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Are Women Required to Wear Hats in Church?

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Question:  Do women have to wear veils or some kind of hat in church? We apparently got on that subject some how at church study, and so far it shows that women are supposed to wear a veil. But I don't know any churches that actually do this. Which is right? I'm looking forward for your answer.

Response:  Glad to be of assistance. In my view, the 1st Corinthians 11 passage (the one responsible for "hats in church") has been widely misunderstood. Women are not required by the Bible to wear hats (or veils). It should be remembered that in this epistle, Paul is addressing many abuses on the part of the Corinthian church ("being baptized for the dead" for example: 15:29; cf. also abuses at the Lord's supper: 11:17-34; abuse of gifts: 12-14; marriage abuses: chapter 7; as well as correcting them on the topics of divisiveness, failure to judge immorality, going to law before unbelievers, etc.). This passage in chapter eleven is addressing another such abuse, namely, the following of the Greek custom of disheveling the hair and marring the appearance when in mourning (Jer.16:6; something often done in pagan rites of ritual mourning as well - clearly an abomination: cf. Ezek.8:14-15). I have treated this passage in some detail in part 3 of the Satanic rebellion series, and here is the translation I give there:

Any man praying or prophesying with [hair] hanging down from his head dishonors his Head (i.e., Christ: cf. v.3). And any woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered (i.e., hair torn and unkempt as a sign of mourning) dishonors her head (i.e., husband: cf. v.3). For then she is one and the same with her who has been shaved [as a sign of disgrace]. So if a woman is not keeping her hair in good order [through styling, pinning, braiding, etc.], let her be shorn. And if it is a shameful thing for a woman to be shorn or shaved [and it is], then let her wear her hair properly arranged. For a man ought not to wear adorned hair [an effeminate mark of submission] since he is the image and glory of God. A woman, on the other hand, is the glory of her husband. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man. Moreover, man was not created because of woman, but woman because of man. For this reason, a woman ought to have a sign of [respect for] authority on her head (i.e., properly arranged hair) because of the angels. However, in the Lord, woman does not [have priority] over man, nor does man [have priority] over woman. For just as women are begotten by men, so men are birthed by women. But everything comes from God.
1st Corinthians 11:5-12

In the verses which follow (1Cor.11:13-16), the issue is entirely one hair, making it clear that hair, not hats or veils, is what Paul has been talking about all along (cf. v.15 "for long hair has been given to her for a covering").   So deliberately and obviously mussed, or torn, or disheveled hair is, in effect, a sign of rebellion against proper authority and a mark of disrespect on a woman's part as Paul shows us above. No wearing of hats (or veils) is necessary to avoid the stricture given here, nor any elaborate hair-styling (for the other extreme see: 1Tim.2:9-10; 1Pet.3:3-5), rather only the avoidance of inappropriate displays by means of the hair. It is also important to note that in this last verse above Paul also hastens to make clear that we are all equal in the Lord, even though we have specific roles to play in this life. Here are some more links which relate to this issue:

1st Corinthians 11: Hats or Hair?

Hats and hair length for Christian women

Hair Length:  How Short is too Short?

Short Hair and the Question of Cultures

The Image of God and 1st Corinthians 11:5-12

Hope this is helpful,

Yours in Christ,

Bob L.

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