Thursday, August 9, 2012

1 Corinthians 11-12

Head Coverings

[edit: In the comments of this post there was a good discussion of this section. Commenter Kristen has clearly thought about this passage a lot and has a good detailed section about it on her webpage. Anyone who is interested in this should go check it out]

This section is completely bizarre to me, I'll break it down as best I can, but it seems to me that it is just a cultural relic.

The head of a man is Christ, the head of Christ is God, and the head of a wife is her husband.

I'm going to assume that being the head of someone means they are subordinate to you or something. A good example of sexism in the bible. I'm not sure how God being the head of Christ fits in with the whole trinity thing, although I've never really understood the trinity so I'll move past this. Another interesting thing here is it doesn't mention unmarried women. I suppose unmarried women were thought of as property of their fathers and not worth bringing up.

If a man prays or prophesies with his head covered he is dishonoring Christ, but if a woman prays or prophesies without her head covered, she is dishonoring her husband.

I don't understand why there would be a difference, is a head covering an honor or a dishonor? This is what I mean when I say it must just be some cultural relic.

If a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short, but this is a disgrace so she should cover her head. A man should not cover his head for he is the image and glory of God.


Woman was made from man but we are all born of women, so women should wear a symbol of authority on their head.

I really don't understand what these things have to do with one another.

If a man wears long hair it is a disgrace, but if a woman has long hair it is her glory.

So why do we cover it up? This whole section makes no sense to me. It seems to me that it is simply reflecting the preferences of the person speaking and/or the style of the time and simply claiming that God wants it that way too.

The Lord's Supper

When you come together as a church to eat the bread and drink the wine, do so properly or you will bring judgement on yourself. You should not have factions in your church. You should not come to church hungry, you should eat at home first.

I understand the idea of not having divisions in the church. That seems like a good thing, cliques are bad and whatnot. I don't really get the part about being hungry. Perhaps it used to be a full blown meal that was done there and people were taking advantage? I don't really know.

Spiritual Gifts (ch 12)

Paul is talking to Pagans, he says that different people have different spiritual gifts, yet they all come from the same spirit. The spiritual gifts include: utterance of wisdom, utterance of knowledge, faith, healing, working miracles, prophecy, the ability to distinguish between spirits, speak in tongues, and interpretation of tongues.

My understanding is that Pagans have a different God for each action that a God might do. In this context, this section makes sense if he is talking to former pagans, he's trying to explain how their old religion was wrong.

One Body with Many Members

Everybody is part of the body of Christ. We all rejoice together or suffer together. It is like one person is the foot, another is an eye, we need each other. Some people seem less important, but God made it that way.

Interesting metaphor I guess, we should help each other out is always a good message.

For the Corinthians Overview Post:

12:25-26 Help each other out

11:3 Women should be subordinate to their husbands


  1. The first line that you discuss has been used to promote much of the rampant misogyny found in Christianity. In my opinion, it is a great example of how the world worked several thousand years ago, and is completely irrelevant to human progress and where we, as a species are today--or at least where we should be.

    1. It's not surprising at all to me that this verse was used in that way. It pretty clearly puts women as lower than men. I agree with you, it's a cultural relic and irrelevant to our modern world.

  2. The reason the 1 Corinthians 11 passage does not make sense [as it is currently taught] is because men believe that they are the image and glory of God. However, the Bible is clear that Jesus Christ is the image and glory of God. Paul is using Jesus Christ as a correlation as to why women should not be veiled because a faction of men had written him who wanted women to be veiled while praying and prophesying. If you would like to see more on my interpretation of this passage, you can visit my website at

    1. Hello Kristen, thanks for visiting the blog :)

      If we look back to Genesis, it seems that man was made in the image of God. And the way I read Genesis 1:27, so is woman.

      I'm not sure I understand what you are saying in regards to the head coverings. Isn't Paul arguing that women should cover their heads? In verse 5 he says that a woman who prays without a head covering dishonors her head. In verse 6 it says that a woman who won't cover her head should cut her hair, but that is bad so she shouldn't do it.

      Although I guess verse 15 also says that her hair can count as a covering. (looks like when I read this the first time I read past that) verse 15 then, does seem to support your point. I'm not really sure how to reconcile verses 6 and 15, it is definitely interesting though.

    2. Hello Hausdorff,

      Being made IN the image of God and being the VERY image of God are two different things. It is Jesus Christ who is the very image and glory of God. (See 2 Cor. 4:3-4, Col. 1:15, Heb. 1:3, Rev. 21:23) In this passage, Paul is using Jesus Christ as a correlation as to why women should not be veiled. He is saying, 7"For a man indeed ought not to veil his head [Christ vs.3] since He is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man [so she ought not to be veiled either]. And the reason Paul makes this argument is because a faction of men had written him who wanted women to be veiled while praying and prophesying. Verses 4-6 are not words original to Paul.

      Therefore, 1 Corinthians 11: 3-16 goes as follows:

      Verse 3 is Paul's model where the figurative meaning of head is "source".
      Verses 4-6 Paul quotes a faction of men who wrote him. (The men made a literal "head" argument which is why Paul used a figurative "head" argument in his model.)
      Verses 7-16 is Paul's rebuttal where he refers back to his model.

      Also, it is vital for one to look at the original Greek because the translators have added words in our translations in an attempt to get the rebuttal portion to harmonize with the quoted portion. For example, in verse 14 the translators have added the word "does" which makes Paul's statement to be the opposite of what he is actually saying. Verses 14-15 should read as, 14"Not even nature itself teaches 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, because the long hair has been given [to us all] instead of a covering." (Note: The pronoun "aute", which is translated as "to her", in verse 15 is not in the majority of Greek manuscripts which tells us it is not original to Paul.) In other words, Paul is saying that nature (God controls nature) does not teach us that if a man has long hair it is a dishonor to him because God has given a man long hair instead of a covering. Therefore, it is okay for a man, if he chooses, to grow long hair. Paul also is saying that nature does not teach us that if a woman has long hair it is her glory (meaning that many women have unmanegable hair), therefore, he is saying that it is okay for a woman, if she chooses, to cut her hair short. Indeed, Paul is telling the men that their argument has no merit.

      If you would like to see more, I have explained this passage more fully on my website in the 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 section. (

      God Bless

    3. Really interesting stuff Kristen.

      I'll be honest, I haven't gone and read your page yet, although I did bookmark it and I intend to go check it out later. So apologies if this question is answered there. How do you know that verses 4-6 is Paul quoting some guys from this town? I reread this passage but didn't notice anything that indicated that. Is there something I missed or is the source of that insight elsewhere?

    4. Hausdorff, I know that verses 4-6 are quoted because I know that Jesus Christ is the image and glory of God. Paul would not make a case for women to be veiled and then in the very next sentence use Jesus Christ as a correlation as to why women should not be veiled. Furthermore, it is clear when you study this passage that the rebuttal portion is completely contradictory to the quoted portion. You even said yourself that this passage is completely bizarre, doesn't make sense, and that you could not reconcile certain verses. And the reason for this confusion is because Paul's words completely contradict the words of the men who wrote him. If you really study this passage, you will see that Paul makes a very coherent and ingenious argument as to why women should not be veiled. It is not a difficult passage at all when it is understood correctly.

    5. Kristen,

      I read your write up on this in detail today, really interesting stuff. I think you make a very good argument. The verses are confusing, it says X, then 5 minutes later he says not X. Your explanation is that verses 4-6 are him quoting the people (when he says X) then later when he says not X he is responding to them. This does seem to fit pretty well. I can't think of another reason someone would say two opposite things unless they wanted to compare and contrast views. It makes the most sense to start with the incorrect view and then end with the lesson you are trying to spread.

      I do really wish that in the actual bible they had done a better job of highlighting the fact that v4-6 were him quoting other men. He seamlessly moves from their correspondence to his reply to it. It certainly makes it harder to follow than would seem necessary.

      I just reread my write up of this section, looks like a big mess of confusion and disgust at the apparent misogyny. I do really like your answer to it, it's a shame the source material is written so poorly that it will be easy for someone to take the opposite message from it.

      I'm going to edit my original post here with a link to your page (I'm assuming you won't mind).

    6. Hausdorff,

      I would like to thank you for your comments. It is nice to see that you keep an open mind and are willing to search the Scriptures for the truth. God loves His daughters. And it is not God's will that His daughters be silenced and subjugated. God offers His daughters freedom and equality, as He does His sons. I am thankful to know that there are people like you who are willing to stand up for the truth. It was nice to dialogue with you. Take care and God Bless.


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