1 Corinthians 11 – Head Coverings, Communion

1 Corinthians 11:1 – I’ve seen a lot of silliness come from mis-applying this verse.
1 Corinthians 11:2-26 – This is an interesting, yet possibly contentious, passage about head coverings. I’ve seen women who come away from this with a conviction that they shouldn’t pray or attend church without a head covering. I’ve seen few men teach this aside from Alan Rouse, but even he was led to his convictions by his daughters (good post and comment thread).
I don’t have a conviction on this. It seems that the passage is cultural, at least it ‘feels’ that way. There are no other references, in either the New Testament or the Old that I’m aware of to the need for women to cover their head. Of course, what I believe the passage ‘feels’ like may have no bearing on what it actually is about.
Interestingly, I cannot recall any discussion of men having long hair in any of the discussions (including Alan’s) of the issue. It seems that either both ae important,or neither is. Today, most Christians fall into the ‘neither’ camp.
It sees that this all evolves around respect. Paul says the man ought to not be covered out of respect to the one he is under – Christ – and the woman ought to be covered out of respect to the one she is under – man. At the very least, those lines of respect must be honored, what you believe about coverings and long hair is between you and God.
I’d love to hear any of my reader’s opinions on this (and I know at least one who has researched it).
1 Corinthians 11:17-34 – Paul challenges teh Corinthians on how they’ve treated the Lord’s Supper. He challenges them to “examine themselves” before taking it. In my church, we take it every week and the frequency can make it so familiar that it doesn’t get treated with the reverence and importance it ought to. I’ve been to other churches where communion is the same each time, read from a book and following the same pattern each time. That can do the same thing, make it common instead of Holy.
Regardless of method or timing, however, it’s up to the one taking communion to pause and reflect, examining themselves to make sure they are treating the body and blood of our Lord with the proper respect, reverence and gratitude. Our corporate practices can aid or hinder that process, but that does not change where the responsibility for reverence lies.

7 thoughts on “1 Corinthians 11 – Head Coverings, Communion

  1. I suspect you already know my take. Paul tells the Judaizing men that they should quit wearing the tallith (prayer cloth) as a head covering because it dishonors Christ. Knowing, though, that some of them won’t listen to him he’s required to make some statement for the wives of those men who do not want to dishonor Christ, so to them he gives permission to wear the head covering without shame.
    It’s a master stroke, really. It covers every base.
    The thing that amazes me is how such a plain reading of the text could be ignored for so many centuries. The only reasonable explanation is that the *men* analyzing it are blind to the equality of Paul’s handling.

  2. Hopefully you subscribed to commetns because I’d love you to elaborate on this. 😀 Your interpretation isn’t plain to me, maybe I’m not getting the cultural references that are familiar to you or something. Or maybe I’m just daft. 😛
    I my experience, it’s not men who are seeing a requirement for coverings for women, it’s women.

  3. Subbing to your comments requires an email exchange, and I usually don’t bother. I’ll sub for this, though.
    That women forcefully attempt to follow the laws improperly put on them is a tragedy. I know you’re right about that, and I’m always sorry to see it.
    The head covering in question is called the tallith. That’s a prayer shawl, and it’s worn as a reminder that Jews needed to be covered before God. It was a reminder of the shame of sin.
    Paul’s argument in verse 4 is that our Head has removed our sin. We are clean now, and therefore ought not to pray with shame, but with bold confidence. We appear openly in the throne room of God, so to cover ourselves while praying on Earth is to make our Head’s work on the cross appear ineffective.
    Paul then points out that a woman who prays uncovered shames the Jewish man to whom she’s married. Jewish tradition seems to have allowed for punishing a woman who does such a thing. People have made that a Corinthian cultural thing, but the whole context here is Jewish.
    Paul makes it clear “humans” praying with their heads covered are dishonoring their Head. Wives of Jewish men are bound to call him their head as well, though, so Paul makes a specific exception starting in verse 10. Ignore all the italicized words the translator/interpretters added, and it says, “for this reason a woman ought to have power over her head.” She ought to be able to make her own decisions about what she’ll wear. But she can’t make that decision independently of her marriage. Therefore, she can decide to cover her head as a part of the married couple.
    In verse 16 Paul closes the argument by saying, whatever else is true, no other church practices head covering.

  4. Sorry to be so long in getting back to thins.
    OK, I think I am a bit daft, but I’m getting it. 😀
    So, Paul is saying using the covering is to dishonor Christ and the sacrifice he made, so men ought not to use it. To drive the point home for the men who wouldn’t accept it, he say to the women it’s perfectly fine to wear the covering, implying or highlighting that their head (their husbands) are not perfect as Christ. Or something like that. Basically, he’s using the ‘permission’ granted to the wives as a dig at those who wouldn’t agree.
    There’s an awful lot of cultural back story in there that is lost on folks like me who aren’t versed in it. Any time a certain interpretation requires a lot of background knowledge, it gives me pause. Would God require us to study so much to get the ‘right’ answer? Maybe, but it doesn’t feel right.
    Of course, this is far from a fundamental practice and getting this ‘wrong’ (if there is such a thing) does not doom us to failure. So maybe having to dig a bit isn’t such a big deal.

  5. I shaved my hair all the way off yesterday, had issues with my hair. i was reading same passage corinth 11..i understand i have no shame because of Christ paid it all for me, that i dont have to cover my head has paul said, what about shaving the head..

  6. Haha! I’m subscribed now! So two years down the road or not, I’m drawn into the conversation again. 🙂
    I’ll look forward to the (blog)master’s take.
    My intrusive take is that if you lived in Corinth in 50 AD, you’d be instantly singled out for shame by every man and woman you knew. But you live here and now. Neither Moses, nor Paul, nor God made any law about how much hair any of us needed to have (though there would be more room for discussion if you’d cut your hair in an attempt to confuse people about whether you’re a man. Even then, though, Joan of Arc would be on your side and explain that if God called you to a job requiring short hair, you’d be wrong to leave it long.)
    Glad the problem is fixed. 🙂

  7. I’d agree with codepoke. I can think of nothing in scripture that would indicate that a woman shaving her head is sin (not that I’ve studied it, however). Cultures may have something to say about it, but it would seem that God does not.

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