Paul's Example and Teaching (11:1-2) "1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you." (11:1-2)
Traditions Regarding Head Coverings (11:3-10)The problem Paul seems to be addressing in verses 3-16 seems to be women in the Corinthian church participating in public worship dressed inappropriately, even scandalously. It was difficult for the new Christian faith to gain respect in Corinth. Christians were considered "atheists" since they didn't honor the traditional gods. Within a few decades, Christians were also rumored to be cannibals, based on a misunderstanding of the Eucharist. So it is important for Paul to avoid scandal concerning this new faith wherever possible.
The problem seems to be that the "spiritual women" in the congregation were exercising their new Christian "freedom" in ways that were bringing division within the church, and threatened to scandalize the church in the community at large. These women had thrown off their traditional head coverings worn during worship, and were worshipping bare-headed -- just like men!
To many of us in the West, the issue Paul is addressing seems silly. Acceptable attire for church in your community has probably changed several times since the beginning of the twentieth century. In California, where I live, both men and women often attend church dressed extremely casually -- though I've observed that the women dress less casually than the men. The prevailing view is that we can all come to God as we are, without the "pretense" of dressing up to impress others. In Kenya, where I've ministered several times, both men and women wear their very finest to church. They do so on the principle that it would be disrespectful to God to appear before him dressed in anything less than our best.
So before criticizing Paul's focus on head-coverings for women, let's understand that fashions in his day didn't change as rapidly as ours, were different for the wealthy than for the poor, and were different in the eastern Mediterranean than they were in the central and western Mediterranean. There is not enough evidence in ancient sources to conclude that Paul is advising conformity to Corinthian customs in this passage. So while we may see his conclusions as specific to the culture he is addressing rather than mandatory for all times and cultures, we can learn from the underlying principles.
Paul seeks to convince women to wear head-coverings during worship using four primary arguments.
by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson