By J. Parnell McCarter


A party which rejects the abiding duty for women to wear headcoverings in public worship argued as follows:

Ø    For example, Paul says, "Every man praying or prophesying, having
> [his] head covered, dishonoureth his head."
>How could it be moral if the Scriptures command otherwise
> in both theory and practice?




I responded:

You are seeking to interpret I Cor 11 in light of other
scripture, which is certainly valid.

There is **nothing** in I Cor 11 itself that says "this is just a
cultural custom in Corinth". Rather, you are inferring that from
what the rest of scripture says or does not say.

So let's consider other scripture on the matter of headcoverings.

For instance, what can or should be inferred from Gen 24:65?

"For she [had] said unto the servant, What man [is] this that walketh
in the field to meet us? And the servant [had] said, It [is] my
master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself."

I would infer 2 things:

1. Godly women did not always wear headcoverings, for she did
not have it on before the master approached, yet other people were

2. Godly women can show respect to men on special occasions by
placing a headcovering on themselves.

Would you agree or disagree with these inferences?


A party which rejects the abiding duty for women to wear headcoverings in the public assemblies replied:

>I guess I would ask the same, how can you infer from them an
> unalterable moral and Biblical ordinance agreeable and not
> contradictory to the other commands and practices in Scripture in
> regards to covering one's head in worship.
> (e.g., case of High Priest wearing head piece in OT worship)


I responded:

I think you are limiting the choices to choose from. Here are
the choices I think we should consider:

1. unalterable moral and Biblical ordinance, having no exceptions

2. unalterable moral and Biblical ordinance, having exceptions
(similar to the way the prohibition on divorce has exceptions)

3. mere custom in Corinth

Given the above choices, I think 2. can be deduced from scripture,
while the others can be eliminated.

1. is contrary to scriptural evidence, because as you noted, the high
priest wore a headcovering in the Temple.

3. is contrary to what is implied by I Cor 11 and Genesis 24:65, that
such a use of headcoverings is naturally revealed.

3. is also contrary to historical evidence:

"McKnight notes that William Ramsay, who was an expert on the Greek
culture of Paul's day, concurs. He writes:
Historically, it was a covering commonly worn in public by women of
Jewish origin but not by the Greek women. The covering used by Jewish
women is thought by many commentators to have been a large piece of
cloth which was a common article of clothing such a shawl or cape.
The cloth would serve as a head covering at any time it was
appropriate. Concerning the difference in Greek and Jewish custom, we
find that Dion Chrysostom (writing in 110 A. D.) recognized nothing
that was "Greek" about the Tarsians (of the Greek city of Paul); but
he did find one thing worthy of praise. He was very pleased with the
extremely modest dress of the Tarsian women, who were always deeply
veiled when they went abroad. And this was in spite of the fact that
it was utterly different from the Greek customs. (The Cities of St.
Paul, William Ramsay, p. 202). In other words, a covering was not the
custom in other cities and especially Greek cities."

See http://www.reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/Headcoverings%
20in%20Public%20Worship2.htm .


From my reading of church history, until the modern era, it was the
**general** practice in the Christian churches for women to wear
headcoverings in public worship. That is true of the reformed
churches as well as the others. That would correspond to this

2. unalterable moral and Biblical ordinance, having exceptions
(similar to the way the prohibition on divorce has exceptions)



How do you know what the prevailing custom was in Corinth in the
Apostolic Era with regards to headcoverings? 




Additional Notes:


One question that arises is whether women should wear headcoverings not just in public worship, but in public in general.  The website http://www.covenanter.org/Attire/Headcoverings/headcoverings.htm makes that argument.  The argument rests on such verses as Isaiah 47:2-3: “…uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers.  Thy nakedness shall be uncovered…”


Whether one agrees or disagrees with this position, there is certainly reason to be concerned with the amount of time Western women are spending on their hair, in the absence of such headcoverings:


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=402793&in_page_id=1770 -


Women spend two-and-a-half years on their hair

Last updated at 22:17pm on 29th August 2006


Talk about going back to your roots...

The average British woman spends an astonishing £36,903.75 on her hair in a lifetime, according to new research.

She will spend the equivalent of just under two YEARS of her life washing, styling, cutting, colouring, crimping and straightening her locks in salons or at home.

A whopping 650 days will be dedicated solely to creating a 'salon look' in her own bathroom. The average woman splashes out a monthly average of £10.08 on shampoos and conditioners, £14.03 on home styling products and £301.14 a year on haircuts and colouring.

She spends the equivalent of 41 minutes at home every day washing, styling and restyling. A third of women say their hair is the most important part of their appearance, and they spend more time styling their hair than doing their make-up…