• Subscribe
  • Apple Podcasts
  • Spotify
  • Google Podcasts

Is it a sin for a woman to cut her hair?

You are referring to what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian brethren regarding propriety in worship (1 Corinthians 11:3-16). At the time of Paul’s writing the Corinthian community was actively discouraging women from wearing veils on the grounds that “woman is the head (source) of every man” contrary to the biblical creation narrative. 

In verses 4-7 Paul not only says twice that it is disgraceful for a woman to pray or prophesy with an uncovered head, he also says twice that it is disgraceful for a man to cover his head when praying or prophesying. We can infer from these verses that the Corinthian custom was not only for women to go bare-headed (as a religious rite of all Greek girls upon reaching puberty), but also for men to wear head coverings. This custom would have been a unique local arrangement, perhaps adopted in an attempt to regularize (with theological rationale) the varying pagan Roman and Greek practices to which the worshippers would have been previously acquainted. 

However, although the Corinthians discouraged women from wearing veils in worship services, they did not want them to shave their heads either. Paul’s rhetoric teasingly invites the Corinthians to explain their logic, that is, should not shaving a woman’s head bring her even closer to God if their creation story were correct?  

Paul explains in verses 8-9 that the Corinthians have the creation story wrong, so that if they want to continue with their logic, they must do exactly the opposite of what they have been doing. After explaining their error to their satisfaction, Paul goes on to say in verse 10, “For this cause ought the woman to have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels.” 

The expression “sign of authority” or “power” is the Greek word exousia (Strong’s #1849) and means “privilege, freedom, mastery, delegated influence, authority, liberty, power or strength.” 

A better translation would be, “Therefore, a woman ought to have freedom over her head,” meaning that a woman ought to be free to wear a veil or not as she wishes. That Paul cared nothing for worship attire as an expression of creation order is evident from his immediate comments in verses 11-12. “In any case, in the Lord, woman is not without man, nor is man without woman; for just as the woman was from the man, so also man is through woman, and all things are from God.” 

In verses 13-16 Paul returns to his rhetorical stance, once again assuming the Corinthian position in order to discredit it. Specifically, he asks them to tell him whether the pride and comfort women naturally take in having long hair indicates that women are not meant to have their heads covered. (At this point the Corinthians are taking the stance that women should wear veils and Paul is trying to show them how awkward this is.) “For long hair is given to her as a covering.” (Verse 15) 

Lastly, commenting on their unique local custom, Paul informs the Corinthians, “If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.” (Verse 16) The Corinthians seem to have been particularly sensitive to the possibility that they might stand out as different from the other churches and they apparently wanted to conform. 

All of the above having been said, there are many Christian groups who feel that women should cover their heads during a religious service. Their reasoning is that the men in the congregation are representative of Jesus (the head) and the women in the congregation represent the body of Christ. 

Therefore, women should wear a head covering and men should not. This design is an earthly representation of a much bigger heavenly picture where Jesus is the actual Head and his Church (both males and females when on earth) makes up his Body. This is a picture and has nothing to do with the order of creation as the Corinthians had supposed. 

Should you wear a head covering? That is a question that you need to reflect on and pray about. It is your decision. We believe that either choice has validity. Whatever conclusion you come to, we are sure that the Lord will bless you.