Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 11:2 - 11:16

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Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 11:2 - 11:16

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:




A. In respect of apparel; in the covering of the head by the women, and the uncovering of it by the men


2      Now [But, äὲ ] I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep [firmly hold, êáôÝ÷åôå ] the ordinances [traditions, ðáñáäüóåéò ], as I delivered them to you. 3But I would have you [I wish you to, èÝëù ] know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the [om. the] woman is the man; and the head of Christ Isaiah 4 God. 4Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered [anything down, depending from his head, ÷áôὰ ÷åöáëῆò ἔ÷ùí ], dishonoureth his head. 5But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her [own, ἑáõôῆò ] head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. 6For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn [let her hair be cut off, ÷åéñÜóèù ]: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. 7For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: 8but the woman is the glory of the [om. the] man. For the [om. the] man is not [out] of the [om. the] woman; but the [om. the] woman [out] of the [om. the] man. 9Neither was the man [For man was not] created for the woman; but the [om. the] woman for the man. 10For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. 11Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man [neither is woman without man, nor man without woman], in the Lord. 12For as the woman is [out] of the man, even so is the man also by 13[means of] the woman; but all things of [are from, ἐê ] God. Judge in yourselves [among your own selves, ἐí ὑìῖí áὐôïῖò ]: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? 14Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? 15But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering [an envelopment, ðåñéâïëáßïõ ]. 16But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such [established, óõíἠèåéáí ] custom, neither the churches of God.


[“Having corrected the more private abuses that prevailed among the Corinthians, the Apostle begins in this chapter to consider those which relate to the mode of conducting public worship. The first of these is the habit of women appearing in public without a veil. Dress is in a great degree conventional. A costume which would be proper in our country, would be indecorous in another. The principle insisted upon in this paragraph is, that women should conform in matters of dress to all those usages which the public sentiment of the community in which they live demands. The veil in all eastern countries was, and to a great extent still is, the symbol of modesty and. subjection. For a woman, therefore, in Corinth to discard the veil, was to renounce her claim to modesty, and to refuse to recognize her subordination to her husband. It is on the assumption of this significancy in the use of the veil that the Apostle’s whole argument in this paragraph is founded.” Hodge.]

1Co_11:2. He begins the new lesson he was about to impart with a conciliatory introduction.—Now I praise you.—This might be attached directly to the previous injunction “be ye followers of me,” just as what follows might be subsumed under the one in the 32d verse, “give none offence,” although neither of these connections is by any means certain. At any rate the first clause is not to be taken in the way of a strong contrast with what precedes [taking the äÝ in an adversative instead of transitional sense], q. d., ‘though I exhort you to imitate me, yet, nevertheless, I praise you.’ [Hodge is inclined to adopt this method of interpreting the connection, and adds: ‘the Corinthians, although backward in following the self-denying and conciliatory conduct of the Apostle, were, nevertheless, in general mindful of the ordinances or rules which he had delivered to them.’]—That ye remember me in all things.—The ìïõ is not dependent on ðÜíôá , so that the latter becomes the direct object of ìÝìíçóèå , making the rendering (that ye remember all things which proceed from me). Such construction were inadmissible, if for no other reason but this, that the verb ìéìíÞóêåéí in the New Testament never takes the accusative.—This remembrance he designates as one that proved itself in worthy deeds.—That ye keep the traditions even as I delivered (them) to you.—The personal and the official characters are here inseparably united. The traditions ( ðáñáäüóåéò ) he here speaks of, were both of an oral and written kind (2Th_2:15), and embraced doctrinal, as well as ritual and practical matters. Here, indeed, he refers primarily to such instructions and ordinances as concerned the order of the church, and of divine worship. The dispute respecting Scripture and tradition obtains no hold here, inasmuch as the distinction between that which was fixed in writing, and that not so fixed did not as yet appear. [“The word translated ‘traditions’ is never used in the New Testament in reference to the rule of faith, except for the immediate instructions of inspired men. When used in the modern sense of the word tradition, it is always in reference to what is human and untrustworthy, Gal_1:14; Col_2:8, and frequently in the gospels of the traditions of the elders.” Hodge.] That the particular point alluded to cannot be that mentioned in 1Co_11:3 ff. (Olsh.), is plain from the formula of introduction there used which hints at something new (comp. Osiander). êáôå÷Ýéí , to hold fast, so as to submit to it as authority, and to conduct one’s self accordingly (Meyer: by faith and obedience; Osiander: usu tenere).

1Co_11:3. But I wish you to know that the head of every man is Christ.—He here assigns the doctrinal ground for the practical instruction which follows. “In the Corinthian Church there was a departure from the prevailing custom of the East (according to which women went veiled), especially on the part of heathen converts, who, even in other respects, rather overstretched the idea of Christian liberty. Since Paul is here discussing a question of merely outward custom, it is interesting to observe how characteristically he surveys the smallest matters in connection with the greatest, and understands how to penetrate to the remotest particulars from the fundamental principles of the Christian life. He begins, not with the custom itself, but with the leading idea that ought to govern it.” Neander. By the opening words of the verse he indicates the importance of the instruction he is about to communicate. What he particularly inculcates, is the subordination of woman to the man; but this he directly connects with higher relations. Before he declares the relation which the wife sustains to the husband as her head, he points to that which the man sustains to Christ as his Head, and concludes with referring all back to God as the Head of Christ. By the term head he expresses the next immediate relation sustained. The man, that is the Christian man, has Christ for his Head to whom he is alone subordinate, while the woman who, as a member of the Church, has indeed Christ in like manner for her Head, is yet primarily subject to her husband, and in him has her support, her destiny, and her dignity.—To extend this relation to men generally, is opposed by the fact that the Apostle is here addressing the Christian Church. Nor yet is he indicating the relation of the two sexes in general, but only as it is definitely realized in marriage. But even here we are to distinguish between the inner life of faith, or in other words, the personal relation to Christ where all other distinctions are entirely swallowed up and lost (Gal_3:28), and the social position held in the family and in the church where the wife is dependent on the man, is represented by him, and put under his care. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that this power and dignity of the husband is founded on the position he holds toward Christ as his Head, and so the dependence of the wife on him appears as a mediated dependence on Christ.—And the head of Christ is God.—Compare the remarks on 1Co_3:23; 1Co_8:6. Although the economic relation is primarily meant, wherein Christ even in His exaltation is dependent on God (1Co_15:28; Col_1:15; Eph_3:9); yet this dependence presupposes a sort of dependence also in the immanent relations of the Trinity, which, however, is perfectly consistent with essential equality of being.—[Here, then, we have a view of the unity of the heavenly kingdom in its gradual subordination to the Supreme Authority—God—Christ—Man—Woman. The dependence and submission is one of love yielding to the divinely appointed guardianship and control; the authority is that of love exercised in wisdom, and directed towards the good of the lowest and the glory of the highest. These are the conditions of the divine order in which the relations sustained between the parties are typical of each other. And on this fact is the argument of the Apostle founded. As God is the head of Christ, and as Christ is the head of the Church, so is the man the head of the woman. For a fuller development of this analogy see Eph_5:23-33. Let it be here understood that the subordination thus expressed involves no degradation. As the Church is not dishonored by being subject to Christ, so neither is woman dishonored by being subject to man].

1Co_11:4. From the doctrine established in 1Co_11:3, he first draws an inference for the man in the matter of his apparel while at Church.—Every man praying or prophesying,—i. e., speaking in public. And by the former is meant, not exactly the speaking with tongues which certainly occurred while in prayer, but the simple offering of supplication in general; by the latter, such a discourse as set forth the mysteries of the divine counsels or of the human life, under a divine inspiration. (Comp. 1Co_13:2; 1Co_14:24 ff.). These were the two main parts of primitive Christian worship. In the first the speaker is the organ of the congregation presenting itself before God in thanksgiving, petition, and intercession; in the second, the organ of the Divine Spirit communicating His lessons to the Church.—Having his head covered.— êáôὰ êåöáëῆò ἔ÷ùí , here ôé is understood—lit. ‘having aught upon his head.’ According to the usage of the Greeks, men appeared in public religious service with face and head uncovered. The case was otherwise with the Romans, and from later times with the Jews. In the Old Testament period such covering was employed only as a token of deep mourning (2Sa_15:30; Jer_14:13).—dishonoreth his head.—Suitably with the context we must here understand, not man’s own head literally, but Christ who is dishonored when the man denying his independence seems to subordinate himself in this way to the dependent wife, or even allows the tokens of human dependence to be seen upon him. Although in 1Co_11:5, we are to take the expression ‘her head’ literally, yet nothing can be deduced from this as to the meaning of 1Co_11:4, because there the meaning is established by ἑáõôῆò , and the explanation which follows. On the contrary, the relation to 1Co_11:3 is decisive as to its meaning here. Such was Meyer’s view in ed. 2. On the contrary, in ed. 3 he understands it as in 1Co_11:5-6; 1Co_11:14 of the natural head, on which the evidence must be seen that no human person but Christ, and through Christ God is the head of the man, and this evidence is its uncovered state. At any rate the chief stress lies upon the rebuke administered to woman’s wish to become emancipated in this particular, and that said of the man might also serve for illustrating the opposite.

1Co_11:5-6. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth.—The propriety of women’s praying or prophesying in the Church, is here passed over without comment since he is only treating of apparel; while it is rebuked and interdicted in 1Co_14:34 ff. Hence the arbitrary assumption that prophesying here means simply chiming in with inspired song is superfluous. [“In here disapproving of the one, says Calvin, he does not approve of the other. Paul attends to one thing at a time”].—with her head unveiled.—The unveiling of the head was an abuse originating in female vanity under the pretexts of Christian freedom and of equality with man; and it was so much the more disturbing to devotion as it was contrary to custom to see women unveiled out of the house.—dishonoreth her own head.—This referred to the man, would yield a good sense even in connection with what follows, inasmuch as the woman by appearing abroad so shamelessly and exposing herself to the gaze of other men might bring a blot upon her husband. But the use of the reflexive pronoun ἑáõôῆò shows clearly that it means the natural head; and this accords with what he says further, inasmuch as a shorn head was with women disgraceful—a symbol of female dishonor—a token of shamelessness,—and, indeed, was made the punishment of an adulteress—at least among the Germans (see Tac., Germ. 19; also see Wetstein in hoc loco), and, indeed, also among the Jews, Num_5:18. It was also a token of sorrow. Deu_21:12. [Stanley again finds in the word ‘head’ a double allusion both to her own head and her husband’s as represented by it. See Smith’s Classical Dictionary, Coma and Vestalis],—for that is one and the same thing;—the neuter is here used because it treats not of personal, but generic identity.—with her being shaven.—That is, she assumes the characteristic mark of a disreputable woman.—This identity he goes on to explain.—Let her be shorn.—This is not said permissively, but it expresses a command setting forth the legitimate consequence of the unsuitableness of her being unveiled, q. d., ‘if she will do the one thing, let her also do the other.’ If she will be so shameless as to appear with her head bare, let her act consistently, and give such a token of her shamelessness as will be seen in stripping her head entirely of its hair.—He then argues.—But if it is a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven.— îõñᾶóèáé , to be shaved—a stronger expression than êåßñáóèáé , , to be cropped short. áἰó÷ñüí , shameful, can hardly be taken here to denote the æsthetic view of the matter as if the meaning were ‘if it, displease her,’ so that we should have here but a sarcastic thrust at woman’s vanity, as Calvin thinks [who says that ‘the conjecture has some appearance of probability that women who had beautiful hair, were accustomed to uncover their heads for the purpose of displaying their beauty, and that Paul here hints to them that so far from appearing the more beautiful by taking off their veils, they looked as badly as if they were all shaven and shorn.’] The Apostle is rather looking at the subject from a moral point of view throughout.

1Co_11:7-10. He here resumes the argument for the woman’s veiling her head, presented in 1Co_11:3. Only he drops the relation to Christ, and presents that of the man to the woman, illustrating his point antithetically.—For a man indeed ought not to veil his head.—The expression ïὐê ὀöåßëåé means more than ‘he is not obliged,’ it denotes ‘he should not,’ ‘it is unbecoming for him.’ The reason of this is, that—he is the image and glory of God.—By this he indicates the godlike rule and lordly majesty (comp. Gen_1:26) which the position of the man as the head of the wife involves, or which is in a peculiar manner exhibited in it. By the expression ‘the glory of God’ he means that man carries in himself a likeness to the greatness and majesty of God in so far as he rules in his own sphere with Godlike power and freedom. [“He is created in the image of God, and therefore is the reflex of the divine glory, ‘being crowned with glory and honor,’ and having, therefore, dominion over the works of God. He, therefore, ought to have nothing on a head which represents so Divine a majesty, nothing on a countenance which reflects so Divine a glory.” Stanley].—Such is obviously the point brought out: not that he is set to show forth God’s glory, a thing which does not appertain to man exclusively; not that He is the glory of God in so far that the woman has to veil herself before him, just as the seraphim do before the majesty of Jehovah; nor is äüîá = ãְñåּú for then Paul would have used the term ὁìïßùóéò ; nor least of all is it to be understood as Fritzsche does on Rom_3:23. Ornamentum Dei quippe quo fingendo Deus, quantum posset, manifestaverit.—But the woman is the glory of man.—This she is in so far as she could be fashioned entirely out of his rib—an evidence quanti vir sit [!] Now, the wife is the glory of the man inasmuch as in her, in her management as a housewife, the exalted position of the man is made manifest; or inasmuch as she develops an independent activity only in subordination to him, and by virtue of his plenary power, or only in connection with him attains to her proper dignity and worth. [“She always assumes his station; becomes a queen, if he is a king; and manifests to others the wealth and honor which belong to her husband.” Hodge.] Paul does not add the word “image,” since it would be unsuitable on account of the diversity of sex; others say because it would otherwise appear as if the Divine image in her were ignored. But Paul is not speaking here in a religious or ethical sense.—The higher position of the man and the dependence of the woman are still further proved from the history of their creation, (their genetic relation. Meyer.).—For man is not from woman, but woman from man.—[Here the emphasis rests on ‘is’ which is equivalent to ‘takes his being.’ The reference is to Gen_2:23.— ἐê ôïῦ ἀíäñὸò áὐôῆò ἐëÞöèç áὔôç .].—But this derivation rests again upon the fact that the object of the creation of the woman is in the man—not the reverse. In other words, the dependence of existence rests on the dependence of destination.—For neither was man created on account of the woman, but woman on account of the man.—That the “for” in this clause is to be taken as parallel with the previous one is improbable, because unnecessary. [Alford however disputes the subordination of the latter ‘for’ to the former, and makes the two parallel; but without reason. Certainly the view given above, which is Meyer’s and Stanley’s also, is in better accord with the Greek, êáῖ ãÜñ , q. d., ‘and that for this reason, for,’ etc.].—From this relation of woman to man thus proven, he now draws his inferences in regard to her true mode of apparel.—For this cause ought the woman to have power upon her head.—[“There is scarcely a passage in the New Testament which has so much taxed the learning and ingenuity of commentators as this.” Hodge. “In the difficulty of its several portions it stands alone in the New Testament, unless, perhaps, we except Rev_13:18; or Gal_3:20. Each part has its own particular obscurity.” Stanley]. In the first place, the term “power” ( ἔîïõóßá ) is a very remarkable one. Interpreted by the context, this can only mean the veiling of the head, standing by metonymy for that, which was the token of power or authority. So Neander, who adds: “The wife should have upon her head a symbol of the power which the man has over her, i. e., the veil.” The word itself, however, nowhere else occurs in this sense. As somewhat analogous to it, we have the word âáóéëåßá , which literally means kingdom, used evidently for diadem in Diod. Sic. I. 47 ( ἔ÷ïõóéí ôñåῖò âáóéëåßáò ἐðὶ ôçò êåöáëῆò : ‘they have three kingdoms on the head,’ meaning ‘three crowns’). A number of conjectural readings, and also varied attempts at explanation,—some strange, some arbitrary, may here be passed over. For an account of them, see Meyer, Osiander [and Stanley, whose note on this word is quite elaborate].—As an additional reason why the women should have the symbol of power on their heads, the Apostle subjoins.—on account of the angels.—Here, too, there has been a great elaboration of opinions, partly in the way of conjectural readings, and partly in attempts at explanation. The former deserve no mention [as the present reading is supported by all good authorities; although Neander can hardly help the persuasion that it was a gloss introduced anterior to all the existing manuscripts, and so perpetuated]. As far as the latter are concerned, owing to a disinclination to assume that supernatural existences were meant, it has been thought that the “angels” here spoken of were of a human kind—whether it be officers of the church, which can hardly be the case, from the lack of all qualifying terms (comp. Rev_1:20 : “unto the angel of the church,” etc.; Mal_2:7 : “The priest—is the messenger ( ἄããåëïò ) of the Lord of Hosts”); or prophets, of which the same remark holds good; or messengers from other churches, which by no means follows from Jam_2:25, where Rahab is spoken of as ‘receiving the messengers:’ or whether it be unconverted husbands, or others not Christians, who might come into the congregations to make report. If, however, supernatural beings are understood to be meant, then the question arises whether these are good or bad spirits. If we suppose the latter, then the reference here would be to the danger of temptation through such evil spirits, either through the women’s being betrayed into unhallowed thoughts, or through their tempting men to indulge the same by showing themselves unveiled. But from the lack of any definite limitation of the meaning of the term, or of any hint of the kind in the context, we can hardly suppose this class of spirits to be intended. He must mean therefore the good and holy angels. Yet the phrase is not to be construed as expressing an oath which would be contrary to the usage of the language. Nor yet does it mean that women should veil their faces in presence of men, who are here declared to be the image and glory of God, because angels do this in the Divine presence (Isaiah 6). Nor yet does the phrase denote the purpose not to give offence to their guardian angels by an indecorous appearance; for then would he have added the pronoun ‘their’ to imply this. The most probable opinion is, that he means angels in general, who are regarded as being invisibly present with Christ in the assemblies of the church, and whose displeasure would be awakened by the violation of decency. The first trace of such an idea, which appears also to have been advocated by the early fathers, is to be found in Psa_138:1. “Also before the angels will I sing praise to Thee.” Traces of the same belief may be found also among the Jews of a later period. (Comp. Grotius on this text). Reverentia geniorum, qui formationis hominum testes et spectatores fuerunt. The origin of the idea that angels were present at the creation of men, may be proved to have come from the rabbinical interpretations of Gen_1:26. [The view just given Hodge declares to be “the common and only satisfactory interpretation of the passage which answers all the demands of the context].” And Alford expresses his belief in it, and adds that the reason of Paul’s thus speaking of the angels was, that he “had before his mind the order of the universal church, and prefers, when speaking of the assemblies of Christians, to adduce those beings who, as not entering into the gradation which he has here described, are conceived [of] as spectators of the whole, delighted with the decency and order of the servants of God.” Such also is Calvin’s view, who says that “this was added by way of amplifying, q. d. ‘If women uncover their heads, not only Christ, but all the angels, too, will be witnesses of the outrage.’ And this interpretation suits with the Apostle’s design, as he is here treating of different ranks.” Stanley’s note, which is full of interesting information, is too long to be quoted here, and the curious reader can only be referred to it.

1Co_11:11-12. All proud depreciation of women on the part of men, as well as all disposition to retire on the part of women, Paul now opposes by qualifying his previous expressions and bringing to view the mutual connections of the sexes in the sphere of Christian life. And these he then refers back to their relations grounded in nature.—Nevertheless neither is woman without man, nor man without woman in the Lord.—To explain the word “Lord” of God, as if the phrase “in the Lord” meant on account of ‘God’s will and ordinance,’ would be contrary to Paul’s use of language, and is by no means required by the relation of the two verses [11, 12], by which the harmony of the kingdom of grace and the kingdom of nature is indicated, or that the order of life obligatory in the sphere of redemption is grounded on that which preceded it in the sphere of creation according to the Divinely ordained development of things therein.—But the question still arises whether the expression “in the Lord” is to be taken as a predicate with ‘is’ understood, as if he meant to say that the one is not without the other in communion with the Lord; or as an adverbial expression qualifying the two clauses so as to imply that in the sphere of Christ both are inseparable. The sense is essentially the same in both constructions, and both are logically admissible. But the former better expresses Paul’s thought. He means that while the woman ought in the public assembly to show herself as one subordinated to the man in a dependence which is indicated both in her origin and in her destiny, nevertheless Christianity requires no separation of the sexes. Neither party stands for itself alone. Both belong essentially together, and point to one another. And even in relation to the Christian life there is a mutual dependence, so that the one serves to supplement the other. As Burger says: “In their relation to Christ, in that communion where both alike have the ground and aim of their spiritual life, the distinction of the sexes is resolved into a mutual dependence of love.”—In what follows, Paul points to the fact that this relation in Christ corresponds to the natural relation existing between the sexes, and is demanded by the essential harmony which prevails between the kingdom of nature and the kingdom of grace. “For were this not so, then would Christianity be opposed to the natural order of things.” Meyer.—In contrast with what is said in 1Co_11:8, and here re-stated, that—the woman is from the man—he says—so also is the man through the woman—As the former declaration refers to the origin of the woman, so does the latter refer to the progressive reproduction of the race, which even in the case of the man is effected through the woman.—And lastly, he sets this natural relation under a religious point of view.—but all things of Godi. e., God is the first principle of all things, of the existence of woman from the man, and of man through the woman. But the logical relation of the two verses does not require that we refer this to what was said in 1Co_11:11 by the expression “in the Lord.” From this brief digression he returns to his immediate subject.

1Co_11:13-15. He here appeals once more to their natural sense of propriety.—Judge in yourselves.—i. e., without reference to any external authorities by which their judgment might be biased. We are not to suppose that Paul is here accommodating himself to the fondness for philosophic proof prevalent among the Greeks, as Rückert imagines. He intends only to bring the matter closer home to their own consciousness, both softening and sharpening his reproof at the same time. [“The Apostle often recognizes the intuitive judgments of the mind as authoritative, Rom_1:32; Rom_3:8. The constitution of our nature being derived from God, the laws which He has impressed upon it, are as much a revelation from Him, as any other possible communications of His will. And to deny this, is to deny the possibility of all knowledge,” Hodge].—Is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?—By praying unto God, he does not mean silent participation in public worship, but as in 1Co_11:5, taking the lead in audible prayer.—If the women, while they were thus putting themselves upon an equality with men, deemed themselves at liberty on this account to appear like the men unveiled, it is so much the more remarkable, that Paul should refer them simply to the uncomeliness of their behavior while holding public intercourse with God, whose ordinance they were violating in so doing. Hence he here says nothing about prophesying.—That the sense of propriety required a woman to be veiled, is shown from the spontaneous teachings of nature.—Doth not nature itself teach you that if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him, but that if a woman have long hair it is a glory to her?—The ïὐäÝ had best be translated not even, which imparts to the whole question a greater emphasis. In regard to “nature,” the question arises whether the word is to be taken in the objective sense, as denoting the order and laws of nature, or in the subjective sense, as denoting the instinctive feelings and sentiments, the native sense of propriety existing in every individual, and which may have been more or less affected by custom and habit. The latter interpretation cannot be altogether established from the meaning of the word. But the former yields good sense, as we understand by it here to denote the natural constitution of the sexes, and the richer growth of hair in the woman. In observing these constitutional tendencies, a significant hint is derived as to what is befitting in the premises. Accordingly, in contrast with the practices of a cruder heathenism of the earlier time, when long hair prevailed, there has grown up among the most civilized nations, that good taste which declares itself in favor of short hair for men and long hair for women. Among men, the wearing of long hair is now reprobated as a mark of effeminacy and dishonoring to them, inasmuch as it prevents the free exposure of the countenance. [The Nazarites, as a distinction, allowed their hair to grow]. The main stress of the Apostle’s instruction, however, bears upon the duty of woman, and he assigns as one reason for her wearing her hair long, that—her hair is given to her instead of a covering.—From this it follows that the artificial veiling which he has spoken of above, is also an honor to the woman, while going unveiled disgraces her, since nature itself seems to have insisted upon the veiling of her head. [Chardin writes respecting the ladies of Persia: “The head-dress of the women is simple: their hair is drawn behind the head, and divided into several tresses: the beauty of this head-dress consists in the thickness and length of these tresses, which should fall even down to the heels, in default of which, they lengthen them with tresses of silk. The ends of these tresses they decorate with pearls and jewels, or ornaments of gold or silver.”(Barnes). This method of wearing the hair, is common among all Eastern nations, and it shows how woman’s hair was regarded as “a covering.” But the Apostle, it will be observed, makes no allusion to the customs of nations in the matter, nor is even the mention of them relevant. This, it will be important to observe, since many are inclined to construe his instructions as applicable only to those early times, being fashioned in accordance with customs then prevalent. So far is this, however, from being the case, that he appeals for support, solely to the Divine ordinances in nature, and therefore imparts a lesson which is applicable alike for all times].

1Co_11:16. He concludes by asserting his own custom and the custom of other Churches, as an answer to those contentious people who might refuse to concede the validity of his arguments.—But if any man seem to be contentious.— äïêåῖ does not mean incline, for this idea is expressed by ôéíé äïêåῖ . It may be explained as denoting either ‘thinks he is at liberty to be,’ or as a delicate turn after the fashion of the Latin videtur: hence essentially the same as ἐóôßí . In the apodosis the expression is elliptical, and we must supply some such phrase as ‘let him understand that,’—we,—that is, himself and his fellow-Apostles, and those of like sentiment.—have no such custom.—It is questionable whether he means here the custom of women’s appearing unveiled, just animadverted upon, or the contentiousness he is anticipating. The latter interpretation suits with the use of the word “we,” which otherwise would suggest the thought of some Jewish custom had in mind, a thing that does not suit here; and also of the Churches of God, he could very properly say that contentious disputing was not allowed among them, and was not their custom. [Such is the view given by Chrysostom, Calvin, Meyer, de Wette, and many of the best modern commentators. But in regard to it Alford well says: “Surely it would be very unlikely that after so long a treatment of a particular subject, the Apostle should wind up all by merely censuring a fault common to their behavior on this and on all the other matters of dispute. Such a rendering seems to me almost to stultify the conclusion. But for the weighty names on the other side, it would seem hardly to admit of a question, that the custom which he here disavows, was the practice of women praying uncovered. He thus cuts off all further disputation on the matter, by appealing to universal Christian usage.” With this view agree Grot., Billroth, Olsh., Hodge, and others]. The allusion to the Churches of God carries great emphasis, as decisive of the point in question, and shutting up all strife. It might be said that here was a genuine Catholic element set in opposition to a self-opinionated particularism.


1. The unity amid diversity in the Divine economy. The Sovereign of the heavenly kingdom is the Son who is one with the Father, and yet has God for His Head. Yea, as the One who is of the Father, and derives all things from the Father, so as to be able to say, “All Thine are mine,” is He dependent on the Father, and distinguishable from Him both in His unity and in His equality.—The same law reappears in the human sphere. Here man is the chief power, and woman is dependent on him. There is the same humanity in both, and the same Divine life in both. But as the woman originally derived her life from the man, and so is subordinate to him in all the relations of life, being created for him and designed to be his helper; so likewise in the spiritual sphere, in the domain of God’s Church is woman subordinate to man. Here, too, is it the life of the man through which the Lord primarily acts. Men are the bearers of the Divine message; they proclaim the Divine truth, and by virtue of it beget a spiritual life in others; and they are the shepherds who foster the life thus begotten in its onward development. And as in his doings and management the majesty of God is reflected, so is the glory of man reflected in woman, and in her activities in so far as she acts by the authority and power of the man moulding, informing and training the life received from him, and ruling in the household set up by him, to order, counsel and educate within her own sphere. This is a genuine womanliness, which manifests itself in the constant consciousness of such a dependence which every where follows the man, which regards his mind and will as the ground and rule of her action, which is never obtrusive, arrogates no functions belonging to the man, and always wears the appearance of modesty and decorum whatever may be the prevailing fashion of the times.

But as in the natural sphere, man with all his freedom and independence, is in turn conditioned upon the woman, deriving his existence through her; and as the man with all his freedom cannot isolate himself from the woman, but is obliged to find in her the complement of his whole being and existence, so is it likewise in the sphere of his Christian life. As the woman ordinarily imparts a salutary and refining influence to man’s moral and social life, tempering his strength with her mildness, and adding her plastic power to his, in the whole business of education; so is it likewise in the spiritual life. As an evidence of what she is and can do here, we can point to the lives of many distinguished men in the kingdom of God, who have owed their greatness to wise and pious mothers. If on the one hand woman, in fellowship with man, obtains through his influence energy and boldness, power and independence, freedom and breadth of character, by means of which she is raised above her natural state without injury to her feminine qualities, and is brought to share in his being without altering, but rather ennobling her womanliness; so on the other hand, through the influence of woman, the angularity and sharpness, the harshness and strength of the masculine nature become softened, and acquire a gentleness and grace, which without injuring his true manliness, adorns and ennobles his whole life. And both these effects are seen in their purest and highest forms within the sphere of Christianity. And in this sphere alone is man able to assert and realize in a truly moral way his proper position and influence, for here he has Christ as his Head. By this means, also, are the relations of the divine and the human spheres properly mediated. In a certain sense, Christ, the Son of God, the First-born of all creatures, in and through whom all things were made, the original image of God after which man was fashioned, the primeval glory of God of which human glory is but a ray, must be considered as the Head of the man, in all the spheres of earthly life, from the beginning to the end; and all true manliness, with its elevating influence upon the character of woman, must be referred back to Him:—just as in like manner the receptivity and formative activity of the woman, and the identity of the two-fold life in marriage, is grounded upon the divine act that made them partakers of one common nature. And both these are truly realized in their mutual influences in Christianity in that sphere of redemption which has been wrought out and perfected by the incarnate Son of God. Here the man depends on Christ by faith, and derives from His fulness power, wisdom and love, which enable him to prove a true support for the woman who has been redeemed by the same Christ, is united with him in faith, and is taken into personal communion with him, imparting to her what he has received from Christ, and in the love of Christ, who gave Himself for them, devotes his strength and all his qualities, and so leads her on under his influence that she is daily strengthened through the divine grace derived through him, and so becomes, in turn for him, just what she, according to her own way and destiny, can be, and ought to be by virtue of this same divine life—a true Christian wife, a veritable help—meet for him in God.

[2. Dress is not only an article of comfort and convenience, but also, in its original design and use, is a symbol: 1, Of our fallen state—betokening sin and shame. 2, Of sex—distinguishing between man and woman. 3, Of rank and station—designating by its specific differences the positions which persons hold in life. 4, Of character and sentiment—expressing in its style thepeculiarities, good or bad, of the wearer. In consequence of this, its symbolic character, it becomes every Christian to be particular as to the manner of his dress, and see to it that it properly expresses the position which he occupies in society, and in the Church of God, and that it indicates those qualities of character which it becomes him always to cherish and manifest. This rule applies alike to both sexes, and ought to be fully considered by Christians at this day, when the propensity is so strong for complying with the fashions of a world, which, in forgetting God, is too apt also to ignore and violate the just relations held by men and women in society. Above all things ought “women professing godliness to adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shame-facedness and sobriety,” resisting firmly every fashion that may prove either a dishonor to themselves or a temptation to man].

[3. Nature and Christianity. Both originating in the same God, appear in perfect harmony. The laws of nature confirm the dictates of Christianity, and Christianity accepts, authenticates and sanctifies the teachings of nature. In this mutual support we find one evidence of the truth of revelation].

[4. The New Testament confirms the truth of the Old Testament, even in those particulars which it has been too much the fashion to discredit as a mere myth or allegory. In referring for proof to the facts of the history of the creation, Paul here establishes the credibility of the Mosaic narrative in all its literalness. It is impossible, therefore, for any Christian who believes in the inspiration of the Apostles, to doubt the divine authority of the Pentateuch, or to confine the inspiration of the ancient writers to their doctrinal and preceptive statements].

[5. The authority of the Apostles is the end of controversy. To argue against what they have established is, therefore, to show a contentious and rebellious spirit, that, instead of being reasoned with, had best be let alone].



1Co_11:2. As a father toward his child, so does a faithful minister toward his Church use all means—praise and censure—for urging his hearers to goodness and piety (1Co_4:14; 1Th_2:11 ff.).—As faithful ministers remember their people, to pray for, love and serve them, so should the people remember their ministers, to pray for, assist and give heed to their lessons.

1Co_11:3. For a happy marriage, it is essential, 1, that the husband acknowledge Christ as his head, and rule in his spirit; 2, that he prove the head of the wife in fact, yet not in such a way as to destroy her courage and confidence; 3, that the wife acknowledge her husband as her head—not undertaking to act as master.

1Co_11:4. In public worship, as also everywhere else, Christians ought to preserve decorum according to established usages (Exo_19:10-11).—Spener: It is incumbent on Christians in all their religious services to indicate by their appearance and demeanor a reverence for the presence of God—man and woman conducting themselves according to the divine intent in their creation.—Hedinger: As God and nature have distinguished offices and sexes, so have they also appointed distinctions in apparel and demeanor, which should be observed according to public custom, and so as to avoid offence (Deu_22:5).

1Co_11:6. None should allow themselves to be forced to do that which is good. Willing obedience is what pleases God.

1Co_11:8. Behold the wisdom of God in fitting man and woman to the position designed for them severally in marriage.

1Co_11:9. It is a perversion of God’s ordinance, when a woman usurps authority over her husband, or when a man, from fond affection, becomes the slave of his wife.—Hed.: As the lord of the household, man must keep his place, and he commits a great mistake when from any side considerations he forms a marriage contract that requires him to yield his position. Yet “dwell with your wives according to knowledge” (1Pe_3:7), and tenderness as “fellow heirs of the grace of life,” on whom God has enjoined obedience as a praiseworthy duty—which has, however, since the fall proved a cross to the weak and a vexation to the unregenerate.

1Co_11:10. A dress designed for the ball-room is un-suited to the house of God, where it becometh women to assume a modest attire, if not for the sake of man, yet at least for the sake of the angels present there, and for the sake of God, who has promised there to come and bless His people (Exo_20:24).

1Co_11:11. Man and woman have an equal right to the kingdom of God; they have been redeemed at an equal cost, and may obtain like blessedness; therefore let not man plume himself on his supremacy, nor woman feel disgraced on account of her subjection.

1Co_11:12. Christ Himself was born of woman; hence men should honor and love their wives, and wives not begrudge their husbands their lordship. All things are of God—man and woman and the ordinances regulating their relations; hence, to Him belongs the honor due, in all humility and obedience. What is comely should be cultivated, because well pleasing to God no less than to man (Php_4:8).

1Co_11:15. Long hair is an honor to a woman; but she should not proudly parade it; rather it should be to her a sign of subjection, and serve for a covering.

1Co_11:16. True church members will never compel others to adopt their own opinions, however well grounded, nor wrangle about them; but will quietly let wranglers pass and leave them to their own responsibility.

Berlenb. Bible:

1Co_11:2. He who will maintain the spirit of Christianity in its integrity, will show it even in little things.

1Co_11:3. All true order has its foundations above.—The distinctions which God has made between the sexes cannot be arbitrarily overridden.—Man must conduct himself according to the type set by Christ. If he prides himself on his authority, and is not at the same time obedient to his Lord, nor abides in His Spirit, he is guilty of flagrant folly. His example encourages the wife to be disobedient too. As Christ is submissive to God, and is intimately united to Him, so must man be related to Christ. He must be as a Christian, and act consistently with his profession.—Vv. 7–9. These first principles sound like old tales; but let us keep them fresh by constant application. The order of nature must be held close with the order of creation and Providence, and with the history of Moses.

1Co_11:10. Christianity consists in a life of subjection; but it is by this means that Satan is overcome.—Vv. 11, 12. Man and wife are united as head and body—the one cannot exist without the other; therefore, each should consent to unite with the other in one understanding, purpose and head. In the kingdom of grace there must be no infraction upon the kingdom of nature. They concur, and have their lesson from the Lord, and their blessing through “the seed of the woman.”—The man, however, cannot abide in the Lord unless he be condescending to his wife. It is a valuable exercise in Christianity to be referring all matters, even the least, to the Lord, whence all things come. God is the source of all things, and if we do not go back to the origin of things as revealed we shall not discover their true law and order.

1Co_11:13. God has given woman certain signatures, which shall indicate to her how she is to conduct herself outwardly. Prayer begets reverence and docility.—Vv. 14, 15. Nature must not be abandoned in common life, much less in holy services.


1Co_11:2 ff. There is something very delicate about our good standing in the kingdom of God, far more than about the most refined court-fashion in the world. If we hesitate to offend against the latter in the slightest particular of dress or deportment, how much more should we hesitate in the case of the former.—The man finds his Head in Christ, from whom he derives grace and gifts not only for himself, but also for his house; but woman is to find her head in man, even aside from the marriage relation, because in the constitution and management of the Church ail depends on men. And this should not appear hard, since in the work of redemption there exists just such a mutual relation between Christ and God. He derives everything from the fulness of the Father, and refers back to Him what He, as the Mediator, brings to us.


1Co_11:3. Every regulation should be so referred back to our religious instincts and to fundamental principles, as to be made the standard of decorum for every age.

1Co_11:7. Man is the Lord of the house—the image and representative of God—the one from whom the majesty of God should be reflected. The wife represents at home the absent man, and should exhibit his image in herself; she has authority only from him [even as she bears his name]. Hence both should so carry themselves in deportment and attire, that the supremacy of the man and the subordination of the woman shall be recognized.

1Co_11:9. It is a sad perversion of God’s ordinance, when women regard men simply as the means of their convenience, honor, or comfort.—A wife who fails to further the just interests of her husband, contravenes the appointment of God.—Christianity is innocent of that silly worship of ladies which has often been observed in Christian nations. Yet woman is not on this account to be regarded as the mere instrument of the man.

1Co_11:11. Christianity balances the inequality through the equality, secured in Christ, in whom both ought to be regarded as one. Before God all stand on one footing.

1Co_11:13. Our moral sentiments often decide a question more correctly than the understanding. Most of all, in our devotions should modesty rule and protect the heart. Can the bold, the shameless, the restless pray?

W. F. Besser:

1Co_11:11. The Greeks excluded woman from certain solemnities of their idol-worship; on the contrary, in Christianity married couples walk together to the house of God, sit side by side at the table of the Lord, unite at the morning and evening blessing, and are together in all the observances where life in the Lord is fostered. In Thee, O Lord! the man is not without the woman, and woman is not without the man; but in order that both may remain in Thee, keep Thou them steadfast in obedience to Thy will, that the woman may serve Thee in subjection to the man, and the man may be the head of the house in Thee!

1Co_11:16. A praiseworthy ordinance which has in it a sound Christian sense, should not be mutilated, deranged, and perverted, through mere love of change or selfish cunning, if for no other reason than this, that unedifying and useless strife is thereby evoked, in which each one deems his own was the best.

[Wordsworth:—4–15. St. Paul here teaches the Christian women, who more than any women in the world, needed such instruction, that by obtrusive boldness and wanton effrontery, and by presumptuous shamelessness and flaunting immodesty in public, in the House of God, they gained nothing, but forfeited that dignity, power, and grace, which God had given to women, especially under the Gospel.—Thus the Divine Apostle has left a lesson to women in every age, a lesson which in the present age deserves special attention, when the attire of some among them seems to expose them to that reproof which was spoken through him by the Holy Spirit to the women of Corinth.—Let them learn from him, that the true power of woman is in gentle submission; her most attractive grace and genuine beauty are in modest retirement and delicate reserve; her best ornament, “that of a meek and quiet spirit, which, in the sight of God, is of great price” (1Pe_3:4)].


1Co_11:2.—In many good MSS, etc., ἀäåëöïß is found after ὑìᾶò , but it is doubtful; it is not in A. B, C. [Sinait., 4 cursives, the Copt., Sahid., Athan. (Romaned.), Arm., Athan.,Cyr., Bas., Chrys.]. Its insertion would have been very natural. If this verse were the beginning of a new section, transcribers and commentators would have expected the word, and if it had been in the original, it would not have been easily omitted. It is found in D. E. F. G. K. L., et al., the Ital., Vulg., Goth., Syr. (which, with some others, adds ìïõ ), Athan., Theodt., Damasc, Ambrst., Rel. Lachm., Alford, Stanley and Wordsw. cancel it, while Bloomf. And Tisch. (after cancelling it in his 3d edit.) insert it.—C. P. W.].

1Co_11:3.—The article ôïῦ before ×ñéóôïῦ is not very certain. [Lachm., Tisch, and Alford admit it on the authority of A. B. D. Sin. and some Fathers. Bloomfield suggests that in these MSS, “the word, written abbreviatim, may have arisen from the preceding äὲ .” It may, however, have been removed to match the absence of the article before ãõíáéêὸò .—C. P. W.].

1Co_11:5.—Lachm. has adopted áὐôῆò on very considerable authority [A. C. D. (1st cor.) F. G, L. Sinait., and about a dozen cursives, with Chrys., Theodt., et al.]. This form might have arisen from an attempt to make it conform to the áὐôïῦ of 1Co_11:4. [Bloomfield thinks the true word may have been áὑôῆò , winch in Hellenistic Greek was often equivalent to åáõôῆò (Fritzsche). Tischendorf, in his early edit., had áõôῆò , but in his 3rd, and later, he has ἑáõôῆò . The latter word would have been needful, if the Apostle had wished to prevent his readers from confounding the êåöáëὴí with ὁ ἀíÞñ , as they would have been likely to do after what he had said in 1Co_11:3.—C. P. W.].

1Co_11:7.—The Rec. omits before ãõíÞ , but the authority for the article is very strong. It was removed so that tho phrase might conform with similar preceding and following phrases. [A. B. D.(lst cor.) F. G. Sinait. (3d cor.) 73,118, Dial., Isador., Theodt. insert it. So Lachm., Tisch., Alford, Meyer and Stanley. Bloomfield receives it, but expresses it in small print. It seems required in the same sense as in 1Co_11:10, where it is certainly genuine.—C. P. W.].

1Co_11:11.—The Rec. has an inverted order for these words, but it is not well sustained. Meyer thinks that it was more natural to mention the man first, and that this occasioned the change. [Lachm,, Tisch., Bloomfield and Alford, with A. B. C. D. (1James , 3 d cor.) E. F. G. H. and Sinait., with several cursives, versions and Fathers, have ãõíὴ ÷ùñßò ἀíäñὸò ïὔôå ἀíὴñ . ÷ùñὶò ãõíáὶêïò .—C. P. W.].

1Co_11:14.—The Rec. has ἤ ïὐäὲ áὐôÞ öýóéò , but in opposition to decisive authorities. The was an addition to determine the connection with 1Co_11:13. [It is wanting in A. B. C. D. (1st cor.) F. G. H. Sinait., et al. Ital., Vnlg.. Copt., Syr., Arm., Tert., Ambr., Ambrst., and has been suspected to be an attempt to point the interrogation. F. G. Arm., Tert., have ἡöýóéò without the áὐôÞ , but against better authorities; but many of the best MSS put áὐôÞ after öýóéò .—C. P. W.].