Are Women To Still Wear Veils?

This question stems from a study of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. It is not an easy question. We must look carefully at the historical context, the immediate context, the context of the letter, and the entirety of Scripture. We must remember that there are some eternal principles as well as transitory customs contained in Scripture. The eternal principle is the creation hierarchy that was established from the beginning of creation: God – man – woman (1 Timothy 2:12,13). When Christ entered the world, the paradigm of creation shifted to its present course: God – Christ – man – woman (1 Corinthians 11:3). This is God's structure of authority for both Christians and non-Christians.

In the historical context, the head covering was linked to the eternal or creational principle of female subordination. We know, however, that the head covering was a custom because it cannot be traced back to the garden of Eden where the chain of authority was first given (1 Timothy 2:13,14). In the context of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, the men were to keep their heads uncovered (1 Corinthians 11:4,7). But the women were to keep their heads covered (1 Corinthians 11:5,10). This passage in its historical context was stating that it was equally wrong for a woman to be uncovered as it was for a man to be covered. The reason to obey these instructions was because, in the Corinthians’ custom of covering the head, an uncovered woman was the same as disrespecting man's headship (1 Corinthians 11:5); it was shameful (1 Corinthians 11:6); and it was rebellion against subjection (1 Corinthians 11:10).

From the historical context, this was a practiced “custom” of head coverings for women (1 Corinthians 11:6-15). Paul was sanctioning an accepted practice that was already in effect. A woman wearing a head covering would be a sign of subordination in that culture (there are some indications that a woman shaving her head in the Corinthian culture was also linked to prostitution). Paul goes on to state that the head covering is a custom (1 Corinthians 11:16). Customarily, today, especially in the United States, women do not wear veils or head coverings; and if they do, it is not strongly linked or synonymous with the concept of subordination to the man(or prostitution).

There are some women today who are convinced in their own mind that the head covering mentioned in this passage applies to them, especially as they worship God in the presence of men. Though these women are not obligated to wear the veil according to the context of the passage (in light of the fact that we do not have a such a custom of veil = subordination or non-veil = disrespect and/or prostitution); nonetheless, for the sake of their conscience, wearing such a veil would be in keeping with the good principles of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. The only caveat to consider is that most women who wear such a veil today only wear it during the actual worship in the presence of men (in this context they were wearing the veil without men present); and most of the time it only covers a part of the hair (and not all); and many of these women have short hair (in other words, if you are going to take even the customary parts of the context as a mandate, you must take them all as a mandate, such as, all women must have long hair, all women must fully cover their long hair, all women must wear the head covering at all times - whether it be in worship with the men or out on the street as you do your daily tasks, etc.).

If today you live in a country where it is the custom of that culture for a woman to wear a veil in showing subjection to the man or to God, then you ought to - based on the principles of this passage.

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