1 Corinthians 11:14 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

1 Corinthians 11:14, NIV: Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him,

1 Corinthians 11:14, ESV: Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him,

1 Corinthians 11:14, KJV: Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

1 Corinthians 11:14, NASB: Does even nature itself not teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him,

1 Corinthians 11:14, NLT: Isn't it obvious that it's disgraceful for a man to have long hair?

1 Corinthians 11:14, CSB: Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a disgrace to him,

What does 1 Corinthians 11:14 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Paul makes one final argument to support his teaching that the women in the Corinthian church should wear a head covering when praying or prophesying in church. This time, he points to the example of nature, not theology. Nature itself teaches, Paul says, that long hair is a disgrace if worn by a man.

Two things should be noted: When Paul says "nature," he seems to mean how most people naturally wear their hair in society, at large. Hair grows the same rate on the heads of men and women, after all. But throughout time and culture, most men in most places have short hair. Or, at least, shorter hair than women. This was especially true in the Roman empire. The other truth is that the term "short" is relative. The shortest haircuts for men in the modern era involve shaving the head bald or close to it. Men of some Greek cultures often wore hair that modern people would consider "long." In general, though, men wear their hair shorter than most women, in most cultures, without being forced to do so. For Paul, this was evidence of God's design for men to leave their heads "uncovered" to better reflect the glory of God.

More generally, the principle Paul speaks to here is the same as that laid out in prior verses. Each culture interprets physical appearances to have certain meanings. In that era, a woman's uncovered head was something intimate and even sexual. Modern people have drastically different applications of that idea, but based those on the same principle. If society "naturally" interprets something as sexually suggestive, it's inappropriate for a Christian gathering.

The same applies to gender roles: though the details change by culture, men ought to look "like men" and women ought to look "like women" (1 Corinthians 6:9).