But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God. - 1 Corinthians 11:16

Upon reading this verse in the context of the preceding passage, I get the impression that 1 Corinthians 11:16 is saying that if anyone resists the idea of women covering their heads (whether that be by a veil or with long hair), treat it as though that custom did not exist, namely, one does not need to practice it.

However, no Christian commentators have said the same. Most say that the "custom" refers to being contentious, although this does not seem to make sense with the flow of the text. Also, "custom" is a noun, while "be contentious" is a verb phrase, and so it makes no sense to use "custom" to refer to "be contentious". Other commentators say that the "custom" is women praying and prophesying with their heads uncovered; however, this also does not seem to make sense of the flow of the text, and the main subject of the passage is women covering their heads, not keeping them uncovered, although the two subjects are, of course, closely related.

What points in 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, and verse 16 in particular, justify these two interpretations, if there are any? Is there anything which may support my interpretation?

In other words, what is the custom of verse 16?

Thank you.

  • @Ruminator Based on my experience, it doesn't matter which one you look at, every single commentators presents either of these two viewpoints. I suppose that my question can be sinplified into, what is the "custom" referring to in verse 16? I edited the question. – CMK Oct 16 '18 at 11:30
  • Paul says 'we have no such custom'. That is to say the custom of a woman praying or prophesying without a suitable head covering is not customary among them. If all of his previous arguments are not accepted, then this must finally be accepted - 'we don't do that among us - it is not our custom.' So either the contender conforms - or they will not be accepted among the people worshipping. – Nigel J Oct 16 '18 at 13:53
  • @NigelJ It just doesn't seem to me like the custom being referred to is women leaving their heads uncovered, seeing as the theme of the image is women covering their heads, not the opposite. It also does not make sense of the flow of the passage. – CMK Oct 16 '18 at 21:15

My understanding of 1 Corinthians 11 is that Paul is responding to reports that someone (presumably a Jew) is insisting that either the Jewish believers of Corinth or all Jewish believers practice the Jewish custom of wearing a prayer shawl or a yarmulke when they pray or prophesy, at least publicly.

In his brief rebuttal in 1 Cor 11:1-16 Paul argues the following:

So Paul praises the Corinthians for following the customs he handed down but urges them now to ignore the custom of headcoverings for men when they pray or prophesy.

  • Paul isn't telling the Corinthians to eat the Passover – warren Oct 16 '18 at 20:56
  • Thank you for your answer. But what, exactly, is the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:16? – CMK Oct 16 '18 at 21:12
  • @warren I removed the reference to the second part of the chapter as it was irrelevant and thus unnecessarily controversial. – Ruminator Oct 22 '18 at 7:41
  • @CMK I answered the question the in the question which was about the identification of the custom to ignore: "Which custom does 1 Corinthians 11:16 say the saints are to ignore?". It is the custom of head coverings. – Ruminator Oct 22 '18 at 7:45

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