Category Archives: 1 CORINTHIANS 11:2-16

Explanation concerning head coverings in the gatherings of believers.



In 1 Corinthians 11:2 the apostle praises the believers in the assembly at Corinth for the way in which they kept the ordinances handed down to them.  He is concerned, however, that they should do this intelligently.  In particular, He explains to them the reasons behind the requirement that the sisters should have covered heads and long hair, and that the brothers should have uncovered heads and short hair.

This chapter continues the theme of worship that was begun in chapter 8. In chapters 8-10 the apostle deals with the worship of idols, but now is preparing the way for the worship of God. This is the highest occupation of the believer, and it is important for it to be done correctly, for God is the God of order, not confusion. He has made it clear in His word what is acceptable to Him and what is not. Much of what passes for “Christian worship” today is no more than the entertainment of those present, very often with the sort of music that heathen tribes use to call up demons.
Worship is essentially giving to God. It is for His pleasure, primarily, not ours. Although of course to please God does give pleasure to the heart of the believer, but that is not the main object.
The Lord Jesus said that true worshippers worship the Father in spirit and in truth, John 4:23. They do not need material and visible objects before them in order to produce worship; they worship in spirit. Nor should they worship in an erroneous way, for the God they worship is the God of truth. They must necessarily worship in truth, therefore.
So the apostle is preparing the way for the highest expression of worship that believers engage in on the first day of the week. The remembrance of the Lord Jesus at the Lord’s Supper is certain to evoke worship in the hearts of true believers. Neglect this opportunity, and the week has started badly. If a believer does not worship at the Lord’s Supper, he is unlikely to do so at other times.
So it is that in preparation for his instruction about the Lord’s Supper in the second half of this chapter, the apostle deals with the relative positions of believing men and women, and the way they should be dressed in God’s presence. This is of great importance, and of great significance. For the apostle will refer to ordinances, and there are seven visible ordinances that the believer has to do with. They are physical things, indeed, but such is their spiritual significance that the material is lost sight of in favour of the spiritual.
Those seven things are as follows:
1. The water of baptism.
2. The uncovered head of the male believer.
3. The covered head of the female believer.
4. The short hair of the male believer.
5. The long hair of the female believer.
6. The loaf of the Lord’s Supper.
7. The cup of the Lord’s Supper.
These seven things are not sacraments, but they are each deeply significant, and we do well to take note of the meaning of all of them, for they are visible sign of invisible principles. No less than six of them will come before us in this chapter.
It is important to bear in mind that the support which sections 3 and 4 give to the teaching in section 2 is not drawn from culture local to Corinth, but is based on that which was ordained by God from the beginning of man’s life on the earth. The things which were relevant only to Corinth are not dealt with in this epistle, but were set in order by the apostle when he was personally present with the believers- they were not applicable to anywhere else, and so are not recorded. As he wrote, “And the rest will I set in order when I come”, 1 Corinthians 11:34.
The epistle is written to “All that in every place call upon the name of the Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours”, 1 Corinthians 1:2. The matters dealt with in the epistle are therefore relevant to all companies that claim to bow to the authority of Jesus Christ as Lord. The apostle states in 1 Corinthians 14:37 that the things contained in the epistle are the commandments of the Lord; all true believers will surely be ready to acknowledge that fact, and act upon it.
The subject of headship is to the fore in this passage, and in verses 2-7 the apostle draws attention to principles derived from both the subjection and headship of Christ. In verses 8-13 the principles underlying the creation account of Genesis. And in verses 14 and 15 the principles brought to our notice by natural instinct implanted by God at the beginning when He made man in his own image.


Section 1 Verse 2 Loyal recognition
Section 2 Verses 3-6 Methodical instruction
Section 3 Verses 7-12 Original creation
Section 4 Verses 13-15 Natural constitution
Section 5 Verse 16 Universal recognition


11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
11:2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
11:3 But 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.
11:4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
11:5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
11:6 For 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.

Section 1     Verses 1,2      Loyal recognition

11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Be ye followers of me- there is a strong case for thinking that this verse goes best with chapter 10, where the apostle closes the chapter with his testimony in verse 33 that he pleased all men in all things, not seeking his own profit. It is fitting that he should encourage the Corinthians to follow his example. Of course he is not trying to form a sect of followers. He has said in verse that we should do all to the glory of God, and forming a sect would certainly not glorify God. What he means is that they should follow his example.
Even as I also am of Christ- the apostle immediately makes it clear that this exhortation to follow him is limited. He cannot be followed in everything, for he, like all believers at present, has a sin-principle within him which results in failure. There is one who has not this sin-principle, however, and it is He, Christ, who can safely be followed. It is only as Paul followed Christ that we can follow Paul.

11:2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them unto you.

Now I praise you, brethren- from Acts 18:1-11 we learn that the apostle Paul was responsible for the founding of the assembly in Corinth, and had subsequently spent a considerable time with them, “teaching the word of God among them”. He writes to them, therefore, as one who knows them, and he is able to praise them for not forgetting what he had taught them. There were many things at Corinth that needed correction, as we learn from the two epistles Paul wrote to them, but he praises where he can. His praises and rebukes were God’s gracious provision for them, for they give a preview of that time when all believers shall stand before the judgement seat of Christ, and their lives, attitudes, and service are reviewed. In the goodness of God they would have encouragement from Paul’s praise, and correction from his rebukes, so they could make adjustment before the solemn day of Christ’s review came.
That ye remember me in all things- Paul’s conduct and teaching must have made a deep impression upon them, for he can say here that they remembered him in all things. They related every aspect of their conduct to what he had told them when present. When a problem confronted them they immediately thought to themselves, “What did Paul teach us about this”. So it was that he could commend them for keeping the ordinances, and doing so in just the same way as he had instructed them. They had not sought to modify them in any way, and this was commendable.
And keep the ordinances, as I delivered them unto you- an ordinance is a matter that is handed down, and might well have been translated as tradition. There are different sorts of tradition, however. The Lord Jesus spoke of Jewish tradition, by which the rulers in Israel had made the word of God of no effect, Matthew 15:6. The apostle Peter referred to a vain conversation received by tradition, 1 Peter 1:18. The traditions or ordinances that are referred to in our passage, however, are spiritual matters handed down from God to His people, through the apostles, and as such are not vain, and far from setting aside God’s word, they establish it. This means they are of supreme importance, and hence to keep them faithfully is praiseworthy. The word for keep used here means to hold firmly. The Corinthians were keeping the ordinances faithfully and resolutely. The commendation of the apostle here gives us a strong indication as to what Christ will praise at the judgement seat.
We see from this idea of tradition, or handing down, the importance of regularly rehearsing the matters dealt with in this passage. How easy it is for the years to slip by, and the subject never be raised. How easy, too, for the Scriptures to be sidelined, so that when there are those who wish to conform to them, they find they are in the minority, and probably labelled legal! The apostle exhorted Timothy in these terms, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also”, 2 Timothy 2:2. In this way there will be a constant rehearsal of these important matters, and both old and young will be instructed.

Section 2      Verses 3-6      Methodical instruction

11:3 But 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.

But I would have you know- the fact that this verse begins in this way would indicate that whereas their keeping of the ordinances was commendable, nevertheless there was a certain lack of intelligence as to why they were keeping them. This the apostle now corrects. The word used for know is “eidon”, to discern. It is not the word for know which means “to get to know”, for they had done that when the apostle was with them. They had come to know the truth, now they were to discern its meaning. No doubt the apostle had explained it to them once, but like most of us, they needed to be told again.
It is good to obey the word of God; it is better to obey with intelligence and insight. God graciously gives us reasons why He expects us to do certain things, and in the measure we get to know what these reasons are, we discern the workings of the Divine Mind, and thereby increase in the knowledge of God, Colossians 1:10. No doubt this is one reason why the apostle put such stress in the first four chapters of the epistle on the foolishness of the world’s wisdom, and the value of Divine wisdom. Wisdom is insight into the true nature of things, and in this passage the apostle will set out the true nature of things relative to headship and subjection.
Having said that, it is expected that the brothers and sisters comply with the ordinances set out in this passage whether they understand the meaning of them or not. The Corinthians did not seem to understand the meaning until this epistle arrived to explain it to them. Nonetheless, the apostle commends them for keeping the ordinances. To comply with this passage even in ignorance is praiseworthy; to comply with it in wisdom is best of all.
The use of the word head in this verse is clearly a figure of speech. Just as the whole of the human body is controlled by its physical head, so a person’s “head”, or superior, has the authority to administrate and control. The expected response from those under the headship of another is that of subjection, just as the human body is governed by the directives of the head, and responds accordingly. The idea of headship naturally makes us think of our physical head, and this is why the ordinance has to do with the physical heads of brothers and sisters, and their covering or not covering them, or shearing their hair or not shearing it, is in view. Wives usually signify their subjection and loyalty to their husbands by wearing a ring on their finger. We do not immediately connect finger with headship, but we do connect head with headship, and this is what the apostle is emphasising.
There are those who try to avoid the ideas of subjection and authority by saying that headship has to do with source, just as the head-waters of a river are the source of water for the rest of its length. The apostle is using the specific metaphor of the human body, however, with its vital link with the head. That head does not provide resources for the body. Rather, it directs and controls the body. It is true that it has to do with resources in that way, but is not in itself the resource.
It is easy to see why the principles of this passage are dismissed by some in our day, for the time fast approaches when lawlessness, and the Lawless One, will dominate the earth, and men will cast off the bands and cords of Divine restraint, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Psalm 2:3. How sad that professed believers should reject Divine authority by refusing to carry out the teaching of these verses. No doubt the protests of the women’s liberation movement of recent years have influenced worldly believers in this. For centuries there was no questioning of these matters; it is a purely modern phenomenon, which in itself should make us suspicious.
The apostle makes three statements, in which he sets out the governing principles behind the ordinance of head-coverings. By so doing, the apostle shows the Divinely-ordered relationships between brothers, sisters, Christ and God. These statements are as follows:
The head of every man is Christ.
The head of the woman is the man.
The head of Christ is God.
The first statement speaks of Christ’s headship, the third of His subjection. The first and second statements show that man is both subject and head, as Christ is, and the second statement shows that the woman is subject, as Christ is; so both man and woman have Christ as their model.
The idea of Christ being subject to God is reserved as the climax to the statement, even though it took place first, when Christ became man. Perhaps this is because subjection to a head comes hard to us, and we are reminded that Christ was subject, yet He did not find it hard, but was subject to God in willing obedience. We should take our example from this. Perhaps the apostle also puts the subjection of Christ last because both male and female are subject in this passage, whereas the male is head as well as being subject. What is common to both male and female, and which both need a perfect example of, is found in the end of the verse for emphasis.
That the head of every man is Christ- this means that every believing man has Christ as his head. Christ is his controlling authority to whom he should be subject. By His death on the cross, the Lord Jesus has set aside Adam and the things he brought in by his sin. By His resurrection He has brought in a new order of things of which He is the head. All evil forces that asserted their authority before, have been utterly defeated, as is declared in Ephesians 1:19-21; 4:8; Colossians 2:15; and Hebrews 2:14.
In other passages we learn the following:
He is head of the church which is His body, where believers are looked at corporately, Colossians 1:18.
He is head of all the angels, Colossians 2:10.
He is head, potentially, of all things, Ephesians 1:22.
He is head of the church just as the husband is the head of his wife, Ephesians 5:23.
In the passage before us, however, He is head of the individual man. Since Adam is still the head of unbelievers, this must relate only to believing men. They cannot have two heads at the same time. Furthermore, the “every man” of verse 4 is included in the “every man” of this verse. But since in that verse the man is praying to God or prophesying for God, he must be a believer.
If “every man” means every man without exception, whether believer or unbeliever, then every Christian woman is subject to an unbelieving man, which surely cannot be the apostle’s thought. See also verse 11, where the apostle takes it for granted that those he writes to are in a position to act, “in the Lord”; in other words, they are believers.
The use of the word “every” is not to make us think of all men universally, whatever their spiritual status before God, but is surely to remind us that the teaching of the passage is not confined to married men, but to all believing males. It is true that the word for “man” and “husband” is the same, but the context has to decide for us.
No doubt the headship of Christ over man is mentioned first to caution the brothers, lest they should think of their headship over the woman as an excuse to dominate. They should remember that they are subject to a head, too. The brothers must ask themselves how Christ acts as their head; does He act harshly and without feeling? The answer, of course, is obvious; then the brothers should exercise their God-given authority in regard to the sisters in a similar way. They will be helped in this by taking note of the attitude of Christ to women when He was down here. Whereas others, even disciples, may have criticised and rebuffed them, Christ ever appreciated their exercises, and was quick to defend and praise them. A study of the following passages will assure us that this is the case:- Luke 7:13,15; 7:44-50; 8:2,3; 8:48; 8:54,55; John 12:7.
And the head of the woman is the man- as we have noted, the Greek words for man and woman also mean husband and wife, but the context decides. So, for instance, in Ephesians 5:22-33 it is easily seen that the apostle is counseling married persons, since he refers to a man leaving his father and mother when he gets married. Here, however, it is the relative relationships between brothers and sisters in the Lord that is in view, for it is not marital matters, but spiritual exercises like praying and prophesying that are on the apostle’s mind. If headship only applies to married believers, then there would be a two-tiered system prevailing, with differing ordinances according to whether a believer is married or unmarried. This clearly would be confusion.
A female believer was once heard to exclaim, “I want Christ as my head!” The fact is that Christ is indeed the head of sisters, since He is head of the body, and sisters are members of the body as much as brothers. The point here, however, is how God has ordered the relative positions of the brother and the sister. In this area, He has ordained that the sister should recognise the headship of the man, who, in turn, should recognise the headship of Christ, who, again in turn, recognises the headship of God. In this way, Divine order is maintained to His glory. We may rest assured that His orderings cannot be improved upon. So in one respect the sister has Christ for her head, whereas in another, it is the brother who occupies that role. The former has to do with the eternal security which being linked to Christ guarantees, (for the life of the body is bound up with the life of the head), whereas the latter has to do with how the authority of God is put into effect in practical terms on the earth.
And the head of Christ is God- here the apostle declares by way of climax that having come into subject manhood, it can be said of Christ that His head is God. Immediately we realise that subjection is not a matter of spirituality or moral superiority, since Christ is neither less spiritual than God, nor inferior to Him. It follows that the subjection of the woman to the man does not mean that she is inferior or less spiritual. The scriptures are clear as to the equality of the Son of God with the Father, irrespective of whether He is in heaven, (John 1:1; Philippians 2:6), on earth, (John 5:17-18; John 10:30,36), or returned to heaven, (Colossians 2:9- note the present tense, “dwelleth”). By coming into manhood, however, the Son of God introduced a new feature into His person as He subjected Himself to the will of His Father, Hebrews 10:7. Involved in this is the “learning of obedience” of which Hebrews 5:8 speaks. He who previously had always commanded, now learns what it is to obey the will of God, so that He may relate to His people as they obey Him, Hebrews 5:9. See also Isaiah 50:4,5.

11:4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

Every man praying or prophesying- the apostle now begins to apply the principle of verse three. We ought to note that he does not specifically link the spiritual exercises of praying and prophesying with assembly gatherings. It is true that the apostle has been speaking of the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the cup in 10:16, and these are distinctively assembly actions, but he speaks of them in the reverse order to which they are taken at the Lord’s Supper. He is simply drawing an illustration from them which serves his purpose in that chapter. It is not until 11:17,18 that coming together in the assembly is in view.
Whenever a believer deliberately sets out to engage in spiritual exercises, then the principles of this passage apply. The apostle speaks in four places of what he prayed for when he was “at his prayers”, as the words literally mean; see Romans 1:9; Ephesians 1:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; and Philemon 4. So the idea is that headship and subjection should come to mind as we set ourselves to engage in spiritual exercises, even when at home alone. After all, the apostle will imply in verse 10 that the angels have an interest in the conduct of believers; but they do not limit their interest to assembly gatherings.
Having his head covered- this expression is literally, “having (anything) on his head”. The man is to have no covering of any sort or of any size on his head. The Jewish prayer shawl and the Jewish skull-cap are alike excluded.
For the males to be engaged in spiritual exercises with an uncovered head, is clearly a departure from the Old Testament mode, for in the tabernacle the priests wore bonnets or turbans. But Christ has now come into manhood, consequently there is a new situation prevailing. The priests wore a head-covering to signify that the nation they represented was subject to God. After all, Israel was symbolically the wife of Jehovah, Jeremiah 33:32. Now, however, Christ is the representative of the people of God, hence the believing man no longer fills the role of representative of those who are subject, and therefore is not required to cover his head. He is the head of the woman who is subject, it is true, but he does not represent her before God, as Aaron represented Israel before God. It is Christ alone who represents the people of God before God, whether they are male or female, but this is not the subject of the passage.
Dishonoureth his head- if the man does cover his head, then he brings dishonour onto his head, for he has rejected Divine order, ignored the headship of Christ, and failed to take his proper place as head of the woman.
There are those who believe that by “his head” the apostle means the man’s spiritual head, even Christ. We should bear in mind, however, that when the apostle is addressing the sisters in verses 5 and 6, and explaining the significance of their action if they disobey God’s commands, he declares that a woman dishonours her head by not covering it, and he explains that dishonour by saying it is the same as if she had a shaved head. Now a shaved head does not dishonour a man directly, but does dishonour the woman who has it done. There is no doubt indirect dishonour done to the man, however. So transferring this principle, to verse 4 in connection with the man, it is the man’s own head that is dishonoured, just as it is the woman’s own head that she dishonours. But indirectly, Christ as head is dishonoured too.
The covering or not covering of the head does not simply serve to distinguish male from female, because the short hair of the man and the long hair of the woman do this. The head-covering is needed as well to signify that the ideas of subjection and headship are accepted. So when the male cuts his hair, he is endorsing the difference that God has made between male and female. Likewise, when the woman does not cut her hair, she is recognising the same truth. When a man uncovers his head, he indicates that he is recognising the responsibilities he has as head of the woman, and also as subject to Christ. When the woman covers her head, she consciously takes her proper subject place as a woman, and as such is subject to the man, even if the man is not present. Indeed, the absence of the man mkes it all the more imperative to coveer her head, lest it be thought she is rebellious in his absence.
The apostle reserves the reason for the man’s uncovered head until verse seven, so that he may there deal with the man and woman together in relation to the truth of Genesis chapter one.

11:5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head- prayer is the expression of the mind of a believer, in the ear of God. Prophesying, however, is the expression of the mind of God, in the ear of believers. The full range of spiritual exercises is indicated. At the time of writing, there were prophetesses, but the gift of prophecy has been withdrawn, so the apostle is no doubt using that gift as being the highest one possible. Even having the best gift of all does not exempt any from the requirements of this passage.
An instance of women prophesying is given in Acts 21:9 in connection with Philip’s four daughters, no doubt in fulfillment of the words of Joel quoted by Peter in Acts 2:17, “your sons and daughters shall prophecy”. Since this activity comes close to appearing to usurp the place of the man, then the sister in question is to be especially careful to signify her subjection by having a covered head. This particular ministry is no longer in operation, for prophecies have ceased with the completion of the canon of Scripture, but the principle remains. Just as the brother dishonours his head by ignoring divine order, so does the sister.
The question as to whether the woman is praying and prophesying in the assembly does not arise in this passage, since it is not specifically concerned with assembly gatherings. The apostle’s teaching with regard to these is very clear from what he writes in 1 Corinthians 14:34, where prophesying is being dealt with, and 1 Timothy 2:8, where prayer is the subject. The seven-fold mention of “coming together” from verse 17 of this chapter onwards would strongly indicate that the apostle is regulating there in full for assembly gatherings. The number seven speaks of fulness and completeness.
The verse begins with the word “but”, which presents an alternative. Clearly, the alternative is not the dishonouring of the head, because that is true of both male and female when they fail to obey. The word “but” therefore serves to emphasise the word uncovered, in contrast to the word covered in relation to the male.
For that is even all one as if she were shaven- the reason why the uncovered woman dishonours her head is now given. It is assumed by the apostle in this passage that the sister will have long hair. Only those of low repute had shorn heads. But confusion reigns if a sister with long hair like a woman, prays or prophesies with head uncovered like a man. It would be, declares the apostle, as if she had no hair on her head at all, having shaved it off. Since the length of a person’s hair enables us to distinguish between male and female, no-one would be able to tell whether she was a woman or not if she had no hair. This is confusion. To introduce confusion into the things of God is serious indeed, and hence the dishonour on the woman’s head.
For a woman to cut her hair is disobedience, but to shave it all off is an extreme example of rebellion. Her hair is her glory, and she has despised God’s gift to her entirely, and hence is dishonoured.

11:6 For 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.

For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn- consistency must be the rule, or else all is confusion. If a woman has no head-covering, then she is in a position of headship, (for the man has an uncovered head to signify headship). But headship is vested in the male, so she is occupying the place of a male- let her then be shorn like a male. She cannot be like a woman and like a man at the same time.
But if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered- the grammar of the expression “if it be a shame” indicates that the shame is not just a possibility, but a reality- “if, as is the case, that it is a shame.” The apostle is not saying that if there are those who see no shame in a woman being shaved or shorn, then they need not cover their heads. “If it be a shame” does not mean “if it is a pity”, but “if it be a dishonour”. So as it is the case that it is a shame for a woman to be either shorn, (having taken the scissors to her hair, as a man does), or shaven, (having taken a razor to her hair to shave it all off, so that whether she is male or female is not discernible), let her be covered.
A shaven woman has abandoned all attempt at distinguishing between male and female, and this dishonours God, and by extension, is a dishonour to herself, and women in general. Note again that the apostle assumes that the sister has long hair, for he says to put the scissors to it is a shame to her, and no Christian woman should want to be in a shameful state. His argument in verses 13 and 14 falls down if he cannot start with the premise that a woman has long hair. Since the apostle’s words are inspired, then his argument does not fall down, so the woman is to have long hair as a matter of course, let alone for any other reason.
We should note that the woman’s covering is to be a veil, (such is the meaning of the word), and therefore is to cover her head effectively. The word for “to cover” in verses 6 and 7, (and in the negative in verse 5), “katakalupto”, a combination of “kalupto” to cover, and “kata”, a (preposition which intensifies the verb), meaning “down”. Something like a headscarf is in view. The covering is for the head, and it should definitely cover the head, so that the hair is not visible through it, even though the hair may be visible beyond it if the hair is hanging down her back.
In the apostle’s day there would not be a great diversity of head-coverings, since a veil would not have been considered a fashion item. This very uniformity would emphasise that rich and poor have equal place before God, and would avoid the scandal of rich sisters parading their affluence by wearing elaborate head-gear. A spiritual sister will want to see to it that her head is covered in a way which fulfils the requirements of the teaching found in this passage, without ostentation and unwise expense.


11:7 For 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.
11:8 For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.
11:9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
11:10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
11:11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
11:12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

Section 3      Verses 7-12      Original creation

11:7 For 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.

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head– the apostle now proceeds to give the reason why the man should not cover his head. He has left the explanation until now so that he can instruct both males and females from the same passage in Genesis. Because he is going to base his instruction on the principles found in the Book of Genesis, we know that the matters detailed in this passage are not “cultural”, and therefore local to Corinth, as some teach.
The word “indeed” assures us that the statement that follows, although startling in view of the practice in the tabernacle and the synagogue, is in fact true. We know there was at least one synagogue at Corinth, Acts 18:4, and Luke tells us there were Jews and Greeks attending it. If some of these were saved, and subsequently formed part of the assembly at Corinth, then they would know that both males and females would have covered heads in the synagogue. The word “indeed” also refers us back to what has been said in verse 4, and reinforces it.
Forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God- this is clearly a reference to the fact that man was made in the image of God at the beginning.
The “he” of this statement is sometimes linked with Christ, so that the man covers his head because his spiritual head, Christ, is the image and glory of God. The problem with this is that the words of verse 7 in the original, (Stephens 1550), are as follows: “For man indeed ought not to have the head covered, image and glory of God being”. In other words, the second “he” in the Authorised Version has been added to make the sense. This in itself inclines us to the view that the “he” refers to the male believer, not Christ. It is indeed true that Christ is “the image of God”, 2 Corinthians 4:4, and it is also true that He is the “brightness of the glory” of God, Hebrews 1:3, but these truths are not to the fore in this passage. The underlying truth is that of headship. In any case, the words “image” and “glory” have no definite article before them, and are therefore not specific, (as they would be if the glory of Christ was in view), but characteristic. That which Christ has inherently, man has subordinately.
In Genesis 1:26 we find God communing with Himself, and purposing to make the race of man in His own image, after His likeness. The record is as follows:
“And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness'”, Genesis 1:26. And this He did, for in verse twenty-seven we read, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them”. By “man” is meant mankind, as represented by Adam and Eve. The image of God was not limited to our first parents, as we see from Genesis 9:6, where capital punishment for murderers is instituted, and the reason being, “in the image of God made He man”. To murder is to erase the image of God in a man, hence the severity of the penalty. Just as the image of Caesar on a coin represented Caesar, Matthew 22:19-21, so the impress of God on man fits him to represent God.
The sea-creatures and birds were made on the fifth day, but those animals which by their physical characteristics are most like man, were made on the sixth day, as he was. Thus God deliberately highlighted the differences between them. But no animal, however superficially like man it may be, has personality, spirituality, rationality and morality as man has. He alone, therefore, is fitted to represent God, in whom these things are found to perfection.
Note the emphasis in Genesis 1:27 on the “him”, which indicates that the man Adam represented the race, even though that race consists of male and female, “male and female created He them”. When the race is in view it is “him”, when individuals are in view, it is “them”. So there is a special sense in which Adam, and males generally, are charged with the duty of representing God to creation in the matter of headship. There are many ways in which women may represent God to others, but this is not one of them.
The Christian sister does not miss out through this however, for every believer, male or female, “is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him”, Colossians 3:10. In respect of spiritual relationship with God, brother and sister are equal in their opportunity to express Divine characteristics, Galatians 3:28, but in respect of Divine order and administration, the brother alone is the image or representative of God.
Man is also said to be the glory of God. It is not so much that he glorifies God, for sisters do that also, but that he is the glory of God- the majesty of God as the head of all things manifests itself in the man as he controls for God in the Christian sphere. David ascribed headship to God with the words, “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that in the heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and Thou art exalted as head above all”, 1 Chronicles 29:11.
In another context, we read of certain messengers as being “the glory of Christ”. Their character was of such a sort that they glorified Christ in what they did, 2 Corinthians 8:23. So should the believing man glorify Christ in the exercise of his headship, but always with humility, as subject to Christ who is his head.
But the woman is the glory of the man- we must not think that the “but” the apostle uses here indicates an inferior role. It is not that the man is the image of God, whereas the woman has to be content with merely being the glory of the man. The fact is that when the Christian sister recognises the God-given role of the man by being in subjection to him as her head, she enhances that glory. In this way she is the glory of the man in the specific way relevant to the context, namely, she enhances the man as he fulfills his role as head. She thus gains the glory that comes through obeying God’s command.
So the man is the glory of God as he controls for God, and the woman, by her subjection as expressed by her head-covering, is the glory of the man as he thus acts for God. She thus mirrors the way in which Christ in His subjection to God sought only His glory, but also, was crowned with glory and honour as He did so, (for, strictly speaking, it was when he was upon the earth that he was crowned with glory and honour, Hebrews 2:9). A covered man is a disgrace to himself, whereas a covered woman is a glory to a man with uncovered head, for her covering indicates his authority. She complements His position, not as a wife complements her husband, but as a subject person complements the one to whom she is subject. The headship of the man is pointless if there are no subject ones.

11:8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.

For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man- the apostle now proceeds to give two reasons for the foregoing statement about the relative positions of the man and the woman, hence the word “for”. The first reason is in this verse, and the second in verse 9.
The preposition “of” means “out of”, and the allusion is to Genesis 2:18-23, the account of the formation of the woman, where she is expressly said in verse twenty-three to be taken “out of” the man. The words are:
And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man”.

So we learn from Adam himself that the word woman indicates that she was taken out of him. Previously in the creation account, the word used had been “female”, establishing the distinction of gender, but now a word that tells us about suitability to Adam is used. God, of course, could have made the woman as He did the man, directly from the dust. He chose not to do so, to establish a principle.
The fact that the woman came from the man indicates that he was foremost in time, being created first, so having priority in certain areas- he had to be in existence before she could be. She came into being and found him already the head of the creation. The order in which God created establishes principles for all time. This explains the apparently strange way that woman was formed- it was symbolic as well as historic. (The apostle derives a similar lesson from the fact that Adam was made before the woman, in 1Timothy 2:12,13).
This situation does not only relate to circumstances at the beginning, for every woman is the daughter of her father, and therefore every woman in a certain sense comes out of the man. This confirms that the apostle is not speaking of husbands and wives here, for the woman, whoever she is, and whatever her status, is of the man. Not of her husband, but of her father.

11:9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man- not only was the source of the woman significant, but also the reason why she was made. Having derived a lesson from the woman’s formation, the apostle now speaks of her function. The words of Genesis 2:18-20 are as follows:
“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him”.

The woman was to be the man’s helper, and to do this effectively she needed to be “meet” for him, or in other words, suitable for him. By bringing the animals to Adam to be named, God clearly wanted to impress upon Adam that there were none amongst the creatures that he was attracted to. He named them according to their characteristics, but to none could he give the name woman. But when Adam woke from his sleep to find the woman God had made for him beside him, he said “This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh”. The words “this is now” implying that it was not like that before, when he named the animals. There was now one who could be his helper in a special sense, even though many animals have helped man down the centuries.
The Christian wife, it is true, is to be this help for her husband, but in the wider sense dealt with here, every believing woman is to be for the help of the man in his God-given task of maintaining God’s creation rights on the earth. This is not the same as maintaining God’s rights in the world, which believers can only do in a limited way. As they engage in spiritual exercises, the believing man and woman are to uphold the order God has established.

11:10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head- because of the principle established in the doctrine of the previous verses, the woman is to respond to man’s authority by covering her head. This covering is said to be “power on her head”. In classical writings, a king’s crown was sometimes referred to as his kingdom; the symbol was called by the name of the thing symbolised. So here, the thing symbolised is the authority of the man, (his power in the sense of his authority as head), and the symbol is the woman’s headcovering, and therefore can fittingly be called power. When she covers her head before spiritual exercises, whether those exercises are private or public, the Christian woman deliberately recognises the superintending authority of the man, whether he is present or not.
Because of the angels- this is a secondary reason for the woman needing to put a sign of the man’s authority on her head, even the fact that the angels look on. We know from Scripture that angels rejoice when sinners repent, Luke 15:10. They take a great interest in the way that God’s wisdom is demonstrated in the life of the church, Ephesians 3:10. They look on to witness whether elders are treated fairly when false accusations are brought before them, 1 Timothy 5:21 They have an interest in the observance of the Lord’s Supper, with its showing or proclamation of the Lord’s death, 1 Corinthians 11:26. Daniel wrote about the “a watcher and a holy one”, clearly an angelic being, (for he was able to depose Nebuchadnezzar), who scrutinized the affairs of men, Daniel 4:13,17,23. Now it is indicated that they observe the way in which men and women act when they are engaged in spiritual exercises.
Eve overthrew the authority of Adam when she initially fell to the temptations of the Devil. (It seems clear from the sequence in Genesis 2:15-18, that Adam was given the commandment about the tree of knowledge of good and evil before the woman was formed. It was he, therefore, who told the woman of the prohibition, and by so doing established his authority over her). To reassure the holy angels, therefore, the woman is to indicate by the covering of her head, that she does not intend to make the same mistake as Eve did.
But evil angels take an interest in the church, too, seeking to undermine its doctrine and practice, as indicated in 1 Timothy 4:1-3, and 1 John 4:1-6. These evil angels have been guilty of leaving the place of subjection God had given them, and seeking a place of dominance that God had not given to them, and thus have disregarded Divine order, for “they kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, Jude 6. What a rebuke to them the godly subjection of the Christian woman is, as she accepts her role with dignity, and thus glorifies God.

11:11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman- the apostle now balances out the truth he has detailed, by pointing out the mutual interdependence of believers, male and female. Far from rendering the Christian woman redundant, the requirements made known here show that she has a vital part to play in the Divine scheme of things. The man is not without (“cut off from”) the woman, for he is dependent upon her for so many things as he seeks to act for God.
Neither the woman without the man, in the Lord- by the same token, the woman depends on the man. The fact that the apostle says “in the Lord” indicates that he is speaking exclusively in this passage about believing men and women, for only they are in Christ, and can therefore act “in the Lord”, under His authority as head. It is only as His authority is recognised that godly order is maintained.

11:12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

For as the woman is of the man- as already explained, Eve was out of Adam at the beginning, and every female owes her existence to her father.
Even so is the man also by the woman- not only were Cain and Abel brought into the world through the agency of Eve, but every man since has come by means of his mother.
But all things of God- all these various relationships are “of God”, for He has ordained them. It is the Christian’s responsibility and privilege to act upon them in the ways detailed in this passage.


11:13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
11:14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
11:15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
11:16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

Section 4      Verses 13-15      Natural constitution

11:13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?

Judge in yourselves- the apostle now appeals to the spiritual discernment of the Corinthian believers. Endowed with wisdom from God, they should be able to decide very easily. They will do so by reference to that which God built into man’s constitution at the beginning.
Is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? By this question the apostle raises the matter of the suitability of the woman being uncovered in the presence of God. He has taught that she ought to be covered because God requires it, (“a woman ought to have a covering on her head”, verse 10), but now as he brings his teaching on this subject to a close he will show that by giving women long hair, God has established the principle behind the head covering. So it is that those who learn the lesson of the long hair will learn the lesson of the covered head.

11:14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

Doth not even nature itself teach you- the fact that the apostle appeals to something that is not local to Corinth emphasises the universal application of these verses. The Scriptures are not at the mercy of the local customs and culture of earth, but are “settled in heaven”, Psalm 119:89. Nature is common to all who live on the earth. It would be ludicrous to limit it to Corinth.
The word translated “nature” is used of God in 2 Peter 1:4, so it cannot refer to local customs. In any case, what point is there asking the Corinthians what the local customs of the city taught them about the things of God?
The Greek word is “phusis” which in its basic form means to swell up so as to germinate or grow. By extension it means the sort of thing an object is as to its native disposition, constitution or usage. The apostle is referring here to the in-built capabilities that God gave man at the beginning, which constituted him a rational, moral, spiritual being with personality. In a word, in the image of God. This native sensibility as to what is right and proper is not acquired by training or education, but is the inner conviction all believers have as to whether certain things are suitable to associate with God. Unbelievers may have this to a degree, but their minds are confused, and so are no guide. So even if a false teacher came along and taught the Corinthians that it was proper for a woman to function in the presence of God uncovered, they would know he was wrong. They might not be able to explain why he was wrong, but they would have the inner conviction that he was. So when in our day even Christian teachers suggest that it does not matter if a sister does not cover her head in the presence of God, we know instinctively that they are wrong. And if they are wrong, then their teaching should be decisively resisted, refuted, and rejected.
That, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? We instinctively recoil from the sight of a man with long hair, and rightly so, for this instinctive reaction is part of the nature God gave us. A man may be able to grow his hair as long as a woman, but this is not what God gave him his hair for. He is given it so that he may cut it short, in recognition of his place in creation. The fact that some unbelievers see no shame in a man having long hair just goes to confirm what the apostle says in Romans 1:24-27 about men and women acting against nature.

11:15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her- far from being a shame, the woman’s long hair is her glory, and distinguishes her from the man. Not in the sense that she is the only one who can have long hair, but that by it her beauty is enhanced. Long hair on a man attracts attention for the wrong reason.
For her hair is given her for a covering- long hair is given to the woman by God to express the principle that has already been set out in the preceding verses. By giving the woman a covering which is becoming to her, God has indicated that she should be the covered one, rather than the man. Thus what she is by natural constitution, is an indicator of what she should be by spiritual conviction, namely, with covered head. This is why the apostle appeals to nature in verse fourteen; he is not referring to human opinion, but the lesson taught by the natural state of the woman as made by God, and our proper instinctive reaction to that state.
The Greek word for “hair” used here is “kome”, and the verb for “have long hair” is “komao”. (This is a word that gives us the English word comet, which appears like a long streamer in the heavens). It signifies hair as an ornament. It is probable that the word “komao” is connected to the word “komizo” which means “to care for”.
It is noticeable that at this point the apostle uses a different word for covering. Up till now in the passage he has consistently used a word for covering which means “veiled”. Now the word for covering is one which means “that which is thrown around”. In fact, it is the word used for vesture, or cloak, in Hebrews 1:12. Whereas the veil or head-covering is a covering for the woman’s head, her long hair is a covering for her, not just her head.
So we may gather up some indications from the apostle’s words:
1.  Long hair is God’s gift to a woman.
2.  It is a glory to her.
3. The word used for hair signifies that which is ornamental.
4. The word used for hair is probably derived from a verb meaning “to care for”.
5. The word used to describe her hair, “covering”, is used elsewhere of a cloak or mantle, and therefore suggests that which may be thrown around the shoulders, giving indication of length.  So “short hair” is hair that has been cut; “long hair” is hair that can be thrown around the shoulders.
6. It is a shame if she cuts it, except totrim the ends so as to stimulate it to grow more.
7. It is an indication from God that she needs to put on a head covering herself, as well.

Another matter needs to be noticed here. The preposition “for” in the phrase “for a covering”, is one which can, in certain contexts, mean “instead of”. This fact has led some to suggest that if a sister has long hair, she does not need to put on a head-covering; for, say they, her hair is given to her instead of that covering.
But the apostle would hardly have undermined his own teaching is such a way. Nor would he have introduced an element of confusion into his arguments just as he brings them to a close. Besides, we have only to insert this idea into the teaching of the earlier verses to see it is false, for verse six would read “For if a woman be not covered, (that is, according to this theory, not have long hair), let her be shorn, (that is, not have long hair).” Clearly this is nonsense, and therefore not the meaning of the apostle.
The preposition is adequately translated by the words “answering to”, “corresponding to”, and thus the sense is that the woman should cover her head with a veil because that corresponds to the truth that is taught by her Divinely-given long hair.

Section 5      Verse 16      Universal conviction

11:16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

But if any man seem to be contentious- the apostle anticipated the false ideas that men would devise about this passage, and dealt with them in advance. The teaching found here is not set forth as a matter of debate, and about which men may contend.
We have no such custom- the apostles were in agreement on the matter, as the emphatic “we” of the verse indicates. And so should all we believers be agreed, for we are committed to the doctrine and fellowship of the apostles, sharing with them in the things they believed and taught, Acts 2:42. May we all be encouraged to put into effect the teaching of this passage, whatever the current opinion in the world.
Neither the churches of God- we learn from this that the teaching of this section was accepted by all that the apostles were prepared to acknowledge as assemblies. We could go so far as to say that if a company of professed believers does not abide by the teaching of this section, then they have no right to class themselves amongst the churches of God.

Finally, can our hearts be unmoved as we think of all that was involved in Christ’s subjection to God, as He readily submitted to His will, being obedient even to the extent of death, and that the death on a cross? Or unmoved when contemplating His present glories as head over all things? If our hearts are moved, we shall welcome the opportunity to make His grace and glory known by obeying the commandments of the Lord found here. May the Lord help His people to swallow their pride if needs be, admit they have been wrong in the past, and have the conviction and courage to begin to conform to the teaching of the apostle, knowing that the things he writes unto us are “the commandments of the Lord”, 1 Corinthians 14:37.