The Yarmulke

The Yarmulke

Donald L. Norbie

Mr. Donald L. Norbie of Greeley, Colorado, continues to serve the Lord in a Bible teaching, shepherding, and evangelistic ministry. Earlier this year Mr. Norbie led a tour to Israel and ministered at assemblies in both Haifa and Nazareth.

In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul pleads with the Christians concerning dress in their church meetings. He urges women to be veiled (11:15), but he states men should not have a covering on their heads. “Every man praying or prophesying having his head covered dishonors his head” (11:4).

Today all orthodox Jewish men wear a yarmulke, a skull cap, or a hat, when worshipping. If you should wish to draw near the Western Wall, the foundation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, you will be required to wear a hat or yarmulke. You will then join hundreds of devout Jews bowing and praying before the wall, all covered.

Because of this, certain films portraying Jesus will show him placing a shawl over his head before praying or worshipping. This is all done in light of current Jewish practice.

Some would teach then that Paul’s exhortation was not in conformity with current, modest dress. He was breaking with culture by commanding men to cast off their head covering and to worship God bareheaded. Therefore, his teaching has no connection with culture.

But here one must be careful and not read current Jewish practice back into the first century. It is true that today Jewish men in an orthodox synagogue are covered. But was that true in the first century?

The answer is that in the first century Jewish men were uncovered in their synagogues. The women were veiled but not the men.

Head covering by the men began to be practiced in post-biblical times, possibly the second or third century. It did not become rabbinical law to be enforced until much later. Men did not cover their heads to worship in Biblical times. (For details see a good encyclopedia.)

A Jewish man, raised in the synagogue, would have felt very comfortable in a first century church with the women veiled and the men uncovered. There was no jarring break with his culture in dress.

From this Paul draws spiritual principles concerning the headship of man. Man as the leader, “the image and glory of God,” should not cover his head. He is to lead worship as God’s representative. The principle of male leadership has its roots in creation (1 Tim. 2:13) and is relevant for today.