The Question Column
In the March-April issue of Focus we presented the reply of our associate editor, Mr. James Gunn, to the question of the pertinence of the Scriptural teaching on the head-covering in 1 Corinthians 11. We have asked Mr. Gunn to answer further questions on this subject.
Question: Assuming that the teaching of a headcovering for all sisters in an assembly gathering is for the 20th century, in what circumstances should a woman cover her head? In just those gatherings for prayer and prophesying (1 Cor. 11:5)? In women’s meetings where no men are present? In Christian gatherings for men and women which are not church meetings, such as a dinner meeting of a missionary society, a Christian Business Men’s group to which wives are invited, or a fellowship supper and film night? What about a home Bible study and/or prayer meeting?
Answer: In 1 Corinthians 11-14, the Apostle Paul repeats the statement, “when ye come together,” some four times (11:20, 33; 14:23, 26) and he also applies the word church (ecclesia) — 14:23 & 34. This is a rather limited use of the word church. In the Biblical sense it is used of the universal aspect of the Church (1 Cor. 10:32), and also of the local aspect of the church (1 Cor. 1:1). In this context it is used of the actual church meeting, embracing only all the believers present. The conclusion appears logical that a local church meeting, where the sisters. are to cover their heads, is one to which everyone in the assembly is invited and expected — a full church gathering.
Women’s meetings, dinner meetings, home Bible study and prayer groups do not belong in this category.
Question: 1 Corinthians 11:5 specifically states: “Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head.” Are we to assume, then that: (a) women may pray or prophesy publicly as long as their heads are covered; or (b) only when they are publicly praying or prophesying that it is necessary for them to cover their heads?
Answer: The reference to women praying and prophesying may be an indication of an actual practice at Corinth. Paul is not endorsing this practice; he is merely using it in his argumentation. He does not deal with the right or wrong of this matter here; this he does in 14:34-35. Churches today are ill-informed if they attempt to follow some of the practices of the church at Corinth. Indubitably, this church was the most carnal of all the apostolic churches. Its spiritual status did not improve, as may be seen in a letter by St. Clements of Rome written at the close of the first century.
There are many better examples to follow than Corinth. Best of all to follow is the Word of God, which states: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak” (1 Cor. 14:34). “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression” (1 Tim. 2:12-14).
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(Please send all questions or comments to Dr. James T. Naismith, 1121 Hilltop Street, Peterborough, Ontario, K9J 5S6.)