Should Christian women wear scarfs/head coverings?

Christianity is not a religion! And by that, I mean Christianity is not a “religion” according to the contemporary sense of the word. The English word “religion” is derived from the Latin word “religio.” It is a compound word made up of two other Latin words: the prefix “re” (meaning “again”) and “ligo” (which means “to bind”). The Latin idea of the word is to take ALREADY free people and put them in bondage AGAIN! This is a COMPLETE opposite of what Christ came to do. Jesus came to set free!


Luke 4:18 (NKJV)
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed;

His work is clear; to proclaim liberty to the captives (those bound to sin & death). Anyone using “Jesus” as an excuse to keep people bound to legalistic & unscriptural practices today obviously hasn’t understood what He came to do.


John 8:36 (NKJV)
36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

He came to make free, not bind.


Paul warns against following principles blindly


Colossians 2:8-10 (NKJV)
8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.


He calls them the tradition of men, they do not stem from God and are not according to Christ. The believer is already complete in Him.


Hence he urges same to stand fast in liberty.


Galatians 5:1 (NKJV)
5 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free,and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.


“Fast” here refers to that which is firm & immovable. That is, don’t let anyone remove you from the liberty which Christ has made you free! Stand unshakable in freedom!


In Christ, we have a freedom to eat & drink as we please. There are no restrictions to same.


Colossians 2:16-19 (NKJV)
16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.


A freedom to use things or not use things without any fear of punishment.


Colossians 2:20-23 (NKJV)
20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.


Paul calls laws against the use of things the commandments and doctrines of men. They have an appearance of wisdom but in realty have NO VALUE! These religious acts seem good but they are useless. So much so that the writer of the Book of Hebrews calls them “dead works.”


Hebrews 9:13-14 (NKJV)
13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?


“Dead” referring to unproductive. Those things done in an attempt to please God outside Christ.


Now, the word ” religion” IS mentioned in the Bible but in a totally different light. The word is used in James 1:27


James 1:27 (NKJV)
27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.


The word “religion” as used here is translated from the Greek word “thréskeia.” It simply means “worship.” That’s the original idea of the word. It’s simply reverence for God.


In that sense, yes, Christianity is a religion. But it is not a system of dogmatic rules and regulations aimed at keeping people in bondage. It is always sad to see folks engage in certain religious practices passed down from generation to generation without even going to the Word to check FOR THEMSELVES if such practices are Biblical or not.


“Things have always been this way so they must be true”


Taking this position, really, is the starting point of error. The fact that a lie has been widely accepted as true DOES NOT make it true.


I’m grateful to God for our generation because now, more than ever, many are waking up and diligence in Bible study has been revived! Practices which have absolutely no backing in Scripture are being spotted and eradicated. One of such practices is the one commonly referred to as “head covering.”


This practice came about by a misinterpretion of 1st Corinthians 11. A proper exegesis of same should clear that out.


What exactly was Paul trying to pass across to the Church at Corinth in that chapter?


Well, let’s do a verse by verse analysis of the text, paying attention to the laws of Bible interpretation as we do so.


Paul begins by saying


1 Corinthians 11:1 (NKJV)
1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.


Actually, the original Greek manuscript reads, :
Imitators of me be, as I also [am] of Christ.


The word “imitators” as used here is translated from the Greek word “mimétés.” It is the root of the English term “mimic.” It refers to “one who imitates or follows in the same pattern as another.”


..just as I also imitate Christ.


This phrase is VERY key. Paul says to imitate him as he imitates Christ. This implies authority.


Now, in studying the textual criticism of this text, some have argued that verses 2-16 (the verses which deal with head coverings) were not present in the early Greek manuscripts but they were added later on as separate scrolls from the original Epistle by unknown scribes. They argue that verse 17 comes immediately after verse 1 in the earliest manuscripts.


Although this might be accurate, it would be gross indiscipline to overlook 14 verses of the Bible based on an argument! That would be too convenient. So we wouldn’t skip these verses but diligently exegete them.


1 Corinthians 11:2 (NKJV)
2 Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.


The word “tradition” as used here is translated from the Greek word “paradosis.” “Paradosis” is a compound word made up of two other Greek words: “pará” (meaning “from close-beside”) and “dídōmi” (meaning “give over”). It means to give (hand over) from close-beside, referring to tradition as passed on from one generation to the next.


The same word is used in Matthew 15:2


Matthew 15:2 (NKJV)
2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the TRADITION of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”


Referring to customs which have been passed down, either orally or in writing.


The key thing to note about the word ” paradosis” is that these traditions/customs are UNIQUE to a tribe/people and vary based on the societal inclinations of these people i.e these traditions differ from place to place. So by using this word, Paul is drawing their attention to a practice common AMONGST them (natives of Corinth).


1 Corinthians 11:3 (NKJV)
3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.


Here, Paul continues in the flow of thoughts from verse 1 (authority). The word “head” he uses here is translated from the old Greek word “kephalé.” It can be used in reference to a literal head (see Matthew 5:36, Mark 6:24 and Luke 7:38). It can also be used figuratively (as is the case here) to mean “a master or a lord.” (see Ephesians 4:15, Ephesians 5:23 and Colossians 2:19). In this case, it implies AUTHORITY and headship. So, the master of the man is Christ and the master of the woman is the man!


Now, follow closely.


The word “woman” in this text is a mistranslation and can be VERY misleading. It is translated from the Greek word “guné” which was also used as a term for a wife (see Matthew 1:20, 24). So, this is teaching authority WITHIN the context of MARRIAGE i.e between husband and wife. The “man” here refers to the husband, not EVERY MAN in the Church! This is VERY key as it shows that the custom about to be discussed is ONLY applicable to a MARRIED woman!


1 Corinthians 11:4-5 (NKJV)
4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.


Now, Paul continues EXPOUNDING on this custom common amongst the Corinthians. In studying the historical criticism of this text, we realize that back in Ancient Corinth, it was a common practice for a married woman to be veiled. An unveiled woman was usually regarded as unmarried and to an extreme, a prostitute. Prostitution (particularly “sacred harlotry” to the Greek goddess Aphrodite) was RAMPANT in Corinth. Headcovering was the societal norm to keep prostitution in check. Note what Greek philosopher/historian Plutarch says concerning this:


“When someone inquired why they took their girls into public places unveiled, but their married women veiled, he said, “Because the girls have to find husbands, and the married women have to keep to those who have them!” (Plutarch, Moralia 232c)


This was THEIR culture. A woman’s way of showing that she was under her husband’s authority, with no intentions of promiscuity, was by wearing a veil over her head. Just as today, in our day and age, in the Western culture, a woman would have a ring on to indicate the marital status. There’s ABSOLUTELY NOTHING spiritual about that, it is simply CULTURE being expressed.


In verses 4-5, Paul mentions spiritual activities (praying & prophesying) THEN he mentions head coverings, keeping in line with the culture of the Corinthians (This is where the idea that the use of head coverings must be employed by women during times of worship came from). The head coverings in these texts are literal but this is where audience relevance comes in: A man SHOULD NOT have a veil over his head, this was strange in THEIR culture. A man who does so dishonours his head!



The word “dishonour” as used here is translated from the Greek word “kataischuno.” It means “put to utter confusion.” “Kataischuno” is a compound Greek word made up of two other Greek words: “kata” (meaning “down”) and “aischunomai” (the early usage of the word means “to disfigure”). So, it’s quite simple: a man who wears a veil, does so contrary to the customs of the land. He is the head but by so doing, he confuses his headship! His role in the marriage is not made clear! He is taking upon himself the role of the wife (by wearing the veil belonging to her)!


6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.


A married woman who didn’t have her head covered IN THEIR CULTURE would be punished by having her head shorn or shaved. This shaving disfigures the head. If she will not physically honour her husband, she would be punished, treated as one without a husband.


7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man. 9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.


Notice what Paul does here. He then establishes authority as seen from the beginning.


He is quoting Genesis 2

18 And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.

23 And Adam said:

“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.


So, this woman was made FOR man. There is authority involved. Paul reiterates this. Remember that Paul was correcting several issues in the Corinthian Church through his Epistles to them, one of which was dishonour by wives to their husbands.


In that culture, a woman would have a veil on her head to honour her husband. Hence, Paul writing TO THEM, emphasizes this. Note that the overemphasis on head coverings was simply to teach honour & submission in marriage, while keeping in line with the prevalent culture amongst them.


Paul calls it a symbol of authority


10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.


Now, “because of the angels” here can be very misleading as well. It is a mistranslation. I remember growing up, we were taught how that a woman’s hair is “fire” in the sight of the angels of the Lord. Hence, if she left it opened in Church, the angels who brought blessings and laid them on our heads, could not bless her. Her hair would “burn” their hands! This misconception was drawn from this text. It’s funny how many such beliefs are built on simple mistranslations of certain Biblical texts. Let’s examine this, shall we?


“Angels” as used here is “aggelos” in the Greek. It simply refers to a messenger. This messenger could be human or celestial depending on the context in which the word is used.


The same word was used in Matthew 11:10


Matthew 11:10 (NKJV)

10 For this is he of whom it is written:
‘Behold, I send My MESSENGER before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.’


Messenger. Referring to John the Baptist, a human being. Notice that.


Also in Luke 9:51-52


Luke 9:51-52 (NKJV)
51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent MESSENGERS before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.


Messengers. Again referring to humans.


Galatians 4:14 (NKJV)
14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an ANGEL of God, even as Christ Jesus.


They received Paul as an angel of God. That is, one sent of God. His messenger.


And in James 2:25

25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the MESSENGERS and sent them out another way?


“Messengers” here is the same word “aggelos.” Referring to the spies sent to Jericho. The same were human beings, not spirits, yet “aggelos” was used.


In the book of Revelation, Jesus also writes to the “angels” of the 7 Churches.


Revelation 2:1 (NKJV)
1“To the ANGEL of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:


Obviously, these CANNOT be referring to celestial beings. How would Jesus write letters to angels?! That’s illogical. “Angels” here would refer to the pastors in those local Churches.


And this is consistent with 1 Corinthians 11:10. God has set an authority in the local Church (the pastor).

He is to command and teach


1 Timothy 4:11 (NKJV)
11 These things command and teach.


He has spiritual oversight in the local assembly


1 Timothy 3:4-5 (NKJV)
4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)


Hebrews 13:17 (NKJV)
17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.


They watch out for your souls.


2 Timothy 4:2 (NKJV)
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.


They are to exhort and teach. In this teaching is correction and instruction.


2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.


This will be very key in understanding what the Apostle Paul was passing across in 1 Corinthians 11:10


1 Corinthians 11:10 (NKJV)
10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.


The word “because of” as used here is translated from the Greek word “dia.” It is a term that has SEVERAL meanings in the Greek Lexicon (context would determine which applies to a specific text being interpreted). In this context, however, it would mean “by the service of, the intervention of,” denoting a causal effect of the actions of another.


“Dia” is used in the same vein in John 3:17


John 3:17 (NKJV)
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world THROUGH Him might be saved.


“Through” here is the same word “dia,” that is, through His service or intervention towards the world (mankind). He would do something (activity). The result being the salvation of the world.


So, back to 1 Corinthians 11:10

1 Corinthians 11:10 (NKJV)
10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.


What is Paul saying here?
Simple. He is asking the messengers (pastors in the Corinthian Church) to intervene, take charge! They are to do their job — instruct wives to honour their husbands. They are to see to it that Paul’s instructions are carried out to the letter.


The Epistles in those days were handwritten in large scrolls and were read out by the pastors as instructions to the congregation (History tells us that the Corinthian Church were about 20000. Obviously, they would have had several pastors who would carry out this task). The pastors are God’s visible authority in the local Church, by obeying them, they were obeying God.


So, verse 10 is better translated:

10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, let the pastors intervene, that is, ensure this is so.


Of course, this correction would be done via teaching.

11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.


While the wife is submitted to her husband in all things (including in her dressing), they are interconnected & interdependent IN THE LORD. The woman submits her authority to that of her husband.


Paul goes on to say

13 Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?


Why would he say “among yourselves”? Because he was telling them things pertaining to THEIR culture. In that culture, it would be unbecoming for a woman to pray with her head uncovered. She was showing dishonour to her husband by doing so. She was to have her head covered because she was A CORINTHIAN!


14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.


“Dishonour” here is poorly translated. It is the word “atimia” in the Greek. It means “of no recognized value or use.” That is, in nature (our physical makeup), men do not necessarily need long hair for beauty. They don’t necessarily have to style their hair like women do. Nature teaches this. Not that they can’t keep their hair long but it’s of no use of beauty to a man.


15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.


But a woman on the other hand, has her hair given to her for a covering. It is a glory to her. That’s why a married woman in that culture veiled her head. Leaving her head opened, IN THAT CULTURE, meant she was still available. Her glory was yet open to any man. But by veiling her head, she affirmed that this “glory” was for her husband only.


Then finally, he concludes

16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.


This verse is very key & the most important to this study. “Custom” as used is translated from the Greek word “sunétheia.” It refers to “a custom, habit or practice, that is, a DAILY lifestyle.”


Whilst this custom of head coverings was applicable to the Corinthians, Paul (a Jew) & other churches of God had no such custom! See that? Honour in marriage is relative & really is dependent on culture. Head covering to show honour CANNOT be applicable to us today, we are not Corinthians. In our age, a submissive wife, having a ring on & dressing seriously (not too exposing), in my opinion, is enough for honour. A veil is NOT required AT ALL.


All this issue about covering the hair has nothing to do with communing with God in any way. It wasn’t, even back then to the Corinthians. Without or without a veil, a woman can have fellowship with her Heavenly Father, perform spiritual activities, take up positions of authority in Church and lead! But in doing so, a woman shows honour to her husband in the best way society/culture/her husband demands and not use spiritual authority as an excuse to usurp authority from him.


The Bible teaches that


Ephesians 5:22-24 (NKJV)
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.


Colossians 3:18 (NKJV)
18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.


1 Peter 3:1-6 (NKJV)
1 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.


She is to honor her husband, even in her mode of dressing. In all, she is yet submitted to her husband. But this will be done in view of her own culture. I truth this helped. Let me know. Share with a friend too.


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2020.

1 Comment

  1. Lade

    This is so enlightening God bless you for this

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