Paul's opinion on women is very confusing to some. Many women feel that he is opposed to women and didn't get married. Yet Paul would have been married. I have written on the subject of his marriage before and it can be read if you wish (it was posted November 28, 2006). Paul's statements here must be read in the context that he is actually writing this to women for their sakes.
I was brought up in Protestantism. Because of Paul's comments on women having their heads covered, all the women wore hats to church. So the first thing that should be noted is that his comments here of women being covered is symbolic of a spiritual principle. We see in verses 14 and 15 that he reverts to reality by saying that even nature demonstrates that it is good for a woman to have her head covered in hair. Thus his other comments about women being covered definately aren't all about anything natural. Then he comments that God hasn't made any instruction that men must have short hair and women long hair.
Additionally there is the problem that Jewish men, even today, still feel they need to cover their heads for spiritual things. Paul's beginning appears to be setting it straight that men shouldn't try to make personal ways of covering themselves. It can be noted that Adam and Eve tried this approach which was represented by fig leaves.
Let's look at what he said and try to unravell his thoughts.
3. "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God."
Paul is laying out the order of authority for us. Heavenly Father is over Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ is over the man and the man is over his wife. The words "wife" and "woman" are the same Greek word - interestingly the same is the case in Hebrew. This could probably be attributed to the fact that women and men were expected to be responsible and get married. And the age for such has been around 12 for women and 13 for men. Therefore a woman was a wife unless qualified as a widow or spinster.
4. "Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head."
This appears to have relevance to men feeling they need to cover their heads with physical objects. Yet Paul is presenting that the man has Jesus as his covering and is therefore dishonoring Jesus in feeling he needs something else.
5. "But every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head; for that is even all one as if she were shaven."
This could be stating that women must be covered by their husbands in her relationship with God or it is as if she has no husband at all.
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."
The Greek text says "shameful to woman." this is implying a somewhat different statement to the translation. We can interpret this to be stating that if a woman refuses to have her husband as her head in spiritual things then she has to face the choice of getting a divorce or changing her mind and following him after all.
This might seem like a strange thing for an apostle to propose (getting divorced) as this could end her chances for an eternal marriage. However he isn't proposing she really divorces, he is proposing that would be her option if she refuses to follow her husband. He is then expecting she will realise that isn't a good alternate option and therefore follow her husband.
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."
This is an interesting statement. A side issue to the conversation is what he is saying relative to men and women and them being in God's image. Note that he raises the point that the man is in the image of God yet doesn't say this in regard women. His subject is that man is the glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the husband. So his statement about man being in God's image is an addition to the subject that just came to his mind in association with the subject. This demonstrates that man is in the image of God but that women aren't, because God is a male with all male appendages. This stands as further Biblical evidence to the fact that God looks exactly like a man and doesn't physically fill the universe; as some propose.
8. "For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man."
Here he is explaining his comment's association to the symbolic idea of the woman coming from the man's rib.
9. "Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man."
This is explaining that the woman should do the dishes..... hang on, wrong script. Just joking.
Here he is continuing further on the same symbolic point of man needing to lead, and women supporting the man in his role.
10. "For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels."
This doesn't make sense as translated. But the statement "because of" can also be translated as "for" (as it is in the latter case of verse 9). A more correct rendering of this Scripture, looking at the original Greek, would be "Through this it is owed to the woman to have authority on her head in regard to the angels." This then means that the woman has power over angels through her husband's authority - him being her head.
11. "Nevertheless neither is the woman without the man; nor the man without the woman, in the Lord."
Fairly strait forward. To be doing as the Lord would want we must have the man and woman together.
12. "For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God."
Or "for as the woman came out of the man, even so the man is because of the woman; but all came out of God."
13. "Judge in yourselves is it comely that a woman pray to God uncovered?"
It must be again remembered in him asking this question that women at the time married at 12. It was considered irresponsible for a woman to wait longer. They therefore think of women as being responsible and correct in being married. We have women waiting for years unmarried in our backward society. In reading certain things within the Scriptures you must take your mind to the thinking of the time to understand better.
14. "Doesn't even nature itself teach you, that, if a man has long hair, it is a shame to him?"
15. "But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering."
As I originally mentioned he has now reverted to normal speaking rather than symbolic. He is saying that women look prettier with long hair and men seem out of place with long hair. He is likening this to the symbolic.
16. "But if any man seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God."
So God hasn't commanded that men must have short hair and women long hair.