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James Dodson

Katharina von Bora, Martin Luther's wife, with several different headcoverings.

Katharina von Bora, Martin Luther's wife, with several different headcoverings.


Women, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord, “for the husband is the head of the wife” [cf. Eph 5:22-23]. Again to the Colossians in the third chapter [3:18]. Because of this, the wife has not been created out of the head, so that she shall not rule over her husband, but be subject and obedient to him.

For that reason the wife wears a headdress, that is, the veil on her head, as St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians in the seventh chapter, that she is not free but under obedience to her husband.—Martin Luther, Sermon on Marriage, 5th January, 1525.

“We read of old of such as were grave, that they covered themselves with a vail: And 1 Cor. 11 married women going abroad uncovered is looked upon as unnatural; What would such say if they lived in our times; we are perswaded the gravest amongst women are most averse from this evil, and the lightest are most prone and given to it .”—James Durham, The Law Unsealed: Or, A Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments. (1675).

Heading 3.—Of an husbands superioritie over a wife, to be acknowledged by a wife.

6. The very (h—from Chrysostom. in 1 Cor. hom. 26) attire which nature and custome of all times and places have taught women to put on, confirmeth the same: as long haire, vailes, and other coverings over the head: this and the former argument doth the Apostle himself use to this very purpose, 1 Cor. 11.7 &c.

h. Sicapilli pro velamine dati sunt, qua gratia ahud addendu est velamen? Ut non tantum natura, sed etiam, voluntate subjectam se esse confiteatur. [“And if it be given her for a covering (veil),” say you, “wherefore need she add another covering (veil)?” That not nature only, but also her own will may have part in her acknowledgment of subjection.]—Chrysostom hom. 26—William Gouge, Of Domesticall Duties. (1622).



Homily on 1 Corinthians 11.—On the Veiling of Women-John Chrysostom (347-407).-A very careful exegesis of Paul's discussion on the veiling of women in 1 Corinthians 11. Chrysostom concludes that the veiling of women is not religious but natural because it is a sign of the subjection and inferiority of the women to her husband together with other observations.

Letter CCXLV.-Augustine of Hippo (354-430).-In this letter Augustine addresses how women should dress and declares they should go about with their heads covered, avoid the use of cosmetics and shun costly attire and any ornaments connected with heathenism.

Commentary on 1 Timothy 2:9-14.-1528-Martin Luther.-Luther instructs women on modest, including discussion regarding attire and headcoverings. Underlying the entire discussion is an emphasis upon the woman's social subordination to man in family, church and nation.

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Regarding Headcoverings.-1546-John Calvin.-Calvin begins with the understanding that the distinction of the sexes is divinely arranged and notes that for a woman to appear in public uncovered is to shake off the authority of her husband. In addition, he describes that submission which women ought to yield to their husbands.

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:1-16-1659-David Dickson (1583-1663).-Dickson’s commentary on this passage shows that the certain usages pertaining to order and decorum in the church are divinely ordered in nature and that these natural signs are to be maintained in the assembly because the church has no custom to cast off nature.

A Discourse on Women Prophesying and Headcoverings.-1665-Joseph Mede (1586-1639).-An interesting discourse on 1 Cor. 11:5 explaining what Paul meant when he spoke of women prophesying. In the course of the discussion, he throws some light on the function of precentors and the antiphony between the preceptor and the congregation (much like lining of the Psalms). Pointedly, he also discusses what Paul meant to teach respecting headcoverings or veils for women in the worship of the church.

Spiritual Armour To Defend the Head From the Superfluity of Naughtiness.-1688-Thomas Wall (fl. 1680-90).-This is a very detailed examination of hair and headcoverings by a non-Conformist Puritan controversialist who was a friend of Henry Ainsworth. Wall does not stop at hair but addresses many things respecting attire.

The Public Preaching of Women.-1879-Robert L. Dabney (1820-1898).-Dabney brings the answer of Scripture to the rise of the feminism and faddish notion that women may be preachers of the Word of God. Along the way, he also discusses the use of headcoverings, or veils, in the public life of women.

The Demeanour of Women in Public Worship.-1886-Frédéric Louis Godet (1812-1900).-This is an exposition of Paul’s teaching by an eminent expositor who offers many useful and helpful comments and insights into the text.