1 Corinthians 11:3
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
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(3) But I would have you know.—After the general commendation in the previous verse, the reproof for neglecting, or desiring to neglect, his precepts in one particular case, is thus introduced. The subject treated of, viz., the uncovering of their heads by women in assemblies for worship, was of ephemeral moment, and as we all now would regard it, of trivial importance. Every circumstance, however, which could in the least degree cause the principles of Christianity to be perverted or misunderstood by the heathen world was of vital importance in those early days of the Church, and hence we find the Apostle, who most fearlessly taught the principles of Christian liberty, condemning most earnestly every application of those principles which might be detrimental to the best interests of the Christian faith. To feel bound to assert your liberty in every detail of social and political life is to cease to be free—the very liberty becomes a bondage.

The head of every man is Christ.—The Apostle does not merely treat of the outward practice on which his advice has been sought, but proceeds to lay down the principles which are opposed to the principle of that absolute and essential equality, which, found its expression and assertion in the practice of women uncovering their heads in public assemblies.

The allusion here is not to Christ as the Head of the whole human race and of all things (as in Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:10), but as the Head of “the Body,” the Christian Church: and this thought introduces the general argument regarding the practical subordination of woman, by reminding the Corinthians that though there is in the Church a perfect spiritual equality (as taught in Galatians 3:28), yet that it is an equality which is of order and not of disorder—that it is an equality which can only be preserved by remembering that each is not an isolated irresponsible atom, but a part of an organic whole. There is a Head to the Church, therefore it is not a machine composed of various parts, but a body consisting of various members. As there is a subordination of the whole body to Christ, so there is in that body a subordination of woman to man. The last clause, “the Head of Christ is God,” gives (as is St. Paul’s custom, see 1Corinthians 3:23; 1Corinthians 8:6; 1Corinthians 15:25) completeness to the thought. As the Head of the Church—i.e., as the man Christ Jesus—Christ is subordinate to the Father, and, indeed, perhaps the idea is carried farther into the mystery of the divine nature itself, as consisting of three Persons co-eternal and co-equal, yet being designated with an unvarying sequence as “first,” and “second,” and “third.”

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.But I would have you know - "I invite your attention particularly to the following considerations, in order to form a correct opinion on this subject." Paul does not at once answer the inquiry, and determine what ought to be done; but he invites their attention to a series of remarks on the subject, which led them to draw the conclusion which he wished to establish. The phrase here is designed to call the attention to the subject, like that used so often in the New Testament, "he that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

That the head ... - The word "head," in the Scriptures, is designed often to denote "master, ruler, chief." The word ראשׁ ro'sh is often thus used in the Old Testament; see Numbers 17:3; Numbers 25:15; Deuteronomy 28:13, Deuteronomy 28:44; Judges 10:18; Judges 11:8, Judges 11:11; 1 Samuel 15:17; 2 Samuel 22:44. In the New Testament the word is used in the sense of Lord, ruler, chief, in Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 4:15; Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 2:10. Here it means that Christ is the ruler, director, or Lord of the Christian man. This truth was to be regarded in all their feelings and arrangements, and was never to be forgotten. Every Christian should recollect the relation in which he stands to him, as one that is suited to produce the strictest decorum, and a steady sense of subordination.

Of every man - Every Christian. All acknowledge Christ as their Ruler and Master. They are subject to him; and in all proper ways recognize their subordination to him.

And the head of the woman is the man - The sense is, she is subordinate to him, and in all circumstances - in her demeanor, her dress, her conversation, in public and in the family circle - should recognize her subordination to him. The particular thing here referred to is, that if the woman is inspired, and speaks or prays in public, she should by no means lay aside the usual and proper symbols of her subordination. The danger was, that those who were under the influence of inspiration would regard themselves as freed from the necessity of recognising that, and would lay aside the "veil," the usual and appropriate symbol of their occupying a rank inferior to the man. This was often done in the temples of the pagan deities by the priestesses, and it would appear also that it had been done by Christian females in the churches.

And the head of Christ is God - Christ, as Mediator, has consented to assume a subordinate rank, and to recognize God the Father as superior in office. Hence, he was obedient in all things as a Son; he submitted to the arrangement required in redemption; he always recognized his subordinate rank as Mediator, and always regarded God as the supreme Ruler, even in the matter of redemption. The sense is, that Christ, throughout his entire work, regarded himself as occupying a subordinate station to the Father; and that it was proper from his example to recognize the propriety of rank and station everywhere.

3. The Corinthian women, on the ground of the abolition of distinction of sexes in Christ, claimed equality with the male sex, and, overstepping the bounds of propriety, came forward to pray and prophesy without the customary head-covering of females. The Gospel, doubtless, did raise women from the degradation in which they had been sunk, especially in the East. Yet, while on a level with males as to the offer of, and standing in grace (Ga 3:28), their subjection in point of order, modesty, and seemliness, is to be maintained. Paul reproves here their unseemliness as to dress: in 1Co 14:34, as to the retiring modesty in public which becomes them. He grounds his reproof here on the subjection of woman to man in the order of creation.

the head—an appropriate expression, when he is about to treat of woman's appropriate headdress in public.

of every man … Christ—(Eph 5:23).

of … woman … man—(1Co 11:8; Ge 3:16; 1Ti 2:11, 12; 1Pe 3:1, 5, 6).

head of Christ is God—(1Co 3:23; 15:27, 28; Lu 3:22, 38; Joh 14:28; 20:17; Eph 3:9). "Jesus, therefore, must be of the same essence as God: for, since the man is the head of the woman, and since the head is of the same essence as the body, and God is the head of the Son, it follows the Son is of the same essence as the Father" [Chrysostom]. "The woman is of the essence of the man, and not made by the man; so, too, the Son is not made by the Father, but of the essence of the Father" [Theodoret, t. 3, p. 171].

The abuse which the apostle is reflecting upon in this and the following verses, is women’s praying or prophesying with their heads uncovered, against which the apostle strongly argues. His argument seems to be this: That the woman in religious services ought to behave herself as a person in subjection to her husband, and accordingly to use such a gesture, as, according to the guise and custom of that country, testified such a subjection; to this purpose he tells us in this verse,

that the head of every man is Christ. Christ, considered as God according to his Divine nature, is the Head of all men and women too in the world; but the text seemeth rather to speak of Christ as Mediator: so the apostle tells us, Ephesians 5:23, he is

the Head of the church; and the New Testament often speaks of Christ in that notion, and of believers as his members: in this sense, by every man, we must understand no more than every Christian, every member of the church.

The head of the woman is the man; the man is called the head of the woman, because by God’s ordinance he is to rule over her, Genesis 3:16; he hath an excellency above the woman, and a power over her.

The head of Christ is God; and God is the Head of Christ, not in respect of his essence and Divine nature, but in respect of his office as Mediator; as the man is the head of the woman, not in respect of a different and more excellent essence and nature, (for they are both of the same nature), but in respect of office and place, as God hath set him over the woman. Nor indeed could those who deny the Divine nature of Christ, easily have brought a text more against their own assertion, than this, which rather proveth, that God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are equal in nature and essence, than different; for surely the head is not of a different, but the same nature and essence with the members. Nor doth Christ’s subjection to his Father at all argue an inequality, or difference from him in nature and essence, more than the subjection of subjects to a prince argue any such thing. The apostle then determines this to be the order which God hath set: God is the Head of Christ; Christ is the Head of his church, and every one that is a member of it; and man is the head of the woman, he to whom the woman ought to be subject. as the church is subject to Christ, and Christ is subject to his Father; and from hence he argues as follows.

But I would have you to know,.... Though they were mindful of him, and retained in memory many things he had declared among them, and kept the ordinances as delivered to them; yet there were some things in which they were either ignorant, or at least did not so well advert to, and needed to be put in mind of, and better informed about: and as the apostle was very communicative of his knowledge in every point, he fails not to acquaint them with whatsoever might be instructive to their faith, and a direction to their practice:

that the head of every man is Christ; Christ is the head of every individual human nature, as he is the Creator and Preserver of all men, and the donor of all the gifts of nature to them; of the light of nature, of reason, and of all the rational powers and faculties; he is the head of nature to all men, as he is of grace to his own people: and so he is as the Governor of all the nations of the earth, who whether they will or no are subject to him; and one day every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue confess that he is the Lord of all. Moreover, Christ is the head of every believing man; he is generally said to be the head of the church, and so of every man that is a member of it: he is a common public head, a representative one to all his elect; so he was in election, and in the covenant of grace; so he was in time, in his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to, and entrance into heaven; and so he is now as an advocate and intercessor there: he is the political head of his people, or an head in such sense, as a king is the head of his nation: he is also an economical head, or in such sense an head as an husband is the head of his wife, and as a parent is the head of his family, and as a master is the head of his servants; for all these relations Christ sustains: yea, he is a natural head, or is that to his church, as an human head is to an human body: he is a true and proper head, is of the same nature with his body, is in union to it, communicates life to it, is superior to it, and more excellent than it. He is a perfect head, nothing is wanting in him; he knows all his people, and is sensible of their wants, and does supply them; his eye of love is always on them; his ears are open to their cries; he has a tongue to speak to them, and for them, which he uses; and he smells a sweet savour in them, in their graces and garments, though they are all his own, and perfumed by himself: there are no vicious humours in this head, flowing from thence to the body to its detriment, as from Adam to his posterity, whose head he was; but in Christ is no sin, nothing but grace, righteousness, and holiness, spring from him. There's no deformity nor deficiency in him; all fulness of grace dwells in him to supply the members of his body; he is an one, and only head, and an ever living and everlasting one.

And the head of the woman is the man, The man is first in order in being, was first formed, and the woman out of him, who was made for him, and not he for the woman, and therefore must be head and chief; as he is also with respect to his superior gifts and excellencies, as strength of body, and endowments of mind, whence the woman is called the weaker vessel; likewise with regard to pre-eminence or government, the man is the head; and as Christ is the head of the church, and the church is subject to him, so the husband is the head of the wife, and she is to be subject to him in everything natural, civil, and religious. Moreover, the man is the head of the woman to provide and care for her, to nourish and cherish her, and to protect and defend her against all insults and injuries.

And the head of Christ is God; that is, the Father, not as to his divine nature, for in respect to that they are one: Christ, as God, is equal to his Father, and is possessed of the same divine perfections with him; nor is his Father the head of him, in that sense; but as to his human nature, which he formed, prepared, anointed, upheld, and glorified; and in which nature Christ exercised grace on him, he hoped in him, he believed and trusted in him, and loved him, and yielded obedience to him; he always did the things that pleased him in life; he prayed to him; he was obedient to him, even unto death, and committed his soul or spirit into his hands: and all this he did as to his superior, considered in the human nature, and also in his office capacity as Mediator, who as such was his servant; and whose service he diligently and faithfully performed, and had the character from him of a righteous one; so that God is the head of Christ, as he is man and Mediator, and as such only.

{2} But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the {a} head of Christ is God.

(2) He sets down God, in Christ our mediator, as the end and mark not only of doctrine, but also of ecclesiastical comeliness. Then applying it to the question proposed, touching the comely apparel both of men and women in public assemblies, he declares that the woman is one degree beneath the man by the ordinance of God, and that the man is so subject to Christ, that the glory of God ought to appear in him for the preeminence of the sex.

(a) In that Christ is our mediator.

1 Corinthians 11:3. “After this general acknowledgment, however, I have still to bid you lay to heart the following particular point.” And now, first of all, the principle of the succeeding admonition. Respecting θέλωεἰδέναι, comp on 1 Corinthians 10:1; Colossians 2:1.

ΠΑΝΤῸς ἈΝΔΡ.] note the prominent position of the word, as also the article before ΚΕΦ.: of every man the Head. That what is meant, however, is every Christian man, is self-evident from this first clause; consequently, Paul is not thinking of the general order of creation (Hofmann), according to which Christ is the head of all things (Colossians 1:16 f., 1 Corinthians 2:10), but of the organization of Christian fellowship, as it is based upon the work of redemption. Comp Ephesians 5:21 ff.

ΚΕΦΑΛΉ, from which we are not (with Hofmann) to dissociate the conception of an organized whole (this would suit in none of the passages where the word occurs, Colossians 2:10 included), designates in all the three cases here the proximate, immediate Head, which is to be specially noted in the second instance, for Christ as head of the church (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 4:15) is also head of the woman (comp Ephesians 5:22 f.). The relation indicated by ΚΕΦ. is that of organic subordination, even in the last clause: He to whom Christ is subordinate is God (comp 1 Corinthians 3:23, 1 Corinthians 15:28, 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:15; Romans 9:5; and see Kahnis, Dogm. III. p. 208 ff.), where the dogmatic explanation resorted to, that Christ in His human nature only is meant (Theodoret, Estius, Calovius, al[1757]), is un-Pauline. Neither, again, is His voluntary subjection referred to (Billroth), but—which is exactly what the argument demands, and what the two first clauses give us—the objective and, notwithstanding His essential equality with God (Php 2:6), necessary subordination of the Son to the Father in the divine economy of redemption.[1758] Much polemic discussion as to the misuse of this passage by the Arians and others may be found in Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Theophylact.

Galatians 3:28, indeed, shows that the distinction of the sexes is done away in Christ (in the spiritual sphere of the Christian life); but this ideal equality of sex as little does away with the empirical subordination in marriage as with differences of rank in other earthly relations, e.g. of masters and servants.

κεφ. δὲ Χ. ὁ Θεός] The gradation of ranks rises up to the supreme Head over all, who is the Head of the man also, mediately, through Christ. This makes it all the more obvious that, on the one hand, the man who prays or speaks as a prophet before God in the assembly ought not to have his head covered, see 1 Corinthians 11:7; but that, on the other hand, the relation of the women under discussion is all the more widely to be distinguished from that of the men.

[1757] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[1758] Melanchthon puts it well: “Deus est caput Christi, non de essentia dicitur, sed de ministeriis. Filius mediator accipit ministerium a consilio divinitatis, sicut saepe inquit: Pater misit me. Fit hic mentio non arcanae essentiae, sed ministerii.”—Even the exalted and reigning Christ is engaged in this ministerium, and finally delivers up the kingdom to the Father. See 1 Corinthians 15:28.

1 Corinthians 11:3. θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι (= οὐ θέλω κ.τ.λ. of 1 Corinthians 10:1; see note): “But I would have you know”—the previous commendation throws into relief the coming censure. The indecorum in question offends against a foundation principle, viz., that of subordination under the Divine government; this the Cor[1598], with all their knowledge, cannot “know,” or they would not have allowed their women to throw off the ἐξουσία ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς (1 Corinthians 11:10). The violated principle is thus stated: “Of every man the Christ is the head, while the man is head of woman, and God is head of Christ”. As to the wording of this sentence: παντὸς ἀνδρὸς bears emphasis in the 1st clause asserting, like the parl[1599] 2nd clause, a universal truth which holds of the man (vir) as such; the predicate of the 1st clause is distinguished by the def. art[1600],—“Christ is the (proper, essential) head,” etc. (cf. ἡ εἰρήνη, Ephesians 2:14, and see Bm[1601], pp. 124 f.); ὁ Χριστός, in James , 3 rd clauses, means “the Christ” in the wide scope of His offices (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:4, 1 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Corinthians 15:22); for anarthrous κεφαλὴ γυναικός, cf. note on 1 Corinthians 2:5. That Christ is “every man’s” true head is an application of the revealed truth that He is the “one Lord” of created nature (1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:15 f.), combined with the palpable fact that the ἀνὴρ has no (intervening) lord in creation (cf. 9); he stands forth in worship, amidst his family, with no visible superior, holding headship direct from his Maker, and brought by his manhood into direct responsibility to Him “through whom are all things”. Ed[1602], following Cm[1603] and Mr[1604] (not Hn[1605]), limits this manly subordination to the Christian order of life; “the man is head of the woman in virtue of the marriage union, Christ of the man in virtue of union with Him through faith”: but faith is common to the sexes, on this footing οὐκ ἔνι ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ (Galatians 3:28); on the other hand, in Pauline theology, the law of marriage and the social order are grounded in Christ. Paul’s argument has no force unless the parl[1606] assertions rest on a common basis. The question is one that touches the fundamental proprieties of life (1 Corinthians 11:8-15); and the three headships enumerated belong to the hierarchy of nature.—“The Christ” of the 3rd clause is “the Christ” of the 1st, without distinction made of natures or states; He who is “every man’s head,” the Lord of nature, presents the pattern of loyalty in His perfect obedience to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:28, Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 5:5; Hebrews 5:8, etc.); cf. 1 Corinthians 3:22 f., where with the same δέδὲ a chain of subordinate possession is drawn out, corresponding to this subordination of rule. Submission in office, whether of woman to man or Christ to God, consists with equality of nature.

[1598] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1599] parallel.

[1600] grammatical article.

[1601] A. Buttmann’s Grammar of the N.T. Greek (Eng. Trans., 1873).

[1602] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.

[1603] John Chrysostom’s Homiliœ († 407).

[1604] Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eng. Trans.).

[1605] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[1606] parallel.

3. But I would have you know] According to St Paul’s invariable rule, the question is argued and settled upon the first principles of the Christian Revelation. In the sight of God all men are equal; yet without distinctions of rank and office society could not exist. But equality and order are reconciled by the revelation of God in Christ.

the head] “In the idea of this word dominion is especially expressed. As in the human organisation the exercise of dominion over all the members proceeds from the head; so in the family, from man; in the Church, from Christ; in the universe, from God.”—Olshausen.

of every man is Christ] See Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 1:18; Colossians 2:19. As the head directs the body, so ought every member of Christ’s Body to be governed and directed by Christ.

the head of the woman is the man] Cf. Ephesians 5:23. “It appears that the Christian women at Corinth claimed for themselves equality with the male sex, to which the doctrine of Christian freedom and the removal of the distinction of sex in Christ (Galatians 3:28) gave occasion. Christianity had indisputably done much for the emancipation of women, who in the East and among the Ionic Greeks (it was otherwise among the Dorians and the Romans) were in a position of unworthy dependence. But this was done in a quiet, not an over-hasty manner. In Corinth, on the contrary, they had apparently taken up the matter in a fashion somewhat too animated. The women overstepped due bounds by coming forward to pray and prophesy in the assemblies with uncovered head.”—De Wette. Such persons are here reminded that according to God’s word (Genesis 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:11; 1 Timothy 2:13) woman was designed to be in subjection, both in society and in the family. Of this last, woman’s chief sphere, man was, by God’s ordinance, the head. Yet (see below, 1 Corinthians 11:5) she is on an equality with man in her individual relation to Christ.

the head of Christ is God] Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 3:23, 1 Corinthians 8:6, 1 Corinthians 15:28, and notes. Also St John 14:28. Possibly this may be added to prevent the idea from gaining currency that the interval between man and woman was in any degree comparable to that between Christ and man. And it also implies that the whole universe is one vast system of orderly gradation, from God its Creator downwards.

1 Corinthians 11:3. Δὲ, but) On this subject Paul seems formerly to have given no commandment, but to have written now for the first time, when he understood that it was necessary. By the expression, I would, he openly professes his sentiments.—ὅτι, that) Even matters of ceremony should be settled according to the principles of morality, so that they may agree with those principles. It may be said, How does one and the same reason in relation to the head (i.e. of Christ, or of the man) require the man to uncover his head, and the woman to cover hers? Ans. Christ is not seen; the man is seen; so the covering of him, who is under Christ is not seen; of her, who is under the man, is seen.—ἀνδρὸς, γυναικὸς, of the man, of the woman) although they do not live in the state of marriage, 1 Corinthians 11:8, and what follows.—ἡ κεφαλὴ, the head) This term alludes to the head properly so called, concerning the condition [the appropriate dress] of which he treats in the following verse. The common word, Principal,[90] is akin to this use of the term head. The article must be presently after twice supplied from this clause.—κεφαλὴ Χριστοῦ, the head of Christ) 1 Corinthians 3:23, 1 Corinthians 15:28; Luke 3:23; Luke 3:38; John 20:17; Ephesians 3:9, where God is said to have created all things by Christ, therefore He is the head of Christ.—ὁ Θεος, God) 1 Corinthians 11:12.

[90] This word is given as it is in the original. In this form, it is not Latin, but it is probably the German substantive, which signifies head.—T.

Verse 3. - But I would have you know; rather, 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 Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 4:15; and its application to the superiority of man is laid down also in Ephesians 5:23. 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" (Galatians 3:28). 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 John 14:28, "My Father is greater than I." 1 Corinthians 11:3
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