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Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:1-16


Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

James Dodson

[extracted from David Dickson’s Commentaries on the Epistles. Printed 1659.]



The seventh Article of the Epistle concerning the observation of Order and Decency, in the publike meetings of the Church.


There are two parts of the Chapter. I. About the comely habit of men and women in religious performances, to vers. 17. The other part, concerning the right Administration of the Sacrament, to the end.

Vers. 1. Bee yee followers of mee, even as I also am of Christ.

2. Now I praise you, Brethren, that you remember mee in all things, and keep the Ordinances as I delivered them unto you.

As concerning the first part, hee premises a command to imitate him, so far as hee followed Christ: Hee also commends the Corinthians, that for some time they observed the Doctrine and Precepts delivered to them, partly by letter, partly by his lively voice, concerning Religion, and things which appertain thereunto, so far at least, that they deserved some commendation.

Vers. 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.

Furthermore hee sub-joyns to the following admonition a maxim concerning order divinely stablished in the mystical body of the Church, viz., that Christ is nearest subordinate to God, as hee is God-man, the Mediator and the Head of the Church, and that the man next succeeds in dignity unto Christ, and the woman to the man, which so far as it appertains to the honour of the sex, shee is made subordinate to the man as Head; whereupon they may understand that order in Church-Assemblies is to bee observed.

Vers. 4. Every man praying, or prophecying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

It is apparent that the Corinthians did not sufficiently observe this order, because their women in the publike Assemblies (after the manner of Heathens) laid aside their veils, and the men covered their heads and faces; (they are said to pray and Prophesie, who met publikely, and consented to promote this publike Worship of God.) This uncomeliness he reproves both in the men and women, by nine Arguments.

Dishonours] Argum. I. The covering of the man is not agreeable to the dignity of his sex, and against the honour of Christ, whom hee ought to represent: Therefore it is uncomely.

Vers. 5. But every woman that prayeth, or Prophesieth with her head uncovered, dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if shee was shaven.

6. For if the woman bee not covered, let her also bee shorn: but if it bee a shame for a woman to bee shorn or shaven, let her bee covered.

Argum. 2. It is dishonourable to the Female Sex to lay aside her veil, and against the dignity, as well of her natural head, as of her metaphorical head, to wit, the man to whom shee ows subjection for the honour of the Masculine Sex; the reason whereof hee gives, because it was not less unseemly for the woman to bee without her veil, than to bee shorn: Here therefore the woman is reproved for undecency, which shee ought to amend.

Vers. 7. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as hee is the Image and Glory of God, but the woman is the glory of man.

Argum. 3. The man (seeing hee is the Glory of God, and the representation of his glorious Excellency in respect of the woman over whom hee is appointed head) ought to shew forth the Glory of God in his manly deportment: Therefore hee must beware of this unseemliness in the use of a veil.

The woman] Argum. 4. The woman is the glory of the man, or the image of his dignity, in whom (as in a Glass) the excellency of the man (for whose sake shee was created ) is seen, to whom shee ought to profess subjection by the covering of hereself: Therefore seeing the woman behaves herself otherwise amongst you, shee is blamed for uncomeliness. This does not any whit hinder but the woman is created, in respect of her Soul and spiritual state, to the glory and Image of God, as well as the man.

Vers. 8. For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man.

Argum. 5. The man is the material principle of the woman, because shee was made out of the ribs of man: Therefore it becomes the man and the woman to testifie the priviledge of their original, in the observation of the aforesaid decency: Therefore you are guilty of undecency which do otherwise.

Vers. 9. Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.

Argum. 6. Seeing the man hath the respect of the end, and the woman is destined for the end; it is fitting that this difference of their excellency should bee expressed by the observance of decency: Therefore when it is not observed, you are deservedly to bee reproved.

Vers. 10. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head, because of the Angels.

Argum. 7. Even because of the Angels, who behold and are witnesses of comely and uncomely deportments in the Church, although you would not regard that men look upon you, yet it becomes Women to testifie the subjection of their Sex, and the power of the Man, by putting a veil over their head as a sign of it? Therefore you are guilty of indecency when your behaviour is otherwise.

Vers. 11. Nevertheless, neither is the Man without the Woman: neither the Woman without the Man in the Lord.

12. For as the Woman is of the Man, even so is the Man also by the Woman; but all things of God.

That this comparing of the Man and the Woman, may not bee drawn out further to the desiring of the Woman, in a threefold respect hee equals the Woman to the Man. First, In respect to Christ our Lord, or in respect to our state of Grace in Christ: The Man and the Woman are equal, bought with the same price, and alike ordained to their service of Christ. Secondly, In respect to the same Original; for as in the Creation the Woman is of the Man, so by ordinary propagation the Man is by the Woman. Thirdly, In respect to the first and principal efficient cause, i.e., God; (who hath made the Man and the Woman, and all things else) the Man and the Woman are equal.

Vers. 13. Judge in you selves, is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?

14. Doth not even nature it self teach you, that if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

15. But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given her for a covering.

Argum. 8. Common sense, and nature it self, or natural inclination (so hee calls settled custome, and agreeable to nature, in respect to what is comely) dictates that it is unseemly for a woman to pray uncovered, or that a man should wear long hair, and the contrary is decent: Therefore you observe no decorum when you behave your selves otherwise. Hair is said to bee given to the woman for a covering, because it is given to that end, that shee may know her head ought to be covered.

Vers. 16. But if any man seem to bee contentious, wee have no such custome, neither the Churches of God.

Argum. 9. If any perhaps should not bee moved by these Arguments, but should contend, the Apostle opposeth to their contentious Apologies, the received and established custome of the Jews, and the rest of the Churches: Other Churches have no such custome, that women should bee present at publick assemblies, with their heads uncovered, and the man with his head covered: Therefore your custome not agreeing with decency, either according to natural use, or of the Churches, is altogether unseemly.