1 Corinthians 11:13 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

1 Corinthians 11:13, NIV: Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?

1 Corinthians 11:13, ESV: Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered?

1 Corinthians 11:13, KJV: Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?

1 Corinthians 11:13, NASB: Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?

1 Corinthians 11:13, NLT: Judge for yourselves. Is it right for a woman to pray to God in public without covering her head?

1 Corinthians 11:13, CSB: Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?

What does 1 Corinthians 11:13 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Paul has made his case for why Corinthian women should wear a head covering when praying or prophesying at a gathering of the church. He will offer one more argument, but he pauses to ask his readers to judge this for themselves: Is it proper or fitting for a wife—or a woman—to pray at a gathering of the church with her head uncovered? Paul expects their answer to this question to agree with what he has taught so far: "No, obviously not."

Modern Christians may not judge Paul's question for themselves in the same way. Most modern churches, especially in the west, do not practice having women publicly cover their heads with hoods or veils. The reason for that is because of the principles Paul has laid out in this very letter. While the fundamental principle of modesty applies to all people and all times; specific applications change based on the standards of the culture. In the era in which Paul wrote, nearly all women covered their heads with something when in public. Women with publicly-uncovered heads were seen by the people of that era much in the same way modern culture might react to a woman wearing purposefully revealing clothing or lingerie. The implication, in that era, is someone advertising their sexuality. In Paul's words, they were revealing their "glory" and bringing shame on their husbands.

In the culture of Corinth, uncovering a woman's head was a sign of sexual availability, prostitution, or idol worship. That was the social meaning of that "style" of dress. In many parts of the world today, there is no social implication that a woman's "glory" is revealed by seeing her uncovered head. The principle still exists, however, even if different markers of modesty and "covering" have become more prominent. The principle of Paul's teaching would apply to those standards.

Notably, these standards apply to both men and women. Just as Paul instructed women about covering their heads (1 Corinthians 11:5–10), he likewise spoke to men about uncovering theirs (1 Corinthians 11:4). Christians should be careful not to send inappropriate signals through their dress or behavior, especially at a Christian gathering.