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What should be the role of women in church? (Part 1)

“Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head.”

A third text relates to the question of women in ministry leadership:

“Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head — it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of god; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head” (1 Corinthians 11:4-10, NIV).

“Prophecy” here refers to public proclamation, “preaching” in our vernacular. The biblical “prophets” were more often forthtellers than foretellers, though they were sometimes given a message from God regarding the future. And “prays” in this text refers to public worship, as Paul is concerned with the public appearance of those who lead in this activity.

At issue: women who “pray or prophecy” with their heads uncovered. In Jewish society, women were to cover their heads as a sign that they were under authority; their yashmak demonstrated their moral purity and protected them from slander and gossip. And so a woman who prays or preaches in public must cover her head lest she distract others and invite accusations of impropriety.

Alternately, many interpreters now believe that the issue lay not with head coverings but with hair styles. Propriety demanded that women bind their hair in public, as pagan women often wore their hair unbound and tossed their heads wildly in the worship of Isis, Cybele, and Dionysius. Akatakaluptos (“uncovered”) then refers to unbound hair, not uncovered heads. Wearing their hair with propriety gave women freedom and authority to pray and preach in public without being accused of pagan practices. [31]

This passage is relevant for our discussion, since Paul clearly addresses the Corinthian practice of utilizing women in public worship leadership to pray and/or preach. He has every opportunity to criticize this practice, but chooses instead to speak only to public propriety in fulfilling this function. His principle applied today would be that women (and men) in worship leadership ought to dress and act in ways which do not distract from worship or dishonor the Lord. [32]

My position: Paul addressed and implicitly endorsed the role of women in preaching and praying in public worship.

Adapted from Dr. Jim Denison’s daily cultural commentary at Jim Denison, Ph.D., is a cultural apologist, building a bridge between faith and culture by engaging contemporary issues with biblical truth. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture in February 2009 and is the author of seven books, including “Radical Islam: What You Need to Know.” For more information on the Denison Forum, visit To connect with Dr. Denison in social media, visit or Original source:

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