Christian Headcovering

Why do you Headcover?

One of the most common questions people ask our family is, “Why do you cover your head?” 


I decided to go ahead and answer that question on here since it seems to be the thing everyone is curious about. The reason I’m taking the time to write this is not because I think it’s the most important issue for Christian women; I’m not trying to “major on a minor”, but instead I’d like to just clear this one up for all those who have asked or who may be curious, but didn’t want to offend me by asking. By the way, I’m not offended at all when people ask, I understand, it’s different, and people are curious. It doesn’t hurt my feelings or make me feel self-conscious. I know why I do it, and I’m happy to explain it to those who really want to know. 

Let me first start out by clearing up common misconceptions people often have about why I would practice headcovering. Those misconceptions are often: you headcover to earn or keep salvation, or to earn special favor from God, or because your husband makes you. Let me take a minute to clear those things up. 

  1. I do not cover my head to earn my salvation or to keep my salvation. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. It is not by any work we could ever do. It is not Christ plus our works, it is all of grace by His sovereign love and election of sinners who were so dead in their trespasses and sins they could never save themselves. It is His work to save us, His work to sanctify us, and His work to keep us until the end.

  2. I do not cover because I believe it earns special favor, merit, or protection from the Lord. I’ve heard these ideas from other groups, and I do not believe them. I think a child of God has His love, care, favor, and protection at all times whether covered or not.

  3. I do not cover because my husband or church forces me to. It is completely my own choice. My husband and I came to understand this passage together, and I was the one who initiated our study of it because I felt convicted when reading the passage. I began practicing it at a church where my daughters and I were the only ones who did in 2016, and we have covered in church ever since. In 2018 I became convinced that it was not just an in church only context, and began covering almost full time from that point. I’ll explain why I believe it isn’t just in church later.


So why do I do it? I’m simply seeking to obey the One I love and the one who saved me. Jesus said:

““If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

‭‭John‬ ‭14:15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Let’s look at this commandment together. 

“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God. Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.”

‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭11:1-16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Let’s break this apart bit by bit, it will probably take me multiple blog posts to cover it all. Let’s just focus on verses 1 and 2 today. 

“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.”

‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭11:1-2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

He begins this paragraph by saying “imitate me as I imitate Christ”, many translations take the liberty to lump this verse with the previous section, but this sentence is a transition into the topic of headcovering, and it makes perfect sense with the next sentence. He had been correcting them and now he transitions to praising them for keeping one of the traditions that he delivered to them: the tradition of women covering and men uncovering when praying or prophesying. So you may be wondering, “where did this tradition come from?” and I think that’s a good question. Here is where it seems to have come from:

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭28:18-20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

‭‭Acts‬ ‭1:1-3‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

So you see, Jesus gave commandments to his apostles that they were to teach His followers to obey. I believe He told them how His church was to be conducted, and this was one of the traditions given. In 1 Corinthians 14, you see Paul explaining how the church meeting is to be conducted and he says there: 

“If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.”

‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭14:37‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The Lord gave commandments for how the church meeting was to be conducted, and at the end of the section in 1 Corinthians 11, speaking of Headcovering he says:

“But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.”

‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭11:16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

It seems pretty clear to me, that this is a commandment given to the apostles by Jesus that the church is suppose to practice. 

So the simple answer to the question, “Why do you cover your head?” is: We cover to obey the commandments that the Lord Jesus gave to His church. 


This will be a lengthy article because in it I’ll explain the way I understand the rest of this passage in great detail, and I will explain why I disagree with the most modern interpretations of it with the Scripture itself and with quotes from church history. 

So if you clicked on this because you have been curious why we cover, can I make a simple request? Please pray about what I share here. Don’t just assume I’m wrong because it’s different than everyone else around you, or because it’s hard to be different. Don’t disregard it because you don’t want people to think you are strange. Would you really pray and ask God to help you understand this passage? Would you obey God if He made it clear to you? Ask Him to make it clear. I’m not here to condemn others who don’t view this passage the same as I do, but I am making a little request that you would put aside fears of difficulty or what others might think, and simply seek to understand what the Spirit through Paul is saying to us here.

Paul said in His second letter to Corinth referring back to the first letter,

“For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end”

‭‭II Corinthians‬ ‭1:13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The only reason we struggle to understand this passage is because it doesn’t match up with what we see practiced around us, but friends let’s always remember this:

“Indeed, let God be true, but every man a liar.”

Romans 3:4a

And this verse meant so much to me as I began to walk in full trust of God’s Word even though it opposed what I saw around me.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

‭‭II Corinthians‬ ‭5:7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬


The Reasons for Headcovering According to Scripture

Previously, I explained that in verses one and two of 1 Corinthians 11, Paul was encouraging them to imitate him as he imitated Christ, and praising them for keeping this tradition that was handed down to him by Jesus. I explained that Jesus gave commandments to his apostles which they were to hand down to His church to be practiced and obeyed.

Paul then goes on to explain the reasons for this apostolic tradition. Let’s look at these together.


Reason 1: God’s Ordained Order

“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.”

‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭11:3-7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Paul explains here that the man is to pray and prophesy with his head uncovered and the woman with her head covered because of God’s ordained order of headship. It is what God has deemed as proper. The head of man is Christ, and man is the head of woman. We then see a referral to the Trinity, the head of Christ is God. I think it’s important to pause here and combat the lie that feminism tries to feed us women, that the headship concept in the Bible is saying women are unimportant, less than, or insignificant in some way because they are under man. To make that statement you would also have to believe the Bible is saying Jesus is insignificant, less than, and unimportant because God is His head. And that is blasphemous because Christ and the Father are one, and all things have been placed under the feet of Jesus. He is King and He is reigning. He is clearly not insignificant in any way. So being under headship is not a slight, it’s simply God’s ordained order. I do plan to write more about Biblical submission in the context of marriage in the future, but that isn’t the main point of this article, so I don’t want to get side-tracked there. Let’s get back to the command and reasons for headcovering.

The woman is to cover her head because she is the glory of man. It is so improper in the eyes of the Lord for the woman to pray and prophesy uncovered that it is the same as if her beautiful hair was shaved off. A woman with a covering on her head is seemly before the Lord. It isn’t something we should question, it is God who gets to decide what is proper and good. It is for us to humbly agree with Him and obey.

Now let me clarify something for my sisters who do not currently cover, although I believe this truth with all my heart, I want you to know that I do not believe this is the basis on which we have right standing before the Lord. If you are in Christ it is not because you do or don’t cover your head, it’s because Christ’s perfect righteous works were given to you, and the punishment for your unrighteous works were bore by Him on the cross. That’s the basis of our salvation, and that’s the reason we can come before the Lord in prayer at all. I believe the Lord hears your prayers, covered or uncovered. I believe He dearly loves His children covered or uncovered, because again, that love isn’t based on our works, but I don’t think this comforting truth is the place that a true child of God throws up their hands and says, “see it’s not by works, so we don’t really need to try to understand this passage and obey it”. That isn’t the heart of the truly born again child of God. If we love Him, we will want to obey Him. So even if you do not interpret this passage the way that I do, please press on in this post prayerfully, and see if the Lord may change your thoughts on it. Growing in obedience is a wonderful thing, but that often times requires us to admit that we were thinking wrongly about it before we can actually turn and do what is right. This is because of God’s ordained order of headship, it is important to Him, and should be important to us.


Reason 2: God’s Creation Order

“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.

‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭11:7-9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Here we see that God’s ordained order is reflected in the order in which He created. He created man first in His image and glory. Then He created woman from the body of the man. The woman was created for the man, to be a helper suitable. Man is not to cover because he is the image and glory of God, take note that this isn’t just a commandment for women to cover, but first it is a commandment for men to not cover when praying or prophesying. It’s funny how many people will accept the first commandment given to men, and yet reject the second one given to women. I live in the south, and growing up it was no surprise for me at all to hear the words, “We’re about to pray, men please remove your hats.” It’s my hope that one day it will become common for us to hear among Christians, “We’re about to pray, men remove your hats, women cover your heads.” Honestly, that is beautiful to me, and I believe based on this Scripture that it’s beautiful to the Lord.


Reason 3: Because of the Angels

“For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.”

I Corinthians 11:10

Now most people at this point begin to ask, “What do angels have to do with this?” 

I believe this is important to angels because they themselves are a part of God’s ordained order: when they come before the presence of the Lord they cover themselves with their wings as a sign of submission and humility before the Lord.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!””

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭6:1-3‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lucifer was once a covering cherub, but as you will see in the Scriptures below, he did not keep His proper order in creation. He exalted himself in the presence of God. 

““Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created. “You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you. “By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones. “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you.”

‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭28:12-17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

““How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭14:12-15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Covering is a sign of submission to proper creation order. Lucifer was suppose to be a covering cherub, but instead of keeping his proper place of submission before the throne of God, he exalted himself. He corrupted his wisdom for the sake of his splendor. There is a pattern in the Scriptures of covering being linked with submission, humility, and reverence. The angels covered themselves and submitted perfectly to God. We as women cover our heads and seek to submit to the men God has placed over us in the churches and in our homes. If angels who are able to be in the presence of the Most High, and who do His will are to cover themselves, and Satan who exalts himself and tries to makes himself like God is connected to this commandment taught here in 1 Corinthians 11 ; I think we would do well not to exalt ourselves above man or above this command to the churches, lest we be like Satan and bring reproach on our head. We are to submit to God’s ordained order of the man being the head of woman, and because of this the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, and the man ought to not cover his head because he is the image and glory of God. This is important to the angels, and it should be important to us.

The angels are watching us in awe of the Lord’s redemptive plan taking place on the earth and in heaven. We are being watched and put on display to these amazing creatures to display God’s glory to them. This is a tremendous honor that we should take seriously.

“To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.”

‭‭I Peter‬ ‭1:12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.”

‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭4:9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭3:5‬ ‭NKJV‬‬


Not Cultural

First of all, God’s ordained order from creation does not change with the culture. Angels also do not change with the culture. Angels don’t have one opinion in the early church in Corinth and another in the modern church in America, because their opinion on the matter is informed by God’s standard, not man’s. In light of the reasons Paul gives for the headcovering, the cultural argument really holds no weight if you want to have honest and consistent Biblical hermeneutics. To say the Headcovering commandment is cultural would open the door to make women elders and homosexuality a cultural matter as well, which many false churches have done. It’s a slippery slope when we start deciding what parts of God’s Word apply to us, and which ones we can ignore because times have changed.

Many reformed Christians believe the headcovering was cultural, and that today we use wedding rings, and that the rings fulfill obedience to this commandment. The idea that a wedding ring could be the same as a headcovering is obviously nowhere in Scripture, it’s simply a strange fire idea similar to Nadab and Abihu’s. A man or woman who did not want to obey God’s clear written words decided to bring before the Lord wedding rings as their symbol of submission to God’s ordained order in creation. Do you think He will accept that as obedience, or is it sin to decide for ourselves that we will worship God in a different way than He has revealed in His Word? Furthermore, the wedding ring idea is inconsistent with the Scriptural command because in our culture both the man and the woman wear rings, to make it a one to one, the woman would wear it and the man would not, but I think it’s clear that wedding rings simply do not fit the covering commandment. I wear a wedding ring, and do not believe it to be sin, but it is not a replacement for a Headcovering. 1 Corinthians 11 goes on to give instructions for the Lord’s Supper. No church practicing solid Biblical interpretation would say because of culture we can use Dunkin’ donut holes and coffee in place of the bread and wine since that’s what our culture has at gatherings. We can’t invent our own way to worship God based on our sinful culture, especially when He has clearly outlined the way He desires for us to do it, and His reasons such as His ordained order, His creation order, and the angels completely transcend culture.


Not just for Married Women

Many wrongly believe that the Headcovering command only pertains to married women because of the command in other portions of Scripture for wives to submit to their husbands, but this command is for the creation order being honored in the church as well as the home.  There are a hand full of commands pertaining to women’s behavior in the church gatherings and they are just as applicable for crossreference for understanding this passage as the ones about wives submitting to husbands.

Here are a few of those commandments given to the churches:

“And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.”

‭‭I Timothy‬ ‭2:12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.”

‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭14:34-35‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Notice Paul said, “As the law also says”, he is referring to Genesis in the Torah. This is because of creation order, the same thing Paul appeals to explaining headcovering: because the man was created first, and the woman was created for man. 

“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.”

‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭11:7-9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬


For the sake of brevity, I won’t be able to expound on 1 Corinthians 11:11-12, but here is a little homework assignment you could pursue on your own if you are interested in digging in more. Compare these passages with 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and notice the correlations and similarities. God is a God of order, and His ways are good.

“Let all things be done decently and in order.”

‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭14:40‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

One more important thing to note on this commandment not being just for wives:

The ESV translation has complicated people’s understanding of this concept also because they took a liberty they should not have in my opinion, to translate the Greek word for “woman” as “wife” in 1 Corinthians 11 in certain places and leave the same Greek word as “woman” in other parts of 1 Corinthians 11. This was their own interpretation coming out in the passage and not a faithful translation. I believe it is a wrong interpretation when I look at the context of the other commands given to the church concerning men and women such as the ones I quoted above. This is not a passage primarily about marriage, it is about creation order which will be shown in both the church and the home. This is another little homework assignment you can do: download the Blue Letter Bible app and use it to examine the Greek words for “woman” and for “covering”.

Now moving on to another very common question I get asked.

Why do you Headcover all the Time?

I have already shared my Scriptural reason for headcovering and the reasons God gives in His Word for giving us this ordinance. 

“But why do you cover *all the time*?” Is a typical follow up question, and so I want to answer that here. 

The short and simple answer is because it is convenient to have one on so that I am always ready to pray or prophesy without stopping to search for a covering. As a busy mama to seven children, I don’t want to be fussing around with putting a covering off and on all day as I need to pray or speak forth Biblical truth to my children or to people the Lord brings into my path who may need encouragement, exhortation, or the Gospel. 

It’s Not for Modesty

It isn’t a sin to show your hair or immodest. This passage is not about modesty at all otherwise it would speak of it. Some people try to insert ideas from other religions such as Islam, that the hair is sensual and should only be seen by the husband. This isn’t the way Christian headcovering is spoken of in Scripture. It’s about God’s created order as I’ve shared in previous posts. To believe it is for modesty would be adding to the Scriptures and bringing in ideas from other religions, which we should never do. We should also remember that Mary washed Jesus’ feet with her hair (John 12:3). If showing hair were immodest, then this would’ve been a sinful act, but it was instead commended which would stand to reason that showing female hair is not immodest or immoral. However, although I do not believe the headcovering command is about modesty, I do believe that it is an act of humility that in and of itself is very modest and pure because to obey this command means you are willing to set aside displaying your hair and being in fashion.

When does the Bible say we are to cover our heads? 

“Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.”

‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭11:4-5‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

This is a very simple reading comprehension question if we are honest, it says when praying or prophesying. It doesn’t say all the time and in every moment. It is only assigned to be worn while praying and prophesying. You can wear it other times, but it’s not a requirement. Just as a man can wear a hat at other times but should remove it to pray or prophesy.


So let’s take this further and ask, when do we pray? 

Most of us pray quite often throughout our days. We have a relationship with the Lord, we are abiding in Him and He in us. We talk to Him often because we love Him and need Him. 

We also pray in groups, at meals, at church, in the car driving, on a phone call, etc… I believe a woman could keep a covering in her pocket, and put it on when it’s time to pray. I believe a man could wear a hat, and remove it when it’s time to pray.  

The Bible commands to pray without ceasing, but I believe this to mean that we are to pray often and consistently. When I’m reading my child her math lesson or picture book, I’m not simultaneously praying, though occasionally we might pray in little moments while doing such a task. “Lord help me be patient with this child and to teach her diligently” might come to my mind in between pages, but it doesn’t always. The same is true while doing many activities that occupy our minds such as writing a grocery list, solving a problem, playing a sport, etc… 


I like John MacArthur’s simple definition of the word in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 (found in his study Bible). He said prophecy means “to publicly proclaim the Word of God.” 

The Scriptures themselves describe prophesying in this way:

“But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.”

‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭14:3‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Anytime you are using Scripture or Scriptural truths to edify, exhort, or comfort someone you are prophesying; and if you are a woman then the Spirit says it is shameful for you to do this without covering your head, just as it is shameful for a man to do these things with a covering on his head. I also believe that women should cover when typing or writing forth the Word of God for edification, exhortation, and comfort because that is the same as speaking in my mind. This is my personal conviction on that particular. 

Not In Church Only

There are some who believe this commandment only applies to the church meeting because of its appearance in the same chapter as the Lord’s supper which is only done in church meetings. If this is your belief, I want you to know that I respect your interpretation, but I want to ask you to dig in with me here and consider the Scriptures I’m about to share. Our hearts should be to understand and do whatever the Lord commands, not to seek to interpret it as whatever we are most comfortable with. Let’s look at this passage together, specifically noticing the transition sentences.

Transition 1 leading into the headcovering topic:

“Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” ‭‭

I Corinthians‬ ‭11:2-3 NKJV

Paul goes on to explain the reasons for headcovering, and ends the topic with this final sentence.

But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

Transition sentence 2, leading into the topic of the Lord’s supper:

Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.” 

1 Corinthians 11:16-18‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

When Paul first begins the discussion of headcovering he does so by saying “I praise you” and he praises them for keeping the traditions he handed down, which was the practice of the women covering and men uncovering when praying and prophesying. He goes on to explain the symbolism and the reasons for the headcovering tradition. Then he moves to a new subject, and his transition sentence is “when you come together as the church”. 

It is not correct in English, Greek, or any other language to assume he meant to apply the context of coming together to his previous paragraph. Here is an example of these exact transition sentences in a different scenario. 

If I told my children:

I praise you for being so obedient to me and always saying “yes mama” to my instructions. It’s very important because God’s Word says, “children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” It is God’s order, and it is good.

But for this I do not praise you, when we are at the grocery store and you beg me for candy, sweet cereal, and chocolate milk. You are being greedy and covetous. You are not behaving like a Christian child. 

Does that mean my first few sentences applied to only when we are at the grocery store? Are my children only to say “yes mama” at the grocery store? Of course not. It applies to anytime, grocery store or otherwise. I changed subjects, and I had a transition sentence just like the transition sentence the Holy Spirit through Paul chose to use in His Word about headcovering. The first paragraph is a general praise for their obedience to a command that should be obeyed anytime praying or prophesying, and the second paragraph transitions into a behavioral problem he is not praising them for that specifically happened when they came together as the Church and should’ve been taking the Lord’s supper in an orderly and reverent manner. 

Our understanding of when women should cover must also take into account the other commands in Scripture regarding women in church. 

Commands to Women in Church

“Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.”

‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭14:34-37‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”

‭‭I Timothy‬ ‭2:11-14‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

These two passages are specifically in church meeting context. Women can obviously speak in other situations outside of the church meetings. Women can even prophesy outside of church meetings as we see in 1 Corinthians 11 as well as the accounts of Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:36), and Philip the evangelist who had four prophetess daughters (Acts 21: 8-9). 

It would stand to reason, since it is shameful for a woman to even ask a question in church meetings, but instead should ask her husband at home, that she would not be prophesying in the church meetings. 

So, where would she prophesy? 

Outside of the church. 

And if she should cover her head when she is prophesying, then she would cover her head outside of the church. 

Cover in Church as Well

I do believe women should cover in the church as well because it is a time of prayer to the Lord, we should be in prayer throughout our time of worshipping with the Saints. The hymns we sing should be prayers of worship from our hearts, as the men pray lifting holy hands the women should be praying in agreement in their hearts, and as the men speak and teach the women should be praying for the Lord to speak through them and responding in prayer and confession to the things they learn, also as the Lord’s supper is being taken it should be a time of prayer and thanksgiving to the Lord for His sacrifice. This is public prayer even if it is silent, so the covering should be worn in church, but with the context of these other Scriptures we can also see that it should be worn outside of the church anytime the woman is praying or prophesying. There is also significant Church history evidence that women covered in church, which I will share later in this article.

The Passage is Clear

It truly is much more clear than people try to make it. I think much of the confusion is due to our flesh, the culture, and the many disobedient Christians who explain this passage away using terrible hermeneutics that they would never seek to use in other portions of Scripture. Many are okay covering in church only because it is more comfortable to cover around our church members, it is uncomfortable to cover out in the world with friends, family, and co-workers. It is harder, but let’s just let the text say what it says and seek to obey it even if it is hard. 

To be honest, the Bible talks about obedience bringing much more difficult things than funny looks, snide remarks, and people judging you. Obedience to the Word can in certain cultures and times bring physical persecution, imprisonment, torture, and death. If we can’t obey in the smaller things, what makes us believe we will obey in the bigger things. As God said to Israel, 

““If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, Then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, In which you trusted, they wearied you, Then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?”

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭12:5‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

I believe we as true Israel (Romans 9:6-8), should also consider this truth now. If we can not stand on truth when it is simply thought of as odd or strange, how will we stand on truth when it means jail, taking our children, and possibly being put to death. 

I know this is not easy for the flesh, but we are called to put to death the deeds of the flesh. 

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬Why do you Headcover all the Time?

Now it’s time to tackle the most common misinterpretation of the passage. I will often receive comments from women who say, “no need for a covering, your hair is your covering, it says it in the passage.” The passage does have a statement which seems to be saying her hair is her covering, but a closer look and considering the full context is very important here.

Long Hair or a Headcovering

This portion of the passage confuses many people, and so it’s important to slow down and look at the full context, the Greek, and church history. And that’s what we are about to do.

“Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.”

‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭11:13-16‭ NKJV

Paul is making a final argument in favor of headcovering by pointing to “nature itself”, which is that the woman has long hair and the man has short. Many people have used this portion of the passage to completely negate and contradict all that Paul has previously said, by claiming that the hair is the headcovering Paul has been speaking of all along, but that makes no sense in the full context of the passage.

First, let’s take a look at the Greek words for covering, then we will move on to context, and finally we will look at the way the Church has historically interpreted this passage up until the Women’s Rights Movement.

The Greek

It’s important to remember that we are reading a translation, but the perfect and infallible Word of God was given to us in Hebrew and Greek, this portion being in Greek. So the word choices are divinely chosen by God for a purpose, and should not be overlooked.

The Greek word used throughout the passage up until this particular set of verses dealing with the hair for “cover” and “covering” is:

κατακαλύπτωkatakalýptō, kat-ak-al-oop'-to; to cover wholly, i.e. veil:—cover, hide.

The Greek word for “covering” used in verse 15 referring to the hair is a different word entirely:

περιβόλαιον peribólaion,per-ib-ol'-ah-yon; something thrown around one, i.e. a mantle, veil:—covering, vesture.

This was not by accident, the use of two different words should help bring clarity that two different coverings are being spoken of. One is a natural covering, the woman’s long hair, another is a fabric covering which can be worn at certain times: such as praying and prophesying, and not worn at others. This is derived from the context as well. So let’s dig into the context together.

The Context

To help demonstrate that the interpretation of “the long hair is the covering” will not fit with the larger context of the passage, I am going to do some word replacement in verse 6 because that is where a major problem occurs. I have chosen to use NASB here because it has the most literal word for word translation of the Greek into English.

“For if a woman does not (have long hair) let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her (have long hair).”
1 Corinthians‬ ‭11:6‬ ‭NASB

As you can see it would make no sense to say if a woman does not have long hair then let her hair be cut short. It would already be short.

It is also clear by this section that the covering is something which can be put on or off.

“Every man who has something on his head *while praying or prophesying* disgraces his head. But every woman who has her head uncovered *while praying or prophesying* disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭11:4-5‬ ‭NASB

This time frame which is given “while praying or prophesying” shows us that it is not a permanent thing such as hair on a head; it can be added or removed. We are quite accustomed to men being asked to remove their hats when praying in our western culture, this concept has come directly from this passage, though sadly the converse for the woman has not been retained. That moves us to the next portion of this post and that is how the Church historically has interpreted these passages.

The Witness of Church History

It can feel quite bewildering to read the clear command in 1 Corinthians 11 and then look at the western Christian church in our current times. The two seem to directly contradict. However, it has been well-documented that historically the church wore coverings during times of prayer and worship, and men were to remove their hats during those times as well. Let’s look at a few quotes.

Tertullian (theologian from Carthage; c. 160 – c. 220): “The Christian man... [is] under no obligation to wear a covering” and the woman's head “is bound to have the veil.” “Throughout Greece, and certain of its barbaric provinces, the majority of Churches keep their virgins covered. There are places, too, beneath this (African) sky, where this practice obtains; lest any ascribe the custom to Greek or barbarian Gentilehood... It is not strange, since it is not among strangers that we find it, but among those, to wit, with whom we share the law of peace and the name of brotherhood... In fact, at this day the Corinthians do veil their virgins.

John Chrysostom (preacher, theologian, bishop of Constantinople; c. 349 – 407): To the man: “Neither do thou.. not being covered... pray before God, lest thou insult both thyself and Him that hath honored thee.” Conversely, the woman should add a cloth covering to her long hair so “that not nature only, but also her own will may have part in her acknowledgment of subjection.” For her to go without a headcovering, contrary to Paul's command, is an “indecency.”

Augustine (theologian and writer in Roman Africa; 354 - 430): “It is not becoming, even in married women, to uncover their hair, since the apostle commands women to keep their heads covered.”

Martin Luther (German theologian and “father” of the Protestant Reformation; 1483 – 1546): “The wife... shall not rule over her husband, but be subject and obedient to him. For that reason the wife wears a headdress, that is, the veil on her head.” “The wife should put on a veil, just as a pious wife is duty-bound to [her husband].” In reference to v.10, Luther states that “women should... be covered with a veil for the sake of the angels.”

John Bunyan (writer and pastor in England; 1628 - 1688): “'For this cause ought the woman to have power', that is a covering, 'on her head, because of the angels'... Methinks, holy and beloved sisters, you should be content to wear this power or badge.”

Charles Spurgeon (British baptist preacher; 1834 – 1892): “The reason why our sisters appear in the House of God with their heads covered is ‘because of the angels.’ The apostle says that a woman is to have a covering upon her head because of the angels.”

A.W. Pink (1886–1952), according to his biographer Iain Murray, is “one of the most influential evangelical authors in the second half of the twentieth century.” He pastored churches in the United States and Australia but he is best known for his books such as “The Attributes of God” and “The Sovereignty of God“.

excerpted from "A. W. Pink's 'Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 5'":

"For every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head" (I Corinthians 11:5). Observe, first, there is nothing in this verse (or in any verse of Holy Writ) which limits the injunction to any particular time or place.

What is here said applies to women whether engaged in prayer in some public meeting, at family worship, or in the privacy of her own room.

In other words, the Divine requirement to have some "covering" over her head when she engages in prayer, holds good at all seasons and in all places.

The needs-be for our pointing this out is because this word is almost universally disregarded today, even by professing sisters in Christ. Doubtless, in many instances, this is due to ignorance; yet is there no excuse, for the Scripture is plain enough.

When attention is drawn to this Divine requirement, not a few seek to evade its force by saying that their "hair" is given them for a covering. That is true, but it is not all the truth. If I Corinthians 11 be read attentively, and with an honest desire to learn and do God's will, there will be no difficulty in perceiving that God requires the woman to place something (a hat or "veil") on her hair. First, observe that it is said in verse 5 "every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaved." In other words, it is just as shameful for a woman to pray without any headgear as it is for her to have her head completely shaved. Second, in verse 6 it is said, "If the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn": the word "also" removes all doubt that there must be another "covering" in addition to the hair.

It should be obvious that there can be nothing in verses 14 and 15 which can weaken what has been said in verses 4 to 6, for the apostle would not contradict himself. No, rather is appeal made unto the natural to illustrate the spiritual. If "nature" teaches that it is more becoming and decorous for the woman to have "long hair" (alas that many have sunk so low morally as to be deaf even to the voice of human propriety), then none should murmur because the Spirit requires an additional head covering (in token of submission) when bowing before God in prayer.

John Murray (Scottish theologian, Princeton professor, seminary founder; 1898 – 1975): “Since Paul appeals to the order of creation, it is totally indefensible to suppose that what is in view and enjoined had only local or temporary relevance. The ordinance of creation is universally and perpetually applicable, as also are the implications for conduct arising therefrom.”

The Final Exhortation

Paul ends the topic with a final and strong exhortation.

“But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.”

‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭11:16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

This is a sobering statement, especially in light of what we look around and see today. What does it mean for all the churches of our day who have completely thrown off this command? I am not the one who can say. The Lord is the judge of all the earth, but we can not deny the clarity and finality of the last statement that Paul made. It should be a sobering warning to all elders and ministers that this is no light matter to simply interpret in a way that will appease the culture and those influenced by it. There are many Christian men and women who would no doubt obey this command without hesitation if the Pastors and Preachers of our day would faithfully teach it, and leading them astray will certainly be something the Shepherds will be held accountable for.

““But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭9:42‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:19‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

When did this shift happen in the church from obedience to disobedience? That is a post for another day, and it’s much broader reaching than the practice of headcovering. Over the last 200 years, most of the western churches have been drifting further and further away from Scripture and replacing their practices with the wisdom of the world. It’s a spiritually dangerous and sad situation. We should fervently pray that the Lord would purify the visible church, and bring them back to faithful submission to the Word of God.

What Now?

It is simple, obey with joy! And if anyone asks you why, be ready to give a Scriptural explanation.

You do not need to fret about those who do not interpret it the same way as you do. You do not need to pressure them. You should not question their salvation. Sanctification is the Lord’s work, and He is faithful to complete what He has begun in His timing and in His way. Simply love your brothers and sisters who see this differently, and seek Biblical Christian unity with them on the points of Scripture you agree on, and when the time is right and they are open to hearing your thoughts, then share why you believe and practice headcovering the way that you do with love, boldness, and clarity. Pray for the Lord to open their eyes and give them understanding. Walk in joyful faithfulness to what Scripture has convinced you of, and don’t question it based on the amount of people who are doing the same thing as you.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

‭‭II Corinthians‬ ‭5:7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬