Should Women Wear Headcoverings? -- By: Kenneth T. Wilson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 148:592 (Oct 1991)
Article: Should Women Wear Headcoverings?
Author: Kenneth T. Wilson


Should Women Wear Headcoverings?

Kenneth T. Wilson

Pastor-Teacher, Anchorage Bible Fellowship
Anchorage, Alaska

First Corinthians 11:2–16 is among the most challenging passages in the Bible. Key words and the thrust of the passage lend themselves to numerous, often conflicting opinions. Because of the controversial and difficult nature of this section, any interpretation must be held with a certain degree of caution.

The Structure of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

This passage is composed of three major units. In the first (11:2–6) and third (11:13–15) units Paul presented reasons for proper decorum in public worship. In the second unit (11:7–12) he discussed male-female functional distinctives within the framework of essential equality as a part of God’s created order. An opening statement (v. 2) and concluding exhortation (v. 16) round out the passage.

Paul clearly appealed to cultural issues in the first and third units, where the explicit statement is made that women should cover their heads. The issues are the shame associated with an uncovered head (vv. 4–6) and the teaching of “nature” (vv. 13–16). Yet in the middle section, where he appealed to noncultural issues (vv. 7–12), he avoided calling for women to cover their heads. Instead he asked that they have “authority” on their heads, though this breaks the parallel structure maintained in the other sections.

Comments on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

In 7:1–11:1 Paul answered questions concerning the church’s moral life, and then in 11:2–34 he addressed problems pertaining to the worship of the church. He then discussed spiritual gifts (chaps. 12–14) and the resurrection (chap. 15).

An Expression of Goodwill (11:2)

Paul introduced a new section in verse 2 with the use of δὲ (“now”).1 Does this section continue Paul’s replies to the Corinthians’ questions, which began in 7:1<...

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