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Understanding the "covering" of 1 Cor 11. -
February 3rd, 2011, 05:57 PM
(This work may be quoted within the thread, but may not be reproduced outside the thread without the express permission of the author.)
EXPOSITION OF 1 COR 11:3-16
 “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.”
Here at v3 Paul sets the agenda for what he is about to teach: spiritual protocol.
And so he lays down the functional (and spiritual) hierarchy. In descending order it is:
3. The man
4. The woman
And firstly we note that he begins with the notion that Christ is head of “every man”, which puts us on notice that he is not about to be concerned with the type of headship peculiar to the husband-wife relationship, for “every man” includes single men.
Similarly, we note at v5 below that reference is made not to every wife who prays, but “every woman”, again necessarily including single women.
It is therefore clear that when he then proceeds to condense “every man” into “the man” and “every woman” into “the woman” , and declares the first head of the second, his intent is to relate the notion that in a broad and general sense male man is head of female man, while at the same time avoiding the undesirable notion that each and every man is individually head of each and every woman.
That is, Paul’s analysis here is an inductive one: he sees all men and women through the overlaid transparency, as it were, of the first ever man ( “the man” ) and first ever woman ( “the woman”), in so doing declaring the relationship of men as a whole to women as a whole to be one and the same as its singularly-constituted antecedent, and chiefly because the first ever woman was taken out of the first ever man.
Furthermore, in his inclusion of every woman in the scheme of things (see v5 below), he has necessarily included women who are married to non-believing husbands, thus informing us that the “ every man” to which he here refers and which he has summed up as “ the man”, consists not only of believers, for else the women who are married to non-believing husbands were disconnected from the scheme of things.
The headships described are therefore regardless both of marital status, and spiritual status: Christ is head of every man, period, regardless of whether such is acknowledged, and the generic “ the man” (male man) is head over the generic “ the woman” (female man), regardless of whether such is acknowledged.
And so the headship Paul is here concerned with is that of the order of things created – headship according to law, the criteria for such being that which is laid down below at v8, to wit, that which is first is head of that which is taken out of it. In this regard, we point out that Christ Himself, though Himself God, was plucked out of the bosom of the Father: thus the headship of the Father over the Son.
 “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.”
The basis for this statement here is v7 below: male man is the image of God.
And that to cover an image is to declare it shameful for viewing and therefore to declare the Substance which it projects also shameful, thus dishonouring that Substance.
In as much then as Christ should not be covered when interceding for us to the Father, He being the “express image” of God’s Person (Heb 1:3), so too male-man, being the ostensible* express image of God, should not cover his head.
*Adam’s being the image of God is merely by virtue of form: his physical structure ‘maps’ to the spiritual attributes of God. But Christ’s being the image of God is by virtue of virtue itself, thus it is said that He is the express image of God’s person.
 “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head:
The basis for this statement here is also v7 below: female man is not the image of God, but the glory of man.
And accordingly we are told here that the woman dishonours male man by praying to God uncovered, for such is to imply that she is the image of God when she is not, and therefore constitutes an attempt to usurp/overtake the position of that image and therefore to dishonour her head, which is male man, with regard to protocol.
for that is even all one as if she were shaven.”
It is the missing of the point in this statement, which has led to the erroneous interpretation by most (indeed whole denominations), that Paul’s reference to the covering of the woman is a reference to an external garment of some sort.
Rather, Paul here makes use of the fact that God has genetically constituted male man to tend toward baldness, thus rendering the two states (short hair and baldness) “all one” , and therefore declaring that a woman who prays with short hair akin to that of a man’s, is in effect praying with no hair at all, and therefore in a potential sense unequivocally declaring herself the image of God rather than the glory of man.
So the covering to which Paul refers is not some externality, but the hair.
 “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.”
In accord then with what we have pointed out at the second half of v5, Paul makes full use of the equality of short hair and baldness in provoking the Corinthians to see the silliness of a woman’s having short hair like a man, for he points out that if such be acceptable, then it should also be acceptable that she be made to be completely bald, which of course Paul knows would significantly detract from the beauty of the woman, even in the eyes of certain fad-motivated Corinthians.
He thus dares them to a proper perspective with an ‘all or nothing’ scenario: “if you think it appropriate that a woman represent herself like as most men are, then go all the way so that there is no doubt at all: shave her bald!”.
 “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.”
We have earlier cited this verse’s fundamentality.
But we will add that the reason that the woman is not (contrary to what one might anticipate from the chain of God-Christ-Man-Woman) the image of man, but solely the glory of man, is tautological: the parts of a woman’s form which make her different to man, necessarily do not ‘map’ to any parts of a man’s form, but are rather complementary to it. And being complementary to man’s form, they are naturally combined with man’s form to constitute a certain composite which only then can fully represent mankind, and which therefore results in progeny. For glory is pre-eminently confirmed as glory by virtue of its progeny. Thus we read of Rachel’s plea to Jacob: “give me children or else I die” .
And therefore and consummately it is said of us who are the ‘woman’ (and therefore the glory) of Christ: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” , which is to say that because of hope (and therefore faith, for “faith is the assurance of things hoped for” ), we in a figure give birth to Him who is within us, the man child, the hope of the woman, as we overcome trials and tribulations. And thus Christ has said: “Wisdom is justified of all her children” .
Is it not Christ who justifies? Shall not the Man Child therefore be brought forth of us who are the Bride, as says Rev 12:5?
 “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.  Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
We have earlier cited this verse’s fundamentality.
Paul here fortifies his assertion that woman is not God’s image, with 2 points:
1. She was taken out of man and is therefore fundamentally/positionally internal to man; and being internal, cannot possibly constitute the image of God, for the notion that is ‘image’ speaks to that which is seen rather than that which is concealed.
2. (Commensurately) She is subordinate by reason of purpose: he was first, she was second, and she for him rather than he for her. Like as we are with regard to God.
Thus in a broad and general sense**, and for two reasons, male man’s natural headship over female man.
**Male man’s headship over female man is witnessed in the activities of the world: although modern technology has obscured it, female man is naturally and ultimately dependent on male man for provisions in all areas. In this regard, women who run around disrespecting men in general, usually are the worse off for it.
 “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head
This “ power” here is firstly a reference to authority: because she is subordinate to male man, the female man must have a symbol on her head which signifies authority over her - a symbol which perpetually speaks to the fact that her headship lies not in herself, but elsewhere. (Therefore it is said not that such power is on her person, but on her head: her headship lies in a place other than her own head.)
And yet we cannot escape the fact that the word “authority” is not used, but “ power” , and moreover, a power which is over her by virtue of being on her. Thus we are compelled to not only understand this as a reference to authority over the woman, but power for the woman by virtue of her being under that authority. For we know in Christ, as did the Centurion who spoke with Christ (Matt 8:9), that only when one is under authority, does one have authority.
Just then as Esther co-joined herself to Ahaseurus’ power in submitting her very life to him – she was promised half his kingdom - so too woman: she is imputed with the power of man as she submits to man. Such is not to suggest however that female man is some kind of second-class member of humanity, but simply speaks to the protocol inherent in the fact that woman was taken out of man (see also v11 below).
And so again, and consummately, the woman that is the Body of Christ: ‘she’ is imputed with the power of her Head which is Christ Jesus, as she submits to Him. For it is said that we are “joint heirs” with Him, and that if we suffer with Him we shall reign with Him.
And so we are adjured by the Lord Himself: “whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all” .
because of the angels”
Suffice to say here that, because the angels are ministering spirits, ministering salvation to us, there is a certain hindrance put up to them (to what degree and the specifics of which we will not concern ourselves with here) when things are not in order. In general terms we might say that it is harder to minister to someone who is offending you than to someone who is not.
And so commensurately we are reminded of Peter’s declaring that husbands are to give honour to their wives, “that your prayers be not hindered” : certain things are hindered, even angels, when things are not right spiritually.
 “ Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.  For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.”
Lest any misogynism take advantage of what Paul has just outlined, he is here quick to add that our positions in the flesh are appointed by God, and that it is therefore not the kingdom of man, but the kingdom of God, and His grace, on which we should focus.
We are thus hereby adjured to walk humbly before God, considering others above ourselves, and are therefore specifically reminded of Paul’s elsewhere teachings that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.
 “Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?”
In line with his provoking the Corinthians at v6 to go all the way in shaving the woman’s head completely, he here more pointedly utilises the aesthetic argument in referring to comeliness, and therefore appeals most specifically to our God-given subjective perception that, if the woman is optimally represented to man (who did not create her) when her hair is long, how much more so when communicating with Him who created her?
 “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?”
And so Paul immediately follows up v13’s notion of “[..]covered” with the notion of long hair here in v14, in so doing linking the two notions together in one and therefore leaving no doubt that it is indeed the hair all along to which he has been referring in his use of the notion of a covering, and not, as modern minds prematurely conclude at the earlier verses, some external fabric. The next verse below seals the deal in this regard:
 “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.”
Here is stated very explicitly that God has given the woman her hair for a covering. That is, it is now fully realised that Paul has effectively been using the word “covering” as a synecdoche.
Spiritual protocol is God’s concern, for God is a spirit and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. If then such is God’s concern (and although it was the hand of Paul writing, it was nevertheless the mind of Christ), then it is God’s responsibility to provide naturally what aligns with such protocol: there should no deficiency be present in the creation of man and woman in this regard: each should be able to “pray unceasingly” without rushing off to obtain some man-made item to make oneself acceptable. (See also Post script on a matter of logic and Post script on the suitability of coverings below.)
Thus God has given the woman her (long) hair for a covering so that, even if she is not aware of its function with regard to spiritual protocol (indeed the non-believing woman most certainly is not) she is nevertheless ever ready to come to God by Jesus Christ if and when He decides, without dishonouring her (male-man) head in ostensibly usurping his primary position in the order of things created.
And if God has given the covering, then it is sufficient for all occasions which have to do with God.
Commensurately, any covering should be involuntary, for we are warned at Col 2:18 to steer clear of “voluntary humility” . For just as the grace which saved us was irresistible, so too the grace which continues to save us, moreover, which causes us to glorify God in our daily lives, and which is therefore marked by spontaneity rather than our own volition and effort (cf Gal 3:1-6, Phil 3:9): the woman makes no effort to grow her hair, but would have to make effort to obtain a veil.
Just then as David preferred to fall into the hands of God for chastisement rather than the hands of man, in like manner is not the woman better off coming to God with covering provided by Him than by her own hands? Analogously, do we not seek a kingdom “not made with hands” ? (2 Cor 5:1).
 “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.”
Paul simply says here that those who are truly listening to the Lord, will not argue with what he has outlined.
We note the passive nature of this conclusion: he does not say something like “if any man say otherwise, let him be accursed” (which he has elsewhere said of other matters), but (merely) something which might be paraphrased as “you’d better sit up and listen because these things are important”.
Thus he does not make this an issue within the scope of what might be considered blasphemy or otherwise, but more so with regard to spiritual understanding and expediency. For he has elsewhere stated that although all things are lawful to us, not all things are expedient, with an implied: “we seek to do what is expedient”.
Certain Jews once mused over John the Baptist, whether he was the Head, the Messiah. But he deflected all glory away from himself, saying there was one coming whose shoes he was not worthy to untie.: he understood he was not the Head, but being the ‘woman’ of Christ, the glory of the Head.
In fact John displayed this spiritual protocol to such an extent, that God signified his pleasure in him by appointing for him a martyrdom which most represented such display: he who was closest in history to ever being considered the Head, was himself beheaded for Christ.
For what use had he of his own head when he had another much more capable, and that for things eternal? No wonder the Lord declared him the greatest person ever born of woman (Matt 11:11).
May God’s grace, just as it was with John, cause our spiritual ‘hair’ to grow to a covering as long and comely as John’s. And in this regard, did not our Master say that he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist? God be praised for His grace unfathomable.
Those that long with fervent spirit for the coming of our Lord, will of course heed what Paul is teaching here, for the same are they who are concerned with what is expedient, and therefore the same who wish for the Lord’s coming to be expedited.
“Even so, Come Lord Jesus.”
I once heard the secretary of the Existentialist and Atheist Society of my town, at a public forum, spontaneously and without apparent reason, ask the crowd whom he was addressing: “why does a woman have long hair?”
The question to be answered, however, was not the question he asked, but rather, why it was that he asked the question.
To answer that question, we have no more to do than point to the fact that he was an atheist.
Post script on a matter of logic
One of the temptations to erroneously conclude that an external fabric is being referred to in the notion of covering, is the fact that the issue is placed primarily in the context of praying and prophesying. That is, it is reasoned that an external fabric must be being referred to because one’s length of hair does not alter itself spontaneously on the basis of whether one is praying to God or not.
To answer this we will use the analogy of a secular court…..
One who walks passed a court house in his bathing suit, does not invoke the fury of the court, for there has no dishonour occurred.
However when one who is called to the court for jury duty or as a witness, shows up in his bathing suit, a certain indignation proceeds from the bench: one is held to be in contempt of court.
Unlike the discrete type that was Esther’s approach to Ahaseurus in Old Testament times, the ‘court’ of the New Testament is always in session, for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ stands continually before the Father to make intercession for us. We are therefore perpetually within the modality which beckons us to boldly approach the throne of grace, and which provides for us to “pray unceasingly” .
It is this perpetuality of the New Covenant which constrains us to be ever ready to approach God, and therefore which also constrains us to consider that men and women in Christ adorn themselves not only spiritually, but physically, in attire which provides no hindrance to the occasion.
Post script on the suitability of coverings
The woman has her own head on her own shoulders. Thus her ostensible head.
And yet we have been told that the head of the creature that is “the woman” is in fact the creature that is “the man” . Thus the actual head of the woman as far as God is concerned.
This fusion, this overlaying of the actual upon the ostensible, is parallel to our relationship with Christ: although our spiritual thought-life appears to derive from our own personal minds, it in fact derives from the mind of another: our headship lies not in ourselves, but in One who is joined to us as one spirit.
Concerning then the matter at hand, because the head of the woman is declared to be the man rather then the woman’s own head, we understand that in physically viewing the woman’s own head we are in a figure viewing the man, and the hair which proceeds out of that head therefore the covering which proceeds from the man out of whom the woman was taken.
Else there were no figurative force in the existence of the woman’s own head. For unless the figure declare itself to be not the substance, of what value the figure?
Therefore the (long) hair of the woman is not only sufficient for her covering when praying to God, but in fact the only covering which will suffice: nothing will suffice but that which has been set up as type by God, and specifically, that which proceeds out of the dualism resulting from the existence of two persons, each with his/her own personal head on his/her own personal shoulders, but with the one person being taken out of the other.
And so we are led to conclude that whether a man or a woman be covered on his/her own head with any item, be it helmet, raincoat, veil or other, such is of no import as far as God is concerned: provided the man not have long hair, and the woman have long hair, all is well with regard to the representation of the order of things created to the realm in which angels minister, which is in fact God’s throne.
Well of course this leaves one question: “What constitutes long hair?”, which is of course a subjective call.
In general, we might say that the length (and shape) of the hair which performs the role of a covering, does not merely conform to the shape and area of the head, but is somewhat superfluous in this regard, thus speaking rather to things of the body and perhaps even emphasising the shape of the body.
But we need only sit and engage in people-watching at the local shopping mall, to determine what constitutes a covering, and what not, for it will be in general what women and men choose to maintain anyway. For we are told at v14 that these things require no intellectual intervention, but rather are in accord with “nature” .
And so we will not engage in silliness, disputing with a tape measure the appropriateness of hair length which might constitute a covering, but simply sum up by saying that a length (and form) of hair which might properly constitute a covering, and which is therefore suitable for women and unsuitable for men when coming to God in prayer, is a length and form which seems to declare: “My headship with regard to the order of things created, lies elsewhere”.
Last edited by Colossians; April 24th, 2012 at 11:03 PM.