mysteries of) Ceres; while, on account of an opposite hankering after sombre raiment, and a gloomy woollen covering upon the head, others run mad in Bellona's temple; Tertullian, On the Pallium, Ch 4.

enter image description here

Ara Pacis, altar peace emperor Augustus.
a depiction of the emperor cover his head.

Source; Use, Misuse and Neglect of Archaeological Evidence in Some Modern Works on 1Corinthians (1Cor 7,1—5; 8,10; 11,2—16; 12,14—26) Richard E. Jr. Oster. Liberating Paul: The Justice of God and the Politics of the Apostle (Fortress Press, 1994, 2006), p. 210 - Neil Elliott.


I think that many difficulties with this passage disappear when we connect passage to the actual Jewish custom which it turns out is not putting a doily on a woman's head after all!

A cover for the face; a disguise. From the earliest times it has been a sign of chastity and decency in married women to cover their faces with veils in the presence of strangers. This custom is still in vogue in the Orient. The putting on of the veil marked the transition from girlhood to womanhood. Rebekah, the bride, covered herself with a veil on meeting Isaac, the groom (Gen. xxiv. 65). A widow did not wear a veil (ib. xxxviii. 19). The custom of dressing the virgin bride with a veil is mentioned in the Mishnah; covered with a veil ("hinuma") and seated on a litter, she was carried in the wedding-procession from her father's house to the nuptial ceremony (Ket. ii. 1). In modern times the bride is "covered" with a veil in her chamber in the presence of the groom, just before they are led under the canopy. In some countries the groom, and in others the rabbi, performs the ceremony of covering the bride...

This deeply entrenched custom now clashes with this reality:

[Act 2:17-18 KJV] 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:

So now you have teen girls and housewives prophesying in public assemblies. Do they cover or not? If you are addressing a crowd, don't you want to have your face unveiled? But some were finding it scandalous that a Jewish woman would address a mixed crowd without a veil.

There is another factor here: Perhaps for practical matters women did not carry a veil (like Arabs and Indians were known to do) but instead wore a shawl which could then be pulled across the face when in the proximity of men. This was done by married women to essentially broadcast, "Hands off. I'm the property of another man."

Another factor here is that Moses, who is often taken by the Jews as particularly righteous and to be emulated covered his face when he was informed that he was addressing God.

YLT Exodus 3:6 He saith also, 'I am the God of thy father, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob;' and Moses hideth his face, for he is afraid to look towards God.

So the Jews had at least two customs designed to fear God in head gear:

  • yarmulke
  • prayer shawl

So this is also likely to be coloring the discussion in Corinthians.

Also, Moses later is covered to conceal from the Jews his growing irrelevance. Paul, in contrast says the apostles are not veiled. The only veil is that of Moses which remains for them, hiding the fact that he has lost his glory because Jesus' glory is so overwhelming.

Finally, I think Paul is saying that when a woman makes a public prophesy then she should be veiled (IE: her face covered in a shawl) while she does it.


In researching the Roman Imperial Cult I just came across this historical information that adds another dimension to Paul's comments:

...At the traditional public rituals of ancient Rome, officiants prayed, sacrificed, offered libations, and practiced augury capite velato,[70] "with the head covered" by a fold of the toga drawn up from the back. This covering of the head is a distinctive feature of Roman rite in contrast with Etruscan practice[71] or ritus graecus, "Greek rite."[72] In Roman art, the covered head is a symbol of pietas and the individual's status as a pontifex, augur or other priest.[73]

It has been argued that the Roman expression of piety capite velato influenced Paul's prohibition against Christians praying with covered heads: "Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head."[74]

capite velato

This could be the source of the "pressure to conform" that the believers were receiving.


The covering Paul is speaking of here cannot be a cloth covering. 1. God did not prescribe style, to denote a religious object. Therefore, it is not a religious object. 2. Since it is not a God-prescribed religious object, then it could be any cloth, if it is indeed a cloth. This includes weather protection. 3. If women's weather protection is enough to cover her head, then men's head protection is enough to cover his head too much for prayer. Does God want men to risk frostbite, in order not to dishonor Christ? The scriptures rate it a worse thing for a man to pray covered, than for a woman to pray uncovered!

  1. Paul defines his own terms. Her hair is given to her for a covering. Just because that word is peribolaion, which is different from the word katakalupto, does not mean one is spiritual, and the other natural. Peribolaion is a noun. Katakalupto is a verb. Just as we eat(verb) using food (noun), and we do not see eat as a spiritual object, and food as a natural object, even so we need to use common sense with the Greek words here. Katakalupto means to cover down over. Peribolaion is someTHING thrown around one, as a mantle. Therefore, the peribolaion provided by God does indeed katakalupto the woman's head.

  2. Verse 6 is used to counter this common-sense approach of allowing Paul define his own terms. "Shorn or shaven" is seen as two different lengths of hair: shorn is thought of as simply cut or trimmed hair, while shaven is seen as hair completely cut off at the scalp level. But the Scriptures define "shorn" to mean the same length as "shaven."

In Numbers 6, God gives the Law about shaving the head after keeping a vow. Paul keeps this command twice in the New Testament. In Acts 21, it says Paul shaved his head. But in Acts 18, that same law was obeyed by Paul having his head "shorn." In fact, the Greek term here is used to refer to a sheep's shorn fleece. Therefore, "shorn or shaven" both are talking about the same length of hair: completely removed at scalp level.

  1. Verse 9 refers to Creation. Therefore, this principle existed ever since Creation, and is evident in how God wanted men and women to appear before him ever since that time. Yet, we have no commandment whatsoever in the Old Testament to women, to wear a cloth on their heads. Obviously, it was customary for both men and women to do so, but it was not a command of God.

However, in the Law, God prescribed bonnets for the priests for a glory. If it were a shame for men to pray covered, then God got it wrong. Also, God told Ezekiel to first cover his head, and then to prophesy. Again, if it is a shame for man to pray or prophesy with covered head, then God got it wrong there.

Yet, the long-feminine-hair-being-the-women's-covering is completely consistent throughout both Old and New Testaments. God said how he felt about the length of men's hair, when he prescribed the priests hair to be "neither long, nor shaven, but only polled."

Therefore, the entire passage is easily understood, if we allow Paul to define his own terms. Of course it is a shame to a woman's own head, her husband, and to her Creator, if she has a man's hairstyle! And it is a shame for a man to pray with long hair. God didn't design androgyny. He designed gender distinction.

If a man's head is too covered to pray having long hair, then a woman's head is covered enough to pray, if she has that same long hair.

  • So you think "covering" == "hair"? Verse 6 seems to directly conflict this "For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off;" If "cover her head" means having long hair, then Paul is saying that if a woman doesn't have long hair, she should have her hair cut. That would mean that Paul is talking in circles, which he is not prone to doing. It seems to me that you are the one defining your own terms, not Paul.
    – Richard
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 15:53
  • If the covering was to be "hair" then why was Samson told to never cut his hair? "And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion apart as one would have torn apart a young goat, though he had nothing in his hand..." (Judges 14:6a NKJV) This does not sound like God is shaming Samson. Was he never supposed to pray to God?
    – Decrypted
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 21:31

Could someone with a respectable knowledge of greek explain which part of the sentence mentions, or even implies, covering his head?

πᾶς ἀνὴρ προσευχόμενος ἡ προφητεύων κατὰ κεφαλῆς ἔχων καταισχύνει τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ.

Every man praying and prophesying about head has shamed his head.

What is κατὰ, besides its usual normal meaning? How could one ever conclude it implies covering of head?

Let me offer my yet another self-absorbed opinion/observation. The passage says:

Any man who prays or prophesies while being too concerned about the head shames his head, has embarrassed his intellectual capacity to think.

Yes, y'all idiots, you believe a woman should cover her head. Otherwise she would dishonour her head. Like as though her head should be better shorn.

Well, whatever! If you feel a woman needs to cover her head or be shorn, I would prefer her head covered.

Pardon me for my liberal sprinkling of embellishments.

  • 2
    What do you understand the "normal meaning" of κατὰ to be?
    – swasheck
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 18:29
  • ... when it takes a noun in the genitive? (this is a continuation of @swasheck 's question for Blessed Geek).
    – Dan
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 3:16
  • It means against. Against the word is dishonorable. (Ref: Numbers 30) specifically (Numbers 30:13-15).
    – Decrypted
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 19:38
  • κατὰ = (biblehub.com/greek/2596.htm). πᾶς(Every) ἀνὴρ(Man) προσευχόμενος(prays) ἡ(or) προφητεύων(prophesies) κατὰ(against) κεφαλῆς(head) ἔχων(to hold anything) καταισχύνει(disgraces) τὴν(the) κεφαλὴν(head) αὐτοῦ(of him). The head is Jesus who is the Word so "Every man who prays or prophesies against the word to hold anything disgraces the head of him(or disgraces his head).
    – Decrypted
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 21:45
  • Robertson considers κατὰ to be ablative, like "the herd bolted down the cliff" in Mk 5:13 (they didn't bolt "against" the cliff).
    – fumanchu
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 5:25

The Idea in Brief

The passage at hand is not speaking about hats or headgear worn on the head, but instead speaks to relative hair length, which is beauty for the female; for the male therefore the shorter hair represents the proper exercise of the authority (especially as concerns the communication of the Word of God). To flip-flop this arrangement between men and women is to incur shame.


God's glory is his authority and power, which the Psalms mention at extensive length. When the authority of God appears in man, the head is anointed. One significant passage in this regard is the anointing of the Christ, who represents the absolute authority of God.

Acts 10:38 (NASB)
38 You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

The head represents the power. The Spirit (in the form of a dove) descended on his head (Mark 1:10). Thus as the anointed king he is the "head" of state, whose crown is his glory (which represents heavenly authority from God). While he may wear crowns in some literal sense, his "crown" of authority came from the anointing on his head.

In the Christian New Testament, such power comes with the spiritual gifts of "prophesying." The following graph summarizes the general Christian New Testament concept of "prophesying."

In the passage at hand in 1 Corinthians 11:1-22, Paul is referring to women who "prophesy and pray," which are the exercise of the office of speaking gifts.

1 Corinthians 11:4-5 (NASB)
4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. 5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.

Paul is saying that women who exercise authority through speaking gifts are in violation of the divine order. That is, they are not reflecting the glory of man (beauty), but the glory of God (authority). Based on the context of 1 Corinthians 11:1-22, the following graph depicts how the divine order relates to the authority of God (crown of glory) and the beauty of man (crown of glory).

NOTE: The male with long hair would appear in the second row.

According to this graph, the male with shorter hair relative to females exercises the authority of God through "prophesying" -- his glory stems from the "crown" of the authority of God. The woman's glory, on the other hand, is her beauty, and therefore her head is "crowned" (with hair). Her head is covered with hair because she is not exercising the authority of God -- that is, the woman is not "anointed" with God's authority and therefore does not wear the "crown" of authority.

Again, the passage is not about hats (or headgear), but about hair and how hair length is the "crown" of authority in men (and beauty in women).

For example, if a woman would prefer to represent the authority of God (public exercise of speaking gifts), then her head should be uncovered (or shaven) not just so she can appear like a man, but so that she can be in alignment with her actual shame as a woman.

BUT, if a woman just so happens to have short hair (for WHATEVER reasons), then she should just wear a wig. In such a way her "crown" of glory is beauty. The wig is therefore the so-called covering to which Paul refers for such women. Hats and headgear (such as literal crowns) are not in view.

To recapitulate, if the woman has long hair, but tries to represent the authority of God (public exercise of speaking gifts) she is no different than the shameful woman with her head shaven. In such a case where this woman has long hair, she should not have any "crown" of glory (hair) since her "crown" of glory is to exercise the authority of God, for which anointing occurred on an uncovered head (for which the king would wear the crown of authority). Again, the issue at hand is NOT about hats worn on the head, but about authority as reflected in what is beautiful in women ("crown" of hair) and what is beautiful in men ("crown" of authority).

So Paul is using fine nuance - i.e., hair length in tandem with "glory" (for the woman is her "crown" of hair, and for the male his "crown" of authority). In this regard, Paul mentions that men with long hair are "contrary to nature" (1 Cor 11:14)-- that is, the place of long hair is specific only to the woman, whose "glory" is their crown of beauty. It is therefore inappropriate for any man to pray or prophesy (public exercise of spiritual speaking gifts) with hair longer than women.

Finally, when Paul mentions "because of the angels" he is saying that what he is stating is timeless. That is, the long hair / short hair debate is not specific to the First Century of Christianity in the Roman World. When he says "because of the angels" he is saying that the angels recognize the spiritual gifts of speaking through the male, and that principle crosses all cultures and all times in the entire history of the world. Paul is therefore not promulgating patriarchy. That is, the magnificence (glory of the woman) goes beyond the visual externalities and includes "inward beauty" (2 Pet 3:3-4). Finally, Paul reminds his readers that men and women originate one from the other (another timeless fact), and therefore are one flesh and AT PARITY as fellow human beings.

1 Corinthians 11:11-12 (NASB)
11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.

Nonetheless, the male (and not the female) in the public exercise of speaking gifts represents the authority of God, and this principle is most relevant in "prophesying" (teaching, correction, and exhortation) of the Word of God, when the speaker exercises the authority and power of God over listeners.


The "Christ" is anointed on the head with the Holy Spirit. He is the "head" of state. That is, he is the head of the body of Christ through the male.

1 Corinthians 11:3 (NASB)
3 But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

Thus the "glory" of the male is to exercise the office of the teaching and speaking gifts for common edification; that is, men who have the gifts and calling are to exercise the authority of God. Women who do this should have their "crown" removed, which is their hair, since the woman exercising divine authority is contrary to the divine order of creation. Such a woman who aligns herself with men should have her head shaven; on the other hand, any woman with no hair (for whatever reason) should seek to wear a wig, so that she will wear her "crown" of beauty, which is her glory.

Finally, men with long hair are covering their "crown," which is authority bestowed by God. That is, they are covering the glory of function (authority) with the glory of form (beauty). Paul alludes on the argument of nature in this regard (1 Cor 11:14).

  • "For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off"... This part does not make sense with what you are saying. This part of the holy text implies that the woman's hair is already long and that if she does not cover the long hair, it should be cut short. That seems to be a pretty direct reading of the text. So, do you think that long haired women should wear a wig?
    – Richard
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 18:44
  • If it is disgraceful for a man to pray with something on his head. Then why was Aaron and his sons given a head covering? Why was Adam not told "Do not eat the fruits of the knowledge of good and evil and also never wear a hat when you talk to me?" Why would God design contrary to Aaron and his sons Honor?
    – Decrypted
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 21:51
  • @Onlyheisgood. I made a major overhaul to emphasize that headgear (hats) are not in view.
    – Joseph
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 7:08
  • @Joseph The reply was in response to "The wig is therefore the so-called covering to which Paul refers for such women." Have you connected how your perception of authority corresponds to Numbers 30? That is also on this page.
    – Decrypted
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 20:23
  • @Onlyheisgood. I checked the reference to Numbers 30, but that reference appears to relate to women and their relationship to their fathers and/or husbands. The issue in 1 Corinthians 11 appears to relate to women "praying and prophesying," which are speaking gifts relating to the authority of the Word of God. In other words, there are no daughters or wives in 1 Corinthians 11 making any vows, which are in turn overruled by the fathers and/or husbands. Also, there is no reference in Numbers 30 to the "glory" of the head (whether man or woman), which would help us to better understand 1 Cor 11.
    – Joseph
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 21:02

What is supposed to Cover the Head?

Because of this, the debt of the wife is to have authorization from her husband on her head, on account of those watching. (1 Corinthians 11:10 Decoded)

It is the Man's job to provide. So if the woman is to seek offerings from the church, she should have her husband's permission. First off because the husband should be the one asking the guys. When he gives her what she needs it is "His Glory" so if she can get what she needs without him "What Glory does he receive?" Since women have little faith, and it takes so much for the women to even believe that their husbands still love them. Taking away the visible proof that he loves her is like shaving a woman's head. He no longer is able to look awesome to her. For the very need that is supposed to come through him. She can go herself and get. Ask yourself if a woman should have her husband's permission.

How does this apply? The context starting at '1 Corinthians 10' readies us for the discussion about communion. Then @ 10:6 Paul explains that the reason that "God was not pleased" was because they "lusted after evil things". Then @ 10:7 Paul explains about sexual immorality then continues about temptations and complaining. How all those that did these things were punished by God and they all died. Then @ 10:13 Paul warns about temptations.

So the directives for communion begin with a warning about things that displease God. Then Paul's direction changes because his discussion about food was an answer to a question about eating food sacrificed to idols. Yet his discussion still remained focused on the topic of eating.

Then begins Chapter 11 and we learn of the head coverings, and right after that we have our well know passage delivered to the masses during communion. Now the focus is on this:

Why is the teaching about head coverings placed right in the middle of a teaching concerning food?
Well, part of the answer comes from even earlier:

Do we have no right to eat and drink? 5 Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? (1 Cor 9:4-5 NKJV)

As you can see Paul is trying to point out that a need really is existing for food. Also right there along with this thinking of food, is Paul's defense about their right to have a wife.

The point is delivered again:

Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? (1 Corinthians 9:13 NKJV)

The reason is this: after they receive communion they would pray and prophesy

Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. (1 Corinthians 14:1 NKJV)

But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. (1 Corinthians 14:30-31 NKJV)

And the women were expected to remain silent

Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. (1 Corinthians 14:34 NKJV)

So the Men would speak for the wives

And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. (1 Corinthians 14:35 NKJV)

This teaching comes from some old laws

Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: (Numbers 30:1 NKJV)

When a Man prays/prophecies

If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. (Numbers 30:2 NKJV)

Note: Here we see how important it is that what the man says should happen.

Here a woman prays/prophecies without her head covered

Or if a woman makes a vow to the Lord, and binds herself by some agreement while in her father’s house in her youth, and her father hears her vow and the agreement by which she has bound herself, and her father holds his peace, then all her vows shall stand, and every agreement with which she has bound herself shall stand. (Numbers 30:3-4 NKJV)

Note: The agreement is now bound to her. The agreement now has the authority to afflict her soul. If the agreement fails the disgrace falls to the woman.

The Father prays/prophecies against the word.

But if her father overrules her on the day that he hears, then none of her vows nor her agreements by which she has bound herself shall stand; and the Lord will release her, because her father overruled her. (Numbers 30:5 NKJV)

Note: In this scenario, the woman is saved from disgrace, but disgrace is given to the father because he prays/prophecies against the word. The shame is similar to that of a woman who is forced to get her head shaved. {Numbers 30:15, 1 Cor 11:5}

Here a woman has a current binding when taking a husband

“If indeed she takes a husband, while bound by her vows or by a rash utterance from her lips by which she bound herself, and her husband hears it, and makes no response to her on the day that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her agreements by which she bound herself shall stand. (Numbers 30:6-7 NKJV)

Note: Here the new husband may void a verbal binding, yet with silence it can still afflict her soul.

Here the new husband voids the woman's binding

But if her husband overrules her on the day that he hears it, he shall make void her vow which she took and what she uttered with her lips, by which she bound herself, and the Lord will release her. (Numbers 30:8 NKJV)

Note: In this scenario, the woman is saved from disgrace, but disgrace is given to the father because he prays/prophecies against the word. The shame is similar to that of a woman who is forced to get her head shaved. {Numbers 30:15, 1 Cor 11:5}

Here a woman prays/prophecies without her head covered

Also any vow of a widow or a divorced woman, by which she has bound herself, shall stand against her. (Numbers 30:9 NKJV)

Note: The agreement is now bound to her. The agreement now has the authority to afflict her soul. If the agreement fails the disgrace falls to the woman.

Here a woman prays/prophecies without her head covered

“If she vowed in her husband’s house, or bound herself by an agreement with an oath, and her husband heard it, and made no response to her and did not overrule her, then all her vows shall stand, and every agreement by which she bound herself shall stand. (Numbers 30:10-11 NKJV)

Note: The agreement is now bound to her. The agreement now has the authority to afflict her soul. If the agreement fails the disgrace falls to the woman.

Here the husband voids the woman's binding

But if her husband truly made them void on the day he heard them, then whatever proceeded from her lips concerning her vows or concerning the agreement binding her, it shall not stand; her husband has made them void, and the Lord will release her. (Numbers 30:12 NKJV)

Note: In this scenario, the woman is saved from disgrace, but disgrace is given to the father because he prays/prophecies against the word. The shame is similar to that of a woman who is forced to get her head shaved. {Numbers 30:15, 1 Cor 11:5}

Dishonor and Bearing Guilt

Every vow and every binding oath to afflict her soul, her husband may confirm it, or her husband may make it void. Now if her husband makes no response whatever to her from day to day, then he confirms all her vows or all the agreements that bind her; he confirms them because he made no response to her on the day that he heard them. But if he does make them void after he has heard them, then he shall bear her guilt.” (Numbers 30:13-15 NKJV)

Every man who prays or prophesies against the word dishonors his head. (1 Corinthians 11:4 Decoded)

Note: After making void an agreement the man has heard means that he shall bear her guilt. The shame is similar to that of a woman who is forced to get her head shaved. {Numbers 30:15, 1 Cor 11:5}

As Commanded by the Lord

These are the statutes which the Lord commanded Moses, between a man and his wife, and between a father and his daughter in her youth in her father’s house. (Numbers 30:16)

What is this head covering referring to?
It means to be in agreement with the man before the prayer or prophecy. His OK means she is covered. That way he does not need to dishonor himself by making it void causing himself so much dishonor. A shame that is similar to that of a woman who is forced to get her head shaved. {Numbers 30:15, 1 Cor 11:5}

If it is disgraceful for a man to pray with something on his head. Then why were Aaron and his sons given a head covering? Why was Adam not told, "Do not eat the fruits of the knowledge of good and evil and also never wear a hat when you talk to me?" Why would God design contrary to Aaron and his son's Honor?

I hope you can see how authority is the covering. If I say "We are going out to eat." then this is the prophecy. If he does not do what he has said then he has broken his word. However, if a woman states to the church "We are going to Walmart to buy some clothes." Then it is disgraceful to the man to say "No we are not." it is similar to a woman having her head shaved because the man no longer looks attractive to the woman. So she should make sure that her man is in agreement. This is what a loving woman will do for her man.

Here is the other end to see why this is necessary. Let us say that we place ourselves in a room full of men, and your wife comes in and tells the guys "My Hubby is going to get me a $3,000 necklace!" What are you going to do? Buy her the necklace or shame yourself in front of the guys? But if you keep your silence. You better believe that you are going to have to follow through. Otherwise, it is going to shame her, and do you really want to deal with that?

Here is another example, picture again yourself standing in front of the guys and your wife coming in and praying "God we need a new car! Can someone buy us a new car?" Now I tell you what. How would you feel? If we need a new car, I better be the one asking the guys for help. Otherwise, I look shameful because I do not take care of my wife.!
A tallit with black stripes according to the Orthodox Ashkenazic tradition

  • 1
    You're making some big leaps here. I'm not seeing anything in the text that suggests "a man's agreement" equals head covering. It's almost as if you picked a random spot and linked the two together. It's like saying that Prov. 31:2 says that strength and dignity is a woman's clothing and therefore her head covering is strength (Therefore a woman must pray with strength). I completely made that up and it seems as plausible as this answer.
    – Richard
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 18:31
  • If I had a definitive answer, I would have answered the question. As is, it seems to mean something that goes on your head and is not your hair. At least, that's how the text reads. But that could be anything from a bonnet to a box to a wig to an umbrella to a prayer shawl.
    – Richard
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 17:33
  • "Decoded"? What type of translation is that? Ignoring that concern... That verse you added almost ties your philosophy into the Bible. But not quite. You need more explanation of how that verse ties authority to head covering. I would want a holistic analysis of that entire section of text to even begin to believe this. As is, you seem to pull this theory almost out of thin air.
    – Richard
    Commented Dec 3, 2014 at 12:46
  • @Richard OK, How about this edit?
    – Decrypted
    Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 14:11
  • Well that's definitely more text, but you've seemed to complicate the issue by bringing in this talk about communion and prophesying. I still don't see a clear connection beteeen head covering and authority. The added text just seems to "muddy the waters". I would love to make more recommendations, but at this point I can't see how to make heads or tails of this answer. Thanks for posting.
    – Richard
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 13:21

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