Question Box: "Because of the angels"

Question or Topic Scripture

Please explain the phrases, "because of the angels" (1 Cor. 11:10) and "we have no such custom, neither the churches of God." (Verse16)

1 Cor. 11:10,16


This question was evidently generated by discussion about Sis. Sarah O'Kelley's well thought out and well written article on head coverings, in the Feb. issue of the Advocate. The overall subject has been a bothersome item for this writer for several years but I had never put any time into a more detailed study until Sis. Sarah's article appeared and this question was submitted to me.

All of different versions of the Bible that were available seemed to say basically the same thing. Commentaries were considered, but nothing seemed to throw much light on the subject of which Paul was speaking. I finally found the book "The Letters to Corinth" by Bro. W.F. Barling in which he writes a chapter that seems to explain the whole subject pretty well. The portion of his book that deals with this is section 5, part 1 entitled "Decently and In Order" from pages 114 through 122 in the 1960 edition for anyone who has access to the book and wants to review the material.

The Context of the Question

The whole scripture involved is 1 Cor. 11: 1-16 inclusive which I will not take the space to copy here but readers can refer to it to get the whole picture of what Paul is discoursing about.

Sister Sarah wrote in her article that the head covering in discussion was the veil worn by the women of Israel and probably most women of Bible times. It was not a hat as worn by women of our day and age. It was worn most of the time, especially in public and demonstrated modesty, as well as providing protection from the sun and wind.

Brother Barling's thoughts are that in the city of Corinth, which was a very worldly city, very much dedicated to the flesh, there was a spirit of contention among some of the sisters in the newly formed ecclesia. Under Greek and Roman cultures there was much more freedom for women than had been the case before these two kingdoms came to power. It seems that women were gaining more freedom and breaking away from the order of things set up by God at the creation of man and woman.

A Helpmeet?

Much like today, women were presenting themselves as an equal to men; and some in the ecclesia saw no reason to wear a veil during the worship service, in which they were taking part. This seems to have been a matter of pride; a refusal to accept that woman was created to be a helpmeet or helper to man. In Gen. 2 the words applied to the woman were "ezer neged" or help counterpart.

Paul goes to great length to show the order of creation in which man was the family head and woman, being created from man, was made for his helpmeet. He carries this thought to the highest level in showing the symbolism of this to the position of Christ, being the head or husband to the ecclesia. This spiritual bride of Christ would show him reverence, as he was indeed their husband, protector, and sustainer.

In type, the wives were to likewise look to their husbands as head of the family, the sustainer, and protector. The wife would demonstrate reverence and love to him. He in turn was to treat her with equal respect and love and provide for her as if she were actually a part of himself. It was in recognition of these things that the women were to humbly submit to the wearing of the head coverings.

Remember when Rebecca was approaching Isaac she covered herself with her veil; a humble way of showing she recognized him as the head of the family they were to form. This was not considered demeaning but was done in recognition of the position in which God had placed the husband and wife at the creation and being willing to submit it.

Because of the Angels

Concerning the reference to the angels in vs. 10, Brother Barling and I agree on our understanding of the words that Paul spoke. He thinks that it is in reference to the angels being present although invisible in our meetings, observing our conduct at such times.

We are told: "The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them." (Psa. 34:7) Also, Paul says in 1 Cor. 4:9, "...that for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men". He was speaking here of the apostles but if the angels are encamped around those that fear God they are certainly spectators to our every action including our times of worship.

The women were not only contentious before the men of the ecclesia but also showed lack of respect before the presence of the angels watching over them. There should have been no flaunting of their claim of equality as was being practiced in the world of Paganism.

How would they have acted if Christ were present in their meetings? They had not stopped to think that he indeed was present for he himself said: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:20) With the presence of the angels and of Christ, our meeting should certainly be conducted decently and in order, not allowing for contentious behavior generated by fleshly egos. This would explain Paul's reference about the angels in vs. 10 of the scripture in question.

No such Custom

Let us now look at the phrase in verse 16; "we have no such custom, neither the churches of God." Paul went to great lengths to teach the significance and appropriateness of the women having their heads covered and summed up the matter in this phrase.

His warning about being contentious in the matter was emphasized by his statement that the ecclesia had no such custom of the women attending bare headed nor did the other ecclesias scattered over the world in those days. He seems to be saying that he had explained things to them and now it was up to them to comply and not be contentious about the matter.

I do not know when the custom of wearing veils in Europe, England, and the U.S. was no longer the practice among women. As far back as I can recall and in pictures from early Christadelphian days, it seems that all the women wore hats of some kind to meetings. This practice has become a matter of personal preference, especially in some small meetings. This has been the case in the Southwest area where I have lived most of my life as the general culture in our area is for comfort rather than formality. Some sisters wear hats or scarves in some fashion while others, for whatever reason, go without a head covering. I cannot remember an issue being made about it among the members, either while I was growing up, or in more recent years.

The important thing is that wearing a head covering because it is expected of a person is not the object that Paul was teaching. It was to be worn as a symbol of the woman's place of being a help meet (helpmate) to her husband, created by God and set in order by Him. Even more important was that the person wearing the covering was doing so in recognition that she represented the ecclesia of Christ in its position of help meet to him. The ecclesia can never become his equal, even in the immortal state, but will be subsidiary to him in their positions of rule during the Kingdom Age.

It is not my intention to provoke controversy with this answer. I hope that I have given something for each of us to give serious consideration to. The brothers have duty here as well as the sisters. There is no place here for any hint of superiority of men over women, no lording over the sisters in any way. The brothers should remember that each of them is part of the female bride of Christ and should always act in a subsidiary way to his being the head. Even in the Kingdom this will be so.


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