If one of the men of your congregation took it upon himself to wear a baseball cap, bowler, porkpie hat, French beret, or a ten gallon cowboy hat while waiting on the Lord’s table, or leading a public prayer, or leading singing or even preaching, would you object? If so, why? If the hat in question was part of his normal day to day attire, what would be the problem? If he declined to doff his chapeau while praying, why should anyone object?
If you were to have a young married couple show up for worship services, and the husband had a long, luxurious head of hair flowing down past his waist, while his wife sported a crew cut, would you be okay with that? Why not? Are you just binding your own human opinion and taste on the pair?
Perhaps most brethren would appeal to I Corinthians, and Paul’s admonition that long hair is shameful for men, yet glorious for a woman. Well and good, perhaps, but the exact same passage demands that women wear a veil while praying, and the overwhelming majority of brethren who would oppose the inversion of the young married couple above would nevertheless refuse to require the wearing of the veil with the same adamancy with which they oppose the wearing of the ballcap, even though both instructions are given directly together by Paul. Why is this so?
At this point a learned brother will step forward to admonish the wayward advocate of the veil that it is merely a matter of local custom which Paul was addressing, and as such has no relevance to practice in the church in the current year and locale. It might surprise the learned brother to discover that Paul never, not even one single time, refers to the wearing of the veil as a custom.
“No!” cries our learned brother, “Paul specifically says the veil is a ‘custom’ in I Corinthians 16!” In point of fact this is a new and novel teaching which is contrary to grammar, logic, and two millenia of scholarship prior to the twentieth century. Learned brother should also take into account that if the veil is local custom, so are Paul’s teachings regarding male and female hair length, as well as the prohibition of men praying with their heads covered. All are found bound together in a single set of instructions; if one is mere custom all are mere custom, and the brother who condemns the teaching that women should be covered, while himself teaching that men should be uncovered, condemns himself for teaching custom as law.
Now let us understand, I do not condemn our learned brother who teaches men should be uncovered; rather I commend him for teaching such, I merely wish to encourage him to be consistent in his teaching about these matters.
What, then, is the historical teaching regarding the veil? All of the second century brethren reported that the wearing of the veil was a universal practice of the churches, and cited Paul’s teaching on the matter. This is the testimony of both Clement of Alexandria and Hippolytus of Rome. Later writers, including John Chrysostom, Jerome and Augustine confirmed that in the 4th and 5th centuries it was still the universal practice for Christian women to wear a head covering, and that such was based on the teaching of the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians.
Interestingly enough, as time moved on and more and more digressions and divisions occurred, the wearing of the head covering by women professing to be Christians seems to have never been questioned. Luther and Calvin, while more than happy to shake everything up in the religious orders of their time, still commanded women to wear head coverings, and still instructed they should do so based on the teaching of Paul in I Corinthians. I do not claim that either of these men are authoritative, but both were recognized scholars, and both understood the teaching of the apostle in this matter to be what everyone else had for well over a thousand years.
Now, what is this matter of “custom” in I Corinthians 11:16? Is it, as most learned brethren teach today, the wearing of the veil (and long hair on women, and short hair on men, and men being uncovered in worship, because they do indeed all stand or fall together)?
Well, let’s see what some of the greatest scholars of the scriptures have to say about Paul’s use of the word custom in I Cor. 11:16. While I agree these men are not doctrinally authoritative, their scholarship is useful for shedding light on the literal meanings of passages.
“But if any man seem to be contentious – The sense of this passage is probably this: “If any man, any teacher, or others, “is disposed” to be strenuous about this, or to make it a matter of difficulty; if he is disposed to call in question my reasoning, and to dispute my premises and the considerations which I have advanced, and to maintain still that it is proper for women to appear unveiled in public, I would add that in Judea we have no such custom, neither does it prevail among any of the churches. This, therefore, would be a sufficient reason why it should not be done in Corinth, even if the abstract reasoning should not convince them of the impropriety. It would be singular; would be contrary to the usual custom; would offend the prejudices of many and should, therefore, be avoided.”
We have no such custom – We the apostles in the churches which we have elsewhere founded; or we have no such custom in Judea. The sense is, that it is contrary to custom there for women to appear in public unveiled. This custom, the apostle argues, ought to be allowed to have some influence on the church of Corinth, even though they should not be convinced by his reasoning.
Neither the churches of God – The churches elsewhere. It is customary there for the woman to appear veiled. If at Corinth this custom is not observed, it will be a departure from what has elsewhere been regarded as proper; and will offend these churches. Even, therefore, if the reasoning is not sufficient to silence all cavils and doubts, yet the propriety of uniformity in the habits of the churches, the fear of giving offence should lead you to discountenance and disapprove the custom of your females appearing in public without their veil.”
— Albert Barnes
“But if any man seem to be contentious – Ει δε τις δοκει φιλονεικος ειναι· If any person sets himself up as a wrangler – puts himself forward as a defender of such points, that a woman may pray or teach with her head uncovered, and that a man may, without reproach, have long hair; let him know that we have no such custom as either, nor are they sanctioned by any of the Churches of God, whether among the Jews or the Gentiles. We have already seen that the verb δοκειν, which we translate to seem, generally strengthens and increases the sense. From the attention that the apostle has paid to the subject of veils and hair, it is evident that it must have occasioned considerable disturbance in the Church of Corinth. They have produced evil effects in much later times.”
— Adam Clarke
“1 Corinthians 11:16. But if any man seem to be, &c.— Be, or is disposed to be, &c. “If any one, from a love of disputing, or from his own different views of what is naturally decent, should controvert what I advance, I shall not contend further; but content myself with saying, that we have here no such custom, for women to appear with their heads uncovered; neither do I know of its prevailing in any other of the churches of God, whether planted by me, or any of my brethren. I think, therefore, that it ought to be avoided, as a singularity which may appear like affectation, and give offence, even if it be not judged a natural indecorum.” See Doddridge and Cal”
— Thomas Coke
“VII. He sums up all by referring those who were contentious to the usages and customs of the churches, 1 Corinthians 11:16. Custom is in a great measure the rule of decency. And the common practice of the churches is what would have them govern themselves by. He does not silence the contentious by mere authority, but lets them know that they would appear to the world as very odd and singular in their humour if they would quarrel for a custom to which all the churches of Christ were at that time utter strangers, or against a custom in which they all concurred, and that upon the ground of natural decency. It was the common usage of the churches for women to appear in public assemblies, and join in public worship, veiled; and it was manifestly decent that they should do so. Those must be very contentious indeed who would quarrel with this, or lay it aside”
— Matthew Henry
“16. εἰ δέ τις. Not ‘any man’ as A.V., but ‘any one,’ a material difference. The Apostle had special reason to apprehend difficulties on this point. See 1 Corinthians 14:33; 1 Corinthians 14:38, and notes. Thus it would be better to apply the words to what follows, rather than with some commentators, to what has gone before. The Apostle would deprecate further argument, and appeal to the custom of the Churches as decisive on a point of this kind.
δοκεῖ. Thinks fit, not seemeth, as A.V.
φιλόνεικος. Admirably translated contentious in A.V., implying that pleasure is taken in strife for its own sake.
ἡμεῖς. Emphatic. If he like to be contentious, let him be so. It is quite sufficient for us who desire to live in peace that the custom of the Churches is otherwise.
συνήθειαν. See note on 1 Corinthians 8:7. The word has been interpreted  as referring to contention, ‘it is not our custom to be contentious,’ or  to the practice of permitting women to appear unveiled at the services of the Church. The latter yields the best sense. This appeal to the Churches must not be understood to imply that all Churches ought in all respects to have the same customs. But in a matter such as this, involving the position of women in Christian society, and their reputation in the world at large—a matter of no small importance—it were far wiser for the Corinthian Church to follow the universal practice of Christendom.
Now if the false teacher resolves to be contentious, and maintains that it is allowable for women to pray and teach publicly in the church unveiled, we in Judea have no such custom, neither any of the churches of God.“
—- James MacKnight on the Epistles
A summary by appeal to the universal custom of the churches.
If any man seem – `thinks’ (fit) [ dokei (Greek #1380)] (Matthew 3:9); if any man chooses (still, after all my arguments) to be contentious; if any thinks himself right in being so. A reproof of the Corinthians’ self-sufficiency and disputatiousness (1 Corinthians 1:20).
We – apostles; or, we of the Jewish nation. Jewish women veiled themselves in public, according to Tertullian. The former explanation is best, as the Jews are not referred to in the context; but he often refers to himself and his fellow-apostles. “We-us” (1 Corinthians 4:9-10; 1 Corinthians 10:5-6).
No such custom – as that of women praying uncovered. Not ‘that of being contentious.’ The Greek No such custom – as that of women praying uncovered. Not ‘that of being contentious.’ The Greek [ suneetheian (Greek #4914)] implies a usage rather than a mental habit (John 18:39). The usage of true “churches” (plural: not ‘the Church,’ as an abstract entity, but “the churches,” as many independent witnesses) of God (the churches which God recognizes) is a valid argument as to external rites, especially negatively-e.g., such rites were not received among them, therefore ought not to be admitted among us; but in doctrine or essentials the argument is not valid (1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Corinthians 14:33).
Neither – nor yet. Catholic usage is not an infallible test of truth, but a general test of decency.”
—Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible – Unabridged
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
16.] Cuts off the subject, already abundantly decided, with a settlement of any possible difference, by appeal to universal apostolic and ecclesiastic custom. But if any man seems to be contentious (i.e. ‘if any arises who appears to dispute the matter, who seems not satisfied with the reasons I have given, but is still disputatious;’—this is the only admissible sense of δοκεἶ in this construction: see reff.:—for the meaning, ‘if it pleases any one,’ &c. would require τινι δοκεῖ: and ‘if any one thinks that he may,’ &c. would not agree with φιλονεικεῖν, which is in itself wrong).
ἡμεῖς] declarative: let him know that …; so, εἰ δὲ κατακαυχᾶσαι, οὐ σὺ τὴν ῥίζαν βαστάζεις, ἀλλʼ ἡ ῥίζα σέ, Romans 11:18. We,—the Apostles and their immediate company,—including the women who assembled in prayer and supplication with them at their various stations, see Acts 16:13.
τοιαύτην συνήθειαν] The best modern Commentators, e.g. Meyer and De Wette, agree with Chrys. in understanding this, τοιαύτ. συνήθ., ὥστε φιλονεικεῖν κ. ἐρίζειν κ. ἀντιτάττεσθαι. p. 235. And so Ambrose, Beza, Calvin, Estius, Calov., al. But surely it would be very unlikely, that after so long a treatment of a particular subject, the Apostle should wind up all by merely a censure of a fault common to their behaviour on this and all the other matters of dispute. Such a rendering seems to me almost to stultify the conclusion:—‘If any will dispute about it still, remember that it is neither our practice, nor that of the Churches, to dispute.’ It would seem to me, but for the weighty names on the other side, hardly to admit of a question, that the συνήθεια alludes to the practice (see ref. John) of women praying uncovered. So Theodoret, Grot. Michaelis, Rosenm., Billroth, Olsh., al., and Theophyl. altern. He thus cuts off all further disputation on the matter by appealing to universal Christian usage: and to make the appeal more solemn, adds τοῦ θεοῦ to αἱ ἐκκλ.,—the assemblies which are held in honour of and for prayer to God, and are His own Churches. Obs. αἱ ἐκκλησί αι, not ἡ ἐκκλησί α. The plurality of independent testimonies to the absence of the custom, is that on which the stress is laid. This appeal, ‘to THE CHURCHES,’ was much heard again at the Reformation: but has since been too much forgotten. See, on the influence of this passage on the Christian church, the general remarks of Stanley, edn. 2, pp. 198–200.
— Henry Alford, Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary Now we are to believe that MacKnight, Henry, Clarke, Barnes etc, are one and all mistaken on the literal meaning of the passage here, and that the word custom refers to the wearing of the veil by the Corinthian women. Of course this also contradicts the testimony as to the understanding and practice of the second century scholars mentioned above, and while it is completely understandable to dismiss the admittedly annoying ramblings of Augustine and perpetual sense of indignation wafting from Jerome, we can perhaps at least look to their testimony as to what the practice of the church was in their day and why it was so.
I guess RSM still hasn’t boycotted the NFL… https://theothermccain.com/2022/09/25/heartbreaker-in-foxborough/
Interesting fashion advice… https://spawnyspace.wordpress.com/2022/09/27/tunics/
Everyone goes to Disney after the die in Philly… https://sylg1.wordpress.com/2022/09/26/the-worst-police-department-in-america/
Get off the fence… https://sigmaframe.wordpress.com/2022/09/26/sitting-on-the-fence/
Feminists against females…. https://deepstrength.wordpress.com/2022/09/26/the-desecration-of-femininity/
They’ll be coming for all of us soon enough… https://winteryknight.com/2022/09/26/bidens-fbi-raids-home-of-pro-life-activist-aiming-rifles-at-his-wife-and-kids/
On friendship… https://freemattpodcast.wordpress.com/2022/09/26/you-might-not-want-to-be-my-friend/