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Home > Dictionaries > Holman Bible Dictionary > COVERING THE HEAD

Holman Bible Dictionary

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In 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, Paul dealt with the matter of covering the head in worship services. This extended treatment shows that this must have been a subject of considerable interest in Corinth.

The Jewish custom was for all women to cover their heads with a veil when they went outside their homes. To appear in public without a veil was a sign of immodesty and lack of virtue. To appear in a worship service without a veil was unthinkable.

Some of the Corinthian Christian women had evidently appeared in worship without a veil on their heads. Perhaps they had understood Paul's emphasis on Christian freedom to mean that they no longer had to observe any of the old Jewish customs—including that of wearing a veil.

The effects of such a change in dress style had been disruptive to the worship services and Christian witness in Corinth. This led Paul to state that a woman should cover her head during the worship service. At the same time, he encouraged the men to follow the Jewish custom of worshiping with uncovered heads.

Paul cited various reasons in 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 for his position. He referred to: (1) the order in creation (1 Corinthians 11:3), (2) social customs of the time (1 Corinthians 11:4-6), (3) the presence of angels (1 Corinthians 11:10), (4) nature itself (1 Corinthians 11:13-15), and (5) the common practice in the churches (1 Corinthians 11:16).

The principle here is that Christians must be sensitive to the cultures in which they live. They should not needlessly flout local customs unless there is some moral reason to do so. To be insensitive to the culture in which one lives causes one to offend many of the people whom the church is trying to win to Jesus Christ. It diverts attention away from the most important thing and focuses it on peripheral matters. See Corinth; Worship; Women.

Lynn Jones

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'COVERING THE HEAD'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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