Historic Survey of the Baptist Worship Headcovering
By T. Matthew Stepp
Pastor, Big Creek Baptist Church, Wayne, WV
Quote from Eld. Roy Mason (1894-1978) to start us off… “Have Baptists decided to junk the teachings of the New Testament as their standard of faith and practice? Have they decided that they will take only those Scriptures that coincide with their preconceived wishes and opinions as authoritative, and throw away the rest? Have they decided to revise the Scriptures so as to make them suit the “trend of the times,” and the standards of this world? It would seem that many of them have.
“I could illustrate this by a number of different incidents and I could mention a number of different things in which many Baptist churches have plainly departed from the teachings of the New Testament, but I have in mind just now to mention one matter as illustrative of the charges that I have just brought. The one matter I refer to is The Woman Question.”
Thus begins Bro. Roy Mason as he attacks the modernism in Baptist ranks in the 1970’s… If our dear Baptist brother saw a departure from the faith in that decade, how much more is there an apostatizing trend in our day!
The Baptist teaching of the Woman’s Headcovering during Public Worship has been appallingly neglected by the last several generations as churches join the ranks of the modern Feminine Movement of Equality. Baptists have ALWAYS stood for the Equal Value of the sexes, but NEVER until recent years have they rejected God’s Order for the sexes in His Church and even in His Ordained Family Order. Eld. Roy Mason’s diatribe above was directed toward the new policies of ordaining women into positions of Authority in the LORD’s New Testament Baptist churches. How did the churches get that far off base? It started with the first step of the Woman removing her veil… This paramount sign of God’s Order must be taught, preserved and implemented in God’s churches to constantly remind us of both God and the Angels that are observing our public worship services.
To show that Baptists have been UNITED and virtually without EXCEPTION have taught and practiced this doctrine is the purpose of this article. I will not use my own words to try to convince anyone of the Purity of this Doctrine, but much like JMCarroll used a “Trail of Blood” to prove the Landmark teaching of the Perpetuity of the LORD’s Baptist Churches, I intend to call forth witnesses from every age that unabashedly proclaimed this venerable Truth. (The fact is, that in my studying, I have not found ONE SINGLE BAPTIST WRITER that wrote against the Woman’s Headcovering. It’s JUST NOT THERE! If someone knows of ANY, (even denominational writers before the 20th Century) would you please contact me and let me know?)
While the authors/writers that I intend to quote, may have wrote much more on the subject, for brevity and to get the overall picture of the Multitudes of Baptist Headcovering Stalwarts, we will just quote the pertinent portions that Defend or Support that aspect being studied… Let us begin our “Trail of Truth”…!
The Two Coverings Recognized by Baptists, Bible and God
The first point maintained by Baptists throughout history is that there are TWO coverings mentioned by the Apostle Paul in 1Corinthians 11. The natural covering of the Woman’s Long Hair, mentioned in vs.15 (peribolaion) and the Artificial covering of a Veil, Hat or Additional material mentioned in vs.4-13 (katakalupto). The two Greek words used are NOT interchangeable, as the Baptists writers (and others) will show…
For the First witness to this Truth we go back to one generation after the Apostles to Irenaeus, born in 120, and died a martyr in 202 AD. Irenaeus translates 1Cor.11:10 as follows: "A woman ought to have a veil [kalumma] upon her head, because of the angels." Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, p.327. This is significant in that Irenaeus understood the "power" on a woman's head in 1Cor.11:10 to be a veil of some kind and not a woman's hair. This testimony of Irenaeus is important, in that this is the 2nd Century, which is Hundreds of years before the beginning of the Catholic church, so this CANNOT be a tradition of that shameless whore. The Woman’s headcovering is a Biblical and Baptistic doctrine, naught else!
Next is Titus Flavius Clement of Alexandria (155-220 AD) Clement also understands the words in 1Corinthians 11:5 to refer to a veil of fabric and not to a woman's hair as seen by his quote: "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" [Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:5]. Some may quibble about when this “praying” takes place, whether in public or private worship, but let it be known from this voice of the 2nd Century that LONG before the advent of any false denominations, that THERE IS A VEIL…! This is NOT legalism, but pure obedience to God’s Holy Word! From the early church to our modern times, the same earmarks of the same churches! If your church does not have this New Testament doctrine, we need to get back to the basics of the Bible.
John Chrysostom (345-407AD) was a great Baptistic preacher of Antioch. He has been often quoted by various commentators since for his clear exposition on this particular subject. The following excerpts are taken from Homily XXVI. Chrysostom identifies the problem Paul addresses in 1Corinthians 11:2-16 as: "Their women used to pray and prophesy unveiled and with their head bare." Especially to the point of a woman needing a separate head covering other than her long hair (cf. 1Co 11:15) is the following remark: "' And if it be given her for a covering,' say you, 'wherefore need she add another covering?' That not nature only, but also her own will may have part in her acknowledgment of subjection. For that thou oughtest to be covered nature herself by anticipation enacted a law. Add now, I pray, thine own part also, that thou mayest not seem to subvert the very laws of nature; a proof of most insolent rashness, to buffet not only with us, but with nature also."
A disciple of the far-reaching Chrysostom about 600 years later, Theophylact of Bulgaria (1050-1126) wrote concerning vs.10 that the word translated “power” in our English version (Greek: exousia) refers to: “the symbol of being under power, that is, a veil, or covering”.
We will come back to some of the other ancient writers, for our next points, but to continue the generational continuity of the teaching of Two Headcoverings, which INSISTS on an additional, artificial covering for Baptist women in the worship services, please join Peter Martyr (1500-1562), an expert of the Age of Exploration and Christopher Columbus, where the like Italian-Spaniard writes: “A woman ought seeing her hair is given her of God, to follow this His institution, and to imitate her Maker, and cover her head; which if she will not do, as much as is in her, she throws off the natural veil”. Obviously, this 16th Century Christian knew that the Veil of 1Corinthians 11 was something that the woman did to herself (in vs.5-13), imitating what God did in (vs.15).
Moving into the next century, William Gouge (1575-1653), a member of the Westminster Assembly adds his wisdom to the matter, mingled with a quote from the aforementioned John Chrysostom. “[Heading 3. ‘Of Domestical Duties’]- Of an husbands superioritie over a wife, to be acknowledged by a wife.....6. The very attire which nature and custome of all times and places have taught women to put on, confirmeth the same: as long haire, vailes, and other coverings over the head: and the former argument doth the Apostle himself use to this very purpose, 1 Cor. 11:7 & c. ‘...And if it (i.e. the hair) be given her for a covering (vail), say you, wherefore need she add another covering (vail)? That not nature only, but also her own will may have part in her acknowledgement of her subjection’ (Chrysostom).
The young Scottish Puritan James Durham (1622-1658) gave his view on the Artificial covering: “It (the veil) hath a threefold use, 1) For decoration, as in Isaiah 3:23. 2) For a sign of modesty, pleaded for by the Apostle, 1Cor.11:6. 3) And mainly a sign of women’s subjection to their own husbands...” (Song of Solomon Commentary).
Benjamin Keach (1640-1704), a forerunner of Charles Spurgeon, was a Particular Baptist pastor in London. He wrote: “The thing signified is sometimes put for the sign materially... 1Cor.11:10, ‘A woman ought to have power on her head,’ that is a garment signifying that she was under the power of her husband.”
Andrew R. Fausset (1821-1910), the English one of the three collaborators of the familiar Commentary of Jamieson, Fausset & Brown wrote the following while commenting on: “1Corinthians 11:10- power on her head--the kerchief: French couvre chef, head-covering, the emblem of "power on her head"; the sign of her being under man's power, and exercising delegated authority under him. …As woman’s hair is given by nature as her covering (v.15), to cut it off like a man would be palpably indecorous, therefore, to put away the head-covering like a man would be similarly indecorous. It is natural to her to have long hair for her covering, to show that she does of her own will that which nature teaches she ought to do, in token of her subjection to man.”
Full well into the 20th century we come to the American-loving Englishman, Arthur W Pink (1886-1952). This prolific author says: “Because the woman has not been given rule and headship her head must be covered, and covered with a double covering: first, the long hair that God has given her by nature, so that even when she is outside the church that covering shall indicate that she is not her own head, but that she is under the dominion of the head of her household: secondly, that when she comes into the house of God there must be the additional cover of the hat because she is also in subjection to her spiritual brethren to whom God has appointed rule.” This is an important emphasis Bro. Pink makes. Not just her husband, but also the woman to the man, must show subjection. We will note in our next point that Tertullian already centuries ago clearly stated; not just wives, but women as a gender must wear the Baptist Headcovering, because it is God’s Order which must be upheld also in the Church, as well as the Family.
One of the more eloquent Baptists of the most recent generation is E.G. Cook (1898-1986). His pointed lecture on English and Greek grammar is as invaluable today as when he first noted it: “Another problem for me, if the hair (PERI BOLIAN) is all the covering she needs, why the different voice in the two verses? In verse 6 we have the middle voice, but in verse 15 we have the passive voice. I will try, as best I can, to explain the difference between these two. In our study of grammar we have what is called active voice, passive voice, and middle voice. In the sentence, 'John killed the rabbit', John is the subject, and he is the doer of the action. So this makes it active voice. If we turn the sentence around and say, 'the rabbit was killed by John', that makes rabbit the subject. And since the rabbit is the receiver of the action, that makes this sentence passive voice. But if we say that 'John shot himself', that makes John the doer and also the receiver of the action. That makes this sentence the middle voice. I am not trying to teach a lesson in Grammar, rather I am trying to show the difference between verse 6 and verse 15. Verse 6 is middle voice, which means that the KATA KALUPTO covering is something the woman puts on herself. She puts this covering on just as she does her dress and shoes. No one else plays any part in this transaction. But if you notice, verse 15 is passive voice. She just receives the hair the Lord puts on her head. She plays no part in it. She may spend a lot of time pampering, and changing it to make it look more to her liking. She may even change the color of it, but it is still the hair the Lord put on her head.
“I hope I am making myself clear. In verse 15 the woman has absolutely nothing to do with putting this covering on her head. In verse 6 she has to do it all. There is just no way one of these coverings can be substituted for the other one.” He certainly made it clear to me! Wow! Just read the Bible and see what God has to say… Two coverings…! For Baptists, anyway…
As a last witness on this first point (for time’s sake ONLY!), we call the trustworthy Thomas W. Ross (1959-) to the Beloved Reader’s attention, as he comments on 1Corinthians 11: “The reader will notice that there is no mention whatsoever of hair in this verse (4). That is because it is wrong for a man to pray or prophesy in the church with a hat, a veil, or a turban on his head. His head is not to be artificially covered in the assembly of the saints. …This prohibition extends to all men in the congregation, not just those who speak publicly. It also includes those who hear prayer and preaching in the church and go along in their heart.
“Long hair, as well as the veil, are to be symbols of the woman’s submission and true womanliness. Her long hair, which is her glory, teaches her that she must be veiled in public worship as a symbol of her submission to God’s ordained headship, the man. If she refuses to wear a covering on her head she might as well shave her head according to the teaching of this verse (5).
“The teaching of verse 5 is reinforced (in vs.6), either a woman is to have her head covered or veiled when she comes to the house of God, or she should be shorn or shaven. The Greek word for covering in verse 6 is katakaluptetai. It is a covering or veil that can be voluntarily put on or taken off at will, which is not true of hair. Kata is intensive which implies action. This word for the artificial covering or veil is distinguished from the Greek word peribolaion which means something cast around, referring to the natural covering of the hair in verse 15. The word “also”, which means in addition to, is very important to the interpretation of this verse… …Notice also that the hair in verse 15 is said to be given to the woman by God which is not true of the covering mentioned in verses 5 and 6 which can be taken on and off at will.
“Good angels are present in the services in the Lord’s churches… because elect angels observe our worship services the woman is to have her head covered or veiled. Would Paul tell a woman she ought to have hair on her head because of the angels? I doubt it, since long hair on women has always been the accepted norm in almost every society to distinguish them from men. He is plainly saying that a woman should have the symbol of submission, the artificial head covering on her head because of the angels. When the Word of God plainly states that you ought to wear a head covering, you ought to do it even if it goes against your grain.” What a clarion call for obedience to the Bible, as God’s Holy Word!
Headcoverings have ALWAYS been a Standard Practice in Baptist Churches
The next point, I’d like to make with my host of Historical Baptistic witnesses, is that the Woman’s Headcovering has been such a Standard Practice in Baptist churches, that the foregoing saints didn’t consider it under attack! There had NOT been a departure from this Truth in their lifetimes, and so they typically didn’t take up their pens to Defend it… They were busy defending Predestination, Baptism, Particular Redemption and other Precious Bible Truths and had no idea that some day, Liberal women and their Americanized pastors would begin discarding the “sign of Authority” and Submission upon the Baptist ladies’ heads… As you’ll notice, most of the writings on the Headcovering that we’ve been able to find come from two primary sources: 1) Commentaries on 1Corinthians or 2) Sermons on Angels. We will talk about the latter further into the article, but as these authors go through the Bible verse by verse, writing their commentaries, they record the obvious conclusions regarding this passage, both from a simple reading and from extensive Hermeneutics. But, seriously, it would not have occurred to them that the passage needed defending! It was universally known, recognized and practiced! All they did was verify the Practiced Truth. “Just look around you!” they wrote… Even as the Apostle Paul did: 1Cor.11:13-16- “Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? 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. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” But I’ll let the Giants of the past do the teaching…
The first witness to the Standard Practice of the Christian (Baptist) Headcovering is visual. When I preached this sermon at Big Creek Baptist Church, Bro. Bill Morrison gave me a clipping he had and I posted a Huntington, WV newspaper picture of a 1915 Methodist church service, where the ladies gathered for a picture after the service. Yep! You guessed it! Even at this late historical date, and even in this denominational branch, the Truth of the Woman’s Headcovering still existed enough that of the fifty or so ladies pictured, not ONE of them was without her Headcovering! As you search visually through the centuries and millennia, you will find it Universal and Uncontested: the Man is to worship with head uncovered and the Woman is to worship with an Artificial Veil upon her beautiful, long hair…!
For this first photo snapshot, let us go back to The Catacombs (100-300 AD). Philip Schaff, the religious historian is quoted: "Most of the catacombs were constructed during the first three centuries, a few may be traced almost to the apostolic age. …The name of the catacombs is of uncertain origin, but is equivalent to subterranean cemeteries or resting-places for the dead. First used of the Christian cemeteries in the neighborhood of Rome, it was afterwards applied to those of Naples, Malta, Sicily, Alexandra, Paris, and other cities. …In their catacombs the Christians could assemble for worship and take refuge in times of persecution. Very rarely were they pursued in these silent retreats. …The catacombs carved in the substrata rock beneath the city of Rome extend to an almost unbelievable 550 miles, are often six levels deep, and contain the room for the interment of over six million bodies. . . . Herein is the first Christian art." Even as a tourist, we modern Americans can visit the early century worship sanctuaries and see that the many paintings on the walls of the catacombs reveal that the uniform dress of women in worship was to cover the head and hair (not the face) with some type of cloth.
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullian (150-225 AD) in these same days of the 2nd Century wrote prolifically and authored an entire booklet on the necessity of the Headcovering extending beyond the husband-wife submission, to the Virgins (and singled ladies). Tertullian addresses the unseemly practice of virgins (young girls) of the church not being required to be veiled. His whole line of argument presupposes that it was the practice of his contemporaries to require those who were betrothed or married to be veiled, yet Tertullian argues very persuasively that there is no biblical reason to require one class of females (betrothed or married) to be veiled while not requiring another class of females (virgins) to be veiled. He thusly wrote: "But that point which is promiscuously observed throughout the churches, whether virgins ought to be veiled or no, must be treated of. For they who allow to virgins immunity from headcovering, appear to rest on this; that the apostle has not defined 'virgins' by name, but 'women,' as 'to be veiled;' nor the sex generally, so as to say 'females,' but a class of the sex, by saying 'women:' for if he had named the sex by saying 'females,' he would have made his limit absolute for every woman; but while he names one class of the sex, he separates another class by being silent. For, they say, he might either have named 'virgins' specially; or generally, by a compendious term, 'females.'"
In commenting on 1 Corinthians 11:4,5, Tertullian notes, "Behold two diverse names, Man and Woman 'every one' in each case: two laws, mutually distinctive; on the one hand (a law) of veiling, on the other (a law) of baring. …Accordingly, since the apostle is treating of Man and Woman--- why the latter ought to be veiled, but the former not… So, too, did the Corinthians themselves understand him. In fact, at this day the Corinthians do veil their virgins. What the apostle taught, their disciples approve… Christ is He who bids the espoused and wives of others to veil themselves… For it is they which must be subjected, for the sake of which ‘power’ ought to be ‘had on the head:’ the veil is their yoke.” [Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV.]
I took the liberty of underlining the two statements of Tertullian that most particularly fits our point of Standard Baptist Practice of the Headcovering. Just as the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians to look around at other existing Baptist churches (perhaps Ephesus and Thessalonica) to see if they had any contrary customs or private interpretations of God’s Order, so too does Tertullian! “…promiscuously observed throughout the churches”! “Is it comely…? I praise you not…!” …echoes the Apostle’s writings in the passage! Sometimes I’d like to take folk that just don’t seem to understand the Importance of the Headcovering back in time to see how the ancient churches did it… Well, now you can! Take them to Tertullian! In our time, the First Baptist Church of Corinth is long gone… but NOT IN TERTULLIAN’S TIME! The argument he uses in the 2nd century is: “Buy a ticket to Corinth and GO SEE WHAT THEY’RE DOING!” The Corinthian Baptist Church still yet existed in Tertullian’s day…! “In fact, at this day the Corinthians do veil their virgins…!” It’s obvious!
Even as we span the centuries, God’s ministers are still able to point to the Uniform Obedience of God’s Baptist Churches as in Submission to the Apostle Paul’s rendition of Holy Scripture in 1Corinthians 11. John Cotton (1585-1652), a Puritan who came to America twelve years after the Mayflower knew what God’s churches were to look like on the inside… “How is the public worship of God to be ordered and administered in the church? All the members of the church being met together as one man (i) in the sight of God (ii) are to join together in holy duties with one accord (iii) the men with their heads uncovered, the women covered. …For a woman to cover her head in time of public prayer, or prophesying, and for a man to uncover his head, the Apostle warranteth from both the light of nature, and the custom of the churches…”
Such a Universal Obedience is not contingent upon some Corinthian Societal Customs, as some say today. Listen to the wisdom of conservative Swiss Bible professor Frederic Louis Godet (1812-1890): “If the Apostle’s reasons were true then, they will be to the end: ...(if) solely a matter of time and place, so that it is possible to suppose, that if (Paul) lived now, and in the West, the apostle would express himself differently? This supposition is not admissible; for the reasons which he alleges are taken, not from contemporary usages, but from permanent facts, which will last as long as the present economy.
The physical constitution of woman (vv. 13-15) is still the same as it was when Paul wrote, and will continue so till the renewing of all things. The history of creation, to which he appeals (vv.8-12), remains the principle of the social state now as in the time of the apostle, and the sublime analogies between the relations of God to Christ, Christ to man, and man to woman, have not changed to this hour, so that it must be said either that the apostle was wholly wrong in his reasoning, or that his reasons, if they were true for his time, are still so for ours, and will be so to the end.” (Commentary on First Corinthians)
A Defense of the Baptist Headcovering would not be complete without the oratory of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) being referenced. The Prince of Preachers is not topically speaking on the Headcovering in this sermon, but rather the Angels are what brings his attention to the multitude of Covered Women in his congregation! Incidentally, this is the 2nd major source of quotes regarding the Woman’s Headcovering in historical writings. If they’re not from a specific commentary on 1Corinthians 11, then, like Spurgeon’s quote here, it comes as they write and speak about the Angels mentioned in vs.10 of the studied chapter… And thusly, Spurgeon preached: “Do you think you and I have sufficiently considered that we are always looked upon by angels, and that they desire to learn by us the wisdom of God? The reason why our sisters appear in the House of God with their heads covered is ‘because of the angels’. The apostle says that a woman is to have a covering upon her head, because of the angels, since the angels are present in the assembly and they mark every act of indecorum, and therefore everything is to be conducted with decency and order in the presence of the angelic spirits” (Sermon on Eph. 3:10, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit). It is just so obvious, isn’t it! “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head…!” Not because you’re a Corinthian prostitute! Not because it makes a difference between saved, Baptist women and lost, worldly women… But because God’s ORDER is Glorified by the Woman’s submission to His Word in the Public Arena of worship…!
Let’s continue further in the 19th Century… Harvey Boyce Taylor (1870-1932) is our witness from that century that women (and men) were in obedience to the Pillar and Ground of the Truth. He wrote: “Women are prohibited from having any place in the work of our churches that puts them in authority over their brethren. So important is this that Paul in 1Cor.11:3-10 says that whenever a woman comes into church assembly she ought to have a veil or covering of some kind on her head as a sign that she is under authority, not in authority.” I’m sure that by this time the Female Liberation Movement was causing an Apostate rebellion among many American women and their pastors. How dangerous to be in a denomination where a pastor can lead his flock and precious, unquestioning womenfolk away from God’s Order, simply by refraining from teaching and preaching what these forerunners testified of. Bro. H .B. Taylor was bold and tenacious in taking up the Good Fight and he Kept the Faith!
One more witness to this point comes from a familiar source to my little flock here at Big Creek Baptist Church in the hills of Wayne, WV. Her former pastor William Doyal Thomas (1932-) spoke profoundly on the subject of Headship and the Covering that symbolizes it: “The praying or prophesying of women in the Lord’s assembly will always be done in silence, and never, under any circumstances be otherwise. Scripture demands it (1Cor.14:34-35; 1Tim.2:11). The fact that women must be silent in the church does not mean that they are taking no part in the worship, and are therefore relieved of the requirement of having their own head covered. They are participating in the worship, in the role that God has assigned them. They are praying (silently, to be sure), and they are prophesying in that they are telling forth the Word of God by their submission to the teachings of the Word.
“Those who teach and practice that long hair for godly women is the correct symbol for representing the Lord’s churches in subjection to Him are contending for another way. The apostles taught no other way, and the early churches practiced no other way. It was error that led the churches to substitute long hair for the veil… It has been primarily within the past two generations that the subject has been so neglected. If we examine the teachings and the practices of those who have preceded us, we will find that until recent years, it was unthinkable for a Baptist woman to go into a Baptist assembly having her head uncovered.” Oh, how I yearn for those days when it will once again be “unthinkable”…! By God’s Grace, the opportunity is HERE for the Baptists of our generation to be Faithful to the Faith ONCE Delivered, as well! May God help us!
The Woman’s Headcovering is for Public Worship
A recent argument attempts to tie the teaching of the Apostle Paul to the previous chapters in 1Corinthians. To make the Headcovering a private matter or a regional matter of custom doesn’t jive with either Scripture or History. A long list of veteran Bible scholars are a witness to the necessity of the Man REMOVING any coverings when entering worship and the Woman ADDING a covering over her naturally long and glorious hair.
Enter Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575), the Swiss Reformer. “But the apostle Paul biddeth the woman to pray, or to come into the congregation to hear a sermon, with her head covered, for none other cause, but for that she is not in her own power, but subject to another, that is to her husband”.
Thomas Manton (1620-1677) was an English Nonconformist whom Spurgeon loved to read after. He wrote: “In the assembly you meet with angels and devils; angels observe your garb and carriage and devils tempt you. Therefore, be covered because of the angels. The practice of women (who come hither with a shameless impudence into the presence of God, men and angels) neither suits with modesty nor conveniency...(Such boldness) feeds your own pride, and provokes ...others of your rank to imitate your vanity. Now we should rather please God than men; better never please men than offend God” [Sermons on Titus 2:11-14.]
As so many of the writers of old emphasize, the Angels are present in the Worship services of Baptist churches. The passage is indubitably speaking about public worship if verse 10 is taken into contextual consideration. Thus says Christopher Love (1618-1651), before the Welsh martyr gave his life for his stand for the Truth of God’s Word: “Eighth, the angels are present with us, beholding us in our church assemblies when we come to worship before God. When you are in the worship and service of God, the angels are with you, beholding you, though you see them not. This is hinted at in 1Cor.11:10 ‘For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head, because of the angels.” Some refer these words to ministers, who are elsewhere called angels, but we may understand it of the angels themselves because they delight in the things of the gospel. Here the apostle speaks of women not coming into church without covering. Why? Because of the angels, not the ministers. It is meant of the angels of heaven, and therein the women are to take heed how they come into the church, because the angels are spectators and behold how you behave yourselves, they being fellow-worshippers of God with you in church assemblies. And this should make you take heed of your carriage; for although they do not know your hearts, yet they behold your carriage as you come into the presence of God.” [A Treatise of the Angels.]
Ezekiel Hopkins (1633-1690) is another witness of this passage being pertinent to the Worship Service of Baptist churches. He wrote: “The apostle tells us (1Cor.11:10) that the woman was ‘to have power on her head, because of the angels’. Which place, especially the latter clause of it, is diversely interpreted. But I think all agree in this, that this power which they were to have on their heads was a vail or covering, which at other times, but most especially in the congregation, women ought to wear on their heads...But the men were uncovered in their assemblies, as the apostle tells us (v. 4) to signify that they had nothing over them, but were superior to all visible creatures, and subject only to God.”
Matthew Henry’s (1662-1714) Concise Commentary contains the Welsh Non-conformist’s views on the Woman’s Headcovering in the Public Worship services. NOT regarding the previous traditions, etc, of the previous chapters, but that Chapter 11 begins “particulars respecting the public assemblies” (…that’s what he says!): “1Cor.11:2-16- Here begin particulars respecting the public assemblies… We should, even in our dress and habit, avoid every thing that may dishonour Christ. The woman was made subject to man, because made for his help and comfort. And she should do nothing, in Christian assemblies, which looked like a claim of being equal. She ought to have "power," that is, a veil, on her head, because of the angels. …It was the common usage of the churches, for women to appear in public assemblies, and join in public worship, veiled; and it was right that they should do so.”
The prolific English author John Gill (1697-1771) was of the same belief. Just a short excerpt of his writing: “Vs.5-7- for that is even all one as if she were shaven; to be without a veil, or some sort of covering on her head, according to the custom of the country, is the same thing as if her head was shaved; and everyone knows how dishonourable and scandalous it is for a woman to have her head shaved; and if this is the same, then it is dishonourable and scandalous to her to be without covering in public worship. …but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven: …then let her be covered; with a veil, or any sort of covering in common use. …but the woman is the glory of the man; …but why is she to be covered for this reason, when the man is to be uncovered? it is to be observed, that it is in the presence and worship of God that the one is to be uncovered, and the other covered; the one being the glory of God, and therefore to be uncovered before him; and the other the glory of man, and therefore to be covered before God…
“Vs.15- for her hair is given her for a covering; not instead of a covering for her head, or any other part of her body, so that she needs no other… nor was the hair given to women for a covering in this sense, nor used by them as such, unless by Eve before the fall; but is rather an indication that they want another covering for their head, it not being so decent that their long hair should be seen. The Jewish women used to esteem it an immodest thing for their hair to be seen, and therefore they took care, as much as possible, to hide it under another covering;”
The expert Greek translator Johann Albrecht Bengel (1687-1752) had no difficulty understanding the Apostle Paul’s propositions. Knowing that he was referring to both Public Worship and also an Artificial Covering, he wrote his “Critical English Testament”, which includes the following observations: “1Cor.11:4- praying or prophesying- especially in the church (vs.16) and the assembly (vs.17). Vs.13- a woman…unto God- By rejecting the emblem of subjection (the head-covering), she passes at one leap in praying publicly beyond both the man and angels. Vs.15- her hair…for a covering- Not that she does not need additional covering. Nay, her long hair shows she ought to cover her head as much as possible. The will ought to accord with nature.”
Henry Alford (1810-1871) is very explicit also in that the venue of the Headcovering is the Public Worship service: “1 Cor.11:2-16 - The law of subjection of the woman to the man (vv. 2-12), and the natural decency itself (vv. 13-16), teach that women should be veiled in public religious assemblies. …The women overstepped the bounds of their sex, in coming forward to pray and to prophesy in the assembled church with uncovered heads. Both of these the Apostle disapproved, as well as their coming forward to pray and prophesy, as their removing the veil. Here, however, he blames the latter practice only, and reserves the former till chapter 14:34.” (Alford’s Greek New Testament)
Continuing into the 19th Century, we bring forward Robert L. Dabney (1820-1898), General “Stonewall” Jackson’s Presbyterian chaplain and chief of staff. He wrote: “Thus he who stands up in public as the herald and representative of heaven’s King must stand with uncovered head; the honour of the Sovereign for whom he speaks demands this. But no woman can present herself in public with uncovered head without sinning against nature and her sex. Hence no woman can be a public herald of Christ... ...secondly, verses 5, 13, that, on the contrary, that for a woman to appear or to perform any religious function in the Christian assembly, unveiled, is a glaring impropriety, because it is contrary to the subordination of the position assigned her by her Maker, and to the modesty and reserve suitable to her sex; and even nature settles the point by giving her long hair as her natural veil. Even as good taste and a natural sense of propriety would protest against a woman’s going in public shorn of that beautiful badge and adornment of her sex, like a rough soldier or a labourer, even so clearly does nature herself sustain God’s law in requiring the woman always modestly covered in the sanctuary. The holy angels who are present as invisible spectators, hovering over the Christian assemblies, would be shocked by women professing godliness publicly throw off this appropriate badge of their position (verse 10). The woman, then, has a right to the privileges of public worship and the sacraments...but she must always do this veiled or covered.” (Discussions Evangelical & Theological)
From the pages of “Systematic Theology” Augustus Hopkins Strong (1836-1921) notes: “1Cor.11:10- ‘for this cause ought women to have a sign of authority (i.e., a veil) on her head, because of the angels.’“…and Paul cautioned Christian women to have their heads covered when they prayed or prophesied in public (1Cor.11:5)…”
Nothing like a straitforward approach to the subject at hand. And that’s what we get from Henry Allan Ironside (1876-1951), a Fundamental Brethren preacher of the 20th Century… “…I come into the presence of God and Christ and of the angels who are learning the wisdom of God in the Church, and I remove my hat. For the same reason when a woman comes into the Church, she keeps her hat on… This is right because it is commanded. God has spoken and it is very often in little things like this that we test our state, whether there is self-will working or whether one is ready to be subject to the Word of God.” If so many of the modern so-called Baptists would subject themselves to every precept of God’s Word, instead of picking and choosing what they want to subject themselves unto, it would be a better world! I agree with Ironside, that it’s the LITTLE things, which God notices…
Thomas Treadwell Eaton (1845-1907) is not hesitant to align himself with Worship and the Headcovering! He wrote: “Here the Apostle mentions women’s praying and prophesying in the church, simply condemning the uncovering….Similarly in 1Corinthians 11:5, the Apostle is talking about decorum, and showing that women ought to have their heads covered.”
Certainly, no article would be complete without referencing the common sense of Baptist pastor, Thomas Paul Simmons (1898-1969). His concisely written “Systematic Theology” is unparalleled in recent times for busy pastors and church members. He wrote: “See 1Cor.11:3-10. It is quite evident that this refers to public worship. It may be said that inasmuch as women are not allowed to prophesy, that this does not apply when women keep their places. But praying is mentioned also. And, although women are not to lead in public prayer, yet they should pray silently and thus participate in the worship. This passage by no means intimates that if a woman has long hair, this is all the covering she needs. Paul simply states that the fact that it is natural for women to have long hair is only an indication of the need of an additional covering. This covering is to be worn in public worship as a sign of the woman’s subjection to her husband, or to man in general if the woman is unmarried.” Bro. Simmons covers quite a bit, in just a few words, doesn’t he!
We Have No Custom in Baptist Churches of Contention
In verse 16 of our chapter, we have one of the most misunderstood verses in the passage (or Bible!). The Apostle Paul is validating his preaching thus far and says “if any (woman- man is supplied in the KJV text and woman seems to fit the context better, continuing from vs.15) seem to be contentious”, or in disagreement with him, there is no custom, or precedent for each woman in the church going their own way. This idea of each woman doing what she wants to do is causing the divisions in the church mentioned in vs.18. The Apostle Peter says the same thing in 2Pet.1:20-21- “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Paul further validates his position in 1Cor.14:33-38- “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” Reading that last phrase, the Apostle Paul, much like Bro. Roy Mason in our introduction, pulls no punches…
But, again, let the past speak for this point also… Starting in the 4th century we call to witness the translator of the Bible into Latin- Eusebius Jerome (345-419AD). The Latin church father in all probability was no longer a Baptist, but was still Baptistic enough to know the Original Truth and churches, and he still recognized much doctrine. In Letter CXLVII, he tells how the virgins and widows of his day wore coverings: “…not that afterwards they go about with heads uncovered in defiance of the apostle’s command, for they wear a closefitting cap and a veil.” Obviously, Jerome did not consider the Apostle’s writings as anything less than a Direct Commandment from God to him and HIS GENERATION ALSO…
Photios of Constantinople (810-893) an Armenian Byzantine, later become a Patriarch of the Greek church, explains the headcovering thus: “to wear a veil on the head is a symbol of subjection.” It is certainly a visible sign of obedience to God’s Order in the churches…!
David Dickson (1583-1663), a 16th Century Scotsman points out nine judgments by the Apostle of Jesus Christ, of which we examine two: “It is apparent that the Corinthians did not sufficiently observe this order, because their women in the public Assemblies (after the manner of Heathens) laid aside their veils, and the men covered their heads and faces; (they are said to pray and Prophesise, who met publicly, and consented to promote this public Worship of God.) This uncomeliness he reproves both in the men and women, by nine Arguments.
…It is dishonourable to the Female Sex to lay aside her veil, and against the dignity, as well of her natural head, as of her metaphorical head, to wit, the man to whom she owes subjection for the honour of the Masculine Sex; the reason whereof he gives, because it was not less unseemly for the woman to be without her veil, than to be shorn: Here therefore the woman is reproved for indecency, which she ought to amend.
…If any perhaps should not be moved by these Arguments, but should contend, the Apostle opposeth to their contentious Apologies, the received and established custom of the Jews, and the rest of the Churches: Other Churches have no such custom, that women should be present at public assemblies, with their heads uncovered, and the man with his head covered: Therefore your custom not agreeing with decency, either according to natural use, or of the Churches, is altogether unseemly.”
John Angell James (1785-1859), another forerunner and great influence on Charles Spurgeon, in his book Female Piety wrote: “If the veil were thrown aside, they might as well cut off their flowing hair, one of the woman’s distinctions from the man, the ornament, as well as the peculiarity of the sex. Constantly and completely Christianity is the parent of order, and the enemy of indecorum of every kind. Why were not the women to lay aside their veils? Because it would be forgetting their subordination and dependence, and assuming an equal rank with man. This is the gist of the apostle’s reason. It was not merely indecorous, and contrary to modesty, but it was ambitious, and violating the order of heaven.”
James M. Gray (1851-1935), in Gray’s Concise Bible Commentary states quite clearly that the neglect of the Woman’s Headcovering is “without precedent” both in the Apostle’s generation, and so should it be now. He wrote: “…The apostle balances the whole subject as between man and woman in verses 11-12, and sums up so far as the latter is concerned by a couple of questions, the bearing of which is that the absence of a veil is uncomely (vv. 13-15). If however, they continue to be contentious in the matter despite his rebuke, he would have them know that their conduct is without precedent (v. 16).” This further validates that the contention of vs.16 is primarily from the “uncovered ladies”.
C.D. Cole (1885-1968), the Kentucky Baptist, also makes the point that the veiled head is a matter of submission to the men in “religious matters”… “The truth of the subordination of the woman to the man has a divinely appointed symbol. This truth is to be symbolized by the woman wearing long hair, and when in church, an additional covering. This covering is a sign by which the wife acknowledges the authority of her husband, who is her natural head; and a hat or veil as an additional covering, when in church, to acknowledge the authority of man in religious matters.”
As we come into the 20th Century, we turn to the World War I veteran, Scottish John Murray (1898-1975). He wrote: “1. Since Paul appeals to the order of creation (vss. 3b, vss. 7ff.), it is totally indefensible to suppose that what is in view and enjoined had only local or temporary relevance. The ordinance of creation is universally and perpetually applicable, as also are the implications for conduct arising there from.
2. I am convinced that a head covering is definitely in view forbidden for the man (vss. 4, & 7) and enjoined for the woman (vss. 5, 6, 15). In the case of the woman the covering is not simply her long hair. This supposition would make nonsense of verse 6. For the thought there is, that if she does not have a covering she might as well be shorn or shaven, a supposition without any force whatever if the hair covering is deemed sufficient. In this connection it is not proper to interpret verse 15b as meaning that the hair was given the woman to take the place of the head covering in view of verses 5, 6. The Greek of verse 15 is surely the Greek of equivalence as used quite often in the New Testament, and so the Greek can be rendered: “the hair is given to her for a covering.” This is within the scope of the particular argument of verses 14, 15 and does not interfere with the demand for the additional covering contemplated in verses 5, 6, 13. Verses 14 and 15 adduce a consideration from the order of nature in support of that which is enjoined earlier in the passage but is not itself tantamount to it. In other words, the long hair is an indication from “nature” of the differentiation between men and women, and so the head covering required (vss. 5, 6, 13) is in line with what “nature” teaches.
3. There is good reason for believing that the apostle is thinking of conduct in the public assemblies of the Church of God and of worship exercises therein in verse 17, this is clearly the case, and verse 18 is confirmatory. But there is a distinct similarity between the terms of verse 17 and of verse 2. Verse 2 begins, “Now I praise you” and verse 17, “Now in this . . . I praise you not”. The virtually identical expressions, the one positive and the other negative, would suggest, if not require, that both have in view the behaviour of the saints in their assemblies, that is, that in respect of denotation the same people are in view in the same identity as worshippers. If a radical difference, that between private and public, were contemplated, it would be difficult to maintain the appropriateness of the contrast between “I praise you” and “I praise you not”.”
Lastly on this point we turn to the straightforward Milburn R. Cockrell (1941-2002). This prolific scholar points out the inescapable contention of any woman that rejects the Bible teaching of a Headcovering: “If a woman puts off the artificial covering, let her be consistent and take the next step, putting off the natural covering of the hair, which is intended for the same purpose. The veil and the long hair are on the same side, and the unveiling and the short hair are on the same side. So if a woman refuses to wear a hat to church she should cut her hair close like a man, or shave her head like a man shaves his face… The covering in verse 6 is not the hair, for if the hair is short you cannot cut it short…
“1Corinthians 11 makes it plain that a woman should wear a covering to public worship. When a Christian woman refuses to wear her hat, she comes in the door in rebellion to God and His Word. How can a bareheaded woman worship God when in her very dress she has rejected his teaching on the symbol of Divine order in the church? If one cannot worship God if there is ought between another Christian and herself (Matt.5:23-24), how can she worship Him if there is ought between her and God? In Truth, it cannot be done!”
It’s a Gender Issue of Headship; Nothing to do with the World
The last point that we’d like to dismiss, is the idea that the Corinthian Headcovering was merely a social demonstration of the difference between Baptist women and worldly women (prostitutes, et al). The Apostle Paul’s arguments are NOWHERE in the passage related to comparing Saved women with Lost women. The contrast is ALWAYS between Men and Women and the underlying issues and arguments are Headship, Submission and Gender Relationships! Let us go again to the Historical Baptist position via our Heavenly-departed Witnesses…
Reaching into the 4th and 5th Century AD, we quote Augustine of Hippo (354-430 a.d.) This North African writer translates 1Corinthians 11:4,7 with regard to men as follows: "'Every man praying or prophesying with veiled head shameth his head;' and, 'A man ought not to veil his head, for so much as he is the image and glory of God.'" Now if it is true of a man that he is not to veil his head, then the opposite is true of a woman, that she is to veil her head. And he thusly warns the woman to do just that, in the next quotation… "We ought not therefore so to understand that made in the image of the Supreme Trinity, that is, in the image of God, as that same image should be understood to be in three human beings; especially when the apostle says that the man is the image of God, and on that account removes the covering from his head, which he warns the woman to use, speaking thus: '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.'"
As the Woman is contrasted with the Man, she is paralleled to the Angel, as William Greenhill (1581-1671), a member of the Westminster Assembly remarks: “They (the angels) reverence the greatness and majesty of Christ. Though they be high and glorious, yet they see so vast a distance between Christ and themselves, that they cover their faces, Isa.6 and their bodies, here; they come not into his presence rudely, but with great respect and reverence. As God is to be had in reverence of all that are about him, Psalm 89:7, so Christ is reverenced of all the angels that are about him. Women are to be veiled in the assemblies, because of the angels, 1 Cor.11:10, to show their reverence and subjection to them being present; and angels are covered, to show their reverence and subjection to Christ. It is an honour to the angels, that in reverence to them the women are to be veiled; and it is a great honour to Christ, that angels reverence and adore him.” [Commentary on Ezekiel]
Many other writers of the intervening centuries have already made this point also, but let’s let another member of the Westminster Assembly, John Lightfoot (1602-1675) give his exposition: “Therefore the Apostle requires the vailing of women in Religious worship, by the same notion and reason, as men veiled themselves, namely for reverence towards God. But certainly it may be required, whether he so much urgeth the vailing of women, as reproves the vailing of men. However, by this most fit argument, he well chastiseth the contrary custom, and foolishness of the men: as though he had said, do ye not consider, that the man is ‘doxa theou’ the glory of God, but the woman is only ‘doxa andros’, the glory of the man; that the woman was made for man; that man is the head of the woman: and how ridiculous is it, that men should use a vail, when they pray, out of reverence and shame before God, and women not use it, whose glory is less?” [Commentary on First Corinthians]
The famous author of “Pilgrim’s Progress”, John Bunyan (1628-1688), wrote the following short, but to the point, testimony: “For this cause ought the woman to have power”, that is a covering, “on her head, because of the angels” -1 Cor. 11:10. ...Methinks, holy and beloved sisters, you should be content to wear this power or badge...”
Coming to a Landmark, American Baptist, James Madison Pendleton (1811-1891) makes this observation as clear as can be made: “…the context shows that to wear a covering on the head indicates subjection. To avoid this appearance of subjection, man must be seen in unveiled dignity, that he may not dishonor his head. …the thing proper in the man is improper in the woman. This is because the woman occupies the place of subjection.”
Ezra Palmer Gould (1841-1900) follows up with: “The long hair and the veil were both intended as a covering of the head, and as a sign of true womanliness, and of the right relation of woman to man; and hence the absence of one had the same significance as that of the other.”
Many of the Commentators could be quoted. Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945) seemed to be aware of the apostasy of his generation, as he expected the sneers of his contemporaries. Yet being True to the Bible of his God, he wrote in his “Annotated Bible”: “The purpose of the declaration of this order of the ways of God in creation was to set them right on a matter which in our days is often sneered at. Man praying or prophesying is not to cover his head. Woman praying and prophesying is to have a covering on her head. The man who covereth his head in praying dishonoreth his head. Woman uncovered dishonoreth her head. A covering on the head is the outward sign of being in the place of subjection. An uncovered head signifies the opposite. The order which God has instituted as to the place of man and woman, His people are bound to respect. It may appear a little thing, yet if disobeyed, as it was in Corinth (where women seemed to be puffed up and refused to follow this order), it becomes a stepping stone towards more serious evil. Woman is to testify to her place of subjection by covering her head in praying and testifying. Man similarly engaged does not cover his head, for the authority is vested in man "for as much as he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of man."”
Lastly, making a very strong case for logic, reason and Scripture, we finish up with another 20th Century pastor that has written much on this subject. Paul R. Stepp (1967-) writes thusly: “…The word kalupto, as it appears in the New Testament, is variously translated as covered (see Mt. 8:24; 10:26); covereth (see Lk 8 :16); cover (Lk. 23:30); hid (twice in 2Cor. 4:3); shall hide (Jas. 5:20); shall cover (1Pet. 4:8). What is interesting to notice as we compare these Greek words from which akatakaluptos is derived, it should be noted that in not one use of the word kalupto is the word used to describe something that the object already had. In other words, nothing is covered by something that it already has, but rather, every object is Covered by something outside itself (such as an artificial covering).
“…Now, most folks who do not want to admit to the need that a woman has to wear a head covering, will use this verse (15) to simply teach that the Hair of the woman –especially the long hair of a woman – is given to her for a covering. But, what I want us to notice in this verse is that the long hair of a woman is a glory to her. …If the hair of the woman is the glory of the woman, as 1Cor. 11:15 tells us; and if the woman is the glory of the man, as 1Cor. 11:7 tells us; then shouldn’t the woman cover up that Glorious Natural Covering, which can only Glorify Man, when she is in the Public Worship services of her God and Creator?
“…I think that we would all agree that the overall teaching that Paul is presenting in this Passage, is that of Headship. …So, if Headship is the principle that is being taught; and if the Head Covering is important to this issue; then we must understand that the Head Covering is symbolic in the representation of our understanding of the Headship.
“And, we might add, if all are covered, where is the order? How can the distinction be made Public and Known to all, if the covering is worn by all, or no covering is worn by any? Since there is a Headship; and since there is an Order of Worship; isn’t the use and disuse of the Head Covering a very plain, simple and pointed way of demonstrating the Headship in Creation and Worship?”
I hope that the array of Historical Witnesses to the Perpetuity of the Correct Teaching of the Headcovering throughout the Centuries, even Millennia, will cause (at least) some of the dissenters to stop and reconsider their position- those that LOVE the Bible and her Precious Truths… The scholarship inherent in this article is unmatched in the world! We have no excuse for ignorance of what our Forefathers believed and taught and to go against what these men held forth as the True, Biblical position is somewhere I’d not want to go! If we make it a matter of prayer, and discern the Discord and Disorder of doing away with the Woman’s Headcovering in Baptist Worship services, I truly believe that the Holy Spirit will bless our churches again as being the Pillar and Ground of this vital Truth…! Selah! Think about it! God bless us all!
Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726