Some Questions on I Corinthians 11:1-16 about Veiling

During my trip to the Cagayan Valley in the first week of February this year, I was asked some questions about the woman’s veil or the woman’s head being shorn. I would like to share with you my reflections on 1 Cor. 11:1-16. Perhaps presenting the issues in question form would be helpful.

Questions #1: How many interpretations have Bible students arrived at about the woman’s veil or woman’s head being shorn?

Answer: There are several major conclusions arrived at which are the following: (a) All females attending church services should be veiled or else her head is shorn from the moment they step into the assembly hall until the end of the worship service including the Bible Study hour applicable from the first century up to the end of the world as a sign of subordination of females to male headship; (b) Veiling or head being shorn was a cultural tradition in the first century in the Bible lands to show female subordination to male headship when a woman goes out of the house including attendance in church services but it is not applicable in the Philippines; (c) The long hair in verse 15 is the veil in verses 5-6; and (d) There are two acts or periods specified in the text when a female who is Holy Spirit inspired which are “praying” or “prophesying” which acts were public and leadership roles in the first century during which a woman should wear a veil or else her head be shorn, however, Holy Spirit direct inspiration ceased by the end of the first century, therefore no female in the 21st century leads in “praying” or “prophesying” among Churches of Christ hence there is no basis for requiring a symbol of female subordination today.

Question #2: In your opinion, which among the four points of view is most consistent or correct?

Answer: I believe that position #4 above is most consistent or correct.

Question #3: Were there women who “prayed” or “prophesied” during the time of the Apostle Paul in the first century of the Christian era?

Answer: Yes, there were or else the Apostle would have not given the instruction. Prophesying by women was foretold in Joel 2:28-31; its fulfillment is recognized in Acts 2:16-21; and actually done according to Acts 21:8-9.

Question #4: Was the act of “praying” or “prophesying” in the contemplation of 1 Cor. 11:5-6 a public and leadership role for women?

Answer: Yes, both actions were leadership roles whether done by male or female. Leadership role is inherent in the term “prophesying.” A prophet, when inspired by God or by the Holy Spirit would stand up in public and proclaimed or expounded God’s message. It follows that in the context of 1 Cor. 11, “praying” is also a leadership role or a public act or church assembly act.

Question #5: What is the significance of the active voice of the verbs “praying” or “prophesying”?

Answer: The active voice of the verbs “praying” or “prophesying” is very significant as much as the passive voice of the verb “”be baptized” in Acts 2:38 and 22:16. The active voice demands that the subject person actually does the act of the verb. The verbs actually done by the woman subject is “praying” or “prophesying.” A woman should actually do the act when she is required to put on the veil or else be shorn. If she does not do either act, she is not required to put on the veil or is not told to be shorn.

The passive voice of the verb in Acts 2:38 and 22:16 demands that the subject person should have somebody to baptize him. The subject person does a disobedient act if he himself baptizes himself. Likewise, a woman does a disobedient act if she wears the veil when she is not praying or prophesying.

Question #6: Veiling advocates believe that Christian women should be veiled or else her head be shorn throughout the period of the assembly including the Bible Study hour, is this correct?

Answer: The passage is very clear that there are only two acts or periods when veiling or head be shorn is required: (a) when a woman actually “prays,” or (b) when a woman actually “prophesies.”

Question #7: What is wrong if a woman veils even when she’s not “praying” or “prophesying”?

Answer: Veiling or having the head shorn when not in the act of “praying” or “prophesying” is wrong because the specified acts when the veil is required are listed: praying or prophesying. To wear the veil or have the head shorn during other acts that are not specified would be going beyond what is written as read in 1 Cor. 4:6 and it is an addition according to Rev. 22:18-20. We apply the Law of Specificity or Law of Exclusivity when we analyze Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 about the instrument used. Heart is specified instrument so it excludes mechanical instruments. We should apply these hermeneutical axioms in 1 Cor. 11:5-6 to be consistent.

Question #8: Do women members do the act of “praying” or “prophesying” as contemplated in 1 Cor. 11:5-6 when they are silent and seated during the Bible Study hour which is facilitated by a male teacher?

Answer: No, they are not praying or prophesying during the Bible Study hour so they should not wear the veil nor have their heads shorn. Their being seated and listening shows their subordination to male headship. Double subordination is not contemplated in the text.

Question #9: Do Churches of Christ women in the 21st century do the act of “praying” or “prophesying” when they are silent and seated during the sermon which is delivered by a male preacher?

Answer: No, they are not “praying” or “prophesying” as contemplated in 1 Cor. 11:5-6 during the sermon delivery period because they are seated and they intently listen. During the sermon period, women are not commanded to wear veil or their head shorn. Being seated and listening intently are actions of women that show their subordination so there’s no need for the symbol of subordination.

Question #10: How do we know that there is no more direct Holy Spirit inspiration among Churches of Christ women in the 21st century?

Answer: Prophesying was one of the miraculous and spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit in the first century. See Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Also the lexicons of Liddell and Scott, Arndt and Gingrich, and Louw-Nida. It is the general belief of Churches of Christ that the miraculous spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased by the year 100 A.D. This view is based on 1 Cor. 13:8-11. No new message, no new instruction, is given to female members today. No Holy Spirit inspired prayer or empowerment is given today among women. When the NT or the gospel was fully revealed and generally understood by the first century churches, the miraculous HS operation ceased.

Question #11: The woman’s veil or having the head shorn is required “because of the angels” says v. 10, is the presence of angels sufficient ground to require a woman to wear her veil today?

Answer: Sound biblical hermeneutics tells us that verse 10 should not be taken apart from the context of verses 1-16. The main lesson in this section is the recognition of a hierarchy of authority which is God down to Christ down to the male and down to the female. We in the Churches of Christ recognize this hierarchy of authority by invoking 1 Cor. 14:33-35 and 1 Tim. 2:8-11. A woman who did the leadership role of standing up to pronounce a new message of God or expounded God’s message or instruction before the congregation in the first century when she was moved by the Holy Spirit invaded the male domain of authority. While she invaded the authority domain, she was made herself equal to male leaders, but even if she was occupied the teaching authority of man during the prophesying period, she could declare subordination to man’s authority by putting on her veil or else be shorn. But since no woman in the Churches of Christ stands up today to prophesy or lead prayers, she does not need to show a symbol of subordination. Her silence while she’s seated and allowing male leaders to teach and lead prayers and lead songs are in themselves declarations of subordination. When a woman openly declares her subordination by her silence and being seated, there is no need to make a double declaration of subordination by wearing the veil which is a symbol of subordination.

Matthew 18:10 tells us of angels who continuously keep an eye on believers; Hebrews 1:14 tells of angels who minister to those who are interested in salvation. I’d venture to say that angels are interested in our salvation and would become unhappy when we disobey. A woman who was moved by the Holy Spirit in the first century ventured into the male authority domain so she was required to wear the veil to declare her recognition of male leadership. Failure to declare her recognition of male leadership by putting on her veil while she stood up before the congregation to expound a new message or instruction while inspired by the Holy Spirit would be a form of disobedience and would have made the angels unhappy. Angels who went beyond the boundary set by God were rebellious and were sentence with a heavy penalty. A woman who does not recognize the headship of male leaders would commit the same rebellion as the angels in Jude 6 who didn’t keep the God-defined sphere. Or we could venture to the idea that angels would report such disobedience to the Supreme God.

Question 12: Is it correct to say that the covering in v. 15 is the same as the veil in vs. 5-6?

Answer: This view seems very unnatural in a literary point of view. The apostle argues strongly for an artificial covering for women from verse 4 down to 14. To cancel the argument for an artificial covering in verse 15 is simply against literary logic and common sense. Culturally, this point of view is also incorrect because historians and Bible scholars testify that Greek women during the apostolic period put on the material covering when they went out to the market or to the public assembly including religious activities. Textually, the two should be different because the veil in verse 5-7 is from the Greek katakalupto and katakaluptomai while the word “covering” in verse 15 is from the Greek word peribolaiou.

Question 13: What is the significance of mentioning the long hair in v. 15 as a covering in relation to the Material veil in verses 4-7?

Answer: I think that the apostle, in citing the long hair as being naturally and culturally beautiful for women, wanted to heighten his strong argument for the artificial veil as a symbol of a woman’s subordination of male headship. That if the long hair of a woman is naturally and culturally beautiful, it would also be beautiful and pleasing in the sight of God and in the eyes of the angels if a woman put on the symbol of subordination while she is the process of intruding inside the authority domain of the male leaders in the acts of praying or prophesying. The woman’s intrusion into the male authority domain while praying or prophesying as empowered by the Holy Spirit would not be an illegal or rebellious act if she declared her subordination by wearing an artificial veil or else have her hair be shorn. (Eusebio Tanicala)