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Culture, the Bible, and women's hair?

Submitted: 2/16/2007
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Question: I am quoting a passage written by R.C. Sproul and requesting you to please evaluate and give comments of its doctrinal soundness. This is for my personal studies that some of our brethren here referring to me the issue of “long hair” for the women. And I want to hear and to know the biblical mandate on this issue. These quotations are stated below: To see the complexities of the dilemma, let us examine the famous “hair-covering” passage of 1 Corinthians 11. The Revised Standard Version translates this to require a woman to cover her head with a veil when she prophesies. In applying this command to our culture we are faced with four distinct options. 1.It is entirely custom. The whole passage reflects a cultural custom that has no relevance today. The veil is local customary headgear; the uncovering of the head reflects a local sign of prostitution. The sign of the woman subordinating herself to the man is a Jewish custom that outmoded in light of the overall teaching of the New Testament. Since we live in a different culture, it is no longer necessary for a woman to cover her head with a veil; it is no longer necessary for a woman to cover anything; it is no longer necessary for a woman to be subordinate to a man. 2.It is entirely principle. In this case everything in the passage is regarded as cultural transcending principle. This would mean by way of application that (a) Women must be submissive to men during prayer; (b) Women must always give a sign of that submission by covering their heads; (c) Women must cover their heads with a veil as the only appropriate sign. 3.It is partly principle-partly custom (Option A). In this approach, part of the passage is regarded as principle and thus binding for all generations, and part is seen as custom that is no longer binding. The principle of female submission is transcultural, but the means of expressing it (covering the head with a veil) is customary and may be changed. 4.It is partly principle (Option B). In this final option the principle of female submission and the symbolic act of covering the head to be perpetual. The article of covering may vary from culture to culture. A veil may be replaced by a babushka or a hat. Which of these alternatives would be most pleasing to God? I certainly do not know the final answer to the question... R.C. Sproul said. Hope to hear from you soon. Thank you. In Familial Bond, Sonny

Answer: We do not believe that any of R.C. Sproul's options are correct. The Bible says, 'But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering' (1 Corinthians 11:15). This passage makes it absolutely clear that the covering is not a cloth veil at all, regardless of what the Revised Standard Version may say. Her hair is given to her for a covering. In other words, a woman's veil is her hair. This is what pleases God.

The Amplified Bible says, 'But if a woman has long hair, it is her ornament and glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.' The NIV says, 'If a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.' And Young's Literal Translation reads, 'And a woman, if she have long hair, a glory it is to her, because the hair instead of a covering hath been given to her.' These translations, plus nearly all others, show that Paul was not requiring women to wear a cloth veil at any time, but was telling them that they should allow their hair to grow, since their hair is the God-given veil that is with them at all times.