Paul has just finished talking about avoiding Pagan religious services.
Paul now begins a discussion that will go up through chapter 14 concerning Christian religious services.
It is worth noting that very little is actually known about first century Christian worship. Most people make assumptions and these assumptions are based in what they are currently familiar with. We do not know accurately:
1) The time or frequency of gatherings (we assume it was Sunday but history tends to say Saturdays until around 325 AD)
2) The places of gathering (we assume it was homes)
3) The kinds of gatherings (in these chapters we are going to see them meeting for meals, for prayer, for some kind of service. Were these the same gathering or separate?)
4) The leadership’s role (We are used to a pastor leading the service. But these chapters are very different than a liturgical service with a bulletin)
These are the next three sections concerning church gatherings:
1) head coverings, praying, prophesying (11:2-16)
2) treatment of the poor at the Lord’s supper (11:17-34)
3) the abuse of speaking in tongues in the assembly (12-14)
The tongues issue of chapter 12 begins with “now about” which indicates Paul was responding to a concern in one of their letters.
But the first two seem to be Paul’s correction of practices that are unfamiliar with the churches “traditions”
These verses are difficult because:
1) the flow of logic is difficult
2) uncertainty about culture, historical setting and customs which both Paul and the readers understand.
3) Uncertainty about church services and church systems of this time
4) Uncertainty about certain words that are very important in the text:
a. Head (3-5)
b. Having down the head (4)
c. Uncovered (5, 13)
d. Glory (7)
e. Authority over her head (10)
f. Because of the angels (10)
g. In the place of a shawl (15)
h. Such a custom (16)
“holding to my teachings, just as I passed them on to you.”
1) “I passed them on” is a translation for is “paredoka” which means “to deliver over, to pass on. It is often used to refer to a teacher passing on material which he had learned.
2) “teaching” is from the word “paradosis” and is a technical term in Judaism for the oral transmission of religious instruction. This word probably does not refer to doctrine but to worship practices.
“I praise you for remembering me in everything” is setting up 11:17, “In the following directives I have no praise for you. . .”
The problem with these words is there is not one example of praise for the Corinthians. They probably refer to a general reference to their general structure of their church system and church service. Some have thought these words to be sarcastic or a contrast to the covering issue Paul is about to address.
11:3-6 Part One
“Head” is used here both metaphorically (HEAD) and literally (head)
“But I want you to understand that
the HEAD of every man is Christ,
The man the HEAD of woman
God the HEAD of Christ.
Every man praying or prophesying having down/against the head
Every woman praying or prophesying uncovered as to the head.
For it is one and the same thing for her to be one who is shaved.
For if a woman will not be covered, let her also be shorn.
But if it is disgraceful for her to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.”
This is saying the man would shame his “HEAD” if he covered his head.
A woman is to have her head covered to honor her “HEAD”
according to the LXX may refer to “loosed hair”. So to let her hair down in public was a
disgrace. Hair styles were elaborate in
There was some covering the woman was wearing which is literally called “a wraparound”
The traditional answer to this is woman were being insubordinate to their husbands because of their new-found freedom in Christ.
Thus, through out these verses Paul is assumed to be telling woman to get back in line with social order.
The problem may be more refined and aimed at the “eschatological” woman addressed in Chapter 7 who were refusing their husbands.
These same woman were participating in worship with men because in the church they were seen as equal
11:7-12 Part Two
11:13-16 Part Three