Haman, Head Coverings, and First Corinthians 11:1-16

August 23, 2011

What does Haman have to do with head coverings and 1 Corinthians 11:1-16? An examination of the LXX of Esther 6 brings out a correlation between these seemingly otherwise unrelated entities that has important bearing on the interpretation of this highly disputed NT passage.

Esther 6 records the dramatic reversal that resulted in Haman’s humiliation. Hearing the king speak of one whom he desired to honor, he thought that surely the king intended to honor him (6:6). To his great chagrin, he learned that the king ordained that Haman himself was to honor Mordecai, whom he greatly despised (6:10).

After he had fulfilled the king’s directives to honor Mordecai publicly (6:11), “Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered” (6:12). Plainly, this text is not declaring that he went to his home having hair on his head. Nor is it asserting either that he had long hair on his head as he went home or that he somehow miraculously grew his hair long.

Rather, this verse records that because he had been humiliated, he headed home, draping an external covering over his head.

Furthermore, the LXX rendering of the verse reads as follows:

BGT Esther 6:12 ¶ ἐπέστρεψεν δὲ ὁ Μαρδοχαῖος εἰς τὴν αὐλήν Αμαν δὲ ὑπέστρεψεν εἰς τὰ ἴδια λυπούμενος κατὰ κεφαλῆς

LXE Esther 6:12 And Mardochaeus returned to the palace: but Aman went home mourning, and having his head covered.

KJV Esther 6:12 And Mordecai came again to the king’s gate. But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered.

NAU Esther 6:12 Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman hurried home, mourning, with his head covered.

The exact phrase κατὰ κεφαλῆς found here occurs in only one other passage in the Bible in Greek:

BGT 1 Corinthians 11:4 πᾶς ἀνὴρ προσευχόμενος ἢ προφητεύων κατὰ κεφαλῆς ἔχων καταισχύνει τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ.

SCR 1 Corinthians 11:4 πᾶς ἀνὴρ προσευχόμενος ἢ προφητεύων, κατὰ κεφαλῆς ἔχων καταισχύνει τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ.

KJV 1 Corinthians 11:4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

NAU 1 Corinthians 11:4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head.

Moreover, Hatch and Redpath (κατακαλύπτειν, 733) report that another hand of the Septuagint for Esther 6:12 reads, κατακεκαλυμμένος κεφαλήν. This variant reading has the perfect passive participle of the key verb used in 1 Corinthians 11:6 and 7 for both a man’s and a woman’s covering his or her head (κατακαλύπτω):

BGT 1 Corinthians 11:6 εἰ γὰρ οὐ κατακαλύπτεται γυνή, καὶ κειράσθω• εἰ δὲ αἰσχρὸν γυναικὶ τὸ κείρασθαι ἢ ξυρᾶσθαι, κατακαλυπτέσθω.

SCR 1 Corinthians 11:6 εἰ γὰρ οὐ κατακαλύπτεται γυνή, καὶ κειράσθω• εἰ δὲ αἰσχρὸν γυναικὶ τὸ κείρασθαι ἢ ξυρᾶσθαι, κατακαλυπτέσθω.

KJV 1 Corinthians 11:6 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.

NAU 1 Corinthians 11:6 For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also 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 cover her head.

BGT 1 Corinthians 11:7 Ἀνὴρ μὲν γὰρ οὐκ ὀφείλει κατακαλύπτεσθαι τὴν κεφαλὴν εἰκὼν καὶ δόξα θεοῦ ὑπάρχων• ἡ γυνὴ δὲ δόξα ἀνδρός ἐστιν.

SCR 1 Corinthians 11:7 ἀνὴρ μὲν γὰρ οὐκ ὀφείλει κατακαλύπτεσθαι τὴν κεφαλήν, εἰκὼν καὶ δόξα Θεοῦ ὑπάρχων• γυνὴ δὲ δόξα ἀνδρός ἐστιν.

KJV 1 Corinthians 11:7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

NAU 1 Corinthians 11:7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

This evidence from the LXX therefore supports holding that the covering in view in 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 is an external head covering for both a man and a woman.

Rajesh

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9 responses to Haman, Head Coverings, and First Corinthians 11:1-16

  1. Hello,

    I have been studying this for weeks. How can I argue with scripture? It seems so clear. Is a woman’s long hair a substitute for this?

    • Hi slp,

      The point of my post was to bring out that Esther 6:12 in the LXX shows that the key Greek expressions in 1 Cor. 11 for head coverings do not refer to a woman’s hair or long hair but rather they refer to an external head covering. So, no, a woman’s long hair is not a substitute for this. What’s more, early Church historical data (from about A.D. 150; On the Veiling of Virgins by Tertullian) provides further evidence that the covering spoken of in 1 Corinthians 11 is not the hair but is an external head covering.

      • Hi,

        Was this command for church only?

        • That’s a harder question to answer with full certainty. My understanding is that it would at least definitely apply in any context where a mixed group (men and women) of believers gathers to engage in corporate worship in a formal setting (cf. Paul’s distinguishing between “coming together” [11:33] and “at home” [11:34] and between “in the churches” [14:34] and “in the church” [14:35c] with “at home” [14:35b]). Beyond that setting, I would say that a woman’s using a head covering would seem to be a good thing when she is praying to God in the presence of her husband and/or other men, but the passage does not seem clearly to mandate that she do so.

        • Here is a link where you can access that Tertullian article online: http://www.tertullian.org/anf/anf04/anf04-09.htm

  2. Hi, I am not sure you can use Greek references from the LXX translation so easily to prove a point about NT meaning. For example, akatakalyptos in Lev 13:45 is actual used for having your hair hanging loose. Using this as reference for the passage in Corinthians, wouldn’t you arrive at a different conclusion for this passage ?

    • Hi Niko,

      Thanks for commenting. Here is the Greek text for Lev. 13:45:

      BGT Leviticus 13:45 ¶ καὶ ὁ λεπρός ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἡ ἁφή τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ ἔστω παραλελυμένα καὶ ἡ κεφαλὴ αὐτοῦ ἀκατακάλυπτος καὶ περὶ τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ περιβαλέσθω καὶ ἀκάθαρτος κεκλήσεται

      Please explain how you are asserting that the Greek text signifies “having your hair hanging loose”?

      • Hi Rajesh,

        I believe the original Hebrew in this text has that meaning and apparently the Greek word was used here for that meaning. What I wanted to say is that the LXX is in itself only a translation of the inspired Hebrew text, whereas the NT Greek is actually the inspired original text. We shouldn’t therefore take a hint from the LXX translation for NT meaning, at least not that easily.

        Many blessings
        Nikos

        • Hi Niko,

          I’m sure you are aware that the NT often quotes the LXX instead of the Hebrew text and that the LXX was in many respects the Bible of Jesus and the apostles. We, therefore, should pay close attention to parallels between the LXX and the NT, especially when there is no other evidence to the contrary.

          You have not provided any reason that my analysis of Esther 6:12 and its rendering in the LXX should be dismissed. It is impossible to establish that text was referring in Hebrew or Greek to Haman somehow putting his hair up in some manner instead of covering his head with an external covering. Because the LXX of Esther 6:12 uses kata kephales in a context that requires understanding that an external head covering is in view, there is no good reason to reject that evidence as how we should understand the same phrase in 1 Corinthians 11.

          As for Lev. 13:45, the LXX rendering and the Hebrew text are both consistent with the hair hanging loose because the normal external head covering was removed. I see no reason to understand that this passage poses a problem for my analysis.

          Thanks.

          Rajesh