‘Head Coverings’ (Part 1 of 2 (Part 2 of 2 follows below)

The Head Coverings That Some Christian Women Wear. Biblical Perspective

This is not an exhaustive examination of this topic, although it deserves much more than this. I will look into it with the usual “tool” of interpreting life, the Biblical Scriptures.

Some Christian women wear head coverings because they wish to be set apart for the Lord. Others do so because they believe it allows them to become closer to God, or encourages them to be modest in their everyday Christian life. 1st Corinthians 11:1-16 deals with this issue.

As this study is non-exhaustive, I will only address certain scriptures which I believe partly (or fully) explain the issue of head coverings and whether or not women should wear them. I may endeavour to add to or amend these particular comments (or expression) later on.

Firstly and briefly, verses 1 to 3 of 1 Corinthians 11 reveal the headship and authority structure of God which is relevant to this topic. That is, the head of man is Christ, the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

Verse 4 states: “Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head”. What does “uncovered” mean though? Verse 6 states: “If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or shaved off, she should cover her head”.

So, as seen, “uncovered” and “cover” are obviously related. A “cover”, for the woman, is a ‘sign of authority’ on her head: verse 10.

Verse 14: “Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory, for long hair is given to her as a “covering” ’(verse 15). One of the clear truths here is that the “covering” that Paul speaks of is long hair.

Importantly, Paul goes on to say in verse 16, that, “If anyone want to be contentious about this, we have no ‘other’ practice – nor do the churches of God”. I mention important because the word “other” here, which some translations use, should rather be the word “such”. The Greek text renders the word, “toiauten”, used in this passage, as “such”. Therefore, verse 16 should be taken to read: “If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no ‘such’ practice – nor do the churches of God”. In any event, I would assert that regardless of whether such or other is used it does not change the meaning and intent of the passages relating to the ‘covering’ that Paul speaks of which will be addressed below.

Nevertheless, the use of the word “such” is addressed as there is a misunderstanding that often arises with Christians by its use. Specifically, the use of “such” may give the impression that Paul is saying that what he has said about a woman’s long hair being her covering is not really something to be followed if contention’ arises because of it, as “we” (as he puts it), and the churches of God have no “such” practice.

However, Paul is not actually saying that he and his fellow believers and the wider Church should not follow his teachings in verses 14-15. In these verses, Paul poses three questions, namely, whether it is proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered, whether the very nature of things teaches that it is a disgrace for a man to have long hair, and whether a woman’s long hair is her glory. These are all rhetorical questions that Paul poses, that is, in effect, they all have plain and obvious answers to them, which is, that, it is proper for a woman to cover her head, that it is a disgrace for a man to have long hair, and that a woman’s long hair is her glory.

Therefore, because these answers have been established, when Paul states, “if anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no such practice – nor do the churches of God”, he is simply saying in ‘answering’ his questions that ‘we have no such practice for a woman to pray uncovered (‘uncovered’ meaning without long hair), we have no ‘such’ practice for a man to have long hair, and we have no ‘such’ practice for a woman not to have long hair’.

Therefore, in doing so, Paul is simply linking back his “no such practice” comments to his truths arising from the questions. Thus, he is not at all saying that we and the other churches have no such practice to do these truths. If he were saying this, then it would completely contradict everything he had explained in verses 1-15 concerning the need for men and women to have a representation of ‘authority’ over their head, that is, an appropriate ‘hair’ covering. And as we know, “God is not the author of confusion (‘disorder’ in some translations), but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1st Corinthians 14:33). So, it is impossible and illogical for Paul to suddenly “throw out” everything he said in the preceding 15 verses.

Consequently, it is a fundamental misunderstanding of the text to reach the conclusion that anything other than a woman’s hair is her covering. The text expressly states that it is. Therefore, the perspective of wearing a man-made head covering on a woman’s head, such as cloth or other material, supposedly arising from these passages or the Bible as a whole in respect to some ‘current’ or otherwise Christian or biblical need to do so is erroneous, and doing so is sin. Moreover, it should be noted that it is sin against God for the woman to cover over her natural ‘glory’ (glory – verse 15 – ‘hair’) that God has given to her, with man-made cloth. As evidenced, nowhere in these scriptures is cloth prescribed as the “covering”, and in no way can it be, because the covering, a woman’s natural long hair, is God-made and ordained as such by Him.

Lastly, one further way that shows that man-made cloth cannot be the covering is to look at verse 5. It states, “And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head – it is just as though her head was shaved”. In this regard, if cloth is the woman’s head covering, it would be highly improbable for her to be able to put a cloth on her head every time she were to pray or prophesy. For instance, it would be highly unlikely to always have available a cloth covering at all times when prophesying as it a gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:10) which can occur at any time the Spirit desires and in a place where wearing a cloth head covering may not be possible.

As such, it goes without saying that it would not be reasonable for a woman at the time of prophesying to be trying to retrieve (probably desperately) a cloth to put on her head in order to satisfy the wrong belief that cloth on the head must be worn when praying or prophesying. This is clearly very challenging to achieve, and is an unfortunate yoke, which the Lord would not have us be under. It is clearly not God’s will that man-made cloth would replace or ‘become’ the hair as the ‘sign of authority’ that God has commanded to adorn a woman’s head. Further still, verse 5 is simply saying that a woman’s hair should always be in an appropriately ‘long’ state so that she would appear with this ‘sign of authority’ (unto God) on her head (verse 10), and therefore to not look similar to a man’s shorter hair length, and particularly when she is praying or prophesying.

Finally, it is important to note that natural long hair does not mean that it goes past, or to the shoulders for every woman because obviously not every woman’s natural long hair grows ‘down’, but lots of women’s hair grows ‘out’, that is, primarily to the side and up. Thus, long hair refers to a woman’s hair being ‘long enough’ (whichever direction it grows in) so that it is clearly distinguishable from the much shorter length of a man’s hair (verse 15). In verse 4, the reference to “covered” here, as evidenced earlier above, means that a man should never have ‘long hair’, particularly when praying or prophesying.

Concluding comments: It is important to note that there could be reasons why a woman cannot always ‘cover’ (hair) her head. For instance, there could be medical or other cogent reasons involved which are exceptions and are consistent with the permissive nature of God. Moreover, this is another important reason why a woman should have long hair as a ‘sign of authority’ on her head. One of these concerns angels. This will be addressed in part 2 of 2 below by Michael Marlowe.

‘Head Coverings’ (Part 2)

Part 2: “Because Of The Angels” (1st Corinthians Chapter 11:10)

This is a continuation of my (Eguavon) previous post titled ‘Head Coverings That Some Christian Women Wear’. In that post I asserted that it was not necessary nor biblical for Christian women to wear a head covering due to a woman’s long hair being her natural “covering”, as stated in verse 14. I also referred to verse 10 which states that a woman’s long hair is a ‘sign of authority’ on her head.

Furthermore, verse 10 states that, along with the need for all people to respect God’s order of human creation (man then woman), a woman is to “wear” this ‘sign of authority’ on her head “because of the angels”.

The article below details a widely accepted understanding of what is meant by “because of the angels”. It is presented largely untouched, containing minimal abridged excerpts of the content. I hope you will find it useful.

(Immediately following Michael Marlowe’s article is my own conclusion on the subject of “because of the angels”.

*Before the article below, it is useful to list 3 biblical scriptures on the role of angels:


Hebrews 1:14 – ‘Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?’

Objective: To do God’s will

Psalm 103:20 – ‘Praise the LORD, you His angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His word’.


Psalm 34:7 – ‘The Angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them’.

*By – Michael Marlowe 2005

What does ‘because of the angels’ mean in 1 Corinthians 11:10?

In 1 Corinthians 11:10 Paul writes, διὰ τοῦτο ὀφείλει ἡ γυνὴ ἐξουσίαν ἔχειν ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς διὰ τοὺς ἀγγέλους. “For this reason the woman should have [a sign of the man’s] authority on her head, because of the angels.”

Here I will address the question of what the enigmatic phrase “because of the angels” may mean. Several explanations have been offered by scholars, but one explanation stands out as being by far the most commonly accepted. Briefly it is this: In Jewish tradition, and also in the early Church, angels are said to be present at sacred gatherings and sacred times, to watch over and to join with the saints in their spiritual exercises. Any serious offense against propriety during these sacred moments will stir up the disapproval of these angelic helpers of the saints, perhaps causing them to depart; and any good deed they witness will bring all the more aid from them.

The role of the angels as mediators between God and men at prayer is suggested in several writings. [For instance], the act of bringing the prayers of the saints before God, is indicated in Revelation 8:2-4:

‘Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel’ (ESV).

The angels are also portrayed in the canonical books of the Old Testament as having a mediatory role in the communication of prophecy from God to man, as in Ezekiel 40:3, Daniel 8:16, 9:21-22, 10:5-6, Zechariah 1:8-9, 2:1-3, etc. The same is true in the New Testament, where revelation is given to men through angels in Matthew 1:20, Luke 1:11, 2:9-10, Acts 7:53, Acts 10:3-4, Galatians 3:19, Hebrews 2:2, Revelation 1:1, etc.

In view of all this, it is not surprising to find a reference to the angels in the context of 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul addresses the subject of “praying and prophesying” among the saints. The angels serve as mediators in both of these spiritual activities.

Regarding the possibility of alienating the angels through transgressions of the Law, some commentators point to an expression found in documents associated with the ancient Jewish sect called the Essenes. (2) Among the Dead Sea Scrolls there is a document (designated 1QSa, usually called “the Rule of the Congregation”) that gives rules to be observed in the days of the Messiah. Most scholars connect this document with the Essene community at Qumran. It contains the following sentences:

These are the men appointed to the society of the Yahad: all the wise of the congregation, the understanding and knowledgeable—who are blameless in their behavior and men of ability—together with the tribal officials, all judges, magistrates, captains of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, and the Levites, each a full member of his division of service. These are the men of reputation, who hold commissions in the society of the Yahad in Israel that sits before the Sons of Zadok, the priests.

No man who suffers from a single one of the uncleannesses that affect humanity shall enter their assembly; neither is any man so afflicted to receive an assignment from the congregation. No man with a physical handicap—crippled in both legs or hands, lame, blind, deaf, dumb, or possessed of a visible blemish in his flesh or a doddering old man unable to do his share in the congregation—may enter to take a place in the congregation of the men of reputation. For the holy angels are a part of their congregation. If one of these people has something to say to the holy congregation, let an oral deposition be taken, but the man must not enter the congregation, for he has been smitten. (1)

Another sectarian charter known as the “Damascus Document,” also associated with the Essenes, has a similar rule:

But no one who is a fool or insane may enter; and no simpleton or ignorant man, or one with with eyes too weak to see or lame or crippled or deaf or minor child, none of these shall enter the congregation, for the holy angels are in your midst. (2)

Whoever wrote these documents clearly believed that the “angels of holiness” were present in the gatherings of the governing body of their sect, and that it was the presence of these holy angels which made it inappropriate for levitically ‘defective’ people to be present in the gathering. Evidently the sectarians conceived of the gathering as a priestly society, because most of the defects listed here are mentioned as disqualifications for the priesthood in Leviticus 21:17-23.

Probably they felt that the angels would decline to give aid or perhaps depart from the gathering altogether if such disqualified persons were present in a group that was performing priestly functions, in violation of the Law of Moses. It is important to bear in mind that this has to do with the governing council, not the congregation at large.

Now, of course this exclusion of the lame, the blind, etc., from the priesthood is not in keeping with the spirit of the New Testament ministry, and we would not expect anyone in the early Church to take these levitical regulations concerning priests and use them as criteria for the elders of the Christian congregations. But the point is, these passages suggest that among Jews of the first century, Paul’s expression “because of the Angels” may have been a conventional way of referring to the requirements of a sacred gathering. It would be quite natural to extend the concept, in a less stringent way, to all gatherings in which prayer is offered.

And so we might speculate that, by using this phrase, Paul means to say that if some unruly Corinthian women scorn the Church’s “dress code” in the prayer meetings, this tends to violate the sacred spirit of the gathering—especially if they are overly bold to take a leading part in the meetings, offering prayers on behalf of the men, and so forth. Surely the angels will frown on it! Under this interpretation we would have to assume that among the Corinthians the expression “because of the angels” would have been understood in this way, through Paul’s prior use of the phrase in his ministry among them.

As I indicated above, this is the interpretation accepted by most New Testament scholars. Although it is uncertain, there does not seem to be a better explanation of Paul’s phrase.

For further reading on the place of the angels in Judaism and early Christianity I recommend this page by Dr. Barry D. Smith of Atlantic Baptist University in Canada.

Michael Marlowe

June 2005

  1. English translation from The Dead Sea Scrolls. A New Translation, ed. Michael O. Wise, Martin G. Abegg , and Edward M. Cook (San Francisco: Harper, 1996), pp. 146-7.
  2. ibid, pp. 65-66. (Cont’d)

– – – – –

(Eguavon’s personal conclusion:

Without a woman’s long hair appearing on her head as her God-given covering, it is likely the angels will not necessarily minister to her when observing her (‘1’ footnote below). As pointed out near the beginning of my Part 2 post above, psalm 34:7 states that, ‘The Angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them’.

Therefore, angels are under no ‘obligation’ to “encamp” (or come near) to any woman that is not wearing her long hair ‘covering’ because not doing so is taken as an indirect rejection of the divine “headship” doctrine of God where her long hair symbolises a man’s authority over her, as explained in 1 Corinthians 11. That is, an indirect rejection of man as the head of the woman (v 3) and at the same time an incorrect appearance of submission before God.

Therefore, not wearing a hair covering amounts to sin where consequently the angels are not obligated to minister to, or confer blessings on her in the same way that any sin separates Christians from God (Isaiah 59:2; Psalm 66:18) (‘2’ below). In this regard, and as stated earlier, angels only obey God’s Word (Psalm 103:20) which means their assistance to, or ‘withdrawal’ from a person is purely the will of God.


  1. The Bible states that angels are watching us. 1st Corinthians 4:9 says, …”God has put us…on display…we have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men”; “Luke 15:10 – In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
  2. Isaiah 59:2 – “But your iniquities (sins) have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you”. Psalm 66:18 states: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened”).