1 corinthians 11?

what is the first half of the chapter really talking about?

i thought the stuff about hair and headcoverings was a custom. but paul iusing some pretty strong language.

is it a sin for women to have short hair and men long hair?

I’ve also heard it might have something to do with pagan temple prostitution but that doesn’t make sense if he is talking about it being part of nature and not offending the angels if women are not covered?

can anyone help?

From Haydock’s commentary:

Ver. 3. The head of the woman is the man, &c. To have the head covered at public meetings, is, according to St. Paul, a mark of subjection: The man was created to be head over the woman, who was made subject to the man, being made of him, of his rib, and the woman made for him, not he for the woman. The man in a special manner, is the image of God, not only by his immortal soul, in which sense also the woman was made to God’s image, and likeness, but inasmuch as God gave him a power over all creatures, and so he is called, the glory of God. For these reasons, as well as from a received custom, St. Paul tells every woman, that in prayer or prophesying in public meetings, she must have her head veiled, and covered in testimony of her subjection to man, her head, otherwise she dishonors herself, and her head. This is what he tells her, (ver. 10.) that she ought to have a power over her head,[1] that is, to have a veil or covering, as a mark of man’s power over her: and because of the angels, that is, out of a respect to the angels there present. Some understand the priests and ministers of God, called angels, particularly in the Apocalypse. St. Paul adds, that nature[2] having given to women long hair, designed it to be as a natural veil. In fine, he appeals to them, to be judges, whether it be not unbecoming in women to pray without a veil. But he will have men to be uncovered, and not to bear such a mark of subjection, as a veil is, by which a man would dishonor his head, that is, himself, and Christ, who is his head, and who appointed him, when he created him, to be head over the woman. He looks upon it as a dishonor and a disgrace for men to nourish their hair, as women should do. He also calls God the head of Christ, that is, of Christ, as man. Lest he should seem to lessen the condition of women more than necessary, he adds, that the propagation of mankind now depends on the woman, as well as on the man, seeing every man is by the woman. (Witham)

It’s all symbolic.

What’s really confusing to me is that the pattern is fully reversed from that of Judaism, where men cover their heads in prayer while women do not.


I don’t think that but you have to remember long hair on a man back then would have been a lot longer than what we think of long hair now. I’ve regularly had shoulder length hair and that would not have been unknown in Paul’s time and he probably would not have considered it long hair. Listening to some of the folks on EWTN I’m not sure who said this but one of the priests said it, I think it was Father Mitch Pacwa, but don’t quote me on that because I’m not sure. Anyway the Corinthian men sometimes wore hair down to their waist. Which I admit I’ve never had hair that long. Again you have to remember what Paul meant according to his time period and according to his cultural upbringing. It is not simply enough to read a text and form an opinion out of it you have to know why that text exists

Here’s a bit of info from the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (pgs. 300-301):

“…Paul is more likely speaking about gender issues in general within the context of public worship. It seems that certain Corinthians have challenged the distinction between the sexes by violating gender-appropriate dress codes in the liturgy. Paul’s guidelines imply that the order of redemption, where men and women are equal recipients of grace (Gal. 3:28), does not obliterate the order of creation, where gender differences are written into nature (Gen. 1:27)”


“…Many believe the veil symbolizes the subordinate status of women that should be reflected in a liturgical setting (14:43). The Catholic Church teaches that Paul’s counsel on the veiling of women was inspired by the customs of the day. Because this was a matter of discipline, not doctrine, the Pauline directives on covering and uncovering the head are subject to change. They are no longer binding on men and women today (Sacred Congregation fro the Doctrine of the Faith: Inter insigniores [1976],4)”

That was actually a late development: the idea of covering the head, especially in prayer, was something that arose among Babylonian Jews during the 5th-6th century and only gradually became widespread. In fact, it still wasn’t universal in the Middle Ages: Jews in France as late as the 12th-13th century were known to pray, read Scripture and give blessings bareheaded. The custom only became the standard by the 16th-17th century, when there was a heightened consciousness among European Jews to actively distinguish themselves from their gentile neighbors. In other words, the covering of the head became universal among Jews at that time because Christian men prayed bareheaded.

Covering your head isn’t really the point. That was just a local custom.

The main reason for the letters to the Corinthians was disorder in the Church - people talking out of turn, eating and getting drunk at Mass, not dressing appropriately, arguments, factions, law suits, etc. Paul asserts his authority, tells everyone to shut up, eat at home, dress nicely, humble themselves and get along, and then threatens to come there himself to straighten them all out.

General disorder in the Church is the whole reason for both letters.


I guess all the symbolism has changed?

it’s still pretty strong language, how are we not dishonouring our heads now by not covering or by cutting our hair?

is the stuff about hair length disciplinary as well?

Thank you for the heads-up. Pun intended!

I had imagined that covering the male head in Judaism was ancient, given that currently at the Kotel/Western Wall in Israel, barehead men are issued paper yarmulkes. It’s cool to see the real history :slight_smile:


That’s really because Babylonian Jews ascribed a special, sacred status to covering your head. In fact, not just in prayer, but in everyday life. There is a brief anecdote in the Babylonian Talmud: “R. Huna son of R. Joshua would not walk four cubits bareheaded, saying: ‘The Shekinah is above my head.’”

There’s actually a theory that part of the reason why this Jewish custom become more widespread was due to the growth of Islam, which apparently has a similar custom of covering the head in prayer in some places.

(Speaking of which, the kippah/yarmulke and many other Jewish headwear were also later inventions. In fact, another reason why headgear became more common was actually due to medieval anti-Semitism. As you might know, in some places in Europe Jews began to be required to dress differently from non-Jews or have a marker that identifies them as Jewish: the so-called ‘Jewish hat’ or the yellow badge are two examples. Up to that point, Jews didn’t really have a unique costume of their own: they wore the same type of clothes the peoples around them were wearing. So back in the OT days, Israelites were wearing mostly similar clothes as their Canaanite/Egyptian/Babylonian neighbors; at the time of Jesus and later, Jews in Palestine simply looked like the other peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean while those in Parthia dressed like Parthians; in the early Middle Ages, most Jews in Christian Europe were still no different fashion-wise from Christians, while those in Islamic areas looked like Muslims. It was kind of partly due to that anti-Jewish sentiment that some form of hat or headwear or some other item of clothing became a sort of marker of Jewish identity.)

Hey angell1,

I dunno, it would seem to be, I guess. I spose it could be a part of the “gender issues” and keeping the “distinction between the sexes” referred to above, perhaps.

There are some interesting articles about hair and head coverings at myjewishlearning.com but I couldn’t find anything that specifically addresses your question.

This link is the best I’ve ever seen veiling explained.


I highly recommend reading this piece. I got into it a little argument with one of those “Catholic Feminists” who tried to use the CDF as an excuse for women to not veil anymore. She told me that in veiling I was going against the Magisterium, which is ridiculous. She thought I was a Protestant!

Anyway, I hope you find the article interesting.

“Head covering” is no longer a requirement in the Catholic Church. An individual woman can use a “head cover” as a “personal devotion” — but there is no obligation for women to cover at all.

Oh and the link in post #13 – it is to a fundamentalist protestant site.



Another objection is based upon the transitory character that one claims to see today in some of the prescriptions of Saint Paul concerning women, and upon the difficulties that some aspects of his teaching raise in this regard.** But it must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on their head (1 Cor 11:2-16); such requirements no longer have a normative value.

  1. the Protestant website I posted is still rooted in Scripture. As Catholics, we not only look to Tradition but also Scripture. Also, just because it’s Protestant does not mean it’s not worth looking into or that it’s automatically wrong.

  2. The Canon also states that an immemorial practice/tradition (a practice that has been upheld for over 100 years) overrides/nullifies any new written law. Since headcovering/veiling has been practiced for almost 2000 yrs., it stands to reason and logic that it is a tradition that is to be preserved among the congregations.

Walking_Home is correct. It is not enforced BUT consider: the Canon still upholds the practice according to its immemorial law, it is 100% Scriptural AND Mother Mary is always seen and described as wearing one. Whether you veil or not it is definitely something that every woman needs to seriously consider before automatically dismissing it as just an “outdated” practice.

Here is a canon lawyer on the subject of “headcovering”.


Walking_Home is correct.

However, it doesn’t dispute what I said in my last post.

Because it is present in Scripture AND Tradition, as well as a practice done by numerous saints for 1000’s of years as well as our Mother Mary, I believe it should still be considered by women before being so casually thrown to the side.

We must remember, most women who think the latter really don’t know what the true meaning behind the veil/head covering really is. They have fallen victim to the women’s movement from the 60’s which did terrible damage to this beautiful practice. Obviously, this was all done in ignorance and is why I encourage women to look into it more and pray on their own before deciding.

The last link I posted was to a Protestant site but this site is much better. It IS Catholic and has testimonials from Catholic women as to WHY they started veiling and why they STILL veil. Some of their stories are beautiful and inspiring. It’s great to read them and realize that, as Catholic women, we are all on a spiritual journey. To know we can come together and support one another on things regarding our femininity is very uplifting.

veilsbylily.com/frequently-asked-questions/ --> FAQ page and common ques.
veilsbylily.com/women-who-wear-veils-by-lily/ --> Testimonials

Veiling/head covering is a discussion that should bring us together, whether or not you CHOOSE to veil/cover, we should all be supporting each other as sisters in Christ. For He is the MAIN reason why women CHOOSE to cover at all.

Here is another short article from a Catholic website that also explains a little more as to why women have started veiling again. When you get to the bottom of the article there are other articles regarding veiling/head covering that you can click on to brush up on the history of this ancient yet beautiful tradition and practice.

God love you and peace be to you all, sisters. :o

The authority is the Magisterium of the Catholic Church — Not some fundamentalist protestant site and/or “Trad”/layperson run blog(s). The Catholic Church via the CDF has spoken on the matter of “headcovering”.

A canon lawyer has also spoken on the issue-- the link is in my prior post.

So people will not be misled —I’ll post again the following from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith"



The Church has spoken via the CDF "Another objection is based upon the transitory character that one claims to see today in some of the prescriptions of Saint Paul concerning women, and upon the difficulties that some aspects of his teaching raise in this regard.** But it must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance**, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on their head (1 Cor 11:2-16); such requirements no longer have a normative value.

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