I Corinthians 11:3-16
– It sounds like the Bible is saying that women must cover their heads when they pray.
– This is a very misunderstood scripture.
– There are two possible interpretations:

Cultural Modesty

I Corinthians 11:2

– The word “teachings” in Greek is paradoseis. It means can also be translated as “traditions”.
– The veil was a sign of subjugation.
– It was a tradition (and not a teaching of Christ) at this time for women to worship with their heads covered.

I Corinthians 11:8
– The world’s view of women at the time was “women from man, not man from women.”
– God’s views are always different than the world’s.

I Corinthians 11:11
– “In the Lord, however…” Now Paul is going into how God views women.
– Man is not independent of woman, nor woman from man.
– Woman and men are equal in God’s sight, although they have different roles.

I Corinthians 11:16
– Paul says, “we have no other practice…”
– “Contentious” is defined as “tending toward argument.”
– Paul is saying that their common practice is debatable, but it’s just what they’ve always done.

Interpretation: Head covering was a cultural practice in the first-century church for the sake of cultural modesty — sensitivity to the standards and customs of the society surrounding the church.

Analogy of Physical for the Spiritual

I Corinthians 11:3
– “The head of every man is Christ…the head of every woman is man.”
– Paul is defining what he’s talking about when he’s using the word “head” in the text.
– He’s making an analogy between our spiritual head — Christ for the man, and man for the woman — and our physical head.

– A man should not cover his “head” (Christ) when he prays to God. In other words, man cannot pray except through his head, Christ, and man cannot go around Christ. Christ is the mediator between us and God. He is the head we need to pray through.
– A woman should cover her “head” (man) when she prays to God. In other words, a woman does not need to pray through her “head” (husband) to reach God. She can “cover” her head (husband) and pray directly to Christ!

Interpretation: Paul is using an analogy that is very misunderstood to teach the Corinthian church that women and men are equal in God’s eyes, and that women can have a relationship with God just the same as the men. This is a possible interpretation, as Paul often taught things that were difficult to understand. (II Peter 3:15-16)


– Head coverings is either a tradition, or it was a cultural practice that Paul used as an analogy.
– Women today should not have to be concerned for thier salvation if they do not practice covering thier head — although they are free to do so if they’d like.

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