Saturday, August 9, 2008

HEAD COVERINGS... the Historical Record

The Veiling or Head-Covering for the Christian Sisters
from the Early Christian writers



Clement of Alexandria (150-200 AD) was a presbyter in the church of Alexandria, Egypt. The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2, Fathers of the Second Century, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11, page 566

Going To Church

Woman and man are to go to church decently attired, with natural step, embracing silence, possessing unfeigned love, pure in body, pure in heart, it to pray to God. Let the woman observe this, further. Let her be entirely covered, unless she happen to be at home. For that style of dress is grave, and protects from being gazed at. And she will never fall, who puts before her eyes modesty, and her shawl; nor will she invite another to fall into sin by uncovering her face. For this is the wish of the Word, since it is becoming for her to pray veiled.
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John Chrysostom ( 345 ?—407 ) lived after the Council of Nicea.

This writing was taken from the Nicene-Post Nicene Fathers, first series, Vol. 12, Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Epistles of St. Paul to the Corinthians, Homily 26, p. 348-349.

Verse 6. “But if a woman is not veiled, let her also be shorn: but if it be a
shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be veiled.”

Thus, in the beginning he simply requires that the head be not bare: but as he proceeds he intimates both the continuance of the rule, saying, “for it is one and the same thing as if she were shaven,” and the keeping of it with all care and diligence.

For he said not merely covered, but “covered over,” meaning that she be carefully wrapped up on every side. And by reducing it to an absurdity, he appeals to their shame, saying by way of severe reprimand, “but if she be not covered, let her also be shorn.” As if he had said, “If thou cast away the covering appointed by the law of God, cast away likewise that appointed by nature.”

Having taken then what was confessedly shameful, and having said, “but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven,” he states in what follows his own conclusion, saying, “let her be covered.”

And he said not, “let her have long hair,” but, “let her be covered,” ordaining both these to be one, and establishing them both ways, from what was customary and from their contraries: in that he both affirms the covering and the hair to be one, and also that she again who is shaven is the same with her whose head is bare. “For it is one and the same thing,” saith he, “as if she were shaven.”

But if any say, “And how is it one, if this woman have the covering of nature, but the other who is shaven have not even this?” we answer, that as far as her will goes, she threw that off likewise by having the head bare. And if it be not bare of tresses, that is nature’s doing, not her own. So that as she who is shaven hath her head bare, so this woman in like manner.
For this cause He left it to nature to provide her with a covering, that even of it she might learn this lesson and veil herself.
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Hippolytus (170-236 AD) was a pupil of Irenaeus and a church leader.
from The Treatise on The Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus of Rome, Bishop and Martyr. , xviii, section 5, p. 29:

Moreover let all the women have their heads veiled with a scarf ( pallion) but not with a veil [ lit. thing, eidos] of linen only, for that is not a covering (kalumma).
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Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Vol. 7, Book 8, p. 506, Eludidations, a note from the translator and editor, James Donaldson, DD :

Finally, let me suggest that there are fragments of the Apostle’s instructions everywhere scattered through his Epistles, such as the minute canon concerning the veiling of women in acts of worship, insisting upon it with a length of argument which in one of the Apostolic Fathers would be considered childish. He also insisted that his taxis is from The LORD.

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Tertullian (140-230 AD) was in some position as a leader in the church at Carthage, North Africa.

ANF, Vol. 3, part 3, On Prayer, Chapter 21, p. 1245 [Master Christian Library, Version 8, Ages Software, Ante-Nicene Fathers] …Of Virgins
[Note: p. 687 in the Hendrickson Volume 3, 2nd printing, June 1995]

But that point which is promiscuously observed throughout the churches, whether virgins ought to be veiled or no, must be treated of.

Tertullian, Chapter 22 (excerpts) pp. 1246-1249 (MCL, Version 8) [Hendrickson,p. 687-688] Answer To The Foregoing Arguments

... is applicable too to a “virgin.” In fact, all the other passages are in consonance herewith.

But, withal, the declaration is plain: “Every woman,” saith he, “praying and prophesying with head uncovered, dishonoreth her own head.” What is “every woman,” but woman of every age, of every rank, of every condition? By saying “every” he excepts nought of womanhood, just as he excepts nought of manhood either from not being covered; for just so he says, “Every man.” As, then, in the masculine sex, under the name of “man” even the “youth” is forbidden to be veiled; so, too, in the feminine, under the name of “woman,” even the “virgin” is bidden to be veiled.

For indeed it is “on account of the angels” that he saith women must be veiled, because on account of “the daughters of men” angels revolted from God. Who then, would contend that “women” alone — that is, such as were already wedded and had lost their virginity — were the objects of angelic concupiscence, unless “virgins” are incapable of excelling in beauty and finding lovers? Nay, let us see whether it were not virgins alone whom they lusted after; since Scriptures saith “the daughters of men;” inasmuch as it might have named “wives of men,” or “females,” indifferently. (etc.)…

Again, while he says that “nature herself,” which has assigned hair as a tegument and ornament to women, “teaches that veiling is the duty of females,” has not the same tegument and the same honor of the head been assigned also to virgins? ...

This custom, in short, even Israel observes; but if Israel did not observe it, our Law, amplified and supplemented, would vindicate the addition for itself; let it be excused for imposing the veil on virgins also.

Under our dispensation, let that age which is ignorant of its sex retain the privilege of simplicity. For both Eve and Adam, when it befell them to be “wise,” forthwith veiled what they had learnt to know. At all events, with regard to those in whom girlhood has changed (into maturity), their age ought to remember its duties as to nature, so also, to discipline; for they are being transferred to the rank of “women” both in their persons and in their functions. (etc.)…

Be veiled, virgin, if virgin you are; for you ought to blush. If you are a virgin, shrink from (the gaze of) many eyes. Let no one wonder at your face; let no one perceive your falsehood. You do well in falsely assuming the married character, if you veil your head; nay, you do not seem to assume it falsely, for you are wedded to Christ: to Him you have surrendered your body; act as becomes your Husband’s discipline. If He bids the brides of others to be veiled, His own, of course, much more.

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ANF,Vol. 4, Book 2,On the Veiling of Virgins CHAPTER 9
Veiling Consistent With The Other Rules Of Discipline Observed By Virgins And Women In General

Let is now see whether, as we have shown the arguments drawn from nature and the matter itself to be applicable to the virgin as well (as to other females), so likewise the precepts of ecclesiastical discipline concerning women have an eye to the virgin.

It is not permitted to a woman to speak in the church; but neither (is it permitted her) to teach, nor to baptize, nor to offer, nor to claim to herself a lot in any manly function, not to say (in any) sacerdotal office.

Let us inquire whether any of these be lawful to a virgin. If it is not lawful to a virgin, but she is subjected on the selfsame terms (as the woman), and the necessity for humility is assigned her together with the woman, whence will this one thing be lawful to her which is not lawful to any and every female?

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Augustine ( 354 – 430 AD )
NPNF, Series 1, Vol. 1, The Letters of Augustin, 4th Division, p. 1183


…in regard to the matters on which you have consulted me. Let me say, however, in regard to ornaments of gold and costly dress, that I would not have you come to a precipitate decision in the way of forbidding their use, except in the case of those who, neither being married nor intending to marry, are bound to consider only how they may please God.

But those who belong to the world have also to consider how they may in these things please their wives if they be husbands, their husbands if they be wives; with this limitation, that it is not becoming even in married women to uncover their hair, since the apostle commands women to keep their heads covered.

[Curious how Augustine affirms the keeping of the Apostle Paul’s words about the head-covering, yet not his instructions (1 Tim. 2:9) regarding adornment, n’est-ce pas?]
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A Not-so-Early Familiar Voice from 500 years (or so) Ago

Although not one of the best authorities one could choose, John Calvin did keep some of the Apostles’ ordinances, especially involving church government and the order(ing) of women. This is from his Commentary on 1 Corinthians, Vol 1, Chapter 11: 1-16, Section 6:

“Should anyone now object, that her hair is enough, as being a natural covering, Paul said it is not, for it is such a covering as requires another thing to be made use of for covering it.” John Calvin clearly understood this instruction of the Apostle Paul that sisters should be covered or veiled and that it was required in the New Covenant.
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1 comment:

Alana said...

Good stuff. The only Early Father I hadn't found was the quote from St. Augustine. Thanks.