Should women wear head coverings?

Last updated on April 18, 2021

This question is based on 1 Corinthians 11. Paul says that women should cover their heads when they pray. This teaching has been discussed for hundreds of years, and has divided churches. It separated Christians because of different understanding and interpretation.

Cultural differences

In the time Paul was teaching, it was cultural for women to have their heads covered by a veil or scarf-like covering. In this passage Paul makes quite a few statements which should be considered as well in order to establish the true meaning of the passage.

  1. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head.
  2. A woman who prays with her head uncovered dishonours her head, as if it was shaved.
  3. A woman who does not cover her head should have her hair cut off – if it is a disgrace to shave her head she should cover her head.
  4. It is a disgrace for a man to have long hair.

These are all accepted cultural matters for the age in which Paul lived and taught. Today almost none of these things stand:

  1. Men are often seen in church meetings with hats/head coverings on, or are seen to pray or prophesy with their heads covered
  2. Women today often shave their heads, it is not considered a disgrace
  3. No one in today’s culture would force women to cover their head to hide the fact their heads are shaved
  4. Many men today are seen with long hair as a fashion statement. Through the last 2000 years it can be seen that at times it has been acceptable for men to have long hair. In cultures over the world some consider it wrong to cut their hair, some consider it important to grow it. It is a matter of cultural preference

Men and women created in God’s image

In the light of these things, insisting that women have their heads covered but ignoring the other statements is to take the verse out of context. Paul teaches in this context that Christ is the head of his people and men have the position of headship under God which gives them authority. This does not make men superior, or women inferior. It is for man to take his God given position with humility and grace. Not lording it over women but serving them and protecting them. Each culture will have their own ways of expressing their recognition of authority.

Get the basics of the Bible in What is the Bible? 

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