I am baffled by the phrase “because of the angels” in 1 Corinthians 11:10. What does it mean?
The context of 1 Corinthians 11:10 is God’s divine pattern of authority. Paul was pointing out that Christ is the head of man and that man is the head of the woman. As much as people try to change this pattern, it still remains God’s pattern of creation. Paul also was pointing out how the covering of a woman’s head signifies her submission to God’s pattern of authority. This is to be done, explained Paul, “because of the angels.”
Bible scholars have introduced many views about this phrase, but I believe the strongest position involves the following truths about the angels of God:
First, God’s angels know well what lack of submission is and does; for Lucifer, once Heaven’s chief angel, fell due to insubordination toward God (Isa. 14:12–17; Ezek. 28:13–17). In addition, the angels of God are aware of God’s proper order of creation. They minister in the very presence of God, were present at the creation of man and woman and saw God give them their roles, and continually observe man here on earth (see Heb. 12:22, 23).
Second, the angels of God are not insubordinate. The insubordinate ones, about a third of them (see Rev. 12:4), fell with Lucifer. Because the angels of God are not insubordinate, imagine how it must offend them when they observe how mankind goes against God’s orders and instructions. So Paul was, in essence, saying to believers, “If you as women do not heed the men of the church with respect to God’s divine order of authority, you need to wake up and regard the angels who are perfect models of submission to authority and let them influence you to think and do right in this area.”
Third, angels are learning from us as well. They teach us, and we teach them. Angels cannot be redeemed. Therefore, they learn about God’s grace and love through witnessing His redemptive work in believers. We have a responsibility toward angels concerning our conduct as believers, not only to avoid offending them but also to teach them concerning God’s marvelous ways (Luke 15:7, 10; 1 Tim. 5:21; 1 Pet. 1:12).
To other views concerning the passage are these: (1) The “angels” mentioned are actually pastors of local churches. The idea is that the woman must keep her head covered to let the pastor know she is in subjection to her husband and/or to keep the pastor from being tempted by her beauty. (2) The angels mentioned here are actually the fallen angels. So the idea may be that the believing woman should be in subjection, in contrast to the angels who weren’t, as noted by their fall. Also, the view carries the idea that the bad angels could “get to” the insubordinate woman. However the word in the original for “angel” (aggeloi) would seem to indicate good angels.
A woman can have her hair the right length or wear a mantilla or hat in worship yet seethe with insubordination inside. Only when the heart is right is the covering on her head truly significant.
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