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1 Cor 11 Women Covering the Head for Prayer

1 Corinthians 11 as an Allegory of the Family of God

Let me begin by asking: Who was Paul writing to?  To whom was this epistle addressed?

It was addressed to the brethren in Corinth, who were mainly Greek Corinthian converts.

Now let me ask:  Why was this issue addressed by Paul?

The various pagan religions of Corinth were mainly dedicated to fertility and the goddess Aphrodite; the Queen of heaven [Her statue is prominent in New York today, called “Liberty”]. 

In Corinth women had a major part of these religions; acting as priestesses, pagan prophets, and income earners as temple prostitutes.

The point is that:

1.  The women of Corinth had NEVER covered their hair in worship and therefore it was totally unnecessary for Paul to instruct them that they need not cover their hair.

2.  That in the pagan religions, women usurped the role of men and officiated as priestess teaching their religion, which Paul forbade.

The Religions Of Corinth

The temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, stood atop the Acrocorinth.

“A famous temple to Aphrodite had stood on the summit of Acrocorinth in the Classical Age… It had fallen into ruins by Paul’s time, but successors to its 1,000 cult prostitutes continued to ply their profession in the city below. Many of them were no doubt housed in the lofts above the 33 wine shops uncovered in the modern excavations. Corinth was a city catering to sailors and traveling salesmen. Even by the Classical Age it had earned an unsavory reputation for its libertine atmosphere; to call someone ‘a Corinthian lass’ was to impugn her morals. It may well be that one of Corinth’s attractions for Paul was precisely this reputation of immorality.” (The Biblical World In Pictures).

The city was filled with sailors who gladly spent their money there. The name “Corinth” became a synonym for immorality. This temple gave Corinth it’s reputation for gross immorality of which Paul often spoke (1 Cor. 6:9-20; 2 Cor. 12:20-21).

“She [Corinth]  had a reputation for commercial prosperity, but she was also a byword for evil living. The very word korinthiazesthai, to live like a Corinthian, had become a part of the Greek language, and meant to live with drunken and immoral debauchery … Aelian, the late Greek writer, tells us that if ever a Corinthian was shown upon the stage in a Greek play he was shown drunk. The very name Corinth was synonymous with debauchery and there was one source of evil in the city which was known all over the civilized world.

Above the isthmus towered the hill of the Acropolis, and on it stood the great temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of fertility. To that temple there were attached one thousand priestesses who were sacred prostitutes, and in the evenings they descended from the Acropolis and plied their trade upon the streets of Corinth, until it became a Greek proverb, ‘It is not every man who can afford a journey to Corinth.’

In addition to these cruder sins, there flourished far more recondite vices, which had come in with the traders and the sailors from the ends of the earth, until Corinth became not only a synonym for wealth and luxury, drunkenness and debauchery, but also for filth.” (William Barclay, The Letters To The Corinthians, p. 2-3).

Of equal fame in Corinth was the temple of Poseidon, ruler of the sea (on which Corinth’s commercial life depended) and maker of earthquakes (a frequent danger in the area). Poseidon had a very large temple at a nearby village where the biennial Isthmian Games were held.

Numerous other temples in Corinth include ones to Apollo, Hermes, Venus-Fortuna, Isis, and one dedicated to “All The Gods” (Pantheon). On the slopes of the Acrocorinth was the sanctuary of Demeter, which dates from the 6th and 7th centuries B.C.

In Corinth, as often found in other parts of ancient Greece, there was a shrine dedicated to Asklepios, the god of healing, and his daughter, Hygieia. The museum at Corinth has hundreds of terra-cotta votive offerings presented to Asklepios by pilgrims who sought a cure or who wanted to thank the god for a healing they attributed to him. Among these votives can be seen limbs, hands, feet, breasts and genitals.

In a time-honored tradition, petitioners to Asklepios had dedicated replicas of the particular parts of the body in which they were afflicted. (1 Cor. 12:12, 15-17).

The temple of Apollo stood on the hill overlooking the Roman city’s main forum which served as a reminder of Corinth’s ancient splendor, and was 700 years old by Paul’s time, but it was in ruins. At one time a bronze statue of Apollo stood in the temple. To Paul it would have served merely as a sermon illustration of the impotence of the Greek’s pagan gods. There were several sanctuaries to Apollo inside the city.

Paul was writing to and teaching the Corinthian converts, who had a background of seeing women as having a major part on the city’s religions.  And it was the custom of these women in pagan religions in Corinth, to preach and prophesy with their heads and hair uncovered.

It was to people who had come out of this praying without covering their hair religious society, that Paul wrote to teach them the proper and godly conduct that God expects from women in the faith. 

In short; these Corinthian women had NEVER covered their heads and hair in worship of God;  therefore there was absolutely NO NEED for Paul to say that they need not cover their hair!  or to even mention the issue; unless he was correcting their engaging in religious worship with their heads and hair uncovered as they had always done!

1 Cor 11 Head Covering


The word group which includes the words translated “cover” and “uncover” in verses 5, 6, 7, and 13 is not used elsewhere to refer to the hair, but is used to refer to some other type of covering. “Cover” (“veil”—ASV, RSV of verse 6).  

In verses 6 and 7 translates katakalupto which means “cover, veil” and in the middle voice “cover oneself.”  The word occurs only here in the New Testament, but it is found several times in the LXX. It is used in Genesis 38:15 of Tamar where it is said that she had “covered” her face. It can easily be seen from the preceding verse that she did not cover her face with her hair but with a veil. Similarly the word is used in three manuscripts in Esther 6:12 where it says that Haman hurried to his house in mourning with his head “covered.” Here again it is obvious that Haman had not grown his hair long to show his shame, but had thrown something over his head. “Uncovered” (“unveiled”—ASV, RSV of verse 5)

In verses 5 and 13 uncover translated from akatakaluptos which simply means “uncovered.” The word in Leviticus 13:45 where it is said that one with a leperous baldness should “uncover” his head. (For this see the King James Version; the Hebrew literally says, “let the hair of his head hang loose.”) Here again it can be seen that “uncover” is not cutting off the hair but is removing a cloth.

The words “cover” in verse 6 and “covering” in verse 15 translate two entirely different Greek words.

The noun translated covering in verse 15 is not katakalupsis or katakalumma, but peribolaion, which is a generalized covering of any kind, not specifically of cloth like katakalupsis; the fact that Paul uses an entirely different and very general word for hair; shows that he is not referring to the same type of covering as katakalupsis [a cloth].

His point in verse 15 is that since nature gives woman one type of covering [her hair], she ought also to wear another type of covering over the first covering while praying.

A woman’s hair is her covering crown of glory, her mantle or veil of glory. Therefore she must show respect and cover her crown of glory in the presence of her God.

Paul begins by teaching that the Head of all things is God the Father and under him Jesus Christ; and under Christ the man, and under the man is the woman which is the biblical arrangement of godly headship and leadership.   In teaching this, Paul is rebuking the pagan system of women usurping men in religion.

1 Corinthians 11:3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

Paul then teaches that a man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, is shaming himself, disrespecting God and dishonoring his leadership position;  because the man has an office of headship from God; and because the family of man is an allegory of the family of God! 

In the physically family the man has the position of headship, leadership, example, teacher and authority; as commanded by God!  This is to teach us that God the Father is also the HEAD, LEADER, AUTHORITY, EXAMPLE and TEACHER of his spiritual family!

We are to live by every word of the Father in heaven.   

11:4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head

Therefore if the hair is the covering, all men ought to shave their heads and go bald! Obviously the hair is not the covering!  The man as the physical head of his family, represents the HEAD of the spiritual family; God.

Yet every woman praying or prophesying with her head and glorious hair not covered; is shaming herself and disrespecting God and should have her head shaved.

11:5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered [akatakaluptos not covered with a cloth] dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

How can a woman be shaved of her hair, for not wearing her hair? 

It is obvious that her hair is not the covering referred to;  for if she refuses to be covered, her hair should be shorn.  Now if she refuses to wear her covering of hair; how can her hair be shorn?  And if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair shorn; then she should cover her hair.

11:6 For if the woman be not covered [akatakaluptos with a cloth], let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered [with a katakalupto specifically a cloth covering].

The man should not have his hair covered because he is on a headship position representing  the HEADSHIP  of God the Father.

Yet the woman is the glory of man and should cover that glorious covering of hair, out of respect for her husband as the head of her family, and out of respect for God the Father as the head of the spiritual family. 

In other words the woman should not usurp the position of the man as her head; even as the members of the spiritual; family of the Father should respect and not seek to usurp God’s HEADSHIP.

The man as head and leader, reflects and represents, the HEADSHIP of God the Father; while the woman represents the bride, the wife of Christ, the spiritual Called Out family of God!  

11:7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. 

In physical terms the man was made first by God and the woman was made by God from man;  nevertheless from that time on, all men came forth from woman; therefore they are ONE FAMILY; with the man as head of the physical family by God’s design!!  

This is an allegory and object lesson to teach us the spiritual  Family of God is ONE FAMILY and that God the father is the HEAD of that family! 

11:8 For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. 11:9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

In the allegory of family, the husband is representative of Jesus Christ the Husband and HEAD of the Bride;  and the physical father is a figure of God the Father; as the HEAD of the family.

The woman is an allegory of the Bride of Christ; and her subjection to her husband by God’s design, is an allegory of the bride of Christ being subject to him in all things.

11:10 For this cause ought the woman to have power [a demonstration of the authority of her husband over her head; as an example that the Called Out Ekklesia (the Bride) have the authority of Jesus Christ their Husband over them] on her head because of [as an example for others] the angels.

11:11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. 11:12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

Paul then says that the hair is given to woman for a glorious crown, representing the Beauty of the Bride of Christ, but long [meaning effeminate] hair is a shame to a man because it dishonours the headship leadership position of the man; making him look feminine as one who is to obey and not to lead.

The woman’s hair is her glorious covering crown, covering her head with glory;  which should be covered as a symbol of humility and respect for authority, in prayer and prophesying.

This godly custom to cover the hair as a sign of respect before the spiritual Husband Jesus Christ and God the Father when praying or worshipping,  was  contrary to the Corinthian practice of  women praying and prophesying with the head and hair uncovered; and the pagan women usurping the authority of the men as priestess teaching in the assemblies. 

Because the headship of a man as designed and commanded by God over his bride is an allegorical representation of the headship of Jesus Christ over his spiritual bride; it is not appropriate that a woman come before the Father in heaven not being covered by a veil or scarf; to indicate her humility before him.

11:13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered   [akatakaluptos; without a cloth covering her head]11:14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? 

11:15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. [A peribolaion; a general word for covering of any kind, her glorious hair; a quite different word from v 6 and 7 .katakalupto specifically meaning a cloth]

Paul then says that in the Church of God, there is no such pagan custom as men praying with covered heads or of women praying or prophesying without their head and glorious hair covered.

11:16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

This instruction is in response to the Hellenized Rabbinic Jewish practice of men covering their heads in prayer, and Corinthian women praying without being covered by a cloth.  That was NOT the custom of the Ekklesia and Paul says that no argument in this matter is to be tolerated.  In the Ekklesia the men do not cover their heads with a cloth while praying or in worship; and the women DO cover their heads with a cloth while praying or in worship; and Paul will accept no argument in this matter.

The women are not to be elders [priestesses] and are not to teach men religion in formal services as the pagan priestess did; and they are to show proper respect for their husbands by asking questions of their husbands first; and if he cannot answer, he should ask the true faithful to God, ministry. 

Nevertheless if a woman does not have a converted husband or father; then she should ask the elder in private and not disrupt a service.

This is about the godly system of headship and leadership in the family that the woman not usurp the headship of her husband; and that elders not usurp the authority of the husband by end-arounding the husband, to interface with the wife without her husbands knowledge.

What of Deborah and the other women of God? 

They NEVER usurped the authority of the godly priesthood!  They did not claim to be priests; and even the daughters of Aaron were not priests.

These were godly wise women to whom others came for advice and judgment but they were not priests. 

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with men seeking advice from women.

What is praying and prophesying?

I think we all know what prayer is; and that men are to remove their hats out of respect when praying.  When a woman is praying or is in a service where prayer is being made, she should have her hair and head covered.

A woman can certainly pray without her head covered in emergencies or unexpected situations; but that should be the exception and not the rule.  Further a woman should cover her hair in any planned and formal prayer; such as services and bible studies.  

1 Corinthians 14:34   Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. 14:35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

Godly women should not teach in the assemblies, nor usurp their husband, their HEAD; and should cover their hair in any prayer, formal service, or Bible Study. 

Does that mean that when someone asks them a question, a woman needs to rush off to cover her head before giving an answer?  NO!  She is merely answering a question and not teaching in the sense of an elder standing before a congregation. 

Most certainly she should be diligent to teach the word of God to her children and to answer any questions put to her by others, and if she cannot answer them she should ask her husband to explain the answer to her so she can pass it along.  In this way women have an opportunity to learn to teach others when they are Chosen to enter the resurrection of the Chosen.

Constance has her own articles on the subject here.  1 Cor 11: Covering the Hair in Prayer

and  The Role of Women in The Faith


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