1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Instalment 1A & 1B
Word Order in 1 Cor 11:10-12 The Angels are in the Wrong Place.
1 Cor 11:1012 has some major issues that have rendered many opinions and much discussion. The 2 major ones are in verse 10. a. what is meant by the angels and in particular what is meant by it as a condition for a woman having exousia or a covering on her head AND b. what is meant by “to have exousia on the head”.
In a later post I will propose some “exegetical” solutions to these. However, for now I, more basically, want to raise the issue of the order of the words in most English translations and also the determination of sentences.
I will first quote the ESV of which the NIV is similar
10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.
In this translation, the phrase “in the Lord” has been moved from its location in the Greek AND “because of the angels” is part of the sentence that preceeds it.
I propose that we might better understand the passage and its difficult sections by 2 alterations to the ESV.
- Treat “because of the angels” as part of the following sentence.
- Put “in the Lord” back to its original location.
THIS GIVES US
10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head.
11 Nevertheless, because of the angels, woman is not independent of man nor man of woman;
12 for, in the Lord, just as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman.
And all things are from God.
Now verse 10 no longer has the cumbersome double conditional clauses “dia touto” at the beginning of the verse and “dia tous angelous” at the end of it. This leaves us with a much more direct and clearer statement in verse 10, other than understanding what “to have authority on” means which is my topic for another post.
Verse 10 is now the clear and direct and unambigous application ie. the “ought to” of verses 7 to 9.
It also now allows verse 10 to function as an inclusio with verse 7a around verses 7b-9. 7a has the “ought to” statement to the man and v10 now concludes the section with the “ought to “statement to the woman.
V11 now gains “because of the angels”. That is, it gains a reason for its statement “woman is not independent of man, nor man of woman”. As I indicated earlier, in a later topic, I will propose a place to understand “because of the angels”. Bnonn has elsewhere pointed to the dependence of Paul on Psalm 8.
v12 now gains “in the Lord” which is its place in the Greek. This strongly affirms that “woman is made out of man” is an “in the Lord” theology and issue. These issues of the nature of men and women are often assumed to be “secondary” issues and as such are allowed to creep through and destroy many many churches. Leaving “in the Lord” in its rightful place in v12 does not allow this. It is a central issue, it is a gospel issue, it is a kingdom issue, a new creation issue. It is an issue and a way of living that the Lord gave His life for. He has redeemed us to be His holy people, and His people are to live in accordance with “woman is made out of man”. Redemption does not negate or change creation. Rather, redemption leads us to living in accordance with creation. To live in the Lord will always lead us to live as originally created.
- ESV in v10 says “wife” and in vv 10&11 says “woman”. This, at best seems very clumsly translating of the same Greek word.
- v10 the word “symbol” is not in the Greek.
There has been much speculation about “because of the angels” and the place of angels in christian worship gatherings. Yet, if I am correct that “because of the angels” has been put in the incorrect sentence, then this specific speculation becomes meaningless.
And, if I am correct, then have I simply opened up more and different opportunities for unregulated speculation about angels? Hopefully not.
When the angels are connected with verse 10, then the speculation about angels is in regard to (our) worship gatherings. But, when the angels are connected with verse 11, then we are confronted with a connection between angels and “woman is not independent of man nor man of woman”. This is a definitie theological statement by Paul about men and women. We still may not yet know what the connection with angels is, but it forces us to examine what else is Paul saying about men and women, what other definite theological statements does he make about men and women in 1 Cor 11? We find the most definite in verse 7 “man is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man”. Mention of the image of God draws us back to Genesis 1&2. This connection is confirmed when Paul directs us to Gen 2 “woman out of man”. But, “glory of God” is never mentioned in Gen 1 or 2? So, now we are left with 2 things to speculate about “angels” and “glory of God”.
I propose that the place to direct and control and limit our speculations is Psalm 8.
In this creation psalm, this psalm that is reflecting on Genesis 1 & 2, we find mention of both “glory” (Ps 8 v1, 5b) and “angels” (Ps 8 v5a “angels” KJV).
It seems to me that Paul is reflecting on and directing our attention to Psalm 8 and so of course to Gen 1&2.
I will stop at this point and ask you, how is this Psalm and it’s mention of glory and angels connected to Paul’s theological statement in 1 Cor 11b “neither woman separate from man, nor man separate from woman”? As we speculate, remember, Paul is directing and controlling and limiting our speculations about glory and angels. We are not free to make things up to try and understand scripture. Just because something at first sounds strange to our understanding “because of the angels” does not mean we have free rein to speculate. Our speculations should be controlled and limited by the writer and what he says. So what are some possible (and legitimate) speculations as to the connection that Paul is making between angels and the understanding of creation and man’s place (and specifically what Paul says about men and women in 1 Cor 11:11) that we find in Psalm 8?
I have an idea about what Paul is saying and doing BUT at this point I am also open to suggestions.
In later instalments I point out that Paul has a main argument that ties this whole passage 1Cor 11:2-16 together. This main argument has many parallelisms in it which can be seen by my color coding as below.
Each word or phrase has its place and its paralleled place in the main argument.
Well, where does “because of the angels” fit into this paralleled main argument? The answer is that IT DOES NOT.
It has no place in the paralleled main argument. If we put it with verse 10 as do all the English translations, then it actually disrupts this main argument and destroys the parallelism.
So, this leads me to suggest that “because of the angels” is actually part of the following sentence. ie. part of verse 11.