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Hutto - El Dareer Debate - October 1974
Schedule Of Services:
Bible Study 7:00
Jackson Drive Athens, Alabama 35611
COMMAND OR CUSTOM?
An Exposition Of I
By Hiram Hutto
The first sixteen verses of the eleventh chapter of Paul's
letter to the church at Corinth has been the subject of much
controversy. The verses themselves are not difficult to
understand, and the controversy has not been so much over the
meaning as it has been over their application. On the one hand
it is taught that the passage has to do with customs of a people
long since dead, and thus the passage is not binding today. On
the other hand it is taught that the verses deal not simply with
custom of days gone by, but rather constitute a command to be
observed throughout the Christian era. As we study the passage
let us keep some things clearly in mind:
- This is a discussion concerning men and women as they pray
and prophesy. The discussion does not concern men and women
in their everyday activities of life nor how they ordinarily
appear in public, but only how they appear as they pray or
prophesy. It may be true, as some contend, that women of
Paul's day when appearing in public always wore a veil, but
this is not the subject the apostle discusses in these
verses! His discussion concerns praying and prophesying.
Hence, any reference to what men and women did or did not do
in their ordinary activities of life is completely beside
the point and a reference to such is not pertinent to the
issue. This passage discusses worship-life, not every-day
- Furthermore to say that women who appeared in public with
their faces unveiled were branded as harlots and thus
brought reproach upon the church is to make an assertion
that is lacking in conclusive proof. Note this comment in
Smith's Bible Dictionary: "Veil. With regard to the use
of the veil, it is important to observe that it was by no
means so general in ancient times as in modern times. Much
of the scrupulousness in respect to the use of the veil
dates from the promulgation of the Koran" (Article on
the Veil). Thus this eminent authority shows that the
wearing of the veil was not nearly so prevalent as some seem
- All we know about the subject of covered and uncovered
heads while praying and prophesying is found in these
sixteen verses. It may be that other passages deal with the
headship of Christ, the relationship of man and woman, the
wearing of veils, and numerous other things, but no other
passage in the Bible deals with the subject of covered and
uncovered heads while praying and prophesying except I
Corinthians 11:1-16. Hence to this passage we
must go to find the truth on the subject.
With this brief introduction in mind, please read in your
Bible I Corinthians 11:1-16
and then read the following comments:
- VERSE ONE:
- "Be ye followers of me,
even as I also am of Christ."
- In all probability this verse belongs as the last verse to
the argument in chapter 10 and the American Standard Version
so places it.
- "Now I praise you,
brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the
ordinances, as I have delivered them to you."
The ordinances here spoken of are "the particular
injunctions of Paul's instructions" (Thayer), hence the
will of God as expressed through the inspired apostle.
Obviously those who keep such should be "praised."
- "But I would have you know,
that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the
woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God."
The relationships described are as unchangeable as God
Himself and as old as the race. They are not based on
"custom" nor upon anything else except the Word of
God Almighty. Christ is not man's head because custom made
it so, but because God made it so. Man is not woman's head
because custom so ordered, but because God so ordered. This
is the divine order and has nothing to do with custom.
Custom did not make these relationships, and custom cannot
change them with God. Yet it is upon the high doctrine here
asserted that the rest of the argument is based. This is the
very foundation of the apostle's argument and without it the
rest is meaningless. Since then the very foundation
transcends custom, would it not be passing strange if all
the rest is completely custom?
- "Every man praying or
prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head."
This verse grows out of and is based upon the relationship
laid down in verse 3, viz. "Christ is head of
man". But verse three is not founded on custom and
therefore neither is this verse. Just as long as Christ
remains the head of man, just that long man will dishonor
Christ by praying with his head covered. Since man has no
head between him and Christ, for a man to cover his physical
head while praying or prophesying would be to dishonor his
spiritual head, Christ. The covering under consideration is
an artificial one such as a veil, a hat, etc., otherwise
only bald headed men or men with shaven heads could pray
acceptably! Man may not cover his head either with long
hair, a hat or a veil when he prays to God. He may have it
covered at other times but not when he prays or prophesies
for if he does he "dishonors his head." Whatever
covering this verse forbids a man wearing, verse five
commands a woman to wear; and since this covering is an
artificial one then the one a woman is to wear is likewise
an artificial one. Whatever covering a man must leave off, a
woman must put on.
- "But every woman that
prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth
her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven."
He who denies this denies the Bible! But this verse also
grows out of and is based upon verse three, and since the
relationship described there is not simply custom neither is
the statement made here. And as long as man remains
"head of woman" just that long will woman dishonor
man when she prays with her head uncovered! And not only so
but in dishonoring her "head" (man), woman
dishonors herself and God who made man the head of woman.
Thus the woman who "prays or prophesies with her head
uncovered" dishonors herself, man, and God as well.
The covering here spoken of cannot have reference to a
woman's hair for the apostle says that for a woman to be
uncovered is "as if she were shaven" which shows
plainly that she is not shaven (though her condition has the
same effect). But since the woman is not shaven, she must
have hair, yet the apostle says she is uncovered. So the
woman herein described is one that is without covering but
with hair, hence the hair cannot be the covering under
consideration. Thus the covering is an artificial one such
as a shawl, a veil, a hat, etc. Sometimes, however, the
question is asked, "What size covering?" God no
more designates the size than He does the color and I wonder
sometimes if such questions are asked to learn the will of
God or to set aside the teaching here given. As a matter of
fact God doesn't even tell what the covering is to be other
than the obvious fact that it is to be an artificial one,
such as already suggested. So then let none be guilty of
accusing others of teaching that a woman must wear a hat. I
know of no one who so teaches. We do teach that a woman must
have her head covered and that a hat will do the job, but
the covering does not have to be a hat. A shawl will do, or
a kerchief. Any of these can make a covering.
Thus this verse shows plainly that a woman today when
praying to God must cover her head with an artificial
covering such as a veil, a shawl or a hat, etc. For her to
refuse to do so is to bring dishonor upon her head, man,
because a covered head on her part is a sign of her
subjection to man (vs. 10). A refusal to have this covering
is to show she is not in subjection to man nor God ...hence
the dishonor not only to man but God as well.
- VERSE SIX:
- "For if the woman be not
covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame to be
shorn or shaven, let her be covered."
In other words, if a woman will not cover her head with an
artificial covering, let her carry her defiance to its
ultimate conclusion, let her save her head. But since a
shaven head is a shame to a woman, she should do neither,
but rather she should cover her head. The covering here
spoken of cannot be the woman's hair for this reason: The
woman under consideration in this verse is "not
covered" or without covering. Now if the covering and
the hair are one and the same, we may substitute the word
hair for the word covering in this verse and the meaning
will be unchanged. Notice: "If the woman is without
covering, let her also be shorn." "If the woman is
without hair, let her also be shorn." See the absurdity
in the last statement? How can a woman who is "without
hair" "also be shorn? How can a woman without any
hari, get her hair cut off? The word also in this verse
shows plainly once and for all that the covering is not the
woman's hair but must be an artificial one as already
The word shear means "cut off" (Weymouth),
"cut short" (Thayer), or "crop"
(Expositor's Greek Testament).
- VERSE SEVEN:
- "For a man indeed ought not
to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of
God: but the woman is the glory of the man."
Please observe the God-given reason for a man not to cover
his head, viz. he is the "image and glory of God".
Paul does not say nor even hint that a man ought not to
cover his head because os some custom of the day. Notice
this contrast between what man says and what God says is the
reason "a man ought not to cover his head". Man
says: "Forasmuch as it is a custom". God says:
"Forasmuch as man is the image and glory of God"
See the difference in the two statements? Now which will
you accept, man's statement or God's? Since Paul did not
base his statement on "custom" why should men
today do what Paul did not and say what Paul said not? Was
man's being in the "image and glory of God" simply
a custom? Is not man still, today, in the "image and
glory of God"? If he is, he ought not to
"cover" his head when praying or prophesying or
worshiping God. So says the inspired apostle.
- VERSE EIGHT:
- "For the man is not of the
woman: but the woman is of the man."
In the creation God made woman from man's rib, not vice
VERSES NINE AND TEN:
- "Neither was the man
created for the woman but the woman for the man. For this
cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of
For what cause? Does the apostle say, "Because of
custom?" He does not! He says because of the situation
that obtained when God created man and woman that a woman
ought to have "power on her head" or "a sign
of authority" (American Standard Version). Again notice
the contrast between what man says and what God says about
why women ought to have a "sign of authority" on
her head: Man says: "Because of custom." God says:
"Because woman was created for man."
See the difference between the two statements? One of
them is based upon a figment of man's imagination; the other
is based upon a plain and positive statement in the word of
God. Which will you accept? Which will you practice?
The expression "power on her head" is
translated as "sign of authority" in the American
Standard Version. Goodspeed renders it, "That is why
she ought to wear upon her head something to symbolize her
subjection." Women who understand the Bible also
understand why they cover their heads. Not simply because a
hat, or shawl, or whatever is used as a covering is pretty
nor to impress somebody, but as a "sign" of her
God-given subjection to man.
"Because of the angels": While one may not know
everything connected with this particular statement, it is
given nonetheless as an inducement for woman to cover her
head when "praying or prophesying". It may be, as
some suggest, that angels who "minister for them who
shall be heirs of salvation" (Hebrews
1:14) are interested in the affairs of this life
and are offended at any breach of the ordinance. Another
explanation, and one that seems plausible is this: The
apostle has been urging man to respect his proper place. And
in connection with people keeping their proper places,
notice Jude 6, "And
the angels which kept not their own principality, but left
their proper habitation, He hath kept in everlasting bonds
under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."
When the angels left their proper place the got into
trouble, and when man or woman leaves his or her proper
place, they too, will get into trouble. A "sign"
that woman has left her proper place is for her to pray
uncovered, for by so doing she shows she is not in
subjection to man. If this is not what "because of the
angels" means this explanation certainly does no
violence to the context.
- VERSES ELEVEN AND TWELVE:
- "Nevertheless neither is the man without the
woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For
as the woman is of the man, even so is the man by the woman;
but all things are of God."
Neither man or woman should think of themselves too highly
nor become egotistical. God deems one just as important as
the other and they are mutually dependent upon each other
for existence and sustenance. There is "neither male
nor female" in Christ (Galatians.
3:28). God took a rib from the side of man to
make woman (Genesis 2:21,22),
hence woman is "of man"; but now in the natural
order of things man is "born of woman" (Job
14:1), hence he is "by the woman". Thus
both are mutually dependent on the other and indeed
"all things are of God".
- VERSE THIRTEEN:
- "Judge ye: is it comely
that a woman pray to God uncovered?"
This is a rhetorical question: to ask it is to answer it. It
is not comely (or befitting) for a woman to pray uncovered;
this is the obvious answer to the question. Yet there are
brethren who teach that it is comely for a woman to pray
uncovered, and there are women who practice such, but they
are not comely in God's sight!
VERSES FOURTEEN AND FIFTEEN:
- "Doth not even nature
itself teach you, that if a man have long hair it is a shame
unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to
her; for her hair is given her for a covering."
Nature is the native sense of propriety (Thayer) or of what
is right. Paul does not say that the woman's hair is her
only covering, but that it is a covering. The fact that her
hair is a covering should serve to show her that she should
be covered. Thus when he teaches what is contained in these
verses, woman should not be startled by them because her
hair has already shown her the propriety of a covering in
her case. A consideration of verses 4-6 clearly shows that
two coverings are under consideration in them.
(Just as an incidental matter, I am sure that the
pictures one so often sees of Christ is patently wrong
because they all show Him with long hair. But the apostle
says that long hair is a shame to a man. Would Christ
- VERSE SIXTEEN:
- "But if any man seem to be
contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of
The Revised Standard Version renders this passage: "If
any one is disposed to be contentious we recognize no other
practice, neither the churches of God." This should
make it clear what is meant by the expression
"contentious", is to contend for other than what
is being taught herein. In other words, if, in view of all
that the apostle has said, there are still some who would
"contend" for the right of men to pray with
covered heads or women with uncovered heads, let him know
that he who so "contends" is alone in so doing. No
apostle or church of God so taught. Since none of the
apostles or churches of God taught that it would be
permissible for women to pray with uncovered heads and men
with covered heads, why in the name of reason will men teach
Objections are often made against any Bible teaching and this
one is no exception. We here notice a few of the ones we have
- A hat does not mean to women today what a veil meant
to women when Paul wrote these lines.
- We have already pointed out that nobody teaches that a
woman must wear a hat but that something else will do as
well as a hat. In the second place, the statement is
true that it does not have the meaning today as it once
did, but the reason is that preachers have failed to
teach what the covering should mean! The fault does not
lie in changing times but in the failure of preachers to
faithfully teach God's Word on the subject. By this same
argument we could set aside the teaching of the Bible on
the subject of marriage. Marriage does not mean today
what it meant in Jesus' day. Shall we, therefore, set
aside His teaching simply because people ignore what the
Bible says? Of course not. Neither should we set aside
what I Corinthians 11:1-16
teaches just because preachers will not teach the truth
on it. This objection then comes to naught.
- I Corinthians 11:1-16
pertains to the customs of Paul's day and are not bound
on us today.
- The comments on verses 4,7,9, and 16 show this to be
an invalid objection. Please read those comments.
- I Corinthians 11:15
says that "woman's hair is given her for a
covering", hence the only covering spoken of is the
- The comments on verses 5 and 6 show that two coverings
are in the apostle's mind, the hair being one covering
and an artificial covering such as a shawl, a veil, a
hat, etc., making two. Please read the comments on these
- Paul said "If any man seem to be contentious, we
have no such custom" and by that he meant that if
anybody tries to cause trouble about this question we
don't have any such practice as woman praying with her
head covered and a man with his head uncovered. It all
just a custom anyway.
- This construction on what the apostle said in verse 16
is to to make him stultify himself with a vengeance!
After showing that a woman should cover her head when
she prays and that a man should not, and taking up or
rather wasting fourteen verses to do it, the apostle now
takes it all back simply because he is afraid somebody
might argue about it! Believe it, who can? The Revised
Standard Version evidently gives the true explanation of
the text. See the comments on verse sixteen.
- If you are going to insist on "covering the head
of woman" then the woman will have to cover her
face for that is a part of her head.
- Jesus said in Matthew 6:17,
"When thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash thy
face..." recognizing a difference between the two.
- The word "prophesy" in verses 4 and 5 means
to speak by inspiration, and since no man or woman today
speaks by inspiration the rules laid down in I
Corinthians 11:1-16 has passed away too.
- It is true that men today do not prophesy in the sense
of speaking by inspiration, but I
Corinthians 11:4 mentions "praying"
as well as prophesying. The passage concerns prayer,
too. Has prayer passed away? If it has not, then the
rules laid down in 1 Corinthians 11 have not passed
away. Not only so but while it is true that one does not
speak by inspiration he speaks what inspiration revealed
when he faithfully teaches the Scriptures. Hence I
Corinthians 11 is still in effect.
These are some of the objections one usually hears concerning
the teaching of the scripture in I
Corinthians 11:1-16. These are not the only ones but
the ones I have heard most frequently. None of them suffice to
offset the teaching here given. Please study these things in
your Bible and above all things, let us "keep the
ordinances" that Paul therein "delivered" that we
might "be praised" in the great day.