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“What about I Cor. 11? Should women really cover their heads? I’ve heard this command dismissed as a cultural thing, but should it still be obeyed today?”
Yes, Paul’s instruction for women to keep their heads covered when they are praying or preaching in public (and to keep their hair long) does stem from issues in the cultural context of his day.
Honest biblical interpretation requires that we have some understanding of the environment surrounding the recipients of his letter.
This young church had its share of problems, many of which arose from the conditions of the city in which it was planted.
Corinth was a crowded port city. It was legendary for its debauchery. It contained many competing religions.
The famous Temple of Aphrodite with its cult prostitutes dominated the city heights.
In that time, in that place, most prostitutes, professional consorts, adulteresses, and slave women had either short hair or shaved heads.
It is not difficult to see that Paul simply did not want the women in the church to act or appear in any manner that would bring disrepute on the Lord, His church, their husbands, or themselves.
Paul did not tell the women they could not pray or prophesy (i.e., preach). That was not the issue and was apparently allowed. Nevertheless, he insisted that the women maintain a reputation that was beyond reproach.
Freedom in Christ was a major theme for Paul. He believed that Christians were no longer bound to the Law, or necessarily to religious tradition (I Cor. 10:28-31; Gal. 5:1; et al).
In this text, however, he cautioned them against moving too quickly to exercise their new-found spiritual freedom because so doing would expose the fledgling church to harmful criticism.
There is more to be said on this next week!