Four Reasons Why Women Should Wear Head Coverings

Reason number one is NOT: because the Word of God says so. I mean, that reason is obvious, so it can go without being expressly stated.

As with any command, God isn’t required to delineate the reason why in order for us obey. And yet, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 mentions four purposes of the command of head covering. Each reason is much more nuanced and beautiful than a simple “because I said so.”

As we understand these four ideas surrounding the covering, our act of obedience transitions from (an often mindless) tradition to a exquisite picture and practice.

So, why do women wear a hat, veil or other device to cover their heads?

1. To honor her head.

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.

1 Corinthians 11: 3-5 (ESV)

“Head” in 1 Corinthians 11 refers both to authority structures and physical heads. A man doesn’t pray with his (physical) head covered because it would dishonor his head (Christ) A woman prays and prophesies with her head covered (her hair is the covering of her physical head, vs. 15). The (authoritative) head of a woman is her husband.

Thus, when she covers her head, a woman honors her husband. In the case of a young woman, whose head is her father, I would assume that praying and prophesying with her head covered, would honor her father. This is not implicitly stated in this passage however.

2. For a covering.

The Greek idea of the covering here is to cover wholly, hide or veil. Women wear a covering on their hair to wholly cover or hide their glory.

But, I believe that the term “head covering” is a bit of a misnomer and has caused confusion on this issue. What do I mean?

What’s being covered is the “glory.” Man’s glory (the woman), and woman’s glory (her hair). God’s glory (man) is NOT covered and thus is the only glory seen when we gather together.

For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.

1 Corinthians 11:7 (ESV)

A woman’s head is already covered by her hair, but her glory is to be covered so only God’s glory is seen.

It’s not splitting hairs. It’s an important distinction. We need to understand the difference so we correctly teach about headship, glory, and coverings to both the young men and young women in our assemblies.

Otherwise we will have whole generations who tell you the reason they cover their head is because they are submissive to their husbands. Or the reason they don’t cover their head is because they have hair.

3. As a symbol of authority.

I cover my head because I’m submissive to my husband.

That’s nice. But, no. That’s not a purpose of the head covering.

For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.

1 Corinthians 11: 8-10 (ESV)

Submission and authority are intrinsically tied together, but they are not the same thing.

When we see a general’s stars and bars, we don’t say, “wow! He sure has a lot of people over him!” We see his stars and bars as a symbol of authority and responsibility. He is in charge of, and responsible for, a whole lot of people.

Why would the head covering as a symbol of authority be any different?

And what authority would it symbolize?

It’s the authority to pray and prophesy (vs. 5) and teach (Titus 2: 3-5). It’s NOT the authority to pray, prophesy and teach in all contexts. It’s the authority to pray, prophesy and teach within Biblical parameters.

4. As a testimony to the angels

Who is this picture for? The angels. They witness this complete picture…the heads, the glories, the coverings…all of it.

I don’t know why it’s for their benefit. I don’t know. But it does remind me of the scene in Revelation 5.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, 

‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’

Revelation 5: 11, 12 (ESV)

Most women wear a veil at their own wedding. I wonder how the two ideas (head covering and wedding veils) are related? The church is the bride of Christ. The angels are looking on as the bride of Christ gathers. It reminds me of this future scene from Revelation 19:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

Revelation 19: 6-8 (ESV)

As a woman, why do you cover your head? As an older woman, what have you taught the younger women about head coverings? As a man, how does your idea of the head covering line up with what the Bible teaches? What other reasons would you cite that I didn’t cover?

Bernadette Veenstra

    2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Thank you for your thoughts on this, at times, controversial and often misunderstood topic. I also believe that the “testimony for the angels” could serve as a reminder of what they witnessed with Lucifer’s rejection of the Lord’s authority, his refusal to cover his glory, and his rebellion. For me the head covering symbolizes that the church is about the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, not the glory of mankind. Thanks for posting your article!

    Reply

    • Bernadette Veenstra

      Bernadette Veenstra

      Now you’ve given me something to dig more into. My husband and I talked about this (Lucifer and the fallen angels) this morning over coffee. And I like the idea that the church is about the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, not the glory of mankind. So true.

      Reply

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