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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

1 Corinthians 11

Verse 1

1 Corinthians 10:23 to 1 Corinthians 11:1 . From the meal in the idol’ s temple Paul passes to the question as it arose in daily life. He repeats that while all might be lawful all was not expedient ( 1 Corinthians 6:12) or tended to edify. Each must study his brother’ s interest rather than his own. What was exposed for sale in the meat market might be freely bought without question as to its antecedents, for it belonged to God. If they accepted a heathen’ s invitation (Paul does not encourage them to do so), they should similarly eat without question. But if anyone volunteers the information that certain food has been offered in sacrifice, they should abstain. Perhaps the weak brother is the informer, though he would not be likely to accept the invitation or be in a position to make this definite statement. It may quite well be a heathen, possibly the host who would best know the origin of the meat. If so, he saves his Christian guest from violating his principles. He assumes that he will have a conscientious objection to such food. The Christian may really have no such scruples, and could, therefore, take the meat freely. But the heathen would inevitably regard him as untrue to his convictions and playing fast and loose with religion. And this will prejudice him against Christianity, but it may also blunt his own conscience to see conscience thus apparently flouted. Another’ s conscience must not be made the measure of one’ s own, nor can one be censured for eating food over which thanks has been pronounced. All must be done to God’ s glory without placing a hindrance before the Jews, heathen, or Christians, just as Paul seeks the profit of others for their salvation, so they should make him their pattern, as he makes Christ his own.

Verses 2-16

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 . Women must be Veiled in the Christian Assemblies.— It is not clear whether this subject was discussed in the church letter.

Paul begins, in a way that surprises us after his grave censures, with praise for their steadfast adherence to his teaching and traditions. But he must inform them that the head of every man (as distinguished from woman) is Christ, the head of the woman is man, the head of Christ, God. Woman, Man, Christ, God, form an ascending climax in which the second stands to the first, as the third to the second, and the fourth to the third. The precise meaning is not clear. Headship suggests lordship, but Christ is lord of woman as well as man. Perhaps the thought is rather that of archetype and origin. Christ is the image of God and derives His being from Him, so man is related to Christ, and woman to man. In each case there is, of course, a differentiating element. Man has a primary, woman a secondary, relation to Christ, man a secondary, woman a tertiary, relation to God. We are reminded of Milton’ s similar depreciation, “ He for God only, she for God in him.” 1 Corinthians 11:4 f. connects rather badly with 1 Corinthians 11:3 since we naturally interpret “ dishonoureth his (her) head” to mean dishonours Christ (or the man). But what follows forbids this. The meaning must be that the man who veils his head for prayer or prophesying, dishonours it, and the woman who unveils it dishonours hers. The man dishonours it by suggesting that he is under authority, whereas he is supreme of created beings. The woman, because to dispense with a veil is no better than to cut off the hair altogether. The latter was the punishment of an adulteress; the absence of the veil would suggest that the woman was of easy virtue. Man’ s high dignity as the image and glory of God forbids his wearing it, woman’ s subordinate position as the glory of man requires her to do so. The use of “ glory” is strange. It can hardly bear its ordinary sense in a context emphasizing woman’ s inferiority. Some such sense as “ reflection” seems to be required. Man is original, woman derivative, she was created for him, not he for her. The next verse ( 1 Corinthians 11:10) is very difficult. Usually it is taken to mean that on account of her inferior position the woman should wear a veil on her head as the sign of the man’ s authority over her, on account of the angels. But “ to have authority” must mean to possess authority not to wear a token of subjection. Ramsay ( Cities of St. Paul, pp. 202– 205 ; Luke the Physician, p. 175 ) points out that in the East the veil isolates a woman from the crowd and secures her from interference and even observation. It is her authority, without it she is defenceless. This gives the right sense to “ authority,” it is a woman’ s own authority, but it is not so clear how it links into the general argument and in particular how it is related to the last clause. This clause has been regarded as an interpolation by Baur and others. The sentence seems complete without it, and “ for this cause” suggests that the reason is fully contained in what has gone before, whereas “ because of the angels” seems to give a new reason which receives no development. The clause is nevertheless probably genuine. It does not mean, “ lest the angels who are at the worship should be shocked.” The general meaning is that the unveiled woman is in danger from the angels as the daughters of men from the sons of the Elohim ( Genesis 6:1-4 *). That story played a large part in Jewish speculations; what the modern mind might regard as fanciful, was for Paul a grave moral peril. Just as participation in the idol sacrifice may involve ruinous fellowship with demons, so the unveiling of women implied danger from and to the angels. [105] The significance of the veil is not merely that concealment would prevent angelic lust from being aroused. As Dibelius points out, it is a widespread belief that the veil has magical power. Its function is therefore to ward off dangers. The danger is specially present when the woman prays or prophesies ( cf. Tertullian, On the Veiling of Virgins, ch. vii.). Apparently in the ecstatic condition, pressing into the spiritual realm, she is more exposed to the advances of the angels than in her normal condition. Hence she needs a means of protection. She needs it and man does not, just because she is inferior, further removed than he from the heavenly state; he is free to enter God’ s presence with head uncovered, she can safely do it only with a veil Dr. Grieve suggests “ talisman” as an equivalent to “ authority.” We must not set views aside because they are quite foreign to our world of thought, or because we are unwilling to attribute them to Paul, nor must we carry back to his time our popular angelology. Paul now guards what he has been saying. Man and woman are indispensable to each other, and if the woman was originally formed from the man, the man comes into the world through her, and both really, like all other things, have their source in God. He resumes with an appeal to their own sense of the fitness of things, which must show the unseemliness of a woman’ s praying to God unveiled. And nature teaches that woman needs a covering by giving long hair to a woman, but short hair to a man. He closes the discussion with the curt remark ( cf. 1 Corinthians 14:38) that if anyone intends to be disputatious about it, he is in opposition to the custom of Paul and his colleagues and the other churches. The principle is that local idiosyncrasies should be controlled by general Church custom.

[105] Ramsay has recently ( Teaching of Paul, p. 214) recognised that Paul regards women as in danger from the angels, “ but through obedience to the social conventions they gained authority and immunity from the power of demons or angels. The veil was their strength and protection.” But are we to assume that the veil would have the same significance for the angels as for human beings? And what on this interpretation is the point of the emphasis on the necessity of the veil when the woman is praying of prophesying?

Verses 7-34

1 Corinthians 11:7-34 . The Desecration of the Lord’ s Supper.— Paul feels that in one respect he must restrict his praise. Their meetings damage rather than profit them. He cannot help believing part of what he hears about their divisions. To be sure they must have their factions, or their best men would get no chance of displaying their qualities! When they meet they have supper, it is true, but it is out of the question to eat the Lord’ s Supper. Possibly the poorer members could not come early being detained by their work. The wealthier members could therefore eat and drink all they had brought, so that the poor, who could bring little, and that perhaps coarse food, had insufficient for a meal and had to eat this under the critical stare of the well-to-do. So that some were hungry, and naturally discontented and envious, while others became intoxicated. What a religious atmosphere for the most sacred rite, the remembrance of their Master’ s selfless sacrifice! The communal element which made it a church feast had disappeared and given place to a number of cliques. The members shared their food with their own coterie, not with the church at large, and thus accentuated their mutual exclusiveness. What a love-feast! As if they had no houses where they could sate themselves in privacy! that they must put this affront on God’ s congregation, and, coarsely indifferent to the feelings of the sensitive, expose the poverty of those who have nothing! They cannot plead ignorance as to the true nature of the rite, for Paul had told it them, as it had come down to him from the Lord Himself through eyewitnesses of the scene. But he will tell them again. The account which follows ( 1 Corinthians 11:23-25) is very important as our earliest record, and should be compared with that in Mt., Mk. The comparison with Lk. is rendered more difficult by the uncertainty of the text. The reference to the betrayal is a very early piece of evidence corroborating the gospel account, and its incidental character suggests that Paul had related the Passion story in considerable detail. The Lord Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and broke the bread saying, “ This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me.” When supper was over He took the cup similarly, saying, “ This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.” This means, Paul comments, that whenever the command of repetition is fulfilled, they set forth, as in a sacred drama, the Lord’ s death till He returns. Whoever then, does either of the acts in an unworthy manner or temper, is guilty of a profane indignity to the Lord’ s body and blood. Let no one presume to participate save after self-examination. For, unless he recognises that it is Christ’ s body which is involved, and not the mere bread and wine, he partakes to his own condemnation. That is why sickness is so prevalent among them and not a few deaths have occurred. Self-examination would prevent such judgments. Yet let them not miss their merciful intention; it is the Lord’ s chastening of His people that they may not share in His condemnation of the world. So at the meeting for the common meal, let them wait for each other, and if necessary take the edge off their hunger before they come, so that they may no longer, by their disorderly and selfish conduct, draw down the Divine judgment. The regulation of other matters can stand over till Paul arrives.

1 Corinthians 11:19 . The language may be ironical, or may mean that these factions are necessary to sift the good from the bad.

1 Corinthians 11:23 . betrayed: “ delivered up” ( i.e. to death, Romans 4:25) is a possible rendering, but this does not suit “ in the night” so well.

1 Corinthians 11:24 . this do: the words do not mean “ offer this sacrifice.”

1 Corinthians 11:29 . discern not the body: possibly “ the body” may mean the Church, “ the Lord’ s body” (see Exp., Aug. 1915 ).

1 Corinthians 11:30 . sleep: the use of the Christian term for death in a context which speaks of death as a judgment is very striking.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/1-corinthians-11.html. 1919.