Kippa (skull cap) and Covering of Head-Male and Female

Recently, a friend gave me an article from a magazine called Patriarch published in September/October 1996. It was reprinted from an article previously appearing in the NT Restoration Newsletter. It was titled: The Head Covering God Gives every Woman.

There are points I agree with and points I disagree with and partly because the author and subsequent submittals fail to account for Jewish sources enabling them to understand these scripture passages.

First, we must remember that Sha’ul (Paul) was a Jew and a Pharisee. He saw humanity as a threefold division. Jews, pagan Gentiles, and God’s Messianic Community, consisting of Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles. In 1 Cor. 10:32 many Christian scholars see Paul’s statement as meaning when Jews come to the Messiah he is no longer a Jew. The reasoning is that when a Gentile comes to the Messiah he leaves his paganism behind. But does the Gentile leave his heritage behind? Paul saw it this way: when a Jew comes to the Messiah he leaves his Jewish legalism behind, but remains a Jew. Paul states that in a Messianic Community both lose their former identity as sinners and form a new community in Y’Shua. However, salvation does not wipe out their identity. Paul referred to saved Jews as Jews and to saved Gentiles as Gentiles. He referred to himself as still a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), which implies as a believer he still thought of himself as Jewish.

Now, Paul clearly states in verse two that he observes the traditions and has dutifully passed them on to the believers in Cornith. The Greek word paradoseis simply means, “that which has been carefully and faithfully “passed on” by one generation and received by the next.” This corresponds to Jewish understanding. As the Mishna puts it:

“Moses received the Torah from Sinai and passed it on to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets to the men of the Great Synagogue…” (Acts 6:13)

Judaism places a high value in citing the authority for what one teaches–this is evident from virtually every page of the Talmud. Perhaps this is why Sha’ul dwells on the process of “receiving” and “passing on.”

The New Testament speaks of three kinds of “traditions.”
(1) The traditions of the Messianic Community here and in 2 Th 2:15, 3:6
(2) “Human traditions,” meaning pagan traditions, (Co 2:8)
(3) Jewish traditions, that is the Oral Torah as set forth by the Pharisees- Sha’ul at Ga. 1:14 and Y’Shua eight times in Mt 15:2-6 and Mk 7:3-13. Some are regarded in the NT as bad (Mk 7:5-13; but others are, by implications, good. (John 7:37-39)

It seems clear that by passing on traditions Sha’ul expected them to be observed, so that in a sense he was establishing a kind of Oral Torah for the Messianic congregations. At the same time he expected the governing principle for the observance of this Oral Torah “as upheld by the Messiah.” (1 Cor. 9:21) to be love not legalism, and certainly not the greed that was replacing love when the Corinthians celebrated the Lord’s supper (vv. 17-22)

This brings us to the passage in question 1 Cor. 11: 2-16. Before we read that let me state that the writer of this article does not go back far enough in his deliberations. We’ll get to that shortly, but let me say that in this section of scripture Paul is addressing and dealing with public worship. There are three topics: (1) veiling of women in public worship, the one we will concern ourselves with, — but let me mention the others: # (2) found in verses 17-34, disorder at the Lord’s supper and (3) charismatic gifts from the Holy Spirit and their use in public found in chapter 12:1 through chapter 14:40.

Now lets turn to the passage cited: 1 Cor. 11:2-16… Now I want to first direct you to verse 4. I find it incredible that the author of this article did not speak about the wearing of Kippa, because this is so intricately tied in with this passage. This is the passage that relates to our wearing Kippa. A simple reading would lead you to believe that a man should not have his head covered in public worship. I suspect Bill was also addressing this matter when he gave me the article. So, lets look at that first… so that all the men here can be fully convinced one way or the other. Verse four rendered literally is as follows: “Every man who prays or prophesies wearing something down over his head.” Reading on in verse 5, Paul addresses the woman who prays or prophesies wearing something with her head unveiled “brings shame to her head-there is no difference between her and a woman who has had her head shaved.” V. 6. For if a woman is not veiled, let her also have her hair cut short; but if it be shameful for a woman to wear her hair cut short or to have her head shaved, then let her be veiled. Paul is talking about a veil. I used the literal translation here to show that Paul is not talking about a hat, Kippa or head covering. When interpreting a passage you must also take into consideration the context. The usual translation “with head covered” obscures this fact, and as a result the issue has arisen in many Messianic Communities regarding the wearing of Kippa and if it is proper. Of course, it is proper since objection to it is based on a mistranslation of this verse. In the synagogue believers will sometime pull their tallit or prayer shawl over their head (going into your closet) as Yahshua (Jesus) phrased it to create an intimacy and privacy with God. Y’Shua would cover his head in prayer as it was Halacha to do so and He did not sin. We have to also consider that God commanded the head to be covered in the Temple service. Mistranslation and a lack of knowledge of Jewish custom have misled Christian scholars in this regard.

OK, lets get to the question raised by the article. Was Paul advocating women wear a head covering or not? First their premise is wrong because they incorrectly rendered the Greek. They contrast Paul’s statement that a man disgraces his head by wearing “something” on his head while praying or prophesying while a woman disgraces her head by not having it covered. The context of this passage does not address “ head coverings.” Then briefly they somehow correctly switch tracks in verse seven and in parentheses address the correct context of the passages as dissent pro-veilers. Then just as adroitly they switch back incorrectly translating that a man should not have his head “covered” instead of the correct translation “head veiled.” The problem is that Paul is talking about veils and not head coverings and the author or authors fail to recognize this.

To their credit they allow they don’t know what verse 10 means. It is a difficult verse. Perhaps it is best understood from Isaiah 6:2, where the angels cover themselves in the presence of a higher authority, God, or perhaps that even if a woman cares little about shocking men, she should care about shocking the angels, who are present at public worship.

I trust this sheds some light on this difficult passage.