1 Corinthians 11:5
“But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.”
Explanation and Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:5
A woman who prays or preaches without wearing a veil is disgraceful.
In this passage, Paul encouraged the women in the Corinthian church to cover their heads when they prayed, as being covered was the customary sign for being subject to their husbands. He said that the head of the woman is the man (1 Corinthians 11:3), meaning that she was inferior to her husband and should respect his rank above her. Husbands, in contrast, should not cover their heads because the head of every man is Christ and man is the image and glory of God (1 Corinthians 11:3,7).
Many scholars believe that a literal translation of this verse was relevant to the cultural norms at the time of Paul’s writing, and emphasize that we should apply the meaning of respecting one’s husband to how that would apply in today’s culture.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of 1 Corinthians 11:5
#1: “But every woman who prays or prophesies…”
Every woman who prays or teaches the Word of God.
#2: “…with her head uncovered…
Without covering her head with a veil, because wearing a veil was a cultural symbol of modesty and inferiority.
#3 “…dishonors her head…”
This part of the verse means that the woman shows a lack of respect to her husband, or is attempting to usurp a man’s rank above her in society. Some commentators believe this part of the verse instead refers to a woman’s own head on her body, meaning that she dishonors herself because it was considered immodest for a woman to be uncovered in public. Still, others think this part of the verse carries both meanings.
#4: “…it is the same as having her head shaved.”
Shaving or cutting off one’s hair was considered to be a sign of extreme mourning (Job 1:20, Ezra 9:3) or shame (1 Corinthians 11:6, 1 Corinthians 11:15). Paul states that long hair on a woman is a glory to her and given to her for a covering (1 Corinthians 11:15). This means that long hair is beautiful on a woman and serves as a natural veil. Long hair on a woman was not the same thing as an artificial covering or veil, as a woman was required to have “power” on her head as a symbol that she was under someone else’s authority (1 Corinthians 11:10).
Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 11:5
Expert Overview of 1 Corinthians
Biblical Translations of 1 Corinthians 11:5
But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.
But a woman dishonors her head if she prays or prophesies without a covering on her head, for this is the same as shaving her head.
But every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.
But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.