Hope you are keeping well. I had a look into 1Cor11 about women shaving their hair.  I do not understand 1Cor11:2-16. Does it mean women should not shave their hair?  Someone said to me Paul was making sure that women in the church don’t look like prostitutes who at that time shaved their hair.  However man are told to not clip their beard on the edges and shave on the sides.


With 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 it is important to look at the context. The context of the passage shows that Paul (and the Holy Spirit) is talking about submission. He says that the head of every man is Christ, the head of Christ is God and the head of every (married) woman is a man. The point is that all of us except the Father himself live in submission in our life and, most importantly in the context, in our worship. The “symbol” of submission for the women in the Greek/Jewish culture was the hair of the woman (and perhaps also a veil). The reason Paul is talking about hair (and perhaps a veil) is because he wants to stress the submission of the woman to Christ and, secondarily, to her husband. The context does not have anything to do with prostitution.

I am aware that some commentators mention the prostitution angle and I cannot completely prove that this is not relevant, but to me the context does not support this line of thinking as to why Paul talked about a woman’s hair.

What about the application? I do not believe that 1 Corinthians 11 is a command about hair length today, although many women prefer to have at least somewhat longer hair in light of this passage. We should not take the culture-specific advice of Paul as a prescription about hair style today. If we do so, then women will have to wear a veil. We should think about the principle. The take-home lesson is that we should all live a life of submission to God, and to those who are “over” us. The cultural details about the veil and hair style are relevant to the first century, not about the 21st century, so you should decide for yourself exactly how to apply the principle of submission to God, and to Christ and, for a woman, to her husband.

As for the beard and sideburns, there is no Christian prescription about that, at least as far as I know. You may be referring to an Old Testament law which we, as Christians, are certainly not subject to. Either way, we should try to understand the heart and the principle, not possible legalistic applications of what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 11.

John Oakes

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