Paul's Discourse on the Use of Head Coverings During Public Worship.
An Exposition of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

By Richard Bacon

Introduction

1 Corinthians 11:2-16: "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. 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. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. 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. 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. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God."

It is important when we examine any passage of Scripture that we place it in the proper historical and textual situation; that is, in its proper context. We need to understand what has gone before the passage, and also what follows. As the saying goes, "a text without a context is a pretext."

Liberty of Conscience

Paul, in writing the first epistle to the Corinthians, wrote it with the intention of correcting several abuses at the church in Corinth. In the three chapters preceding this passage (chapters 8-10), he dealt with the general subject of Christian liberty. Christian liberty is the freedom we have as Christians, and Paul taught us how we are to handle that liberty in the context of the communion of the saints. In our Christian liberty, we are always to defer to the weaker brother’s conscience. Paul declared that if his eating meat caused a brother to stumble then he would refrain from eating meat "as long as the world stands" (1 Corinthians 8:13).

There is never a time when we are free to trample the conscience of a brother. The law of love bounds our Christian liberty. Because we love a brother we refrain from anything that could cause him to stumble. Please notice that Paul did not say that we are to refrain "if our actions displease a brother." That is altogether different. Many things may displease a brother. Doing that which is necessary and right may displease a brother. That is not the issue. Paul defined an offense by asking these questions: Is it going to cause him to stumble in his walk with Christ? Is it going to cause him to proceed against his conscience? That was what Paul meant by an offense.

Public Worship

Let us put 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 in the proper context. Paul said in verse 33 of the previous chapter, "Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved." He then continued that statement in verse 1 of chapter 11 by adding, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1 is a transitional verse. Starting at verse 2 Paul began to deal with various ordinances of public worship. From 1 Corinthians 11 verse 11 through the end of chapter 14, Paul continued to deal with behavior in public worship. Chapter 13 is an excursus in which he showed that even the gifts of the Spirit must be exercised in such a way that they, too, are bounded by the law of love. So chapters 11, 12, 13 and 14, concern public worship and its abuses. Therefore, we must understand that in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, Paul was explaining behavior in public worship.

 

1 Corinthians 11:2-16

In chapter 11 we find two things about propriety in worship or what might be called decorum in worship. The first has to do with the relationship between men and women in worship and the second has to do with our relationships with respect to the Lord’s Supper. In both cases Paul said that there has been something that has been delivered to him, and he then passed it along as an apostolic tradition. In the first instance we find (in verse two) "remember me in all things and keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you." If we go on to the section on the Lord’s Supper (in verse 23), we find, "For I have received of the Lord that which also I have delivered unto you." So there is an apostolic "reception" of truth and there is an apostolic "passing along" of truth: a παραδοσις, if you will. In both cases we must deal both with propriety in worship and with apostolic injunctions.

Not an Easy Passage.

Having situated the passage in the context of apostolic injunctions on proper church behavior, it must be admitted from the outset that this is not an easy passage to understand. It is a passage that has stirred up considerable controversy especially in the last twenty-five to fifty years. As a difficult passage it has been used as a ‘proof text’ for all manner of false doctrine and behavior. That is why it is necessary to view the entire discourse and situate the passage in its overall context in order to understand it correctly.

"Woman’s Bible Commentary," after referring to those "chaotic verses" in 1 Corinthians 11, claims that "while this is certainly Pauline," nevertheless Paul’s arguments are "inarticulate, incomprehensible and inconsistent." While it would be wrong to suggest that this is an easy passage, nevertheless at the end of this study, I trust it shall be demonstrated that rather than being "inarticulate, incomprehensible and inconsistent" Paul was perfectly articulate, comprehensible and consistent. Paul articulates quite well the mind of Christ regarding the position of women and men in the public worship assembly.

 

The Scope of the Passage

Verses 2 and 16 form discursive "bookends" for the passage. These verses hold the passage together as bookends on a bookshelf hold certain books together. In verse 2 it is clear that we are to keep the ordinances "as I delivered them to you," and in verse 16 we read that "if any man seems to be disputatious" (or contentious), "we have no such custom, neither the churches of God."

 

Outline of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.

1. The Question of Headship (v. 3)

2. Headship Related to Worship Practice (vs. 4-5a)

3. How this is Shameful (vs. 5b-6)

4. Reasons Why There Has to be a Difference (vs. 7-9)

5. Authority and Angels (v. 10)

6. Creation in the Lord (vs. 11-12)

7. The Natural Order of Things (vs. 14-15)

8. The Question Decided... Judge for Yourselves (vs. 13, 16)

 

I propose that these two bookends form a section that deals with how women should cover themselves in the churches of God. This section of Scripture does not deal with how women are to cover themselves outside the churches of God. There may be differing opinions on the subject of headcovering outside the churches of God, and differing opinions are permitted because Scripture does not speak to the subject — certainly not in this passage. However, in this passage we do have specific instructions on how a woman is to dress and how a man is to dress in the public assembly. The first table above gives a conceptual outline of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.

1. The Question of Headship.

We should look at the question of headship first because that is where Paul began. In verse 3 he explained the foundational issue as being one of headship. In Table 1 you will see that the phrase "the head" is used three times in this verse.

 

Table 1

1. The Question of Headship (1 Corinthians 11:3)

[The Head]* [of every man] [is Christ]

[The Head]* [of the woman] [is the man]

[The Head]* [of Christ] [is God]

* The term "head" or κεφαλη means "authority," not "source."

The Greek word that is used for "man" in this verse is not the word that means "mankind in general." The word that is used here is not the Greek word ανθρωπος which means "mankind in general," but the Greek word ανηρ, which means "a man" as opposed to a woman, or "a husband" as opposed to a wife. When Paul speaks here of the ανηρ and of the γυνη, the word used for "woman," he is speaking about males and females; he is not speaking of mankind in general. He is talking about the difference between the sexes.

Also in verse 3 Paul said something very significant. "I want you to know …." He did not say, "Here is my opinion …." He did not say, "I have taken a poll and a lot of people think…" He did not say, "Dr. Gamaliel reported that Rabbi Shammai said …." Rather Paul declared, "I want you to know …." He stated, "I want you to have some certainty about this subject." He gave apostolic authority to his statements. "I want you to know something and here is what I want you to know the head of every man is Christ, the head of the woman is man and the head of Christ is God."

Notice that there is only one "person" in the passage who does not have a "head" and that person is God. "The head of every man is Christ," "the head of the woman is the man," and "the head of Christ is God." The word that is used here for "head" is the Greek word kefal. This Greek word does not mean "head" in the sense that a river has a head — the "source" of the river. Rather the word here for "head" is that which is "chief," that which is "in charge." Paul used a play on words in the passage on the word "head" meaning first the physical head and then "head" meaning the one who is in charge. Before this play on words can be understood, it is necessary to know that the word κεφαλη does not mean "source" but that it means "authority." There is not a commentary more than about twenty years old, which, in discussing 1 Corinthians 11:3, claims that the word κεφαλη means "source." That is a fairly recent rendering of the Greek.

Wayne Grudum, who has an excellent command of Greek sources, claims that there are 2,336 extant examples in Greek literature outside the New Testament of the word κεφαλη being used in Attic and Koin and Ionic Greek. In none of the 2,336 is there a convincing example of the word κεφαλη meaning "source." Nearly four hundred years prior to the writing of the New Testament there are two examples in which κεφαλη could be interpreted to mean "source." These are the only two times out of 2,336 extant examples of that word and they are doubtful. We must conclude that the word here κεφαλη means "authority." It means that the man is the "authority" of the woman, Christ is the "authority" of the man, and God is the "authority" of Christ. The idea of it meaning "source" comes from the egalitarian feminist bias of those pushing that agenda in the church today.

In 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 — the same epistle written by the same apostle — Paul said, "Then cometh the end when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power …." Notice the Lord will put down Rule, Authority, and Power. "For He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death for He hath put all things under His feet, for when He sayeth, ‘all things are put under Him’ it is manifest that He is accepted which did put all things under Him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all." This is the same concept here in 1 Corinthians 15 that we see in chapter 11. God himself is the "authority" over Christ who in turn ‘reigns and rules’ over everything! The same idea is carried throughout Paul’s writings.

In Ephesians 5:23-25 Paul taught that same relationship and even used the same parallel to illustrate it. "For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, and He is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it." One of the important things that Paul taught here is that, like our Christian liberty, so the law of love bounds this Christian authority. Even the authority that a husband has over his wife is hemmed in by the love that the husband is to have for the wife. It is a loving authority, but nevertheless it is a true authority. Paul concluded in verse 33, "Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself and the wife see that she reverence her husband."

We have tried to demonstrate so far that the concept of Christian authority is not unique to this passage. It is a Pauline teaching that can be found not only in other Corinthian passages but also in others of his epistles. In Ephesians 5:23 we found the language of "authority" and the language of "submission." There is one who is the authority in the church and the church is to submit to him. There is one who is in authority in a marriage and the wife is to submit to him. That is the same parallel brought out in 1 Corinthians 11:3, "the head of every man is Christ," that is to say "the authority of every man is Christ;" therefore the man is to submit to Christ. "The head of the woman is the man," therefore the woman is to submit to the man. "The head of Christ is God," therefore Christ as we saw in 1 Corinthians 15 finally delivers up the kingdom to God so that "God may be all in all." In these first few verses of the passage, Paul laid a foundation. He set forth a concept from which everything else will follow. He used the word "head" in two ways in this passage: in both a literal way and in a figurative way. In verse 4 and the first half of verse 5, the "play on words" takes place.

2. Headship Related to Worship Practice.

1 Corinthians 11:4 states that "Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head." If we were going to be very wooden-literal in our translation it would read, "having something down from his head." What is the play on words here? If a man has a veil hanging down from his physical head then he dishonors his authoritative head. Verse 3 explains that Christ is the head of the man. Therefore, if a man prays with a veil hanging down from his head he dishonors Christ. To continue in verse 5 we read that every woman who prays or prophesies, with an uncovered head, shames her head or dishonors her head. See Table 2.

 

Table 2

2. Headship Related to Worship Practice (1 Corinthians 11:4-5a)

[Man prays or prophesies] [with something down from his head] [shames his head]

[Woman prays or prophesies] [with head uncovered] [shames her head]

The parallel is this: when a man prays or prophesies with his head covered he dishonors his head, that is Christ. When a woman prays or prophesies with her head uncovered, she dishonors her head, her husband. At this point we should ask the question: Covered with what? Paul has not discussed that yet. Some people often jump immediately from here to verse 15, deciding Paul meant a covering of hair. We will not make that mistake. We must deal with the discourse the way in which Paul wrote it, drawing from it the lesson that Paul intended for us to learn, without imposing our own views upon the passage. Another question arises, Is he speaking only to wives? I do not think so. I believe he is speaking to anyone who has reached the age of puberty. I think he is speaking to those females who might be regarded as "women."

It might also be asked, "If one woman does not wear a covering on her head does that mean that she is shaming every man in the congregation?" No, I would not say that. However, Paul is laying out a general principle for us here. That general principle is that women pray and prophesy with their heads covered and men pray and prophesy with their heads uncovered. The issue here is not so much marriage as it is to how women dress in church. It is certainly true of wives, but it is also true of all women in the church.

Let us consider the question, "Covered with what?" Whatever it was, the people to whom Paul was writing knew what it was. I do not believe that the women of the Corinthian church would have had as much trouble understanding this passage as we might have today. I realize that there are numerous books explaining to us what life was like in the first century. The fact is, we know more about what life was like in Corinth in the first century from the pages of the New Testament than we do from any other source. In fact, almost one hundred percent of what we know about life in Corinth we learn from the pages of the New Testament. It was evident to the women in Corinth how to cover themselves.

It was also evident to the women in Corinth what the significance and shame was of a shaved head. They knew the shame that comes upon someone who is covered as a male and who is uncovered as a female. The shame does not come directly upon them, but comes upon their head, the one who is in authority over them. In the case of the man the shame does not come directly upon him if he covers his head. It comes instead upon Christ. In the case of a woman also if her head is uncovered the shame does not come directly upon her, but upon her husband. The one who is in authority over her is shamed. Paul explained that if a woman is uncovered there is a shame involved. In the later half of verse 5, Paul stated that the shame involved is the same as if she had a shaved head. Paul said, "… for that is even all one as if she were shaven."

In the springtime the sheep shearers take the sheep that have grown huge coats of wool during the winter and with larger clippers, they shave it all off. That huge woolly looking sheep is all of a sudden a skinny looking little thing, looking as though it is going to totter and fall. It is shorn or shaved. That is the word used by Paul here. It is altogether the same as if she had a "buzz" haircut. Not only that, but he used a command to do that to the woman. What a strange thing! But that is the command. Let us look at that under part three, "How This is Shameful" in verses 5b and 6.

3. How this is Shameful.

"She is one and the same with her who is shaved" or "is all one as if she were shaven. For if a woman does not cover herself, let her have her hair cut off." This is jussive command. Look at the commands on the right side of Table 3. There is a condition. This is called a "simple conditional clause." It means that the "if" clause, the protasis, is considered true for the sake of argument. Paul said, "Let us consider the case of a woman who is uncovered." What follows from that is a jussive command "Let her also have her hair cut off." In English we do not have the particular form of speech of a jussive command, and so the "permissive" is used. Understand, however, that Paul did not simply give her permission to get a haircut. He said, "This ought to be done."

 

Table 3

3. How this is Shameful (1 Corinthians 11:5b-6)

[For if a woman] [does not cover herself] [let her also have her hair cut off]

[if a woman] [has her hair cut off] [let her cover herself]

 

A jussive is a "third person command." In English we have a first person command in what we call a cohortative "Let us do that." There is also an imperative, which is a second person command "You do that." This is very much like the command in James 5:13b where James said, "Is any among you merry," not "let him sing the psalms" but, "he should psalm," ψαλλετω. It is a jussive command and it means, "he needs to do this; this is the right thing to do in this case!" If something happens, then this is the command that fits that case. Therefore, if the woman is uncovered, she is supposed to be shaved! "But," Paul said, "I know you Corinthian women already know that it is a shame for a woman to be shaved," so he continued in verse six, "but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven," (and it is) then "let her be covered." The idea of shaving here is to take a razor and remove what little hair was left by the "buzz" haircut. "If it is a shame for a woman to have her hair cut, or to have her head shaved, then let her cover herself." That is also a command.

Paul assumed that the women knew that it was a shame for their heads to be shaved. We could carry on lengthy speculations as to why the Corinthian women considered it a shame. Perhaps they thought she looked like an adulteress. Perhaps they thought an uncovered woman was usurping authority. Many things have been suggested, and the merits of each shall not be explored. We do not have the time to explore each one. Whatever the reason, it is a certainty that the Corinthian women regarded it to be a shame. However, these are not merely sociological issues. Paul assumed that shaved heads were shameful and he assumed that uncovered heads in public worship on the part of women were just as shameful. He did not say that it was shameful for a man to have a bald head or a shaved head, but he did assume that it was shameful for that to be the case for a woman. And if it is the case, then he commanded "let her be covered," or "she should be covered."

4. Reasons why there must be a difference.

In verses 7-9 we have the reasons given as to why there must be a difference. Notice the nearly poetic structure of this passage. Not only is Paul not inarticulate; he has become so eloquent at this point that he is almost writing poetry. Look at Table 4A. Paul wrote, "For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God. But the woman," [χχχχ] "is the glory of man." This is a figure of speech we call an ellipsis, that is to say, something has been left out. This is very common not only in Greek poetry but in English poetry as well. "For a man ought not to have his head covered since he is the image and glory of God. But the woman, [χχχχ] …." What goes in the blank? If a man "ought not to have his head covered" what goes right below that statement to fill in the [χχχχ] in Table 4A?

 

Table 4A

4. A. Reasons Why There Has to be a Difference (1 Corinthians 11:7-9)

[a man] [head uncovered] [he is the image and glory of God.]

[But the woman] [ χχχχ ] [she is the glory of man.]

 

The answer is obviously that she should be covered. Why ought a man not to have his head covered? What is the reason that Paul gave? Because he is the image and glory of God. God’s glory is to be uncovered in worship. This is so important that the entire passage is going to be brought together at the end on this very basis: God’s glory alone is to be seen in the public worship service. The reason he "ought not to have his head covered" is that he "is the image and glory of God." It follows that anything that brings glory to anything or anybody other than to God ought to be covered! "But the woman is the glory of man." Therefore we cover the glory of man. This passage implicitly commands us to cover the glory of man and to uncover the glory of God! Consider the brilliance of this argument! Paul argued in these verses that this involves more than just a relationship of man to woman. It certainly involves that, but the matter also involves the relationship that our worship has toward God. God’s glory is to be uncovered and man’s glory is to be covered in public worship.

See Table 4B. "For man is not out of woman, but woman out of man" (1 Corinthians 11:8) Once again Paul is talking about the priority of women and men. There is a chiastic structure here. The structure is A-B-B-A; man-woman-woman-man. Again, where do we find chiasms? In poetry! Paul is practically writing poetry here! He is not inarticulate; he is quite eloquent.

 

Table 4B

4. B. Reasons Why There Has to be a Difference

(1 Corinthians 11:7-9)

[For man] [is not out of] [woman]

[But woman] [out of] [man]

[And for man] [was not created] [for the woman]

[But woman] [for the man]

Chiastic Structure

man (A) woman (B)
X
woman (B) man (A)

Related Scriptures:

Deuteronomy 22:5 Genesis 1:27

Genesis 2:18 Genesis 2:22

Genesis 5:1-2

 

In verse 8, Paul stated, "Man is not out of woman, but woman is out of man." Paul referred back to the fact that the original woman was made from the rib of a man (Genesis 2:22). The man has precedence because the man was created first. "Man was not created for the woman, but woman for the man" (1 Corinthians 11:9) The two things that he referred to in both of these passages are the precedence of man because of his prior creation and the fact that man was not created to be a help for woman. In Genesis 2:20, we read that woman was created to be a help for man, "an help meet for him." Adam was given the original task. The woman was made as a helper to him. Therefore man has precedence (headship) because of his prior creation and he has precedence (headship) because of the purpose of her creation. She was created for the very purpose of helping him. How can she not accept him as her "head?"

In Deuteronomy 22:5, we see that God claims authority over the way we dress. This passage also has something to do with the way we are covered or are uncovered in worship. "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God." God cares if a woman dresses like a man. God cares if a man dresses like a woman. He hates it! It is an abomination to him.

In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul did not say that the woman is not the image of God. He said, however, that there is a distinction to be made between male and female. The male, Adam, was the original creation. Genesis 1:27 explains that, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." We read virtually the same thing in Genesis 5:1-2, "God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them." Notice in the Corinthian passage how glory and honor are tied together. It is not simply the "image of God" that God sees when he looks down on a worship service, but his glory as well. When God looks on a church worship service he sees little images of himself worshipping him. And if the worshippers are regenerate he sees little images of Christ filled with the Holy Ghost worshipping him. However, man is in a particular way the glory of God. If a man puts on a woman’s headgear and dresses like a woman, it disgraces Christ. In what sense does such a thing disgrace Christ? It is an abomination to God. Look in verses 14 and 15a, "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering." We are going to deal with the second half of verse 15 later in our discussion, but now we need to deal with 15a. In verse 15a Paul explained that, if we know that the man is the glory of Christ or the glory of God, and if the woman is the glory of man, then the glory of the woman is her hair. Her hair is given to her for her glory. If we are going to cover every glory except God’s glory in our worship services, we are not only going to have to cover the head of the woman, we are going to have to cover the hair of the woman as well. Why? Because not only is the glory of man not to show in worship, neither is the glory of woman.

Proverbs 12:4 contains an interesting concept about a wife and her relationship to her husband. There we read: "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband." A crown is worn on one’s head. His wife is his crown, his glory. His wife is that which shows him to be the king, that which shows forth his majesty. She is to be covered, because his glory, his majesty, his crown, his kingly estate is his wife. But if she makes him ashamed she is like "as rottenness to his bones" (Proverbs 12:4b). How does a wife make her husband ashamed? In the worship service she makes her head ashamed by uncovering her head. This is the same parallel. As you can see, this is a teaching not just of Paul but one that we find in various places of Scripture. Paul went on to adduce still more reasons.

Paul was not inconsistent in the Corinthian passage. Paul was not teaching first one thing and then another. He was not teaching first, "Let them be covered with a fabric cover" and then "Let them be covered with their hair, because their hair is covering enough." Paul was not being inconsistent. Paul was not being inarticulate. He certainly was not incomprehensible. If he were incomprehensible the feminists would not hate this passage so much. The problem that the feminists have with this passage is that Paul was altogether too comprehensible for their comfort. Many times as my wife and daughter and I have visited churches in which head covering of women is not practiced, there is a class of women who just glare at my wife and daughter when they sat down in the worship assembly with their heads covered. Why? Because they know what it means. There is no doubt in their minds what a covered woman in the worship assembly means. It means that here is a woman who has accepted a biblical role with respect to her husband, and in the case of a daughter, a woman who has accepted a biblical role with respect to her father.

Let us move on to 1 Corinthians 11:10. "For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels." This is a difficult verse to understand. First we need to discuss what the term "angels" does not mean. It very clearly does not mean that a woman ought to have a symbol of authority upon her head because that is the way everyone else does it. Paul did not say that a woman ought to have a symbol of authority upon her head because otherwise the Corinthian prostitutes will be offended. He did not say that a woman ought to have authority upon her head because otherwise the Greek men might think that the women were available for dating. Whatever the term "angels" means, it does not say that. Paul was not making a cultural argument! He was making an argument that had to do specifically with beings that are intimately related to God’s ministry and redemption.

5. Authority and Angels

First of all, angels are messengers from God in heaven to his church on earth appearing at the most critical points in the history of redemption. This, of course, is not the only time that the angels appear, but it is the first thing we need to know about angels. See Table 5A.

 

Table 5A

5. Authority and Angels (1 Corinthians 11:10)

A. The Reformed View of Angels

(1) Angels are messengers from God in heaven to his church on earth appearing at the most critical points in the history of redemption.

(Luke 2:13-14, Matthew 28:5-6, Acts 1:10-11)

 

In Luke 2:13-14, the "herald angels" cried out regarding the birth of Christ. In Matthew 28:5-6, "the angel answered and said to the woman" at the tomb, "Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay." Christ’s birth and resurrection were witnessed to by angels. So too his ascension in Acts 1:10-11, "While they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."

 

Table 5B

5. Authority and Angels (1 Corinthians 11:10)

A. The Reformed View of Angels

(2) There are angels whose business it is to guard the people of God and their children.

(Psalm 91:11, Matthew 18:10)

 

Second, there are angels whose business it is to guard the people of God and their children. See Table 5B. There is such a thing as a "guardian angel." Please do not think of those "Precious Moments" statuettes, or fat little babies with wings flying around. Angels are terrible creatures, marvelous creatures, wonderful creatures, whose business it is to guard the people of God and their children. Psalm 91:11, "He shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways." Matthew 18:10, "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven."

 

Table 5C

5. Authority and Angels (1 Corinthians 11:10)

A. The Reformed View of Angels

(3) There is a sense in which the angels observe what is happening on the earth, at least in the life of the church and the lives of his saints. (Luke 15:10, Ephesians 3:10)

Third, there is a sense in which the angels observe what is happening on the earth at least in the life of the church and in the life of his saints. See Table 5C. In Luke 15:10, "Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." So in the life of the church, when a sinner repents, there is joy among angels. There is joy "in the presence of the angels of God." Ephesians 3:10, "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God." The "principalities and powers in the heavenly places" we understand may very well be these angels. See too Hebrews 12:22.

Fourth, the angels are the reapers in the great harvest at the end of the world. See Table 5D. Matthew 13:40-42, "As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so also shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." We must stop for a moment and consider these verses. If this is the context of the authority being on a woman "because of the angels," so that the angels will not pluck out of the kingdom those "things that offend" and cause "weeping and gnashing of teeth," is that not reason enough to have heads covered in worship? Is there need to adduce further reasons? In Matthew 24:31, "He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." This teaches that there is not only a "plucking out" of that which offends, but there is also a "harvesting" of the elect.

 

Table 5D

5. Authority and Angels (1 Corinthians 11:10)

A. The Reformed View of Angels

(4) The angels are reapers in the great harvest at the end of the world.

(Matthew 13:40-42, Matthew 24:31)

 

Finally, we must notice that there is a change worked in the relationship between the angels and mankind due to the great victory that Christ achieved as Captain of our salvation. See Table 5E. "Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they" (Hebrews 1:4). Notice in 1 Corinthians 6:3, there is a promise that man shall judge the angels. "Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?" The angels being spoken of here in the same book (1 Corinthians) are beings that do not pertain to this life. If we are to judge angels "how much more things that pertain to this life?" Paul is making a distinction between things that do and do not pertain to this life. How is this related to chapter eleven?

 

Table 5E

5. Authority and Angels (1 Corinthians 11:10)

A. The Reformed View of Angels

(5). Finally, we must notice that there is a change worked in the relationship between the angels and us due to the great victory that Christ achieved as Captain of our salvation.

(Hebrews 1:4, 1 Corinthians 6:3)

 

First, we need to understand that whatever it is that a woman has on her head, it is a symbol of authority. It makes no sense to think of hair as a symbol of authority. Whatever that symbol is, it is a symbol of authority! Whatever it is that she has on her head, it indicates somebody’s authority: either hers or someone else’s. It is also visible. If you can see it, you can see that there is authority on this person. If it symbolizes authority, then it must be something you can see, a visible symbol of authority. We have symbols of authority showing us the benefits of Christ’s death. These are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both of these symbols are visible. Baptism is a visible symbol of authority and the Lord’s Supper is a visible symbol of authority. The question originally was; "In what sense either in this passage or anywhere else are we given the slightest idea that hair is a symbol of authority?" My point is that if women have a symbol of authority on their heads, it must be other than hair because no where in this passage are we given the slightest indication that "hair" might be a symbol of authority. There is one verse where "hair" is called a "covering," which I will discuss later.

See Table 5F. Hebrews 12:22 really kind of "says it all." Hebrews 12:21, "And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake." Moses came to a very fearful place. "But ye are come to Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels." When we come to Mount Zion; when we come to the worship service; when we gather together in an assembly; not only do we gather with God, not only do we gather with others of God’s saints, we also gather with "an innumerable company of angels." In Isaiah 6:2, we read that the angels are covered as they worship God. In this passage, Paul arguing from the greater to the lesser. He explained that if angels are covered in the presence of God, then so ought woman’s glory to be covered in the presence of God.

 

Table 5F

5. Authority and Angels (1 Corinthians 11:10)

B. How Related to this Passage?

A symbol of authority. Whose?

The angels are related:

Hebrews 1:14 1 Corinthians 4:9 1 Corinthians 6:3

Ephesians 2:6 Hebrews 12:22

 

There are several other places we need to examine very briefly. Revelation 2:1, "Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write;" verse 8, "And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write;" verse 12, "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write;" verse 18, "And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write;" Revelation 3:1, "And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write;" verse 7, "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write;" and in verse 14, "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write." In each of these seven churches in Asia Minor, there was an office or a person who was referred to as "the angel" of that church. It probably was either a pastor or an elder, but it may have been a supernatural spirit. I personally do not think it was a supernatural spirit, because I do not think that they have need of writing. I think that the pastors and elders of these churches would have that need. The Greek word used here is aggelos, which can be translated "ministering messengers," "angels," or "deputies." The word aggelos means "a messenger or deputy." The word means one who delivers a message. It does not matter which of these translations it is. Do we know what the meaning of "angels" is in the Corinthian passage? It does not really matter. In each of these instances, each was associated with the Church. Whether it is an innumerable company of supernatural spirits or whether it is a supernatural spirit in charge of a particular congregation or whether it is a pastor or a ruling elder in each instance, it is associated with the Church. Just as 1 Corinthians 11:2, 11:10 and 11:16 also associate this practice with the Church; with the assembling together of the saints.

6. Creation in the Lord.

Verse 11 states, "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord." Why did Paul bring this up? For the same reason he brought up the responsibility of the man to love his wife in Ephesians chapter 5. If he did not bring this up, there are some men who would treat their wives like dirt. Men, that is the way we are. Men would do that. Men would take advantage of their wives if Paul did not very carefully circumscribe their authority with the law of love. This is not simply a bare authority but a loving authority. There is a mutual dependence between man and woman.

Paul continued in verses 11 and 12, "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God." Woman came forth from the man; men come forth from the woman. Each is the source of the other. This is why it was so important to understand that the meaning of "head" is "authority" and not "source." See Table 6. In creation the woman came from the man, and the man is therefore the source of the woman on earth. In reproduction, the man as a male child comes from the woman, and the woman is therefore the source of the man on earth. But the source of all things, both man and woman, as well as everything else, is the Lord in heaven. The Creator in heaven is "he who created all things." Verse 12, "For as the woman is of the man, even so the man also by the woman; but all things are from God (or of God)." This overcomes any possibility of a pagan or Gentile distortion of headship. Neither the man nor the woman should consider himself or herself independent of the other.

 

Table 6

6. Creation in the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:11-12)

[ neither woman without man] [Nor man without woman] [in the Lord]

[woman is from man] [man is born of woman] [and all things are from God.]

NB:

Source of woman: Source of man: Source of all things:

[Creation on earth] [Reproduction on earth] [Creator in heaven]

 

Let us look at verses 14 and 15. I am going to skip over verse 13 because I am going to discuss verses 13 and 16 together later. Looking at the discourse itself, it seems to me that verses 14 and 15 are parenthetical. At the end of verse 13 Paul asked, "Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?" Then he went on to ask other questions, which I believe were parenthetical to help lead the Corinthian Christians to a proper answer to the question in verse 13.

7. The Natural Order of Things.

See Table 7. In verse 14, Paul asks, "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?" It is a shame to "himself." In verse 15, "But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering." Her hair is a glory "to her," to herself. We need to understand that if a man has long hair, he is not shaming his head, he is shaming himself. If he would cover his head with fabric, then he would shame his head, Christ. But if he grows long hair he shames himself. If a woman uncovers her head she is shaming her husband; if she has long hair, she is glorifying herself. Here is the significant thing. Paul has explained three glories: the glory of God, the glory of man and the glory of woman. God does not share his glory with another. In the worship service, therefore, God’s glory alone is to be seen. God’s glory alone is to be uncovered. But who is the glory of God? The man. The glory and image of God is the man, the anr. But man’s glory is to be covered. Who is man’s glory? The woman. She is to be covered. But in what sense is she to be covered? Her glory, also, must be covered. But where is her glory found? In her hair. So her hair must be covered.

 

Table 7

7. The Natural Order of Things (1 Corinthians 11:14-15)

[nature teaches you] [a man has long hair] [it is a shame to him]

[but] [a woman has long hair ] [it is a glory to her]

[Reason:] [her hair is given to her for a covering.]

 

We must make this statement. The hair of a woman cannot be both the glory and that which covers the glory! "A" is not "non-A." Nothing can be both "A" and "non-A" at the same time and in the same way. Paul taught us that the object which is the glory cannot also cover the glory! And he taught us that only God’s glory is to be seen in the worship service.

We must now try to understand verse 15, "But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering." Why is a woman’s hair a glory to her? Because her hair is given to her as a "covering." The word that is used in verse 15 for "covering" is not the same word used in verse 6 for "covering." The word that is used for "covering" or "veil" in verse 6, kaluma, comes from the Greek word katakalupto, "to cover." The word in verse 15 is peribolaiou which is "a shawl, a wraparound" (peri, around, ballo, to throw) or a wrap. The Greek words that are both translated into English as covering are two very different words. If the words were the same then some could say that Paul is being inconsistent here. But the words are not the same.

8. The Question Decided.

Verses 14 and 15 form a parenthetic statement between the question in verse 13 and the answer given in verse 16. See Table 8A. The question in verse 13 was "Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?" The question was, "Is it comely?" Verse 16, "If any man seem to be contentious (or disputatious), we have no such custom." No such custom as what? No such custom as a woman praying to God uncovered. The custom Paul mentioned was not that of being disputatious. True, we have no such custom as being disputatious either, but that was not Paul’s point. Paul’s point was that we have no such custom as a woman praying to God uncovered in the public worship.

 

Table 8A

8. The Question Decided... Judge for Yourselves (1 Corinthians 11:13, 16)

A. Verses 14 - 15 form a parenthetic statement between the question in verse 13 and the answer given in verse 16. The question, "is it comely..." The answer; "we have no such custom..."

 

See Table 8B. Is a woman praying covered culturally bound custom? Was that what Paul meant by "custom?" When Paul said, "We have no such custom" was he talking about something that was culturally bound to ancient Corinth? There is not a single indication in the passage that Paul’s intent was to appeal to custom at Corinth.

 

Table 8B

8. The Question Decided... Judge for Yourselves

(1 Corinthians 11:13, 16)

B. Is this a "culturally bound" custom? There is not a single indication in the passage that Paul's intent is to appeal to the custom at Corinth. What about the covering being a symbol of authority on her head? Why did Paul refer back to the creation order?

 

What about the covering being a symbol of authority on her head? What kind of authority is it to which hair speaks? As already indicated, all that a woman has to do is walk into an assembly with her head covered where there are feminists present and it will be clear what that covering means. Why did Paul refer back to the creation order if this is simply a cultural custom? Why did Paul go all the way back to creation in Genesis chapters 1, 2 and 5 if this is simply something that has to do with the culture in Corinth? I think that these are questions that feminists have yet to answer.

See Table 8C. The woman’s glory, that is her hair (in verse 15), must be covered in worship. The man’s glory, that is the woman (in verse 7), must be covered in worship. Thus only God’s glory, which is the man (in verse 7), is uncovered in worship. God will not share his glory with another (Isaiah 48:11); thus both the man’s glory and the woman’s glory must be covered. But if the man’s glory is covered, where is the covering worn? On the woman’s head. But if the woman’s glory is covered, where is the covering worn? It is worn on the woman’s head. Paul wrote about a fabric covering that covers both the man’s glory and the woman’s glory, so that the only glory that is evidenced (uncovered) in the worship service is the glory of God. This can only be accomplished when both the head and the hair of the woman are covered.

 

Table 8C

8. The Question Decided... Judge for Yourselves (1 Corinthians 11:13, 16)

C. Her glory (her hair, v. 15) must be covered in worship. His glory (the woman, v.7) must be covered in worship.

Thus only God's glory (the man, v.7) is uncovered in worship. God will not share His glory with another. Thus both man's and woman's glory must be covered. This is accomplished when the hair and head of the woman are covered.

 

 

See Table 8D. This passage does not speak directly to the question as to whether a woman may pray in public. The passage does not speak directly to the question that either the woman ought or ought not to pray or prophesy in public. That subject is handled very clearly in 1 Corinthians 14:33 and following. But the passage we are discussing does not speak to the subject.

Concluding Remarks

We have essentially done a discourse analysis of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. If we look at the entirety of the discourse, by the time we get to verse 15 we will find out that any other interpretation of verse 15 does not make any sense. The reason that one may think that Paul is inarticulate or inconsistent is because he is imposing his view on the passage, rather than Paul’s view. It is the one who objects to this passage who is inarticulate and inconsistent. It is this author’s contention, which has yet to be disproved, that every commentary claiming that the covering was hair has been written since the rise of egalitarian feminism.

 

Table 8D

8. The Question Decided... Judge for Yourselves

(1 Corinthians 11:13, 16)

D. This passage does not speak directly to the question as to whether women may pray when they are not doing so as the voice of one, but are being led in congregational prayer by the worship leader. They also prophesy when they sing the Word of God.

 

 

Page Last Updated: 01/10/08 01:55:05 PM