What Nature Teaches

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #130

“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” (1 Cor. 11: 13-16).

So we now come to what I believe is the nub of Paul’s argument. He has grounded his argument in the way the world was created—so I do not think we can legitimately evade his requirement by appeal to Greco/Roman customs. What Paul is teaching in 1 Corinthians is something that “nature itself” also teaches. That doctrine is that women should have a covering on their heads when they pray in public, and that men should not. This is natural theology, and it is reinforced by special revelation.

My reading of this is that a woman’s long hair is given her “for a covering” (v. 15). I do not take it as her long hair is given her “for an illustration of how an additional covering is necessary.” So the lesson is brought to us by nature, and the provision for Paul’s requirement is given to us by nature as well.

But what nature teaches here is nevertheless relevant to man-made coverings. If a man has short hair, and prays in church with a baseball cap on, he is violating the intent of this passage—even though he has short hair. But if a woman has long hair, and wears an additional covering (a veil, covering, or hat), she is accentuating the import of the passage.

Those who do not see this passage as requiring man-made coverings may not therefore dismiss what the passage is actually requiring. Women who do not wear an artificial covering must make a point of making sure that their hair—given them for a covering—actually serves as one. It is not possible to argue that because long hair is given for a covering, this means that long hair is not necessary.

And this leads to the final question. What does “long” mean here? How long before it is a shame to a man? How long before it is a glory to a woman? There are two aspects to this answer. Note that the Bible does not give us quantitative measurements—“over twelve inches,” say. This means that long and short should be defined from the context of the passage, and there are two aspects we should think about. First, the long and short are used as a comparison between men and women. A woman’s hair should be long relative to the man’s, and in particular, relative to her husband’s. When I was a boy, my father had short hair (crew cut) and my mother had long hair (shoulder length). When our kids were little, I had short hair (shoulder length) and Nancy had long hair (down to her waist). This rule of thumb is obviously not completely elastic—say if a man had hair four and a half feet long, we should notice the problem even if his wife had hair six inches longer than that.

The second aspect of this is that hair is given “for a covering.” A man should not have enough hair to wear it that way, and a woman should. This would prevent the opposite “technical solution” of a man with a buzz cut and a woman with hair that is one inch long. Hair is given to the woman for a glory and a covering—and should be received as such.

One last thing, which should be obvious, but I will say it anyway. We are not talking about the exceptional situations—women who lose their hair during chemo, for example.

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Steve PerryhenrybishGianniJane Dunsworthkatecho Recent comment authors

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It still feels like you are not being entirely fair to this section in Corinthians. What Paul meant by a woman praying with her head uncovered was that she had hair as short or shorter than a mans? If he indeed meant hair then why would he use covering and hair in the same verse (verse 6)? The symbol of authority in verse 10 just means longer hair than a man?

Giovanni Maresia
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Giovanni Maresia

Superb unpacking of what Paul is saying. Spot on.

My only disagreement with what you are saying about this chapter is in this, that I think Paul’s whole argument about hair serves as the basis, in verse 6, for an implicit PROHIBITION for women to “speak” in churches, rather than for an implicit conditional CONCESSION.

Giovanni Maresia
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Giovanni Maresia

“If a man has short hair, and prays in church with a baseball cap on, he is violating the intent of this passage—even though he has short hair.” And removing the stiff peak of a white baseball cap does nothing to solve the problem. (Well, somebody had to say it.) So the Pope is also in violation of what Paul says here. I think the Pope does remove his hat during communion, but not necessarily when he prays, which is when he should. How about modern Jews? Why do they pray with their heads covered? “The skullcap itself has no… Read more »

Katecho
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Doug,

Paragraph breaks can only be simulated, currently, by using the (blockquote)(/blockquote) tag from the list of allowed tags displayed just below the comment entry box.

It should be trivial to add the paragraph (p) tag to the supported list, but it would be even better to enable automatic paragraph detection so that explicit tags are not even necessary. I’d be willing to try to help resolve this if you put me in contact with your web admin. It’s probably a simple setting change in whatever theme you are using.

Steve Perry
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Steve Perry

For A Glory And A Cover Up – I’m very sad because Doug had the opportunity to reclaim our Christian heritage by introducing us back to the historical teaching of the church. Doug had the chance to fix things in the sanctuary but chose modernity. N.T Wright could not have done a better job. Our culture will continue down this confused path. No access to a computer, so I’ll post later on in the week if anyone is interested. But let me leave you with this. Why did Paul use a different word for cover when addressing a woman’s natural… Read more »

Katecho
Member

After a bit of poking around, it looks like your theme (called “Rundown”), or some other WordPress plugin, may be disabling automatic paragraph formatting (see “wpautop”). For the type of comments that appear on this site, I think you may want automatic paragraph formatting enabled. This will mean that users won’t have to add explicit paragraph tags every time they want a paragraph break.

Jill Smith
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Jill Smith

In my community there are Orthodox Jewish women who cover their hair with a hat, a scarf, or a wig. I assume this is based on Torah-would St. Paul have been deriving some of his thinking about women’s hair from his religious training? The women I see do this any time they are outside their home, not just in temple. I had always assumed that the reason for this was akin to Moslem modesty codes, and that the woman’s hair, being in some sense a sexual characteristic, should only be seen by her family. This had puzzled me because if,… Read more »

James Bradshaw
Member

“How long before it is a shame to a man?”

I asked that same question of a street preacher once. He scolded me for asking such an impertinent question.

If a man is married to a woman with floor-length hair, he could thus have it simply down to his shoulders and it would be quite “short” in comparison. Would that be shameful or not? It’s still “long” by my standards.

Katecho
Member

Regarding the topic, so far I’m inclined to agree with Doug. The debate seems to hinge on whether the covering requirement for women is satisfied by hair (as a sufficient condition) or by a hat (as a necessary condition). The debate doesn’t seem to be about whether men and women have distinct and opposite roles with regard to head covering. There seems to be general agreement about that. Also, there doesn’t seem to be disagreement that, whatever the covering is, women are required to have it, at least in the context of prayer, and men are required not to have… Read more »

Steve Perry
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Steve Perry

Katecho, why the two different Greek words for covering? Katakalupto used for covering in all of Paul’s usage except vs 15. And Peribolaion used only for covering when addressing long hair in vs 15?

Giovanni Maresia
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Giovanni Maresia

Pastor Wilson, Katecho was fast and already said it all. I agree with him, and I hope his explanation is sufficient. I think it was Katecho who came up with this paragraph simulation. At least I copied him, as I spied the html source code of his comments, and eventually several people followed suit. So I guess now it’s already part of the Mablog lore, and I actually have mixed feelings about you fixing it. By the way, regarding the comment I made about paragraph breaks and postmillennial maturity in the “All over the map” thread, I trust you saw… Read more »

Giovanni Maresia
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Giovanni Maresia

Hi Katecho, <blockquote></blockquote> I agree with you regarding hair, and with most everything you say, and not only here. You mention two pro-hats arguments: <blockquote></blockquote> “Verse 13 provides a specific context where a woman should be covered, namely when praying. This could imply that she doesn’t need her covering outside this context. But since a first-century woman doesn’t put on her hair and take off her hair depending on the occasion, this implies that the covering is a type of hat.” <blockquote></blockquote> Yes, this may be a fair pro-hats argument when it is conceded by all parties that what Paul… Read more »

Giovanni Maresia
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Giovanni Maresia

Oh, no!
Test 1
Test 2
<blockquote></blockquote>
Test 3
 

Giovanni Maresia
Member
Giovanni Maresia

Test <p>
Test

Feeling Obtuse
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Feeling Obtuse

If I’m missing something incredibly obvious, I humbly ask for some gracious soul to respond anyway.  But I fail to see what is meant by “nature itself teach(es)” that a man should have short hair and a woman, long.  How, where, or in what way is that apparent in natural revelation? Katecho says “As Doug mentions, Paul grounds his appeal to the teaching of nature on the difference between men and women. But hats are not a natural distinction between men and women”  But, as I see it, neither is hair, unless we’re talking about facial hair.  Hair grows on… Read more »

Giovanni Maresia
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Giovanni Maresia

Hi FE, you said: “hair [is not a natural distinction between men and women] unless we’re talking about facial hair. Hair grows on heads irrespective of gender, and grows long if it is not cut whether on man or woman.” However, Paul argues from creation. Consider that God created Eve in some form. Was Eve created with short hair, which then started to grow? Or maybe God created both Adam and Eve as bald, and then when hair began to grow they arbitrarily decided to cut it differently? If so, did God create them also without fingernails? The fact that… Read more »

timothy
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timothy

This passage has always troubled me. Nature does not teach that long hair is a shame to a man–it teaches exactly the opposite. In nature, it is the male that is built for show–see the lion, peacock, turkey…
Isn’t the simplest answer to say that Paul simply made a hash of an argument?
I am not trying to convince anyone of my point of view–I am happy to be convinced otherwise, but I have never heard an answer to this passage that can be conveyed to an un-saved soul in simple terms.
 
 
 
 

delurking
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delurking

“…. the nearly universal practice, both geographically and historically, of leaving girls’ hair to grow longer.”
 
This really isn’t the case, as anyone who has studied world history and anthropology can tell you.
 
 

C. Frank Bernard
Member

Paul wants us to discern heads, and he gave us a big clue how to do so in verse 3. We need to treat “her head” as the husband’s as much as possible. It is his that needs a symbol of authority. https://www.facebook.com/notes/charles-franklin-bernard/head-covering-coronation-a-symbol-of-authority-a-wife-lays-on-her-husband/10150603632407506

Katecho
Member

Feeling Obtuse wrote: But I fail to see what is meant by “nature itself teach(es)” that a man should have short hair and a woman, long.  How, where, or in what way is that apparent in natural revelation? I see a theme in Scripture where the angels and heavenly hosts were created in their full glory from the start, but where mankind moves from lesser glory to greater glory, both individually as we grow up, and in terms of God’s progressing sanctification of history.  God is moving us along toward maturity and glory. The glory of young men is their… Read more »

henrybish
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henrybish

delurking

This really isn’t the case, as anyone who has studied world history and anthropology can tell you. 

I don’t think this is correct. I don’t have the passage to hand, but read Stephen Clark’s book Man and Woman in Christ, one of the most carefully argued books on male and female. It is a fairly universal practice both across culture and history.

henrybish
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henrybish

Gianni,
your hypothesis is interesting. But it is quite speculative and I think it is simpler to refer to an innate sense implanted within man and woman, that recognizes the beauty of long hair on a woman and the shame of a shaved head.
This innate natural sense, like any other, can be seared and forgotten, just as much of our culture has forgotten the shamefulness of a woman exercising authority over a man. But many of us feel it keenly, and those who don’t, by God’s grace can have it awakened again by repentance and faith.

henrybish
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henrybish

addendum,
 
this would mean that nature (the near universal practice of women with long hair) teaches us because God has given us the capacity to learn this particular thing, due to the innate sense implanted within us.
 
That is, nature testifies to what God put in our minds.

Giovanni Maresia
Member
Giovanni Maresia

Henry, I don’t think we have to choose. What you say makes sense, and I don’t deny that God has also built in us a sense of what is proper, beautiful and shameful. <blockquote></blockquote> However, as I said, Paul makes explicit references to the Garden of Eden while explaining what is natural. Something happened there. Adam and Eve had some appearance. Some universal human practices, like the use of clothes, have their origin in things that happened to our first parents one day. Adam and Eve certainly took notice of how God clothed them, and most likely did the same… Read more »

Jane
Member

The problem with delurking’s objection is the word “longer.” We all know many cultures have endorsed men’s hair growing long by 19th-21st century American standards, but I can’t think of an exception to the rule that women’s hair is ordinarily longER except among some ethnic groups for which hair simply doesn’t grow very long unless specially treated, or some subgroups of society in which long hair on men was a special identity marker (e.g. the 18th-19th century Royal Navy, Chinese court officials, etc., in which case most women’s hair was still as long as or longer than the longest men’s… Read more »

Giovanni Maresia
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Giovanni Maresia

Exactly, thank you Jane.

henrybish
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henrybish

Gianni,

 
Well, if so, and since there was no one there to stop His hand, I wonder, how do you think God decided to create Adam and Eve?  
 

I don’t disagree with the conclusion of this argument, I just not sure about the direction of it.

Steve Perry
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Steve Perry

Normal.dotm 0 0 1 578 3298 saaar5 27 6 4050 12.256 0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false false /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:””; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;} Gently Down the Stream – Well it’s been amusing and sad to read through all these blogs and how the church in history got it wrong on this tradition, but everyone here seams to be getting it right, and even on spot!  I’ve already extolled the virtues of… Read more »