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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 11

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

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A.M. 4063. A.D. 59.

In this chapter, after an advice to, and commendation of, the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 11:1 , 1 Corinthians 11:2 , the apostle,

(1,) Reproves them because their women prayed and prophesied in their public assemblies with their heads uncovered, 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 .

(2,) He rebukes them for their divisions and disorderly conduct in celebrating the Lord’s supper, 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 .

(3,) To reform their scandalous abuse of that ordinance, he represents the nature and design of it, the proper manner of receiving it, and the great danger they were in of profaning it, 1 Corinthians 11:23-34 .

Verse 1

1 Corinthians 11:1. Be ye followers of me Carefully, therefore, follow my directions, and imitate my example, in condescension to the weaknesses and prejudices of others, for their good; even as I also In this, and in every thing else, copy after the perfect pattern of our great Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. This verse evidently belongs to the preceding chapter, where the apostle had proposed himself as an example, and ought not to have been separated from it.

Verses 2-3

1 Corinthians 11:2-3. Now I praise you, brethren That is, the greater part of you; that you remember me That you bear in mind all my directions; and keep the ordinances Observe the rules of public worship in most points; as I delivered them to you Formerly. But I would have you know As if he had said, Yet I must further inform you respecting some things wherein you are defective in your attention to these rules. Consider, in particular, the subordination of persons appointed by God to be observed; That the head of every man is Christ Who was the Creator, and is the immediate Supreme Governor of all mankind, especially of such as believe in him, being, in a peculiar sense, the head of his body the church, Colossians 1:18. So that every Christian should often recollect the relation in which he hath the honour to stand to Christ, as an engagement to observe the most respectful decorum in his whole behaviour toward him. And comparing the different sexes, it must be observed, the head of the woman is the man To whom therefore she ought to be in subjection, and to pay a reverent respect, as in the Lord. And the head of Christ As Mediator and man; is God The Father, from whom he derives all his dignity and authority. Christ, in his mediatorial character, even considered in his whole person, acts in subordination to his Father, who rules by him, and hath constituted him sovereign of all worlds, visible and invisible. And, as the Father’s glory is interested in the administration of Christ, so is the glory of Christ, in some measure, interested in the conduct and behaviour of those men, whose more immediate head he is; and it may be added, of those women, whose heads such men are.

Verses 4-6

1 Corinthians 11:4-6. Every man, &c. Now upon this principle, with a reference to the usages that prevail at this time with you at Corinth, I may properly observe: Every man praying or prophesying By an immediate influence of the Spirit of God, in a public assembly; having his head covered With a veil, which is a sign of subjection; dishonoureth his head Christ, who, having made him the head of the woman, and given him authority over her, is dishonoured when the man renounces that authority by appearing veiled in the presence of the woman, as her inferior. But every woman praying or prophesying Under an immediate impulse of the Spirit, for then only was a woman suffered to speak in the church; with her head uncovered Without any veil over her head and face; dishonoureth her head Disclaims subjection, and reflects dishonour on man, her head; for that is even all one as if she were shaven It is the same in effect as if she cut her hair short, and wore it in the distinguishing form of the men. In those ages men wore their hair exceeding short, as appears from the ancient statues and pictures. Therefore, if the woman be not covered If she will throw off the badge of subjection; let her also be shorn Let her appear with her hair cut off like a man, or like a woman of bad character, such being sometimes punished in that manner: but if it be a shame for a woman To appear in public shorn or shaven Especially in a religious assembly; let her be covered Let her for the same reason keep on her veil.

Verses 7-9

1 Corinthians 11:7-9. A man indeed ought not to cover, or veil, his head As a sign of subjection; forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God Namely, in respect of the dominion over the inferior creatures, with which he is clothed, representing the supreme dominion of God; for in respect of mental qualities, the woman is also the image of God: but the woman is the glory of the man By being subject to him, and of all creatures coming nearest to him in all the excellences of his nature. For the man is not of the woman In his first production; but the woman of the man As we read in the sacred history, Genesis 2:21-23. Neither was the man created for the sake of the woman To accommodate and assist her; but the woman for the man That he might have a help meet for him, which before he found not in the whole creation, Genesis 2:20.

Verse 10

1 Corinthians 11:10. For this cause As well as for the other reasons above mentioned; the woman ought to have power on her head That is, a veil, as a token of her being under the power and subjection of the man: and so much the rather should she wear it in worshipping assemblies; because of the angels Who are present there, and before whom all should be careful not to do any thing indecent or irregular. “Though there is no example, either in sacred or profane writers, of the word εξουσια , here rendered power, being used to denote a veil; yet all agree that it can have no other meaning in this passage.” Whitby understands the latter clause of evil angels, paraphrasing and commenting on the words thus: “She, being tempted by the prince of evil angels to that which is a perpetual cause of shame to her, and which increased her subjection to the man, (Genesis 3:16,) ought therefore to use this token of shame-facedness and subjection.” She is to have her head covered, say the Jews, “like one that mourneth, as a token of shame. Hence Philo calls the το επικρανον , cover of the woman’s head, the symbol of her shame; and this shame, say they, is due to her, because she first brought sin into the world. It is with her as when one transgresseth and is ashamed; and therefore she comes forth with her head covered. She ought, saith Tertullian, by her habit to resemble Eve, a mourner and a penitent; ob ignominiam primi delicti,” for the shame of the first sin. See on 1 Timothy 2:11-14. The former interpretation, however, which supposes that good angels are meant, who, being ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation, might be present in the religious assemblies of the Christians, seems much more probably to be the true one.

Verses 11-12

1 Corinthians 11:11-12. Nevertheless, neither is the man, since the first creation, produced without the woman, neither the woman without the man And they cannot subsist without the mutual help of each other in many cases: in the Lord By God’s appointment, and according to that order he has fixed in the creation. As if he had said, Yet let not the man be proud of his superiority, nor the woman troubled at her subjection, for there is a kind of equality in some respects, and many mutual obligations to engage them both to love and kindness. For as the woman is, or was, of the man At first taken out of him; even so is the man also by the woman Now in the ordinary course of nature: and therefore let him not despise, but honour and love her. But all things are of God The man, the woman, and their dependance on each other: or both the dominion of the one, and the subjection of the other, are by God’s appointment, and therefore they should acquiesce therein.

Verses 13-16

1 Corinthians 11:13-16. Judge in yourselves For what need of more arguments in so plain a case? Is it comely Decent, suitable to female modesty; that a woman pray unto God The Most High, with that bold and undaunted air which she must have if, contrary to universal custom, she appears in public with her head uncovered? Doth not even nature The light of nature, or natural reason; teach you Previous to any arguments on the subject; that if a man have long hair Carefully adjusted, it is a mark of such effeminacy as is a disgrace to him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory An ornament; to her Which does not incommode her, being suitable to her domestic state: for her hair was given her Originally, and before the arts of dress were invented or needed; for Αντι , instead of; a covering Or veil. “What a value the eastern ladies put on their hair may be known from this, that when Ptolemy Euergetes, king of Egypt, was about to march against Seleucus Callinicus, his queen, Berenice, who loved him tenderly, vowed, as the most precious sacrifice she could offer, to cut off and consecrate her hair, if he returned in safety.” But if any man seem to be contentious And will dispute this matter, on his own different views of what is naturally decent, I shall not controvert it further, but content myself with saying, that we have here no such custom For women to appear with their heads uncovered; neither the churches of God In any other place, whether planted by me or any of my brethren. The several churches that were in the apostles’ time, had different customs in things that were not essential; and that under one and the same apostle, as circumstances in different places made it convenient. And in all things merely indifferent the custom of each place was of sufficient weight to determine prudent and peaceable men. Yet even this cannot overrule a scrupulous conscience, which really doubts whether the thing be indifferent or not. But those who are referred to here by the apostle were contentious, not conscientious persons.

Verses 17-19

1 Corinthians 11:17-19. Now in this that I am about to declare unto you, I praise you not I cannot commend some, as I have done others, (1 Corinthians 11:2,) for other things; that ye come together Frequently, and even on the most solemn occasions; not for the better So as to gain any spiritual advantage by the increase of your faith and other graces; but for the worse To the prejudice of your souls, by fomenting strifes and animosities, which produce factions. For first of all Before I mention any other instance of your irregular and indecent conduct, I must observe, that when ye come together in the church Εν τη εκκλησια , in the public assembly, though it is evident that nothing but reverence to God, and love to each other, should reign on such occasions; I hear that there be divisions Σχισματα , schisms; among you, and I partly believe it That is, I believe it of some of you. It is plain that by schisms is not meant any separation from the church, but uncharitable divisions in it. For the Corinthians continued to be one church, and notwithstanding all their strife and contention, there was no separation of any one party from the rest, with regard to external communion. And it is in the same sense that the word is used, 1 Corinthians 1:10, and 1 Corinthians 12:25, which are the only places in the New Testament, besides this, where church schisms are mentioned. Therefore, the indulging any temper contrary to this tender care of each other, is the true Scriptural schism. This is, therefore, a quite different thing from that orderly separation from corrupt churches which later ages have stigmatized as schism; and have made a pretence for the vilest cruelties, oppressions, and murders, that have troubled the Christian world. Both heresies and schisms are here mentioned in very near the same sense: unless by schisms be meant rather those inward animosities which occasion heresies; that is, outward divisions or parties: so that while one said, I am of Paul, another, I am of Apollos, this implied both schism and heresy. So wonderfully have later ages distorted the words heresy and schism from their Scriptural meaning. Heresy is not, in all the Bible, taken for “an error in fundamentals,” or in any thing else; nor schism, for any separation made from the outward communion of others. Therefore, both heresy and schism, in the modern sense of the words, are sins that the Scripture knows nothing of; but were invented merely to deprive mankind of the benefit of private judgment, and liberty of conscience. For there must also be heresies among you

Parties formed, as the word αιρεσεις properly signifies. These, in the ordinary course of things, must take place, in consequence of your contentions, and the declension of your love to one another: and God permits these divisions, that they which are approved may be manifest That it may appear who among you are, and who are not, upright of heart.

Verses 20-22

1 Corinthians 11:20-22 . When ye come together therefore In such a manner as you do; into one place Under pretence of celebrating the holy ordinance of the eucharist, and have such strife and contention among you, and act in the disorderly manner which I shall now mention; this is not to eat the Lord’s supper That solemn memorial of his death; nor does it deserve to be called by that name, unless ye eat it in fellowship together, and in mutual love, as the disciples of one master. Instead of regarding it in a holy and religious point of view, you seem to confound it with a common meal; and do not indeed behave in the manner that decency would require, if it were no more than a common meal. For in eating it Or when you eat it; every one taketh before other his own supper Or, as Macknight renders εκαστος το ιδιον δειπνον προλαμβανει , every one taketh first his own supper; observing, that “what follows shows the apostle did not mean,” as in our translation, “that every one took before another his own supper; but that every one took his own supper before he ate the Lord’s supper. Christ having instituted his supper after he had eaten the passover, the disciples very early made it a rule to feast together before they ate the Lord’s supper. These feasts were called αγαπαι , charitates, love-feasts. They are mentioned, Jude, 1 Corinthians 11:12, as also by some of the ancient Christian writers. From Xenophon, (see Memorab., lib. 3. cap. 14,) we learn that the Greeks, when they supped together, brought each his own provisions ready dressed, which they ate in company together. Probably the Corinthians followed the same practice, in their feasts previous to the Lord’s supper.” And one is hungry, and another is drunken Or rather, is filled, or plentifully fed, “as μεθυειν signifies here, being opposed to one is hungry. The word is used in this sense by the LXX., Psalms 35:9; Jeremiah 38:14; John 2:10; where it is rendered by our translators, when men have well drunk, drunk plentifully. According to the grammarians, μεθυειν literally signifies to eat and drink, μετα το θυειν , after sacrificing; on which occasions the heathen often drank to excess.” What? have ye not houses to eat and drink in With your friends? Or despise ye the church of God Which ye thus expose to contempt, and which you must greatly offend and grieve by such a conduct as this? That church of which the poor are both the larger and the better part; and shame Expose to shame; them that have not A supper to eat, while ye feast luxuriously? Do you act thus in designed contempt of them? What shall I say to you On this occasion? Shall I praise you in this? I wish I could fairly and honourably do it; but at present I praise you not I must rather blame you, and exhort you to amend what is so grossly amiss.

Verse 23

1 Corinthians 11:23 . For I have received of the Lord Doubtless by special revelation; that which also I delivered unto you In my former preaching on this subject, in which, as in all things else, I have been careful most exactly to adhere to my original instructions. This epistle appears to have been written before any of the gospels, and it is probable from Galatians 1:17, &c, that when the apostle wrote it, he had seen none of the apostles. And that the institution of this ordinance should make a part of that immediate revelation, with which Christ honoured this apostle, is both very remarkable, and also affords a strong argument for the perpetuity of it in the church. “For had others of the apostles (as Barclay in his Apology for the Quakers presumes to insinuate) mistaken what passed at the last passover, and founded the observation of the eucharist on that mistake, surely Christ would rather have corrected this error in his new revelation to Paul, than have administered such an occasion of confirming Christians in it.” Doddridge. That the Lord Jesus In his own person; the same night in which he was betrayed That is, in the night which preceded his crucifixion, which circumstance, with the others that follow respecting the nature and design of the sacred ordinance here spoken of, with the appointed form of its administration, Macknight thinks was made known to Paul by Christ himself, as a matter which merited particular attention, because it was a strong proof of his innocence. He knew he was to be crucified the next day as an impostor, for calling himself the Son of God. Having so near a prospect of his punishment, would he, by instituting his supper, have taken care that his punishment, as an impostor, should never be forgotten, if he had really been an impostor? No: such a supposition exceeds all rational belief. But knowing himself to be the Son of God, and being absolutely certain that God would acknowledge him as his Son, by raising him from the dead on the third day, he instituted his supper, to be preserved by his disciples till he should return to judge the world; because he foresaw that his death could not be remembered by his disciples, without recollecting his resurrection, and expecting his return. Further, if Christ did not rise from the dead according to his express promise, frequently repeated, can it be thought that his disciples, who thus must have known him to be a deceiver, would have perpetuated the memory of his punishment as an impostor, and of their own shame, by beginning a service, in which his death, that is, his punishment, would be openly published to the world? Wherefore, since the apostles, and the other first disciples, who were eye-witnesses of their Master’s death and resurrection, by beginning this service, and their successors by continuing it from age to age, have published to the world the death and resurrection of their Master, as matters of fact known and believed by all Christians from the beginning; this certainly is an incontrovertible proof of the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection, and consequently it hath fully established his claim to be God’s Son, the true Messiah and Saviour of the world. Also, this ordinance hath been the source of unspeakable consolation to his disciples in every age, by assuring them that all his doctrines are true, and that all his promises shall be performed in their season; particularly his promise of returning to raise the dead, and carry his people into heaven. In this view the institution of the supper, in the night wherein he was betrayed, was a great instance of Christ’s love to men. And we are bound by continuing that excellent service in the world, to hand down to them who come after us those unspeakable consolations which we ourselves enjoy, through the pious care of our fathers, who believed in Christ before us.

Verse 24

1 Corinthians 11:24. And when he had given thanks The word ευχαριστησας , thus rendered, is the term used also by Luke, whence Macknight infers, that the word ευλογησας , used by Matthew and Mark, ought to be understood, not of Christ’s blessing the bread, but of his blessing God for saving sinners through his death, See on Luke 22:19. He brake it Into several pieces; and Distributing it to his disciples who were present, said With great sweetness and solemnity, This is my body which is broken for you “As the clause, which is broken, cannot be taken literally, because it would imply that Christ’s body was broken, or put to death on the cross, at the time he said this, contrary to truth; so the clause, this is my body, cannot be taken literally: for the two clauses making but one proposition, if the clause, this is my body, which is the subject of the proposition, be interpreted literally, the predicate, which is broken for you, must be so likewise. Consequently the proposition will import, that the bread in our Lord’s hands was converted into a thing which at that time had no existence. Both the doctrine of the Papists, and that of the Lutherans, therefore, [on this head,] ought to be rejected, as implying an evident falsehood; namely, that Christ’s body, at the time he spake, was broken, or put to death.” In other passages of Scripture, we frequently find expressions perfectly similar to, this is my body, as is proved in the note on Matthew 26:26, which see. The evident meaning of our Lord is, This bread is the representation of my body, which is to be broken for you. “The Papists contend, that in every age, by the priests pronouncing what they call the words of consecration, the same change is made in the bread and wine, which they affirm was made in these elements by Christ’s saying, This is my body, &c. But, to gain credit to their doctrine, they ought to show from Scripture, that the power of working that miracle was promised by Christ to all his faithful servants in the ministry to the end of the world. But this they cannot do. Besides, that St. Paul did not possess any such power is evident from 1Co 11:26-28 of this chapter, where he calls the elements bread and wine after their consecration, as he had named them before.” Macknight. This do in remembrance of me In an humble, thankful, obedient remembrance of my dying love, of the extremity of my sufferings on your behalf, of the blessings I have thereby procured for you, and of the obligations to love and duty which I have by all this laid upon you.

Verses 25-27

1 Corinthians 11:25-27. He also took the cup when he had supped Or, after supper. “This circumstance is mentioned to show that the Lord’s supper is not intended for the refreshment of the body, but, as we are told 1 Corinthians 11:26, for perpetuating the memory of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, to the end of the world, and declaring our expectation of his return from heaven to judge all mankind; that by seriously and frequently meditating on these things, the faith, hope, and gratitude of his disciples may be nourished. Now, that these ends may be effectually answered, this service must be performed by the whole members of each particular church, not in separate companies, but together, as making one harmonious society, by whose joint concurrence and communion in the service, the death of their Master is not only remembered, but declared in the most public manner to the world, as a fact known and believed by all Christians from the beginning.” Saying, This cup is the new testament Or, new covenant, rather, as the word more properly signifies. That is, it is the solemn seal and memorial of the covenant which is established in my blood, by which all its invaluable blessings are procured for you. Our Lord did not mean that the covenant of grace was first made at the time he shed his blood. It was made immediately after the fall, on account of the merit of his obedience unto the death, which God then considered as accomplished, because it was certainly to be accomplished at the time determined. Now this likewise do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me And in order to maintain the memory of my bleeding, dying love, in the church and in the world. The ancient sacrifices were offered in remembrance of sin; this sacrifice, once offered, is still represented in remembrance of the remission of sin. According to the Papists, the expression, as oft as ye drink it, “implies that the cup, in the Lord’s supper, may sometimes be omitted; and on that pretence they have denied the cup to the laity;” but how justly, may be known by taking notice that the words, as often as, are applied ( 1Co 11:26 ) to the bread as well as to the cup. Besides, Matthew hath told us, that when Christ gave the cup, he said, (Matthew 26:27,) drink ye all of it; which being both an invitation and a command, all Christians are as much entitled to the cup as to the bread.” For as often as ye The church of God in any age; eat this bread and drink this cup With proper solemnity and seriousness, faith, love, and gratitude; ye do show forth the Lord’s death Ye proclaim, as it were, and openly avow it to God and all the world; so the word καταγγελλετε , here used, signifies: till he come To close the present scene of things, and to receive all his faithful servants to a place where, for ever dwelling with him, they will no more need these memorials of an absent Saviour. Though at the institution of this ordinance our Lord spake nothing of his own second coming, yet in his discourse after the celebration of it, he connected his second coming with his death, John 14:3. The apostle therefore truly expressed his Master’s intention, when he told the Corinthians, that by publishing the Lord’s death, they published also his coming to judgment, and that the service of the supper was intended as a publication of both. Wherefore Ωστε , so that; whosoever shall eat this bread, &c., unworthily That is, in an unworthy, irreverent manner, without properly regarding him that appointed it, or the design of its appointment; shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord That is, of profaning that which represents his body and blood.

Verses 28-32

1 Corinthians 11:28-32. But That none may be involved in such guilt; let each one examine himself Whether he knows the nature and the design of the institution, and whether it be his sincere desire and purpose thoroughly to comply therewith, and to do honour to Christ by living, in all respects, conformably to his word and example. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily In an irreverent, profane, and careless manner; eateth and drinketh damnation Κριμα , judgment; condemnation and punishment to himself Or temporal judgments of various kinds. Thus the Corinthians, in the following verse, are said to be punished with debility, sickness, and death, for eating unworthily. Not discerning the Lord’s body Not considering that the death of Christ, and the benefits he hath thereby procured for us, with his astonishing love to us, are represented in that solemn ordinance; and not distinguishing it from his common food. For if we would judge ourselves Bring all our dispositions, words, and actions, especially those that relate to the worship of God, to the rule of his word, and condemn ourselves for what is amiss, and repent of it; and particularly if we would inquire respecting our knowledge of the nature of this holy ordinance, and the design with which we approach the Lord’s table; we should not be judged Or chastised so severely; or we should avoid those sins which bring down the divine judgments upon us. But when we are judged Thus punished with temporal calamities; we are chastened of the Lord Corrected for our instruction and amendment; that Being thereby purged from sin; we should not be condemned with the world Should escape future condemnation and wrath.

Verses 33-34

1 Corinthians 11:33-34. Wherefore, my brethren To conclude what I have to say to you on this subject; when ye come together to eat To celebrate the Lord’s supper; tarry one for another With decency and respectful love, till the whole assembly be convened, and then join all together at the same table and time, without such factions and divisions. And if any man hunger Which probably was the pretence of those that were guilty of the fore- mentioned disorders; let him eat at home At his own house; that ye come not together unto condemnation That you may not, by profaning this holy ordinance, provoke God to punish you. And the rest The other circumstances relating to the Lord’s supper, which require to be corrected; I will set in order Will see regulated; when I come To Corinth.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/1-corinthians-11.html. 1857.
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