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Song of Solomon
1 Corinthians 11 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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1 Corinthians 11
1 Corinthians 11:1
Be ye followers of me, even as I also
Followers of me;
imitators of me
; follow herein my example, as I follow Christ's. What Christ's example was, in that he too "pleased not himself," he sets forth in
; and the general principle of self abnegation for the sake of others in
. This verse ought to be included in ch. 10. It sums up the whole argument, and explains the long digression of ch. 9.
As I also am of Christ.
This limits the reference to his own example. I only ask you to imitate me in points in which I imitate Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:2
Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered
Rules and principles respecting the covering of the head by women in Church assemblies.
but, on the other hand.
That ye remember me in all things, and keep,
etc. This is probably a quotation from their letter. He thanks them for this kind message, but points out one particular in which their practice was not quite commendable. The ordinances. The word literally means
, but is here rightly applied to rules which he had
to them. The Vulgate has
The word is used in
of the rules and precedents laid down by the rabbis.
1 Corinthians 11:3
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman
the man; and the head of Christ
But I would have you know;
but I wish you to know.
That the head of every man is Christ.
St. Paul, as was customary with him, applies the loftiest principles to the solution of the humblest difficulties. Given a question as to what is right or wrong in a particular instance, he always aims at laying down some great eternal fact to which the duty or decision is ultimately referable, and deduces the required rule from that fact. The headship of Christ is stated in
; and its application to the superiority of man is laid down also in
. The subordinate position of the woman is also stated in
1 Timothy 2:11, 12
1 Peter 3:1, 5, 6
, etc. This, however, is merely an ordinance of earthly application. In the spiritual realm "there is neither male nor female" (
The head of the woman is the man.
In Christ the distinctions of the sexes are done away. It was, perhaps, an abuse of this principle which had led the Corinthian women to assert themselves and their rights more prominently than decorum warranted.
The head of Christ is God.
That Christ is "inferior to the Father as touching his manhood," that his mediatorial kingdom involves (so far) a subordination of his coequal Godhead, has been already stated in
1 Corinthians 3:23
, and is further found in
1 Corinthians 15:27, 28
. This too is the meaning of
, "My Father is greater than I."
1 Corinthians 11:4
Every man praying or prophesying, having
head covered, dishonoureth his head.
; that is,
Having his head covered.
This was a Jewish custom. The Jewish worshipper in praying always covers his head with his
The Jew (like Orientals generally) uncovered his feet because the place on which he stood was holy ground; but he covered his head by way of humility, even as the angels veil their faces with their wings. AEneas is said by Servius to have introduced this custom into Italy. On the other hand, the Greek custom was to pray with the head uncovered. St. Paul - as some discrepancy of custom seems to have arisen - decided in favour of the Greek custom, on the high ground that Christ, by his incarnation, became man, and therefore the Christian, who is" in Christ," may stand with unveiled head in the presence of his Father
. Dishonoureth his head
. He dishonoureth his own head, which is as it were a sharer in the glory of Christ, who is Head of the whole Church. "We pray," says Tertullian, "with bare heads because we blush not." The Christian, being no longer a slave, but a son (
), may claim his part in the glory of the eternal Son. The head was covered in
2 Samuel 15:30
), and the worship of the Christian is joyous.
1 Corinthians 11:5
But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with
head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
Although St. Paul "thinks of one thing at a time," and is not here touching on the question whether women ought to teach in public, it appears from this expression that the rule which he lays down in
1 Corinthians 14:34, 35
1 Timothy 2:12
was not meant to be absolute. See the case of Philip's daughters (
and Acts 2:17).
With her head uncovered
. For a woman to do this in a public assembly was against the national custom of all ancient communities, and might lead to the gravest misconceptions. As a rule, modest women covered their heads with the
or with a veil when they worshipped or were in public. Christian women at Corinth must have caught something of the "inflation" which was characteristic of their Church before they could have acted with such reprehensible boldness as to adopt a custom identified with the character of immodest women.
Dishonoureth her head.
Calvin, with terse good sense, observes, "As the man honours his head by proclaiming his liberty, so the woman by acknowledging her subjection."
1 Corinthians 11:6
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.
Let her also be shorn.
Not a command, but, a sort of scornful inference, or
reductio ad absurdum
If it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven.
When a woman was tried by "the ordeal of the water of jealousy," her head was uncovered by the priest (
). To be shorn or shaven was a sign of mourning (
), and was a disgrace inflicted on adulteresses.
1 Corinthians 11:7
For a man indeed ought not to cover
head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
He is the image and glory of God.
Because he reflects and partakes in the glory of Christ, who is the effulgence of God and the impress of his substance (
The woman is the glory of the man.
As moonlight is to sunlight, or as the earthshine is to the moonshine. Man reflects God; woman, in her general nature in this earthly and temporal dispensation, reflects the glory of man.
1 Corinthians 11:8
For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
But the woman of the man.
An allusion to
Genesis 2:21, 22
1 Corinthians 11:9
Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
But the woman for the man.
As is expressly stated in
1 Corinthians 11:10
For this cause ought the woman to have power on
head because of the angels.
have power on her head.
A great deal of irrelevant guesswork has been written on this verse. Under this head must be classed the idle attempts to twist the word
, power, or authority, into some other reading - an attempt which may be set aside, because it is not sanctioned by a single manuscript. We may also dismiss the futile efforts to make
have any other primary meaning than "authority." The
shows that the word has here a
sense, and implies
some kind of covering.
The verse, therefore, points the same lessons as
Genesis 24:64, 65
. This much may be regarded as certain, and this view is adopted by the steadfast good sense of our English translators, both in the Authorized and Revised Versions. The only question worth asking is
had come at Corinth, or in the Corinthian Church, to be used for "a veil," or "covering." The simplest answer is that just as the word "kingdom" in Greek may be used for "a crown" (comp.
as the name of the pope's tiara), so "
may mean "
sign of authority"
(Revised Version), or "a covering, in sign that she is under the power of her husband" (Authorized Version, margin). The margin of the Revised Version, "authority over her head," is a strange suggestion. Some have explained the word of
true authority, which consists in accepting the rule of her husband; but it probably moans
a sign of her husband's authority over her.
Similarly the traveller Chardin says that in Persia the women wear a veil, in sign that they are "under subjection." If so, the best comment on the word may be found in the exquisite lines of Milton, which illustrate the passage in other ways also -
"She, as a vei1, down to the slender waist
Her unadorned golden tresses wore...
As the vine curves her tendrils, which implied
Subjection, but required with gentle sway,
And by her yielded, by him best received."
The fact that Callistratus twice uses
of "abundance of hair" is probably a mere coincidence, resembling the Irish expression "a power of hair." Nor can there be any allusion to the isolated fact that Samson's strength lay in his hair. The very brief comment of Luther sums up all the best of the many pages which have been written on the subject. He says that
means "the veil or covering, by which one may see that she is under her husband's authority" (
Because of the angels.
In this clause also we must set aside, as idle waste of time, the attempts to alter the text, or to twist the plain words into impossible meanings. The word "angels" cannot mean "Church officials," or "holy men," or "prophets," or "delegates," or "'bridegroom's men," or anything but angels. Nor can the verse mean, as Bengel supposes, that women are to veil themselves because the angels do so (
), or (as Augustine says) because the angels approve of it. The only question is whether the allusion is to good or bad angels. In favour of the latter view is
the universal tradition among the Jews that the angels fell by lust for mortal women, which was the Jewish way of interpreting
Genesis 6:1, 2
. This is the view of Tertullian ('De Virg. Vel.,' 7) in writing on this subject. A woman, in the opinion and traditions of Oriental Jews, is liable to injury from the
, if she appears in public unveiled; and these evil spirits are supposed to delight in the appearance of unveiled women. The objection to this view, that
alone is never used of evil but always of good angels, is not perhaps decisive (see
1 Corinthians 6:3
). The verse may, however, mean (in accordance with the Jewish belief of those days) that good angels, being under the possibility of falling from the same cause as their evil brethren, fly away at once from the presence of unveiled women. Thus Khadijah tested that the visitant of her husband Mohammed really was the angel Gabriel, because he disappeared the moment she unveiled her head. On the whole, however, the meaning seems to be,
out of respect and reverence for the holy angels, who are always invisibly present in the Christian assemblies.
(On this point, see
[LXX.]; Tobit 12:12. See Latimer's 'Sermons,' p. 253). "Reverence the angels" is St. Chrysostom's remark.
1 Corinthians 11:11
Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
The verse is meant to correct any tendency on the part of men to domineer. Man and woman are "all one in Christ Jesus" (
"The two-celled heart, beating with one
full stroke - Life."
1 Corinthians 11:12
For as the woman
of the man, even so
the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
By the woman;
that is, "born of a woman" (
But all things of God.
And all things also "through him and to him," made by him, and tending to him as their end (Romans 11:56).
1 Corinthians 11:13
Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
Is it comely,
etc.? An appeal to the decision of their instinctive sense of propriety.
1 Corinthians 11:14
Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
Doth not even nature itself teach you?
"Nature" here has much the lame sense as "instinct."
"His fair large front and eye sublime declared
Absolute rule; and hyacinthine locks
Round from his parted forelock manly hung
Clustering, but not beneath his shoulders broad:
She, as a veil, down to the slender waist
Her unadorned golden tresses wore."
Milton, 'Paradise Lost,' 4:304.
1 Corinthians 11:15
But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for
hair is given her for a covering.
It is a glory to her.
Because it is at once beautiful and natural; and as Bengel says, "Will should follow the guidance of nature."
1 Corinthians 11:16
But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.
But if any man seem to be contentious.
St. Paul cuts the question short, as though impatient of any further discussion of a subject already settled by instinctive decorum and by the common sense of universal usage. "Seem to be contentious" is (like the Latin
) only a courteous way of saying "
If any of you wish to be disputatious and quarrelsome about this minor matter of ritual, I must content myself with saying that he must take his own course (for a similar use of the euphemistic "seem," see
We have no such custom.
The emphatic "we" means the apostles and the leaders of the Church at Jerusalem and Antioch.
Not referring to "contentiousness," but to the women appearing with uncovered heads.
Neither the Churches of God.
If you Corinthians prefer these abnormal practices in spite of reason, common sense, and my arguments, you must stand alone in your innovations upon universal Christian practice. But catholic custom is against your "self opinionated particularism."
1 Corinthians 11:17
Now in this that I declare
not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.
irregularities at the Eucharist and the agapae.
Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not;
rather, as in the Revised Version,
But in giving you this charge, I praise you not.
A reference to the "I praise you" of ver. 2.
Ye come together.
As he advances, his rebukes become more and more serious; for the present reproach does not affect a few, but the Church assembly in general.
1 Corinthians 11:18
For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
First of all.
The "second" rebuke is not clearly stated, but is no doubt meant to refer to the abuses in "speaking with the tongue."
In the Church;
The reference is not to a particular building. The Lord's Supper was administered frequently (originally every day,
), and often in private houses.
(ch. 1:10, 12). Here, however, he is referring to cliques and quarrels at the love feasts. Partly! cannot think, he says, in a tone of kindness, that these reports are
false. There must be
ground for them, even if the facts have been exaggerated.
1 Corinthians 11:19
For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
There must be also heresies among you.
It results from the inevitable decrees of the Divine providence. "It is impossible but that offences will come" (
The word does not mean "erroneous opinions," but
Originally the word only means "a choice," and is not used in a bad sense; but since the opinionativeness of men pushes "a choice" into a "party," and since it is the invariable tendency of a party to degenerate into a "faction," the word soon acquires a bad sense (see its use in
Acts 24:5, 14
2 Peter 2:1
; and Gieseler, 'Church Hist.,' 1:149). The mutually railing factions, which in their Church newspapers and elsewhere bandy about their false and rival charges of "heresy," are illustrating the virulence of the very sin which they are professing to denounce - the sin of factiousness.
That they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
Similarly St. John (
1 John 2:19
) speaks of the aberrations of false teachers as destined to prove that they did not belong to the true Church. Good is educed out of seeming evil (
1 Peter 1:6, 7
; standing the test (
), the opposite of the "reprobate" (
1 Corinthians 9:27
1 Corinthians 11:20
When ye come together therefore into one place,
is not to eat the Lord's supper.
Into one place.
There were as yet no churches. The Lord's Supper was held in private houses. This is not; or perhaps,
it is not possible.
The Lord's Supper.
The fact that there is no article in the Greek shows the early prevalence of this name for the Eucharist.
1 Corinthians 11:21
For in eating every one taketh before
his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.
For in eating;
in your eating.
All who have themselves contributed a share to the common meal.
Taketh before other his own supper
. It is as if they had come together only to eat, not to partake of a holy sacrament. The abuse rose from the connection of the Lord's Supper with the
, or love feast, a social gathering of Christian brothers, to which each, as in the Greek
, or "club feasts," contributed his share. The abuse led to the separation of the
from the Holy Communion, and ultimately to the entire disuse of the former at religious gatherings.
One is hungry.
The poor man, who has been unable to contribute to the meal which was intended to be an exhibition of Christian love, looked on with grudging eyes and craving appetite, while the rich had more than enough.
"St. Paul draws the picture in strong colours, and who can say that the reality was less strong?" (Meyer). Calvin says, "It is portentous that Satan should have accomplished so much in so short a time." But the remark was, perhaps, dictated by the wholly mistaken fancy that the Church of the apostolic days was exceptionally pure. On the contrary, many of the heathen converts were unable at once to break the spell of their old habits, and few modern Churches present a spectacle so deplorable as that which we here find in the apostolic Church of Corinth. It is quite obvious that Church discipline must have been almost in abeyance if such grave scandals could exist uncorrected and apparently unreproved.
1 Corinthians 11:22
What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise
To eat and to drink in.
The object of the
was something higher than the mere gratification of appetite. Though not a sacrament, it was an accompaniment of the Lord's Supper, and was itself intended to be a symbolical and sacred meal.
Despise ye the Church of God!
The congregation of your fellow Christians. Shame; rather,
put to shame.
Them that have not.
It would be natural to supply "houses." But the commentators found it difficult to suppose that any of the Corinthians had not "houses to eat and to drink in." Hence most commentators give to the phrase its classic sense, in which "those who have" means the rich, and "those who have not," the poor. They seem, however, to have forgotten that slaves at any rate could hardly be said to have "houses of their own," and it is certain that not a few of the Corinthian Christians were slaves.
I praise you not.
As in ver. 17, this is an instance of what is called
, a mild expression, suggesting a meaning much stronger than the words themselves.
. He is about to give his
for thus strongly blaming their irregularities.
1 Corinthians 11:23
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the
night in which he was betrayed took bread:
I have received;
He thus refers the revelation to some special time, and this seems to point to the conclusion that he is not referring to any account of the institution of the Lord's Supper, which may have been given him by St. Peter or one of the twelve, but to some immediate revelation from Christ. The terms in which he describes the institution of the Eucharist resemble most nearly those of St. Luke, who may very probably have derived his information from St. Paul. This passage should be compared with
Luke 22:19, 20
was being betrayed.
1 Corinthians 11:24
And when he had given thanks, he brake
, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
When he had given thanks.
The same word is used in St. Luke
), and is the origin of the name Eucharist. St. Mark and perhaps St. Matthew have "having blessed it" (
). Hence the Eucharist is "this our sacrifice of
These words are omitted by all the best uncials,
Which is broken for you.
The word "broken" is of doubtful authenticity. Some manuscripts have "given," and one (D) a milder word for "broken," as though to avoid any contradiction of
, where, however, the word is "shall not be
Since the participle is omitted altogether by
, A, B, C, there can be no doubt that it is a gloss, and accordingly the Revised Version reads, "which is for you." The "broken" is nevertheless involved in the "he brake it," which was a part of the ceremony as originally illustrated. The breaking of the bread ought not, therefore, to be abandoned, as in the case when "wafers" are used.
St. Luke also has this clause, which is not found in St. Matthew or St. Mark. The variations show that it was the
which was essential, not the exact words spoken.
In remembrance of me.
The words may also be rendered,
for a memorial of me
to bring me to your remembrance.
1 Corinthians 11:25
After the same manner also
the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink
, in remembrance of me.
When he had supped (
). 'The cup, like the
, was given after the meal was ended.
The new testament;
the new covenant.
The Greek word
is indeed a "will," or "testament;" but in the LXX., on which the Greek of the apostles was formed, it always stands for
, covenant. The Jews knew nothing of the practice of "making wills" till they learnt it from the Romans. The
passage of the New Testament (an expression derived from this very passage through the Vulgate) in which
means a "testament" is
, where the writer reverts for a moment only to this signification of the word to introduce a passing illustration. In my blood. The cup was a symbol of the blood of Christ, because the gospel covenant was ratified by the shedding of his blood. The Jews had an absolute horror, at once religious and physical, of tasting blood. This was the reason why the Synod of Jerusalem forbade even to the Gentiles the eating of "things strangled." If the apostles had not fully understood that our Lord was only using the ordinary language of Semitic imagery, and describing only a horror and repulsion.
1 Corinthians 11:26
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
Ye do show the Lord's death.
The word literally means,
, with reference to the repetition of the actual words used by our Lord. It will be seen that St. Paul does not lend the smallest, sanction to the unfathomable superstition" of a material transubstantiation.
Accordingly the antiquity and unbroken continuance of this holy rite is one of the many strong external evidences of the truth of the gospel history. The
is omitted in the Greek, to indicate the certainty of Christ's coming. The same Greek idiom is hopefully and tenderly used in
1 Corinthians 11:27
Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink
cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
And drink this cup.
This ought to be rendered, or
drink this cup.
It seems to be one of the
few instances in which the translators of our Authorized Version were led by bias into unfaithful rendering. They may have persuaded themselves that the apostle
have meant "and;" but their duty as translators was to translate what he
, not what they supposed him to have meant. What he meant was that it was possible to partake in a wrong spirit either of the bread or the cup. King James's translators thought that, by rendering the word
, they might seem to favour communion in one kind only. St. Paul's meaning was that a man might Lake
element of the sacrament unworthily.
. We are all "unworthy" - " unworthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under Christ's table;" yet not one of us need eat or drink
, that is, in a careless, irreverent, defiant spirit.
He draws on himself the penalty due to "crucifying to himself the Son of God afresh," by "putting him to an open shame."
1 Corinthians 11:28
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of
bread, and drink of
Let a man examine himself.
The verb means "let him
his own feelings;" put them to the proof, to see whether they be sincere or not. He must "wash his hands in innocency," and so come to God's altar (see
Matthew 5:22, 23
2 Corinthians 13:5
Soberly, that is; seriously, humbly, and with due reverence.
1 Corinthians 11:29
For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
The word is not genuine here, being repeated from ver. 27; it is omitted by
, A, B, C.
Eateth and drinketh damnation to himself;
eateth and drinketh judgment to himself
There is reason to believe that the word "damnation" once had a much milder meaning in English than that which it now popularly bears. In King James's time it probably did not of necessity mean more than "an unfavourable verdict." Otherwise this would be the most unfortunate mistranslation in the whole Bible. It has probably kept thousands, as it kept Goethe, from Holy Communion. We see from ver. 32 that this "judgment" had a purely merciful and disciplinary character.
if he discern not
, the Lord's body, Any one who approach? the Lord's Supper in a spirit of levity or defiance, not discriminating between it and common food, draws on himself, by so eating and drinking, a judgment which is defined in the next verse.
1 Corinthians 11:30
For this cause many
weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
Many are weak and sickly among you.
St. Paul directly connects this general ill health with the abuse of the Lord's Supper. It is not impossible that the grave intemperance to which he alludes in ver. 21 may have had its share in this result; but apart from this, there is an undoubted connection between sin and sickness in some, though not, of course, in all cases (
. The word is different from the previous word for "many," and means a larger number - " not a few," "a considerable number."
i.e. are dying.
1 Corinthians 11:31
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
Verses 31, 32.
For if we would judge ourselves,
etc. These verses are very unfortunately mistranslated in our Authorized Version. They should be rendered (literally),
For if we discerned
ourselves, we should not be undergoing judgment
(namely, of physical punishment);
but, in being judged by the Lord
(by these temporal sufferings),
we are under training, that we may not be condemned with the world.
The meaning is that "if we" (St. Paul here identities himself with the Corinthians) "were in the habit of self discernment - and in this
discrimination is involved a discrimination between spiritual and common things - we should nut be undergoing this sign of God's displeasure; but the fact that his judgments are abroad among us is intended to further our moral education, and to save us from being finally condemned with the world." Discernment (
), by saving us from eating unworthily (
1 John 1:9
), would have obviated the necessity for penal judgments (
), but yet the
is disciplinary (
, we are being trained as children), to save us from final doom (
). Unworthy eating, then, so far from involving necessary or final "damnation," is mercifully visited by God with temporal chastisement, to help in the saving of our souls. "Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord" (
1 Corinthians 11:32
But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:33
Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.
. He now briefly sums up the practical remedies for these discreditable scenes.
Introduced, as often, into a stern passage to show that the writer is only actuated by the spirit of love.
Tarry one for another.
This would prevent the scrambling greediness which he has already condemned in ver. 21.
1 Corinthians 11:34
And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.
And if any man hunger, let him eat at home.
A reminder of the
character of the
as a symbol of Christian love and union. Unto
. In Greek, the same word (
) is used which in ver. 29 is so unhappily rendered "damnation." But even "condemnation" is too strong; for that is equivalent to
all minor details. It is not improbable that one of these details was the practical dissociation of the
from the Lord's Supper altogether. Certainly the custom of uniting the two seems to have disappeared by the close of the first century.
When I come;
The Greek phrase (
) implies uncertainty. The apostle's plans for visiting Corinth immediately had been materially disturbed by the unfavourable tidings
to the conditions of the Church.
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