"...Let Her Be Veiled."
by Tom Shank
1. Does the Bible clarify a specific form that the head veiling should take?
Not specifically, but in a technical study of the words used in 1 Corinthians 11, several conclusions regarding the form can be drawn.
According to the literal meanings of the original Greek terms, the woman's hair, which is her glory and serves as her natural covering, is to be cast around, which is the definition of the word peribolaion in verse 15. The term "veiling" is the word katakalupto, which means something that covers completely and hangs down.
The picture one can easily visualize here is that a woman put her hair up (cast or wrapped around) in such a way that her veil can cover it; for the sign is the covered head, not just the covering itself, and it is meant to cover her own glory which, in part, is her hair. Another possible picture from these words is that a woman have her hair cast about (down her back), but with a veiling sufficient enough to then basically cover it. It seems from early Christian art and other sources that this latter style was the most common way of veiling the head in the earliest centuries of the church, from the New Testament times on.
A true covering, then, wouldn't be a self-glorifying hairdo with a little doily perched on top! A draping (hanging down) type of veil seems to best represent what the Word is referring to here. However, certainly a cap or bonnet type covering fulfills the scriptural injunction.
One point to keep in mind is that the material of the covering should be opaque, so as to truly cover the hair. Frilly, see-through gauze seems to serve more to draw attention to the hair underneath and is a feminine supplanter of the sign God would intend.
Should the veil cover every hair? No—the long hair is her glory, not just her hair alone; therefore, the veil should cover the length or bulk of her hair, not necessarily every single strand.
2. Can one specify a certain age at which girls or young women should begin wearing the head veiling?
This is a very debatable question, and only a few thoughts will be mentioned. It would seem the time of accountability and the time when a young lady first begins to wear the veiling should basically correspond. We are speaking here of young persons who are under the authority of Christian parents. Tertullian, writing about the year 200 A.D., said, in his treatise on prayer, several things regarding the veiling of virgins (later he wrote an essay on the subject in particular). He says in chapter 22; "...that period of life which is unaware of its own sex should be excused. Granted that it should retain the privilege of its innocence; for both Adam and Eve, when realization came to them, immediately covered what they had come to know."
There are often several factors which greatly influence when a young person feels led to put on or not put on the head veiling, peer pressure being probably the most powerful. Head covering is not necessarily meant to correspond with conversion and a decision for the Lord. The headship principle and her responsibility to it is meant for all women (1 Cor. 11:3). Scripture says nothing about the veiling being for Christian witness, except indirectly in the sense that it will only be among Christians that God's governmental headship will be exemplified. Therefore, the veiling does not correspond with conversion, but rather with the awareness of God's government and our needed submission to it. This is why, at some point, Christian parents will ask their daughters to submit to this command of God.
3. Should the local church body require that each sister wear the exact same style of veiling?
True uniformity has as its only source the deep spiritual unity we can have in Christ—one body and one Spirit...one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.... (Eph.4:4-5). If this is not the living foundation of the body, no amount of artificial or law-made uniformity in outward things will stand in peace for long. Nor can the rigid rule and definition of what an outward form must be serve to create the spiritual unity which the body should have in Christ. In fact, it actually militates against it, because it is an attempt to use the law to implement what only the Holy Spirit can create as each have the same Head; the One in whom we have become dead to the law through His body (Ro.7:4).
The unity a church has in the Spirit will not necessarily bear the fruit of a precise uniformity of practice and form in appearance. Why? Because there is no scriptural basis for it. It is man who would desire to see replication among the saints regarding this or any other outward thing. The stamp of Christ's person upon His children is not unlike what we see in nature. Among a certain species there is a clear witness of the common genes and bloodline, but each individual is a perfectly unique representation of that basic family. So it is in the church—in the encounter with Christ, individuality is not destroyed (as in eastern religions) but is transformed in the direction of His nature. In outward and inward matters, that individuality will uniquely reflect the image of the New Man Christ Jesus.
Now that this study is concluded, the Lord would have us apply, in the simplicity of a child, the truths of His Word and get on with the essentials of the kingdom of God. The enemy would have a person or an entire church major in a doctrine such as this, as a mint and cummin type ordinance, and ignore the weightier matters of the faith. Head covering is biblical, it is to be obeyed, it is to be taught; but it is not to be majored in at the expense of certain other commands of great importance which the church is in fact disobeying. How many of us are being fully obedient to confess Christ before men? How many pour large amounts of their time and money into reaching souls for Jesus? Disobedience to these two clear and essential commands alone is probably the reason our lives and the church are so often powerless. God will commit Himself only to an obedient people! He would have us search His Word and come to faithful obedience in every area. Only then, and by the power of His Holy Spirit, will we as individuals and corporate bodies be able to effectively bear witness of our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May He alone be glorified!
O Lord, how
manifold are thy works!
in wisdom hast thou made
them all: the earth is full
of thy riches.