I am concerned with the question of veiling. Why are Christian sisters today not veiled per 1 Corinthians 11:6? -- Troy Hannon (Philadelphia) and Stephanie Collins (Cincinnati)

Most Christians interpret the practice of veiling, like foot-washing and the holy kiss, as a cultural matter. In Paul's day, married women throughout the Mediterranean world wore the veil, and this practice was held in common by all, pagans and Christians alike. Interestingly, in much of the Middle East even today, the women are veiled and a kiss is not an uncommon form of greeting (man to man, woman to woman, that is).

The issue of culture and interpretation is an important one, and deserves much more of an explanation than I offer here. Perhaps a current example will help. It would be embarrassing today for a Christian woman to wear a mini-skirt in public, or to criticize her husband in front of others--practices which would call into question her modesty and undermine his God-ordained leadership. Today the veil is a dead issue: the world draws no conclusions one way or the other about a woman's respectful relationship with her husband based on whether she is veiled or not. Yet there are important principles at stake which do apply to our time.

One reason I believe this is a cultural issue is that, when God made clothing for Adam and Eve, after the Fall, there was no mention of a veil. (The clothes were of animal skins can you imagine a full-length animal skin veil?!) Another is that, while in some parts of the world (say, our work in the more radical Islamic states) the veil is still required in public, and its absence would seriously hinder the gospel, in most states the effect would be the exact opposite. If the veil were worn, the gospel would be needlessly discredited. 1 Corinthians 9 shows the wisdom of becoming all things to all men (and women).

Christians may honestly disagree over the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11, yet no matter how one interprets the passage, this is not a central matter of doctrine, but a peripheral one.

For further study, please see The Problem with Paul, by Brian J. Dodd. It is excellent and will help you think through the issues.

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