Just cultural, or not?

6 Sep

This might end up being one of my least popular posts.

I have actually been thinking about this issue for quite some time, and the post I read on a blog I love yesterday has had it on the front of my mind all day, in my Bible deeply, and in conversation with my husband last night.

I didn’t fully agree with the blog I read.  Otherwise, I would just link you to it.  So, let me try to put some words to the issue at hand and see how you feel when I’m all finished.

The section of scripture we’re going to use is: I Corinthians 11:2-16 (I like the NASB version when I’m studying because it is a WORD for WORD translation instead of a MEANING for MEANING translation, like the NIV which can sometimes turn the original text slightly.)

2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that [a]Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of [b]Christ. 4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. 5 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 [c]whose head is shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover [d]her head, let her also [e]have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to [f]have her hair cut off or [g]her head shaved, let her cover [h]her head. 7 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. 8 For man [i]does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. 10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman [j]independent of man, nor is man [k]independent of woman. 12 For as the woman [l]originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things [m]originate from God. 13 Judge [n]for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 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. 16 But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no [o]other practice, nor have the churches of God.


Now, if you were like me for 29 years, you read that section of scripture and you’re already yelling at your computer that “this is cultural” or “Paul was specifically talking to the Corinthians” “THIS IS NOT APPLICABLE TODAY!!”

I’m not totally disagreeing with you. Remember always that when we study God’s word, CONTEXT IS KING, and that is extremely important. Keep reading.

First of all, head coverings were/are cultural.  I’m not suggesting they weren’t/aren’t; as in some cultures the women still wear scarves or other head dresses on their head.

Secondly, Paul WAS speaking to the Corinthians. Otherwise, he might have included this in his other letters (as he repeated ideas and truths in multiple letters to other churches that were universal issues.)  They were having a very specific issue in the church. Many of the women in the area were living sinful lives and participating in prostitution.  And some of them were in the church or visiting the church.  Paul was giving the Godly women instruction to set themselves apart.  He was saying “This is how we will know who we are.  Our women will cover their heads when they pray to show a sign of authority.”  ((This comes from studying the time, culture, and the rest of the letter to get a better idea of why Paul included this section of text.))

That being said, I want to bring up a few other points.

One: Paul makes some arguments about why he is instructing them to do this that are NOT cultural that shouldn’t be overlooked and dismissed quickly without further attention.

7 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.

The woman is the glory of man.  That is not cultural.  That is God’s design from the beginning.  Think about this a second- do men still remove their hats when it is time to pray? Why? Because they are giving their respect to God and submitting and recognizing Him as the authority in their lives.

I honestly believe women stopped showing men respect with physical symbols like head coverings when women’s rights became so popular.  In an attempt to be equals, we lost submission to their authority in our lives.

Two: 10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

Angels are not cultural. They are eternal beings.  I am not going to type here like I fully understand this, because I don’t.  But I do know that Ephesians 3:10 further supports that God’s plan is that through the church (the body of believers) His wisdom would be made known to the authorities in the heavenly realms.  Our lives and redemption is a sign to the Angels of God’s supreme wisdom and design.

Sometimes what God calls us to do is bigger than us.

Three: 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

In the last section here Paul is telling them that they know this is the custom even before his sharing this letter.  And yet at the end of verse 15 he says “For her hair is given to her for a covering.”

Why is that important when their custom was to use a head covering? Because of what he says next.

16 But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.

This is extremely important.  Right here, in the conclusion of what Paul is trying to drive home to them, he clearly makes a point that most of us miss completely because we’ve already decided this section of scripture does not apply to us anymore because it was cultural.

Paul says, “nor have the churches of God.”  He stops writing just to the Corinthians about the Corinthians problem they are having and draws a parallel that not only do we have no other practice, neither does the rest of the ‘C’hurch.

Just think about this for a second.  If this was a problem the Corinthians were having, could we possibly be having the same problem today?

By appearance, are we able to distinguish who is a Christ follower and who is not in the world, and in the church?  If Paul thought it was important for the Corinthians to know and understand this when it was a problem in their time, why wouldn’t we learn that when history repeats itself, that there is a lesson to be learned in here for us?

There are things I don’t know how to define.

How long is long enough for a woman’s hair to be her glory and become her covering?  I don’t see from this context anywhere that no scissors should ever touch a woman’s head.  Maybe some would contest that from another section of scripture, but this section of scripture doesn’t refute regular trims to keep hair healthy and manageable.

Practical Application:

Spend some time in this section of scripture.  Search for original text and study the culture.


Seek the advice of your husband (or father if you are not married.)   From what I understand, this section of scripture is about showing respect and submission for the authority over you.  If you husband does not want you to cover your head if you have short hair when you pray, or for you to grow your hair out long, then be submissive to your own husband.  But, I suggest going through all these points together first just to be sure you have both studied it without writing it off to just being a cultural thing from Paul’s day.

*Just to make sure I haven’t confused anyone, I’m not saying any woman must cover her head or have long hair.  Especially all the time.  Even to the Corinthians Paul said “while prophesying or praying.”

I certainly don’t read that if you don’t you’re sinning from this text anywhere!  I do read that it is a sign of authority, but I don’t read “sin”.

I simply want to challenge us to determine if there is anything applicable to us in this text instead of quickly dismissing it as a section that doesn’t pertain to us in any way. I think we have the same problem in the world today as Paul did and I think his solution is still practical today, not just cultural.




4 Responses to “Just cultural, or not?”

  1. RaZella September 7, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    WOW. I have to say I greatly enjoyed reading your thoughts on this text. I’ve often had the same thoughts, “concepts”, (not sure how to word this) going around in my own mind. “In an attempt to be equals, we lost submission to their authority in our lives.” I completely agree with this sentence, and confess, struggle with this! Submission has been a huge struggle for me. However, I won’t ramble. Loved the post, will def be looking this one over with the hubs and thinking about it.

    • kaylagulick September 7, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

      Awesome! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It is so difficult to look at these passages of scripture that are so “foreign” even in Christian circles and churches because we have enough to battle every day not being “of the world” as it is. I’m excited to see your heart on fire for submission no matter what that looks like! God Bless!

      • Valerie Norris September 29, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

        I’m not sure how I missed this one! I just stumbled upon it though and have to say that this is an issue that has come up a few times in the past year or so for me, that I couldn’t quite get past. I was talking to my grandmother (78) one day and she expressed that she remembers always wearing a bonnet to church or a little scarfy-type thing. Her generation was raised that way, possibly the last. We’re still not decided what this means for our lives 100% but I appreciate you hitting on this topic, as it does give yet another insight to this topic!

      • kaylagulick September 29, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

        Thanks Val!

        I don’t know exactly what it looks like either.. but I just know it needs more attention than being blown off.

        Praying God will reveal His word to us more clearly every day!

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