In the fourth point of “Paul Addressed Wives“, I took issue with those who argue that “The hair is not the only covering in 1 Corinthians 11“:
It is impossible for the covering that Paul is speaking about in 1 Corinthians 11 to be merely the woman’s hair. Verse 6 makes this reading incoherent, and verse 15 directly signals that it is wrong by using a different word for covering than the rest of the chapter. — Dominic Bnonn Tennant
What is a Covering?
Before we go to far, let’s jump straight to verse 15 and note that peribolaion means a wrapper, mantle, veil, cloak, covering, while word used earlier was katakaluptó meaning “I veil, cover the head.” Even if you have not read any of the previous articles on this topic, you may see that something weird is going on here. Let’s read what Paul is saying in verse 15:
“15. But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her, for her hair is given her for [a wrapping, mantle, veil, cloak].”
That’s weird, isn’t it? This reads as if Paul explicitly states that the hair is her opaque cloth wrapping. This is, to borrow the words of Tennant, “incoherent nonsense.” Wouldn’t you agree?
Paul likes to use literally incoherent nonsense to represent coherent figurative language to emphasize his point (which he also does in verse 6). Hair is obviously not a cloth mantle, veil, wrapping, or cloak, but Paul is clearly saying that the hair counts as if it was. That’s the whole point of the sentence! That’s why he uses this word only here and not elsewhere where it really would be incoherent to his argument about hair. And to top it off, Paul immediately silences those who disagree with this assessment:
“16. But if any man seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.”
A mantle is a full-length hooded cloak that almost completely covers the body. We’re not talking about a mere veil here. We’re talking about being completely covered. Long hair is treated as if it were a complete covering. As Tennant notes, the word is only used in one other place, when referring to the expanse of the sky:
“And as a mantle shalt thou roll them up, as a garment, and they shall be changed.”
This mantle being spoken of clearly refers to a garment that completely covers—wraps up—the whole.
Now we are going to read a quote from John Chrysostom’s Homily 26 on First Corinthians. It is a fairly lengthy read. John Chrysostom was an expert Greek speaker from the 4th century, albeit a few centuries of language development after the original was written, but still much earlier than Dominic Bnonn Tennant. Chrysostom espoused many patriarchal views, as we will see below, but he did not agree with the modern “Red Pill”.
Notably, Chrysostom doesn’t mention the significance of the change of words for covering, even as he dedicates two paragraphs—over 200 words—to verse 15. Whatever distinction that Tennant—a non-native speaker—wants to make, Chrysostom didn’t notice this supposed obvious error. Let’s see what Chrysostom actually said.
“And if it be given her for a covering”, say you, “wherefore need she add another covering?” That not nature only, but also her own will may have part in her acknowledgment of subjection. For that you ought to be covered nature herself by anticipation enacted a law.
We can immediately see in this fictitious dialogue that the arguer, correctly, reads the language of v15 and thus reasonably concludes that she need not add another covering besides her hair which completely covers her. But Chrysostom counters with an appeal to verse 14…
“14. Does not even nature itself teach you, that if a man have long hair, it is a dishonor unto him?”
…suggesting from this that it was proper for women—as an act of her will—to wear a second covering—a cloth veil—to explicitly emphasize her subjection.
This is quite revealing. Chrysostom’s fictitious opponent is saying exactly the same thing that Bnonn Tennant’s opponents are saying, exactly the same thing that I have said above. But Chrysostom—the native speaker—can only counter it with a citation of a different verse using a completely different reason! This isn’t because Chrysostom failed to notice the word change, as he often highlights the specific meanings of certain words when it suits his argument (as we will see below). He never once states that his ‘opponent’ is misusing the word, because of course he isn’t! Paul was using a figure-of-speech, using absurdity as a literary device. It is impossible to conclude from…
“15. But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her, for her hair is given her for [a wrapping, mantle, veil, cloak].”
…that Paul wanted women to wear a cloth covering on her head. Now that would be incoherent. So Chrysostom, still wanting women to wear a cloth veil, has to come up with his own reason.
Now, pay special attention to the fact that Paul says that “long hair” is given to her as a cloth wrapping, as her mantle. This will be especially important as we examine verse 6.
Be Covered, or Cut it Off
“6. For if a woman is not covered, then she should cut off her hair. But if it is a shame to a woman to have her hair be cut or shaved off, let her be covered.”
Let’s have Tennant explain the issue:
If you don’t immediately see the problem, let’s substitute the hair-as-covering interpretation directly into the verse:
“For if a woman is not long-haired, let her also cut off her hair: now if it is shameful to a woman to cut off her hair or to be shaven, let her be long-haired. (1 Co 11:6)”
This is obviously incoherent nonsense, and makes Paul’s argument incomprehensible. It has him saying, in effect, if a woman cuts her hair off, then she should cut her hair off. Well…she already did that.
So if this use of the Greek language is incoherent nonsense, then no native expert Greek speaker from the 4th century reading this could possibly conclude that Paul was intentionally being absurd, right? Right?!
“For he said not merely covered, butcovered over ,meaning that she be carefully wrapped up on every side. And by reducing it to an absurdity, he appeals to their shame, saying by way of severe reprimand, but if she be not covered, let her also be shorn. As if he had said, If you cast away the covering appointed by the law of God, cast away likewise that appointed by nature.”
Immediately we notice that something between Tennant’s and Chrysostom’s views. That’s because Tennant missed something important. The specific form of word used for “covered” is katakalyptetai occurs exactly once in the Bible, right here, which Chrysostom says means “covered over,” as in “carefully wrapped up on every side.” But, “ho!”, you say, “Chrysostom is clearly stating that Paul wants women to wear cloth veils!” No, Paul is saying this:
“If a woman isn’t covered over completely, wrapped up on every side, then she should cut her hair”
That sounds like it is talking about a mantle, doesn’t it? Recall how in v15, Paul says that a woman’s long hair is given to her as a wrapping? The long, uncut hair of a woman is her wrapping. It is her mantle, the very thing that covers her over on every side. Paul solves his own absurdity by noting that the problem of not being covered over completely is solved by having long hair, which is why he concludes v15 by saying her hair is her covering and concludes v6 by saying she should be covered:
“…but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.”
The solution to a woman not being covered over completely—as with a mantle—is not to cut off her hair or shave her head bald, but to cover by not cutting her hair, the opposite of the absurd and disgraceful “she should cut her hair.” And if she wants to wear a cloth veil, that’s fine too, but not really the point.
Chrysostom recognized that cutting hair short isn’t a solution to not being completely covered over, to revealing skin on the head, face, neck, and legs. He concluded, correctly, that Paul was reducing it to an absurdity. Of course it makes no sense for a woman who is uncovered—for any reason—to cut her hair, which, we might add, may already be cut short. It doesn’t solve the problem and that’s the point. Tennant’s simple “find and replace” strategy misses that Paul was intentionally being absurd and ironic!
Paul’s statement on cutting her hair is a figure-of-speech to emphasize her shame. This is why he immediately says “But if it is a shame…” because Paul didn’t actually want men to go around shaving women’s heads because they were (or wanted to be) uncovered, he wanted them to feel shame for not covering and do better next time. And that is exactly what Chrysostom states: “…by reducing it to an absurdity, he appeals to their shame, saying by way of severe reprimand…” It is a reprimand, not a command for churchman to become barbers.
Before we continue, we must step back for a moment. Recall also how in v15, Chrysostom cited v14 to argue that a woman should wear both a cloth veil and have long hair, even though he acknowledged that Paul had literally said that hair was her wrapping? Chrysostom does the same thing again here:
As if he had said, If you cast away the covering appointed by the law of God, cast away likewise that appointed by nature.
Chrysostom associated long hair with nature. He associated cloth veiling with the Law of God and a woman’s will, even though Paul mentioned neither law nor will. Considering when in history Chrysostom was writing, we are not surprised by his views, nor that he was fine with women to wearing a cloth veil. Indeed, we can summarize Chrysostom’s view as follows:
If you cast away your cloth veil, as required by God and an acknowledgment of your will, cast away also your long hair. But if this shames you, wear both veil and long hair.
What concerns us here is not that Chrysostom approved of a particular form of patriarchy—he most certainly did!—but that he understood the Greek language in a way that makes Tennant’s argument unsustainable.
I often cite my enemies and those hostile to my point-of-view, much to the chagrin of people who read my arguments. I find that if your argument works when you cite both your friends and your enemies, then your argument as a whole is that much stronger. You can’t be accused of being biased only towards friendly sources.
While Chrysostom disagrees with me on matters of patriarchy, he makes mincemeat of the modern argument for veiling. See, Tennant is arguing for women to veil in his article is not based on some general principles of her will or the Law of God, but based on the specific Greek words of Paul, the very words that Chrysostom interprets differently to arrive at his version of patriarchy. Consequently, their respective views of patriarchy are mutually exclusive.
Chrysostom disproves Tennant’s understanding of the language, but Chrysostom’s reasons for making a woman veil (Law of God and her will) are not Paul’s reasons. The arguments by both gentlemen are flawed.
As I’ve covered in the past, the central logic of his argument—obvious once you see it—is that in worship, only God’s glory should be on display. Therefore, if a woman’s glory is present in worship, it should be covered. It does no good to say that a woman’s glory is a covering, because true as that may be, it does not cover itself. The canopy of a tree is both a glory and a covering, but it does not cover itself, it covers the tree. It makes the tree more glorious by covering it…. [..] ….The same is true of a woman’s hair—it is a glorious covering. And so it must be covered in worship, where God’s glory alone is to be revealed and celebrated.
Paul has stated, quite explicitly, that long hair is a woman’s mantle. Everything Tennant says in this line of reasoning, from the canopy of the tree that covers what is under it, to the clouds that cover God who lies above and within them, all of this applies to the hair as a covering. Just as the glorious clouds cover the God who is within and above, so too does a mantle—her long hair—cover all of the glorious bits of a woman.
I don’t find Tennant’s argument obvious at all. Like Chrysostom, he is making an argument that Paul did not make. What Paul actually said is that her hair is her mantle, completely covering her. Of course in actuality hair does not completely cover the body, Paul is speaking figuratively and symbolically.
The conclusion that a woman must be literally covered by a cloth when she prays completely misses the point of Paul’s symbolism. Paul even calls a woman’s hair a symbol. It is both natural and symbolic.
Let’s further examine how Tennant is grasping at straws. Paul only mentions glory twice. First in the context of men…
…For a man indeed has an obligation not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man….
…and second in the context of women…
…But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her, for her hair is given her for a covering.
In the first verse, Pauls says how the glory of God is reflected by the husband and the glory of the husband is reflected by the wife. But when Paul speaks of the wife’s glory, it is in the other direction. Her hair—her glory—is given to her, it is not a reflection of her husband to be covered, but to be a covering.
For Paul, a wife having long hair was sufficient to meet the biblical standard of modesty and respect owed to their Lord Christ Jesus when she addressed her Lord in prayer. Paul forbid the cutting of her hair. The confusion here may stem from the likelihood that Paul was only addressing husbands and wives. A cloth veil was a cultural symbol of being married…
“[I]t was established custom across the Levant that women who were married wore some kind of covering on their heads in public. The only females who went uncovered were not yet married. The scarf/veil/whatever was simply a marker that she was taken. Grab her and you could die. Grab an unmarried girl and you would be forced to marry her, and her family would watch closely to make sure you treated her well. Every Semitic nation (there were many) understood that from ancient times.” — “Hair, Veils, and Authority“
…but was not required for unmarried women. Paul could not have been speaking of cloth veils, unless he were only speaking of husbands and wives, but no one seems to be making the argument that Paul is both talking only to wives and also that they must wear cloth veils, so something is inherently flawed with their arguments.
This confusion leads to asking why, if they were wearing veils, did Paul have to talk about hair?
The Problem of Hair
Speaking of which, on this interpretation, what is the rationale for Paul writing this long section? Were women shaving or shearing their heads at Corinth? That seems pretty implausible. Never mind that the Corinthians themselves a hundred years later were strangely practicing veiling in obedience to 1 Co 11…
Before I address this, it must be acknowledged that Tertullian’s claim in “On the Veiling of Virgins” that the Corinthian church practiced the veiling of virgins, presumably as a result of their understand of Paul, is questionable. According to Tertullian, the apostolic church as a whole did not even universally practice the veiling of virgins, but left it as a matter of discernment, so this clearly begs-the-question.
This question is also a problem in reverse: what did shaved heads indicate? We know it indicated dishonor, but not the reason why. The Roman practice of covering while worshiping may explain why it was dishonorable to pray without a cloth veil, but it does not explain why Paul differentiated between short and no hair, nor why he was talking about hair at all. Advocates of head covering must provide a rationale. In Tennant’s three posts, I saw no rationale, nor did the head covering gotcha explain why Paul said…
“…disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off (keirō) or her head shaved (xuraō)…”
…if the subject was opaque veils. Paul would not have needed to spend so much time talking about hair if all he cared about was ensuring that women wore opaque cloth veils.
Similarly, what, precisely, is the point in arguing that shaved heads don’t indicate prostitution if you agree with Paul that shaved heads are dishonorable? It can’t be to avoid a cultural argument, as even the “Roman men and women covered while worshiping” is a cultural argument. Nor can this…
““For this reason” (1 Cor 11:10 NKJV) means the answer will be found in exegesis, not cultural analysis.”
…qualify as a satisfactory explanation, for we are looking to cultural arguments in order to clarify conflicting exegesis. “If you admit that my exegesis is correct, then there is no need for cultural analysis.” See how that works?
No one denies that there were women in Corinth going around without a cloth veil, whether you think a cloth counts as a covering or long hair counts as a covering or no covering at all is required. It is evident that there were women who were unveiled, at the very least, during Christian gatherings inside people’s homes, as they prayed together. Regardless of how you interpret Paul, this must have been the case. Paul would not talk about shaved heads, short hair, and long hair if no one could see anyone’s hair under those opaque cloth veils.
So, the rationale is this. Everyone agrees that at least some women were unveiled, otherwise this would not have been an issue. This almost certainly included children, virgins, and widows, but probably also included wives. Consequently, people could see how long their hair was (or wasn’t). Paul solved the problem by telling them, not to veil, but to have long, uncut hair as their mantle. This solved all disagreement.
This makes even more sense if you assume that Paul was only addressing married men and women—the vast majority of his adult audience. In many places wives had to veil when in public to announce to all that they were completely off the market. But if the married Christian women of Corinth were unveiling—in response to their freedom in Christ or due to Roman custom—then cutting hair was tantamount to an announcement of infidelity. A married woman with short hair—or perhaps even no cloth veil—was announcing herself as an unfaithful wife. This is a good reason for Paul to be so upset with married women cutting their hair at all and more-or-less fully explains Paul being hyper-focused on hair.
On the Length of Hair
“The idea is that since verse 15 says that a woman’s hair is given to her for a covering, this is the only covering in view in the chapter. Thus Paul is really just concerned about women praying or prophesying with their covering on, rather than off. I.e., with long hair, rather than cut hair.”
Every mention of coverings is in the context of hair (or its lack, due to it being shaved off). Every single deductive argument made on this passage implies that hair—specifically uncut hair—is a woman’s covering. Any assertion that says that Paul was talking about veils is making an inductive inference. In other words, there is no question that Paul was talking about hair, and it is logically impossible to deny this because it is shown deductively. But it is perfectly reasonable to argue that Paul was not talking about veils at all.
But there is another problem. Some faulty conclusions can be reached if one says that Paul is concerned primarily about the length of hair. Paul mentions long hair, but he doesn’t mention how short hair has to be before it is considered uncovered. There is a good reason for this.
Long hair is what happens when one does not cut their hair. Paul is concerned with cutting and shaving and not cutting and shaving, not length. In the critical section on covering (v5-6), Paul uses words cutting and shaving. He only mentions length twice (v14-15), and in the latter case only so he can say that long hair counts as a cloth mantle, not even a mere head-covering veil. This isn’t about a woman growing her hair long, it’s about not cutting it! There is no length at which hair ceases to be a covering, for length doesn’t determine what makes hair a covering, cutting does.
To understand this, we have to go back to the Old Testament and the Nazirite vow. When a Nazirite vow was taken, the man or woman subject to the vow was forbidden from cutting his or her hair until the vow was completed. The length of hair at the start of the vow didn’t matter, only the cutting during the vow. He or she wasn’t even allowed to comb their hair, lest it be pulled out.
A woman or man who doesn’t cut her hair is covered. The length doesn’t matter. To be covered is to commit to not cutting one’s hair. A woman can cover at any time by simply ceasing to cut her hair, even if she currently has short hair. Based on this, here is one of the more reasonable explanations of Paul’s absurdity:
“…but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.”
“…but if having short or no hair is shameful, have her stop cutting her hair.”
This is how one can easily understanding the verse if cutting—not the length—of the hair is the problem. Making this about length makes the sentence more confusing, especially if you try the Bnonn-style find-and-replace strategy. Ask me how I know. And since the matter of covering is a matter of respect and deference, it makes sense because intention matters more to Paul than rote obedience to law.
 Dominic Bnonn Tennant, 2023-07-03. (archived pdf)
 For whatever reason, Daniel B. Wallace—who is certainly familiar with Chrysostom—does not consider the possibility that Paul was being ironic (see here):
If ‘covering’ = ‘long hair,’ then v 6 seems to suggest a tautology: “if a woman will not wear long hair, then she should cut off her hair.” But this in no way advances the argument.
Taken literally, it does not advance the argument. But it does advance the argument as a figure-of-speech, and it does so quite emphatically, especially as it immediately precedes the correction.
Paul says “Do X, but if X is bad, then do Y.” Since X is bad, he clearly does not want anyone to actually do X. It obviously wasn’t what he wanted them to do, because he immediately told them not to do it and to do Y instead. As Chrysostom notes, the point was to reprimand them for even considering it! Paul was mocking the very idea, not encouraging it. In using a tautology, Paul makes sure that you the reader are smart enough to not actually try to do X because it would be irrational.
Before I had ever read Chrysostom’s view that this was an intentional absurdity, I had already drawn this natural conclusion from the English and so was pleasantly surprised to find that the idea was at least 1600 years old and not some novel invention created from my bias.
 Paul uses figure-of-speech—absurdity and irony—in v6, a figure-of-speech—simile—in v15, explicitly calls hair a symbol of authority in v10, and all the mentions of glory in v7 and v15 are figurative connotations—“in a use foreign to Greek writing”—of the literal denotation “good opinion.”
 When she prays, not when she worships. Tennant’s explicitly and repeatedly pushes for the latter in contravention to Paul’s actual words. While there is some reason to discern that covering is proper at other times, this is a speculative leap.
 Let’s again revisit Daniel B. Wallace, who says:
In v 10, a woman is required to wear a ‘symbol of authority.’ Such a symbol represents her submission, not her glory. [..] The Greek is even more emphatic: the dative αὐτῇ is a dative of advantage. A literal translation would be: ‘it is a glory to her’ or ‘a glory accruing to her,’ or ‘to her advantage.’ Surely this is not the point of v 10!
This begs-the-question as to why her hair is her glory and not the glory of her husband. Ask any husband if his wife’s long hair is a glory to him, and he will agree, but that’s not what Paul is saying. Paul never says the symbol on her head is not her glory. Because of the change of direction, the symbol of her submission can also be her glory without any conflict. Indeed, I can’t see why her submission—figured in her hair—isn’t a glory emphatically accruing to her advantage. Can you?
 The early church banned kneeling on Sunday and at any time between Easter and Pentecost…
“Forasmuch as there are certain persons who kneel on the Lord’s Day and in the days of Pentecost, therefore, to the intent that all things may be uniformly observed everywhere (in every parish), it seems good to the holy Synod that prayer be made to God standing.” — Council of Nicaea, Canon XX
…because it was considered disrespectful to the Cross of Christ to show such deference to the risen Lord at these particular times when we ourselves rise with him in new life. The church also banned fasting on Sunday:
“We count fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord’s day to be unlawful.”
Kneeling and fasting on Sunday for the purpose of deference to Christ was actually disrespectful to the power of the resurrection! This is why the standards for modesty and respect in the church—whether kneeling, fasting, and bowing or veiling of one’s head—are not derived from cultural practices. Paul said to “Judge among yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God uncovered?” and that is exactly what the early church did.
 Tertullian (155-220 AD), in “On the Veiling of Virgins,” noted that some in the church said that Paul was only speaking to husbands and wives in 1 Corinthians 11, and argued against this position.
 Tertullian noted that virgins, widows, and young girls were not required by the universal church to veil. This had been left to discernment.
 Daniel B. Wallace concedes that “No word for veil occurs in vv 2-14.” He continues by saying “Thus, that the hair is regarded by Paul as a veil in v 15 is not necessarily an argument that the hair is the same as the head covering that he is describing in these verses.”, which I’ve addressed in this article. The point is we know deductively that Paul was talking about hair throughout vv 2-15, but we do not know that he was talking about veils. So while Wallace is correct, it’s not clear that this helps his argument, nor harms the alternative, in any practical way.