Question of the Week: What did Paul mean in 1 Corinthians 11 by head coverings being required in Church? Was this addressing something cultural for that time only or does it have application in the church today?
Verses: 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, 1 Corinthians 14:40
The topic Paul was addressing was a cultural issue concerning the former priestesses of Aphrodite who brought worldly elements into the church culturally by shaving their heads. This was the mark of a prostitute and a feminist in their day and age. The illustration may be different for us, but the application remains the same. When reading the whole passage and understanding well the historical background we know about Corinth, we know that Corinth was a very carnal city being known as the Las Vegas of the Roman Empire. The Temple of Aphrodite was for all intents and purposes a glorified brothel and the priestesses that worked there were prostitutes. They set themselves apart culturally not only socially, by trusting Aphrodite to take care of them and not needing any stable or moral relationships in their lives, but also cosmetically by shaving their heads as a symbol of this rebellion against the norm. Whenever a Corinthian citizen would see a woman with a shaved head, it meant she was a prostitute. Naturally these women were still human beings and began to receive the gospel like anyone else would in that city. The problem was when the cultural marks and behavior that reflected their appearances were continuing to be shown in their conduct at church, Paul took the time to address the matter. His point wasn’t to tell women how they need to cut their hair, or in modern terms, telling people they had to remove racy tattoo’s if they wanted to attend a church service. He was simply making the point that he goes on to address in the remainder of the chapter concerning getting drunk during communion or constantly interrupting church services as not being the kind of behavior that should reflect a Child of God. If women had attire or appearances that reflected the attire of a prostitute, no matter what that means in any culture, it was to be covered for the sake of honoring God. If the way you behaved in the life you lived before coming to Christ was at odds with the standards God had for leadership and the order He set for His church, you were to respect that as honoring to God. They were being told to follow Christ’s example as Paul showed it to them. Constantly conforming themselves into Christ’s image, not conforming the Church’s image into their own.
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