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1 Corinthians 11:2-16

Context
Women’s Head Coverings

11:2 I praise you 1  because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I passed them on to you. 11:3 But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, 2  and God is the head of Christ. 11:4 Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered disgraces his head. 11:5 But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered disgraces her head, for it is one and the same thing as having a shaved head. 11:6 For if a woman will not cover her head, she should cut off her hair. But if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, she should cover her head. 11:7 For a man should not have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God. But the woman is the glory of the man. 11:8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man. 11:9 Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for man. 11:10 For this reason a woman should have a symbol of authority 3  on her head, because of the angels. 4  11:11 In any case, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 11:12 For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman. But all things come from God. 11:13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 11:14 Does not nature 5  itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace for him, 11:15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 6  11:16 If anyone intends to quarrel about this, we have no other practice, nor do the churches of God.

1 tc The Western and Byzantine texts, as well as one or two Alexandrian mss (D F G Ψ 33 Ï latt sy), combine in reading ἀδελφοί (adelfoi, “brothers”) here, while the Alexandrian witnesses (Ì46 א A B C P 81 630 1175 1739 1881 2464 co) largely lack the address. The addition of ἀδελφοί is apparently a motivated reading, however, for scribes would have naturally wanted to add it to ἐπαινῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς (epainw de Juma", “now I praise you”), especially as this begins a new section. On the other hand, it is difficult to explain how the shorter reading could have arisen from the longer one. Thus, on both internal and external grounds, the shorter reading is strongly preferred.

2 tn Or “the husband is the head of his wife.” The same Greek words translated “man” and “woman” can mean, as determined by context, “husband” and “wife” respectively. Such an approach is followed by NAB, TEV, NRSV, and NLT (with some variations).

3 sn Paul does not use a word specifying what type of “covering” is meant (veil, hat, etc.). The Greek word he uses here (ἐξουσία exousia; translated symbol of authority) could be (1) a figure of speech that may substitute the result (the right to participate in worship) for the appropriate appearance that makes it possible (the covered head). Or (2) it refers to the outward symbol (having the head covered) as representing the inward attitude the woman is to possess (deference to male leadership in the church).

4 sn Paul does not explain this reference to the angels, and its point is not entirely clear. It seems to reflect an awareness that angels are witnesses to church life (cf. Eph 3:10) and would be particularly sensitive to resistance against God’s created order.

5 sn Paul does not mean nature in the sense of “the natural world” or “Mother Nature.” It denotes “the way things are” because of God’s design.

6 sn No word for veil or head covering occurs in vv. 3-14 (see the note on authority in v. 10). That the hair is regarded by Paul as a covering in v. 15 is not necessarily an argument that the hair is the same as the head covering that he is describing in the earlier verses (esp. v. 10). Throughout this unit of material, Paul points out the similarities of long hair with a head covering. But his doing so seems to suggest that the two are not to be identified with each other. Precisely because they are similar they do not appear to be identical (cf. vv. 5, 6, 7, 10, 13). If head covering = long hair, then what does v. 6 mean (“For if a woman will not cover her head, she should cut off her hair”)? This suggests that the covering is not the same as the hair itself.



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