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1 CORINTHIANS - Chapter 11

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1 Corinthians 11

Supplemental Commentary:

[11, 1.  See Commentary in the last section of the previous chapter.]

IV:  RELIGIOUS GATHERINGS  11, 2-34

1.  The Headdress of Women 11, 2-16

11, 2-16:  Rules for Men and Women.  From these rules it is evident that it was the custom at this time to keep the head uncovered as a sign of authority, and to use a veil as a sign of subjection.  Among the Greeks women had their heads and foreheads veiled in public.  Some seemed to wish to discard this usage on the plea of Christian liberty.  A certain amount of conservativeness in manners is usually a help to right living.  Paul sets first the right order of authority: God, Christ, man, woman (3).  "Man" and "woman" are taken in a collective sense; and the order is based upon creation (8 f).  Individual exceptions in certain circumstances are not barred.  Paul shows the fitness of the existing customs.  There are two principal reasons, one taken from nature, the other from creation.  (a) Nature: woman's hair grows more abundantly and is more permanent than man's hair.  The woman is ashamed to lose this natural feminine adornment by having her head shaved as many men did.  Nature provides a covering for her head which gives feminine attraction, so it is appropriate that a veil should symbolize feminine subjection.  If she removes the veil to be like man, let her be shaved like men (5-6.15).  Men on the other hand are ashamed if their hair makes them look effeminate (14).  (b) Creation: man was created to the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1, 27) and woman was made from man.  Therefore man directly reflects God.  The intellect and will which make man like to God are reflected most in the head.  Therefore it is appropriate that man keep his head uncovered so as to reflect God's glory (7-10; cf. 2 Cor. 3, 18).  Lest it be thought that Paul is slighting woman, he adds 11 f.  Eve came from God through Adam, man comes from God through his mother.

Paul seems to suspect that some might find his reasoning too subtle and be disposed to be contentious, so he asserts the authority of custom in the various Christian communities (16).    4 f.  Prophesying: cf. 14.  The current practice of woman prophesying in public is there forbidden entirely.    10.  Because of the angels: who witnessed the order established at creation and now assist at the Christian religious service since Christ is also the head of angels.  The order of subjection and service should be "on earth as it is in heaven."

2.  The Eucharist  11, 17-34

11, 17-22:  An Abuse.  In the early Church the Eucharistic service or Mass was connected with the agape or love-feast.  This was done in imitation of Christ's last supper and in anticipation of the heavenly banquet.  Each brought food according to his means---an occasion for almsgiving.  The free mingling of all classes developed humility and the union of charity.  The climax of the meal was the Holy Communion, Christ's gift of loving union with Him and with one another (cf. 10, 16 f).  This agape was open to abuse and had to be abandoned early.  In spite of its sacred purpose (a) distinct groups formed (18 f); (b) instead of having the food in common some ate their own even before the assembly, thus embarrassing the poor (21 f.33 f); (c) some even drank to excess (21).    19.  Factions and defections are permitted by Providence to prove the virtue of the sincere.

11, 23-34:  Institution of the Eucharist.    23.  The Eucharistic teaching here, as now held in the Church, is sufficiently clear.  See note to text.  Betrayed: the sins of the Corinthians in connection with the Eucharist recall Judas who ate with Christ while planning to help in the death of Christ (27).    26.  Proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes: the Eucharist commemorates and continues the sacrifice of the cross until the coming of Christ at the end of the world.    28.  Prove himself: each should ask himself, as the Apostles inquired among themselves, whether he is the traitor.    29.  Without distinguishing the body: i.e., from ordinary food such as was taken previously at the agape.    30-32.  Physical punishments of sickness and death for sin were to be expected in an age when miracles also restored life and health.  Thus Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5, 5.10); the incestuous man (1 Cor. 5, 5).  Since those who are judged guilty are chastised by the Lord, so that they may not be condemned, it is implied that even those who die as a temporal punishment are given opportunity to repent and avoid eternal punishment.


Confraternity Bible:

1 Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.

Rules for Men and Women  2 Now I praise you, brethren, because in all things you are mindful of me and hold fast my precepts as I gave them to you.  3* But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God.  4* Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered, disgraces his head.  5* But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered disgraces her head, for it is the same as if she were shaven.  6* For if a woman is not covered, let her be shaven.  But if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaven, let her cover her head.  7* A man indeed ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God.  But woman is the glory of man.  8* For man is not from woman, but woman from man.  9* For man was not created for woman, but woman for man.  10* This is why the woman ought to have a sign of authority over her head, because of the angels.

11 Yet neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man in the Lord.  12 For as the woman is from the man, so also is the man through the woman, but all things are from God.  13 Judge for yourselves: does it become a woman to pray to God uncovered?  14 Does not nature itself teach you that for a man to wear his hair long is degrading; 15 but for a woman to wear her hair long is a glory to her?  Because her hair has been given her as a covering.  16* But if anyone is disposed to be contentious---we have no such custom, neither have the churches of God.

An Abuse  17 But in giving this charge, I do not commend you in that you meet not for the better but for the worse.  18 For first of all I hear that when you meet in church there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.  19* For there must be factions, so that those who are approved may be made manifest among you.  20* So then when you meet together, it is no longer possible to eat the Lord's Supper.  21* For at the meal, each one takes first his own supper, and one is hungry, and another drinks overmuch.  22* Have you not houses for your eating and drinking?  Or do you despise the church of God and put to shame the needy?  What am I to say to you?  Am I to commend you?  In this I do not commend you.

Institution of the Eucharist  23* For I myself have received from the Lord (what I also delivered to you), that the Lord Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed, took bread, 24* and giving thanks broke, and said, "This is my body which shall be given up for you; do this in remembrance of me."  25* In like manner also the cup, after he had supped, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.  26* For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes."  27* Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.  28* But let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the cup; 29* for he who eats and drinks unworthily, without distinguishing the body, eats and drinks judgment to himself.  30* This is why many among you are infirm and weak, and many sleep.  31 But if we judged ourselves, we should not thus be judged.  32 But when we are judged, we are being chastised by the Lord that we may not be condemned with this world.  33 Wherefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.  34 If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together unto judgment.  The rest I shall set in order when I come.
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3-10: Paul finds a justification in nature for the custom of headdress and the significance attached to it.  Christian teaching raised the position of women.  There was naturally a tendency to push equality with men beyond due limits.  Paul is opposing this in a practical way. --- 10: Because of the angels: who assist at the divine service and are interested in having all done properly.

16: St. Paul realizes that his argument may not be generally accepted, and so appeals to the authority of custom in the Church.

19: Must be factions: considering man's pride and obstinacy there must be factions, but from this evil arises good in that the true and genuine Christians are made manifest.

20-22: Among the early Christians, in imitation of the Last Supper, a slight meal, the Agape or love-feast, preceded the Eucharistic service.

23-30: This section teaches that: (1) the Eucharist is really the body and blood of Christ (24f); (2) the Apostles and their successors were empowered to perpetuate the act (24-26); (3) the Mass is a sacrifice (25; cf. note); (4) the Mass is one with the sacrifice of the cross (26); (5) the Eucharist must be received worthily (27-30). --- 25: The new covenant: Sacrificial blood sealed the old covenant; cf. Ex. 24, 8.  This is the sacrificial blood that makes effective the new order established by God. --- 30: Sickness and death are temporal punishments which were more common then (cf. Acts 5, 5. 10; 1 Cor. 5, 5), just as extraordinary external favors were more common.