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1 Corinthians chapter 11

English Standard Version

New International Version

New American Standard Bible

2Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I handed them down to you. 3But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. 4Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. 5But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for it is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. 6For if a woman does not cover her head, have her also cut her hair off; however, if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, have her cover her head. 7For a man should not have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. 10Therefore the woman should have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12For as the woman originated from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. 13Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14Does even nature itself not teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, 15but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her as a covering. 16But if anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor have the churches of God.
Christian Standard Bible

New Living Translation

King James Version

1Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. 2Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. 3But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. 4Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. 5But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. 6For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: 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: but the woman is the glory of the man. 8For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. 9Neither was the man created for the woman; but 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, in the Lord. 12For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. 13Judge in yourselves: 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. 16But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

What does 1 Corinthians chapter 11 mean?

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul tackles two issues that needed correction in the Corinthian church: head coverings for women and how to observe the Lord's Supper together. Paul begins by praising the Corinthian believers for remembering his teaching and maintaining the traditions he taught them when he lived among them (1 Corinthians 11:1–2).

What he addresses in this chapter, though, are two traditions about which he has heard negative reports. These are teachings the believers in Corinth were not maintaining well. The first had to do with head coverings for women who were praying and prophesying in the public worship gatherings.

Apparently, nearly all women wore head coverings in public during this era. This included Jewish, pagan, and Christian women. Women seen without head coverings may have been considered morally loose or sexually available. This was a matter of cultural assumptions; people of Paul's era would have reacted to a woman with an uncovered head much the same way modern people might to a woman wearing extremely revealing clothes. Paul received a report that some of the women in the Corinthian church were not wearing head coverings while praying or prophesying during their gatherings.

To address this, Paul builds a connection between what men and women do with their actual heads and those who are their metaphorical "heads" or representatives. This parallels the cultural concepts of what a woman's un-covered head meant to the society of the ancient world. He writes that Christ is the head of every man, husbands are the head of their wives, and God is the head of Christ. Paul seems less interested in talking about the authority of these "heads" than about what each of us can do to honor or shame them. A man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, who is Christ. Paul may have had in mind the Roman practice of men pulling a part of their robes over their head during worship of their gods. Christian men must not do the same (1 Corinthians 11:3–4).

Women, on the other hand, dishonor their head, or husband, by praying or prophesying in the worship service with their own head uncovered. The normal covering may have involved a hood built into a woman's robe or a type of veil. Perhaps these Christian women felt their freedom in Christ entitled them to worship without their heads covered. They might have seen the worship meeting as a private space, so they didn't need to treat church gatherings as public events. They might even have been deliberately countering the expectations of that culture. We don't know. Paul insisted they must keep their head coverings on (1 Corinthians 11:5–6).

Man should not cover his head because he is the glory of God, Paul wrote. Woman—or wives—are the glory of man—or husbands—and so they should cover their heads to keep that glory for them alone. The principle here, again, is parallel to the idea of someone wearing sexually-suggestive clothing in a modern setting. Such style sends signals which conflict with the purpose of the worship service. This restriction—so far as literal head coverings go—is unique to cultures where head covering is relevant. These words do not imply that all modern women are obligated to cover their heads. Rather, all believers—male and female—are to apply principles of modesty and common sense in their appearance (1 Corinthians 11:7–16).

The second issue Paul addresses is the Corinthian practice of communion. In short, it was a disaster. The church would gather together, with each person bringing his or her own food and eating it as soon as they arrived. The wealthy would overeat, with some getting drunk. The poor would look on, hungry and feeling humiliated. Rather than treating it as a solemn, reflective, unifying time, the Corinthians were using the Lord's Supper as a party. Paul expresses his shock with a phrase most commonly translated into English as "What?!" (1 Corinthians 11:17–22)

Paul then explains his understanding of communion, based on knowledge he claims to have "from the Lord." Many interpreters suggest Paul to mean he obtained this information through a direct revelation from Christ (1 Corinthians 11:23–26).

Scripture then warns the Corinthians that consequences for taking part in the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner are incredibly high. To eat the bread that represents Christ's body and drink the cup that represents His blood without first examining oneself for sinful attitudes toward Christ and other people invites God's judgment. Those who approach the Lord's Supper should not treat it like any other meal. It's a time for sober reflection on Christ's sacrifice for our sin. It's also an opportunity to be unified as the body of Christ, the church, while taking in the broken body of Christ, the bread, together (1 Corinthians 11:27–29).

God's judgment for failing to do this is severe, Paul warns. Some of the Corinthians were weak and sick because of this. Others had already died. God's judgment of Christians does not bring loss of salvation. Instead, it is the loving discipline of the Father for His children. The better approach is to treat the Lord's Supper with patience and reflection, "wait[ing] for one another" in a spirit of unity (1 Corinthians 11:30–34).
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