First of all the style and terminology used are difficult for modern readers to catch the intent of the author. And Paul is not being as straightforward as was wanted. Some believers wanted rules. As we know from elsewhere, Paul was not going to give a bunch of religious rules in the manner of the Old Covenant.
The church of the Corinthians was a bubbling pot of diversity and problems….. too closely associating with unbelievers , Christians suing each other, sexual immorality, lack of appreciation for church leaders, not understanding: … the nature of ministries, marriage, divorce and remarriage, right working of ministries and spiritual gifts, decorum, Christian charity and compassion, resurrection of the dead ….. etc.
The entire epistle to the Corinthians was to address the problems while bringing correction and compassion. Because of the mixture (Roman, Greek, Jewish, etc and commercial travelers) of cultures, correcting them was not an easy task.
A. The immediate context is 1 Cor. 10:23-31, which serves as a building up for specific corrections.
a. all things are lawful but all are not helpful or edifying
b. do not seek for your own best, but others as well
c. let your conscience be concerned for other’s consciences. We have liberty in Christ
d. whatever we do we must seek to honor God
e. seek NOT to offend other cultures (Jews or Greeks) or the body of Christ (possibly offending one offends the other)
f. seek NOT to personal profit but seek the profit of others for their spiritual well being
B. The secondary context is that Paul is addressing a series of problems:
a. Proper and improper decorum in assemblies 11:2-16
b. Abuse in the Lord’s Supper 11:17-34
c. Irregularities in the use of Spiritual gifts (manifestations/spirituals) 12-14
d. It is possible that they are somehow intertwined.
C. The fuller context is that in Chapters 5-6 Paul is writing concerning things he heard were going on in the church at Corinth. But in chapters 7-14, Paul was responding to questions and statements that the Corinthians wrote to him about.
a. 1 Cor. 7:1 “Now concerning things where you wrote unto me…”
b. 1 Cor. 8:1 “Now concerning things offered to idols…”
c. 1 Cor. 12:1 “Now concerning spiritual gifts…”
D. In order to have a better understanding of the intent and tone in chapter 11, we must consider how does decorum in speaking and disrespect in communion fit in with the rest of this section, and perhaps how does it lead up to his answers for spiritual gifts coming up in chapters 12-14
The Problem of Decorum of Speakers in the Assembly:
Meaning of verse 3:
A. not a list of hierarchies, but a chronological listing of events and relationships
B. the relationships revolved around respect and honor in which one of the two could be said to in some way be the origin, or the beginning, or the ‘principium’ (first, pre-eminent), or in some way the one through which the other proceeded or was brought forth ……
C. meaning of ‘head of’ (not head over) has been hotly disputed with many books and articles written about it. One group wants to claim the word kephale has only one meaning metaphorically, that of authority. But this is contrary to good understanding of languages. All words have a range of meanings according to how they are used in context. Kephale means the head on one’s shoulders. To my knowledge, in metaphor it is not used of authority except in the instance of a comparison of head and tail, the head being the leader and the tail being the follower.
a. Within this section (vs. 2-16) kephale is believed to be used a variety of ways rather than just one implied meaning throughout.
b. More on the wide range of meanings of kephale:
i. Literal head on shoulders with eyes, hair, etc.
ii. A wig or a headdress (common on those days)
iii. Source, origin, beginning….
iv. The life – such as putting one’s head on the chopping block, or head on the line…
v. End point, sum, conclusion
D. To view the Father as being authority of Son and not fatherly reduces the unity of the Trinity. This is the Arian heresy. The Athenasian Creed was written to bring the message to those not having copies of the NT writings that within the Trinity “the divine three are united in being, work, authority and will”. (Giles , pg 190 Jesus and the Father)
Headcoverings and hairstyles:
Paul dialogues in a somewhat sneaky style here, not being precise and upfront, but rather posing a series of questions to be answered.
A. In verse 3, Paul has established a picture of honor in relationship. Now in verse 4 he wishes to explore the cultural paradigms of shame-honor patterns. Both men and women are involved. Certain behaviors instead of bringing honor will bring shame.
a. Men having a covering is dishonoring — WHEN PRAYING!
i. There is no absolute certainty that this is only about a covering or only about men having long hair
ii. There is some discussion among scholars that there was a Roman practice of men wearing coverings while praying to their deities. It is possible that one meaning here is that the men should not appear to be practicing these practices.
iii. There is also some discussion that it may refer to men having fanciful hair because of the word komo, brought in further down in vs. 14-15.
b. Women not having a covering is dishonorable — WHEN PRAYING AND PROPHESYING (INCLUDING PREACHING)!
i. The Romans used hair in connection with the erotic. Untidy hair carried connotations of sexual encounters. Free flowing hair in some societies was indicative of immorality. In some writings it was found that cutting the hair made one undesirable in certain societies.
c. Hair is alluded to in verses 5, 14, 15, thus bringing in the question of hair length according to cultural norms.
d. The differentiation of the sexes is given as a consideration, thus men should yield to the local customs for men, and women yield to the local customs of women.
e. Inter-dependence of man and woman is alluded to in verses 3, 8-9, 11-12… man is source of woman in the beginning, but thereafter women are the source of all men. Which is a plug for respect and honor for men toward women as well as women toward men.
B. The problem of verse 10. (should be read in connection with vs. 7-12)
a. The Greek word aggelous means messenger. Whether the messengers are human or divine is to be determined by context. It could be either or both in this case. It also could be a reference to the fact that believers should not bring charges against one another because we are going to be the judges of the angels in the hereafter (chapt. 6).
b. The words ‘a symbol of’ are not in the Greek.
c. Thus a more accurate rendering of this verse is : “For this reason the woman ought to have (her own) authority upon her head because of the messengers”.
d. One of the reasons it is her own authority is because there is no possessive pronoun indicating another’s authority. This is basic Greek grammar.
e. “For this reason”, refers back to what is being said about dishonoring ones head (in the head of paradigm) so a woman needs to decide for herself what is the proper conduct in whatever circumstances she is in when praying and prophesying (including preaching) in public.
C. Verse 7 and ‘glory of’. (vs. 7-12 are one whole thought)
a. Doxa means esteem, glory, a sign of honor
b. eikOn means image, portrait, likeness, pattern, shadow, reflected image,
c. these two words bring relationality back into the picture
d. In creation the male is the first image or reflection of God through whom the woman is then born, who also images God while imaging the man. Woman is both the ‘other’ that God recreated from his side, that man could not live without, and reflects back to man what he is.
e. This verse emphasizes honor and relationship. What it does not do is say that only the man honors or images God.
f. It does say that there is a special glory, honor given to woman in that she images his esteem…. She gives him honor and glory because she came from/through him. Women is the ‘piece de resistance’ of humanity, the crowning glory, the finishing act. While it is true that the man came first and paved the way, it is also true that the woman brought completion and connectivity.
D. Judge in yourselves , va. 13-15…… is an invitation to decide each for themselves what is proper for him/her. Instead of Paul making a rule, he makes none. Paul puts forth questions but gives no decisive answers.
a. The word translated as long hair in vs. 14 and 15, is different here — komo. It means more than just hair length. See Ezek. 24:23 (in the Greek LXX it was used here). It is commonly translated as turbans (tires in ASV) (maybe a wreath) with implications of fanciness in ornamentation, dressed hair. It could be used of ornamentally arranged hair, which could be indicative of cross dressing for a man, but normal for a woman.
E. The final word in vs. 16 — still no new rules and a statement that seems quite dismissive of the entire argument. This closes the door on the validity of religious customs as something that must be observed or be in sin. Rather they are practices which each must decide on his own how to handle, for each will reap the rewards or wrath of those who hold to them.
a. Contentious , obstinate , argumentative, rivalrous = philoneikos (lit. fond conqueror)
b. No such. Some translations say “no other”, which is an interpretive change. Other and such are two different words with two different meanings.
Custom or practice— sunEtheian= customary usage.
is different from ethos which infers a custom, usage prescribed by law (Vines,
pg. 142). Using sunEtheian instead of ethos along with saying 'no such'
lends strength to the concept that headcoverings is all about cultural norms
and NOT something that should be a religious requirement for men or women. However,
it does not negate the significant questions that Paul has raised about
respecting and honoring one another, including wearing the culturally
appropriate attire when speaking to or for God in a public setting.
After reviewing all of this information, I’m wondering if there were some who were claiming that any type of attire should be acceptable, while Paul is trying to help them see that if someone is going to minister Christ in public prayer and prophesy (preaching/teaching), then that one needs to be NOT adverse to their acceptance. They need to respect and honor others so that others will be willing to hear them. It’s interesting that some scholars claim it’s primarily to the women, while others claim it is primarily to the men. This lends more to the idea that it is to both. Paul does seem to be calling both men and women to respect each other and not just the women to the men as has often been put forth.
Research books include: IVP Press 1 Cor. – A. Johnson, The Source NT- Nyland, Beyond Sex Roles- Bilzekian, What Paul Really Said About Women - Bristow, Community 101- Bilzikian, The First Epistle to the Corinthians – Thiselton, Jesus and the Father – Giles, and others