1 Corinthians Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. try to imitate me, even as I myself try to imitate the Messiah.
2. Now I praise you because you have remembered everything I told you and observe the traditions just the way I passed them on to you.
I passed on (Greek paradidomi) the traditions (the related Greek word paradoseis). At v. 23 and 15:3 the words "received" and "passed on" are used of two of these "traditions" — the Lord's Supper and the evidence of Yeshua's resurrection. "Tradition" in this sense simply means "that which has been carefulJy and faithfully 'passed on' by one generation and 'received' by the next." This corresponds to Jewish understanding; for example, as the Mishna puts it: "Moses received the Torah from Sinai and passed it on to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets to the men of the Great Synagogue...." (Avot 1:1, quoted in full at Ac 6:13—14N)
Clearly Judaism places a high value on citing the authority for what one teaches — this is evident from virtually any page of the Talmud. Perhaps this is why Sha'ul dwells on the process of "receiving" and "passing on." Contrast Yeshua's, "You have heard.... But I tell you...." (Mt 5:21, 27, 31,33,38,43), which made his listeners conclude that "he did not instruct them like their Torah-teachers but as one who had authority himself (Mt 7:28-29&N).
The New Testament speaks of three kinds of "traditions":
(1) The traditions of the Messianic Community, here and at 2 Th 2:15, 3:6;
(2) "Human traditions," meaning pagan traditions, Co 2:8;
(3) Jewish traditions, that is, the Oral Torah as set forth by the Pharisees — Sha'ul, at Ga 1:14; and Yeshua, eight times in Mt 15:2-6 and Mk 7:3-13. Some of these Jewish traditions are regarded in the New Testament as bad (Mk 7:5-13&N); but others are, by implication, good (Yn 7:37-39&NN).
It seems clear that in passing on traditions Sha'ul expected them to be observed, so that in a sense he was establishing a kind of Oral Torah for the Messianic congregations. At the same time, he expected the governing principle for the observance of this Oral "Torah as upheld by the Messiah" (9:21) to be love, not legalism, and certainly not the greed that was replacing love when the Corinthians celebrated the Lord's Supper (vv. 17-22).
v. 11:2-14:4(1 A new section begins, dealing with public worship. There are three topics: (I) veiling of women in public worship (vv. 3-16), (2) disorder at the Lord's Supper (vv. 17-34), (3) charismatic gifts from the Holy Spirit and their use in public (12:1-14:40); this section also includes the famous "love chapter" (12:31—14:la). Tactful Sha'ul commences with a compliment, as at 1:4-5.
3. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is the Messiah, and the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of the Messiah is God.
The presenting symptom seems to be the forwardness and insubordination of Corinthian women (see also 14:33b-35&N). They followed worldly fashions and did not dress modestly, as befits people of God (see 1 Ti 2:9-l5&NN). Even in the Messianic Community, where "there is neither male nor female" (Ga 3:28&N; see 10:18N above), there remain distinctions between the roles of men and women; and these straightforwardly have to do with headship, authority, and submission. How should moderns sensitized to the demeaning of women understand this passage? By relating it to the last phrase of the verse, which says that the head of the Messiah is God (compare 15:24-28), a relationship that Yeshua presumably does not find demeaning. Nor do we expect a man to chafe when taught that the head of every man is the Messiah (compare 3:21-23, Ep 4:15). So Sha'ul expects wives to receive with equanimity the comparable word that the head of a wife is her husband (compare Genesis 3:16. Ep 5:22-25&N).
However, Sha'ul's reasoning presents a problem. True, he balances "male chauvinist" elements (vv. 4-10, 13-15) with "feminist" elements (vv. 11-12), though not in equal quantity. So long as he bases his counsel of propriety on theology and Scripture (vv. 7-12), the Corinthians' cultural norms (vv. 4-6, 13), or the practice in other congregations (v. 16), his arguments are acceptable. But an appeal to "nature" is harder for the modern reader to receive; see vv. 14-15&N.
4. Every man who prays or prophesies wearing something down over his head brings shame to his head,
Every man who prays in public worship meetings or prophesies (see 12:10).
Wearing something down over his head. This is the literal translation, and it is used here to show that Sha'ul is talking about wearing a veil, not a hat. The usual translation, "with his head covered," obscures this fact, and as a result an issue has arisen in Messianic Judaism that should never have come up at all, namely, whether it is proper for a Messianic Jewish man to wear a kippah ("skullcap" or, in Yiddish, yarmulke) in public worship. Of course it is proper, since objection to it is based only on a mis-translation of this verse. For more, see my Messianic Jewish Manifesto, pp 170-171.
Generally speaking, Orthodox Jews wear kippot at all times. Conservative Jews in religious contexts only, and Reform Jews rarely if at all. The custom of wearing a kippah has no Scriptural basis and is not required even in the Talmud; it did not acquire mandatory status (from an Orthodox Jewish viewpoint) until the writing of the Shutchan Arukh in the 16th century, though it had become customary some centuries earlier. In the synagogue a Jew saying his prayers will sometimes pull his taliit (prayer shawl) up over his head; he does it in order to create privacy and intimacy between himself and God and this distinguishes his situation from the public praying or prophesying Sha'ul is writing about.
5. but every woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame to her head — there is no difference between her and a woman who has had her head shaved.
Concerning an adulteress Moshe commands, "The cohen is to stand the woman before Adonai and let the hair of the woman's head go loose" (i.e., he removes the headdress symbolizing her faithfulness to her husband; Numbers 5:18). And in the Mishna we read:
"These are the women who may be divorced and not given the marriage settlement specified in their ketubah [marriage contract]: she who transgresses the Law of Moses and Jewish custom.... And what is meant here by Jewish custom? If she goes out (into public areas) with her hair loose, or spins cloth in the street (that is, with her arms exposed), or spends time talking loosely (or flirting) with all kinds of men." (Ketubot 7:6)
Here Sha'ul is not imposing Jewish standards; rather, his concern with decorum and shame leads him to want women who believe in the Messiah to conform to customs found throughout the Eastern Mediterranean (v. 16). Both in early Semitic and later Greek society chaste women wore their hair up or under a veil. However, in v. 10&N he introduces a transcultural element as well.
6. For if a woman is not veiled, let her also have her hair cut short; but if it is shameful for a woman to wear her hair cut short or to have her head shaved, then let her be veiled.
7. For a man indeed should not have his head veiled, because he is the image and glory of God, and the woman is the glory of man.
8. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man;
9. and indeed man was not created for the sake of the woman but woman for the sake of the man.
10. The reason a woman should show by veiling her head that she is under authority has to do with the angels.
A difficult verse, perhaps to be understood from Isaiah 6:2, where the angels cover themselves in the presence of a higher authority, God; or perhaps that even if a woman cares little about shocking men, she should care about shocking the angels, who are present at public worship.
11. Nevertheless, in union with the Lord neither is woman independent of man nor is man independent of woman;
12. for as the woman was made from the man, so also the man is now born through the woman. But everything is from God.
He is the image... of God. Genesis 1:27 says that man (that is, humanity), made in the image of God, was "created male and female." But Genesis 2:21-23, reflected in v. 8, explains how God did this, by making Eve from Adam's side as a helper suitable for him (Genesis 2:18, alluded to in v. 9). Verses 11-12 balance out the picture. Of interest is this quotation from the Midrash Rabbah:
"[Rabbi Simlail said to [his talmidiml 'At first Adam was created from dust and Eve from Adam; but from now on it will be "in our image, after our likeness" (Genesis 1:26); not man without woman, and not woman without man, and neither of them without the Sh 'khinah (God's glorious presence).'"(Genesis Rabbah 8:9).
13. Decide for yourselves: is it appropriate for a woman to pray to God when she is unveiled?
14. Doesn’t the nature of things itself teach you that a man who wears his hair long degrades himself?
15. But a woman who wears her hair long enhances her appearance, because her hair has been given to her as a covering.
Does the nature of things itself, Greek phusis, "nature" (from which come English words such as "physics" and "physical"), really teach you that a man who wears his hair long degrades himself? Whether scientific measurement would uphold the assumption that men's hair naturally grows shorter than women's is not precisely the point; rather, there are natural distinctions between men and women which should not be obscured. Sha'ul is probably in some measure campaigning against homosexuality and transvestism. "Nature" here seems to include not only physical but social and cultural elements; we can theorize that in a culture where men wear their hair long without compromising their male identity and women with short hair are still considered feminine, Sha'ul might not press the issue as he does. We know from 9:19-23 that he was sensitive to cross-cultural interaction, but further speculation is probably fruitless. This leaves open the question of whether his strictures apply today or were only meant for first-century Corinth. But see 1 Ke 3:3N.
16. However, if anyone wants to argue about it, the fact remains that we have no such custom, nor do the Messianic communities of God.
Three issues for today raised by this passage:
(1) Male chauvinism: does Sha'ul teach an unacceptable male dominance?
(2) Cultural relativism: are the prescriptions set forth here laws for all times and places, or are they meant only for first-century Corinth?
(3) Messianic Judaism: if the rules about head covering apply today, does this keep Messianic Jewish men from wearing kippot (yarmolkes)!
17. But in giving you this next instruction I do not praise you, because when you meet together it does more harm than good!
18. For, in the first place, I hear that when you gather together as a congregation you divide up into cliques; and to a degree I believe it
Cliques. Compare 1:10-17,3:4-23.
19. (granted that there must be some divisions among you in order to show who are the ones in the right).
20. Thus, when you gather together, it is not to eat a meal of the Lord;
A meal of the Lord. See Rv 1:10N.
21. because as you eat your meal, each one goes ahead on his own; so that one stays hungry while another is already drunk!
22. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or are you trying to show your contempt for God’s Messianic community and embarrass those who are poor? What am I supposed to say to you? Am I supposed to praise you? Well, for this I don’t praise you!
23. For what I received from the Lord is just what I passed on to you — that the Lord Yeshua, on the night he was betrayed, took bread;
I passed on, Greek paradidomi; see v. 2N. The Greek has a wordplay not effectively brought over into English: the word translated "betrayed" is also a form of paradidomi (Yeshua, on the night he was "passed on [to the authorities]").
24. and after he had made the b’rakhah he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this as a memorial to me”;
After he had made the b'rakhah. See Mt 9:8N, 26:26N.
25. likewise also the cup after the meal, saying, “This cup is the New Covenant effected by my blood; do this, as often as you drink it, as a memorial to me.”
The cup after the meal, the "cup of blessing" in the Passover Service, as reported by Luke. See 10:16&N, Lk 22:20&N. The New Covenant spoken of in Jeremiah 31:3O-33(31-34), Mt 26:28&N.
26. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes.
At Passover Jews all over the world retell the story of the plagues and the Exodus and thus proclaim the central fact on which their peoplehood is founded (see 5:6-8N).
Likewise, members of the Messianic Community are to proclaim the death of the Lord as their exodus from sin and as the basis for their existence. Both proclamations look not only back toward a past redemption but also forward to a future one; hence the proclamation is until he comes the second time.
27. Therefore, whoever eats the Lord’s bread or drinks the Lord’s cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty of desecrating the body and blood of the Lord!
28. So let a person examine himself first, and then he may eat of the bread and drink from the cup;
29. for a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.
30. This is why many among you are weak and sick, and some have died!
Sin can lead to sickness. This resembles the modern theory of psychosomatic illness but points to spiritual rather than emotional roots of disease.
31. If we would examine ourselves, we would not come under judgment.
Failure at self-judgment (vv. 27-29,31) opens one to demonic attack (compare 5:5, 10:20-22), which can cause sickness or death (v. 30). This is a good place to be reminded that the root meaning of the Hebrew word for "to pray," l'hitpallel, is "to judge oneself."
32. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined, so that we will not be condemned along with the world.
Compare MJ 12:3-14.
33. So then, my brothers, when you gather together to eat, wait for one another.
34. If someone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it will not result in judgment. As for the other matters, I will instruct you about them when I come.
Since Sha'ul's letters were written before any of the Gospels, this is the oldest record of the Last Supper in the New Testament. The subject of the Lord's Supper was raised at 10:16-21 and is now the second matter concerning public worship to which Sha'ul addresses himself in this section of the letter (11:2-14:40; see v. 2N). Compare the reports of the Last Supper in the Gospels: Mt 26:20-30, Mk 14:17-26, Lk 22:14-20, Yn 13:1-14:31. Also see Appendix, p. 933.
- chapter 1
- chapter 2
- chapter 3
- chapter 4
- chapter 5
- chapter 6
- chapter 7
- chapter 8
- chapter 9
- chapter 10
- chapter 11
- chapter 12
- chapter 13
- chapter 14
- chapter 15
- chapter 16