Misty (aurora_nebulosa) wrote in historic_church,

Covering the Head

Consider the following passage, 1 Corinthians 11:4-16 (NAS):

"Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. 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. For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering. But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God."

So, is a woman's hair sufficient for her covering while prophesying or praying or should she, in addition, have a veil on her head? The phrase here translated "for a covering" is rendered in the Greek "anti peribolaiou". The preposition "anti" can carry with it the sense of "in the place of" while the word "peribolaion" can mean "a veil". This is then a good argument for the positive position. However, is this simply applying to "nature" (phusis) or does this apply to religious observance (or both)? Is "nature" here used as support for the instruction for a woman to have an additional covering or is Paul using this illustration to demonstrate that a woman's hair is sufficient covering? We might go back to the phrase that a woman having her hair uncovered is "one and the samne" ("hen gar estin kai to auto") as having it shorn or shaven; does Paul mean this in the most literal sense -- that if a woman has short or shaved hair, it is literally the same thing as if it were uncovered from a veil, because, in both cases, her head is considered uncovered? It is finally not at all unprofitable to consider the final line of this train of thought; "if one is inclined to be contentious...", and the rest of the line is problematic for me, as most translations make it out to mean that Paul/his associates have no other practice (besides what, exactly?), nor do the churches of God. The Greek, literally, seems to me to say, "we ourselves do not have such a kind of custom, nor do the churches of God". (Grk: "hemeis toiauten sunetheian ouk echomen, oude hai ekklesiai tou Theou.") Is Paul here saying that his associates as well as the churches do not have a custom of veiling? Or, is the opposite true; do they not have a practice of women being unveiled?

Apart from the Scriptures, is there any historical evidence as to what the early church practiced in this matter?
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