Once More, With Understanding: Headcoverings in 1 Cor. 11

You misunderstand. My point is that if Calvin and Henry take prayer and prophecy to be specific acts which are prohibited to women in the first place, then veiling is an unnecessary practice since women never pray or prophesy in church anyway:

  1. Veiling is specific to women praying or prophesying in church
  2. Therefore, women not praying or prophesying in church need not wear a veil
  3. Praying and prophesying is prohibited to women in church
  4. Therefore, obedient women need never veil themselves in church

But this is the opposite of the historic catholic practice, which is for women to always veil themselves in church. It’s good that Calvin and Henry followed the catholic practice, but their interpretation is inconsistent with that practice.

My assumption is that practice typically derives from interpretation, so if the catholic practice has women veiling themselves at all times in church, the most likely explanation is that the catholic interpretation of prayer and prophecy extends to the whole church service.

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I’m not sure how my previous comment was off point. Were we discussing what Calvin and Henry thought or whether their interpretation was viable? Maybe I got the wrong end of the stick.

Nor was I aware that their’s was the historical reformed view. I have come across the view before, however, and consider it - honestly - ridiculous. To suggest that Paul regulated a practice only to forbid the same practice a couple of chapters later is at least a thousand steps down from the usually wonderful insight of Calvin and others. And that’s before you get on to the contradictions pointed out by Bnonn!

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I’m probably not inclined to the view myself, but here is a useful article giving some other examples of Paul doing the same kind of thing elsewhere:


His suggestion that 11:5 does not necessarily imply any approval of women prophesying is also questionable, but it should not be dismissed lightly. This view was favored by Henry Alford, who in his New Testament for English Readers quotes the following comments by Wilhelm De Wette (1780-1849) with approval…

…Although we may find it odd that Paul would deal with the subject in this manner, there are other examples of this in the same epistle, as Frederic Godet points out in his Commentary:

It might be supposed that the apostle meant to let the speaking of women in the form of prophesying or praying pass for the moment only, contemplating returning to it afterwards to forbid it altogether, when he should have laid down the principles necessary to justify this complete prohibition. So it was that he proceeded in chap. 6, in regard to lawsuits between Christians, beginning by laying down a simple restriction in ver. 4, to condemn them afterwards altogether in ver. 7. We have also observed the use of a similar method in the discussion regarding the participation of the Corinthians in idolatrous feasts; the passage, 8:10, seemed first to authorize it; then, afterwards, when the time has come, he forbids it absolutely (10:21, 22), because he then judges that the minds of his readers are better prepared to accept such a decision.


@bnonn, could not this first premise be denied? That is, it is conceivable that Calvin / Henry saw other reasons in the passage for a covering that led them to still consider it a necessary practice e.g. ‘because of the angels’ or the ‘covering her glory (hair) in the assembly’ argument of Fr. Bill and yourself etc. I.e. other arguments for covering that don’t necessarily hang on whether or not she prays or prophesies in church in the public sense of those actions.

@jtbayly @Zak_Carter
I think Calvin offered the ‘Paul is only mentioning prayer/prophesy, not permitting it’ explanation as only one possibility. After giving this explanation, he goes on to offer another:

In this reply there is nothing amiss, though at the same time it might suit sufficiently well to say, that the Apostle requires women to show their modesty — not merely in a place in which the whole Church is assembled, but also in any more dignified assembly, either of matrons or of men, such as are sometimes convened in private houses.

Michael Marlowe discusses this more in the article I linked to previously, referring to Calvin’s ‘first’ and ‘second’ explanations:

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Thanks, Henry. That is a helpful resource.

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