The Book of 1 Corinthians Bible Study Chapter 11 Part 1

Our next reading is 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

Submission, being in subjection to one another, is a very important Biblical concept. This is applicable in secular environments (pupil to teacher, employee to employer etc) as well as in spiritual (believers to G-dly leadership, everyone to G-d). 

v1:  Imitate: Copy. We are called to behave in the way that Messiah behaved. 

v2: Praise you: Paul is commending them for their submissiveness, their obedience.

  • Traditions: Teachings. Doctrines.  
  • Delivered: To hand over, to pass on. Paul received revelation from G-d and passed it on to these people. 

v3: Head: Speaks of authority.  This passage (as we are going to see) is not speaking about something secondary (a hat, a scarf, a yarmulke etc) but about a primary issue – hair. The emphasis of this text is on hair – whether we’re talking about men or women 

  • Woman: Implying a wife.  
  • The head of Messiah is G-d: Yeshua is the best example of what submission looks like. Yeshua is not less than G-d. He is equal to G-d, as He IS G-d (see Phil 2:6-8). We can be equal to someone (husband and wife, fellow believers) but still be in submission to them. 

v4: Covered: This word in Greek is not the word for ‘covered’ but is the word for ‘down’. This is not speaking about his head being bowed but is speaking about something coming down on his head. 

  • Dishonours his head: He is not showing subjection or giving evidence of submission. 

v5: Uncovered: This word is correctly translated here. 

Note: Men and women received two different teachings based upon this instruction (specific to this congregation). 

  • The same as if her head were shaved: A shaven head was a humiliation for the one whose head was shaved. 

v6: Shorn: Cut off. 

  • Shorn or shaved: Paul is not talking about secondary coverings (veils, hats etc) – these cannot be shorn or shaved off. He is very specifically talking about her hair. It was a disgrace for a woman to have all her hair cut off. 
  • Let her be covered: In this culture the emphasis was on the style – how a woman wore her hair.

v7: A man must not cover his head because he is the image and glory of G-d. A wife is the glory of her husband. In order to understand this, we need to understand the role of man and woman – this goes right back to the garden of Eden. 

v8: Woman from man: When G-d created the woman, he formed her from out of the man’s rib (Gen 2:20-23).

v9: G-d created man (Adam) independent of a woman (Eve). G-d saw that it was not good for man to be alone and so He created a woman in order to be a helpmate (helper) to her husband. A wife is created in order to be in subjection to her husband. This is not popular today, but this is G-d’s intended order. Eve was created for Adam. Adam wasn’t created for Eve. Adam was created in the image of G-d (Gen 1:26-27) – man is not G-d, but he is a copy/likeness of G-d. 

v10: An uncovered woman’s head shows a lack of authority. A covered head shows she is under authority. 

  • Because of the angels: Gen 6:2-4. In the days of Noah, fallen angels had children with human women. In Jewish literature these angels chose ungodly women who did not submit to G-dly authority – they were not in subjection to the Word or will of G-d. The enemy looks for spiritual rebellion – for those who do not put themselves under the right leadership, under subjection to the truth of G-d. This verse may be alluding to these fallen angels who are looking to use those who are opposed to the purposes of G-d. 

v11: Although there are significant differences between the role of the man and the role of a woman, they are not opposed to one another IN the L-rd. These differences are meant to complement each other and not cause conflict or separation between a couple. When a woman submits to her husband and her husband submits to the L-rd (His order, His purposes, His will, His authority etc) it is pleasing to the L-rd, it brings Him glory and it enables His work to be done on this earth. 

v12: In the past woman came out of the man (Eve came out of Adam). Now men exist because of women – they come out of their mothers.

  • All things are from (out of) G-d – G-d created us all, male and female (Gen 1:27). We are all under His authority. 

v13:  Judge for yourselves: Based upon what Paul has revealed in this section so far, he calls on us to make an evaluation and come to a right conclusion. 

  • Is it proper for a woman to pray to G-d with her head uncovered: The right answer to this is: NO. It is not good. 

v14: Nature: Paul is dealing with something that should be intrinsically known.

v15: Again, in these last two verses, we see a difference or a distinction between men and women. If a man had long hair it was dishonouring to him, if a woman had long hair, it was her glory. In that culture long hair on a man was considered disgraceful. Today that is not the case, so we do not need to be dogmatic about this. 1 Cor 11:16 allows for these verses to be translated from a cultural perspective, allowing for cultural changes. This passage was very specific to the Corinthian church in that day and age. 

  • Her hair is given to her as a covering: This confirms to us that this passage has been speaking about hair and not about secondary coverings – veils, hats etc. 

v16: This is a summary statement about the issue of head coverings. 

  • Contentious: Contentious people love strife. They love to stir the pot. This kind of behaviour is not pleasing to G-d. 
  • We have no such custom: Paul was giving the Corinthian church this instruction, but he said that if anyone wanted to be contentious about it to let them know that this is not a mandate that has been received for believers across the world. 
  • Nor do the churches of G-d: This instruction did not need to be followed by all the congregations but was an instruction given specifically to this Corinthian church. Why Corinth? Corinth was a very (sexually) immoral city. Being a port city, there were many prostitutes who lived in Corinth. Women of integrity in that day would wear their hair up on top of their head. Immodest women would wear their hair down (this is not true of women who wear their hair down today). Many people were getting saved in Corinth and this would have included these women of impropriety. 

Note: Long or short hair is permissible for women in today’s culture. Long or short hair is even permissible for men. We all have our own personal bias on these issues, but those are just our opinions. This verse is teaching us that this was not a custom to be applied to all the churches down the ages and it should never be an issue that causes contention or disunity between us. 

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