In the first verse of 1 Corinthians chapter 11 we see Paul the Apostle is exhorting the Corinthian church to follow him as he follows Christ.
In the second verse Paul is telling the church to keep the ordinances (traditions).
In verse three the ordinance (order of things pertaining to headship) is discussed. This is the hierarchy of headship in the body of Christ:
Christ (the anointed one; Jesus as a Son)
(From here on out I will use numbers and a right angle [ Example: 8) ] parenthesis to express what verse I am at unless otherwise indicated.)
4) Paul covers the topic of praying and prophesying within the church. For men it is a dishonor to have his head covered. What is considered being “covered” infer?
5) Paul notes in this next verse that every woman praying and prophesying with her head uncovered dishonors her head “for it is all one as if she were shaven”.
The second part of verse 5 denotes a comparison being uncovered and it is likened (compared) to being shaven.
6) This verse clarifies that if a woman is shorn or shaven that she must be covered. Well, a woman who has hair that has been cut or who is shaven obviously cannot regrow her hair right there and then for it to be long enough so her prayers and prophesying will not be dishonorable anymore, so obviously this scripture is talking about a head covering such as a veil or shawl.
7 – 9) These next few verses discusses how God created man to the glory of God as woman is the glory of man and their creation represented.
10) It is this representation of reasoning that a woman ought to have power on her head. What is this power? This will be discussed shortly.
11) Neither man nor woman are independent of each other.
12) Woman was created out of the rib of a man and man comes forth out of the womb of woman.
13) Paul the Apostle is now telling the Corinthian church to judge in themselves about whether it comely (proper) for a woman to pray to God uncovered.
I ask this question again: May a woman who has short hair who is shaven of her hair pray to God or must she wait to pray to God until her gets long again?
14) Also for a man: How short must his hair be for it to be considered not a shame no more?
15) “But if a woman have long hair it is a glory to her: for her hair is giving as a covering”.
If we look at verses 5, 6, and 15 and thus taken as a whole from the verses Paul is saying if a woman who has short or shaven hair she must be covered. If the scripture was about hair and her is her covering as the scripture just said in than how is she to covered if she has short or a shaved head already. It obviously will not grow back right away. The obvious answer to this is she would be wearing a veil or shawl upon her head, but if she has long hair she is already covered and has no need of a veil or shawl.
16) Paul then makes the statement about “But if any man seem to be contentious we have no such custom, neither do the churches of God.” (“Any man” means anyone in this context not pertaining to the gender of a person).
The custom is of veils, shawls, and tradition of long hair on woman and short hair for men of course.
Long hair, no hair, short hair, veil, or shawl, or no veil or shawl is not a heaven or hell issue otherwise Paul would not have said “…we have no such custom…”.
To go deeper into this I will speak of prayer and prophesying because one has to look at 1 Corinthians as a whole and not in part because chapters and verses did not exist in the original text of the written Word of God.
The context of verses 4 and 5 happens during a church service; thus praying and prophesying so it is must need be that a woman be covered and a man uncovered.
Paul is definitely addressing this as an ordinance (tradition) within the church because if you see verse 22-25 of chapter 11 Paul is addressing another issue concerning communion with the church service. Paul the Apostle had to address several issues for order in the church during services throughout 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians as the church of Corinth had many order issues.
Outside the general assembly of the saints praying and prophesying with coverings or no coverings does not apply. Members of the body of Christ may pray or prophesy with or with a covering outside of church service. There is no need for woman to be covered outside service with a veil or shawl or a man can wear a shawl himself.
In the book of Acts in chapter 18 verse 18 Paul the Apostle had a vow. In which case his hair was uncut. He this vow long after his conversion to Christianity.
This would be contradictory to the epistle he wrote regarding men having long hair in 1 Corinthians 11.
Paul also prayed before he cut his hair and his vow was over (see Acts 16:16). In 1 Corinthians Paul states it is a dishonor to pray or prophesy with a man’s head covered. If the chapter in 1 Corinthians 11 was talking about hair length for a man than Paul the Apostle would be have been praying unto God and that would have been a dishonor since he had a vow that involved him having long hair or with a shawl.
This again denotes that praying prophesying for the church for a man was to be done uncovered meaning they either had to have short hair or not wear a shawl. I empathize though that this was a custom that the churches were given a choice about that custom being whether women and men were to wear veil or shawl or the particulars concerning hair length.
Now, concerning “power on the head”; this power concerns authority. This authority is man over woman in submission, God over Christ, and Christ over man in headship. The angels recognize this headship as God is over the angels as well.
We must keep the ordinance (traditions) pertaining to headship, but we may choose to keep the custom without it becoming a law unto all in the body of Christ.
Headship is the key to this entire chapter and not head coverings as head coverings was only meant as a sign of headship, but as Paul stated…, “…if there be any contention…”, there is much contention on this subject and its application so we do have a choice.
Melissa Rose Breusch