1 Corinthians 11:11-16

11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord.

12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.

13 Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?

14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?

15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.

16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

Verse 11 is stating that, where the Lord is in authority, neither sex is inferior — Galatians 3:28

from man (v.12) — made from man originally (Genesis 2:21-13) — The Greek word indicates a single act.

through woman (v.12) — by birth — The Greek word indicates a constant process.

all things are from God (v.12) — God is author of, and sovereign over, all things

Judge among yourselves (v.13) — use your common sense. — This is perhaps asking them whether it is possible for Christian women to honor God when the look like the worldly women seen around Corinth.

Verse 15 is a continuation of the question in verse 14. The question mark should come after “covering.”

As divine principles, these things inflexibly stand, but the grace of God is flexible and pliable enough for allowing different adaptations and applications in connection with the customs of various lands and people as long as these do not run counter to the fundamental expressions of God’s will. — Bultema, page 92.

In the woman, God sets forth the relationship between Christ and the Church. Christ is head of the Church, and we must be in subjection to Him. We are members of His body, bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. He is the Chief Cornerstone; we are little stones built together into a holy temple.

Woman was taken out of man. God created her to answer to man, and gave her to him to be his helpmate. Nature has given woman a distinction — a natural covering which denotes her subjection to authority, subjection to man — her head, her husband. And IN the woman God sets forth the picture of Christ and the Church, and the relationship between them. It was clearly not the purpose of the Creator that woman should in public adopt the same attitude and boldness of man. — Greene, page 360.

The fact that Paul here discusses only a custom, does not for a moment neutralize the force of the principle he teaches; that of the headship of the man over the woman and her acknowledgment of this fact. — Stam, page 191.

I don’t pretend that I have a definitive answer to the questions this section raises. Certainly God intended the relationship of a man and his wife to be a reflection of a spiritual truth. The man is to be in authority over the woman as an illustration of Christ’s authority over the Church. But this does not make a man superior to a woman. It’s an issue of roles, not of value.

Paul sets this doctrine in the context of the way men and women wear their hair, especially when they are praying. Men should appear to be in authority; women should appear to be under authority. Apparently, in Corinth, this was represented by men having short hair and women having long hair (with perhaps a covering over that when praying in church). This certainly isn’t still the case in our culture, but should it be? Or are we allowed to set our own cultural standards as long as the principle is observed? In addition to the question of culture is the question of dispensational truth — was this instruction for the Transitional period between Law and Grace, or is it still in force.

In 1 Timothy, one of Paul’s last letters, written after the Transitional period had ended, he teaches the same doctrine, but without mention of hair length.

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control (1 Timothy 2:8-15).

I think perhaps I’m most in agreement with Bultema’s quote above.

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