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Men's and Women's Roles in the Bible
Head Coverings - Should women wear a hat in church?

1 Cor. 11:3-16 KJV Notes
3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. A differentiation of roles is here given in a heirarchical manner: (1) God, (2) Jesus, (3) Man, (4) Woman. In verse 10, these roles are related to authority.
4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
Acknowledging mens’ and womens’ roles is important especially when approaching God in prayer (see also verse 13) or prophesying. Recognizing authority and submitting to it is part of properly participating in spiritual activities.

YLT: “Every woman praying or prophesying with the head uncovered, doth dishonour her own head, for it is one and the same thing with her being shaven.”
NASB: “But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.”


Being uncovered means having sheared hair (like a sheep). It is the same thing. Notice the way the YLT version reads that it is one and the same thing with her being shaven" and the NASB version reads that “she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.” A covering could be a hat or hair that isn't cut really short. In verse 15, this is further clarified because hair is stated to be a covering itself.
6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn [shear]: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. YLT: “for if a woman is not covered -- then let her be shorn, and if [it is] a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven -- let her be covered;”
NIV: “For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.”


In other words, if a woman’s head is not wholly covered (katakalyptō), then (kai) she is shorn (keirō). Very short hair (sheared) and baldness (shaven) are both related to masculinity and not being covered. Since verses 5 and 15 clarify that a woman's hair is her covering, then she should use her hair as a covering by keeping a feminine style, or if she has no hair then cover her head with something else when praying/prophesying.
7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
8 For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.
9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. NASB: “10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.”
NLT: “10 For this reason, and because the angels are watching, a woman should wear a covering on her head to show she is under authority.”

A man shouldn’t cover his head (have hair that isn’t sheared, or short), because he wasn’t created to be under the authority of the woman. Because the woman was created “of the man” (from a rib taken out of him - Gen. 2:21-23) and created “for the man” (to be a helper or to aid him - Gen. 2:18), she should have her head covered to show she is under the authority of the man. Hair is a symbol. Using the symbol properly shows the onlooking angels that you acknowledge and submit to God’s authority and obey His instructions. Understand that authority, in God's eyes, does not mean oppression, manipulation or selfishness. God created everything good and men's and women's roles were also created good.

Following the proper roles is important because the relationship between a man and woman is used in the Bible to illustrate the relationship of Jesus to the church. Man and woman are to reflect or demonstrate the headship of Jesus in His relationship with His people/church (the Bible often likens God's people to a woman or bride - Jer. 6:2, Ez. 16, Jn. 3:29, Rev. 21:9). Jesus represents and leads His people with kindness and unselfishness. Disrespecting the symbol by redefining roles or abusing others in the name of your role, is dangerous because it indicates a disrespect or misunderstanding of that which the roles symbolize.
11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
NASB: “However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.”

Men and women need each other and both owe everything they are to God.
13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
NTL: “And isn’t long hair a woman’s pride and joy? For it has been given to her as a covering.”
YLT: “and a woman, if she have long hair, a glory it is to her, because the hair instead of a covering hath been given to her;”


Believers are asked to make a judgment call, based on what “nature itself” teaches, or what seems like the natural development or disposition of a man and woman’s hair. This goes along with the previous verses’ reference to creation and how man and woman were originally created to be. Note that this passage is not presented in culturally sensitive language that is only applicable to the Bible writer’s time, but rather speaks of natural evidence based on creation.

A woman’s hair is given to her (by God in creation) as a covering, or in place of a covering.

It is not suitable or right (“comely”) to pray to God without acknowledging the authority He has established. The symbol of that authority for the woman is hair, so she shouldn’t shear or shave it off.
16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God. NASB: “But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.”

The churches were in agreement on the matter.


Summary:

There are different roles assigned to men and women by God at creation. The heirarchy of the roles was not the result of sin, but rather part of God’s original plan for order and harmony. Because of the heirarchy of a woman having a man as her head, it is fitting that the woman have something covering her physical head as a symbol of that authority. Her hair is given to her for this. Her hair is her covering. A woman’s hair should be feminine and a man’s masculine.

It is not shameful or demeaning to take up a role at any level of the heirarchy, as evidenced by Jesus submitting to the authority of God: (a) God, (b) Jesus, (c) Man, (d) Woman. These roles for man and woman are not culturally determined, but are God’s design from the beginning when He made male and female and pronounced it very good (Gen. 1:31).