1 Corinthians 11:10
For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(10) For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head.—The two clauses which compose this verse are, perhaps, the two most difficult passages in the New Testament, and, accordingly, have given rise to an almost endless variety of interpretation. What is meant, first, by the woman having “power on her head?”

1. There have been many—some of them most fanciful—suggestions that the word for power (exousia) may have crept in instead of some other word by the mistake of some copyist; or that the word used by St. Paul may have been exiousa—“When she goes out in public;” or two words (ex ousias)—“in accordance with her nature.” All explanations, however, which require an alteration in the Greek text of the passage must be set aside, for (1) there is no MS. evidence whatever to support any other reading than the ordinary one, exousian; and (2) any alteration of a difficult or unusual word would have been naturally into a word that would simplify the passage—whereas here, if alteration has taken place, it has been to insert a word which has increased the obscurity of a difficult passage.

2. It has been maintained that the word exousia here means the sign of power, i.e., a veil, which is the symbol of the husband’s power over the wife. The fatal objection to this view, however, is that exousia expresses our own power, and not the power exercised by another over us. It is a word frequently used by St. Paul in this sense. (See 1Corinthians 8:9; 1Corinthians 9:4-5; 1Corinthians 9:12; 1Corinthians 9:18.) Whatever interpretation, therefore, we put upon this passage, it must be consistent with this word being interpreted as meaning some “power” which the woman herself has, and not some power exercised over her by her husband.

Most commentators have quoted a passage from Diodorus Sic. i. 47, in which the Greek word “kingdom” (basileia) is used to signify “crown,” as an illustration of the use of the word indicating the thing symbolised for the symbol itself. The parallelism between that use of the word kingdom, and the use here of the word “power,” has been very positively denied (Stanley and others), on the ground that the “use of the name of the thing signified for the symbol, though natural when the power spoken of belongs to the person, would be unnatural when applied to the power exercised over that person by some one else.” But the parallelism will hold good if we can refer the “power” here to some symbol of a power which belongs to the woman herself.

If we bear in mind the Apostle’s constant use of words with a double significance, or rather with both an obvious and a subtly implied meaning, and if we also recall the reference made to a woman’s abundance of hair in 1Corinthians 11:5-6, and the further reference to a woman’s long hair in 1Corinthians 11:14-15, where the hair of the woman, given her by nature, and the wearing of a veil are used as almost identical thoughts, we may, I think, conclude that the “power” here spoken of is that long hair which is called in 1Corinthians 11:15 her “glory.” It is remarkable that Callistratus twice uses this word exousia in connection with hair to express its abundance. To the Jews the recollection of Samson’s history would have given the word “power,” when applied to hair, a remarkable significance. To thus turn aside abruptly in the middle of a long passage in which woman’s subordination is enforced, and speak suddenly and vividly of her “power,” would be eminently Pauline. In the Apostle’s writings the thought of inferiority and superiority, of ruler and server, are frequently and almost paradoxically regarded and enforced as identical. To serve because you rule; to be weak because you are in another sense strong, are thoughts strikingly combined again and again in the Epistles of St. Paul. Thus I would imagine him here to suddenly turn aside and say, I have been speaking of your bondage and subordination, you are, because of this, to have a covering (a veil or long hair) on your head as a sign, and yet that very thing which is the symbol of your subjection to man is the sign of your beauty and “power” as a woman.

Because of the angels.—Why should a woman have her head covered (either with her natural veil of hair, or with an artificial veil shrouding her face) because of the angels? The same objections which have been already stated to any alteration of the usual Greek text of the earlier clause of this verse apply equally here. The MS. evidence is unanimous in favour of the word “angels,” nor can we accept any of the figurative meanings attached to the word angel as “the president” (see Revelation 2:1), or “messenger,” sent by enemies to see what took place contrary to general custom in those assemblies. We must take the word “angel” in its ordinary and general sense.

That the angels were present in assemblies for worship was an idea prevalent among the Jews (Psalm 138:1, in the LXX.), and regarded as they were by the Christian as “ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1:14), no doubt their presence would be realised in the meetings of Christians.

We have already seen that the Apostle in his argument upon the relation of the sexes to each other (1Corinthians 11:7-9), refers to the first three chapters of Genesis as illustrating and enforcing that relationship. What more natural than that his thoughts should have gone on to 1 Corinthians 6 of the same book, where is the record of the angels (in the LXX. the word translated “sons of God” is “the angels”—angeloi) having been enamoured by the beauty of women, and so having fallen from their high estate. This account of “the fall of the angels” is referred to more than once elsewhere in the New Testament (see Jude 1Corinthians 11:1; 2Peter 2:4), and through Rabbinical interpretations would have been familiar to St. Paul’s converts. Without at all necessarily expressing his belief in the historic accuracy of this legendary view of the fall of the angels, St. Paul might use it as an argument with those who did believe it (as in the case of the Rock. see 1Corinthians 10:4, and Note there). You believe—would be St. Paul’s appeal to these women—that once, through seeing the beauty of the daughters of men, the holy angels themselves fell—even that thought ought to make you feel that it is not seemly for you to be without a veil (of which your “power on your head,” i.e., your hair, is the type) in those assemblies where the angels are present as God’s ministering spirits.

It has been urged (by Meyer and others) that the word “angels,” in the New Testament, always signifies good angels, and it is in that sense I would regard it here, for the thought surely is, that they are good angels, and should not, therefore, be tempted. I presume the idea was also that the fallen angels were “good” before their fall.

1 Corinthians 11:10. For this cause — As well as for the other reasons above mentioned; the woman ought to have power on her head — That is, a veil, as a token of her being under the power and subjection of the man: and so much the rather should she wear it in worshipping assemblies; because of the angels — Who are present there, and before whom all should be careful not to do any thing indecent or irregular. “Though there is no example, either in sacred or profane writers, of the word εξουσια, here rendered power, being used to denote a veil; yet all agree that it can have no other meaning in this passage.” Whitby understands the latter clause of evil angels, paraphrasing and commenting on the words thus: “She, being tempted by the prince of evil angels to that which is a perpetual cause of shame to her, and which increased her subjection to the man, (Genesis 3:16,) ought therefore to use this token of shame-facedness and subjection.” She is to have her head covered, say the Jews, “like one that mourneth, as a token of shame. Hence Philo calls the το επικρανον, cover of the woman’s head, the symbol of her shame; and this shame, say they, is due to her, because she first brought sin into the world. It is with her as when one transgresseth and is ashamed; and therefore she comes forth with her head covered. She ought, saith Tertullian, by her habit to resemble Eve, a mourner and a penitent; ob ignominiam primi delicti,” for the shame of the first sin. See on 1 Timothy 2:11-14. The former interpretation, however, which supposes that good angels are meant, who, being ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation, might be present in the religious assemblies of the Christians, seems much more probably to be the true one.

11:2-16 Here begin particulars respecting the public assemblies, ch. 1Co 14. In the abundance of spiritual gifts bestowed on the Corinthians, some abuses had crept in; but as Christ did the will, and sought the honour of God, so the Christian should avow his subjection to Christ, doing his will and seeking his glory. We should, even in our dress and habit, avoid every thing that may dishonour Christ. The woman was made subject to man, because made for his help and comfort. And she should do nothing, in Christian assemblies, which looked like a claim of being equal. She ought to have power, that is, a veil, on her head, because of the angels. Their presence should keep Christians from all that is wrong while in the worship of God. Nevertheless, the man and the woman were made for one another. They were to be mutual comforts and blessings, not one a slave, and the other a tyrant. God has so settled matters, both in the kingdom of providence and that of grace, that the authority and subjection of each party should be for mutual help and benefit. It was the common usage of the churches, for women to appear in public assemblies, and join in public worship, veiled; and it was right that they should do so. The Christian religion sanctions national customs wherever these are not against the great principles of truth and holiness; affected singularities receive no countenance from any thing in the Bible.For this cause ... - There is scarcely any passage in the Scriptures which has more exercised the ingenuity of commentators than this verse. The various attempts which have been made to explain it may be seen in Pool, Rosenmuller, Bloomfield, etc. After all the explanations which have been given of it, I confess, I do not understand it. It is not difficult to see what the connection requires us to suppose in the explanation. The obvious interpretation would be, that a woman should have a veil on her head because of the angels who were supposed to be present, observing them in their public worship; and it is generally agreed that the word "power" (ἐξουσίαν exousian) denotes a veil, or a covering for the head. But the word power does not occur in this sense in any classic writer. Bretschneider understands it of a veil, as being a defense or guard to the face, lest it should be seen by others. Some have supposed that it was the name of a female ornament that was worn on the head, formed of braids of hair set with jewels. Most commentators agree that it means a "veil," though some think (see Bloomfield) that it is called power to denote the veil which was worn by married women, which indicated the superiority of the married woman to the maiden. But it is sufficient to say in reply to this, that the apostle is not referring to married women in contradistinction from those who are unmarried, but is showing that all women who prophecy or pray in public should be veiled. There can, perhaps, be no doubt that the word "power" has reference to a veil, or to a covering for the head; but why it is called power I confess I do not understand; and most of the comments on the word are, in my view, egregious trifling.

Because of the angels - Some have explained this of good angels, who were supposed to be present in their assemblies (see Doddridge); others refer it to evil angels; and others to messengers or spies who, it has been supposed, were present in their public assemblies, and who would report greatly to the disadvantage of the Christian assemblies if the women were seen to be unveiled. I do not know what it means; and I regard it as one of the very few pass ages in the Bible whose meaning as yet is wholly inexplicable. The most natural interpretation seems to me to be this: "A woman in the public assemblies, and in speaking in the presence of people, should wear a veil - the usual symbol of modesty and subordination - because the angels of God are witnesses of your public worship Hebrews 1:13, and because they know and appreciate the propriety of subordination and order in public assemblies."

According to this, it would mean that the simple reason would be that the angels were witnesses of their worship; and that they were the friends of propriety, due subordination, and order; and that they ought to observe these in all assemblies convened for the worship of God - I do not know that this sense has been proposed by any commentator; but it is one which strikes me as the most obvious and natural, and consistent with the context. The following remarks respecting the ladies of Persia may throw some light on this subject - "The head-dress of the women is simple; their hair is drawn behind the head, and divided into several tresses; the beauty of this head-dress consists in the thickness and length of these tresses, which should fall even down to the heels, in default of which, they lengthen them with tresses of silk. The ends of these tresses they decorate with pearls and jewels, or ornaments of gold or silver. The head is covered, "under" the veil or kerchief "(course chef)," only by the end of a small "bandeau," shaped into a triangle; this "bandeau," which is of various colors, is thin and light.

The "bandalette" is embroidered by the needle, or covered with jewelry, according to the quality of the wearer. This is, in, my opinion, the ancient "tiara," or "diadem," of the queens of Persia. Only married women wear it; and it is the mark by which it is known that they are under subjection "(oc'est la la marque a laquelle on reconnoit qu' elles sont sous puissance o - power)." The girls have little "caps," instead of this kerchief or tiara; they wear no veil at home, but let two tresses of their hair fall under their cheeks. The caps of girls of superior rank are tied with a row of pearls. Girls are not shut up in Persia till they attain the age of six or seven years; before that age they go out of the seraglio, sometimes with their father, so that they may then be seen. I have seen some wonderfully pretty girls. They show the neck and bosom; and more beautiful cannot be seen" - Chardin. "The wearing of a veil by a married woman was a token of her being under power. The Hebrew name of the veil signifies dependence. Great importance was attached to this part of the dress in the East. All the women of Persia are pleasantly apparelled. When they are abroad in the streets, all, both rich and poor, are covered with a great veil, or sheet of very fine white cloth, of which one half, like a forehead cloth, comes down to the eyes, and, going over the head, reaches down to the heels; and the other half muffles up the face below the eyes, and being fastened with a pin to the left side of the head, falls down to their very shoes, even covering their hands, with which they hold that cloth by the two sides, so that, except the eyes, they are covered all over with it. Within doors they have their faces and breasts uncovered; but the Armenian women in their houses have always one half of their faces covered with a cloth, that goes athwart their noses, and hangs over their chin and breasts, except the maids of that nation, who, within doors, cover only the chin until they are married" - Thevenot.

10. power on her head—the kerchief: French couvre chef, head-covering, the emblem of "power on her head"; the sign of her being under man's power, and exercising delegated authority under him. Paul had before his mind the root-connection between the Hebrew terms for "veil" (radid), and "subjection" (radad).

because of the angels—who are present at our Christian assemblies (compare Ps 138:1, "gods," that is, angels), and delight in the orderly subordination of the several ranks of God's worshippers in their respective places, the outward demeanor and dress of the latter being indicative of that inward humility which angels know to be most pleasing to their common Lord (1Co 4:9; Eph 3:10; Ec 5:6). Hammond quotes Chrysostom, "Thou standest with angels; thou singest with them; thou hymnest with them; and yet dost thou stand laughing?" Bengel explains, "As the angels are in relation to God, so the woman is in relation to man. God's face is uncovered; angels in His presence are veiled (Isa 6:2). Man's face is uncovered; woman in His presence is to be veiled. For her not to be so, would, by its indecorousness, offend the angels (Mt 18:10, 31). She, by her weakness, especially needs their ministry; she ought, therefore, to be the more careful not to offend them."

By power on her head is here to be understood (as some think) a covering on her head, in sign that she is under the power of her husband: the thing signified is here put for the sign, as the sign is often put for the thing signified. Thus the ark, which is called, the ark of God’s strength, Psalm 132:8, is itself called his strength, 1 Chronicles 16:11. But others here by head do not understand the woman’s natural head, but her husband, or the man, who is the political head of the woman; and by having power on him, understand her exercising of her power in him, testifying it by covering her head; and think this text well expounded by 1 Timothy 2:12, where the apostle forbiddeth the woman to usurp authority over the man. He addeth another reason,

because of the angels. By angels here some understand God himself, who by the ministry of angels created man and woman in this order, and put this law upon the woman. Others understand those messengers which the man sent sometimes, by whom the woman was betrothed (but this was a custom only in use amongst the Jews). Others here by angels understand the ministers and officers of the church, who are sometimes in holy writ called angels. Others understand the evil angels, who watch to take advantage to tempt men from objects appearing beautiful to unchaste thoughts, &c. But the most and best interpreters understand here by angels, the good angels; for the apostle would hardly have spoken of devils under the notion of angels, especially speaking to deter persons from actions; and so it teaches us, that the good angels, who are ministering spirits for the good of God’s elect, at all times have a special minstration, or at least are more particularly present, in the assemblies of people for religious worship, observing the persons, carriage, and demeanour; the sense of which ought to awe all persons attending those services, from any indecent and unworthy behaviour.

For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head,.... The generality of interpreters, by power, understand the veil, or covering on the woman's head, as a sign of the man's power over her, and her subjection to him; which Dr. Hammond endeavours to confirm, by observing that the Hebrew word which signifies a woman's veil, or hood, comes from a root which signifies power and dominion; but in that he is mistaken, for the word is derived not from to rule, govern, or exercise power and authority, but from to expand, stretch out, or draw over, as a woman's veil is drawn over her head and face. The Greek word more properly signifies the power she had of putting on and off her covering as she pleased, according as times, places, and persons; made it necessary:

because of the angels; various are the senses given of these words, some taking them in a proper, others in a figurative sense: some in a proper sense of angels, and these either good or bad. Tertullian (e) understands them of evil angels, and that a woman should cover her head in time of worship, lest they should lust after her; though much rather the reason should be, lest they should irritate and provoke lust in others: but it is better to understand them of good angels, who attend the assemblies of the saints, and observe the air and behaviour of the worshippers; wherefore women should cover their heads with respect to them, and not give offence to those pure spirits, by an indecent appearance: it is agreeable to the notions of the Jews, that angels attend public prayers, and at the expounding of the word; they often speak (f) of an angel, "that is appointed over prayers"; hence (g) Tertullian seems to have took his notion of an angel of prayer: and of angels being present at expounding of the Scriptures, take the following story (h);

"it happened to Rabban Jochanan ben Zaccai, that he was riding upon an ass, and as he was journeying, R. Eleazar ben Arach was leading an ass after him; he said to him, Rabbi, teach me one chapter in the work of Mercavah (Ezekiel's vision); he replied to him, not so have I taught you, nor in the Mercavah a single man, unless he was a wise man by his own industry; he answered him, Rabbi, give me leave to say one thing before thee, which thou hast taught me; immediately Rabban Jochanan ben Zaccai alighted from his ass and "veiled himself", and sat upon a stone under an olive tree; he said to him, Rabbi, why dost thou alight off from the ass? he replied, is it possible that thou shouldst expound in the work of Mercavah, and the Shekinah be with us, , "and the ministering angels join us", and I ride upon an ass?''

And a little after,

"R. Joshua and R. Jose the priest were walking on the road, they said, yea, let us expound in the work of Mercavah; R. Joshua opened and expounded, and that day was the solstice of Tammuz, and the heavens were thickened with clouds, and there appeared the form of a bow in the cloud, "and the ministering angels gathered together", , "and came to hear": as the children of men gather together, and come to see the rejoicings of the bridegroom and bride.''

Moreover, this veiling of the woman in public worship because of angels, may be an imitation of the good angels, who when they sung the praises of God, and adored and glorified his perfections, covered their faces and their feet with their wings, Isaiah 6:1. Many understanding these words in a figurative sense, and in this also they are not agreed; some by angels think young men are meant, who, for their gracefulness and comeliness, are compared to angels; others good men in general, that attend religious worship; others ministers of the word, called angels often in the book of the Revelations; which last seems to be most agreeable of any of these senses; and the women were to cover their heads, that they might not offend either of these, or stir up any impure desires in them; see Ecclesiastes 5:6 but as these words follow the account given of the creation of the woman from the man, and for his sake; this may have no reference to her conduct in public worship, but to the power she had of using her covering, or taking it off, or putting it on, at the time of her espousals to a man; which was sometimes done by proxy, or messengers, whom the Jews call "angels" (i); their canon is,

"a man may espouse (a wife) by himself, "or by his angel", or messenger; and a woman may be espoused by herself, or by her angel, or messenger:''

wherefore because of these angels, or messengers, that came to espouse her to such, she had power over her head to take off her veil, and show herself, if she thought fit; or to keep it on, as expressing her modesty; or just as she pleased, when she by them was espoused to a man, for whose sake she was made; which sense, after Dr. Lightfoot, many learned men have given into, and seems probable.

(e) De Veland. Virg. c. 7. (f) Shemot Rabba, sect. 21. fol. 106. 2. Zohar. in Gen. fol. 97. 2.((g) De Oratione, c. 15. (h) T. Bab. Chagiga, fol. 14. 2.((i) Misn. Kiddushin, c. 2. sect. 1.

{9} For this cause ought the woman to have {c} power on her head because of the {10} angels.

(9) The conclusion: women must be covered, to show by this external sign their subjection.

(c) A covering which is a token of subjection.

(10) What this means, I do not yet understand.

1 Corinthians 11:10. Διὰ τοῦτο] namely, because the relation of the woman to the man is such as has been indicated in 1 Corinthians 11:7-9.

ἐξουσίαν ἔχειν ἐπὶ τῆς κεφ.] to have a power, i.e. the sign of a power (to wit, as the context shows, of her husband’s power, under which she stands), upon her head; by which the apostle means a covering for the head.[1775] So Chrysostom,[1776] Theodoret, Oecumenius, Theophylact, with the majority both of ancient and modern commentators, including van Hengel, Annot. p. 175 ff.; Lücke in the Stud. u. Krit. 1828, p. 571 f., Billroth, Rückert, Olshausen, de Wette, Osiander, Ewald, Neander, Maier, Weiss, Vilmar in the Stud. u. Krit. 1864, p. 465 f.; comp Düsterdieck in the Shud. u. Krit. 1863, p. 707 ff. Just as in Diodor. Sic. i. 47, in the phrase ἔχουσαν τρεῖς βασιλείας ἐπὶ τῆς κεφ., the context shows beyond a doubt that βασ. means symbols of one’s own power (diadems), so here the connection justifies the use of ἐξουσία to denote the sign of another’s power; the phrase thus simply having its proper reference brought out, and by no means being twisted into an opposite meaning, as Hofmann objects. Comp also the ornaments of the Egyptian priests, which, as being symbols of truth, bore the name of ἀλήθεια, Diod. Sic. i. 48. 77; Ael. V. H. xiv. 34. Schleusner explains ἐξουσ. as a token of the honour (of the married women over the single). But both the context (1 Corinthians 11:9) and the literal meaning of ἐξουσία are against this. Bengel and Schrader make it a sign of authority to speak in public. But the whole connection points to the authority of the husband over the wife. There is not a word in the whole passage about the potestas orandi, etc., nor of its being granted by the husband (Schrader). Hagenbach’s view (Stud. u. Krit. 1828, p. 401) is also contrary to the context, seeing that we have previously διὰ τὸν ἄνδρα; he understands ἐξουσία as a mark of descent. Paul, he holds, formed the word upon the analogy of παρουσία κ.τ.λ[1779],—a view that does not even leave to the term its lexical meaning, which was surely familiar enough to the apostle and his readers. Other expositors make ἘΞΟΥΣΊΑ directly to signify a veil (Michaelis, Schulz), to establish which they have appealed in the most arbitrary way to the help of Hebrew words (Cappellus, Clericus, Hammond, Semler, Ernesti). Hitzig again, in the theol. Jahrb. 1854, p. 129 ff., gives out the term to be a Jewish-Greek one, derived from ἐξ ἴσου; because the veil had, he maintains, two overhanging halves which balanced each other in front and behind. But what is fatal to every attempt of this kind is that ἘΞΟΥΣΊΑ, power, is so very familiar a word, and suits perfectly well here in this its ordinary sense, while, as the name of a veil, it would be entirely without trace and without analogy in Greek. As for the derivation from ἐξ ἴσου, that is simply an etymological impossibility. Other interpreters still assume that ἘΞΟΥΣ. means here not a sign of power, but power itself. So, in various preposterous ways, earlier commentators cited by Wolf; and so more recently Kypke and Pott. The former puts a comma after ἐξουσία, and explains the clause: “propterea mulier potestati obnoxia est, ita ut velamen (comp 1 Corinthians 11:4) in capite habeat.” But the sense of ὈΦΕΊΛΕΙΝ ΤΙ would rather have required ὙΠΑΚΟΉΝ in place of ἘΞΟΥΣΊΑΝ. Pott again (in the Götting. Weihnachtsprogr. 1831, p. 22 ff.) renders it: “mulierem oportet servare jus seu potestatem in caput suum, sc[1781] eo, quod illud velo obtegat.” Not inconsistent with linguistic usage (Revelation 11:6; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 14:18; comp Luke 19:17), but all the more so with the context, since what 1 Corinthians 11:9 states is just that the woman has no power at all over herself, and for that very reason ought to wear a veil. Hofmann, too, rejects the symbolical explanation of ἐξουσία, and finds the metaphorical element simply in the local import of the phrase ἘΠῚ ΚΕΦΑΛῆς (comparing it with such passages as Acts 18:6, where, however, the idea is wholly different in kind). He makes the thought to be: the woman must have a power upon or over her head, because she must be subject to such a power. In that case what would be meant would be her husband’s power, which she must have over her. But the question in hand was not at all about anything so general and self-evident as that, but about the veiling, which she was bound to observe. The conjectural interpretations which have been attempted are so far-fetched as not to deserve further mention. We may add that there is no evidence in antiquity for the symbolism which Paul here connects with the veiling of the women in assemblies (the hints which Baur founds upon in the theol. Jahrb. 1852, p. 571 ff., are too remote). We have the more reason, therefore, to agree with Lücke in ascribing it to the ingenious apostle himself, however old the custom itself—that married women should wear veils in public—was in Hebrew usage (Ewald, Alterth. p. 269 f.).

διὰ τοὺς ἀγγέλους] which Baur uncritically holds to be a gloss—a view to which Neander also was inclined—is not a formula obsecrandi (Heydenreich, who, with Vorstius, Hammond, Bengel, and Zachariae, strangely assumes a reference to Isaiah 6:2), but a clause adding to the inner ground (διὰ τοῦτο) an outward one: “for the sake of the angels,” in order to avoid exciting disapproval among them. Τοὺς ἀγγέλους αἰδέσθητι, Chrysostom. Erasmus puts it well in his Paraphrase: “Quodsi mulier eo venit impudentiae, ut testes hominum oculos non vereatur, saltem ob angelos testes, qui vestris conventibus intersunt, caput operiat.” That the holy angels are present at assemblies for worship, is an idea which Paul had retained from Judaism (LXX. Psalm 138:1; Tob 12:12 f.; Buxtorf, Synag. 15, p. 306; Grotius in loc[1783]; Eisenmenger, entdeckt. Judenth. II. p. 393), and made an element in his Christian conception,[1784] in accordance with the ministering destination ascribed to them in Hebrews 1:14, but without any of the Jewish elaborations. It must remain a very doubtful point whether he had guardian angels (Acts 12:15; Matthew 18:10) specially in view (Jerome, August. de Trin. xii. 7; Theodoret, comp Theophylact), seeing that he nowhere says anything definite about them. Other expositors make the reference to be to the bad angels, who would be incited to wantonness by the unveiled women (Tert. c. Marc. v. 8; de virg. vel. 7, al[1786]),[1787] or might incite the men to it (Schoettgen, Zeltner, Mosheim), or might do harm to the uncovered women (Wetstein, Semler). Others, again, understand it to mean pious men (Clem. Alex.), or the Christian prophets (Beza), or those presiding in the congregation (Ambrosiaster), or those deputed to bring about betrothals (Lightfoot), or unfriendly spies (Heumann, Alethius, Schulz, Morus, Storr, Stolz, Rosenmüller, Flatt, Schrader)—all mere attempts at explanation, which are sufficiently disposed of by the single fact that ἄγγελοι, when standing absolutely in the N. T., always denotes good angels alone. See on 1 Corinthians 4:9. The correct exposition is given also by Düsterdieck, l.c[1788], who shows well the fine trait of apostolic mysticism in διὰ τοὺς ἀγγέλους.

[1775] Luther’s gloss is: “That is the veil or covering, by which one may see that she is under her husband’s authority, Genesis 3:16.”

[1776] Ἄρκ τὸ καλύπτεσθαι ὑποταγῆς καὶ ἐξουσίας. And on ver. 7 he says: As the man ought to pray uncovered in token of his ἀρχή, so for the woman it is a mark of presumption τὸ μὴ ἔχειν τὰ σύμβολα τῆς ὑποταγῆς.

[1779] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1781] c. scilicet.

[1783] n loc. refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1784] Since the apostle is speaking of meetings for worship, it is unsuitable to make the reference be to the angels as witnesses of the creation of the first pair; so van Hengel, Annot. p. 181 f., following a Schol. In Matthiae. Any allusion to Genesis 6:1-4 (suggested already by Tertullian, al. comp. also Kurtz, d. Ehen d. Söhne Gottes, p. 177, and Hofmann) is wholly foreign to the passage. Hofmann imports into it the idea: “that the spirits which have sway in the corporeal world might be tempted to enter into that relation to the woman which is assigned to her husband.” Hilgenfeld too, in his Zeitschr. 1864, p. 183, makes it refer to the story in the Book of Enoch, 5 f., about the transgression of the angels with the daughters of men. What an importing of carnal lust! And were not the women whom the apostle here warns in part matrons and grey-headed dames!

[1786] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[1787] Test. XII. Patr. p. 529 should not be adduced here (against Bretschneider). The passage contains a warning against the vanity of head-ornament, the seductive character of which is proved by an argument a majori ad minus.

[1788] .c. loco citato or laudato.

1 Corinthians 11:10 is the counterstatement to 1 Corinthians 11:7 a, undeveloped there: “For this reason the woman is bound to wear authority upon her head”—sc., the reason made out in 1 Corinthians 11:7 b–9, that her nature is derived and auxiliary. The ἐξουσία (= σημεῖον ἐξουσίας) that she “has (wears),” is that to which she submits, with the veil “upon her head” for its symbol; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:23, where τιμή = σημεῖον τιμῆς. So the soldier under the Queen’s colours might be said to “have authority over his head”. Ev[1638] quotes Shakesp., Macb., iii., 4, “Present him eminence both with eye and tongue,” as a parl[1639] expression for the authority of another pictured in oneself.—διὰ τοὺς ἀγγέλους suggests, by way of after-thought, a supplementary motive for the decent veil, which the Ap. merely hints, leaving a crux for his interpreters. In 1 Corinthians 4:9 he adduced the “angels” as interested spectators of the conduct of Christ’s servants, and in 1 Corinthians 6:3 he spoke of certain of them as to be judged by the saints (see notes); in manifold ways these exalted beings are associated with God’s earthly kingdom (see Luke 2:13; Luke 12:8; Luke 15:10, Acts 1:10, etc.; Hebrews 1:14; Hebrews 12:22 f.; Rev. passim); in accordance with Jewish belief, they appear as agents of the Lawgiving in Galatians 3:19 (Acts 7:53), and in Hebrews 1:7 are identified with the forces of nature. The same line of thought connects the angels here with the maintenance of the laws and limits imposed at Creation (cf. Job 38:7), reverence for which P. expresses in his own style by this allusion; see Hn[1640], Ed[1641], and Gd[1642] in loc. With this general view the interpretation is consistent which regards the angels as present in Divine worship and offended by irreverence and misconduct (see 1 Timothy 5:21), as (possibly) edified too by good behaviour (see Ephesians 3:10); cf. the ancient words of the Liturgy, “Therefore with Angels and Archangels, etc.” A familiar thought with the Ff[1643]; thus Cm[1644] ad loc[1645], “Open the eyes of faith, and thou shalt behold a multitude of angels; if the air is filled with angels, much more the Church”; and Thp[1646], τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αἰδουμένη. Similarly Hooker, “The house of prayer is a Court beautified with the presence of Celestial powers; there we stand, we sing, we sound forth hymns to God, having His angels intermingled as our associates; with reference hereunto the Ap. doth require so great care to be taken of decency for the Angels’ sake” (Eccl[1647] Pol., 11:25. 2). P. cannot mean evil angels subject to sensual temptation, as many, after Tert[1648], have read the passage, basing it on a precarious interpretation of Genesis 6:4 (see Everling, Die paul. Angelologie u.s.w., pp. 32 ff.)—an explanation far-fetched and grossly improbable. Others have seen in these ἄγγελοι pious men, prophets, Church-officers, even match-makers! Others have proposed emendations of the text, substituting διὰ τοὺς ἀγελαίους or τὰς ἀγέλας, or διὰ τῆς ἀγγελίας (during the preaching!). Baur, Sm[1649], and others would delete the troublesome words as a primitive gloss.

[1638] T. S. Evans in Speaker’s Commentary.

[1639] parallel.

[1640] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[1641] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2

[1642] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

[1643] Fathers.

[1644] John Chrysostom’s Homiliœ († 407).

[1645] ad locum, on this passage.

[1646] Theophylact, Greek Commentator.

[1647] ecclesiastical.

[1648]ert. Tertullian.

[1649] P. Schmiedel, in Handcommentar zum N.T. (1893).

10. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head] That is, as in the margin of our version, ‘a covering in sign that she is under the power of her husband.’ An hilyng (hülle, veil), Wiclif. Third argument, drawn from the presence of the angels at Christian worship. The word translated power here is rather, the right to exercise power, authority, as in St Matthew 10:1.; St Luke 4:36, &c. Hence it has been suggested in the notes on ch. 1 Corinthians 9:4-5; 1 Corinthians 9:12 that it has sometimes, though not here, the signification of right. In this place the abstract is put for the concrete, the authority itself for the token of being under authority. For an instance of the use of the veil in this way we may refer to Genesis 24:65, where Rebekah veils herself in token of submission, as soon as she comes into the presence of her husband. We are not to exclude the idea of feminine modesty, but to regard it as included in the idea of being under authority, of which modesty is a kind of natural acknowledgment. Neither are we to confine the idea to married persons, as the margin of our Version does, but to regard it as applying to the mutual relations of the sexes generally. The passage has sorely perplexed the commentators. The various explanations of it may be found in Stanley and Alford in loc.

because of the angels] This passage has also been explained in various ways (see the commentators just mentioned). It is best on the whole to regard it as an intimation that the angels, though invisible, were fellow-worshippers with men in the Christian assemblies, and were therefore “spectators of the indecency,” and liable to be offended thereat. “When therefore the women usurp the symbol of dominion, against what is right and lawful, they make their shameful conduct conspicuous” in the eyes of the messengers of God. Thus Calvin. Erasmus paraphrases it well: “If a woman has arrived at that pitch of shamelessness that she does not fear the eyes of men, let her at least cover her head on account of the angels, who are present at your assemblies.” For some remarkable Oriental illustrations of the interpretation that evil angels are here meant, see Dean Stanley on this verse.

1 Corinthians 11:10. Ὀφείλει, ought) This verb differs from δεῖ, it is necessary: ὀφείλει denotes obligation, δεῖ, necessity. The former is moral, the latter, as it were, physical necessity; as in the German, wir sollen und müssen, we shall and must.—ἐξουσίαν ἔχειν) to have power over the head. From that antithesis between 1 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Corinthians 11:10 [ought—ought not], it is evident that the power is the same as κάλυμμα, a covering: so Genesis 20:16, כסות עינים. LXX, εἰς τιμὴν τοῦ προσώπου σου, for a covering, i.e., for a testimony of undefiled matrimonial chastity. On the contrary, the priest was commanded ἀποκαλύπτειν, to uncover the head of the woman, who had withdrawn from the power of her husband in consequence of adultery, or who was at least suspected of that crime. Numbers 5:18. This passage agrees admirably with both quotations; only ἐξουσία, power, is a more suitable word here than τιμὴ, honour. Nor would it at all have been foreign to the purpose to compare Psalm 60:9, Ephraim is the strength of my head. Paul uses ἐξουσίαν by an elegant metonymy of the sign for the thing signified; or even by a mild metonymy of the relative for the correlative, ὑποταγὴ, subjection, or the like; unless it be rather the sign, by which the woman avows and acknowledges that, although she prays and prophesies, still she is inferior to the man; in short, it is on this condition that the power of praying and prophesying falls to her share, and without that sign it must not be exercised. And this term is therefore more suitable, because it is closely connected with the δόξα, glory, 1 Corinthians 11:15 : and ἐξουσία, power, is also applied to the angels.

Verse 10. - To 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 exousia, 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 exousia have any other primary meaning than "authority." The context shows that the word has here a secondary 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 why the word exousia 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. regno as the name of the pope's tiara), so "authority" may mean "a 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 her own 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 exousia 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 exousia means "the veil or covering, by which one may see that she is under her husband's authority" (Genesis 3:16). 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 (Isaiah 6:2), 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 shedim, 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 angeloi 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 Luke 15:10; Ephesians 3:10; Hebrews 1:14; Hebrews 12:1; Ecclesiastes 5:6; Psalm 138:1 [LXX.]; Tobit 12:12. See Latimer's 'Sermons,' p. 253). "Reverence the angels" is St. Chrysostom's remark. 1 Corinthians 11:10Power on her head (ἐξουσίαν)

Not in the primary sense of liberty or permission, but authority. Used here of the symbol of power, i.e., the covering upon the head as a sign of her husband's authority. So Rev., a sign of authority.

Because of the angels

The holy angels, who were supposed by both the Jewish and the early Christian Church to be present in worshipping assemblies. More, however, seems to be meant than "to avoid exciting disapproval among them." The key-note of Paul's thought is subordination according to the original divine order. Woman best asserts her spiritual equality before God, not by unsexing herself, but by recognizing her true position and fulfilling its claims, even as do the angels, who are ministering as well as worshipping spirits (Hebrews 1:4). She is to fall in obediently with that divine economy of which she forms a part with the angels, and not to break the divine harmony, which especially asserts itself in worship, where the angelic ministers mingle with the earthly worshippers; nor to ignore the example of the holy ones who keep their first estate, and serve in the heavenly sanctuary.

1 Corinthians 11:10 Interlinear
1 Corinthians 11:10 Parallel Texts

1 Corinthians 11:10 NIV
1 Corinthians 11:10 NLT
1 Corinthians 11:10 ESV
1 Corinthians 11:10 NASB
1 Corinthians 11:10 KJV

1 Corinthians 11:10 Bible Apps
1 Corinthians 11:10 Parallel
1 Corinthians 11:10 Biblia Paralela
1 Corinthians 11:10 Chinese Bible
1 Corinthians 11:10 French Bible
1 Corinthians 11:10 German Bible

Bible Hub

1 Corinthians 11:9
Top of Page
Top of Page