Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, (1 Cor 11:4 - ESV)

For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. (1 Cor 11:7 - ESV)

Paul state that the head ought not to be covered and if its covered it dishonors his head. ... the head of every man is Christ ... (1 Cor 11:3) while God in Leviticus 8 command the high priest to wear a turban (headdress) and in Exodus 29:9a also Aarons sons are the wear headdress.

And Moses said to the congregation, “This is the thing that the Lord has commanded to be done.” (Lev 8:5 - ESV)

And he set the turban on his head, and on the turban, in front, he set the golden plate, the holy crown, as the Lord commanded Moses. (Lev 8:9 - ESV)

and you shall gird Aaron and his sons with sashes and bind caps on them. (Ex 29:9a - ESV)

And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and put the bonnets on them: (Ex 29:9a - KJV)

Are we not to take Paul literally in 1 Corinthians 11?

enter image description here

  • If criticizing Jewish customs would have been the intent, the author would have made no secret of it, but hammer down the point with clarity, as Christ Himself did, in the sermon on the mount, and as Paul himself does elsewhere.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 20:58
  • @Lucian do you mean Paul would use unjust judgement? By hammering the Jews if it were they that covered their head but is short and silent when it's the citizens of Corinth that cover themself. Is that what you mean? Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 12:04
  • 1
    I simply meant that the passage has little or nothing to do with Jews or their priests, otherwise, the point would have been made with clarity.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 13:23
  • @Lucian OK thanks Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 13:50

8 Answers 8


Paul is addressing the men in Roman Corinth as mentioned in 1 Corinthian 11 to not cover their head, a practice the Romans did by pulling the toga over the head. Both the turban and the toga cover the head but Aarons and his sons (Levites) they were consecrated, their whole outfit is in linen so to not cause sweat to defile the sacrifice, the turban must fill the purpose the keep away hair and sweat to fall on holy utensils to cause them to become common, similar to a chef has hairnet. the Levites are allowed to have their head covered just as they can do servile-work on the Sabbath, it's purpose is to serve YHWH.

Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. (Exodus 28:3 NIV)

17 When they enter the gates of the inner court, they shall wear linen garments. They shall have nothing of wool on them, while they minister at the gates of the inner court, and within. 18They shall have linen turbans on their heads, and linen undergarments around their waists. They shall not bind themselves with anything that causes sweat. (Ez 44:17-18 - ESV)

Every man ἀνὴρ praying or prophesying, having the head covered, doth dishonour his head, (1 Cor 11:4 - YLT)

for a man Ἀνὴρ, indeed, ought not to cover the head, being the image and glory of God, and a woman is the glory of a man, (1 Cor 11:7 - YLT)

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.


Tony Chan is right about "covered", but I wanted to provide some additional background, from the Bible Knowledge Commentary, as we can see what this cover is:

It cannot be unequivocally asserted but the preponderance of evidence points toward the public head covering of women as a universal custom in the first century in both Jewish culture ([apocryphal] 3 Maccabees 4:6; Mishnah, Ketuboth 7. 6; Babylonian Talmud, Ketuboth 72a-b) and Greco-Roman culture (Plutarch Moralia 3. 232c; 4. 267b; Apuleius The Golden Ass 11. 10). The nature of the covering varied considerably (Ovid The Art of Love 3:135–65), but it was commonly a portion of the outer garment drawn up over the head like a hood. It seems that the Corinthian slogan, “everything is permissible,” had been applied to meetings of the church as well, and the Corinthian women had expressed that principle by throwing off their distinguishing dress. More importantly they seem to have rejected the concept of subordination within the church (and perhaps in society) and with it any cultural symbol (e.g., a head-covering) which might have been attached to it. According to Paul, for a woman to throw off the covering was an act not of liberation but of degradation. She might as well shave her head, a sign of disgrace (Aristophanes Thesmophoriazysae 837). In doing so, she dishonors herself and her spiritual head, the man. 11:7–9. The man, on the other hand, was not to have his head covered because he was the image and glory of God. Paul based this conclusion on Genesis 1:26–27. A woman’s (a wife’s) glory and image was derived from (1 Cor. 11:8) and complementary to (v. 9) that of the man (her husband). Man, then, was God’s authoritative representative who found in woman a divinely made ally in fulfilling this role (Gen. 2:18–24). In this sense she as a wife is the glory of man, her husband. If a married woman abandoned this complementary role, she also abandoned her glory, and for Paul an uncovered woman’s head gave symbolic expression to that spirit.

Lowery, D. K. (1985). 1 Corinthians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 529). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

This is again why we must keep in mind that although these letters are part of the cannon, we cannot lift sentences out of them and apply them directly to our lives or compare them to other sentences lifted out of context from other passages. We have to understand the context: who was the letter written to, what issues was it addressing in that particular community, and then what is the spiritual message for us in our own (very different) communities.

This requires wisdom and proper hermeneutic principles (e.g. require multiple witnesses in scripture). In this case, Paul was responding to an issue of Church discipline in the Corinthian church regarding the comportment of some of the women in choosing a dress style that would offend others in the community and shame their husbands.

So the real underlying principle from which these exhortations spring is that there is no room in the gospel for revolutionary social movements as we are not to mind the things of the world at all. If we live in communities where something is considered shameful, we are not to violate those social conventions because we have newfound freedom in Christ.

Just as Paul said in his letter to the Galatians: Gal 3.27-28

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Yet Paul also said in his letter to Corinth (1 Cor 9)

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

Is that a contradiction? How could Paul give different advice to different churches? We have to understand the unifying principle to see why in some cases one is the proper exhortation and in another case a different exhortation is needed. The unifying theme is we have spiritual freedom in Christ but in the world we give up all freedom and rights, because we are not to mind of the things of the world at all:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matt 5.39-42)

And in Paul's letter to the Phillipians:

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

So the spiritual freedom applies to the spiritual man whose mind is set on spiritual things and his walk is in heaven, and to the carnally minded man whose mind is set on the things of this world, the only message is the cross -- lay down your life. Then as your mind shifts from the things of the world to things in heaven, you have freedom and unity and all things are yours. But to use the rationale of spiritual freedom to try to demand worldly rights is an abomination worthy of rebuke, and this is the rebuke that Paul delivers here to the women of Corinth even as he has a very different exhortation to the Church in Galatia and a warning to the Church in Phillipi.

  • It seems the applicable message for our day is that men shouldn't dishonor God by presenting as women and women should not dishonor God and their husbands and male leadership in general by presenting as men. +1
    – Austin
    Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 8:18

Does 1 Corinthians 11:4, 7 contradict Leviticus 8:5, 9?

No, Paul having been taught as a Pharisee (Acts 23:6; Phil 3:5) would never have contradicted the Mosaic Law. Prior to his conversion, Paul used to be very zealous for the Law. (Phil. 3:6)

We have to remember that the older Law covenant was no longer applicable. (Rom. 10:4) Christians were now under a new covenant, "the Law of the Christ". (Gal. 6:2)

Also remember that the directives given in Leviticus and Exodus, as quoted in the question, applied to the priesthood. These were the garments that Aaron and his sons were to wear during their duties at the tabernacle and the later temple.

The application of 1 Corinthians 11 could be addressed in a separate question.

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

  • Jesus did not do away with anything (Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.) and Paul is not authorized to do so. Do you mean that in the "the Law of the Christ" women is now obligated to wear head-covering? Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 17:04
  • 1
    @KevinPopov You are correct, Jesus did not remove the Law but was the only human to ever live up to it completely. Paul was not removing the Law but in Romans, he explains how the new covenant under Christ is now in place. For further information on 1 Cor 11 see What is the head covering referring to in 1 Corinthians 11:4-6?
    – agarza
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 17:56
  • Jesus just leveled it up, it went from physical adultery to spiritual adultery Matt5:28 and it was many ways to divorce a women here is two of them D24:1-4, finds no favor in her due to indecency, D22:13 dislikes her because finds her not virgin. changed to Matt5:32 except for sexual. immorality. Are you referring to the answer from GalacticCowboy? Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 8:06
  • I wasn't referring to any one answer. I was pointing to additional information. My posted answer is in reference to the original question about a contradiction between two different scriptures. I even stated near the end that the application of 1 Corinthians should be addressed in a separate question.
    – agarza
    Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 16:06

Close attention to the original meaning of the words κατακαλύπτω katakalyptō (1 Cor 11:6) and κατά κεφαλής εχων interlinear 1 Cor 11:4 permits a translation only of a material head covering. These words do not describe the process of letting hair hang down loosely. These words are consistently used in Classical and Hellenistic Greek to describe the action of covering the head with a textile covering of some kind. In spite of sustained efforts by advocates, the long-hair theory still has not succeeded in gaining an entry into standard reference works. The original edition of BAGD in 1957, the revised edition in 1979, and the more recent edition of BDAG in 2000 all support the view that the text of 1 Cor 11:2-16 describes an artificial textile head covering of some kind.


Paul wasn't writing about a kippah or a man's cap or hat. He wrote about a woman's completely covered head including a veil. This is evidence of women in the Middle East wearing veils in public even before Moses.

Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” 22 So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. 23 But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her. 24 (Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) 25 And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” (Gen. 29:21–25, ESV)

The deception was possible, through the custom, that the bride was led veiled to the bridegroom and the bridal chamber. Laban probably believed, as to the base deception, that he would be excused, because he had already in view the concession of the second daughter to Jacob. -- Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Lewis, T., & Gosman, A. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Genesis (p. 529). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

  1. he took Leah] The bride was brought to the bridegroom enveloped in a veil; cf. 24:65. “The bridegroom can scarcely ever obtain even a surreptitious glance at the features of his bride until he finds her in his absolute possession.” Lane, Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians. -- Ryle, H. E. (1921). The Book of Genesis in the Revised Version with Introduction and Notes (p. 300). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel 65 and said to the servant, “Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. (Ge 24:64–65, ESV)

A woman must not put on man’s apparel, nor shall a man wear woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is abhorrent to the LORD your God. (Deut. 22:5, JPS)

... κ[ατὰ]. κεφαλῆς ἔχειν have someth. on one’s head (lit. hanging down fr. the head, as a veil. Cf. Plut., Mor. 200F ἐβάδιζε κατὰ τῆς κεφαλῆς ἔχων τὸ ἱμάτιον. Wilcken, Chrest. 499, 5 of a mummy ἔχων τάβλαν κατὰ τοῦ τραχήλου) 1 Cor 11:4. -- Arndt, W., Gingrich, F. W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (1979). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature : a translation and adaption of the fourth revised and augmented edition of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schrift en des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur (p. 405). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1 Corinthians 11:4

Having his head covered (κατα κεφαλης ἐχων [kata kephalēs echōn]). Literally, having a veil (καλυμμα [kalumma] understood) down from the head (κεφαλης [kephalēs] ablative after κατα [kata] as with κατα [kata] in Mark 5:13; Acts 27:14). It is not certain whether the Jews at this time used the tallith, “a four-corned shawl having fringes consisting of eight threads, each knotted five times” (Vincent) as they did later. Virgil (Aeneid iii., 545) says: “And our heads are shrouded before the altar with a Phrygian vestment.” The Greeks (both men and women) remained bareheaded in public prayer and this usage Paul commends for the men. -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (1 Co 11:4). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

1 Corinthians 11:5

With her head unveiled (ἀκατακαλυπτῳ τῃ κεφαλῃ [akatakaluptōi tēi kephalēi]). Associative instrumental case of manner and the predicative adjective (compound adjective and feminine form same as masculine), “with the head unveiled.” Probably some of the women had violated this custom. “Amongst Greeks only the ἑταιραι [hetairai], so numerous in Corinth, went about unveiled; slave-women wore the shaven head—also a punishment of the adulteress” (Findlay). Cf. Numb. 5:18 -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (1 Co 11:5). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

See https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/64532/what-is-the-earliest-history-of-middle-eastern-women-wearing-veils-for-modesty-w

See https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/26864/biblical-significance-of-face-veil

The Veil (https://onepeterfive.com/the-symbolism-of-religious-clothing-why-nuns-wear-what-they-do/)

In wearing a veil, we Sisters insert ourselves into a very long tradition, a tradition which pre-dates Christianity. In ancient Greek culture, respectable married women wore a veil. Extant is an Assyrian law from ca. 1400–1100 B.C., which states that married women and widows are never to be in public without a veil. In ancient Greece, it was not considered seemly for a married woman to reveal her hair to the eyes of men other than her husband. In Rome, a veil called flammeum was the most prominent feature of the costume worn by the bride on the day of her wedding.

Throughout the greater part of history, married women wore head coverings. Even Protestant women typically wore head coverings during church services (a scarf, cap, veil, or hat). We might think today of the Mennonites or Amish who still follow such a tradition. Until the 20th century, everyday people would have readily understood the symbolism of the veil. Even today, we retain some remnants of the tradition of veiling in secular culture, at least in the form of the wedding veil.

  • Paul is not exclusively talking about a women and hijab 11:4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 11:7 A man ought not to cover his head, Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 7:19
  • @DanielDahlberg, that's the point. Men should not be wearing women's clothing.
    – Austin
    Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 8:13
  • 1
    @Austin Its not talking about wearing a women apparel but the deed over covering over the head just like the Pharisees do with tallith or a monk head covering etc Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 8:41
  • @DanielDahlberg, What evidence do you have that Pharisees wore prayer shawls over their head when praying during the 1st century? Robert, in his answer, gives evidence the Head coverings for women were common in both Jewish & Greek cultures during that time period. Besides, the verse would be too contradictory with the rest of the scriptures as, OP has drawn attention to, since Paul roots his argument in the created order. Understanding this in context of prior prohibitions against gender-swapping presentation makes sense of different gender expression standards allowed biblically over time.
    – Austin
    Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 10:57
  • @Austin Evidence! Do you call talmud evidence? The Tallit has its origin in the command of wearing tassel (Num15:38 Deu 22:12) where they missunderstand the four corner of ones garment to be fringes of the tallit (You shall make tassels on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself. Sefira, thus not only remind the Jew of the 613 divine commandments, but also underscore the central doctrine of Judaism, that the Lord is one. Also Boaz cover Ruth with his Tallit Gadol and Elijah left for Elisha was his Tallit, his prayer shawl. Veiling among the Roman Corinth was not a tallit. Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 13:47

In dealing with such questions we must recall several principles:

  1. The Law was not changed as per Matt 5:17-19 -

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

  1. The OT priesthood was changed (Heb 7:11, 12, 27, 28) from earthly priests to Jesus the great high priest, Heb 5:1, 5, 10, 4:14, 15, 6:20, 8:1, 9:11, 3:1, 10:12, 21, etc, etc.

The regulation listed in Lev 8:5, 9 is about the earthly priesthood which continues in Jesus. The comment in 1 Cor 11:4, 7 is about a local worship custom which is the subject of other questions. The two are quite separate. There is no contradiction.


American Standard Version 1 Corinthians 11:7

For a man indeed ought not to have his head veiled [G2619], forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

The Greek word is not just to cover but to kata-cover.

Thayer's Greek Lexicon

STRONGS NT 2619: κατακαλύπτω

κατακαλύπτω: the Sept. for כִּסָּה; from Homer down; to cover up (see κατά, III. 3); middle present κατακαλύπτομαι, to veil or cover oneself:

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance

cover, hide.
From kata and kalupto; to cover wholly, i.e. Veil -- cover, hide.

Thayer's Greek Lexicon

κατά ... a preposition denoting motion or diffusion or direction from the higher to the lower;

On the other hand, Lev 8:9 (ESV):

And he set the turban on his head, and on the turban, in front, he set the golden plate, the holy crown, as the Lord commanded Moses.

The turban did not kata-cover his head which was what Paul was against. Paul was familiar with the headdress of the high priest. He would not have contradicted Lev 8:9 so obviously.

  • What kind of covering is Paul talking about do you mean that differs from Lev 8:9 Turban w diadem (H4701) Ex 29:9 turban (H4021) Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 17:17
  • I do not know exactly but I think it has to do with "kata" which means to go from high to low.
    – user35953
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 17:21
  • 1
    The answer does not feel satisfying for an answer. High to low as of a monk hood vs hat Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 17:24
  • 1
    the inhabitants of Corinth used toga over the head, if the picture I have in OP is proper for a turban than as much head is covered. Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 16:12

Clear contradiction; this appears to be another one of 'Pauls Gospels' - Nothing to do with Jesus or what want before.

Exodus 29:6 - And you shall set the turban on his head and put the holy crown on the turban.

(2 Samuel) 15:30 - 30 So David went up by the Ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up; and he had his head covered and went barefoot. And all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went up.

Exodus 39:27-29 - 27 They made tunics, artistically woven of fine linen, for Aharon and his sons, 28 a turban of fine linen, exquisite hats of fine linen, short trousers of fine woven linen, 29 and a sash of fine woven linen with blue, purple, and scarlet thread, made by a weaver, as Yahweh had commanded Moshe.

  • Aaron & his son are consecrated, the priesthood can work on Sabbath without sin, the priesthood can judge a man to death without committing murder. They wear headcover to not defile the sacrifices by sweat and hair in it... Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 10:37
  • @another theory Hey AT! "Clear contradiction; this appears to be another one of 'Pauls Gospels'" another one! What contradictions is that? Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 12:27
  • @DanielDahlberg - my answer and the Q show the contradictions to other passages. Or are you talking about other contradictions of Paul - so many where do I start! Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 13:16
  • @anothertheory the answer yes I see headcovering.. What Q you have 18 Questions and see non with title Paul or do you refer to my Q then tell me what contradiction and were you see that among Paul. Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 13:23
  • @DanielDahlberg - some of my questions may not be headed Paul - but relate to Paul, but a lot of my answers relate to Paul maybe have a look at them. Some appear to have been deleted such as was Paul an apostle - No & his so called Damascus experience which is full of contradictions. happy to go to chat if you want to discuss anything in particular Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 13:50

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