Very few passages are as difficult to interpret as 1 Cor. 11:2-16.

guy and girl reading

Almost every verse is touched by some kind of uncertainty.

For example, did men in Corinth actually “cover” their heads while praying and prophesying? How? Why? What was the practice in the church at large? What about the culture at large? Does Paul speak of men and women in general or only of husbands and wives? Does “covering” refer to hair or some kind of veil? If a veil, what was it like? How does a man glorify his “head”? How does he shame it? What about a woman? To what does her “head” refer– herself or her husband? Is man the “head” of woman or is he the “source” of woman? What does it mean for a woman to have “authority on her head”? How does that authority relate to angels? Who were the angels? Why were they concerned? What was the venue for praying and prophesying? Does a woman’s hair function “as a veil” or does it serve “as a substitute for a veil”? How does 1 Cor. 11:2-16 harmonize with other biblical passages involving gender?

Many of the preceding questions cannot be answered with a high degree of certainty. Answers to many of the others leave room for some doubt. The effect is to make 1 Cor. 11:2-16 into something of an “ink blot” exercise for entertaining one’s presuppositions rather than informing them.

A short post obviously cannot address the preceding questions comprehensively. It can, however, hit some of the high points that ought to be considered in putting together a coherent picture of the Corinthian situation. So the strategy for this post will be to provide some basic background, provide notes on major points using the previously identified questions as a framework, suggest a plausible reconstruction of what was going on between Paul and the disciples in Corinth, and finally, make an application for today.


For purposes of this post, the fundamental point in the history of Corinth is the distinction between the Greek city destroyed by the Romans in 146 B.C. and the one founded by Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.[1] It was the latter that St. Paul knew. That point is important because the question of whether Roman or Greek culture dominated St. Paul’s Corinth is significant to interpreting the use of veils by men and women in religious contexts.

In terms of biblical backgrounds, scholars generally think Paul founded the church at Corinth during an 18-month stay in the city around 51/52 C.E.[2] Based on that timing, they also think he wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus around 53/54 C.E. Paul’s “first” letter to the Corinthians is actually his second as evidence in 1 Cor. 5:9. His first letter has apparently been lost, although some scholars think it is preserved in 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1.[3]

In Paul’s day, Corinth was a thriving commercial center, being at the center of both east-west (Aegean-Adriatic Sea) and north-south (Achaia-Peloponnesus) commerce. It was also a cultural center with all the religious and philosophical influences common to First Century Greco-Roman culture.[4]


There are many ways to outline 1 Corinthians. Mitchell[5] sees the core being comprised of four proof sections: 1:18– 4:21; 5:1– 11:1; 11:2– 14:40; and 15:1– 57. Fee[6] divides the same core into two sections: one on Paul’s response to reports from Chloe’s people and the other on his response to a letter from the Corinthians. Barrett[7] follows the same approach except for adding Paul’s instructions on the collection (16:1-12) to the second part. Witherington[8] assigns the core plus Paul’s collection instructions to the probatio portion of a rhetorical speech– the probatio containing nine arguments, each dealing with a particular problem.[9] All of these outlines show Paul’s discourse in 11:2-16 as his response to just one of many problems in the Corinthian church– many of which may have been an over-zealous response to his own teachings.

Some scholars try to partition the letter into multiple sources based on changes in tone. Some specifically see 11:2-16 as an interpolation. Most see other reasons for changes in tone[10] and so believe the letter to be a single composition.


Cotterell and Turner outline the linguistic “kernels” of 11:2-16 as follows:[11]

text notes on 1 corinthians 11:2-16
Table 1
Click to enlarge


The quality of the text is good as evidenced by the rather inconsequential footnotes associated with the translation in Table 1. There are no significant textual issues to complicate interpretation. There are, however, a number of questions about what the text really means. For example…

How, why, and did men in Corinth (or in the church and culture at large for that matter) “cover” their heads while praying and prophesying? Greeks did not wear veils[12] in worship (or otherwise), but the Romans did when offering sacrifices, and that fact seems key to interpreting Paul’s insistence on the heads of males being uncovered before God in worship. Archaeological discoveries now show that in contemporary Roman society both males and females commonly covered their heads when making sacrifices to the gods.[13] The weight of recent scholarly opinion also sees Roman culture, not Greek, as dominant in Corinth during the time of St. Paul.[14] These considerations are important to understanding what Paul meant when referring to the “covering of the head.”

Does Paul speak of men and women in general or only of husbands and wives? Since the Greek words ἀνήρ and γυνή in 1 Cor. 11:2-16 do not differentiate between “husband” and “man” or between “wife” and “woman,” some scholars try to limit Paul to speaking only of husbands and wives, citing such things as 1 Cor. 15:29-36, where references to wives follow immediately after a discussion of prophecy.[15] Scholarly opinion, however, is in favor of “man” and “woman.”[16] Note that in vv.8, 12, and 14-15, ἀνήρ and γυνή cannot easily mean “husband” and “wife.”

Does “covering” mean hair or does it mean some kind of veil in vv.4-5? Some scholars believe the “covering” in these verses is actually hair, citing vv.14-15, where Paul does speak of hair as a covering. If so, then long hair on males in v.4 could have a homosexual dimension.[17] Other scholars believe Paul is talking about a piece of clothing. They see Paul citing nature in vv.14-15 as a sympathetic witness to the need for a female covering, not as a substitute solution. A reasonable person could go either way just looking at vv.4-5 only. Archaeological discoveries showing males and females sacrificing with heads covered would argue for a piece of clothing in vv.4-5.

How does a man or woman glorify or shame his or her “head”? Corinth had a shame-honor– based culture,[18] so it is not surprising to see these concepts emphasized. To glorify means to give honor or weight; e.g., “eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). In ancient Corinth, the attire of women reflected the status of their husbands, so a well-dressed wife could be said to glorify her husband. On the other hand, Paul may have been concerned that unveiled women (glorifying their husbands) or women with unbound hair (glorifying themselves) would distract men from worshipping God. If so, it is hard to see why his stipulations did not apply to all women instead of being limited to prophetesses.

To what does his or her “head” refer– oneself or another? “Bringing shame on her head” could mean a woman diminishes herself when praying with head uncovered or it could mean she brings shame on her husband. Likewise, a man praying with head covered could reflect back on the man or upon Christ who is his “head.” The latter in each case is more likely if parallelism is to be maintained with the idea of the male bringing glory to God by having his head uncovered– a fusion of vv.4 and 7. In the end though, there may not be much difference because in Corinthian culture, bringing shame on oneself also brought shame on one’s “relatives.”

Is man the “head” of woman or is he simply her “source”? The Greek word κεφαλὴ is troublesome, not because its typical translation (“head”) is that far off the mark, but because it has been the object of reinterpretation to serve a secular viewpoint. Feminists and others insist κεφαλὴ can also mean “source” and that it actually does carry that sense in 1 Cor. 11:2-16. The intent and result is to empty the passage of all its hierarchical implications. It also robs the adversative in v.11 of its power. Cotterell and Turner provide an extensive summary of the argument for “head” and find the feminist argument unconvincing.[19] Thiselton provides a ten-page summary of the pros and cons and sees the weight of scholarship going against the idea of “source.”[20]

What does it mean for a woman to have “authority on her head”? The range of interpretations for ἐξουσίαν (the underlying Greek word often translated as “authority) is broad. Some see wearing a veil as being the woman’s authority to pray and prophesy. Alternatively, it could also (1) symbolize a woman’s submission to the created order or (2) be a way of warding off the amorous glances of men or of angels. Others see ἐξουσίαν meaning that a woman, when praying or prophesying, must keep her hair under “control”[21]— the idea being that only disreputable women would let their hair hang loosely. The ambiguity of this verse is linked to the “hair/veil” issue and how ἐξουσίαν relates to angels. Roman culture viewed a woman’s veil as a protection (hence authority) against the unwanted attention of males.[22]

How does a woman having ἐξουσίαν on her head relate to angels? Paul mentions angels four times in 1 Corinthians; and in every case, they are connected with a problem.[23] A few scholars see the angels in v.10 as human messengers to church leaders. The implication is that the Corinthians should want to make a favorable impression on them. Most understand the angels as supernatural creatures. A major question is whether they are good or evil. In Paul’s day, evil angels were often thought to have sexual designs on females. Good ones were concerned with (1) looking out for their assigned human being (as with guardian angels) or (2) defending the created order. The last idea seems most likely. Scripture describes Christian worship as being in the presence of the heavenly host, which would include angels.

What is (are) the venue(s) for the praying and prophesying under consideration? To avoid apparent contradiction with 1 Cor. 14:34-35, some commentators propose that 11:2-16 do not deal with formal worship, whereas the 14:34-35 do. The passage in question (11:2-16) does come at the end of a thought that lies outside formal worship; but at the same time, it is also connected in terms of “traditions” with the Lord’s Supper in vv.17-34. The idea that 11:2-16 speak only of private gatherings goes only partway toward justifying female leadership during formal worship. To get around that, some commentators insist 14:34-35 are a latter addition, but the manuscript evidence argues otherwise.[24]

Does a woman’s hair serve “as a veil” or “as a substitute for a veil”? The Greek word in question, ἀντὶ, can mean “instead of” or it can mean “equivalent to.” The issue is whether (1) long hair is nature’s analog of the veil required of women when praying or prophesying or (2) nature gives long hair to females as a substitute. In the latter case, there would be no need for an additional piece of clothing. The whole discussion in vv.2-16 would be about women controlling their hair, not about veils. Fee offers the following arguments against the idea long hair is a substitute for a veil.[25] First, why are the earlier verses so ambiguous about the real problem– hair, not veils? Second, how does the contrast between male and female on hair length in vv.4-15 fit with the idea that the whole issue is for women to put their hair up. He also notes that περιβολαίου (“covering”) ordinarily refers to a garment.


Paul’s discourse on head coverings is one of eight major passages in the NT dealing with gender.[26] 1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:8-15 are of particular importance because they seem to contradict Paul’s apparent approval of female leadership in 11:2-16. Obsorne lays out five possible explanations.[27] (1) 1 Cor. 14:34-35 (and 1 Tim. 2:8-15) are non-Pauline.[28] (2) In 14:34-35, Paul took away what he acknowledged, but didn’t condone in 11:2-16. (3) The activities (prayer and prophecy) in 11:2-16 were different from the activity (teaching) proscribed in 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:8-15. (4) The activities in 11:2-16 were private while those in 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:8-15 are public. (5) The proscriptions in 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:8-15 are not applicable today because they addressed specific abuses in specific churches.

Other solutions are possible.[29] Sigountos and Shank see the answer in terms of females being willing to subordinate their rights to further the success of the gospel in a patriarchal culture.[30] This post takes a tack different from all of the above by recognizing that females did pray and prophesy in the NT church, but at the same time, challenging the popular presupposition that such leadership was normative. Male leadership really was the norm in the NT church; and for that reason, the most relevant question is to ask about the content of prophecies and prayers uttered by women in those non-normative situations where they did act as leaders. The answer should be clear. The messages and petitions of females could hardly deal with anything other than the need for male leadership– either directly or indirectly.

Armed with such messages, NT prophetesses were themselves compelling object lessons of their prophetic burdens. Under the circumstances, the only males who would have been provoked by their leadership would be deserving ones– and that by design! The sign of female authority to lead in such unusual cases was their veils, signs of submission to the created order in the midst of doing what would otherwise be perceived as a disruption of that order. At the same time, praying and prophesying with heads uncovered would be perceived as doing precisely that– revolting against the created order– something that would shock the angels in particular because they had witnessed the original rebellion. Add to that a possible, proto-Gnostic influence[31] in the background, holding femininity in low esteem and fueling the urge to throw off the limitations of femaleness.[32]

All of this makes easy and complete sense of 1 Cor. 11:2-16. Male leadership was the norm and Paul’s audience took that for granted– just as he did. In that light, the fact of females praying and prophesying with heads uncovered did not presuppose that praying and prophesying with heads covered was normative as commonly asserted today. Instead, it highlighted the uncovered heads of female prophets for what they truly signified– a disdain for the sign that allowed them to lead under very limited circumstances. In casting off that sign, they laid claim to the right to lead at any time for any reason.

So “with heads uncovered” functioned instrumentally in terms of the grammar in vv.2-16 and also instrumentally in practice for the Corinthian prophetesses.[33] Uncovering the head was their “instrument” to claim the right to lead on par with males. So when Paul asked his readers whether they thought it was proper for a woman to pray with head uncovered, he was really asking them whether it was proper for a woman to lead outside the narrow permissions the veil signified.

In regard to males, when Paul talked about glory rebounding to them and to their Head when they prayed and prophesied with head uncovered,[34] he was talking about men responding to their God-ordained duty as leaders in imitation of Christ, not simply about following clothing conventions. At the same time, he also addressed men who would pray and prophesy as women (signifying those who failed to lead as Christ) in terms of shaming themselves and shaming Christ in backing away from His calling.[35]

The relational model in Eph. 5:22-32 could not have been far from Paul’s mind. A man glorifies Christ by acting out the self-sacrificing leadership described in Ephesians[36]— something a woman simply cannot do directly. Instead, she glorifies Christ by “glorifying” (submitting to) her husband’s Christ-like example. In contrast, men with heads covered (not leading) and women with heads uncovered (not following) would be a repudiation of that model– the epitome of an effeminate community– a shame to themselves and their respective heads.

In vv.14-15, nature itself weighs in on the side of male leadership by covering the female with long hair and thereby making the same point as the veil in the preceding verses. Paul’s point– female leadership is not normative in nature either.


Paul’s discourse in 1 Cor. 11: 2-16 cannot be easily applied without tackling the whole issue of gender. Traditional, rule-based approaches to the “gender consciousness” of scripture carry little weight with most people today. A better way is to sidestep legalism and tradition in preference for valuing gender in terms of its harmony with the created order. Preliminary points for taking that tack include the following:

Meaning comes from mind– either the mind of God or the mind of man. Gender is the meaning of being male and female. The image of God in man was corrupted in the Fall, but it was redeemed by Christ. That corruption[37] and its subsequent redemption included gender. So the question for Christians is the meaning God places on male and female, not the meanings a fallen mankind places on sexuality. Scripture gives us God’s meaning. People may be hostile toward that meaning (1) because of culture or (2) because of real hostility toward the creation and its Creator. The former need instruction. The latter need repentance.

The challenge of civilization is to invest males in the service of women and children. Scripture speaks directly to males[38] because they are the “hard cases” that test the strength of social institutions. Society orders the lives of women as a byproduct of its ordering of men’s lives. The reverse is not true.

Psychological, sociological, and biological factors combine to make male leadership normative in human society. The absence of male leadership in any endeavor signifies (1) the endeavor is perceived as feminine, (2) males are being discriminated against, (3) males are hostile or indifferent to the associated social institution, (4) there is no hierarchy, or (5) the hierarchy is not valued by males. The church has become a hierarchy that is not valued by males. “Biblical” feminism makes the problem worse. But the church is simply following the pattern of Western society in general. Both are becoming increasingly effeminate. Both face an Islamic threat that is not confused about the meaning and worth of masculinity and femininity.

People (especially young people) have a gender “hunger” that must be satisfied. In a society that denies gender, young people will make up their own meanings for sexuality with disastrous results. The church is especially equipped (historically, theologically, experientially) to answer questions about the meaning of sexuality.

All of the above is complicated and obscured by the widespread impression that Christ came to do away with gender distinctions. The passage most often cited in support is Gal. 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gender egalitarians absolutize this verse to proclaim radical equality between the sexes– in other words, all scripture is made to serve a perceived idea of gender equality in the passage. The context of Gal. 3:28, however, shows the equality envisioned is limited to the idea of inheritance, with v28 being framed by the thought in v26 (“you are all sons of God through faith”) and the thought in v29 (“you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise”). This limitation becomes unmistakable by noting the disadvantaged side (Greeks, slaves, and females) lacked inheritance rights. Under Jewish law, they did not inherit, but “in Christ” they do; and that was Paul’s limited point in Gal. 3:28– not radical equality of the sexes.[39]

Nevertheless, pressure to subordinate all of scripture to an absolutist understanding of Gal. 3:28 is intense, even among conservative Christians. So a wise approach should begin by asking simple questions. Does the fact of being male and female mean anything? Most people are not willing to say the most compelling feature of human existence really has no meaning. From there, the next step is to discuss how the meaning of being male and female should be realized in the family, church, and larger society.

A major task will be to undermine confidence in the secular world’s approach to gender. Gender denial and confusion have overwhelming pathologies– so overwhelming that only rich people and rich nations can afford to be confused about the meaning of being male and female. They are at the heart of the malaise that brings cultures and societies to an end. That is true of Western culture today. At this very moment, no Western nation is reproducing itself sufficiently to ensure its continued existence.[40] A similar problem exists in the spiritual realm. People are having fewer children, but they are also having less success in passing on their values to the children they do have.[41]

The church’s response to all of this should be to highlight the secular world’s failed approach to gender. Christians need to live out a thoughtful and compelling biblical alternative to the alienation and domination that so characterize relationships between the sexes. The church must be the contrast community God called it to be. It should affirm gender (the meaning of being male and female) clearly and consistently so that when its members read 1 Cor. 11:2-16, they will have a powerful and positive emotional responses (1) to the image of men leading families and church and (2) to the image of women responding to their leadership.

To that end, the “Big Ideas” in applying 1 Cor. 11:2-16 are…

  • The passage is not just about women[42]— it is also about men.
  • Righteousness is not about rules, but about right relationships– including relationships between the sexes.
  • Right relationships between male and female often means making distinctions. Paul used the presence or absence of head coverings to symbolize the stance of men and women toward the relational model in Eph. 5:22-32.
  • Paul may have intentionally made a distinction between male and female where none had previously existed.[43] In any case, he grounded those distinctions in creation theology. In doing so, he seems to have diagnosed gender confusion as a Corinthian problem and to have prescribed and perhaps modified a cultural practice as a cure.
  • Making distinctions where none previously existed is just the opposite of modern-day impulses. The present-day stance of many men and women toward gender distinctions is ignorance, confusion, or hostility. Gender roles have been inverted– men stand before God with “covered heads” and women stand “uncovered.”
  • In a fallen creation, doing the right thing is a hard thing to do.[44] God calls men to lead and women to follow. Neither will find that calling altogether easy.
  • Men need to take off their veils and step up to the calling of God in Christ as leaders of family and church.
  • Failing that, women should put on their veils and call men to their Christian duty.


historeo.comhistoreo 2


Barrett, C. K. A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Harper’s New Testament Commentaries. New York: Harper & Row, 1968.

Cotterell, Peter, and Max Turner. Linguistics and Biblical Interpretation. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1989.

Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987.

Foh, Susan T. “What Is the Woman’s Desire?” Westminster Theological Journal 37 (Spring 1975): 376-83.

Freedman, D. N., ed. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1996 (electronic edition). S.v. “Corinth,” by J. Murphy-O’Connor.

Friberg, Timothy and Barbara. Analytical Greek New Testament. Electronic Edition, 1997.

House, H. Wayne. “A Biblical View of Women in the Ministry– Part 3: The Speaking of Women and the Prohibition of the Law.” Bibliotheca Sacra. 145 no. 578 (April 88): 142-161.

Hurd, J.C. The Origin of 1 Corinthians. London: S.P.C.K., 1965.

Isaksson, A. “Marriage and Ministry in the New Temple: A Study with Special Reference to Mt. 19:3-12 and 1 Cor. 11:3-16.” Acta seminarii neotestamentici upsaliensis. 24 Lund (1965): 166. Quoted in Fee.

Hoch, C.B. Jr. “The Role of Women in the Church: A Survey of Current Approaches.” Grace Theological Journal. 8 no. 2 (1987): 241-251.

Mitchell, M. M. “1 Corinthians: Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation.” Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago. 1989. Quoted in Freedman.

O’Connor, J. Murphy. “Sex and Logic in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 42 (1980): 482-500.

Osborne, Grant R. “Hermeneutics and Women in the Church.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 10 no. 4 (December 1977): 338-352.

Oster, R.E. “Use, Misuse and Neglect of Archaeological Evidence in Some Modern Works on 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 7:1-5; 8:10; 11:2-16; 12:14-26),” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 83 (1992): 52-73. Quoted in Thiselton.

Scroggs, Robin. “Paul: Chauvinist or Liberationist?” The Christian Century. 891 (March 15, 1972): 307

Sigountos, James G. and Myron Shank. “Public Roles for Women in the Pauline Church: A Reappraisal of the Evidence.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 26 no. 3 (September 1978): 284-296.

The New American Standard Bible. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1986.

The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990.

Thiselton, Anthony C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000.

Weeks, Noel. “Of Silence and Head Coverings.” Westminster Theological Journal. 35, no. 1 (Fall 1972): 22-29.

Witherington, Ben. Conflict & Community: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.


interlinear notes on 1 corinthians 11:2-16
Click to enlarge


[1] Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000) 801.

[2] See Acts 18.

[3] D.N. Freedman, ed. The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 19961996 (electronic edition)). S.v. “Corinth,” by J. Murphy-O’Connor.

[4] Ibid.

[5] M.M. Mitchell, “1 Corinthians: Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation” (Ph.D. diss., Chicago, 1989), 2.

[6] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987)

[7] C.K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Harper’s New Testament Commentaries (New York: Harper & Row, 1968)

[8] Ben Witherington, Conflict & Community: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995)

[9] Witherington apparently sees Paul’s instructions on the collection as an answer to a problem or misunderstanding.

[10] Freedman.

[11] Peter Cotterell and Max Turner, Linguistics and Biblical Interpretation (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 318-319.

[12] Throughout this post, the word “veil’ refers to a covering for the head, not the eyes.

[13] Oster, R.E. “Use, Misuse and Neglect of Archaeological Evidence in Some Modern Works on 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 7:1-5; 8:10; 11:2-16; 12:14-26),” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 83 (1992): 52-73. Quoted in Thiselton, 805.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Wayne H. House, “A Biblical View of Women in the Ministry—Part 3: The Speaking of Women and the Prohibition of the Law,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 145 no. 578 (April 88): 154.

[16] Thiselton, 822.

[17] J. Murphy O’Connor, “Sex and Logic in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 42 (1980): 483-487.

[18] Thiselton, 809.

[19] Cotterell, 141-145.

[20] Thiselton, 812-822.

[21] A. Isaksson. “Marriage and Ministry in the New Temple: A Study with Special Reference to Mt. 19:3-12 and 1 Cor. 11:3-16,” Acta seminarii neotestamentici upsaliensis, 24 Lund (1965): 166. Quoted in Fee.496.

[22] J. C. Hurd, The Origin of 1 Corinthians, (London: S.P.C.K., 1965), 182-4.

[23] 1 Cor. 4:9; 6:3; 11:10; and 13:1

[24] Robin Scroggs, “Paul: Chauvinist or Liberationist?,The Christian Century 891 (March 15, 1972): 307

[25] Fee, 528.

[26] 1 Cor 11:2-16; 14:34-35, Gal. 3:26-29, Eph. 5:22-33, Col. 3:18-19, 1 Tim. 2:8-15, Titus 2:1-5, and 1 Pet. 3:1-7.

[27] Grant R. Osborne, “Hermeneutics and Women in the Church,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 10 no. 4 (December 1977): 344-345.

[28] The letters to Timothy were not written by Paul and 1 Cor 14:34-35 are an interpolation.

[29] Hoch sees three fundamental approaches: nonevangelical egalitarian, evangelical egalitarian, and hierarchicalist. See C. B. Hoch, Jr., “The Role of Women in the Church: A Survey of Current Approaches,” Grace Theological Journal, 8 no. 2 (1987): 241-251.

[30] James G. Sigountos and Myron Shank, “Public Roles For Women In The Pauline Church: A Reappraisal Of The Evidence,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 26 no. 3 (September 1978): 294.

[31] Gnosticism was once thought to be a Christian development, but evidence now shows it to have been developing prior to the advent of Christianity. Gnostics believed humans exist as divine sparks trapped in evil matter. They divided humanity into classes of people based on the apprehension of that “knowledge.” In Gnosticism, women were at a particular disadvantage because they represented the very means (childbirth) whereby divine sparks became entrapped in an evil material world. Salvation for them meant becoming male.

[32] Under Gnostic influence, casting off veils would signal more than just the equality of females with males—it would indicate assumption of masculinity in response to the common Gnostic belief that salvation for females meant becoming male.

[33] Noel Weeks, “Of Silence and Head Coverings,” Westminster Theological Journal 35, no. 1 (Fall 1972): 27.

[34] Most commentators overlook the fact that Paul’s directions are not just limited to women. See Thiselton, 800.

[35] Note how the inversion of roles between Deborah and Barak in Judges parallels the problem of uncovered women and covered men in 1 Cor. 11:2-16. The author of Judges artfully uses the confused social conditions under the judges to make the case for kingship. A big part of the confusion (then and now) involved gender.

[36] The “acting out” of theological realities is common in Christianity; e.g., in baptism, the believer “acts out” the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

[37] In Genesis, the woman’s “desire” for her husband in 3:16 is grammatically identical except for tense to sin’s desire to master Cain in 4:7. Genesis is therefore the primordial “source story” for the conflict between male and female throughout history. The female will seek to master her husband, but he will rule over her. See the excellent article by Susan T. Foh, “What Is the Woman’s Desire?” Westminster Theological Journal 37 (Spring 1975): 376-83.

[38] For example, when Paul talks about circumcision in Gal. 5:3, he does so without signaling any change in his target audience, thereby showing men to be his focus.

[39] Note that 1 Cor.12:13 is parallel to Gal. 3:28 but omits any reference to male-female equality—possibly a sign that Paul does not want to further aggravate the zealous, but mistaken response of the Corinthians to his earlier teaching on the new relationship between male and female in Christ.

[40] In terms of native-born citizens.

[41] Western culture has a large strand of self-loathing because when people become confused about the nature of God, they also become confused about their own nature.

[42] Nevertheless, they are the focus of the passage.

[43] If so, it would have been prior to the writing of 1 Corinthians since Paul took for granted the Corinthians understood the gender distinctions he made.

[44] Rom. 5:17.

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2 Comments on 1st Corinthians 11:2-16

  1. Personally, I do not believe that 1 Corinthians 11: 3-16 is a difficult passage. In fact, I believe that Paul makes a very coherent and ingenious argument as to why women should not be veiled. This is because I believe that this passage consists of three parts. They are as follows:

    Verse 3 – Paul’s model where the figurative meaning of head is “source”.
    Verses 4-6 – Paul quotes a faction of men who wrote him. (Note: The men made a literal head argument which is why Paul gives his model with the figurative meaning of head.)
    Verses 7-16 – Pauls rebuttal where he refers back to his model.

    I would also like to say that there are two reasons why I believe that verses 4-6 are quoted. The first reason is that Jesus Christ (not man) is the image and glory of God. Paul, in verse 7, is referring back to his model to a man’s figurative head, and is using Jesus Christ as a correlation as to why women should not be veiled. And the second reason why I believe that verses 4-6 are quoted is because the rebuttal portion completely contradicts the quoted portion. One must look at the actual Greek to discover this because the translators have added words in the rebuttal portion that are not in the original Greek in an attempt to harmonize it with the quoted portion. However, no words need to be added because Paul is disputing their words. So I believe that Paul has placed the men’s words in between his model and rebuttal to explain exactly why women are not to be veiled. Anway, this is just what I believe. If you would like to see more on this you can visit my website. God bless and take care.

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