Chapter VII

Head Covering or Hair Covering

            Dr. Metzger said, Christianity was born in Galilee and raised in the Roman field, recognizing the presence of two different traditions and cultures.

  I Corinthians 11:15 reads:

            But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given to her for a    covering.

            The Greek word ἀντὶ, here, is translated as "for", commonly translated as "as."

The reading would be "hair is given to her as a covering".

Long hair, then would be used to cover the head, scalp, but not to cover the "hair."

The idea of "hair" needing to be covered with something else or not, will be discussed later.

            Between the Romans and Jews there might be different ideas about the covering. As westerners, hair may not mean too much, but for Jews, it is a different story. Looking at the book of Numbers chapter six of the Old Testament and from the Septuagint:

Verse 5:    "cherishing the long hair of the head”

Verse 7:    "because the vow of God is upon him on his head”

Verse 18:   "shave the head of his consecration”

Verse 19:   "he has shaved off his holy hair

            People may not consider Samson's story too much, but that is another case of how God dealt with human hair. 

How did this affect the Roman women?

            It was claimed that the wife was thus called from nubere [to veil, to marry. In this             last sense it was only used for women because women put on a veil on the day of         their nuptials (marriage).][1]

The women, when they got married, were adorned with six braids of hair, because this kind of embellishment is very ancient (the oldest).  According to others this came about because the Vestal virgins adorned themselves with such an ornament and because newly married women committed themselves to keep a chastity comparable to the one observed by the Vestal virgins to their husbands.[2]

            There is a story of a married couple, Sulpicius Gallus and his wife, regarding the    Romans idea of a woman's marriage, and putting a veil on her hair: (Plutarch   XIV). Sulpicius Gallus divorced his wife because he saw her pull her cloak down          over her                 head.

The same story was listed in Valerius Maximus 6.3.10:

Rugged too was the marital brow of C. Sulpicius Gallus. He divorced his wife because he learned that she had walked abroad with head uncovered. The sentence was abrupt, but there was reason behind it. "To have your good looks approved," says he, "the law limits you to my eyes only. For them assemble the tools of beauty, for them look your best, trust to their closer familiarity. Any further sight of you, summoned by needless incitement, has to be mired in suspicion and crimination."[3]

 In the Roman society, uncovering women's hair called for divorce!

            From Festus, Plutarch and Valerius Maximus' story, it was Roman tradition for women to start wearing a veil on the day of marriage and wore it throughout their marriage.

Is women's veiling Biblical?

            Judging according to the Bible, they used the veil before 1590 A.D. and yes, it was biblical; but after 1592 A.D., no. There was no mention about veiling.

What is the difference between the two times mentioned? 1590 A.C. and 1592 A.D.?

            In the Roman Church, it was common to use the Latin Bible, being known as Latin Vulgate. St. Jerome was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 A.D to revise old Latin translations. The Vulgate is not entirely the work of Jerome but was regarded as the standard scholarly Bible throughout the 17th Century. Several times Vulgate was improved. Before 1590 A.D., all literature was hand copied, but with the development of the printing machine, they were mass produced. The Catholic Church wanted to have authorized text which was sponsored by Pope Sixtus V. The Sixtine edition was first printed in 1590 A.D. assuming whatever words were spoken from pulpit, went for printing.

            Later in 1592 A.D., the Clementine edition was printed by order of Clement VIII and became the standard Bible text. Over two thousand corrections were made between Sixtine and Clementine edition.

            Written in Latin by Thomas James in 1678, there is a reprint of the book available which shows the difference between the two editions. Title of this book is, "Bellum papale, sive, Concordia discors Sixti Quinti et Clementis Octavi circa Hieronymianan editionem: praeterea in quibusdam locis gravioribus habetur comparatio utriusque editionis, cum postrema & ultima lovaniensium" (1678)

Back to 1 Corinthians 11:10,

The Sixtine edition, first printed in 1590 A.D., used Latin word "velamen" (veil).

The Clementine edition, printed in 1592 A.D., used Latin word "potestatem" (power).

Here is the picture of the front cover of the Sixtine edition. Also posted on the Sixtine and Clementine edition, is the scripture I Cor. 11:10.

Dr. Bruce M. Metzger writes in his book:

I Corinthians 11:10: έξουσίαν {A}

The presumed meaning of the difficult έξουσίαν [ekousian (power)] in this passage is given by the explanatory gloss κάλυμμα [kaluma] “a veil,” read by several versional [variation of an earlier or original type] and patristic [writings of the early church fathers] witnesses (copbomss  arm?ethro  Valentiniansacc. to Irenaeus  Ptolemyacc. to Irenaeus   Irenaeusgr. lat  Tertullian  Jerome  Augustine.)[4]

            The English Revised Standard Version (RSV) 1952 reads: “That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels.” and a foot note says: Greek authority (the veil being a symbol of this).

            The words "veil" and "power" have been made interchangeable.

             Martin Luther died in 1546 A.D. before the printing of the Vulgate. So most of the reformers in the sixteenth century had no way of knowing the word "veil" was not the correct word for that passage.

            By inserting the word "veil" in verse 10 of Apostle Paul’s epistle, it tainted a whole passage where he talked about the women's veiling. By reading the passage over 1,000 years this way, it was easy to establish a tradition or culture of having a veil on the woman’s head. Based on this belief, it was taught even after it was corrected by using the word "power". It established the concept of "women's veiling" which overpowers this passage for centuries to come.

  Let us check those involved in this gloss: Valentinus, Irenaeus and Tertullian.  


            Clement of Alexandria talked about mystery-loving gnostic, Valentinus, many times sharing what he heard about Valentinian, Exc. 44 in, "The Excerpta Ex Theodoto of Clement of Alexandria."

            Exc. 44:

   "When Wisdom beheld him she recognized that he was similar to the Light who had deserted her, and she ran to him and rejoiced and worshipped and, beholding the male angels who were sent out with him, she was abashed and put on a veil.  Through this mystery Paul commands the women "to wear power on their heads on account of the angels."


            According to Irenaeus, Valentinus  (100 C.E. – 160 C.E.) was a native of Egypt who moved to Rome where he established a large school and spread his doctrines in the west (c. 140 - c. 160). He claimed to have derived them from Theodas, a pupil of the apostle Paul. He also claimed to have received revelations from the Logos in a vision.
He was best known, and for a time, the most successful early Christian Gnostic theologian, and the founder of the sect of Valentinians. Ptolemy found his name in Irenaeus’s AH, Against Heresies, vol.1 chapter XII, where Irenaeus said, “but the followers of Ptolemy”, and in AH, he talked about Valentinus. Ptolemy was a disciple along with Heracleon and Marcus. More of his teachings are revealed in Irenaeus’s writing.

A sample of Irenaeus’ content, “Against Heresies”, Volume 1, Chapter 1, is shown below and the words inside the brackets [     ] are authors insertions.


1. They maintain, then, that in the invisible and ineffable heights above there exists a certain perfect, pre-existent Aeon, whom they call Proarche [First-Beginning], Propator [First-Father], and Bythus [Profundity], and describe as being invisible and incomprehensible. Eternal and unbegotten, he remained throughout innumerable cycles of ages in profound serenity and quiescence. There existed along with him Ennoea [Thought], whom they also call Charis [Grace] and Sige [Silence]. At last this Bythus [Profundity] determined to send forth from himself the beginning of all things, and deposited this production (which he had resolved to bring forth) in his contemporary Sige [Silence], even as seed is deposited in the womb. She then, having received this seed, and becoming pregnant, gave birth to Nous [Mind], who was both similar and equal to him who had produced him, and was alone capable of comprehending his father’s greatness. This Nous [Mind] they call also Monogenes [Only-begotten], and Father, and the Beginning of all Things. Along with him was also produced Aletheia [Truth]; and these four constituted the first and first-begotten Pythagorean Tetrad, which they also denominate the root of all things. For there are first Bythus [Profundity] and Sige [Silence], and then Nous [Mind] and Aletheia [Truth]. And Monogenes [Only-Begotten], perceiving for what purpose he had been produced, also himself sent forth Logos [Word] and Zoe [Life], being the father of all those who were to come after him, and the beginning and fashioning of the entire Pleroma [Fullness]. By the conjunction of Logos [Word] and Zoe [Life] were brought forth Anthropos [Man] and Ecclesia [Church]; and thus was formed the first-begotten Ogdoad, the root and substance of all things, called among them by four names, viz., Bythus [Profundity], and Nous [Mind], and Logos [Word], and Anthropos [Man]. For each of these is masculo-feminine, as follows: Propator [First-Father] was united by a conjunction with his Ennoea [Thought]; then Monogenes [Only-Begotten], that is Nous [Mind], with Aletheia [Truth]; Logos [Word] with Zoe [Life], and Anthropos [Man] with Ecclesia [Church].”[5]

            According to Tertullian, in Adversus Valentinianos IV, Valentinus was a candidate for bishop of Rome, about the year 143 A.D. and talked about Valentinus in

Against Valentinians”, Chapter 4:

Valentinus had expected to become a bishop, because he was an able man both in genius and eloquence. Being indignant, however, that another obtained the dignity by reason of a claim which confessorship had given him, he broke with the church of the true faith. Just like those (restless) spirits which, when roused by ambition, are usually inflamed with the desire of revenge, he applied himself with all his might to exterminate the truth; and finding the clue of a certain old opinion, he marked out a path for himself with the subtlety of a serpent.[6]

Irenaeus (b. 2nd century; d. c.200)

            A disciple of Polycarp of Smyrna, Polycarp was said to be a disciple of John the Evangelist. He was Bishop of Lyon, France and the first great Catholic (Universal Church) theologian. After Valentinus’s death, his friend, who was perhaps a bishop, asked him about Valentinus’s doctrine. So he wrote a five volume book Against Heresies, which was a detailed attack on Gnosticism. He was sent to Rome (in 177 A.D.) with a letter to Pope Eleuterus concerning the heresy Montanism.

            In A.D. 180, Irenaeus’ chief work was “The Refutation and Overthrow of Knowledge Falsely So Called (Common Name: Against Heresies).

The following is a quotation from this work, Volume 1, Chapter 8, Sections 2. This shows how Irenaeus viewed the Valentinians beliefs. Notice the insertion of the word “veil” in this treatise.


2.   Then, again, as to those things outside of their Pleroma, the following are some specimens of what they attempt to accommodate out of the Scriptures to their opinions. They affirm that the Lord came in the last times of the world to endure suffering, for this end, that He might indicate the passion which occurred to the last of the AEons, and might by His own end announce the cessation of that disturbance which had risen among the AEons. They maintain, further, that that girl of twelve years old, the daughter of the ruler of the Synagogue, to whom the Lord approached and raised her from the dead, was a type of a Achamoth [Mother; vol. 5-XXXI], to whom their Christ, by extending himself, imparted shape, and whom he led anew to the perception of that light which had forsaken her. And that the Savior appeared to her when she lay outside of the Pleroma [Fullness] as a king of abortion, they affirm Paul to have declared in his Epistle to the Corinthians [in these words], ”And last of all, He appeared to me also, as to one born out of due time.”1 Again, the coming of the Saviour with His attendants to Achamoth [Mother; vol. 5-XXXI] is declared in like manner by him in the same Epistle, when he says, A woman ought to have a veil [bold, author] upon her head, because of the angels.2 Now, that Achamoth [Mother; vol. 5-XXXI], when the Saviour came to her, drew a veil over herself through modesty, Moses rendered manifest when he put a veil upon his face. Then, also, they say that the passions which she endured were indicated by the Lord upon the cross. Thus, when He said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”3 He simply showed that Sophia [Wisdom] was deserted by the light, and was restrained by Horos [Limit] from making any advance forward. Her anguish, again, indicated when He said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;”4 her fear by the words, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me;”5 and her perplexity, too when He said, “And what I shall say, I know not [bold, author].”6
[End of section 2.]
11 Cor. 15:8  21 Cor. 11:10  3Mt. 27:46  4Mt. 26:38  5Mt. 26:39  6Jn. 12:27

            In Irenaeus’ writing on heresies, he refers only to Valentinus’ views of verse10 in the section of I Corinthians 11. Paul had written έξουσίαν [ekousian, (power)] but Valentinus, the Gnostic, must have changed έξουσίαν [ekousian (power)] to κάλυμμα [kaluma (veil)] in the Western text to fit his own purpose. It may sound like a very little thing, but replacing only one word changes the content significantly. It would then read, “For this cause the woman ought to have a veil on her head because of the angels” instead of “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels”. This creates a conflict with verse fifteen, “For long hair is given to her as a covering”. Of cause, some people compromise this conflict by putting veil on the long hair.


            Since it appears he is thought of as a Christian theologian, one may think his writings were all Biblical. But he is known as a Roman citizen with opinions about every day Roman lives.  He seemed to have had a personal agenda based on nostalgia because in the early first century, women's clothing, like the stola and palla (like a veil) was apparently similar to the garb of Vestal Virgins. This was later adopted by the Catholic Church for Christian virgins, nuns.  He wrote against Valentinus, so he knew about Valentinus’ heresy. But somehow he used Valentinus’ heretic input of “veil” in his treatise. Some scholars mentioned how Tertullian would pick and choose biblical texts.

  Apology chapter six:

“I see, too, that neither is a single theatre enough, nor are theatres unsheltered: no doubt it was that immodest pleasure might not be torpid in the wintertime, the Lacedæmonians invented their woolen cloaks for the plays. I see now no difference between the dress of matrons and prostitutes [bold, author]. In regard to women, indeed, those laws of your fathers, which used to be such an encouragement to modesty and sobriety, have also fallen into desuetude. . .”

            The law, which Tertullian mentioned, was the Augustan adultery law that was issued in 17 B.C. and prohibited prostitutes from wearing stola and palla like upper classes of women.

 De Cultu Feminarum [On the Apparel of Women] chapter 12:

“Let us only wish that we may be no cause for just blasphemy! But how much more provocative of blasphemy is it that you, who are called modesty's priestesses, should appear in public decked and painted out after the manner of the immodest?  Else, (if you so do,) what inferiority would the poor unhappy victims of the public lusts have (beneath you)? whom, albeit some laws were (formerly) wont to restrain them from (the use of) matrimonial and matronly decorations, now, at all events, the daily increasing depravity of the age has raised so nearly to an equality with all the most honourable women, that the difficulty is to distinguish them.”

De Pallio [On the Pallium, or On the philosopher’s cloak] chapter 4, A.D. 209:

  “Turn, again, to women. You have to behold what Cæcina Severus pressed upon the grave attention of the senate— matrons without their stola in public.[bold, author] In fact, the penalty inflicted by the decrees of the augur Lentulus upon any matron who had thus cashiered herself was the same as for fornication; inasmuch as certain matrons had sedulously promoted the disuse of garments which were the evidences and guardians of dignity, as being impediments to the practicing of prostitution. But now, in their self-prostitution, in order that they may the more readily be approached, they have abjured stola, and chemise, and bonnet [bold, author], and cap; yes, and even the very litters and sedans in which they used to be kept in privacy and secrecy even in public.”

            We learn that Carthage was divided by a dispute on whether virgins should be veiled. Tertullian and the pro-Montanist party stood for the affirmative. They had a big Valentinian Church which practiced veiling. He quotes a dream in favor of the veil and refers to the following passages to Valentinian's heresy word, "veil" instead of original Paul's "power".

            His knowledge about Christian Virgin’s bridal veiling movement can’t be ignored. Take a look at some of Tertullian’s treatises where he talks about women's veiling, “De Virginibus Velandis (On the Veiling of Virgins), De Corona [The Chaplet, Concerning a Crown,] and On Prayer.

De Virginibus Velandis [On the Veiling of Virgins] Chapter 7:

     “Turn we next to the examination of the reasons themselves which lead the apostle to teach that the female ought to be veiled [bold, author], (to see) whether the self-same (reasons) apply to virgins likewise; so that hence also the community of the name between virgins and not-virgins may be established, while the self-same causes which necessitate the veil [bold, author] are found to exist in each case.  If the man is head of the woman, of course (he is) of the virgin too, from whom comes the woman who has married; unless the virgin is a third generic class, some monstrosity with a head of its own. If it is shameful for a woman to be shaven or shorn, of course it is so for a virgin. (Hence let the world, the rival of God, see to it, if it asserts that close-cut hair is graceful to a virgin in like manner as that flowing hair is to a boy.) To her, then, to whom it is equally unbecoming to be shaven or shorn, it is equally becoming to be covered. If the woman is the glory of the man, how much more the virgin, who is a glory withal to herself! If the woman is of the man, and for the sake of the man, that rib of Adam was first a virgin. If the woman ought to have power upon the head [bold, author], all the more justly ought the virgin, to whom pertains the essence of the cause (assigned for this assertion). For if (it is) on account of the angels— those, to wit, whom we read of as having fallen from God and heaven on account of concupiscence after females— who can presume that it was bodies already defiled, and relics of human lust, which such angels yearned after, so as not rather to have been inflamed for virgins, whose bloom pleads an excuse for human lust likewise?”

            Here, Tertullian recognized 1 Corinthians 11:10 correctly by saying, “power upon the head,” but it seemed he was trying to make a connection that the veil was a source of power.

 De Virginibus Velandis [On the Veiling of Virgins] Chapter XI:

     “But even if it is on account of the angels that she is to be veiled, [bold, author] doubtless the age from which the law of the veil will come into operation will be that from which the daughters of men were able to invite concupiscence of their persons, and to experience marriage.

            On the next Tertullian's treatise, De Corona [The Chaplet, Concerning a Crown], he also tried to connect the wearing of the veil with earlier Jewish custom.

De Corona [The Chaplet, Concerning a Crown] Chapter 4:

      “Among the Jews, so usual is it for their women to have the head veiled [bold, author], that they may thereby be recognized. I ask in this instance for the law. I put the apostle aside. If Rebecca at once drew down her veil, when in the distance she saw her betrothed, this modesty of a mere private individual could not have made a law, or it will have made it only for those who have the reason which she had. Let virgins alone be veiled [bold, author], and this when they are coming to be married, and not till they have recognized their destined husband. If Susanna also, who was subjected to unveiling on her trial, furnishes an argument for the veiling of women, I can say here also, the veil was a voluntary thing. She had come accused, ashamed of the disgrace she had brought on herself, properly concealing her beauty, even because now she feared to please. But I should not suppose that, when it was her aim to please, she took walks with a veil on in her husband's avenue. Grant, now, that she was always veiled. In this particular case, too, or, in fact, in that of any other, I demand the dress-law. If I nowhere find a law, it follows that tradition has given the fashion in question to custom, to find subsequently (its authorization in) the apostle's sanction, from the true interpretation of reason. This instances, therefore, will make it sufficiently plain that you can vindicate the keeping of even unwritten tradition established by custom; the proper witness for tradition when demonstrated by long-continued observance.

Looking at Genesis 24:62-65 (NRSV):

“Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, and was settled in the Negev. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebecca looked up, and she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel,          and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself.”

Compare Tamar’s case in Genesis 38:14-15:
            . . . she put off her widow’s garments, put on a veil, wrapped herself up, and sat    down at the entrance to Enaim, . . . When Judah saw her , he thought her to be a                        prostitute, for she had covered her face.”

Neither Rebecca’s nor Tamar’s veiling was a religious custom.
Tertullian asked this question, “What is a crown on the head of a woman?”

De Corona [The Chaplet, Concerning a Crown] Chapter 14:

            “But even the head which is bound to have the veil [bold, author], I mean woman's, as already taken possession of by this very thing, is not open also to a            band. She has the burden of her own humility to bear. If she ought not to appear          with her head uncovered on account of the angels, much more with a crown on it      will she offend those (elders) who perhaps are then wearing crowns above.             Revelation 4:4 For what is a crown on the head of a woman, but beauty made seductive, but mark of utter wantonness,— a notable casting away of modesty, a            setting temptation on fire? Therefore a woman, taking counsel from the apostles'        foresight, will not too elaborately adorn herself, that she may not either be        crowned with any exquisite arrangement of her hair.”

Tertullian writes further:

On Prayer Chapter 21, Of Virgins

             “But that point which is promiscuously observed throughout the churches,            whether virgins ought to be veiled [bold, author] or no, must be treated of. For        they who allow to virgins immunity from head-covering, appear to rest on this;             that the apostle has not defined virgins by name, but women, 1 Corinthians 11:5          as to be veiled [bold, author]; nor the sex generally, so as to say females, but a        class of the sex, by saying women: for if he had named the sex by saying females,          he would have made his limit absolute for every woman; but while he names one       class of the sex, he separates another class by being silent. For, they say, he might   either have named virgins specially; or generally, by a compendious term,             females.”        

The Church Fathers carried on the torch of the New Testament, but their knowledge of its context in Jewish tradition had faded considerably by this time. Jerome, for example, had a hard time understanding the Old Testament context of the New Testament phrase “For he shall be called a Nazarene.” Or, Irenaeus referred to the “ancient Hebrew language” in Against Heresies, Volume 2, Chapter XXIV, as though it was so far removed as to be almost out of reach. For the Old Testament, there was no complete text written in Hebrew available till the late 10th century, so Christians had to depend on the Greek Septuagint.

            Tertullian might not be an exception for not knowing small details on Jewish stories. So what is Tertullian's view point about women's hair? Read the following:

  On Prayer Chapter 22: Answer to the Foregoing Arguments

   “But, withal, the declaration is plain: Every woman, says he, praying and prophesying with head uncovered, dishonours her own head. 1 Corinthians 11:5 What is every woman, but woman of every age, of every rank, of every condition? By saying every he excepts nought of womanhood, just as he excepts nought of manhood either from not being covered; for just so he says, Every man. 1 Corinthians 11:4 As, then, in the masculine sex, under the name of man even the youth is forbidden to be veiled; so, too, in the feminine, under the name of woman, even the virgin is bidden to be veiled. Equally in each sex let the younger age follow the discipline of the elder; or else let the male virgins, too, be veiled, if the female virgins withal are not veiled, because they are not mentioned by name. Let man and youth be different, if woman and virgin are different. For indeed it is on account of the angels 1 Corinthians 11:10 that he says women must be veiled because on account of the daughters of men angels revolted from God. . .  Again, while he says that nature herself, 1 Corinthians 11:14 which has assigned hair as a tegument and ornament to women, teaches that veiling is the duty of females, has not the same tegument and the same honour of the head been assigned also to virgins? “

  He might be making an assumption that a man-made material is more valuable than hair created by God. And it is an interesting jump in his conclusion;

from,    "hair as a tegument and ornament to women."

to,        "veiling is the duty of females.


[1] Auguste Savagner, Sextus Pompeius Festus, De La Signification Des Mots, Volume 1, (C. L. F. Panckoucke, Editeur, 1846) p. 291

[2]Auguste Savagner, Sextus Pompeius Festus, De La Signification Des Mots, Volume 2, (C. L. F. Panckoucke, Editeur, 1846). p.605

[3] VALERIUS MAXIMUS, VOL II, TRANSLATED BY D. R. Shacklerton Bailey, Loeb Classical Library Volume 493, Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press, Copyright © 2000 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Loeb Classical Library ® is a registered trademark of the President and Fellows of Harvard College. P. 41

[4] Bruce M. Metzger, The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition Dictionary, (United bible Society, 1994), p. 495

[5] Irenaeus, Against Heresies,  Volume 1 Chapter 1 

[6] Tertullian, Adversus Valentinianos (Against the Valentinians) Chap. 4