1 CORINTHIANS 11:3-16  


Verse 3

1. But I want you to know:

A. want: thelo, which indicates here the desire to communicate information to the Corinthians which is designed to free them up concerning their legalism.

B. To know: oida, perfect active infinitive is used to indicate the possession of vital information, functional in the soul to cultivate success and consistency in the Christian way of life.


2. That Christ is the head over every man:

A. Christ: the Messiah (anointed one) who is the "one Lord" of 1 Cor. 8:6.

B. head: kephalā used to indicate superior rank, and the one who has absolute authority over another.

C. The man: obviously refers to the believer in this context. Although God has "creator" authority over all mankind (Acts 17:28), the issue here is the "spiritual" authority that Christ has over those who are His.

1. The believer answers to Christ with regard to his life.
2. So does the woman, for that matter.
3. But there is another link in this chain. In a Christian marriage, the woman answers to her man with regard to the morality of life.

4. There are many forms of authority that "man" must answer to in the sphere of God's moral design for the whole human race.

5. But in the realm of spiritual life, they both answer ONLY to God.

3. And the man is the head over the woman:

A. This authority is limited to the realm of God's moral design.

B. The man has authority over his wife (and daughters until they are married), but has no personal authority over any other woman.

C. This principle of authority does not affect the spiritual life of either the man or the woman, but it does enter into the spiritual realm as per 1 Tim. 2:9-15.
Ie, in a local church environment, the woman is not to teach or have a position of authority over the man.


4. And God (The Father) is the head of Christ.

A. This is in the context of the incarnation. Philip. 2:6-8

B. Prior to the incarnation, the "Word" was with God and was God (John 1:1).

C. But through the incarnation, the "Word" became totally subordinate to the plan of the Godhead as represented with God the Father being the one in authority.

D. Thus we find at John 8:29, "I do always those things that are pleasing to Him."

E. And at Philip. 2:8, "He humbled Himself by becoming obedient."

F. This chain of command within the Godhead is mentioned at 1 Cor. 8:6.

5. Paul's purpose in this passage is to teach the principle of moral and spiritual authority in order to offset not only some serious legalism that had crept into the Corinthian church, but also to combat the abuse and misuse of the spiritual gift of tongues (1 Cor. 14:34-35).

Background to this passage.

1. In the New Testament times, among both Greeks and Romans, reputable women wore a veil in public as an indication that they were "morally" submissive to a man. To appear without it was an act of bravado or worse.

2. The only ones who dared do such a thing was a rebellious slave or a prostitute.

3. Because of this custom, a vein of legalism had crept into the Corinthian church that required the women to wear a veil in public and made it a "spiritual" issue.

4. A social custom became a spiritual standard and this always abuses true spiritual freedom in Christ.

5. Paul will present the divine viewpoint concerning the custom and the moral authority the custom was designed to portray.

6. The veil was used to indicate an honorable place in society for the woman.

A. The only ones excluded from such honor were slaves and prostitutes.

B. The veil was used to indicate the woman's subordinate position in society.
It represented response to authority.

1. A slave had no rights in society.
2. A prostitute was an outcast of society.
3. A veil on a woman indicated freedom as she complied with society's rules.

7. The "grace" ladies of the church had long ago rejected the custom, knowing that the issue of honor was on the inside. And they had recognized that long hair was the true symbol of the woman's glory and honor as she submitted to God's rules.

Verse 4

1. Every man: Applies to all believing men with special focus on the local church assembly at Corinth.

2. Praying: proseuchomai (present middle participle) refers here to public prayer.

3. Or prophesying: prophāteuo (present active participle) means to teach or proclaim doctrinal content either contemporary or prophetic in nature.

4. Having: echo (present active participle) indicates a physical appearance attendant with his worship activity.

5. (something) down over: preposition, kata plus the genitive to indicate a physical device that accomplishes a "covering" of the head.

6. The head: This refers to his literal head and encompasses anything that fits the description; a veil, a hood, long hair.

7. Disgraces his head: kataischuno (present active indicative)

A. The head, uncovered, is a sign of the man's authority in society.

B. When the the head is covered, the sign is hidden.

C. When the sign of "proper" authority is hidden, it is not long before the proper "function" of authority is lost to that society.

D. Thus, the moral structure God designed to preserve stability and freedom in society slowly slips away.

E. For the man to "hide" his sign of authority is a disgrace to that authority; a disgrace to his head ship.

F. When the men of society uniformly reject the "sign" of their authority, it paves the way for the abuse and misuse of that authority and the loss of various freedoms in that society.

Verse 5

1. But every woman: contrast to indicate a distinct difference in what symbolizes the divine authority structure for men and women.

2. Who prays: public prayer

3. Or prophesies: teaching other women in a public worship format.
(1 Tim. 2:9-15; Titus 2:3-4)

4. With the head: literal head

5. Not covered-down: akatakaluptos

A. kata = down
B. kaluptos = covered
C. a = not.
D. Thus, something covering the head; a veil, a hood or something.

6. Disgraces her head: kataischuno (present active indicative).

A. The covering on the head is a sign of her proper submission to authority.

B. It is a sign of her role as responder within the moral design of society.

C. For the believer, it is a sign of accepting God's design for both her moral and spiritual life.

D. When she is "uncovered" she is just like the man, hiding the sign of her proper role in God's moral design for the human race.

E. This takes her out of her place and presents her as abnormal and is therefore a disgrace to her.

F. Furthermore, as with the man, when the "symbol" is covered, it is not long before the "function" is distorted and corrupted.

7. For: gar, introduces an explanation of why it is a shame to be "uncovered."

8. It is one and the same with the one whose head is shaved.

A. Shaved: xzurao, means to have the head shaved.
There were occasions when prostitutes, run away slaves and even adulteresses would be shaven as those who had shamelessly disgraced themselves in society.

B. These types had rejected some aspect of moral (or societal) authority and were thus deprived of that "natural" honor that is theirs by birth; their hair.

C. Paul is here echoing the attitude of the legalists who were contending that the woman who did not where a veil was portraying herself as a prostitute.

D. As they are hearing this read, they are smiling and saying, "amen" thinking that they are receiving necessary support from the apostle Paul.

E. But their joy is short lived as Paul will end up rebuking them and totally discrediting their legalistic custom.

Verse 6, Paul continues in his apparent support of the legalists.

1. For if a woman be not covered: katakalupto (present passive indicative) used to indicate the wearing of a "man-made" veil of some kind.

2. Let her also be sheared: keiro (aorist middle imperative) indicates cutting the hair very very short, but not the same as shaven.

3. But if: 1st class condition "if" to indicate the social stigma that is truly associated with having the hair sheared off.

4. It is disgraceful: aischros, means ugly, shameful, base, disgraceful

5. For a woman to be sheared: keiro (aorist passive infinitive)

6. Let her be covered: katakalupto in the present passive imperative, indicates an either or situation; veiled or shaven.

7. Again, the legalists are hearing what they want to hear.

V. 7-15 - Paul amplifies the authority structure and exposes the legalism of requiring the women to wear a veil.

Verse 7

1. For: gar explains the statement in v. 4 concerning the man who has his head covered.

2. Ought not to have his head covered:

A. Ought not: opheilo (present active indicative) indicates obligation according to a design or pattern. In this case it will be shown to be God's natural design inherent in creation.

B. head covered: katakalupto (aorist middle infinitive) indicates something down over the head such as a veil, a hood, long hair.

3. Since he exists: huparcho (present active participle) used as a causal participle to indicate the basis for the previously mentioned action.

4. In the image: eikon = likeness, form, appearance.

A. This refers to the image of God mentioned at Gen. 1:26-27.

B. According to Gen. 9:6, this image was NOT lost at the fall, but mankind in general continues to exist in that image.

C. According to James 3:9, mankind in general is still viewed as possessing this "created" image of God.

D. And here as well, the statement of fact that "man" (not Adam) EXISTS right now in the image of God, indicates there was no loss of that image at the fall.

E. Accordingly, the fall of man did not accomplish any loss of the "created image" of God in Adam and Ishah. That would also suggest that the "created image" of God has nothing to do with "character" but rather with the "physical" structure of the Godhead.

5. And glory: doxa is the real focus of the passage as it indicates a reflection of

God's authority over the man.

A. Man's place in this earth is to bring honor and glory to God.

B. But man does this ONLY as he recognizes and follows God's standards for both moral and spiritual living.

C. Since it is man's purpose to reflect God's design, it is a shame for him to appear and act in a way that detracts from that design.

D. Thus, man should not have the "sign" of his function in God's plan as the reflector of divine authority obstructed in any way.

E. And that "sign" is an uncovered head, or more specifically, a head that has nothing hanging "down over" it.

6. And the woman is the glory of the man:

A. Notice, "image" is not mentioned.

1. That is because, since the woman came from the man and was "built" in the same mold as the man, then she too is in the image of God.

2. There is no basis for suggesting that ONLY the man was created in the image of God.

3. The summary at Gen. 1:26-27 indicates, "male and female created He them."
Both are created in the image of God.

B. Now although, the woman is created in the image of God and as a member of the human race, functions with the same responsibility to bring honor and glory to God, she does this within a "moral" context of subordination to the man's authority.

1. As she responds to his authority, to his character and to his love, she reflects that character and love in her own life.

2. This applies to both a daughter in the home and a wife.

3. You should be able to tell a woman (girl) who is resting under the authority of the moral design that God created for the human race.

4. She is the glory of that man. As she lives out her life (trusting God) she showcases the character of the man in her life, whether it is Daddy or her husband.

5. This is what Peter is talking about at 1 Pet. 3:5-6.

6. Proverbs 12:4, "a woman of character is the crown (glory) of her husband."

V. 8-12 Parenthetical to explain in more detail the relationship between the man and the woman.

Verse 8

1. For the man is not out from the woman: This refers to the original creation of Adam.

2. But the woman is out from the man: The creation of the woman from the rib of Adam as related at Gen. 2:18-25.

3. This establishes the principle of authority by preeminence in creation.
The original authority structure: Gen. 2:7-25

A. V. 7, The man was created first: 1 Tim. 2:13; 1 Cor. 11:8
This make him by "position" the one in authority.

B. V. 15, man was responsible for maintenance and protection in the garden.

1. Cultivate: Abhad = to serve it. In this context it means to manage the moral structure within the garden which involves authority over the animal kingdom. V. 19-20

2. Guard: shAmar refers to preservation of light standards, Ie, to protect from darkness infiltration. This indicates that He was informed of the Satanic rebellion and the dangers that existed from Satan.

3. Thus, Adam was morally and spiritually the one in authority.
It can be designated as his "rulership" responsibility.

C. V. 18, Marriage was designed for him.

1. Woman created for the man: 1 Cor. 11:9 (Prime benefactor)
The woman is a "secondary" benefactor as she functions under the umbrella of a man with integrity.

2. Woman was created from the man: Gen. 2:21-22 (man is the source)

3. Gen. 2:22, God brought her to the man. (man is the recipient)

4. This makes him PHYSICALLY the one one in authority.

a. The man's responsibility was to perpetuate his "rulership"
responsibility in the garden in reference to the woman.

b. His personal responsibility was "initiation" in their physical relationship.

c. The woman's "response" factor was basically passive in their physical relationship.

D. Before the fall, a mutual inter-relationship of equality existed within the garden's perfect environment with no human viewpoint or sin to mar the blessing of the "one flesh unit."

E. Accordingly, the only need for authority activity was in the area of serving and guarding the garden and in the natural area of conducting his relationship with the woman.

Verse 9

1. For in addition, man was not created for (because of) the woman:

A. For: dia + accusative to indicate reason, ie, because of

B. It was the man who was "alone" and needed the "partner, corresponding to him."

2. But the woman for (because of) the man:

A. Gen. 2:18, not good for the man to be alone.
B. Gen. 2:18, I will make a helper for him.
C. Gen. 2:22, Yahweh brought her to the man

3. Man is the prime benefactor and the woman, the secondary benefactor as she reaps the blessings from the design that God created.

Verse 10 The symbol of authority

1. Because of this: The design of authority between the man and the woman.

2. The woman ought: opheilo (present active indicative) indicates the necessity of action to reflect knowledge and acceptance of the authority structure.

3. To have: echo (present active infinitive) further indicates the possession of some kind of symbol or token to demonstrate what is in the soul.

4. Authority on her head: This is referring to a "symbol" of authority

5. On her head: the symbol of authority is her long hair. The hair is a sign that she recognizes and accepts divine design for the authority structure created for the human race.

6. Such acceptance entails all the factors involved with marriage and paves the way for the greatest "human" happiness there is.

7. But we must always remember that just as it is with all symbols and types and rituals, they become meaningless without the reality in the soul.

8. Furthermore, without that reality in the soul, it often happens that the "overt" symbol or ritual is given greater value than the doctrinal truths it is designed to reflect.

9. Because of the angels: This gives us a reason for the woman's consistent obedience to the principle that she needs a "symbol" of authority upon her head.

A. In the process of the angelic conflict and Satan's attempt to prevent the Messiah from coming into the world as true humanity, there occurred the angelic infiltration of Gen. 6:1-4. (See Commentary)

B. There was a very large group of angels who followed Satan and his charisma, rather then pursing the truth of the kingdom of Light.

C. Several of these were employed by Satan to attempt the infiltration of the human race and corrupt the human gene pool and in so doing, frustrate God's plan of redemption for the human race. This is recorded at Gen. 6:1-4

D. The result was the existence of creatures with a mixed gene pool, possessing both "angelic" and human DNA. These were called the nephilim at Gen. 6:4.

E. The angels were judged and placed in the abyss to await their final placement in the lake of fire. 1 Pet. 3:18-20; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6

F. The ability for this to happen again was permanently prevented and angels are now viewed as possessing no sexual "function" at all. Mat. 22:30

G. It is important to note that this infiltration was possible because of the maximum sinfulness of the people. Especially, the females had totally rejected divine design for sex and had accepted every type of distortion; other females, animals, self and finally became object of the angels' evil scheme.

H. The wearing of long hair, therefore, in view of this historical incident, portrays several other significant associations.

1. A sign of her response to divinely designed authority.

2. A sign of her dedication to one man in God's design for marriage.

3. A sign to her that deviation from this design resulted in the angelic infiltration of the past and the serious results.

4. It is also a reminder of God's grace in judging the angels and correcting the problem through the flood.

5. A sign to the angels:

a. To the fallen angels: a reminder of God's judgment, on those involved and the ultimate judgment of the lake of fire on all spiritual rebels.

b. To the UN-fallen angels: A teaching aide about God's justice, wisdom and power; and His protection of His creatures from that which would destroy them.

V. 11-12 The concept of mutual dependence between the man and the woman.

V. 11

1. However, in the Lord: This means according to divine design.

2. The woman is not apart from the man, nor the man apart from the woman.

A. The authority that man has over the woman is not to be a tyranny, but a relationship of mutual fulfillment and happiness.

B. Even though the authority is vested in the man, divine design is for him to use that authority for the benefit of the wife and the relationship as a whole.

C. God's design is fantastic happiness and fulfillment for the husband and wife, but they must depend on each other to enjoy that design.

V. 12 Explanation

1. For just as the woman is out from the man: Original creation in Gen. 2.

2. Even so also, the man is through the woman: refers to physical birth.

3. Thus there is a mutual interdependence from the very beginning that should be recognized throughout society and especially within Christian society, that ascribes "equal honor" one to the other. This mutual interdependence should cultivate humility within each gender concerning the mutual blessing that results from Divine design.

4. And all things originate from God: All the grace provisions for the human race, that there might result a degree of freedom, stability and happiness in life.

A. Specifically, the two grace provisions mentioned in this verse and pertinent to the institution of marriage.

B. The mother and the right woman.
The man depends on both during the course of his life.

1. The mother is the key for teaching true sensitivity and respect for the women of society.

2. And in marriage, the man's "helper" fulfills the happiness design of God's plan and builds a foundation for perpetuating the pattern to their children.

3. The mother prevents the little boy from growing up to be an animal.

4. And the wife cultivates his integrity and helps protect him from animalistic temptations.

C. The same principle applies for the woman and her father and then the woman and her husband.

V. 13 Appeal to their logic which is currently distorted by human viewpoint.

1. Discern among yourselves: krino (aorist active imperative). This is an appeal for them to apply some common sense in view of the facts presented.

2. Is it proper: according to standards of divine morality.

3. For a woman to pray (in public) to God uncovered?
akatakaluptos = without a covering down over her head.

A. They think he is talking about a veil.

B. Accordingly, they will agree with his rhetorical question.

C. But he will quickly turn the tables on them and establish the fact that it is the woman's long hair which functions as a veil and fulfills the sign and preserves the propriety of respect for authority.

4. The result is that it is NOT proper for a woman to pray (in public) with her head uncovered, that is, with short hair.

5. Short hair on the woman is indication that she is ignorant of, or rejecting the divine design for her within society and in relation to her husband.

6. Being uncovered indicates that she has rejected God's authority and God's design.

A. What authority and what design?

B. The authority and design stated at v. 10, "a woman ought to have authority on her head."

7. Remember, it is always what is on the inside that is the issue. But what is on the inside will eventually and in fact, must, express itself on the outside.


V. 14-15 Paul appeals to God's design in nature to make his point.

They are finding themselves in agreement with Paul and are getting ready to distribute the veils all around.

v. 14

1. Does not even nature itself:

A. Nature: phusis = the natural order or design or function of the human race.

B. Nature here focuses on the life-function of the man and the woman.

C. It does not refer to nature in the other life forms.

D. Does not even (nature) the natural design and function of the man and woman - -

2. Teach you: didasko (present active indicative)

A. Nature does not teach you directly about long/short hair.

B. Nature teaches you God's designed function for man and woman.

C. The man is the stronger vessel; the woman is the weaker vessel (1 Pet. 3:7).

D. The man is in authority over the woman;
the woman is in submission to the that authority.

E. The man initiates; the woman responds.

F. Natural design includes what God's word reveals with regard to creation.

1. Man was created first. Gen.2:18; 1 Cor. 11:8

2. Woman was created for the man: 1 Cor. 11:9; Gen. 2:18

3. The man was placed in authority: 1 Cor. 11:3; Gen. 2:19, 23; 3;16
The woman is under that authority. Gen. 3:16; Eph. 5:22

4. Man is to subdue nature: Gen. 3:17-19, 23
The woman is to rest in man's protection: Gen. 3:16; Eph. 5:28-29

G. Nature teaches the design and Paul teaches us that the hair is the symbol of that design.

H. Nature teaches that it is a shame for man to reject God's design for him.

I. Paul says that rejecting the symbol of that design is rejecting the design itself.

J. So nature, by teaching the design, teaches the symbol, although indirectly.

K. The design is inherent in the soul. Rom. 2:14, "The Gentiles . . .do instinctively (by nature) the things of the Law (God's moral standards), these, not having the law, are a law unto themselves, in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts." The symbol must be communicated.
And the symbol becomes a "moral" issue because God makes it an issue.

3. That if a man have long hair: komao (present active subjunctive) = to wear long hair or to let one's hair grow long.

A. What is considered "long hair?"

B. It is defined in the context as something "down over the head."

C. Like a "veil," something that covers the ears and neck (and face if so positioned).

D. In the time in which this was written, short hair was very closely cut.
This is what Paul has in mind when he contrasts long and short.
(Both the Romans and the Jews wore short hair).

4. It is a dishonor to him: atimia = disgrace, shame, dishonor.
Because he has rejected divine design for the proper function of authority in society.

5. The only exception to this which was permitted by God, is the Nazarite vow of the Mosaic law. Numbers 6:1-21

V. 15

1. But if a woman has long hair: komao (present active subjunctive)

2. It is glory to her: doxa = honor, respect, praise, glory.

A. It is a sign of her inner respect for God's design, the natural design of how a man and woman inter-relate.

B. As she functions as the glory of the man, she brings glory to herself.

3. Because her hair is given to her instead of a veil.
And at this point, he shreds their legalism to pieces.

A. Instead: preposition anti = instead of, (against, as in - "in contrast to")

B. veil: peribolaion = a veil, a covering

C. And this of course destroys any and all human traditions that attempt to force women to wear a covering or veil in public.


V. 16 Paul's verdict

1. Now: de = mild transition to bring the subject to a close.

2. If: This is a 1st class condition of inevitability.
It is certain that there will be some gain sayers.

3. If anyone thinks: dokeo (present active indicative) = to think subjectively, or to think with one's personal standards (good or bad).

4. to be: eimi (present infinitive) = a mental attitude status

5. contentious: philoneikos = a lover of victory, which becomes the idea of always wanting to promote one's own standards or ideas as authoritative.
Thus, contentious and quarrelsome.

6. Paul has knocked out every support for their legalism and no doubt, someone will rebel and still insist on placing the "boot" on the woman's head and demanding some kind of "overt" sign of subordination and inferiority.

7. To offset this, Paul makes his own authoritative, dogmatic statement.

8. We do not have: echo (present active indicative) plus ouk

9. Any such custom: toioutos + sunātheian, ie, the custom to require veils.

10. Neither the churches of God: Absolute denial of a legalistic custom within true Christianity.


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İRon Wallace, http://www.biblefragrances.com. Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it,
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