1 Corinthians xi.

Notes & Commentary:

In this chapter are three instructions: 1. That women must have a veil on their heads at public prayers, to ver. 17. — 2ndly, he corrects the abuses in their banquets of charity, called Agape, to ver. 23. — 3rdly, he teaches that in the sacrament of the holy Eucharist, is the body and blood of Christ. (Witham)

Ver. 2. I praise you. That is, a great many of you. (Witham)

Ver. 3. The head of the woman is the man, &c. To have the head covered at public meetings, is, according to St. Paul, a mark of subjection: The man was created to be head over the woman, who was made subject to the man, being made of him, of his rib, and the woman made for him, not he for the woman. The man in a special manner, is the image of God, not only by his immortal soul, in which sense also the woman was made to God’s image, and likeness, but inasmuch as God gave him a power over all creatures, and so he is called, the glory of God. For these reasons, as well as from a received custom, St. Paul tells every woman, that in prayer or prophesying in public meetings, she must have her head veiled, and covered in testimony of her subjection to man, her head, otherwise she dishonours herself, and her head. This is what he tells her, (ver. 10.) that she ought to have a power over her head,[1] that is, to have a veil or covering, as a mark of man’s power over her: and because of the angels, that is, out of a respect to the angels there present. Some understand the priests and ministers of God, called angels, particularly in the Apocalypse. St. Paul adds, that nature[2] having given to women long hair, designed it to be as a natural veil. In fine, he appeals to them, to be judges, whether it be not unbecoming in women to pray without a veil. But he will have men to be uncovered, and not to bear such a mark of subjection, as a veil is, by which a man would dishonour his head, that is, himself, and Christ, who is his head, and who appointed him, when he created him, to be head over the woman. He looks upon it as a dishonour and a disgrace for men to nourish their hair, as women should do. He also calls God the head of Christ, that is, of Christ, as man. Lest he should seem to lessen the condition of women more than necessary, he adds, that the propagation of mankind now depends on the woman, as well as on the man, seeing every man is by the woman. (Witham)

Ver. 4. Praying or prophesying. By prophesying, in this place is meant, reading publicly in the Church, or singing, or explaining some part of the Scripture. To have the head covered, or uncovered, is in itself a thing very indifferent. Amongst the Greeks it was the custom always to sacrifice to their idols with heads uncovered; amongst the Romans, the opposite was the fashion, and among the Jews, as well formerly as at present, they always appear in their synagogues with heads covered. (Calmet)

Ver. 10. A power: That is, a veil or covering, as a sign that she is under the power of her husband: and this, the apostle adds, because of the angels, who are present in the assemblies of the faithful. (Challoner)

Ver. 16. If any man seem to be contentious about this matter, or any other, we have no such custom, nor hath the Church; that is, says St. Chrysostom, to have such quarrels and divisions. Or, as others understand it, we have no such custom for women to be in the Church uncovered. (Witham)

Ver. 17. Now this I ordain, &c. St. Paul found that several abuses had crept in among the Corinthians at their Church meetings, where before the holy mysteries (though St. Chrysostom thinks after them) they used to have those charitable suppers, called the Agape. For as our Saviour eat first a common supper with his apostles, before he instituted the holy sacrament, so the Christians in many places brought meats with them, and eat a supper together, in token of that friendship and union, which they had with all their brethren, before they began to celebrate the holy mysteries. It is this supper, which according to the common interpretation St. Paul here (ver. 20.) calls the Lord’s supper,[3] (though St. Augustine and some others by the Lord’s supper, understand the holy sacrament itself of Christ’s body and blood.) The apostle tells them, he hears there are divisions among them at their meetings, which he says will happen, as there must be also heresies, which God permits, that they who are approved, may be made manifest, that is, that on such occasions, the just may shew their fidelity and constancy in their duty to God. The apostle tells them, that it is not now to eat the Lord’s supper, that is, there were such abuses among them, that it was not now to imitate the supper, which Christ made with his apostles, or, according to the exposition of St. Augustine, this was not becoming persons, who, before the end of their meetings, were to partake of the divine mysteries. (Witham)

Ver. 19. There must be also heresies: By reason of the pride and perversity of man’s heart; not by God’s will or appointment; who nevertheless draws good out of this evil, manifesting, by that occasion, who are the good and firm Christians, and making their faith more remarkable. (Challoner) — Not that God hath directly so appointed, as necessary: this originates in man’s malice, and his sole pride, and great abuse of free-will. The providence of God draweth good out of evil, but wo to the man, says the Scripture, by whom scandal cometh, such as sects and heresies. Hence St. Augustine, chap. viii. de vera relig. says: “Let us use heretics not so as to approve their errors, but to make us more wary and vigilant, and more strenuous in defending Catholic doctrine against their deceits.”

Ver. 20. The Lord’s supper. So the apostle here calls the charity [Agape] feasts observed by the primitive Christians; and reprehends the abuses of the Corinthians on these occasions: which were the more criminal, because these feasts were accompanied with the celebrating the eucharistic sacrifice and sacrament. (Challoner)

Ver. 21. Every one taketh before his own supper to eat. The sense seems to be, that he took and brought with him, what he designed to eat with others, and give at that supper: but as soon as some were met (without staying for others, as he orders them, ver. 33., when he again speaks of these suppers) the rich placing themselves together, began this supper, and did not take with them their poor brethren, who had brought nothing, or had nothing to bring; by this means, one indeed is hungry, and another is drunk, that is, had at least drunk plentifully, while the poor had nothing but shame, and confusion. By this means of eating and drinking without temperance and moderation, they were by no means disposed to receive afterwards the holy Eucharist. He tells such persons that committed these disorders, that if they be so hungry that they cannot fast, they should eat (ver. 34.) before they come from home. We find these Agape forbidden to be made in the Churches, in the 28th canon of the council of Laodicea, a little before the general council of Nice. In St. Chrysostom’s time, and from the first ages[centuries], every one received the sacrament of the holy eucharist fasting, as it is probable this was one of the things which St. Paul gave orders about, (ver. 34.) when he came to Corinth. We must not imagine, that because Christ instituted the holy sacrament, and gave it to his apostles after he had supped with them, that the apostles, or the pastors of the Church, their successors, could not order it to be received fasting, and kneeling, for greater reverence and devotion. See St. Augustine on this same subject, in his letter to Januarius, liv. tom. 2. part 2. p. 126. Nov. edit. He says, that though it is evident the apostles did not receive the body and blood of Christ fasting, yet we must not on that account calumniate, or blame the universal Church, in which it is received only by those who are fasting. He says, it is most insolent madness to dispute against what is a custom in the universal Church. (Witham)

Ver. 23. I have received of the Lord. That is, by revelation from Christ, as well as from others, who were present with him, that which also I delivered to you by word of mouth, &c. Here he speaks of the holy sacrament itself, of the words of consecration, as the evangelists had done, and of the real presence of Christ’s body and blood. — Which shall be delivered for you. In the common Greek copies, which is broken for you, to wit, on the cross. — You shall shew the death of the Lord. As often as you receive, it shall be with a devout and grateful remembrance of his sufferings and death for your sake. He puts every one in mind, that whosoever shall eat this bread, (ver. 27.) so called from the outward appearances, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall, by such a sacrilege, be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. And (ver. 29.) that he eateth, and drinketh judgment, or condemnation to himself, not discerning the difference betwixt celestial food and other meats, and not considering it to be truly the body of the Lord. See St. Chrysostom, hom. xxvii. If the words of our Saviour, this is my body, &c. were to be understood in a metaphorical and figurative sense only, is it probable that St. Paul, writing twenty-four years afterwards, to the new converted Gentiles at Corinth, would have used words, which full as clearly express a true and real presence of Christ’s body in the eucharist, without one word to signify that this was to be understood in a figurative sense only? (Witham)

Ver. 24. Juvenius, a native of Spain, and a priest, who flourished under Constantine the Great, about the year 329, has left us the life of Christ in hexameter verse, where speaking of the institution of the eucharist, he says, “Christ taught his disciples, that he delivered to them his own body;” and when he gave them the chalice, “he taught them that he had distributed to them his blood: and said, this blood remits the sins of the people: drink this, it is mine.” (Bibl. Max. P. P. T. iv. p. 74)

Discipulos docuit proprium se tradere corpus,

Edocuitque suum se divisisse cruorem.

Atque ait: Hic sanguis populi delicta remittit:

Hunc potate meum.

Ver. 27. Or drink. Here erroneous translators corrupted the text, by putting and drink (contrary to the original, e pine ) instead of or drink. — Guilty of the body, &c. not discerning the body, &c. This demonstrates the real presence of the body and blood of Christ, even to the unworthy communicant; who otherwise could not be guilty of the body and blood of Christ, or justly condemned for not discerning the Lord’s body. (Challoner) — The real presence in the sacrament is also proved by the enormity of the crime, in its profanation. See St. Chrysostom, hom. de non contem. ec. and hom. lx. and lxi. ad pop. Antioch. where he shews that the unworthy receiver imitates the Jews in crucifying Jesus, and trampling under foot his sacred blood. Hence the dreadful punishments we read of in verses 27 and 30.

Ver. 28. Drink of the chalice. This is not said by way of command, but by way of allowance, viz. where and when it is agreeable to the practice and discipline of the Church. (Challoner)

Ver. 30-32. Therefore in punishment of the sin of receiving unworthily, many are infirm, visited with infirmities, even that bring death, which is meant by those words, many sleep. But it is a mercy of God, when he only punishes by sickness, or a corporal death, and does not permit us to perish for ever, or be condemned with this wicked world. To avoid this, let a man prove himself, examine the state of his conscience, especially before he receives the holy sacrament, confess his sins, and be absolved by those to whom Christ left the power of forgiving sins in his name, and by his authority. If we judge ourselves in this manner, we shall not be judged, that is, condemned. (Witham)


[1] Ver. 3. Debet mulier potestatem habere super caput suum, exousian, but some Greek copies have peribolaion, cinctorium, velum.

[2] Ver. 3. Nec ipsa natura docet vos. I do not find an interrogation in the Latin copies, as it is marked in the Greek, oude didaskei umas. The rest of the text seems to be better connected, if we read it with an interrogation.

[3] Ver. 17. Jam non est dominicam cœnam manducare, kuriakon deipnon. This expression is used no where else in the New Testament, and it is much more probable, that by it St. Paul signifies those charitable [Agape] suppers, which the Christians had together, in imitation of Christ’s supper with his disciples before he instituted the holy mysteries, which was after supper, as St. Paul here says, ver. 25. and St. Luke xxii. The sacrament of the Lord’s body and blood has been called the Eucharist, even from the first ages[centuries] of the Christian religion, as appears by the epistles of St. Ignatius, by St. Irenĉus, Tertullian, &c. The late pretended reformers found it called by this name in the Catholic Church. Why then should they, who pretend to nothing but Scripture, affect to give it no name but the Lord’s supper, when these words in the Scripture signify a different supper?

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Women must have a covering over their heads. He blameth the abuses of their charity feasts; and upon that occasion, treats of the blessed sacrament.

1 Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ.

2 Now I praise you, brethren, that in all things you are mindful of me: and keep my ordinances as I delivered them to you.

3 But I would have you know *that the head of every man is Christ: and the head of the woman is the man: and the head of Christ, is God.

4 Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered, disgraceth his head.

5 But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered, disgraceth her head: for it is all one as if she were shaven.

6 For if a woman be not covered, let her be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her cover her head.

7 The man, indeed, ought not to cover his head: because he is the *image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man.

8 For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man.

9 *For the man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man.

10 Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the Angels.

11 But yet neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord.

12 For as the woman is of the man, so also is the man by the woman: but all things of God.

13 Judge you yourselves: doth it become a woman, to pray to God uncovered?

14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that a man, indeed, if he nourish his hair, it is a shame to him:

15 But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.

16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the church of God.

17 Now this I ordain: not praising you, that you come together not for the better, but for the worse.

18 For first of all I hear, that when you come together in the church, there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.

19 For there must be also heresies: that they also, who are reproved, may be made manifest among you.

20 When you come together therefore into one place, it is not now to eat the Lord’s supper.

21 For every one taketh before his own supper to eat. And one indeed is hungry, and another is drunk.

22 What, have you not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God, and put them to shame that have not? What shall I say to you? Do I praise you? In this I praise you not.

23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, the night in which he was betrayed, took bread,

24 And giving thanks, broke, and said: *Take ye, and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered for you: do this for the commemoration of me.

25 In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you shall drink it for the commemoration of me.

26 For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord until he come.

27 *Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.

28 *But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice.

29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.

30 Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep.

31 But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

32 But whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord; that we may not be condemned with this world.

33 Wherefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.

34 If any man be hungry, let him eat at home: that you come not together unto judgment. And the rest I will set in order, when I come.



3: Ephesians v. 23.

7: Genesis i. 26.

9: Genesis ii. 23.

24: Matthew xxvi. 26.; Mark xiv. 22.; Luke xxii. 19.

27: John vi. 59.

28: 2 Corinthians xiii. 5.