|1 Corinthians 11:11-13 |
11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord.
12 For as the woman is from the man, even so is the man also born of the woman; but all things are from God.
13 Judge for yourselves; is it proper that a woman pray to God uncovered?2
2 Paul was writing in a different era, where it was very common and considered proper for a woman to wear a covering on her head. The covering was in fact a full veil, to hide her face and neck in modesty. Here are several quotations that show this was the custom throughout the early Church :
Clement of Alexandria, an elder writing from Egypt around the year 190, counseled:
"Let the woman observe this, further. Let her be entirely covered, unless she happens to be at home. For that style of dress is grave, and protects from being gazed at. And she will never fall, who puts before her eyes modesty, and her shawl; nor will she invite another to fall into sin by uncovering her face. For this is the wish of the Word, since it is becoming for her to pray veiled." [Clement, The Instructor 3.12]
Hippolytus, a leader in the church at Rome around the year 200, compiled a record of the various customs and practices in that church from the generations that preceded him. His Apostolic Tradition contains this statement:
And let all the women have their heads covered with an opaque cloth, not with a veil of thin linen, for this is not a true covering. [Hippolytus Apostolic Tradition]
In a book by Dr Lloyd Llewellyn Jones, of the University of Exeter, he has traced women commonly using a full veil of head and face in ancient Greece between 900BC and 200AD. Roman women wore veils rather than hats because hats covered up their elaborate hair-styles.
From the word of God within: "women of that era who prayed with their heads uncovered were considered unstable souls." I don't think this generation can comprehend the degree to which culture can completely prejudice its members. For example, in 17th Century England, a man without a hat out-of-doors was considered insane. Culture can persuade us beyond simple reasoning. This is exactly the same kind of cultural taboo that existed in the Apostles early church, only in that time it applied to women's heads being covered in their meetings.
Today, at least in the western industrialized nations, you do not see women wearing veils or even hats; rather any hats worn by women are typically baseball caps in their outdoor recreation to be in fashion. So, I follow Paul's instructions in verse 13 above: Judge for yourself, is it proper that a woman pray to God uncovered? Yes; today in the western world it is widespread, typical, and not at all considered unmannerly or improper for a woman to pray without a hat, veil, burka, or any other covering. So to suggest that all women of a group must wear a covering on their heads, creates a distasteful display of religion, rather than conformance to an accepted or proper standard of society. In other cultures where it is considered proper for a woman to cover her head or even wear a veil, so she should be covered in prayer.
In all ages, the Lord will give commands for gospel order within the assemblies of believers meeting in the true hope, true gospel, and true faith. These commands can differ from age to age. For example, the early Quakers were given several commands including: 1) to address all individuals as thee and thou, and not you; for at the time, you was demanded by important people who were insulted if addressed as thee or thou, which was how the commoners were addressed, and 2) to never address anyone as Mister, because it was a contraction of the word Master, only given again to important people. Both were terms that expressed honor to men. The commands made sense at the time, but today they clearly don't because the words do not demonstrate a respect to only important men; so the Lord no longer desires these commands to be observed. The same can be said about some of Paul's commands of his time, particularly relating to the covering of the woman's head. To automatically retain elements of gospel order from centuries past, results in a form being created; the form being external observations, rituals, or practices that supposedly grant godliness, but in fact betray faith, grace, and obedience to the word heard from within.
These commands are different than the outward law and moral law that is written on every man's heart: do not steal, do not lie, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not covet, etc.; those never change with the time, and extend through the entire New and Old Testaments.
Finally, even George Fox in Letter 199 spoke against the necessity of women wearing hats in prayer at a time when almost every woman wore a bonnet; he said it was an outward form, the practice of which was making differing sects.