Messiah is the 'head' of every man
Q. In 1 Cor 11.1-16 it talks about a woman having her head covered. Does this mean a woman should be wearing a head covering or what is Paul trying to say.
A. No, Paul is not telling women to cover their heads with a head covering but he is laying out what the proper behaviors are in public worship concerning the husband-wife relationship. This teaching is based on several passages in the Torah, particularly Num 30 where it says that a wife is under her husbands authority when it comes to what she says she is going to say or do. This concept will also come up in 1 Tim 2.11-12 and I will deal with that verse later.
But first, let’s go ver 1 Cor 11.1-16 verse by verse so that we can get it into context. In verse 1 he says that the people should imitate Paul as he imitates Messiah. He them praises them in v 2 because they are holding fast to the "traditions" as he delivered them to the Corinthians.
The word tradtions is the Greek word "paradosis" which means the traditional and biblical concepts found in the Torah and the ones he taught, not all the man-made traditions the Jewish people had at the time. Now, v 3 is the key to understanding this whole passage. He lays out the line of authority and the roles that each should play. It seems that the Corinthians still had Greek concepts about the roles of men and women that were not consistant with the Scriptures.
He tries to show that this authority does not mean that men were better, smarter and more capable than women but he is laying out what the biblical roles for each were. Messiah is the "head" of every man and the man is the "head" of every woman. In this context "man" and "woman" should be understood as husband and wife. So I am going to write the verse from now on and then add commentary that will bring out what Paul is trying to say.
v4....every man who has his head covered (by anything else but Messiah. This could be his own wife, family, an organization or whatever interferes with what Messiah has told him to do) while praying or prophesying disgraces his head (Messiah)
v5....but every woman who who has her head uncovered (against the ruling authority in her life like a husband or father..Num 30, Eph 5.22) while praying or prophesying disgraces her head (her husband, father or biblical ruling authority) for she is one who and the same with her whose head is shaved (done to an adulteress. So she is like a "spiritual" harlot).
v6....for if a woman does not cover her head (goes against her husbands authority) let her have her hair cut off (not literally but he is saying she is like an adulteress); but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off and her hair shaved, let her cover her head (come under her husband’s authority)
v7....for a man ought not to have his head covered (by any other authority than Messiah) since he is in the image and glory of God (who made him) but the woman is the glory of man (in Greek there is a definite article before man. It means a definite man, "a" man, in this case Adam) v8....for man does not originate from woman, but woman from man (that’s why her husband is her authority)
v9....for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake
Next week we will pick up in verse 10 and then look at a few other passages in the New Testament in light of our understanding of 1 Cor 11. 1-16 which will hopefully clear up some misunderstanding.