1 Corinthians 11:14
Does not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame to him?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) Nature itself.—This may mean, either “the native inborn sense of what is seemly” as contrasted with revelation; or it may signify the ordinary and evident arrangement of things in creation. Probably the former is the true meaning of the passage which refers to the fact that the heathen who had no direct revelation did (by regarding long hair as a woman’s glory) “by nature” the things contained in the Law (Romans 11:14).

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.Doth not even nature itself - The word nature (φύσις phusis) denotes evidently that sense of propriety which all men have, and which is expressed in any prevailing or universal custom. That which is universal we say is according to nature. It is such as is demanded by the natural sense of fitness among people. Thus, we may say that nature demands that the sexes should wear different kinds of dress; that nature demands that the female should be modest and retiring; that nature demands that the toils of the chase, of the field, of war - the duties of office, of government and of professional life, should be discharged by people. Such are in general the customs the world over; and if any reason is asked for numerous habits that exist in society, no better answer can be given than that nature, as arranged by God, has demanded it. The word in this place, therefore, does not mean the constitution of the sexes, as Locke, Whitby, and Pierce maintain; nor reason and experience, as Macknight supposes; nor simple use and custom, as Grotius, Rosenmuller, and most recent expositors suppose; but it refers to a deep internal sense of what is proper and right; a sense which is expressed extensively in all nations. showing what that sense is.

No reason can be given, in the nature of things, why the woman should wear long hair and the man not; but the custom prevails extensively everywhere, and nature, in all nations, has prompted to the same course. "Use is second nature;" but the usage in this case is not arbitrary, but is founded in an anterior universal sense of what is proper and right. A few, and only a few, have regarded it as comely for a man to wear his hair long. Aristotle tells us, indeed (Rhet. 1: - see Rosenmuller), that among the Lacedemonians, freemen wore their hair long. In the time of Homer, also, the Greeks were called by him καρηκομόωντες Ἀχαῖοι karēkomoōntes Achaioi, long-haired Greeks; and some of the Asiatic nations adopted the same custom. But the general habit among people has been different. Among the Hebrews, it was regarded as disgraceful to a man to wear his hair long, except he had a vow as a Nazarite, Numbers 6:1-5; Judges 13:5; Judges 16:17; 1 Samuel 1:11. Occasionally, for affectation or singularity, the hair was suffered to grow, as was the case with Absalom 2 Samuel 14:26; but the traditional law of the Jews on the subject was strict. The same rule existed among the Greeks; and it was regarded as disgraceful to wear long hair in the time of Aelian; Hist. lib. 9:c. 14. Eustath. on Hom. 2:v.

It is a shame unto him? - It is improper and disgraceful. It is doing that which almost universal custom has said appropriately belongs to the female sex.

14. The fact that nature has provided woman, and not man, with long hair, proves that man was designed to be uncovered, and woman covered. The Nazarite, however, wore long hair lawfully, as being part of a vow sanctioned by God (Nu 6:5). Compare as to Absalom, 2Sa 14:26, and Ac 18:18. He tells them, that they could not judge this as a thing comely, for nature itself taught them, that it is a shame for a man to wear long hair. By

nature here some understand the law of nature, according to which it would have an intrinsic evil in it, which it is plain it hath not; for then neither must the Nazarites have used it, (as they did), neither would it be lawful for the sake of men’s health or life. Others understand by nature the law of nations; but neither is this true, for in many nations men wear hair at the utmost length. Others understand common sense, or the light and judgment of that natural reason which since the fall is left in man; but this must be the same in all men, and we know that all men do not judge this shameful. Others therefore by nature here understand a common custom, which (as they say) maketh as it were a second nature; so the term is taken, Romans 11:24: but it cannot so signify here; for there neither is, nor ever was, such a universal custom in any place, that none in it wore long hair. Others by nature here understand natural inclination; but neither can this be the sense, for there is in some men, as well as in women, a natural propension and inclination to wear their hair at excessive lengths. Others here by nature understand the difference of the sex, as they take this word to be used, Romans 1:26; the distinction of the sexes teacheth us this: and this seemath to be the most probable sense of this text. The apostle arguing, that as the male and female sex are artificially distinguished by garments, and it was the will of God they should be so, so they should also be distinguished by the wearing of their hair; and it was no less shame for a man to wear his hair like a woman, than to wear garments like a woman. Doth not even nature itself teach you,.... By nature is either meant, the law and light of nature, reason in man, common sense, or rather custom, which is second nature; and which, in this case, must be restrained to the Greeks and Jews; for though among the Grecians the men cut their hair, and did not suffer it to grow long, as also did the Jews, yet there were many nations (k) who did not, even at that time, observe such a rule or custom; but as the Jews and Greeks were the persons chiefly, if not solely, known to the Corinthians, the apostle signifies, that the usages of these people might direct and inform them in this matter:

that if a man have long hair it is a shame unto him; he looks unmanly and womanish, and exposes himself to ridicule and contempt.

(k) Alex. ab. Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 5. c. 18. Servius in Virgil. Aeneid. l. 10. prope finem.

Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 11:14-15. The question οὐδὲ ἡ φύσις αὐτὴ κ.τ.λ.; summons personal instinct to the aid of social sentiment: “Does not even nature of herself teach you that, etc.?” For ἡ φύσις, see Romans 2:14; in this connexion it points to man’s moral constitution rather than to external regulations; Hf. and El[1654] however, taking φύσις in the latter sense, reverse the order of thought in 1 Corinthians 11:13 f., seeing in the former ver. individual instinct (they render ἐν ἑαυτοῖς within yourselves), and in this ver. social rule.—Hf[1655] and Hn[1656], by a strained constr. of διδάσκει, render ὅτι “because,” and draw the obj. of “teach” from 1 Corinthians 11:13, seeing in ὅτι κ.τ.λ. the ground of the affirmative answer tacitly given to both questions: “Does not nature of herself teach (this)? (Yes), for if a man have long hair, etc.” The common rendering is preferable; the teaching of nature is expressed in a double sentence, which gathers the consensus gentium on the subject: “that in a man’s case, if he wear long hair (vir quidem si comam nutriat, Vg[1657]), it is a dishonour to him; but in a woman’s, if she wear long hair, it is a glory to her”. ἀνήρ, γυνὴ stand in conspicuous antithesis preceding the conj.: what is discreditable in the one is delightful in the other. Homer’s warriors, it is true, wore long hair (καρηκομοῶντες Ἀχαιοί), a fashion retained at Sparta; but the Athenian youth cropped his head at 18, and it was a mark of foppery or effeminacy (a legal ἀτιμία), except for the aristocratic Knights, to let the hair afterwards grow long. This feeling prevailed in ancient as it does in modern manners (cf. the case of Absalom). In the rule of the Nazirites natural instinct was set aside by an exceptional religious vocation. The woman’s κόμη is not merely no ἀτιμία, but a positive δόξα; herself the δόξα ἀνδρός, her beauty has in this its crown and ensign. And this “glory” is grounded upon her humility: “because her hair to serve as a hood (ἀντὶ περιβολαίου) has been given her”—not as a substitute for head-dress (this would be to stultify Paul’s contention), but in the nature of a covering, thus to match the veil (en guise de voile, Gd[1658]); cf. χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος, John 1:16; ἀντὶ κασιγνήτου ξεῖνοςτέτευκται, Odyss. viii., 456. δέδοται (pf. pass[1659]) connotes a permanent boon (see 2 Corinthians 8:1, 1 John 3:1, etc.). περιβόλαιον (from περιβάλλω), a wrapper, mantle, is here exceptionally used of head-gear.

[1654] C. J. Ellicott’s St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.

[1655] J. C. K. von Hofmann’s Die heilige Schrift N.T. untersucht, ii. 2 (2te Auflage, 1874).

[1656] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[1657] Latin Vulgate Translation.

[1658] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

[1659] passive voice.14. Doth not even nature itself teach you] This argument from nature must not be pressed too far. St Paul is speaking of the natural sense of what is fitting in those whom he addressed. In early times the Greeks and the Romans wore long hair, and the Gauls and Germans did so in St Paul’s own time. So Homer continually speaks of the “long-haired Greeks.” St Chrysostom remarks that those who addicted themselves to philosophy in his day wore their hair long. But this was mere affectation. Cf. Horace, De Arte Poetica, 297,

“Bona pars non ungues ponere curat,

Non barbam, secreta petit loca, balnea vitat.”

But the general verdict of society has been that appealed to by the Apostle. “This instinctive consciousness of propriety on this point had been established by custom, and had become φύσις (nature).”—Meyer.1 Corinthians 11:14. Οὐδε αὐτὴ) does not even nature itself, from which all learn very easily.—ἡ φύσις, nature) and its light concerning what is becoming.—ἐὰν κομᾷ) if he has long hair, like a covering; for he is not commanded to be altogether shorn.—ἀτιμία, disgrace) viz., if he do that without any reason; for sometimes even hair becomes men.—Numbers 6:5; 2 Samuel 14:26; Acts 18:18. The Nazarite, who had hair, however long, ought to retain it.Verse 14. - 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.) Nature (φύσις)

The recognized constitution of things. In this case the natural distinction of the woman's long hair.

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