Absolutely True, However...

I was raised in a dear Mennonite fellowship and the women wore a cloth covering over their hair. The church understood 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 to teach that a woman's head must be covered with a cloth to symbolize her submission to man. Tragically this teaching and other issues became a source of division, sweet fellowship was divided, and each believed as they individually chose. Why bother to raise this subject again?
God has introduced me to many new fellowships since my youth. As a result I have learned more about the word of God from a number of godly teachers. Regarding 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 I had only ever heard two explanations. The first is that the passage teaches that a woman's hair should be covered with a cloth covering. This is one popular interpretation of the KJV, NASB, and NIV translations. A second is that the passage does teach that a woman's hair should be covered with a cloth covering, but this is only a cultural mandate that no longer applies today. I never could accept this second interpretation because if we can dismiss this Biblical teaching as cultural then why not any Biblical teaching. Moreover no reason given for the head covering is cultural: 1) woman originated from man, 2) man is head over woman, 3) woman was created for man, and 4) to respect angels. None of these reasons is cultural and therefore the second interpretation is inferior to the first.
Yet I did not ask my wife to cover her head because the KJV, NASB, and NIV translations seemed to be confusing. Verse 3-10 seemed clear that a woman should cover her head. However, verse 15 says that her hair is given to her as a covering. So does her hair need to be covered or is her hair a covering? I was confused. Paul also concludes strongly in verse 16 saying "we have no other practice." No other practice than what? Is he saying no other practice than woman wearing a cloth covering or using hair as a covering? The KJV translation even adds more confusion by saying "we have no such practice" in verse 16. This is a completely opposite meaning than the NIV and NASB! I remained confused and undecided. If I was going to ask my wife to wear a head covering, I also wanted to confidently teach the same to all Christian women.  Furthermore, we have dear Christian friends with strong convictions on either side. What were we to believe? So we waited for better understanding.
Following is a third interpretation learned from several sources that answers my questions. To agree with this interpretation you need to agree to five points. If you can agree with each of the following points in succession you will eliminate the confusion of the passage and hopefully be thankful for the outcome.
Point 1: The KJV, NASB, and NIV Translations of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 are Confusing and Conflicting
I have already explained that the KJV, NASB, and NIV translations of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 are confusing and conflicting. Verses 3-10 clearly teach that a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head to demonstrate her submission to man and to respect angels. The confusion in the passage arises, however, at verse 15. Why does Paul say "For her hair is given to her for a covering?" The statement is out of place if Paul has been arguing that a woman's hair ought to be covered with cloth. Why would Paul state that a woman's head needs to be covered with cloth and then say later that her hair is a covering? Are there two coverings? If you agree that there is some confusion in the KJV, NASB, and NIV translations you are ready to move on to the next point. If, however, you see no confusion in the translation there is no point in going further.
Point 2: Original Autographs Are Perfect, Translations Are Imperfect
When I began to make new Christian friends from a variety of backgrounds I was stretched. One such way was that I learned that the Old Testament was originally written in the Hebrew language and the New Testament in Greek. I had never been taught this and became afraid that the KJV Bible I had was not truly God's word. What Bible could I trust if they were all translations? I have since learned that most translations are the work of faithful Christians. Thus, the KJV, NASB, NIV, and others are good translations. However, they are still human translations and thus may contain errors.
The only copy of God's word completely without error is the original autographs of Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit. To see a well known translation error for your self read 1 John 5:7 in the KJV, NASB, and NIV. This verse has been wrongfully translated in the KJV because the KJV translators modified one verse to defend the Trinity doctrine. The Trinity doctrine is true, but it cannot be proved from 1 John 5:7. See the Greek for proof. Likewise I propose that the translation of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 could be improved to more accurately reflect the meaning of the original Greek. Since we already agreed in point 1, that there is some confusion in existing translations we have good reason to ask if there is a problem with the translation itself. If you also agree that translations may have errors, Point 2, then you are ready to move on to the next point. If, however, you believe that the KJV, NASB, or NIV are without error there is no point in going further.
Point 3 - A Look at Greek Words
Bible translators first obtain the earliest and best Greek translations available and then translate the Greek words into the new language. The challenge is that one Greek word could be translated into numerous English words. Thus the translator must also give attention to the context of the passage in order to choose the best word. Below is a table that identifies several Greek words from 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 that we need to reconsider. You are welcome to double-check my study yourself. I used The NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English by Marshall published by Regency/Zondervan and the NASB Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Dictionaries published by Foundation Publications.
My Word
a handing down or over, a tradition
over against, opposite, instead of, substitution, contrast
instead of
such, such like, such as this
that which is thrown around, a covering or mantle
cloth veil
habit, habitual use, custom
I propose to improve the translation of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 by more accurately translating these five words, indicated in bold below. If you agree that we need to translate Greek words carefully according to the best meaning to fit the context, then you are ready to move on to the next point. However, if you are uncomfortable with these Bible translation concepts there is no need for you to go further.
Point 4: Translations May Paraphrase Incorrectly
Also difficult is the interpretation of verses 5 and 6. When faced with difficult verses translators do their best to communicate the same meaning as the Greek often rephrasing entire sentences. However, for our study I want to show you the Greek word for word translation of verses 5 and 6, also from Marshall, underlined below.
Point 5: Historical Context
The early church leaders were Jews and Greeks from the 1st Century Eastern Europe and Middle East. A custom in the Middle East is that pious and religious people cover their heads to respect or fear God. It would be natural to ask Paul the question, "Should our men or women wear a head covering?" The book of 1 Corinthians by Paul answers many questions about Christian belief and practice. Though we may not be 100% certain about possible questions the Corinthians had for Paul, we are certain that Paul gives instruction about the head covering in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. Following is a simple improvement to the NIV translation.
Improved Translation
2) I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions, just as I passed them on to you. 3) Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4) Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5) But every woman praying or prophesying with the head unveiled shames the head of her; for it is one and the same thing with the woman having been shaved. 6) For if a woman is not veiled also let her be shorn; but if shameful for a woman to be shorn or to be shaved, let her be veiled. 7) A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8) For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9) neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10) For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head. 11) In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12) For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. 13) Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14) Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15) but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her instead of a cloth veil. 16) If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no such custom--nor do the churches of God.
1 Corinthians 11:2-16 (NIV modified)
Notice that Paul frames his paragraph by first thanking the reader for “holding to the traditions” and concludes by saying “we have no such custom.”  Winsome Paul intends to find agreement with his reader over a sensitive tradition, but make it clear that the church does not follow this custom. Comment on each verse is more easily understood in reverse order because of Paul’s use of humorous irony in the passage.
Verse 16: Paul is discussing a custom that he did not pass on and the church does not practice and he rebukes anyone being contentious with his teaching about this custom. What is the custom?
Verse 15: The custom discussed is the “peribolaion” or cloth veil for women of that time and culture. Paul teaches that a woman’s long hair is given instead of the “peribolaion.” Yes, a woman’s long hair is her glory.
Verse 14: Yes, it is a disgrace for a man to have long hair.
Verse 13: No, it is not proper for a woman to pray with her head uncovered.
Verse 12: Man and woman are interdependent and all comes from God.
Verse 11: Paul begins a contrast from his earlier point to teach the interdependence of men and women.
Verse 10: Women must have a sign of authority on their head, but Paul’s teaching is not revealed until verse 15.
Verse 9: Women are under man’s authority because woman was created for man.
Verse 8: Women are under man’s authority because woman came from man.
Verse 7: Man should not cover his head, but women must cover their head.
Verse 6: This verse is difficult because the English word "also" implies that if not covered a woman should additionally cut her hair, thus making hair and coverings two separate things. Perhaps the word "also" translated from the Greek word "kai" misses Paul's sense. As a rule the more difficult verses must be interpreted in light of the easier and verse 15 does plainly teach that a woman’s long hair is given instead of the “peribolaion.” Paul is best understood in verse 6 as finding common ground with those holding to the head covering tradition or more likely setting up a more poignant irony to expose the error of his opponents. See my "tarped" tree illustration below.
Verse 5: This verse is absolutely hilarious. If a woman’s long hair is her covering she would be disgraced to be uncovered because if uncovered she would be bald. But until receiving verse 15 the humor is not obvious.
Verse 4: It is disgraceful for a man to pray with his head covered.
Verse 3: God is the authority of Christ, Christ of man, and man of woman.
Verse 2: Thank you for paying close attention to the traditions I passed on to you.
In summary Paul answers "Absolutely true!" to those saying a woman's head should be covered, but continues with “However,” because a woman’s long hair is her covering. Though Christianity was born in the Middle East, Christians will not by any means continue the Middle East practice of the cloth veil. It is ironic and sad that the last sentence could also be translated, "We have no such habit." Ironic because one church has named the clothing and head covering used for their nuns a "habit." Sad because many churches misunderstand this passage and unnecessarily burden their women with a custom that never was required in the Scripture.
Tarped Tree Illustration
Suppose you had a good brother who ridiculously insisted without any Biblical teaching (because it was the custom of his sect) that beautiful trees must be covered with a tarp to take their place before God. You might say to him, "You are absolutely right brother! Every tree standing uncovered is shamed; for it is one and the same thing with the tree having no leaves. For if a tree is not covered also remove her leaves, but if shameful to have no leaves let her be covered. The tree ought to have a sign of her place before God on her branches. However....Does not the very nature of things teach you that a tree’s leaves are for her glory? For leaves have been given to her instead of a tarp." The parallel is not perfect, but Paul's irony toward those who insist upon the “peribolaion” is obvious.
This plain meaning is often missed because we do not expect irony in the Scriptures.
Good News To Those Misled by Middle East Custom
The above corrections to the NIV translation now repair the confusion that I first noted in this discussion. The relationship of verses 3-10 and 15 now make excellent sense as a comparison contrast. However, our improved translation has come to a completely opposite interpretation concerning the cloth head veil. Instead the passage properly translated and interpreted insists that Christian women do not need to follow the Middle Eastern custom of covering their head with cloth, but instead to wear uncovered long hair as a sign of submission to authority.
Good News To Those Dismissing Scriptural Command As Cultural
This new translation offers good news to those who dismiss the passage as cultural and therefore irrelevant. Some deny that the Scripture teaches that men and women are equal before the Lord but with different roles in marriage and the church as described in Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Timothy 2. However, they also ignore the point of this passage. This passage teaches that women are under the authority of their husbands and need to have a sign of authority on their head, and their long hair is this sign of authority.
It is my prayer that this paper could be used of God to continue to unify the church and build all Christian believers together into the likeness of Jesus Christ. If any believers are persuaded to discard the custom of the cloth covering or to accept the roles for men and women in marriage and the church I pray that it could be done with grace. And if it were possible I pray that even the believers of my home congregation could be reunited in sweet fellowship.
Many thanks to those who pointed out errors as I labored over revisions of this study.