“It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels.”
(1 Corinthians 11:10 NIV Bible)
What’s that stuff about the angels?
I’d like to suggest that head covering is a sign of the authority of man over woman to remind the church of God’s created purposes for man and woman in the face of spiritual attack from fallen angels.
Here are my reasons:
- Paul rarely, if ever, drops ideas into his writing out of the blue. Instead, he moves from one idea to another, even if the particular meaning is not 100% clear (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:29).
- Therefore, it seems likely that “the angels” are connected to the reasoning from creation in verses 7-9, i.e. the deception of the woman by the fallen angel Satan, and the continuing work of fallen angels to undermine women’s relationship with man (see Genesis 6:1-2 and Paul’s repeated instructions to women or about women continuing to fulfil that creation purpose – 1 Cor 7:10-11, 14:34-38, 1 Timothy 2:11-15, 5:3-16).
- This understanding of “the angels” is supported by the similar argumentation in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 which includes creation reasoning, deception and childbirth (see 1 Cor 11:11-12).
- The specific use of “authority” in 1 Corinthians 11:10 also makes one consider the rebellion of fallen angels and their targeting women in particular (but also men, of course) who are under authority. Authority is also integral to the argument in 1 Timothy 2:11-15.
- God institutes traditions for the sake of the Church, not angels.
Therefore, head covering is a sign of the authority of man over woman to remind the church of God’s created purposes for man and woman in the face of spiritual attack from fallen angels.