To re-iterate a point I made earlier, especially in part 5.5 of the series, the following posts are my understanding of 1 Corinthians 11 (concerning the head covering) and are not a teaching I plan to enforce on anyone. I have studied this passage a number of times to make sure that my understanding of it isn’t a preference but what seems clear to me from the words. Feel free to share your opinions.
With that out of the way, let’s continue on with question 5:
How does verse 3 fit into all of this?
But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.
– 1 Corinthians 11:3 NASB
When I first studied 1 Corinthians and got to this verse, I had to stand back. My initial thought was, “How bizarre for Paul to randomly make this comment and then move on to something completely unrelated!” But is it unrelated?
Could it possibly be the key to understanding the passage?
The head of Christ – God
The head of every man – Christ
The head of a / the woman – a man
Let me give you an example of why I believe this is important.
Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered disgraces his head.
– 1 Corinthians 11:4 NASB
What’s he saying here? Every male person who prays, or prophesies, with his head (the part of the body on top of his shoulders) covered disgraces his head (the part of the body on top of his shoulders). Does that make sense? Is this really what Paul is trying to say?
If we apply the key above to this verse, it may make more sense.
Every male person who prays, or prophesies, with his head (the part of the body on top of his shoulders) covered disgraces his head (Christ).
What do you think?
Let’s look at another example.
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.
– 1 Corinthians 11:5 NASB
This can get confusing so I will try my best to simplify it.
Any woman who prays, or prophesies, with her head (the part of the body on top of her shoulders) uncovered … it is one and the same thing as having a shaved head (the part of the body on top of her shoulders). Both are a disgrace to her head (the part of the body on top of her shoulders)??
You would think that if disgrace were to be applied at all, it would be to a person rather than to one part of a person’s body, right?
So, if we use the key above, could this be the intention?
Any woman who prays, or prophesies, with her head (the part of the body on top of her shoulders) uncovered … it is one and the same thing as having a shaved head (the part of the body on top of her shoulders). Both are a disgrace to her head (the man, namely her husband if she is married).
The way I understand it is that the head covering isn’t for the woman but for the man’s sake. She wears it so that he isn’t disgraced. I could be wrong and I’d be glad if anyone cares to clarify but what I find backs this thought futher is the continuation of the passage.
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. 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. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for man. For this reason a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
1 Corinthians 11:6-10 NASB
Do you notice verse 7? “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.”
Why would we need this explanation if verse 3 were to be ignored as a random comment?
More so, verse 10 mentions a “symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” As someone pointed out in the comments of an earlier post, the word “authority” that is used here is almost always only used to mean “having power” rather than “being under authority.” However, if we look at the Greek, there is a peculiar comment made regarding one of the four definitions of the word used.
The Greek word used for “authority” here is exousian or exousia.
a sign of the husband’s authority over his wife, i. e. the veil with which propriety required a woman to cover herself, 1 Corinthians 11:10 (as βασιλεία is used by Diodorus 1, 47 for the sign of regal power, i. e. a crown). (Synonym: see δύναμις, at the end. On the infinitive after ἐξουσία, and ἐξουσία ἔχειν cf. Buttmann, 260 (223f).)
– Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
The only time that this definition is intended for the word exousia or “authority”, as being under authority rather than having authority, is in 1 Corinthians 11:10 and I think this perfectly supports verses 3 and 7. In fact, this is the only explanation that ties it together for me.
One final question before tying up this section; I mention a woman covering her head for her husband’s sake, does that mean the Paul is only instructing married women to wear a head covering?
I don’t believe so. Throughout the Bible, the picture of the household is given with the father being the head of the house and daughters being under his authority until they get married. The head covering comes as a symbol that they are under authority, in their case, to their father.