Paul and Women’s Head Coverings: Oral Law Again

Paul and Women’s Head Coverings: Oral Law Again
James Scott Trimm

Paul writes:

5 But every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head: for that is one and the same as if she were shaven.
6 For if the woman is not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it is a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
(1Cor. 11:5-6)

It is very interesting that Paul directs women not to pray or prophecy with their heads uncovered (unveiled), because there is no such commandment in the written Torah. Moreover Paul is prohibited by Torah, from adding commandments to the Torah (Deut. 4:2; 12:32 (13:1)). So from where does Paul derive a commandment about women wearing head coverings? The answer is to be found, not in the written Torah, but in the Oral Torah.

We read in the Mishnah:

These are the women who may be divorced and not given their marriage settlement [as promised in their Ketuvah]: She who transgresses the Law of Moshe and the Jewish law:… And what is the Jewish law? If she goes out [in public] with her hair flowing loose, or spins cloth in the street [so that her arms are exposed] or spends time talking loosely [flirting] with all kinds of men.
(m.Ketuvot 7:6)

Here Paul is not referring to a commandment in the written Torah and he is not creating a new commandment, he is referring to a custom from the Oral Law which can be found in the Mishnah.

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