The First to the Corinthians 11:1-34

11  Become imitators of me, just as I am of Christ.+  I commend you because in all things you remember me and you are holding fast the traditions just as I handed them on to you.+  But I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ;+ in turn, the head of a woman is the man;+ in turn, the head of the Christ is God.+  Every man who prays or prophesies with something on his head shames his head;  but every woman who prays or prophesies+ with her head uncovered shames her head, for it is one and the same as if she were a woman with a shaved head.  For if a woman does not cover herself, she should have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or shaved, she should be covered.  For a man should not have his head covered, as he is God’s image+ and glory, but the woman is man’s glory.  For man did not come from woman, but woman came from man.+  And what is more, man was not created for the sake of the woman, but woman for the sake of the man.+ 10  That is why the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels.+ 11  Besides, in connection with the Lord, neither is woman separate from man nor is man separate from woman. 12  For just as the woman is from the man,+ so also the man is through the woman; but all things are from God.+ 13  Judge for yourselves: Is it fitting for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14  Does not nature itself teach you that long hair is a dishonor to a man, 15  but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her instead of a covering. 16  However, if anyone wants to argue in favor of some other custom, we have no other, nor do the congregations of God. 17  But while giving these instructions, I do not commend you, because it is, not for the better, but for the worse that you meet together. 18  For first of all, I hear* that when you come together in a congregation, divisions exist among you;+ and to an extent I believe it. 19  For there will certainly also be sects among you,+ so that those of you who are approved may also become evident.+ 20  When you come together in one place, it is not really to eat the Lord’s Evening Meal.+ 21  For when you eat it, each one takes his own evening meal beforehand, so that one is hungry but another is intoxicated. 22  Do you not have houses for eating and drinking? Or do you despise the congregation of God and make those who have nothing feel ashamed? What can I say to you? Should I commend you? In this I do not commend you. 23  For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night+ on which he was going to be betrayed took a loaf, 24  and after giving thanks, he broke it and said: “This means my body,+ which is in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.”+ 25  He did the same with the cup+ also, after they had the evening meal, saying: “This cup means the new covenant+ by virtue of my blood.+ Keep doing this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”+ 26  For whenever you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord,+ until he comes. 27  Therefore, whoever eats the loaf or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord. 28  First let a man approve himself after scrutiny,+ and only then let him eat of the loaf and drink of the cup. 29  For the one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment against himself. 30  That is why many among you are weak and sick, and quite a few are sleeping in death.+ 31  But if we would discern what we ourselves are, we would not be judged. 32  However, when we are judged, we are disciplined by Jehovah,+ so that we may not become condemned with the world.+ 33  Consequently, my brothers, when you come together to eat it, wait for one another. 34  If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that when you come together it is not for judgment.+ But as for the remaining matters, I will put them in order when I get there.


Or “keep on hearing.”

Study Notes

the traditions: The Greek word pa·raʹdo·sis, here rendered “traditions,” refers to something handed down, such as information, instructions, or practices that have been conveyed to others to follow. The word as used in the Christian Greek Scriptures is sometimes applied to beneficial traditions, that is, traditions that were proper or acceptable aspects of true worship. (2Th 2:15; 3:6) For example, the information that the apostle Paul received regarding the observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal could properly be passed on to the Christian congregations as acceptable Christian tradition. (1Co 11:23) The same Greek expression is often applied to traditions that were in error or that were followed or viewed in a way that made them harmful and objectionable.​—Mt 15:2, 3; Mr 7:3, 5, 13; Col 2:8.

uncovered: Or “unveiled.” In Jewish society and in parts of the ancient Greco-Roman world, many considered it a sign of modesty for women to cover their hair, or to be veiled, in public. According to what Paul says in this chapter, first-century Christian women also covered their heads. It appears that some women, including sorceresses and priestesses of various cults, removed their veils and let their hair hang disheveled when claiming to be under a supernatural power. Such conduct in the Christian congregation would have shown disrespect for Jehovah’s arrangement of headship and subjection. This may be why Paul provided counsel on this topic to the Corinthian Christians.​—1Co 11:3-10; see study notes on 1Co 11:10, 15.

a woman with a shaved head: According to what Paul states here, it was considered disgraceful for a woman to have her head shaved or to have her hair cut short. This may have been because a shaved head was common only among slaves and possibly among women who had been caught in adultery. Additionally, the Hebrew Scriptures speak of women who saw their “beautiful hairstyle” changed into “baldness,” a sign of mourning. (Isa 3:24) While the exact details are not clear, Paul compares the shame that such a woman would feel to that of a woman in the Christian congregation who prayed or prophesied without wearing a head covering. Her disgrace would be as extreme as having her hair completely shaved off and would show disrespect for God’s headship principle.​—1Co 11:3-10; see study note on 1Co 11:15.

a sign of authority: In this chapter, Paul gives direction regarding the headship arrangement. (1Co 11:3) Here he discusses the head covering that a Christian woman should wear when she is praying or prophesying in the congregation. It is “a sign of authority,” that is, a visible proof even to the angels that the woman acknowledges the role of leadership that God has assigned to appointed men in the congregation. Wearing a head covering under certain circumstances shows that a woman willingly submits to congregation “authority.”​—1Co 11:4-6; see study notes on 1Co 11:5, 15.

given to her instead of a covering: The Greek word rendered “covering” (pe·ri·boʹlai·on) appears only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. It means something that one throws around oneself, such as a wrap that covers the head and shoulders. Among Jews and Greeks, hair length was a means of readily distinguishing a person’s gender. Slave women and possibly some women caught in adultery had their heads shaved or their hair cut short. (See study note on 1Co 11:5.) The long hair of a woman was a natural reminder of her submission to headship. (1Co 11:3) A woman who wore a form of head covering as “a sign of authority” when praying or prophesying in the Christian congregation demonstrated before others, including the angels, her recognition of the headship principle.​—1Co 11:3-16; see study note on 1Co 11:10.

divisions: See study note on 1Co 1:10.

sects among you: As mentioned in the preceding verse, Paul had heard reports that “divisions” existed in the Corinthian congregation. He indicated that the very existence of these factions among them would reveal individuals who were approved from God’s standpoint. Those who avoided such divisive groups and humbly did what they could to promote love and unity would stand out as faithful, showing themselves to be genuine Christians with pure motives. This is how sects or divisions served to identify those who had God’s approval.​—For a discussion of the term “sect,” see study note on Ac 24:5.

the Lord’s Evening Meal: Or “the Lord’s Supper.” This expression, which occurs only once in the Christian Greek Scriptures, refers to the observance that the Lord Jesus Christ instituted before his death, on Nisan 14. The meal consists of unleavened bread and wine as symbols of Christ’s body and blood. The first observance of this evening meal and the events surrounding it were reported by two eyewitnesses and participants, Matthew and John. (Mt 26:17-30; Joh 13:1-38) Mark and Luke, though not present on the occasion, filled in some details. (Mr 14:17-26; Lu 22:7-39) In giving instructions to the Corinthian congregation, Paul provides further enlightenment on some of its features. (1Co 10:16-22; 11:20-34) According to Luke’s and Paul’s accounts, Jesus told his disciples: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Lu 22:19; 1Co 11:24, 25) Or as other translations say: “Keep on doing this in memory of me”; “Do this as a memorial of me.” Therefore, it is also appropriately called the Memorial. The purpose of the Lord’s Evening Meal is to commemorate Jesus’ death, the only event that the Scriptures command Christians to observe.

one is hungry but another is intoxicated: Paul reproves the Corinthian Christians because instead of observing this sacred occasion in a united, dignified manner, a few brought their own supper with them to eat before or during the meeting. Among these, some overindulged in wine and became intoxicated. Others had no supper, were hungry, and felt shamed in the presence of those who had much. Drowsy or distracted, such Christians were in no condition to participate in or appreciate the Lord’s Evening Meal.

I received from the Lord: Since Paul was not present with Jesus and the 11 apostles at the institution of the Lord’s Evening Meal on Nisan 14, 33 C.E., the information that Paul provides was apparently “received from the Lord” by inspired revelation or by oral reports. Although a few translations have used the divine name here, the Greek term Kyʹri·os (“Lord”) apparently refers to the Lord Jesus Christ in this context.

whenever: In this context, Paul was discussing, not how often, but how the Memorial should be observed. In Greek (both in verse 25 and in this verse), he used the word ho·saʹkis, which means “as often as; whenever.” So Paul was saying to anointed Christians, ‘Every time that you do this,’ you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord. They do this until he comes, that is, until Jesus comes to receive them into heaven and to execute judgment. At that time, the Lord’s Evening Meal will no longer be observed.​—See study note on Mt 24:30.

eats and drinks judgment against himself: The Lord’s Evening Meal is a communion meal, similar to the communion offering in ancient Israel. The worshipper could offer a sacrifice and then partake of a communion meal. (See Glossary, “Communion offering.”) However, the Mosaic Law forbade anyone from eating such a sacred meal while he was in an unclean state. If he did so, he would be “cut off from his people.” (Le 7:20, 21) Likewise, during the Lord’s Evening Meal, the spirit-anointed participants share with one another in faith, partaking of the bread and the wine, which represent Jesus’ body and blood. They also share with Jehovah, the Author of the arrangement. This meal is sacred, so Paul warns that the Christian should examine himself before the Lord’s Evening Meal. (1Co 11:27-29) One who partakes while still engaging in unclean, unscriptural, or hypocritical practices would be eating and drinking “judgment against himself” because he showed disrespect for the ransom.​—Compare Heb 10:28-31.

are sleeping in death: Lit. “are sleeping.” In this context, apparently referring to spiritual death.

we are disciplined by Jehovah: Paul here encourages the Corinthian Christians to accept the discipline, or correction, that they received for their disrespectful conduct at the Lord’s Evening Meal. (1Co 11:27, 29) By applying the discipline, the Corinthians would avoid being condemned with the world, that is, the unrighteous world alienated from God. The Scriptures describe Jehovah as one who gives his people needed discipline as an expression of his love.​—De 11:2; Pr 3:11, 12; Jer 7:28; Heb 12:5, 6.

disciplined by Jehovah: Paul’s words here may echo Pr 3:11, 12, which reads: “My son, do not reject the discipline of Jehovah . . . For those whom Jehovah loves he reproves.” At Pr 3:11, the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text along with the noun for “discipline.” At Heb 12:5, 6, Paul quotes these verses from Proverbs, which is why the name Jehovah is used in the main text of the New World Translation. (See App. C1.) Since similar wording is used here at 1Co 11:32 and the Greek terms for “discipline” and “to discipline” used here and at Heb 12:5, 6 are the same as those used at Pr 3:11, 12 in the Septuagint, the divine name is used in the main text of 1Co 11:32.​—See App. C3 introduction; 1Co 11:32.


Head Coverings
Head Coverings

In Bible times, women typically covered their heads in public. They may have used a veil or their outer garment as a head covering. However, when the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian congregation about head coverings, he was not simply discussing the customs of the day. Inspired by holy spirit, he wrote that a woman would need to cover her head if she were to pray publicly or to prophesy in the congregation, privileges that God had assigned to the man. (1Co 11:5) By covering her head, a Christian woman would honor the headship arrangement.​—1Co 11:3.