1. An underlying statement of relations, verse 3
2. Conclusions as to man based on man’s standing in grace, verse 4
3. Conclusions as to women, an obstacle in man’s headship, verse 5
4. Description of the difficulty as embodied in Jewish teaching, verse 6
5. Additional argument for man’s unveiling based on natural creation, verse 7
6. Woman’s unveiling is doubly strong, for her relationship to man is similar to her relationship to her Creator, 2nd clause, verse 7 & 8
7. Conclusion is that the husband ought to allow the wife to unveil in praying and prophesying, verse 10 first clause
8. An after-argument, opposing the Jewish argument as to “angels,” verse 10, second clause.
9. A guard against supposing the Apostle draws distinctions obliterated in grace, verses 11-12 and an appeal to their own judgment as to this point, first clause of verse 13
10. A direct statement that the proper thing in prayer is for women to unveil, as before God. This is not a question.
11. A statement that there is nothing in the nature of hair itself to be ashamed of, even if a man lets his hair grow long. Not a question, verse 14
12. Hence, the Jewish woman’s reluctance to show her hair by unveiling is a false modesty. Her hair is her covering itself. Verse 15
13. Final conclusion: Let any one know, who loves to contend for the Tallith in worship, that “we have no such custom.” Verse 16
“The Head of every man is Christ,” verse 3. These words are spoken properly, not to the human race, but to believers whom alone the Apostle addresses. As Chrysotom says, “He cannot be the Head of those who are not in the Body, who rank not among the members. So when he says, ‘of every man,’ one must understand it of the believers.” Although the Apostle for sufficient reasons does not state it, Christ is the Head of women believers, and the Head of every woman is Christ also. Therefore, there can be no members in the Body who have not their Head in Christ. The word here in the original Greek for “man” is aner, the adult male, the husband. Dean Stanley says “anthropos,” the word for person, would have been the natural word to use with reference to Christ as in 15:45, but for the sake of contrast with ‘woman’ he has changed it to “aner.”
But may there not be another reason also? Since the Apostle is about to discuss the reasons for discarding the Tallith, he would mention the aner as the only one obliged by Jewish prescription to wear it. “Every man [aner] … dishonoreth his Head” (v.14). Which head? Conybeare and Howson say, “brings shame upon his own head by wearing the token of subjection.” If that be the case as many others also hold, then it must be first proved that a veil is a “token of subjection.”
Also, a sufficient reason must be shown why Paul lays down the proposition, “the Head of every man is Christ.” Again, it is anti-Scriptural to teach that the servant, who “is not above his Master,” must act contrary to Him who “made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant. . .” Furthermore, it is contradictory to the Apostle’s own injunction concerning our Exemplar in this act: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:5, 7). The aner, then, who professes that Christ has released him from condemnation before the law while he still wears the Tallith in public, which signifies condemnation before the law, dishonors Christ, his Head.
“Every woman… with her head uncovered, dishonors her head” (v. 5), i.e., her husband, for any disgrace she incurs to her reputation dishonors him. “That is one and the same as if she were shaved.” (NKJV used here for clarity.) According to the laws of the Jews, and it is the opposition of the Judaizers Paul has to contend against, shaving followed so frequently upon the offense of unveiling that the disgrace followed at once as though the whole were already done to her. “If the woman be not covered,” etc. (v. 6). Dr. Lightfoot rightly says of this verse that the Apostle “does not here speak in his own sense, but cites something usual among the Jews.” Remember this very important point. When do we ever find any of the Apostles prescribing penalties for disobedience beyond the simple one of separation from the company of believers?
Let us for a moment face squarely all that is involved in accepting the general assumption that the Apostle here indicates a penalty for disobedient women who unveil. In the first place, we need not assume that the Apostle’s mild indication of the nature of the punishment would have passed unheeded as in our day. No, indeed, men of those days would hardly have failed to take full advantage of the privilege of punishing the wife had Paul meant this. Who is to see to the execution of this penalty? Will the Apostle himself be as he was before his conversion when he “punished them often in every synagogue?” Or will he put shears and razors in the hands of husbands to deal with recreant wives? Perhaps. If this view is to be accepted, it will be better to assume that the church would keep a barber employed always for the purpose.
But some say, “We do not need to assume that it needed more than a threat to subdue these disorderly women.” Then, are we to believe that the Apostle under divine inspiration makes idle threats which there is no expectation of executing? Then, after all, how many more of the warnings in the Bible are mere idle threats? The whole conception from first to last is contrary to our notions of religious liberty as learned from other Scripture. No, Paul does not here speak in his own sense, but “cites something usual among the Jews.”
The customs of the Jews placed the wife terribly in the hands of her husband, who might hale her to their courts for the severest punishment for unveiling, to which the Apostle makes reference. It may not be that such a law would find sympathy in the heathen courts of Corinth except that in a general way under Roman law a wife would be bound to obey her husband in whatever he ordered. At any rate, the religious prejudices of an unconverted Jew of those days would have been greatly aroused by the sight of an unveiled woman taking part in public worship. The Christian community might be brought into peril by the complaint of the more influential Jewish element, as indeed it was, again and again. It is generally conceded that the terrible martyrdom of the entire church at Rome under Nero was brought about through Jewish informants and slanderers.
Therefore, the Apostle must squarely face this difficulty. Even if he would like, he cannot pass over the fact that by every law and custom of that time the man was the head of the woman. Therefore, when he says, “the head of the woman is the man,” he no more constitutes him her head by this dictum than when he says, “the head of Christ is God,” which creates and ordains that relationship. He simply states a fact which he finds in existence and a difficulty with which he must reckon when giving directions to his Corinthian followers. Now, we’ll look at the difficulty.
Dr. Lightfoot’s comments on another passage (Luke 7:37) help us. He says the woman who washed her Savior’s feet with her tears was a “sinner;” not necessarily a woman of wicked life although the context shows she probably was. She was a “sinner” in the meaning of Jewish law--a woman who had committed one of a list of offenses for which she could be divorced with the loss of her marriage portion. Lightfoot cites from the Talmud to explain: “She who transgresseth the law of Moses and the Jewish law.” ‘The Jewish law’ – that is, what the daughters of Israel follow though it be not written.” “Who is she that transgresseth the law of Moses? She that gives her husband to eat of what is not tithed. . .She that voweth and doth not perform her vow. How doth she transgress the Jewish law? If she appear abroad with her head uncovered, if she spin in the streets, if she talks with everyone she meets. Abba Saul saith: If she curse her children.” (Kethuboth, fol.7, col. 1)
We have emphasized the words to which we wish to call attention especially. It was a serious matter to ask a Jewish woman to unveil if it meant that she could be branded by the same term as women of ill fame, and cast off by her husband with the loss of her marriage portion, so that the only alternative to starvation might through the loss of reputation be a life of sin. Again, we quote from the Talmud: Under the section called Sota, that is, “Dissolute woman,” we find these words: “Of the woman suspected of adultery: Yet have they not taught in the name of the Shammites that they only take cognizance so far of the duty of repudiation in case of illicit relation; but it extends also to the woman who goes out with her hair not done up?… It is true, replied R. Mena, “whenever witnesses attest it,” whence we learn that proof of adultery was considered as good as established if a woman had merely gone abroad with her hair ‘not done up,’ a phrase in all probability meaning not covered with a veil.”
This quotation I make from Schwab’s French translation of the Talmud. The French words are as follows: “Traite Sotah. De la femme soupconnee d’adultere… Cependant, n’a-t-on pas enseigne au nom des Schammaites (dans une Braitha) qu’on connait seulement jusqu’ ici ie devoir de la repudiation en cas de relation illicite; mais il s’etend aussi a la femme qui sort les chevaux defaits…. C’est vrai, repondit R. Mena, lorsque des temoins l’affirment.”
Dr. Edersheim, in his book Sketches of Jewish Life adds to the above all that seems necessary to show that the Apostle here refers to these practices among the Jews. He says: “Ordinarily it was most strictly enjoined upon Jewish women that have their head and hair carefully covered. This may throw some light upon the difficult passage in 1st Cor. 11:1-10.” And then follow these words of Dr. Edersheim, who falls into the fallacy of most expositors, of assuming that the Apostle must of course be teaching the same things that the Judaizers taught instead of probably the opposite. “We must bear in mind that the Apostle here argues with the Jews, and that on their own ground, convincing them by a reference to their own views, customs and legends of the propriety of the practice which he enjoins. From that point of view, the propriety of a woman having her head covered could not be called in question.”
Must expositors constantly hark back to the childishness of Rabbinical teachings to find a meaning in Paul’s Gospel message? However, Dr. Edersheim proceeds most interestingly and instructively: “The opposite, i.e., unveiling and uncovering the head, to a Jew would have indicated immodesty. Indeed, it was custom in case of a woman accused of adultery to have here hair ‘shorn’ or shaven’ at the same time using this formula: “Because thou hast departed from the manner of the daughters of Israel, who go with their head covered…. Therefore that hath befallen thee which thou hast chosen.” Now, a word of explanation. In Numbers 5th chapter, we have an account of the trial by bitter waters for jealousy. In the 18th verse, the direction for the priest is to “uncover the woman’s head,” which really means to shave the head. (See Lev. 10:6 and Lev. 21:10 where the same expression is used.) However, in the course of time the expression came to be used in its most literal sense that any uncovering of the Jewish woman’s head so as to display even her hair was immodest. The Talmud tells of a woman highly respected for her virtue and modesty who boasted that “even the rafters of her own room had never seen her hair.”
Now, let us sum up all we have learned through these quotations from the Talmud as to the customs and prejudices of the Jews and the laws they enforced to sustain them.
1st. A woman who went abroad with her head uncovered could be branded “a sinner,” divorced and cast out penniless by her husband.
2nd. If he could produce witnesses that she had been seen abroad with her hair not properly “done up,” which is equivalent in all probability to saying not covered up, that amounted to proof of adultery for this offense of uncovering the head.
3rd. She would be tried for adultery; and her hair would be shorn or shaven with the formula of the sentence pronounced upon her as follows. “Because thou hast departed from the manner of the daughters of Israel, who go with their head covered. . .Therefore that hath befallen thee which thou hast chosen.” Now, stronger proof is not needed to show that when the Apostle says of the woman who uncovers her head in public, “for that is one and the same if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn.” (NKJV for clarity) Paul does not prescribe this action, but he only refers to customs among them well understood by all.
Hence, we conclude that the Apostle, who enjoins that men remove the Tallith, explains here the reason why he cannot also at once enjoin that women remove their veils. We all have an inner sense that teaches us that the mere matter of veiling is not one for apostolic adjudication. Paul would not “make an eternal obligation of an external ritual.” Never were truer words uttered than those of John Stuart Mill: “To pretend that Christianity was intended to stereotype existing forms of government and society, and protect them against change, is to reduce it to the level of Islamism or of Brahmism.”
“He is the image and glory of God,” (I. Cor. 11:7). The preceding argument for the removal of the Tallith was based on re-creation. This second argument is generally regarded as based on natural creation. We may not construe this specification as to the man as something from which woman is excluded. Dean Stanley rightly observes, “Taken strictly, the woman is as much the image [and hence the glory] of God as the man; and the words in Gen.1:26 are in the common name Adam or man; “God created man in his own image.”
In what sense are we to understand that man is the “glory” of God? Dean Alford refers us to Psalm 8:6, “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands.” But this dominion was given at creation as much to woman as to man in the words, “Let them have dominion.” Psalm 8:5 of the psalm cited by Alford says explicitly of “man”, “ Thou crownest him with glory and honor.” If we turn to the original Hebrew, we find the word “man” to which this pronoun refers is a word that means explicitly not the male but the human race.
Hence, the woman is crowned with glory in the same sense as the man. If the argument, then, that being the image and glory of God entitles to unveiling in the Creator’s presence, the prerogative belongs as much to woman as to man. Logically, this point is often conceded by expositors who adopt a line of argument contrary thereto as does Stanley himself when he says: “ He, therefore, ought to have nothing on a head which represents so divine a majesty – nothing on a countenance which reflects so divine a glory. But woman is a reflection of the glory not of God, but of man: he intercepts the glory of the divine countenance; as all his outward manifestations have reference to God, so all hers have reference to man.”
Perhaps it is well that male expositors tell us about their countenances reflecting “so divine a glory,” as we might otherwise never have noticed. These male expositors know more than Moses, who “did not know that the skin of his face shone.” (NKJV for clarity). Jamieson, Fausett and Brown say : As the moon in relation to the sun, so woman shines not so much with the light direct from God, as with light derived from man.” “ Even in grace,” they declare, “much of her knowledge is mediately given her through man. They omit to say that, being excluded from theological seminaries, this is necessarily true. “The woman was made by God mediately through man, who was, as it were, a veil or medium placed between her and God, and through him it [the veil] connects her with Christ the head of man.”
These statements on the part of Jamieson, Fausett and Brown declare for another Mediator besides Christ and are Papal in doctrine though found in a work highly endorsed and in common use by Protestants. And all this is said in reference to natural man, for it relates to natural creation, not spiritual regeneration. None of these commentators limit their eulogies of man to men of moral character; his male configuration and all that is associated with it exalts him to this nearness to God, endows him with the spiritual advantages over woman above described.
These qualities that make the spiritual light of man compared to the spiritual light of woman, as the light of the sun to the light of the moon, belong to the male libertine, the male idiot, the male lunatic, as contrasted with the saintly mother of them. She has the moonlight whereas they have the sunlight of divine glory shining on their countenance. They can instruct her, but not she them in the knowledge of God. The arguments of most commentators on this passage leave us here. Believe it? Who can? Even honest Dr. Lightfoot finds this argument for man’s more excellent countenance something he cannot quite set aside, so he says, “A woman praying not veiled, as if she were not ashamed of her face, disgraceth man her head, while she would seem so beautiful beyond him, when she is only the glory of man; but man is the glory of God.” Certainly. We can all agree on this basis: When the moon succeeds in shining forth with greater splendor than the sun, whereas it is only the glory of the sun, it is time for the moon to hide its face in shame behind a veil!
“But the woman is the glory of the man” (verse 7). First, we must understand just what the word “glory” means here. In Luke 9 when Jesus was transfigured on the mount, his face shone and his garments glistened with whiteness. In the 32nd verse, this appearance is called His “glory.” In Acts 22:11, the Apostle Paul, telling of the bright light that shone around him when on the road to Damascus, says, “When I could not see for the glory of that light,” these two passages are sufficient to give us the import of the word. This word in the Greek is doxa, which carries with it always the thought of something that gives an appearance or display. It cannot be legitimately divorced from that sense and applied to that which is obscured. . .No attempt is ever made to rob the word “glory” of this sense of display anywhere else but in this passage. So when it is said that man is the glory of God, and therefore ought not to veil, it is at once understood that man is a being for God to display as a creature He is pleased with in his creation.
Yet the average expositor sees in the statement “the woman is the glory of man,” a reason for man to treat woman in exactly the opposite manner from the way God would treat him. Because man is the glory of God, they say with the Apostle that man ought to unveil before God. Because woman is the glory of man, woman ought not to unveil, but to veil before man. In exactly similar relations, they find opposite duties according to the sex of the individual. Now if this can be done at one place in the Bible, why not all through? Why may not a woman assume that all those commandments addressed to the male are meant to guide her in an exactly contrary direction, because she is of the opposite sex?
Alford describes woman as “shining not with light direct from God, but with light derived from man” and bases thereon his argument that woman must be veiled. But how can she shine if she is veiled? Jamieson, Fausett and Brown say: “Woman shines ….with light derived from man.” Not at all. A veiled woman does not shine. Books on logic inform us that “logical equivocation” consists in the same term being used in two distinct senses. When men apply the use of this word “glory” in such opposite ways according as to whether it is said of man or of woman, they furnish us an instance not of honest argument but of logical equivocation.
If it be argued as a last resort that the expression, “the woman is the glory of man,” means that the woman may be kept by man, as in heathen countries today, for the exclusive gaze of her husband only, then since it is said, “man is the glory of God,” man is to be kept veiled for the exclusive gaze of God alone. Even his wife may not look upon his face since it nowhere says, “man is the glory of the woman.” But all these arguments have grown out of the fundamental error that man is, in some sense that woman is not, “the image and glory of God.” However, the Apostle would teach that woman is all this and “the glory of man besides.”
Why is man the glory of God? Because man is of God, he had his source in God. Coming from God, his parent-Creator, he bears God’s image. Again, man was created for God’s delight, for communion and companionship with God. I believe these reasons are implied by Paul when he speaks of man as “the glory of God.” And then he makes the application in the words of verses eight and nine, that is, because she had her source in man and because she was made for his delight, for communion and companionship with him.
Hence, as God will not have man veiled from him, -- “The woman ought to have power over her head”. . . (verse 10). She ought to have the privilege of unveiling if she wishes. She ought to stand unveiled before man. But what becomes of the statement so generally made by expositors to the effect that Paul writes of the obligation upon woman in the Corinthian church to veil because, copying the heathen priestesses in the temple worship, “they threw off the usual eastern veil of modest attire”? We can well afford to let it rest until some historical proof is furnished. This supposition rests upon the other supposition that Paul is regulating the costume of women.
We do not believe that the propagation of the Gospel and the propagation of the veil for women are equally the concern of this great Apostle’s mind. He makes his point primarily, not upon the veiling of women, not upon subjection of women, but upon freedom from condemnation. As to the historical facts, it is probable that priestesses in heathen temples discarded the veil, even if the head wasn’t shaved as in China with Buddhist nuns today.
What women of pure life, or even secretly impure, must be held back from imitating the notorious women of the town? If the women in the Corinthian church needed such restraint as this implies to keep them from imitating the notorious characters of the town, they were as bad in actual practice as those women. The woman in outward appearance imitates the better, not the worse, until she becomes lost to all self-respect. Over 1000 priestesses were connected with the temple of Aphrodite at Corinth at this time. These slaves probably went about bare-headed. They had their heads shaved. What an incongruous conception! Because women have had their hearts cleansed from sin and have become daughters of the Most High, the Apostle, therefore, must deal sternly with them lest their sense of “liberty in Christ Jesus” lead them to copy the manners of the slave prostitutes of their town! Believe it? Who can?
“Because of the angels.” (verse 10). Because so little data is afforded us by Colossians 2:18, the other Scripture, it is very doubtful if ever a sense can be discovered for this phrase that will satisfy all and that can actually be proved as the meaning Paul had in mind. After having already given the views of several and our reasons for discarding them as untenable, we will now give our own. Referring back to the passage in Col. 2:18 and Dr. Bullinger’s explanation of its real meaning, we find the Apostle some five years after his Corinthian letter, warning the Colossian Christians against the fallacious arguments based on the attitude of the seraphim as described in Isaiah 6:2 in all probability. Of each of these seraphim, it is said that “with twain he covered his face,” that is, with a pair of wings. Superficial conclusions are drawn contrary to the teaching of the Gospels, namely, that since “angels” worship God with covered faces, man should do the same.
Paul maintains that man under the Gospel is of higher creation than the angels, who are “ministering spirits sent forth to do service for the sake of the heirs of salvation.” (Heb.1:14) In this very letter, the Apostle asked, “Do you not know that we shall judge angels?” (I. Corinthians 6:3). (NKJV for clarity) The conduct of “angels” is therefore no guide to the one holding his relation to Christ, his Head. As a member of Christ’s body, man’s destiny is much higher than the angels. Rejecting Christ as the Head and teaching a voluntary renunciation of this high standing in Christ from a fancied imitation of “angels,” the Judaizer would beguile them of their prize by the assumption that “angels” worshiped women, when actually “angels” worshiped God. When he goes beyond the teaching of the Bible, which gives light here only as to seraphim, Bullinger is “intruding into those things” of the invisible world, concerning which he has scant knowledge. On the other hand, is it likely that the Apostle had failed to give the clear instruction of our Lord on this point as an offset to such error? He denounces the disseminator of this error as intruding beyond his knowledge. . .Would he not also show definitely where the error lay? When the disciples asked our Lord, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” the reply was, “Whoever shall humble himself as this little child.” Then, He adds, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones, for I say unto you that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven,” (Matt. 18:10).
Dean Alford rightly asserts here: “We must remember with what the discourse begun – a contention about who should be greatest among them; and the least are those furthest from these ‘greatest’.” The words, therefore, though they include children in an especial manner, yet refer rather to those members of the Christian body likely to be despised by the more important ones. The warning is to the great dignity of even the least because for each there is an unveiled angelic minister with open face in the presence of God.
Such a warning as this could not have passed unheeded by the early disciples, being so contrary to the synagogue instruction constantly before their eyes in the assumption of the Tallith in supposed imitation of “angels.” In our present passage, the Apostle has found an unveiled Christ in the presence of God as a reason for man’s unveiling. Likewise, he has discovered an unveiled man, the image and glory of God, as an argument for woman, “the glory of man,” being allowed to unveil. Now, here is an after-argument in reference to instruction regarding man’s true relation to “angels” and the true attitude of the angel of even the most humble member of Christ’s body as taught by our Lord Himself, who stands unveiled before God.
Paul says, “For this cause ought the woman to have power over her head [i.e., the right to unveil] because of the angels.” This statement is what I believe to be the right interpretation of this seemingly obscure reference to “angels.” A little historical evidence at this point ought to go a long way. Did the Apostle, as is so often assumed, forbid women unveiling along with the general assumption that both Roman and Grecian law did the same? Also, if as we have shown the law of the Jews was so stringent against it, how did it come to pass that women “sat unveiled in the assemblies in a separate place by the presbyters” and were ordained by the laying on of hands” until the eleventh canon of the council of Laodicea forbade it in 360 A.D.?
Here is the account in the words of Dean Alford in his comments on I Tim.5:9. The same admission is made by Conybeare and Howson, and stands undisputed in church history.
“Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman. . . (I. Corinthians 11:11-12). (NKJV). The Apostle wishes to make it clear that while it has been necessary to discuss the veiling of women and the veiling of men separately “in the Christian state,” distinctions of sex are obliterated. The words, “judge among yourselves” (NKJV) are better construed as the closing clause of these verses than the beginning of the next. See Paul’s order in 11:13: “Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered.” (NKJV).
When the Apostle wrote these words, punctuation marks such as we have were not included. The order of words or an interrogative participle often indicated a question. However, in this instance, nothing exists to determine the matter but the opinion of the expositor and translator. If verse 10 stands in its original sense not manipulated by human hand, then this verse is best construed as a simple statement with the emphasis on the word “proper”. Whether related to public prayer or to prayer in its widest sense, the proper attitude of woman and man before God is “uncovered,” the Apostle asserts.
“Neither doth nature teach you. . .” which again is a statement, not a question. Difficulties not to be ignored occur among those who hold this scripture to be a question. First, as to the fact: Does Nature teach us that long hair is a shame to a man? Then, why does Nature grow long hair on a man unless the barber interferes? Chinese men possess hair as long and abundant as Chinese women because they take pains to cultivate it just as women do. Does Nature teach this most populous people on the face of the earth that her work of growing long hair on these millions of men is a “shame”? No! What does blind Nature know anyway of “shame” and “glory” in purely natural things to instruct us? Here again we have another instance of that teaching that the same thing done under the same circumstances has opposite moral import because done by opposite sexes.
Whether addressed to man or to woman, soon we shall have to inquire concerning every precept of the Apostle to learn whether we are to do that thing or the opposite if we allow such assumptions as these to pass unchallenged. The Apostle has only just informed us that the woman is not apart from the man, nor the man from the woman in the Lord. Now, is he already teaching that they are as far apart as the poles and as far apart as “shame” and “glory” when doing exactly the same thing? Besides, in a day, and among a people who personified and deified the forces of Nature, this personification of Nature seems a dangerous precedent for Paul and we do not believe he would have committed such indiscretion.
Granting for the sake of the argument that it be one, this question is introduced by the negative participle oude, in the original. This exceedingly rare use of the word oude occurs over two hundred times in the Greek Testament but only twice besides here as an interrogative particle. Its general use is to connect whole clauses as contrasted with oute, a negative particle which connects merely words or parts of clauses. In this way, it usually lends a certain negative force to the entire clause .
Let us turn to Luke 6:3 where Jesus exclaims to the Pharisees in irony or great amazement, “Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry?” (NKJV) This question begins with that word oude, but what does it imply? It certainly implies that either they had not read it, or they had not read it to purpose, for they had not received its meaning and lesson. In other words, the not (oude) negates the notion of the verb clause. Now turn to Luke 23:40: “Do you not even fear God?” (NKJV). Here again the “not” negates the notion of the verb since one thief reproves the other for not fearing God. But those who hold that this verse in Corinthians is a question do not wish to imply that Nature does not, but that Nature does teach that long hair is a “shame” to a man. We question the legitimacy of the use of the Greek word oude in that manner.
If this be a question, let us consider the fitness of propounding at least the Greek portion to this Corinthian church, which was considerable. One is tempted at this point to enter upon a hasty historical sketch of the fortunes and vicissitudes of Corinth, capital of Achaia, but space will not permit. We refer the reader to Conybeare and Howson’s, Life of St. Paul for such a sketch. Suffice to say, in the Apostle’s day it had become again the habit of the same people whom in earlier centuries Homer had made famous in the greatest poem in profane literature--"the long-haired Achaians,” of the Iliad. Only the last paragraph of this page is included in this document.
Imagine the Apostle Paul submitting then to these boasted descendants of men spoken of a hundred times in this most famous poem as “long-haired Achaians" a question in which he expects a reply in the affirmative: “Doth not even Nature itself teach you that if a man have a long hair, it is a shame unto him?”
Is this evidence sufficient to prove that the Apostle does not here ask a question but makes a simple statement? One more point needs to be considered. A picture of the great Apostle in company with Priscilla and Aquila emerges when he leaves Corinth and sails for Ephesus from whence he returns this Epistle to the Corinthian church. They travel by ship to the nearby port of Cenchraea. Conybeare and Howson say that Aquila, who had been for some time conspicuous, “even among the Jews and Christians at Corinth for the long hair which denoted that he was under a peculiar religious restriction, came to the close of the period of obligation. Before accompanying the Apostle to Ephesus, Aquila laid aside the tokens of his vow. . .”
As expressed in Acts 18:18, “having had his hair cut off at Cenchraea, for he had a vow.” (NKJV). Many refer these words to the Apostle himself as the one having long hair. See also Acts 21:24-26, the Apostle’s association with men of long hair, which he is supposed to teach, is a “shame” to them.
And now we are taught to believe that the Apostle wrote back to this same church in which Aquila was conspicuous for his long hair that Nature itself teaches that such a thing is a shame to a man. Yes, and the Bible, which lays down clear directions for these vows in which the hair was allowed to grow long (Numbers 6:5), must then teach man to do what is a “shame.” For these and other reasons, we understand this verse as follows: “There is nothing in the nature of hair that teaches you (literally, ‘the very nature doth not teach you,’) that if a man wear it long, it is a shame to him.”
“While if a woman wear long hair it is a glory to her; for her hair is given her instead of a covering.” 1 Corinthians 11:15) Thus, this verse is to be translated. Growing out of too strict an interpretation of the instructions as to the trial of jealousy, the Jewish women of later times had been encouraged in the cultivation of a false sense of modesty concerning their long hair.
We have already mentioned the Jewish matron who boasted that the rafters of her own room had never seen her hair. The Jews believed that the evil spirits gained power over a woman who went with her head bare. A woman’s hair must always be concealed. The Apostle now argues what must have appealed with force to these descendants of the “long-haired” Achaians” at least in the nature of hair. Paul says that even if a man wore his hair long, there was nothing of which to be ashamed. Likewise, the same conclusion could be made in the case of woman. Indeed, it was rather “a glory” to her since her hair afforded her a covering. Why should she cover a covering?
Nevertheless, this verse is generally treated as though it meant that because a woman has long hair, the long hair instructs where the covering should be put. The fallacy lies in making the Greek preposition “for” in the words, “her hair is given her for a covering,” carry the thought of addition. Rather, the word, (anti) means barter, exchange, or displacement, not superimposition.
Take, for instance, the expression in Matt.2:22, “Archelaus reigned in Judea in the room of Herod his father.” The four words in italics are covered by the single Greek preposition anti. In the expression, “and grace for grace,” (John 1:16), saying: “The preposition rendered for (instead of) is properly used of anything which supersedes another, or occupies its place.” Had he remembered his own instructions as to the force of anti, Dean Alford might have saved himself from falling into the very reasoning of those who try to make a different sense in this Corinthian passage. His exposition states: “This plainly declares that man was intended to be uncovered – the woman covered. When therefore we deal with the properties of the artificial state, of clothing the body, we must be regulated by nature’s suggestion: that which she has indicated to be left uncovered, we must so leave; that which she has covered, when we clothe the body, we must likewise cover. This is the argument.” The italics are Alford’s. His reasoning as well as those advocating his views is surprising indeed when reduced to the syllogism:
“That which Nature has left uncovered, we must so leave.” Nature has left the face of woman “uncovered.” Therefore, “We must leave” the face of woman ‘uncovered.’” This outcome is left of all the labored effort to show why a contradiction to Paul’s words is meant at verse 10. No, not quite all:
“When we clothe the body that which Nature has covered, we must cover likewise.” “Nature has covered” the face of man with a beard. Hence, “When we clothe the body,” man “must cover” the face “likewise.” We wonder if expositors had not introduced that contradiction of the text at verse 10, whether they could not have wriggled through to the coveted goal on the other side of this following verse. “But if anyone seems to be contentious,” (NKJV, 11:16). The sense is, “If any one is fond of arguing the case,” “we have no such custom. . .” The custom referred to in verse 16, which someone evidently loved to contend for, was that of wearing the Tallith in worship, not that of women unveiling which was not a custom. Therefore, it would be an insufficient point in the Apostle merely saying it was not a custom.
If the women had unveiled in defiance of the Apostle’s wishes of which there is no proof, this unveiling would have been not only the very opposite but also the defiance of “custom.” However, the practice of wearing the Tallith was a “custom,” and this custom the Apostle repudiates as unbecoming the profession of Christians. He has already shown, however, that he cannot command the unveiling of woman because of man, “the head of the woman.” The Apostle can only say what “ought” to be in her case.
HOW “POWER” BECAME CHANGED TO “VEIL”
The idea that power means “a veil” can be traced backwards historically through Origen (b. 186), Tertullian (b. 160), and Clement of Alexandria (b. 150) to Balentius, the Gnostic, (date of birth unknown) who died about the time of Tertullian’s birth. Dean Burgon says the heresy of Valentinus “must have been actively at work when John wrote his first and second epistles.”[i]
The Gnosticism Valentinus taught was a mixture of Christianity, Judaism, Greek philosophy and Buddhistic paganism whose primal goddess, Bythus, (depth, profundity), bore thirty aeons, (ages, ever-beings). These aeons were arranged in groups of eight, ten and twelve in pairs--male and female--and constituted the Pleroma (fullness). All this nonsense they pretended to find hidden in the meaning of the first three Gospels and Paul’s Epistles. They claimed that Paul referred to their Pleroma where he says “throughout all ages.” The Lord showed thirty aeons when he began to preach at thirty years of age. He showed twelve aeons when He disputed with the doctors in the temple at twelve years of age. Likewise, twelve aeons were shown by the twelve apostles. The other two groups-- ten and eight-- were shown by the eighteen months Jesus spent on earth after His resurrection! Thus, they parodied and corrupted Scripture as is well known.
Clement of Alexandria was the first Church Father to teach that women should veil. He said, “Because of the angels,” and by “angels,” he meant righteous and virtuous men. “Let her be veiled then, that she may not lead them to stumble into fornication. For the real angels in heaven see her though veiled.”
But where did Clement get this idea that Paul taught women to veil? Dean Burgon’s most valuable work, The Revision Revised, tells us, “As for Clement, he lived at the very time and in the very country where the mischief [of corrupting the text of Scripture] was first rife… Clement moreover would seem to have been a trifle too familiar with the works of Basilides, Marcion, Valentinus, Heracleon, and the rest of the Gnostic crew.” Origen and Tertullian also lived in North Africa. Burgon is not speaking, of course, of this particular passage. Therefore, the quotation is not only more valuable for us, but also carries more weight than anything I could say on this point. Clement’s writings, then, show traces of Gnostic corruption.
And, we happen to know that Clement knew what the Gnostics taught on this verse. He gives us extracts from the writings of Theodotus, a disciple of Valentinus, in which this verse is quoted: “The woman ought to wear a power on the head.” Now when the word “wear” is used, one thinks at once of a covering for the head. Theodotus lived in Asia Minor where the Greek language was used. He could make “have” do duty for “wear” as we find in the N. T., Matthew 3:4, for instance, and interchange them. However, he could not change “power” (exousia) into “veil” (kalumma). Clement might, therefore, think this usage is no great violation of the text since it suited his purpose to make use of the perversion.
But, Irenaeus represents Valentinus as going further since he and his associates without scruple corrupted the text of Scripture. We again quote Dean Burgon as our authority: “The first men who systematically depraved the text of Scripture were, as we now must know, the hierarchists Basilides, Valentinus, and Marcion . . . These old heretics retained, altered and transposed just as much as they pleased of the four-fold Gospel.” Then, Burgon proceeds to point out instances of their corruptions. He limits his remarks to the Gospels because the work we quote[ii] relates wholly to them, the same as was true as Irenaeus tells us of St. Paul’s Epistles.
Clement, Origen, and Valentinus came from the same place--Alexandria, Egypt—which birthed the Gnosticism of which Valentinus in his days was the chief exponent. Valentinus went to Rome in 140 A. D. and died in Cyprus in 160. Coptic was the native tongue of these three men, and “power” bore a close resemblance to “veil” in that language. In an imperfect or dim manuscript of a Coptic translation of Paul’s Epistle, one word could readily be mistaken for or altered into the other. Here are the two words side by side—ouershishi/ ouershoun--which should be written in Coptic to which we do not have access. The first, ouershishi, means power or authority; the second, ouershoun, means veil.
The Coptic New Testament issued by the Clarendon Press carries a footnote to this verse which says that fifteen Coptic manuscripts read “power,” and “four or five” read “veil.” Because one manuscript is uncertain, we are not told why but naturally infer it is because this particular word is mutilated or faded out, rendering it doubtful which word is meant.
The initiation ceremony of the Gnostics taught a reunion of mortals with celestial consorts of the opposite sex. Naturally, the veil would be desirable to somewhat screen the rites, for the Gnostics fell into gross sensuality. Both men and women veiled. Irenaeus tells us that Valentinus and his associates taught the following as their warrant for these rites. A certain goddess apart from her male consort escaped the Pleroma and conceived and brought forth a formless being called Acamoth (Hebrew for “wisdom” and sometimes called Sophia, Greek for “wisdom.”) Acamoth goes through a series of experiences always sinking lower and lower into degradation. Then, her celestial consort called Soter, “savior” and also blasphemously called Jesus, Paraclete and Christ, goes to her rescue with a band of seventy angels. Irenaeus continues the account wherein we will insert “Soter” always as the name of her consort.
As Soter approaches, Acamoth, filled with reverence at first, modestly veiled herself. By and by, when she looked upon him with all his endowments and acquired strength from his appearance, then she ran to meet him . . . That Soter appeared to her when she lay outside the Pleroma as a kind of abortion, they affirm Paul to have declared in his Epistle to the Corinthians. “And the last of all He appeared to me also, as one born out of due time.” Again, Paul declares the coming of Soter with his attendants to Acamoth in like manner in the same Epistle when he says, “a woman ought to have a veil on her head because of the angels.” Now, when Soter came to Acamoth, she drew a veil over herself through modesty like Moses did when he put a veil upon his face.”
In another place, Irenaeus tells us that sometimes the teaching was, “Beholding the angels along with Soter, she did …conceive their images.” Theodotus says, “Seeing the masculine angels with Soter, she put on a veil.” The whole mass of labels is saturated with sensuality, which we do not care to repeat. Acamoth was typified in the twelve-year-old daughter of Jarius, whom Christ raised from the dead.
To this objectionable source in a book written by Irenaeus, we trace, then, the very first corruption of Paul’s meaning in 1 Corinthians 11:10 to show their false teachings. These passages are garbled from the Scriptures with the view of “adapting them to their own fictions,” to quote his precise language. To those who know the associations of this verse and still accept its twisted meaning, let them do so. We will not.
[i] These dates are approximate only.
[ii] Causes of Corruption in the Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, p. 197.
 These facts we gather from the highly valuable work of Dean Burgon, "The Revision Revised," and of Burgon and Miller, "Causes of Corruption in the Traditional Text of the N. T.”