Gilbert House Fellowship #117: 1 Corinthians 6-11

symbol-of-authorityWE CONTINUE our study of the most remarkable books of the Bible, 1 Corinthians. This week, we cover Paul’s instructions to the church concerning sexual immorality, lawsuits against fellow believers, the right of those in full-time ministry to earn their living in that calling, marriage and divorce, eating food sacrificed to idols, and taking the Lord’s Supper with an unrepentant heart.

We also discuss what Paul meant when he told the Corinthians that “we are to judge angels” (1 Cor. 6:3), and the puzzling verses (1 Corinthians 11:2-16) telling wives to “have a symbol of authority” on their heads, “because of the angels.”

This was actually based in the 1st century understanding of human physiology. It was believed by the top physicians and scientists of the day, like Hippocrates (of the Hippocratic Oath), that hair was hollow and exerted suction inside the body to draw reproductive fluid into the shafts. Thus, men with long hair were preventing the fluid leaving the body, and women with short hair prevented the fluid from being drawn up into the body to produce children.

Further, since a woman’s hair was considered part of her reproductive system, appearing in church with her head uncovered was considered, well, indecent. And the Mount Hermon incident with the Watchers, the angels who “left their proper dwelling” and took human wives (see Genesis 6:1-4), was clearly in Paul’s mind when he wrote these verses.

For a more thorough analysis of the head covering of 1 Corinthians 11:13-15, give a listen to Dr. Michael Heiser’s Naked Bible Podcast episode #86.  Here are links to the papers Mike references in his podcast (links open PDF documents):

Click here for the complete archive of our New Testament Bible studies to date, and click here for the Old Testament studies to date.


  1. I’ve read the article and reasoning by Troy Martin and have the following questions.

    1. In Numbers 6 we read about the Nazirite. Concerning the hair it says “All the days of his [the Nazirite’s] vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the LORD, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long”. This implies that ordinarily men wore their hair short, otherwise there would be no distinction between Nazirites and non-Nazirites. That being the case, can it not be argued that it is “natural” for a man to have short hair, and this may be what Paul had in mind when he wrote 1 Cor 11:14? Numbers 6 was long before the theories of Hippocrates, and I imagine Paul would pay more attention to Moses than to Hippocrates.

    2. Similarly, in Leviticus 19:27 we have the commandment “You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard”. Beards were “natural” for men (e.g. 2 Samuel 10:4,5; Psalm 133:2; Jeremiah 41:5). Even today, observant Jews sport luxuriant beards. On the Hippocratic theory, would not all that hair “suck up” the semen and therefore be against nature?

    3. In verse 3 Paul begins the discussion by saying “The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God”. This must surely be important, if not foundational, otherwise why write it? That being the case, in the following verses “head” may not necessarily be the lump on top of an individual’s neck.

    4. Paul concludes with verse 16, which seems to me to be the final word on the subject: “If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God”. Doesn’t this indicate women don’t need a veil/head covering? Can’t we abandon the head covering bit not because Paul was arguing from faulty physiology but simply because the Scripture (Paul’s writing) says so?

  2. My Biblical study of head covering has lead me to the understanding that the context is not about the state of ones clothing / covering. The real context is…. spiritual headship. It is then expressed in the state of ones clothing during a time of prayer or prophecy.

    In my thoughts below, I will speak boldly and openly on the issue and consider this an in depth & personal study.
    I offer my thoughts based on Biblical passages as evidence. I’m always ready with an open Bible to consider passages that I’ve missed or misunderstood. And within the same mindset, I reject looking at non-biblical things (like societies past and present) in order to know how I am to honor and please the one true and living God.

    Quick analogy:
    This issue of head covering can be likened to icing on a cake, paint on a car, or maybe vinyl siding on a building. The observed exterior does NOT define what’s inside. Rather, it’s the internal and unseen substance that gives shape to the observable.

    In this study, Godly Headship & Order of Authority are represented by states of clothing when coming before God. Below I show where this subject is consistent throughout the Old and New testimates.
    1 Cor 11 is not a Biblical precedence setter, it’s not a one-off passage, and it’s not a societal tradition that only applied to the Church at Corinth. (things I’ve seen preached / taught)

    So, as we start this study I want to encourage you to task yourself three questions.
    1. Who or what do you serve:
    a. Our perception of 21st century norms?
    b. God inspired scriptures?
    2. Is there a pattern for this in the scriptures?
    3. Am I being obedient (Reverent) when I approach God in Prayer?

    God’s ordinance / tradition
    Step 1: Read 1 Corinthians Ch11:1-16
    I start with these verses because it’s the text that most clearly explains the situation. It’s kind of like the English metaphorical idiom “there is an elephant in the room”. It’s so obvious that it would be silly to not acknowledge it first.

    Step 2 – Summary of 1 Corinthians Ch 11:1-17

    1 Cor 11:2 & 17 begins and ends the praise of Corinth getting something right. Vs 3-16 are words that add background, logic, reason, & clarity. These are not words of correction.

    1 Cor 11:3 clearly states this ordinance / tradition are of a Godly Headship & order of authority. All four (God -> Christ -> Man -> Woman) are named which defines the context.

    1 Cor 11:2 & 16 speaks to the “Traditions” that were used in *other* Churches of God.
    Also, below in the “pattern” area I show where the state of a woman’s head covering was used to remove her husband’s authority. Take note that this was a full 1,400yrs before Paul wrote this letter to the Church at Corinth!

    State of clothing on the head
    1 Cor 11:4-15 The physical uncovering / covering are an act of obedience that a Christian uses to show compliance with Godly headship & order of Authority. Vs. 4 is a command for the Man. Vs. 5 is a command for the Woman. Vs. 6-15 give reasoning’s and analogies as to why.

    1 Cor 11:16 Ends the matter by saying no matter what a person thinks, this is how Gods Church operates.

    1 Cor 11:10 A lot of debate concerns V10. It’s actually a very simple statement that can be answered using a little critical thinking.
    Do Angels see what mankind does? (Angles = Aggelos (greek) = messengers
    What is it that spiritual messengers do? Matt 18:10 Heb 13:2
    God (through Paul) here instructs Christian (men first) to uncover their heads. Then he addresses women to cover their heads. This is simply to demonstrate to the angels our spiritual submission to the proper authority.

    This makes me conclude that both good and bad angles see who is being obedient in this display of headship. Satan in the garden, Gen 6:2, Job 2:1, Heb 1:6, Jude Vs. 6 come to mind.
    NOTE: Paul mentions no other alternative symbol, nor does he imply there may be some other way to symbolize submission to the order of headship. Therefor if one wants to be righteous the covering cannot be replaced, displaced, or ignored.

    Length of hair & length of coverings
    Length for the woman is not quantified in this text. I think it’s a subjective matter and one of liberty by those who choose to obey. Keeping mind that in Vs. 14 & 15 the length of both the man and the woman’s hair is a matter of honor.

    When to be covered / not covered:
    This is a study concerning men and women as they pray and prophesy. The discussion does not concern men and women in their everyday activities of life nor how they ordinarily appear in public, but only how they appear as they pray or prophesy. Although I have no objection to a woman wearing a covering at all times for this purpose. Because in real world application, its generally very quick for a man to remove a covering and very slow for a woman to put one on for an impromptu prayer. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says to pray w/o ceasing)
    Back in 1 Cor 11 nowhere between 7:1 and 11:16 is the “Church assembly” spoken of. 11:2-16 are NOT instructions for head coverings *only*during Church assembly. Therefore, this applies 24/7 just like the previous points he was making in Ch 10 where they/we are to avoid Israel’s mistakes.
    Vs. 17 & 18 is where he starts to speak about them coming together as a “Church”.

    What is the basis for why a Christian uses a head covering?
    – Secular traditions past or present? -> Romans 12:2 – And be not conformed to this world
    – Tradition handed down from Paul? -> 1 Cor 11:2 Now I praise you…and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
    – Some blend of the two? -> Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

    Ages of children to uncover / cover
    – Concerning, the age at which a “Virgin” (unmarried daughter) is to cover her head? And likewise, a young boy wearing a covering on his head? It’s my judgment that when they start to seriously consider that particular time as prayer (reverence) to God, they need to cover / uncover to show spiritual submission. I do not allow my son to wear anything when praying. I encourage my (unmarried) daughters to wear a covering.

    Women’s Lib movement in America was a defining time for rebelling against men
    During the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s, feminist wanted nothing to do with men. Most wanted male signs of supremacy to be removed, including male control of employment, politics, the media, and types of clothing. If you google search for pictures of their protests, you’ll see tight pants, a lack of braziers, but most importantly no head coverings to show man’s authority over them.

    Step #3 Patterns
    Here are passages that I consider establish the pattern of spiritual headship and related states of clothing.
    Gen 2:7 – God created man first.
    Gen 2:15 – God commanded man how to obey.
    Gen 2:21-25 – Eve was created to be Adam’s help meet. (Second)
    Gen 3:1-7 – Sin / Satan crept in when Eve was away from her protection (Adam)
    Gen 3:8-13 -God *first* called to Adam to give an account. (even though Eve sinned first)
    Gen 3:16-17 – “And he shall rule over you” – Adam “Harkened to the voice of your wife” which resulted in a Death sentence for both of them.
    Gen 4:1 “His wife”
    Numbers 5:12-14, 18 – Woman’s head was uncovered to remove the man’s spiritual headship/protection. This made her naked to God & this was 1,400 yrs before Paul wrote to Corinth!
    Numbers 30 = whole chapter
    Numbers 30:1-2, 16 – Lords command that a man must keep his word.
    Numbers 30:3-8 – A father or husband has the authority / headship over the daughter or wife.
    Numbers 30:9 – A widow or divorced woman stands alone before God.
    Numbers 30:10-15 – Man can void or bear his wife or daughters guilt.
    Deuteronomy 22:13-19 Man’s wife and rules about her virginity & his ability to divorce her
    Judges 16 Lords of the Philistines appealed to Delilah. Samson made the same mistake Adam made.
    Job 2:1-10 – Satan tried to use Jobs wife because she was a big influence on him. His authority over her is self-evident.
    Matt 19:3-9 – Man having authority to put away his wife.
    Women don’t have Gods authority to *spiritually* put away or divorce their husband.
    Marriage =
    1. Gods design (approval is only in like manner. 1 Man and 1 woman until death)
    2. Husbands approval
    3. Local Government recognition.
    4. Societal recognition
    NOTE: #3 (divorce court) alone doesn’t nullify #1 & #2. (for some reason, most Christians I’ve known seem to think the government issued paper is what in whole defines a state of marriage. I say NO! There are two superseding authorities that must be correct before #3 is valid.
    Acts 5:1-10 – She chose to go with her husbands’ scheme & lied to the spirit. She was not protected / covered by her husband because he was already dead. She was now spiritually uncovered and directly accountable. Widows and (properly) divorced women are not *spiritually* covered by a man)
    Romans 5:12, 19 – Sin comes through Adams disobedience and is made righteous by Christ’s obedience. (not a woman)
    Ephesians 5:22-33 Wives be subject
    Ephesians 6:1-4 Children obey and honor both father and mother.
    Colossians 3:18-21 Wives and Children be subject to the Husband / Father
    1 Corinthians 6:12-20. Vs 17 says “one spirit with him” (Gods Authority)
    1 Corinthians 7:1-14 – The husband is able to “put away” his wife. The wife can only “depart”.
    1 Corinthians 11:3 The context of 4-16 is very clearly stated in Vs 3
    1 Corinthians 11:4-5 – Man’s head covering is addressed first.
    1 Corinthians 11:14-15 – As an example man’s length of hair is addressed first.
    1 Timothy 2:9-14 – “Submission” & “not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man”
    1 Timothy Ch3 – Men in Church leadership roles are to have only 1 wife. Ruling his household and keeping his children under control.
    1 Peter 3:1-5 – wives, be in subjection to your own husbands

    Just my 2 cents… Richard in Ohio

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