Paul, being educated as a Pharisee in Jerusalem by Gamaliel, writes: "Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head" (1 Cor. 11,4). Also, he find this so natural that he adds, "Does not nature itself teach you [...]?"

That would seem to suggest that the kippah didn't exist in Jesus' and Paul's time.

However, in recent times orthodox Jews have the opposite viewpoint, and men always wear a kippah while praying (and most everywhere else).

When was the kippah introduced, and what changed the orthodox viewpoint so completely?

(To clarify, I'm not asking about the source of wearing the kippah. I'm more interested in the timeline: Paul's quote seems to make clear that Pharisees in his time would not have wanted to wear a head covering while praying. That obviously changed later. When, and how?)

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    Are you asking specifically about the kippah, or about head-covering in general? At various times Jewish men have worn hats and turbans, too. Aug 1, 2018 at 14:36
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    In the temple,a head covering was required
    – sam
    Aug 1, 2018 at 14:51
  • Actually, not everyone agrees with that translation (although it seems to be the general interpretation of that verse in I Cor). See here for another translation: "Every man who prays or prophesies with long hair dishonors his head."
    – ezra
    Aug 1, 2018 at 17:04
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    I disagree with the assumption of the question. Paul's statement on covering the head is not evidence that covering the head “didn't exist” in his time. This Wikipedia article says that: “The majority (of scholars) see him (Paul) as somewhere in between these extremes, opposed to "Ritual Laws" (see for example Circumcision controversy in early Christianity) but in full agreement on "Divine Law".” So Paul would have been opposed to covering the head. I understand his statement in that light. Aug 1, 2018 at 17:05
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    I don't see how Paul saying a man ought to not pray with a covered head proves the Pharisees of his time didn't cover their heads. Paul, despite his Pharisaical background, does not agree with the Pharisees concerning many things. @AvrohomYitzchok
    – ezra
    Aug 1, 2018 at 17:12

1 Answer 1


There were two approaches to covering one's head in the Talmudic times (200-400): as the sign of the status or the sign of piety.

  1. There's a story in the Talmud (Kiddushin 29a):

משתבח ליה רב חסדא לרב הונא בדרב המנונא דאדם גדול הוא א"ל כשיבא לידך הביאהו לידי כי אתא חזייה דלא פריס סודרא א"ל מאי טעמא לא פריסת סודרא א"ל דלא נסיבנא אהדרינהו לאפיה מיניה א"ל חזי דלא חזית להו לאפי עד דנסבת

"Rav Ḥisda would praise Rav Hamnuna to Rav Huna by saying that he is a great man... When Rav Hamnuna came before him, Rav Huna saw that he did not cover his head with a cloth. Rav Huna said to him: What is the reason that you do not cover your head with a cloth? Rav Hamnuna said to him: The reason is that I am not married. Rav Huna turned his face away from him in rebuke, and he said to him: See to it that you do not see my face until you marry."

From this passage, it is clear that in the Talmudic times covering head was not customary between non-married Torah scholars, as opposed to married ones (wearing turbans). We can infer that the head covering was a sign of respect and status

  1. Two pages further (31a) there's another testimony:

רב הונא בריה דרב יהושע לא מסגי ארבע אמות בגילוי הראש אמר שכינה למעלה מראשי

"Rav Huna, son of Rav Yehoshua, would not walk four cubits with an uncovered head. He said: The Divine Presence is above my head [and I must act respectfully]."

It is probably the first mentioning of a Rabbi covering his head out of piety. Similarly Shabbat 156b.

The Rabbis resolved this contradiction some 1000 years later, accepting the second approach to everyone.

The rest of the history is outlined in this answer.

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