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The First Letter Of Paul To The Corinthians: Chapter 11

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1Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

2I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you. 3But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband a The same Greek word means man or husband is the head of his wife, b Or head of the woman and God is the head of Christ. 4Any man who prays or prophesies with something on his head disgraces his head, 5but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head—it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved. 6For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. 7For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection c Or glory of God; but woman is the reflection c Or glory of man. 8Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man. 10For this reason a woman ought to have a symbol of d Gk lacks a symbol of authority on her head, e Or have freedom of choice regarding her head because of the angels. 11Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. 12For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God. 13Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? 14Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, 15but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16But if anyone is disposed to be contentious— we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

17Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. 19Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. 20When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord's supper. 21For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. 22What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you!

23For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for a Other ancient authorities read is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

27Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. 28Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For all who eat and drink b Other ancient authorities add in an unworthy manner, without discerning the body, c Other ancient authorities read the Lord's body eat and drink judgment against themselves. 30For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. d Gk fallen asleep 31But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined e Or When we are judged, we are being disciplined by the Lord so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

33So then, my brothers and sisters, f Gk brothers when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34If you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation. About the other things I will give instructions when I come.


a The same Greek word means man or husband

b Or head of the woman

c Or glory

d Gk lacks a symbol of

e Or have freedom of choice regarding her head

a Other ancient authorities read is broken for

b Other ancient authorities add in an unworthy manner,

c Other ancient authorities read the Lord's body

d Gk fallen asleep

e Or When we are judged, we are being disciplined by the Lord

f Gk brothers

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

8.1–11.1 :

Argument concerning food offered to idols. Now concerning … opens discussion of another issue about which the Corinthians had written (see 7.1n. ): food sacrificed to idols. At several points Paul cites principles and formulations of some of the Corinthians, so that it is possible to discern both sides of the argument. The phrase accustomed to idols until now in 8.7 indicates that the weak in conscience (or, better, “consciousness”) for whom Paul is concerned are Gentiles, not Jews or Jewish Christians. Paul's argument proceeds in five steps.

10.23–11.1 : Responsibility to others.

Paul begins and ends this final step of his argument against eating food sacrificed to idols by restating that one must seek the advantage of the other, not one's own, as he himself has tried to do ( 10.23–24; 10.31–11.1 ). In between he concedes ethical “liberty” on two matters that he views as relatively unimportant (vv. 25–27,28–29a ). On conscience, see 8.7n.

29b–30 :

Anticipationof possible objections.

11.2–16 :

Argument concerning hairstyles. (Because 11.3–16 interrupts an otherwise easy movement from 11.2 to 11.17–18 , and because the vocabulary and content of the passage are strange for Paul, but resemble those of deuteroPauline letters such as Colossians, Ephesians, and 1–2 Timothy, it may be a later interpolation.)

3 :

The best understanding of head appears to be “source,” rather than either “author ity over” (excluded by “authority on her head” in v. 10 ) or an ontological subordination or “chain of being.” This statement is very different from Paul's formulations elsewhere of the respective relationships involved (see 3.18; 15.20–28,49 ).

4–6 :

In both Greek and Roman society, as portrayed on coins and statues, men normally had short hair and women long hair braided or wound up around their heads. Women let their hair down only for certain religious rites. The language of vv. 4–6 is ambiguous, but may have to do with hairstyles, rather than veils, as in the NRSV translation above. Thus v. 4 refers to a prophesying man's “hair down (around his) head” and vv. 5–6 to a prophesying woman “with head uncovered (by her boundup hair).” Vv. 5–6a are sarcastic, as v. 6b indicates in making the main point.

7–12 :

A new argument, in which the contrast begun in v. 7 is not completed until v. 10 .

7 :

See Gen 1.27 .

8–9 :

Two further points derived from the creation story; see Gen 2.18–20,23 .

10 :

Because of the angels is probably an allusion to women's claim that in their prophetic inspiration or ecstasy they have “author ity” to let their hair flow freely, so that their head is “uncovered.”

11–12 :

Added to mitigate the severity of vv. 8–9 , reminding men that they are interdependent with women in the Lord.

14–16 :

The decisive argument is from nature, which is uncharacteristic of Paul, and from convention.

17–34 :

This passage would fit readily after 11.2 , if the preceding discussion of hairstyles were not in the original letter. In a manner typical of ancient arguments, Paul would then be commending the Corinthians for maintaining the traditions in general before admonishing them about the divisions at the Lord's Supper in particular.After rebuking the Corinthians for their divisions (vv. 17–22 ), he repeats the words of institution ( 23–26 ), then applies that tradition to their situation (vv. 27–32 ), and finally instructs them as to how they should proceed in the future (vv. 33–34 ).

17–20 :

By repeating when you come together (vv. 17–18, 20 ) he suggests that they are anything but “together.”

18 :

As a church, see 1.2n. I hear, see 1.11 .

19 :

Factions, more correctly “discriminations”; genuine, “distinguished.” The sense is ironic, or even sarcastic.

21 :

This may be rhetorical accusation, rather than an accurate picture of their procedure. Paul's real concern is that the communal celebration is lost (cf. Jude 12 ).

22 :

The first rhetorical question indicates whom he is addressing: those who are well enough off to have (i.e., own) houses.

23–26 :

Paul's tradition of the Lord's Supper is not in the context of a Passover meal, in contrast to Mk 14.12–25 . The emphasis in both Mark's and Paul's traditions falls on the new covenant symbolized by the cup, following the original covenant on Sinai in which God and the people were also bound by blood, Ex 24.8 .

27–32 :

Picking up on “until [the Lord] comes” in v. 26 (see 1.7–8 ), Paul's application of the tradition is dominated by references to judgment. Answerable for the body …, means that those who fail to discern the body, i.e., the commu nity, eat and drink judgment against themselves.

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