"But I would have you know, that the head of every man is mashiach; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of mashiach is Elohim. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. 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. .... Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto Elohim uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of Elohim." 1 Corinthians 11:3-6; 13-16
This verse seems so misunderstood by so many, so let's address various aspects of the passage which may be confusing.
We begin by noticing that the purpose of the headcovering is because of a woman's place in the natural order: Elohim, man, woman:
"For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of Elohim: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels." 1 Corinthians 11:7-10
We can also deduce from this 'headship' that it can only apply to married women, since single women are directly under Elohim, without a husband between her and Elohim (unless we assume every man is over a woman [like her father, brother, uncle, etc. and then as she ages, her son, nephews, etc)]. Clearly only husbands are meant here.
There are several passages indicating headcovering was a common practice among married/betrothed women:
"And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel. For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a veil, and covered herself." Genesis 24:64,65
Another verse showing the practice of wifely headcovering was an established practice is in the case of a woman before the priest when her husband suspects infidelity:
And the priest shall set the woman before the Adonai, and uncover the woman's head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse." Numbers 5:18
The point being, in order to uncover, she must have been previously covered. The passage makes the assumption that any wife brought before a priest *will* be covered. From Paul's comment in 1 Corinthians 11:16 "But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of Elohim" it seems clear he is referring to the custom that wives *do* cover their heads.
Now, what kind of covering is deemed appropriate? Is a woman's hair sufficient? No. This is because Paul used different Greek words for the natural hair covering and the headship covering. Let's look at the Greek words in the passage:
Paul said that men should not cover/katakalupto (Strong's 2619) their heads. And in verse 11 Paul contrasts that with: "Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered/akatakaluptos/?" (Strong's 177) Note that 'uncovered'/akatakaluptos is the opposite of 'to cover'/katakalupto. Katakaluptos basically means to UNcover or UNveil. So far, we have a 'men uncover, women cover' command. Now for where the confusion comes in: When Paul refers to a woman's natural hair covering, he uses an altogether different word: "But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering/peribolaion." (Strong's 4018). Peribolaion means something thrown around (loose items like a veil, a mantle, a vesture). Hair is more like a glorious decoration given to woman. Now if Paul had meant the naturally occuring hair covering and the headship-type covering to be one and the same, he would have used the same word for each. Instead, a woman's natural hair covering (peribolaion) is being contrasted to this other covering (katakalupto) that women wear. In fact, the katakalupto actually *covers* the peribolaion.
Paul has begun this passage showing the contrasts between men and women in this passage: men are uncovered, women are covered. Then Paul supports his case for headcovering by pointing out that even in nature a women is given a covering -- by her long hair. But Sha'ul never makes the leap that hair itself *is* a suitable headcover alone. If such a natural covering sufficed, then Sha'ul is wasting his time teaching this since the women already had a natural hair covering. Paul deliberately used different words for the two coverings so we would understand they were complementary to each other but not identical. So there is *no* choice offered in this passage that one may choose to either shave one's head and cover it, or to leave one's hair long and remain uncovered. The natural order is to either wear a covering over the hair or to fully exploit the shame of being uncovered by also shaving off one's hair too. Better: if you resist submitting to the customary female headcovering, you may as well reject your natural hair as well.
Now among those who agree a married woman should wear some sort of covering, there is always the one who argues this headcovering is due to modesty. That somehow hair is too much of a sexual turn on to men and therefore must be covered to keep a man's libido under control. While long hair can be attractive, I'd argue the command has little to do with attractiveness, but instead only represents a husband's headship over his wife. Let me demonstrate why:
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Yahushua, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Yochanan/John 12:3
If hair is so sexy that it must be kept covered, then the above verse reads tackily -- as if Mary was trying to arouse Yahshua. Clearly hair did not have any such deep sexual connotations attached to it. Furthermore (assuming hair's sexiness was the reason for the covering) the command to cover is given only to married women (again, notice single Mary wore no such covering). Yet wouldn't many single teenage girls be the ones more likely to entice with their appearance? In fact wouldn't they be the ones most needing this modest head covering? While certainly a woman's hair is attractive and a delight for her husband, I cannot agree that the command to cover a woman's head is strictly because of its attractiveness. The headcovering Sha'ul refers to is less about looks and modesty, and more about showing a woman's 1) marital status and 2) her submission to her husband's headship over her and finally, 3) as evidence for the angels to witness this submissive act (possibly also as a positive example for fallen angels to see -- those who had rejected G-d's headship and refused to submit to Him).
I'd like to address the issue of *when* to cover one's head. There are many who feel headcoverings only need to be worn during congregational services (i.e. 'praying and prophesying'). Paul says we are to 'Pray without ceasing' (1 Thessalonians 5:17) -- so apparently, there is no time when a woman should not be praying, therefore, no time when a woman should be uncovered.
In conclusion, nothing in 1 Corinthians indicates hair (or lack of hair) replaces a proper headcovering on married women. It is this writer's own personal opinion that most any headcovering will be adequate; from a headband, to a scarf, to a hat, to a full veil. The exception to *most any covering* would be a wig, since a wig defeats the whole purpose of the command by giving the illusion of being uncovered. Other than a wig, most any covering will adequately fulfill this command, since katakalupto simply means 'to cover' and doesn't specify a particular accessory. For myself, I prefer a modest look, and so I don't choose headcoverings that would draw much attention to myself. To be overly modest and covered up in the society I live in could either lead to false modesty or give others the impression I want to be noticed for extreme piety. The purpose of the covering isn't to attract stares at the supermarket but to show submission to Elohim's natural order.