The number of Christians who believe women should keep their hair long is small but significant. The group includes not just the Amish and many Mennonites but also some Baptists, Charismatics and a large group known as the “Conservative Holiness Movement, or CHM. The CHM is made up of independent holiness churches plus a dozen or so mini-denominations. Some of these churches have always been independent while others split from the larger “mainline Holiness denominations” in the 1950’s and 1960’s. There are about 100,000 Christians associated with the CHM most of the women keep their hair long.
But this column isn’t about the CHM…it is about hermeneutics. The Conservative Holiness Movement believes they are simply taking the Scriptures seriously when they insist that women keep their hair long (and that men keep shorter hair). They understand the passage in 1 Corinthians 11 to apply to more than a one-time historic setting but as being applicable to today as well. They see the passage calling for a distinction between males and females. They think the text suggests that it is the “natural order” for a man to have short hair and a woman to have longer hair (for it is her glory). So the CHM simply expects women to keep their hair long and men to have their hair short.
I know, I know, people in the mainline holiness movement don’t like to be reminded of this. We have long ago laughed away our grandmother’s hair and such “legalism.” But most mainline holiness denominations have not laughed off the Bible. Which brings us to the topic of the column: hermeneutics. Assuming you take the Bible seriously and you consider 1 Corinthians 11 inspired, what are the hermeneutical principles you use on these verses? I’d like to invite a discussion of hermeneutics by using these 16 verses as a test case.
So what are the principles you use on interpreting these verses? What is your hermeneutic for the Scriptures printed below this column?
So, what do you think?
The discussion of this column is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=161502633
Keith Drury February 15, 2011
1 Corinthians 11 (NIV)
[1-6] I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
[7-12] A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.
[13-16] Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.