Ancient Culture


In his sermon on the head covering (see THIS LINK on YouTube) Homer Hailey makes two points in arguing that the head covering is not for Christians today:

1)  He could find no such law anywhere in the Old Testament and therefore concludes it must have been simply a human custom in ancient Corinth.

2)  He sees the principle of the passage as being "the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God".  
The head covering, Hailey argues, was just the way their culture recognized the principle.  
He states that "in Corinth, the act of a woman taking off her veil was the symbol of her rejecting the authority of her husband", and since our modern culture does not have this symbol, the symbol does not apply to us.

Hailey compares the head covering symbol to the "holy kiss"--- the principle of the "holy kiss" being that we should be sincere & without hypocrisy when we greet one another, but in ancient culture a greeting was a kiss, whereas in modern culture a greeting is a handshake.

This argument makes no sense to me.

In the first place, male and female are two sides of the same coin.

If the woman's head covering symbol expressed her subjection to Man and was taken from ancient Corinthian culture
then the man's symbol would have to express his subjection to Christ and be taken from the same culture as well.

However, the cultures in ancient Corinth were the pagan Romans, the pagan Greeks, and the Jews; none of which believed in Christ and would not have had a symbol of a man un-covering his head to show subjection to Christ.

In the second place,  the principle of 1 Cor. 11:2-16 is not "The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God."  
It is true that the head of man is Christ, and that the head of woman is man.  But this isn't the principle of this passage.
The principle of the passage is that GLORY BELONGS TO GOD. Paul "wants them to know" about the order of authority simply so that they can understand the meaning of the head covering symbol.
They needed to understand that the physical head of a man symbolized the authority of Christ, and that the physical head of a woman symbolized the authority of man.  Then they could understand the significance of COVERING their heads.  They needed to know what it was --- symbolically --- that was being covered & hidden, or uncovered & exposed to view.

Covering something up hides it so that it can longer be seen; it can no longer draw our attention.  Un-covering something shows it off, puts it into the limelight, demands our attention.

When we come into God's presence we need to show Him honor. God's authority must be seen and recognized and given honor.  You don't give something honor by hiding it away, by pushing it into a corner, by covering it up.   

On the other hand, Man's authority should be taken out of the limelight when we come into God's presence.  Man's temporal authority is not worthy to be given any recognition at all in the presence of God's eternal and sovereign authority.

The simple, everyday, ordinary emblem (covering / uncovering one's head) is essential to the meaning of honoring and giving glory to God, and is no more an incidental human custom than the emblems of the Lord's Supper.

In the third place, Hailey does not cite his authority for his statement that "In Corinth, the act of a woman taking off her veil was the symbol of her rejecting the authority of her husband."  How does he know this?  How does he know that all of these different cultures ---Roman, Greek, and Jewish --- had the same custom, and that the custom signified the same thing?  

According to David Philips in Covered Glory page 9 (available for free HERE ): 
"... Corinth was a Roman colony rather than a typical Greek city.  Because of this uniqueness, along with many Jews adopting Greek culture, there may have been multiple cultural practices within the location and lifetime of the early Corinthian church.  The best understanding of First Century culture generally seems to be as follows:  
The Jews:  In public and in worship, men uncovered their heads and women covered them.
The Greeks:  In public and in worship, both men and women uncovered their heads.
The Romans:  Men and women covered their heads in worship.  Men and women were uncovered in public."

The above-quoted work has 40 pages of appendices including "Headcovering Throughout Christian History" and "Further Details on 1st Century Culture" with many footnotes citing his sources, for those interested in researching ancient cultural practices.

You can also check out The Head Coverings of 1 Corinthians 11 by Paul K. Williams available for free HERE.   

But however much historical research you do, the bottom line remains the same --- history was written by uninspired people, and the various scholars of today who draw their various conclusions about history are also fallible, uninspired people.

Here are a few final quotes to consider, from the book What is History? by Edward Hallett Carr, Fellow of Trinity College (the George Macaulay Trevelyan Lectures delivered at the University of Cambridge Jan - March 1961):

"... the records of ancient and mediaeval history are starred with lacunae.  History has been called an enormous jigsaw with a lot of missing parts.  But the main trouble does not consist of the lacunae.  Our picture of Greece in the 5th century BC is defective not primarily because so many of the bits have been accidentally lost, but because it is, by and large, the picture formed by a tiny group of people in the city of Athens.  We know a lot about what fifth-century Greece looked like to an Athenian citizen; but hardly anything about what it looked like to a Spartan, a Corinthian, or a Theban -- not to mention a Persian, or a slave or other non-citizen resident in Athens.  Our picture has been pre-selected and predetermined for us, not so much by accident as by people who were consciously or unconsciously imbued with a particular view and thought the facts which supported that view worth preserving." (page 11)

" If you find it in the documents, it is so.  But what, when we get down to it, do these documents --- the decrees, the treaties, the rent-rolls, the blue books, the official correspondence, the private letters and diaries ---- tell us?  No document can tell us more than what the author of the document thought --- what he thought had happened, what he thought ought to happen or would happen, or perhaps only what he wanted others to think he thought, or even only what he himself thought he thought." (page 15)

******   The bottom line is that the cultural interpretation of the head covering passage rests upon fallible human history.  ******

In the fourth place, the inspired apostle has already given the reasons for the head covering symbol right there in the passage.  Putting forth another reason is unnecessary and presumptuous.

These are the reasons which the scripture gives us:

 1) "since man is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man"

2)  "because of the angels"

When a man covers his head, he symbolically covers the image and glory of God and the authority of Christ, and that is the reason why he should not cover his head.  

When a woman covers her head, she symbolically covers and hides the authority and glory of man, thereby giving all the glory to God, and that is the reason why she should cover her head.  

Also she should cover her head because of the angels; and while Paul does not elaborate on this reason, I know one thing for sure about angels ---- they have nothing to do with human culture.

Any other explanation for why a man should not cover his head or why a woman should cover hers involves taking away the inspired apostle's given reasons and adding in our own reasons.  

And we are not to take away from nor add to God's Word:  

"Every word of God is pure; His a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar." Proverbs 30:5-6  
"You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you."  Deut. 4:2
"...If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life ... "  Revelation 22:18-19

In the fifth place, just because the symbol of the head covering was not given until the Christian era, does that necessarily make it a human custom? 

Paul does appeal to the Creation when he is explaining the meaning of the head covering symbol:  man is the image and glory of God because of the order of creation; woman is the glory of man because she was created for him and came from him.  Woman's hair was "given to her for a covering" (obviously given by God at the creation).   

So at first glance it would seem as though the head-covering symbol of giving glory to God ought to be found as a commandment in all times since the Creation.  

But we do not find this symbol given anywhere else in the Bible other than 1 Corinthians 11, and in fact, Aaron & his sons were actually commanded to wear turbans and hats as part of their priestly garments, and the high priest was commanded not to uncover his head in the sanctuary, even when in mourning (Levit. 8:9,13; 16:4; 21:10), which is just the opposite of this!

The answer, of course, is simply that God did not choose to tell us exactly why He gave the head-covering symbol in the Christian era only, nor why the Mosaic priests were to cover their heads.

There are a number of points to consider, however:

FIRST,  Man and Woman have always had the natural covering of the hair.  Verse 5 tells us that for a woman to be uncovered is "one and the same" as having her head shaved.  Our own Human Nature has always taught us that we are gendered beings & that the masculine and feminine are different from and complement each other.  We have always been taught by Nature that it is a dishonor for a man to have his head covered by long hair but a glory for a woman to have her head covered by long hair.

SECOND,  God has dealt with Man differently in different dispensations.  

Those who lived under the Patriarchal dispensation did not have the law of Moses.  Those in the Mosaic dispensation did not have the law of Christ.  All of those in the Old Testament were looking forward to the coming of Christ.

When Christ came there was a change of the priesthood and a change of the law (Hebrews 7:12).  We are no longer under the Law of Moses, but are now under the "perfect law of liberty", the law of Christ.

The Mosaic priests offered animal sacrifices which could never take away sin; Christ as our High Priest offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice which could and does take away sin (Hebrews 10:1-14).
We ourselves are a "royal priesthood" offering up spiritual sacrifices to God (1 Peter 2:9).

The 2 priesthoods are completely different, so is it surprising that their garments & headgear are different?

THIRD,   perhaps Man's head no longer represented the glory of God after he rebelled against God's authority in the Fall.

Man was the glory of God by God's original design at the Creation, but did Adam keep that glory?  

      ". . . through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin . . ."
     ". . . death reigned from Adam to Moses . . . "
     ". . . through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life . . ." (Rom. 5:12-21)

 Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Christ is the "brightness of (God's) glory"

When Adam disobeyed God, he rejected God's authority.  He disrespected God instead of glorifying Him.  Instead of the glory of God, there was Sin.  And sin reigned from Adam until Christ came.

Sometimes maybe we don't realize what a HUGE accomplishment our redemption through Christ was, and just what He did for us.  Christ truly showed the glory of God through His obedience at the cross.  His obedience and submission to God took away our sins so that Man, in Christ, once again can show the glory of God, which is how God originally created him.

FOURTH,  when answering the Pharisees about divorce, Christ similarly reasoned from God's original design at the Creation (Matthew 19:3-19) :

     "And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female', and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?  So then, they are no longer two but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."
     "They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?"
     "He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so."

Will we set aside Christ's command about marriage & divorce because God permitted something inferior to His original design during a dispensation that was inferior to the reign of Christ?

Then neither should we set aside the inspired instruction regarding head coverings, even though God did not choose to tell us His reasons for giving the symbol only during the Christian dispensation.


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Thank you so much for your comment! I appreciate any comments, either pro or con, as long as they are made in a manner respectful to others. I want this to be a place where Christian women can think this issue through and reason together, without the quarrelsome type of argument and debate. Since this blog is intended for women only, comments from men will not be published.