11:2- 14:40 PUBLIC WORSHIP AND ITS WORTHY CONDUCT
11:2-16 The veiling of women
When praying, Jewish men and women both used veils (cf. 2 Cot. 3:14). So did Romans. Greeks, without the same awe of God sacrificed bareheaded. With differing traditions represented in the Corinthian church, the Christian attitude needed defining in the interests of orderly worship (14:40). Believers should not unnecessarily flout social conventions, yet their view must be based on biblical principles. In this case Paul appeals to the relative status of men and women in the created order.
2 Paul praises the Corinthians for maintaining the traditions (cf. 15:1-3; 2. Thes. 2:15), i.e. the oral teaching about Chrristian doctrine and practice, which Paul had (not invented but) delivered, i.e. faithfully handed on from the Lord or the earlier apostles.
3 He first stresses the new Christian principle of union in subordination. Although the woman is subject to her husband (and decidedly so in ancient days), his authority is significantly modified because of his own subjection to Christ (cf. Eph. 5:23). The principle does not interfere with the personal relationships of men and women to Chrtst (cf. Gal.. 3.28, 1 Pet. 3.7). It must be applied today against the background of the different sociolgical situation. (Otherwise we must revert to the clothes - and slavery - of those times.)
4 The Christian man is not to pray in public (or to .prophesy: see on 12:10), as the Jew did, with his head covered, a sign of submission to another person (cf. Gn. 24:65). To do so dishonours his “head, i.e. Christ, the only one to whom he owes submission.
5, 6 A Christian woman praying unveiled in public dishonours her ‘head’, i.e. her husband. In Paul’s day this meant she repudiated his authority. Paul is outspoken. But for a woman in Corinth to be unveiled in public was as shocking in its social signifigance as being shorn, the contemporary punishment for a prostitute.
7-9 A man ought to be unveiled when praying to God since he is His image and glory. Gn. 1:26, 27 includes both sexes with regard to the image, i.e. ‘constitution as a rational and morally responsible being’ (D. Kidner, Genesis, TOTC, 1964), but does not mention glory, Paul derives this from the prior creation of the man (Gn. 2:18-22), For a woman to pray uncovered would display the glory of man, and in God’s presence this must inevitably turn to shame. The ‘glory of man’, i.e. the woman, must therefore be covered, lest dishonour be brought upon the woman’s ‘head’, i.e. the man (see M., D. Hooker, ‘Authority on her head: An examination of I Cor. xi. 10’, in NTS, X, 1963-64, pp, 410-416),
10 A woman should (lit.) ‘have authority on her. head’ (cf. RSV mg.), i.e. wear the veil in public, to symbolize submission to her husband, and to protect her honour and dignity before other men. An unveiled woman in public would be despised and insulted. Because of the angels probably means that a woman who shocks men will shock angels, as guardians of the created order (vv. 8, 9) and who were present at public worship (cf. 1 Tim. 5:21). At Qumran men with physical blemishes were excluded from ‘the assembly of God’, for ‘the holy angels present” i.e. nothing unseemly must come before them (G. Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 1962). Or possibly it means ‘because the angels do’, i.e. reverently veil their faces before God (Is. 6:2). Tertullian considered that bad angels were meant here and that Paul was warning against a repetition of the sin of Gn. 6:1-4.
11, 12 Paul qualifies what is meant by ‘sub ordination’. In the Lord, i.e. in the Lord’s intention in the created order (Gn. 2:23), man and woman are interdependent.
13-15 The Corinthians can see for themselves the fitness of Paul’s arguments, supported by the accepted convention that women should be veiled in public, and also by nature - which expresses the will of the Creator. A woman’s hair is distinctively longer than a man’s. For her to wear it so indicates a willingness to fulfil what God intended her to be.
16 Paul’s teaching is not peculiar to him but common to all other local churches (cf. 14:33, 36). As churches of God they are under His government. To dress with decorum is a Christian principle of permanent validity, for the outward appearance reflects the inner attitude. How this principle finds expression in detail will vary from place to place and from age to age.
New Bible Commentary, 3rd Edition, Guthrie, D., Motyer, J. A., eds., Eermans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1970, pp. 1065-1066