What does 1 Corinthians 11:6 mean?
ESV: For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head.
NIV: For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
NASB: For if a woman does not cover her head, have her also cut her hair off; however, if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, have her cover her head.
CSB: For if a woman doesn't cover her head, she should have her hair cut off. But if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her head be covered.
NLT: Yes, if she refuses to wear a head covering, she should cut off all her hair! But since it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut or her head shaved, she should wear a covering.
KJV: For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
NKJV: For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.
Verse Commentary:
This verse concludes Paul's thought from the previous verse. Apparently, some Christian women in Corinth were rejecting the cultural norm to have their heads covered. In that society, women with heads uncovered in public were signaling their sexual availability, or association with idol worship. Apparently, some women of the church in Corinth were failing to cover their heads while praying and prophesying in church. Paul says bluntly that this practice brings shame on their husbands, fathers, or the male head of their household.

The gap between millennia and cultures can make this reasoning unclear. A modern parallel might be a woman attending church services in extremely revealing clothing, or lingerie. Acceptable as those are in the right context, the surrounding culture perceives those as sexually-suggestive choices. While it seems extreme to imagine someone going to church in their underwear, the point Paul makes is exactly that. Sincerity and "freedom" don't override how others perceive that appearance, which would be an embarrassment to the person's spouse.

This may be another issue where Paul is commanding the Corinthian Christians to set aside what they perceive as freedom, or a "right." The higher concern is the spiritual good of others. In some cases, however, even arguments for "freedom" fall short of countering the harm of how certain behaviors are perceived. In this case, Paul does not allow room for them to decide. The dishonor created is too great. The implication of that style choice, in that culture, is too overt for Christian women to brush off or ignore.

Paul compares this to the dishonor for a woman of having her head shaved. This was sometimes used as a humiliating form of public marking on those who'd committed certain offenses. Presumably, even the women comfortable with uncovered heads in a church service would have felt disgraced to have their hair shaved off. Paul tells them, then, to just keep their heads covered during their services, for the sake of their metaphorical heads.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 11:2–16 describes Paul's correction of an inappropriate practice of some women in the Corinthian church. Contrary to social norms of that era, they were not wearing head coverings when praying or prophesying before the church. Paul insists that both women and men consider what their chosen appearance implies about their relationship with God. Cultural details may vary, but the principle does not: Christian men and women ought to be ''respectable'' in their manners and dress. In parallel, this teaching also touches on the concept of spiritual leadership.
Chapter Summary:
Paul confronts two issues the church in Corinth was failing to practice correctly. First, some women were not wearing head coverings while praying or prophesying in their meetings. Paul insisted they must do so, and that men must not, based on mankind's relationship to God and the social implications of that covering. Second, Paul describes the reasons for observing the Lord's Supper and how it should be done. The Corinthian Christians had brought God's judgment on themselves for practicing communion in a way which dishonored Christ's sacrifice for sin and humiliated the poor among them.
Chapter Context:
After concluding his teaching on meat offered to idols, Paul turns to two issues the church in Corinth was getting wrong. The first was head coverings when praying or prophesying in their meetings. Differences between men and women in that regard are because of both spiritual and social reasons. Paul also corrects the disastrous way in which they were practicing the observance of the Lord's Supper. They were dishonoring Christ's sacrifice for sin as well as the poor in the body of Christ, the church. Despite having more to say on communion, Paul will move on to the topic of spiritual gifts in chapter 12.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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