Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: The Cover Story-Part 2

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The next reason I think that women in the first century wore head coverings all the time as a sign of their submission is a textual reason. It’s the one, of course (as Biblical reasons are), that gives me clarity about this.  It’s 1 Corinthians 11:5. As I look at this verse, I have to follow the rules of good exegesis. That means, if there’s one way to look at it that violates no other clear passage, then that’s the way I have to read it. It says…

But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

Now, we know that Christian women prayed and prophesied in New Testament times. We know it from this passage. But we also know it from Acts 2:17 and Acts 21:7-9. We can see, particularly from the passage in Acts 2, that the gifts that confirmed the word were not reserved for men. Women could also receive these miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. For sure, they could receive the gift of prophecy, as did the daughters of Philip in Acts 21. 

But we can be just as certain about the fact that they did not (with God’s approval) use these gifts in a mixed assembly as we can about their having them in the first place. We have this certainty because of the very clear teaching of 1 Corinthians 14:34:

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also says the law. 

Which one of the above passages do we “go with” in a discussion of head coverings? Did they cover their heads when praying and prophesy or did they keep silence in the churches? The answer, of course, is that they did both. We simply cannot pit one verse against another when examining Paul’s Holy Spirit-inspired teachings.  Thus, the obvious conclusion is that the “praying and prophesying” of 1Corinthians 11:5 has to be what godly women did outside of a mixed worship assembly. 

Are there Bible passages that would give us examples of women teaching outside of the mixed worship assembly? There are. One is the very valuable teaching that women do in the presence of women that’s the preventative for Holy Spirit blasphemy in Titus 2:3-5.  

Godly women were teachers. Godly women wore head coverings. But the wearing of those head coverings were in no wise limited to the worship assemblies. In fact, the admonition in 1 Corinthians 11:5  was not about the assembly, at all. The modern practice of the wearing of head coverings as women enter the worship service was not what was commanded in 1 Corinthians 11, because women were not prophesying in the presence of men. 

More next time. 

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