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Print Version Main Index : Commentaries : JFB Commentary : 1st Corinthians Index : Chapter 11

1st Corinthians, Chapter 11
Chapter 10 | Chapter 12
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      1. Rather belonging to the end of the tenth chapter, than to this chapter.
      followers--Greek, "imitators."
      of Christ--who did not please Himself (Ro 15:3); but gave Himself, at the cost of laying aside His divine glory, and dying as man, for us (Eph 5:2 Php 2:4,5). We are to follow Christ first, and earthly teachers only so far as they follow Christ.

      2. Here the chapter ought to begin.
      ye remember me in all things--in your general practice, though in the particular instances which follow ye fail.
      ordinances--Greek, "traditions," that is, apostolic directions given by word of mouth or in writing (1Co 11:23 15:3 2Th 2:15). The reference here is mainly to ceremonies: for in 1Co 11:23, as to the LORD'S SUPPER, which is not a mere ceremony, he says, not merely, "I delivered unto you," but also, "I received of the Lord"; here he says only, "I delivered to you." Romanists argue hence for oral traditions. But the difficulty is to know what is a genuine apostolic tradition intended for all ages. Any that can be proved to be such ought to be observed; any that cannot, ought to be rejected (Re 22:18). Those preserved in the written word alone can be proved to be such.

      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].

      4. praying--in public (1Co 11:17).
      prophesying--preaching in the Spirit (1Co 12:10).
      having--that is, if he were to have: a supposed case to illustrate the impropriety in the woman's case. It was the Greek custom (and so that at Corinth) for men in worship to be uncovered; whereas the Jews wore the Talith, or veil, to show reverence before God, and their unworthiness to look on Him (Isa 6:2); however, MAIMONIDES [Mishna] excepts cases where (as in Greece) the custom of the place was different.
      dishonoureth his head--not as ALFORD, "Christ" (1Co 11:3); but literally, as "his head" is used in the beginning of the verse. He dishonoreth his head (the principal part of the body) by wearing a covering or veil, which is a mark of subjection, and which makes him look downwards instead of upwards to his Spiritual Head, Christ, to whom alone he owes subjection. Why, then, ought not man to wear the covering in token of his subjection to Christ, as the woman wears it in token of her subjection to man? "Because 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" [BENGEL]. (Compare 1Co 11:7).

      5. woman . . . prayeth . . . prophesieth--This instance of women speaking in public worship is an extraordinary case, and justified only by the miraculous gifts which such women possessed as their credentials; for instance, Anna the prophetess and Priscilla (so Ac 2:18). The ordinary rule to them is: silence in public (1Co 14:34,35 1Ti 2:11,12). Mental receptivity and activity in family life are recognized in Christianity, as most accordant with the destiny of woman. This passage does not necessarily sanction women speaking in public. even though possessing miraculous gifts; but simply records what took place at Corinth, without expressing an opinion on it, reserving the censure of it till 1Co 14:34,35. Even those women endowed with prophecy were designed to exercise their gift, rather in other times and places, than the public congregation.
      dishonoureth . . . head--in that she acts against the divine ordinance and the modest propriety that becomes her: in putting away the veil, she puts away the badge of her subjection to man, which is her true "honor"; for through him it connects her with Christ, the head of the man. Moreover, as the head-covering was the emblem of maiden modesty before man (Ge 24:65), and conjugal chastity (Ge 20:16); so, to uncover the head indicated withdrawal from the power of the husband, whence a suspected wife had her head uncovered by the priest (Nu 5:18). ALFORD takes "her head" to be man, her symbolical, not her literal head; but as it is literal in the former clause, it must be so in the latter one.
      all one as if . . . shaven--As woman's hair is given her by nature, as her covering (1Co 11:15), to cut it off like a man, all admit, would be indecorous: therefore, to put away the head-covering, too, like a man, would be similarly indecorous. It is natural to her to have long hair for her covering: she ought, therefore, to add the other (the wearing of a head-covering) to show that she does of her own will that which nature itself teaches she ought to do, in token of her subjection to man.

      6. A woman would not like to be "shorn" or (what is worse) "shaven"; but if she chooses to be uncovered (unveiled) in front, let her be so also behind, that is, "shorn."
      a shame--an unbecoming thing (compare 1Co 11:13-15). Thus the shaving of nuns is "a shame."

      7-9. Argument, also, from man's more immediate relation to God, and the woman's to man.
      he is . . . image . . . glory of God--being created in God's "image," first and directly: the woman, subsequently, and indirectly, through the mediation of man. Man is the representative of God's "glory" this ideal of man being realized most fully in the Son of man (Ps 8:4,5; compare 2Co 8:23). Man is declared in Scripture to be both the "image," and in the "likeness," of God (compare Jas 3:9). But "image" alone is applied to the Son of God (Col 1:15; compare Heb 1:3). "Express image," Greek, "the impress." The Divine Son is not merely "like" God, He is God of God, "being of one substance (essence) with the Father." [Nicene Creed].
      woman . . . glory of . . . man--He does not say, also, "the image of the man." For the sexes differ: moreover, the woman is created in the image of God, as well as the man (Ge 1:26,27). But as the moon in relation to the sun (Ge 37:9), so woman shines not so much with light direct from God, as with light derived from man, that is, in her order in creation; not that she does not in grace come individually into direct communion with God; but even here much of her knowledge is mediately given her through man, on whom she is naturally dependent.

      8. is of . . . of--takes his being from ("out of") . . . from: referring to woman's original creation, "taken out of man" (compare Ge 2:23). The woman was made by God mediately through the man, who was, as it were, a veil or medium placed between her and God, and therefore, should wear the veil or head-covering in public worship, in acknowledgement of this subordination to man in the order of creation. The man being made immediately by God as His glory, has no veil between himself and God [FABER STAPULENSIS in BENGEL].

      9. Neither--rather, "For also"; Another argument: The immediate object of woman's creation. "The man was not created for the sake of the woman; but the woman for the sake of the man" (Ge 2:18,21,22). Just as the Church, the bride, is made for Christ; and yet in both the natural and the spiritual creations, the bride, while made for the bridegroom, in fulfilling that end, attains her own true "glory," and brings "shame" and "dishonor" on herself by any departure from it (1Co 11:4,6).

      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."

      11. Yet neither sex is insulated and independent of the other in the Christian life [ALFORD]. The one needs the other in the sexual relation; and in respect to Christ ("in the Lord"), the man and the woman together (for neither can be dispensed with) realize the ideal of redeemed humanity represented by the bride, the Church.

      12. As the woman was formed out of (from) the man, even so is man born by means of woman; but all things (including both man and woman) are from God as their source (Ro 11:36 2Co 5:18). They depend mutually each on the other, and both on him.

      13. Appeal to their own sense of decorum.
      a woman . . . unto God--By rejecting the emblem of subjection (the head-covering), she passes at one leap in praying publicly beyond both the man and angels [BENGEL].

      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.

      15. her hair . . . for a covering--Not that she does not need additional covering. Nay, her long hair shows she ought to cover her head as much as possible. The will ought to accord with nature [BENGEL].

      16. A summary close to the argument by appeal to the universal custom of the churches.
      if any . . . seem--The Greek also means "thinks" (fit) (compare Mt 3:9). If any man chooses (still after all my arguments) to be contentious. If any be contentious and thinks himself right in being so. A reproof of the Corinthians' self-sufficiency and disputatiousness (1Co 1:20).
      we--apostles: or we of the Jewish nation, from whom ye have received the Gospel, and whose usages in all that is good ye ought to follow: Jewish women veiled themselves when in public, according to TERTULLIAN [ESTIUS]. The former explanation is best, as the Jews are not referred to in the context: but he often refers to himself and his fellow apostles, by the expression, "we--us" (1Co 4:9,10).
      no such custom--as that of women praying uncovered. Not as CHRYSOSTOM, "that of being contentious." The Greek term implies a usage, rather than a mental habit (Joh 18:39). The usage of true "churches (plural: not, as Rome uses it, 'the Church,' as an abstract entity; but 'the churches,' as a number of independent witnesses) of God" (the churches which God Himself recognizes), is a valid argument in the case of external rites, especially, negatively, for example, Such rites were not received among them, therefore, ought not to be admitted among us: but in questions of doctrine, or the essentials of worship, the argument is not valid [SCLATER] (1Co 7:17 14:33).
      neither--nor yet. Catholic usage is not an infallible test of truth, but a general test of decency.

      17. in this--which follows.
      I declare--rather, "I enjoin"; as the Greek is always so used. The oldest manuscripts read literally "This I enjoin (you) not praising (you)."
      that--inasmuch as; in that you, &c. Here he qualifies his praise (1Co 11:2). "I said that I praised you for keeping. the ordinances delivered to you; but I must now give injunction in the name of the Lord, on a matter in which I praise you not; namely, as to the Lord's Supper (1Co 11:23 1Co 14:37).
      not for the better--not so as to progress to what is better.
      for the worse--so as to retrograde to what is worse. The result of such "coming together" must be "condemnation" (1Co 11:34).

      18. first of all--In the first place. The "divisions" (Greek, "schisms") meant, are not merely those of opinion (1Co 1:10), but in outward acts at the love-feasts (Agapæ), (1Co 11:21). He does not follow up the expression, "in the first place," by "in the second place." But though not expressed, a second abuse was in his mind when he said, "In the first place," namely, THE ABUSE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS, which also created disorder in their assemblies [ALFORD], (1Co 12:1 14:23,26,33,40).
      in the church--not the place of worship; for ISIDORE OF PELUSIUM denies that there were such places specially set apart for worship in the apostles' times [Epistle, 246.2]. But, "in the assembly" or "congregation"; in convocation for worship, where especially love, order, and harmony should prevail. The very ordinance instituted for uniting together believers in one body, was made an occasion of "divisions" (schisms).
      partly--He hereby excepts the innocent. "I am unwilling to believe all I hear, but some I cannot help believing" [ALFORD]: while my love is unaffected by it [BENGEL].

      19. heresies--Not merely "schisms" or "divisions" (1Co 11:18), which are "recent dissensions of the congregation through differences of opinion" [AUGUSTINE, Con. Crescon. Don. 2.7, quoted by TRENCH, Greek Synonyms of the New Testament], but also "heresies," that is, "schisms which have now become inveterate"; "Sects" [CAMPBELL, vol. 2, pp. 126, 127]: so Ac 5:17 15:5 translate the same Greek. At present there were dissensions at the love-feasts; but Paul, remembering Jesus' words (Mt 18:7 24:10,12 Lu 17:1) foresees "there must be (come) also" matured separations, and established parties in secession, as separatists. The "must be" arises from sin in professors necessarily bearing its natural fruits: these are overruled by God to the probation of character of both the godly and the ungodly, and to the discipline of the former for glory. "Heresies" had not yet its technical sense ecclesiastically, referring to doctrinal errors: it means confirmed schisms. ST. AUGUSTINE'S rule is a golden rule as regards questions of heresy and catholicity: "In doubtful questions, liberty; in essentials, unity; in all things, charity."
      that . . . approved may be made manifest--through the disapproved (reprobates) becoming manifested (Lu 2:35 1Jo 2:19).

      20. When . . . therefore--Resuming the thread of discourse from 1Co 11:18.
      this is not to--rather, "there is no such thing as eating the LORD'S Supper"; it is not possible where each is greedily intent only on devouring "HIS OWN supper," and some are excluded altogether, not having been waited for (1Co 11:33), where some are "drunken," while others are "hungry" (1Co 11:21). The love-feast usually preceded the Lord's Supper (as eating the Passover came before the Lord's Supper at the first institution of the latter). It was a club-feast, where each brought his portion, and the rich, extra portions for the poor; from it the bread and wine were taken for the Eucharist; and it was at it that the excesses took place, which made a true celebration of the Lord's Supper during or after it, with true discernment of its solemnity, out of the question.

      21. one taketh before other--the rich "before" the poor, who had no supper of their own. Instead of "tarrying for one another" (1Co 11:33); hence the precept (1Co 12:21,25).
      his own supper--"His own" belly is his God (Php 3:19); "the Lord's Supper," the spiritual feast, never enters his thoughts.
      drunken--The one has more than is good for him, the other less [BENGEL].

      22. What!--Greek, "For."
      houses--(compare 1Co 11:34)--"at home." That is the place to satiate the appetite, not the assembly of the brethren [ALFORD].
      despise ye the church of God--the congregation mostly composed of the poor, whom "God hath chosen," however ye show contempt for them (Jas 2:5); compare "of God" here, marking the true honor of the Church.
      shame them that have not--namely, houses to eat and drink in, and who, therefore, ought to have received their portion at the love-feasts from their wealthier brethren.
      I praise you not--resuming the words (1Co 11:17).

      23. His object is to show the unworthiness of such conduct from the dignity of the holy supper.
      I--Emphatic in the Greek. It is not my own invention, but the Lord's institution.
      received of the Lord--by immediate revelation (Ga 1:12; compare Ac 22:17,18 2Co 12:1-4). The renewal of the institution of the Lord's Supper by special revelation to Paul enhances its solemnity. The similarity between Luke's and Paul's account of the institution, favors the supposition that the former drew his information from the apostle, whose companion in travel he was. Thus, the undesigned coincidence is a proof of genuineness.
      night--the time fixed for the Passover (Ex 12:6): though the time for the Lord's Supper is not fixed.
      betrayed--With the traitor at the table, and death present before His eyes, He left this ordinance as His last gift to us, to commemorate His death. Though about to receive such an injury from man, He gave this pledge of His amazing love to man.

      24. brake--The breaking of the bread involves its distribution and reproves the Corinthian mode at the love-feast, of "every one taking before other his own supper."
      my body . . . broken for you--"given" (Lu 22:19) for you (Greek, "in your behalf"), and "broken," so as to be distributed among you. The oldest manuscripts omit "broken," leaving it to be supplied from "brake." The two old versions, Memphitic and Thebaic, read from Luke, "given." The literal "body" could not have been meant; for Christ was still sensibly present among His disciples when He said, "This is My body." They could only have understood Him symbolically and analogically: As this bread is to your bodily health, so My body is to the spiritual health of the believing communicant. The words, "Take, eat," are not in the oldest manuscripts.
      in remembrance of me--(See on 1Co 11:25).

      25. when he had supped--Greek, "after the eating of supper," namely, the Passover supper which preceded the Lord's Supper, as the love-feast did subsequently. Therefore, you Corinthians ought to separate common meals from the Lord's Supper [BENGEL].
      the new testament--or "covenant." The cup is the parchment-deed, as it were, on which My new covenant, or last will is written and sealed, making over to you all blessings here and hereafter.
      in my blood--ratified by MY blood: "not by the blood of goats and calves" (Heb 9:12).
      as oft as--Greek, "as many times soever": implying that it is an ordinance often to be partaken of.
      in remembrance of me--Luke (Lu 22:19) expresses this, which is understood by Matthew and Mark. Paul twice records it (1Co 11:24 and here) as suiting his purpose. The old sacrifices brought sins continually to remembrance (Heb 10:1,3). The Lord's Supper brings to remembrance Christ and His sacrifice once for all for the full and final remission of sins.

      26. For--in proof that the Lord's Supper is "in remembrance" of Him.
      show--announce publicly. The Greek does not mean to dramatically represent, but "ye publicly profess each of you, the Lord has died FOR ME" [WAHL]. This word, as "is" in Christ's institution (1Co 11:24,25), implies not literal presence, but a vivid realization, by faith, of Christ in the Lord's Supper, as a living person, not a mere abstract dogma, "bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh" (Eph 5:30; compare Ge 2:23); and ourselves "members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones," "our sinful bodies made clean by His body (once for all offered), and our souls washed through His most precious blood" [Church of England Prayer Book]. "Show," or "announce," is an expression applicable to new things; compare "show" as to the Passover (Ex 13:8). So the Lord's death ought always to be fresh in our memory; compare in heaven, Re 5:6. That the Lord's Supper is in remembrance of Him, implies that He is bodily absent, though spiritually present, for we cannot be said to commemorate one absent. The fact that we not only show the Lord's death in the supper, but eat and drink the pledges of it, could only be understood by the Jews, accustomed to such feasts after propitiatory sacrifices, as implying our personal appropriation therein of the benefits of that death.
      till he come--when there shall be no longer need of symbols of His body, the body itself being manifested. The Greek expresses the certainly of His coming. Rome teaches that we eat Christ present corporally, "till He come" corporally; a contradiction in terms. The showbread, literally, "bread of the presence," was in the sanctuary, but not in the Holiest Place (Heb 9:1-8); so the Lord's Supper in heaven, the antitype to the Holiest Place, shall be superseded by Christ's own bodily presence; then the wine shall be drunk "anew" in the Father's kingdom, by Christ and His people together, of which heavenly banquet, the Lord's Supper is a spiritual foretaste and specimen (Mt 26:29). Meantime, as the showbread was placed anew, every sabbath, on the table before the Lord (Le 24:5-8); so the Lord's death was shown, or announced afresh at the Lord's table the first day of every week in the primitive Church. We are now "priests unto God" in the dispensation of Christ's spiritual presence, antitypical to the HOLY PLACE: the perfect and eternal dispensation, which shall not begin till Christ's coming, is antitypical to the HOLIEST PLACE, which Christ our High Priest alone in the flesh as yet has entered (Heb 9:6,7); but which, at His coming, we, too, who are believers, shall enter (Re 7:15 21:22). The supper joins the two closing periods of the Old and the New dispensations. The first and second comings are considered as one coming, whence the expression is not "return," but "come" (compare, however, Joh 14:3).

      27. eat and drink--So one of the oldest manuscripts reads. But three or four equally old manuscripts, the Vulgate and CYPRIAN, read, "or." Romanists quote this reading in favor of communion in one kind. This consequence does not follow. Paul says, "Whosoever is guilty of unworthy conduct, either in eating the bread, or in drinking the cup, is guilty of the body and blood of Christ." Impropriety in only one of the two elements, vitiates true communion in both. Therefore, in the end of the verse, he says, not "body or blood," but "body and blood." Any who takes the bread without the wine, or the wine without the bread, "unworthily" communicates, and so "is guilty of Christ's body and blood"; for he disobeys Christ's express command to partake of both. If we do not partake of the sacramental symbol of the Lord's death worthily, we share in the guilt of that death. (Compare "crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh," Heb 6:6). Unworthiness in the person, is not what ought to exclude any, but unworthily communicating: However unworthy we be, if we examine ourselves so as to find that we penitently believe in Christ's Gospel, we may worthily communicate.

      28. examine--Greek, "prove" or "test" his own state of mind in respect to Christ's death, and his capability of "discerning the Lord's body" (1Co 11:29,31). Not auricular confession to a priest, but self-examination is necessary.
      so--after due self-examination.
      of . . . of--In 1Co 11:27, where the receiving was unworthily, the expression was, "eat this bread, drink . . . cup" without "of." Here the "of" implies due circumspection in communicating [BENGEL].
      let him eat--His self-examination is not in order that he may stay away, but that he may eat, that is, communicate.

      29. damnation--A mistranslation which has put a stumbling-block in the way of many in respect to communicating. The right translation is "judgment." The judgment is described (1Co 11:30-32) as temporal.
      not discerning--not duty judging: not distinguishing in judgment (so the Greek: the sin and its punishment thus being marked as corresponding) from common food, the sacramental pledges of the Lord's body. Most of the oldest manuscripts omit "Lord's" (see 1Co 11:27). Omitting also "unworthily," with most of the oldest manuscripts, we must translate, "He that eateth and drinketh, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, IF he discern not the body" (Heb 10:29). The Church is "the body of Christ" (1Co 12:27). The Lord's body is His literal body appreciated and discerned by the soul in the faithful receiving, and not present in the elements themselves.

      30. weak . . . sickly--He is "weak" who has naturally no strength: "sickly," who has lost his strength by disease [TITTMANN, Greek Synonyms of the New Testament].
      sleep--are being lulled in death: not a violent death; but one the result of sickness, sent as the Lord's chastening for the individual's salvation, the mind being brought to a right state on the sick bed (1Co 11:31).

      31. if we would judge ourselves--Most of the oldest manuscripts, read "But," not "For." Translate also literally "If we duly judged ourselves, we should not be (or not have been) judged," that is, we should escape (or have escaped) our present judgments. In order to duly judge or "discern [appreciate] the Lord's body," we need to "duly judge ourselves." A prescient warning against the dogma of priestly absolution after full confession, as the necessary preliminary to receiving the Lord's Supper.

      32. chastened--(Re 3:19).
      with the world--who, being bastards, are without chastening (Heb 12:8).

      33. tarry one for another--In contrast to 1Co 11:21. The expression is not, "Give a share to one another," for all the viands brought to the feast were common property, and, therefore, they should "tarry" till all were met to partake together of the common feast of fellowship [THEOPHYLACT].

      34. if any . . . hunger--so as not to be able to "tarry for others," let him take off the edge of his hunger at home [ALFORD] (1Co 11:22).
      the rest--"the other questions you asked me as to the due celebration of the Lord's Supper." Not other questions in general; for he does subsequently set in order other general questions in this Epistle.

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