A few weeks ago, I got a text message that read something like "Why don't you obey the Bible and wear a head covering?!" from Miles.
I was super confused. What in the world was he talking about? I knew he was joking, but I really didn't even know where he was getting this whole head covering idea from. After talking to him some more, he said it was in 1 Corinthians 11. I checked it out, gave it a good twice-over. Still confused.
For the past two weeks or so, I've been going through the book of 1 Corinthians. Lo and behold, today was the day I came across the previously neglected head covering passage. I pulled out my handy dandy ESV Study Bible and got to work. Once I read the commentary, it all made sense! Allow me to share...
Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 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. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God. (1 Corinthians 11:2-16 ESV)
Here's some helpful information/context about the passage:
- In first century Roman society, a woman's head covering was a sign of marriage. Not wearing a head covering was a sign of infidelity and promiscuity. Imagine if your pastor's wife got up one Sunday morning, sans wedding ring, with a short, distasteful skirt and low-cut shirt on stage to pray. Just guessing, but that probably wouldn't go over too well. In the same way, Paul is saying women should cover their heads (their "glory," given by God) out of respect for their husbands and ultimately God.
- Great for Romans in the 1st century, but what about us today? Take it away, ESV study notes: "In cultures where women's head coverings are not a sign of being married, wives do not need to cover their heads in worship, but they could obey this command by wearing some other physical symbol of being married (such as a wedding ring)."
- Why does this head covering deal only apply to women? Why are men specifically commanded not to cover their heads? (Let's be real, it's easy to cop an attitude with Paul on this one. Just wait and listen.) Roman men would occasionally take part of their toga and pull it over their head when worshipping pagan gods in Roman temples. Paul tells the men of Corinth not to cover their heads because that was a pagan act of worship.
- Paul ends the passage by saying "all things are from God," meaning men and women, harkening back to Genesis 1:27: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."