Exousia echein epi tês kephalês:
1 Cor 11:10 and the Ecclesial Authority of Women

Sheila E. McGinn, Ph.D.

One of the more problematic passages for Pauline interpretation is I Cor 11:2-16, which traditionally has been understood as showing that Paul reinforces the sex role definitions of patriarchal Græco-Roman culture.(1) At the high point of his discussion of proper dress for prophetesses in the Christian assembly, traditionalists argue, Paul requires the submission of female prophets to the authority of human males. Similar to the headless horseman of American popular legend, women are headless without a man--and this trait applies as well to prophetic women. This subordinationist position has become not only part of the interpretive tradition, but is inherent in the English translations as well. This translational and interpretive history has caused feminist scholars to reject the text itself as "irredeemable."

I will accede that the traditional readings of this text indeed are irredeemable for the healthy life of women and men in the church today. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, who has contributed so much to biblical and feminist studies, has tried to salvage the text by suggesting that Paul is here taking for granted a distinction between married and unmarried women; under the influence of 1 Cor 14:33b-36, she finds that unmarried women are allowed to prophesy whereas married women remain subordinated and are forbidden to speak at all in the liturgical gathering. But Paul gives no indication that the Spirit can bestow the prophetic gift only on single women. If the text is read as saying that women, even women prophets, must be subject to a human male in everything-- including the matter of prophetic speech--then there can be no female prophets at all. We are no longer talking about a prophetic gift which comes unmediated from God; we are no longer concerned with a prophetic message which can challenge the status quo, which stands outside it and even may directly oppose it. If women prophets are headless and therefore subject to the authority of male human heads--and let us be clear on this, it is the authority of men due to their maleness; there is no idea of restricting this authority to male prophets--if this is what Paul teaches in 1 Cor 11, then feminist critics are right in utterly rejecting this passage. If this is the case, Paul teaches that women cannot be prophets at all.(2)

However, is this the only reading of the text? Is this subordinationist view (the "headless prophetess") the most compelling interpretation of the text? I think not. In fact, the notion that v. 10 refers to an authority superior to the woman prophet and to which she is subordinated is quite a faulty understanding of the text.

In this essay, I will argue that it is not the text itself that conveys this subordinationist view. Rather, a significant translators' bias regarding 1 Cor 11:10 has led to a misleading representation of the text. This, combined with the ensuing interpretive tradition, has undermined the obvious meaning of the text to create a subordinationist exegesis--thereby indirectly giving rise to the feminist critique and rejection of the text as "irredeemable." An analysis of the structure of 1 Cor 11:2-16 shows that verse 10 is the key to reclaiming this text for future discussion.

1 Cor 11:10 is the key to interpretation of this pericope. Not only is it the central verse of the chiasm Gordon Fee has noted in 8-9 and 11-12,(3) it is also the center of the entire argument of 1 Cor 11:2-16. The chiasm includes not only vv. 8-12, but all of 1 Cor 11:2-16, and verse 10 provides the key to its interpretation.(4)

A 1 Cor 11:2-3        
  B 1 Cor 11:4-5      
    C 1 Cor 11:6-7    
      D 1 Cor 11:8-9  
        E 1 Cor 11:10 -- dia touto opheilei hE gunE exousian echein epi tEs kephalEs dia tous angelous
      D' 1 Cor 11:11-12  
    C' 1 Cor 11:13    
  B' 1 Cor 11:14-15      
A' 1 Cor 11:16        

A/A': Verse 2 introduces the idea of the Corinthians' faithfulness to the tradition Paul has transmitted to them, while v. 3 provides the content of the tradition which will be discussed: the notion of "headship;" v. 16 repeats this claim to the authority of the tradition, now understood in light of v. 10.

B/B': In vv. 4-5, Paul begins the explication of the specific tradition mentioned in v. 3 by applying the distinction between male and female "heads" (v. 3) and the idea of a head covering. The significance of a head covering again is emphasized in vv. 14-15, where the argument from "nature" (and the analogy with hair styles) is designed to demonstrate that it is appropriate for women to have their heads covered. At this point it is important to note two things: (1) the term for "covering" is not kalymma (veil);(5) and (2) the covering Paul has in view does not require silence; on the contrary, it is precisely because the woman is actively praying and prophesying in the Christian assembly that she needs to wear a head covering. (Presumably, a silent woman would not need one.)

C/C': In vv. 6-7, Paul extends the comparison of this head covering to the woman's hair, and uses the cultural interpretations of long and short hair styles for women to bolster his argument that women ought to keep their hair covered, while men ought not. In v. 13, he charges the Corinthians to decide whether or not this argument from cultural convention is persuasive or not. Presumably, he believes it is.

D/D': At this point in the argument, Paul seems to think he may have emphasized too strongly the differences between men and women, so he inserts two sets of parenthetical remarks. The first (vv. 8-9) attempts to clarify the reference in v. 7 to woman being the doxa (glory) of man. Using Genesis 2 as the basis for this argument, Paul points out that woman was created from and for man. But the second parenthetical remark (vv. 11-12) makes it clear that this appeal to the original "order of creation" is intended to bridge divisions between men and women, not to create them: neither man nor woman is independent of the other; men are now born of women, which is a reversal of the original order of creation; and God is the source of all things, including woman and man.

E: At this point in the analysis, it is still not clear what precisely Paul intends to do in this pericope. It remains for verse 10 to provide the interpretive key to this passage. However, there are three terms which must be discussed before we undertake this task. Two of these terms (kephalE and katakalyptw) appear in the text; the third term (kalymma) is significant for its absence.

KephalE. Literally "head,"kephalE also may be used in a metaphorical sense meaning "leader" or "source." In 1 Cor 11:2-16, Paul moves back and forth between the literal usage and the metaphorical usage. Since the English word "head" can support the same range of meaning, translators usually use this word to render kephalE. This wisely leaves the reader with the task of determining how the term is used in a given instance.

Verse 3 is the one undisputable case of metaphorical usage of the term (God:Christ:man; man/husband:woman). Commentators disagree on how this metaphor should be construed, whether in the sense of "leader" or "source."(6) But the underlying issue seems to be whether or not the metaphor should be understood in a subordinationist sense, whatever term is used in the translation. Analysis of verse 10 will provide the final answer to this question. However, one also must address the conjunction of the term kephalE with the notion that "woman is the doxa of man" (v.7) and ask why it results in the injunction: katakalypesthw.

Katakalyptw and kalymma. Katakalyptw comes from kalyptw, the basic meaning of which is to hide or bury in the earth or, more generally, to "cover." Albrecht Oepke (in the TDNT) mentions that "Even when the idea of burying is not present, a connection with death often suggests the basic meaning."(7) The figurative sense of covering over (forgiving) sins is common in the Old Testament.

The related term, kalymma, means "veil" or "mask," and harks back to the wearing of a mask by Moses when representing the Lord. Exodus 34:30-35 reports that, after talking directly with God on Sinai, Moses' face shone with the doxa of God and the people could not bear to see it; Moses left his face uncovered when proclaiming to Israel the words that God gave him, but "he put a kalymma on his face" when he finished reporting the divine word, and left it on until he went again to speak with the LORD.

In pagan cults, there was a belief that covering the face with a sacred mask (kalymma) "confers divine powers on the wearer. In particular, it enables the priest to give an oracle in the name of the deity. Hence covering the face serves to reveal rather than to conceal the divine."(8) But Paul refuses this common term kalymma and with it the contemporary pagan notion that veiling allows revelation. Instead he elects the tradition of the Hebrew Bible that conjoins revelation with direct speech and uncovered face.

To convey this directness, Paul chooses the term anakalyptw, meaning "uncover," "unveil," or "open" (e.g., a package, a womb). In 2 Cor 3:18, anakekalymmenw refers to the immediacy and absoluteness of the Christian experience of God, even for women: "we all, with uncovered face beholding the glory (doxa) of the Lord, are changed into the same image."(9)

This use of anakalyptw in 2 Cor 3:18 should influence our understanding of katakalyptw in 1 Cor 11:2-16. If even women behold the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces, then katakalyptw cannot entail wearing the veil (since it would cover the face); the verb must be taken in the more general sense of "covering" the head. If this is true, the comparison with long hair as a peribolaion (mantle) in v.15 makes better sense, as nature's sign that the head should be covered (but not the face).(10)

If katakalyptein means "to cover (the head)" but not "to veil,"(11) then an apparent contradiction in the text is resolved. In Jewish culture, the wearing of a kalymma was a symbol of a woman's silent submission to the mastery of a man. It is problematic to insist that in 1 Cor 11 katakalypesthw means "let her wear a veil" (RSV) because the kalymma means silence before men, whereas the context presumes that a woman (covered or uncovered) does indeed speak before and to men--she prays or prophesies in the liturgical assembly (v. 5). And because such prayer and prophecy are revelations of the divine word, the woman (like Moses) must have her face uncovered if the prophetic message is to be heard. To show that she is a woman, her head/hair should be covered; but she must be unveiled.

I have argued elsewhere that the context of this discussion is provided by the Pauline understanding of the Spirit as a thoroughly eschatological reality: the Christian experience of the Spirit is a foretaste of the perfected reality intended by God.(12) This experience was viewed by Paul and by the Corinthians as something affecting the social life of the Christian community and its relationship to the world at large. Hence, their eschatology is inherently a socio-political ideology. The Corinthians believed that Paul's "no more male and female" should be taken seriously on the social and political levels. But they apparently went too far--taking this to mean that Christians had entered into an androgynous resurrection existence. Paul tries, in 1 Corinthians, to persuade them rather that the experience of the Spirit does not entail a denial of human sexuality. Instead, it provides the basis for using male and female differences to create mutuality rather than domination.

Finally we can return to verse 10: dia touto opheilei hE gunE exousian echein epi tEs kephalEs dia tous angelous. The RSV translation reads: "That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels." Having just discussed the significance of the term kalymma--and the significance of Paul's consistent rejection of it throughout this passage--it is remarkable to find the phrase "to have a veil on her head" being used to render exousian echein epi tEs kephalEs.(13)

Exousian echein epi tEs kephalEs. Indeed, a quick review of the English versions shows that the RSV translators are not the only ones who read this verse against a subordinationist background. In 1 Cor 11:10, the phrase exousian echein epi tEs kephalEs has been variously translated as "power on (her) head" (KJV; IB-1a), "a sign of power on (her) head" (Aubert), "a sign of authority on (her) head" (NIV; NEB), "a symbol of authority on (her) head" (NASB; NRSV), "a sign of submission on (her) head" (NAB), "a symbol of man's authority on (her) head" (Williams), "a symbol of the authority over them" (JB), "a sign of the authority over her" (NJB), "a sign of dependence" (IB-2a), "protection" (IB-2b; Conzelmann(14)), and "a veil on (her) head" (RSV; Clark;(15) IB-1b).

These translations are remarkable for their creativity. Except for the KJV, which is the most literal, each translation adds some phrase like "a symbol of" before the term exousia (power, authority), or simply replaces the term exousia with a totally contrary idea (submission, protection, dependence, veil). And each one inserts the possessive pronoun "her" before kephalE, in place of the definite article. One might be reminded of the exasperation of Sir William Mitchell Ramsay with scholars commenting upon this verse:

Most of the ancient and modern commentators say that the "authority" which the woman wears on her head is the authority to which she is subject --a preposterous idea which a Greek scholar would laugh at anywhere except in the New Testament, where (as they seem to think) Greek words may mean anything that commentators choose. Authority or power that belongs to the bearer, such power as the magistrate possesses in virtue of his office, was meant by the Greek word exousia.(16)

Curiously enough, the translators realize this fact when dealing with other passages with precisely the same phrase--when the passages refer to the authority of men. Because the RSV has been the scholarly standard, I will use it as a case study.

The phrase exousian echein occurs only once in the GNT, here in 1 Cor 11. However, it appears three times in the LXX: in Dan 4:17, 1 Macc 11:58, and 1 Esdras 8:22. In each case, the phrase is translated quite differently than the identical phrase in 1 Cor 11. In 1 Macc 11:58 we read: ". . . and granted him the right . . . ;" and in 1 Esdras 8:24: ". . . no one has authority to impose any tax . . . ." The RSV translation of Dan 4:17 uses the reading from the Theodotian text, which does not include this exact phrase (whereas the LXX does); in both Greek versions (Theodotian and LXX), the verse clearly refers to the ruling power of God.

In each of these instances, then, the phrase exousian echein is translated as referring to the authority of the subject of the verb over others.(17) Coincidentally, each of the subjects in these passages are male. Yet when the identical phrase is used in reference to a woman in 1 Cor 11:10, it is translated as meaning that the subject of the verb is subordinate to the authority of others--precisely the reverse of these other references. The obvious meaning of the text--that the woman has authority--is subverted.

To a certain extent, this subversion occurs because the term kephalE is taken literally in verse 10. It is not clear what it would mean to have power over one's own head, and the difficulty is attributed to the idea of the woman's power--rather than the assumption that kephalE here refers to her cranium.(18) However, if one takes the term kephalE in its metaphorical sense (as clearly is the case in v. 3, and perhaps 4b and 5b as well), the phrase epi tEs kephalEs becomes a reference to the prophetic woman's authority "over the head," i.e., over ho anEr, "the man" (v. 3). Then exousia can be taken in its obvious sense, as a reference to "the power and the honour and dignity of the woman" (as Ramsay argued nearly a century ago), without sacrificing the intelligibility of the verse as a whole.(19) Thus, a revised translation would read: "On account of all these things, the woman has a right to authority over the 'head' [i.e., the man] through the angels."(20)

Once this new translation of verse 10 is pursued, the irony of Paul's statement becomes obvious: the patriarch to whom the woman has owed submission has become one over whom she has authority dia tous angelous. And, as Schüssler Fiorenza points out, this authority "because of the angels" is not some sort of requirement that the woman justify her actions, as if the angels somehow require information or appeasement.(21) On the contrary, the angels are the mediators of this power of prophetic women over men because they are the ones "who according to Jewish and Christian apocalyptic theology mediate the 'words of prophecy'"(22)--and because, according to Paul, it is angelic speech which underlies Christian prayer and prophecy.

So if the woman has this kind of prophetic authority over women and men (even her husband), why then should she not lead prayer and proclaim the prophetic word with her head bare, as men do? Granting that she may not wear the veil, why does she need a head covering of any kind? Why does Paul insist: katakalypesthw? A return to Ramsay's work may provide a clue.

Ramsay remarked on the difference in social status and authority of covered women versus uncovered women. Uncovered women were social outcasts--prostitutes, slaves, lepers--whereas covered women were respected persons of status. In ancient societies, laws about veiling women were aimed to prohibit the wearing of veils by marginated women as much as they were intended to enjoin the wearing of veils by "respectable" women.

If this is the proper context for understanding Paul's injunction about the wearing of head-coverings, then this rule takes on a different meaning. If all women who prophesy should wear a head-covering, then two possibilities present themselves: (1) either only free women of social status may exercise such a ministry in the church; or (2) all baptized women should now wear the head-covering which is the mark of their freedom and equality of status in Christ (their mark of authority). Since Paul argues in the rest of chapter 11 that social status should not create distinctions in the liturgical celebration, we can eliminate the first possibility.

The second option then remains. A woman's head covering becomes a physical sign that baptism has eliminated class distinctions between her and other women. Katakalypesthw then becomes an injunction to remember the baptismal experience of being buried with Christ (since it comes from kalyptw, to hide or bury in the earth). And a woman's authority, through the angels, to prophesy and lead prayer becomes a symbolic enactment and foretaste of the resurrection.(23)

This interpretation sheds new light on the opening of the verse, and suggests that opheilei hE gunE exousian echein . . . dia tous angelous should be read as an infinitive of result,(24) with verse 11 specifying that result: plEn oute gunE chwris andros oute anEr chwris gunaikos en Kyriwi, "In the Lord woman is not separate from man nor is man separate from woman."(25) In Christ, and through the angels, baptized women gain authority as women. Under the influence of the divine Spirit, traditional inequalities are abrogated--both inequalities between different classes of women, and between women and men--at least in the divine liturgy.

1 Cor 11:2-16 is irredeemable if one adopts the "received" translation of the text. However, it is a misunderstanding (and mis-translation) of verse 10 that is the crux of the issue. On the basis of a more literal translation of this verse, which is the center of the chiastic structure of vv. 2-16 and provides the key to interpretation of the pericope, the passage can be "redeemed" as a positive affirmation of the relationships of women and men in the church.

Since Paul's argument in 1 Cor 11:2-16 is aimed at the dress of women, not their speech, it is clear that he does not intend to silence women altogether. On the contrary, I contend that his interest in dress springs from a desire to support the equality of Christian women of various classes, and also to uphold the authority of prophetic women as women. Far from placing these women in a position of submission and subordination to the men in the assembly, Paul argues that dressing in such a way that they are recognized as baptized women provides a physical reminder to the men in the assembly that baptism has abrogated the cultural domination of women by men. Indeed, because baptism brings a foretaste of the eschatological reality, women of the Spirit now have authority "through the angels." Once chosen by the Spirit for a prophetic task, a woman's range of authority now includes even power over "her head" (i.e., men, even her husband).

Paul clearly refutes the idea that this authority requires a denial of their sexuality. Women have access to the Spirit, just as do men and, when they are gifted by the Spirit, women have the same divine authority as do prophetic men. This is their right as women, not as androgynous (or male) beings. Women convey their right to this divine authority by praying or prophesying while wearing a head covering. The head covering unmistakably proclaims their redeemed "femaleness" to all observers.

Thus the head-covering of the prophetess, like the cross of Christ, becomes a sign of contradiction graphically depicting the wisdom of God which is foolishness in the eyes of men.(26)

This paper raises two issues for further research. The first is an analysis of the history of translation and interpretation of this passage to determine when, and as much as possible why, 1 Cor 11:10 began to be translated with a subjectionist meaning. A preliminary review of this question (using the critical apparatus in Nestle-Aland) indicates that Irenaeus, Augustine, and Jerome interpreted the text in this way, using "veil" to translate the term exousia; the Vulgate text presents the same translation. Also, since the phrase exousian echein appears so infrequently within the Scriptural canon, it would be interesting to engage in a comparison of the patterns of translation of this phrase in the extra-canonical Greek literature.

The second issue which presents itself in analyzing this passage is the possibility that some of the interpretive difficulties arise because the passage has been interpolated. In developing the chiastic structure of the pericope, I was interested to find that the two most problematic verses (3 and 7) are the only ones that do not fit perfectly into the pattern. In my analysis here, I have accepted them as authentic. However, the relative insecurity of their placement in the argument suggests that the issue of interpolations should be re-considered.


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This paper was first published as the lead article in a special issue on "The Social World of St. Paul" in Listening: Journal of Religion and Culture 31, 2 (Spring 1996) 91-104; ISSN 0024-4414. Reprints are available from the editor at Lewis University, Box 1108, Rte. 53, Romeoville, IL 60446-2298.

1. Some have responded to this difficulty by arguing that this text is a non-Pauline interpolation. E.g., see Lamar Cope, "1 Cor 11:2-16: One Step Further," JBL 97 (1978): 435-436; Winsome Munro, "Women, Text and the Canon: The Strange Case of 1 Corinthians 14:33-35," BTB 17 (1988): 26-31 and Authority in Paul and Peter: The Identification of a Pastoral Stratum in the Pauline Corpus and 1 Peter, SNTSMS 45 (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 67-82; G. W. Trompf, "On Attitudes Toward Women in Paul and Paulist Literature: 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 and Its Context," CBQ 42 (1980): 196-215; and William O. Walker, Jr., "1 Cor. 11:2-16 and Paul's Views Regarding Women," JBL 94 (1975): 94-110 and "The Theology of Women's Place and the Paulist Tradition," Semeia 28 (1983): 101-112.

Since there is no manuscript evidence to support the interpolation theory, I am working under the assumption that this text is authentically Pauline. For a more detailed discussion of this and other background issues, see Sheila E. McGinn-Moorer, The New Prophecy of Asia Minor and the Rise of Ecclesiastical Patriarchy in Second Century Pauline Traditions (Ph.D. Dissertation; Evanston, IL: Northwestern University, 1989), 122-158; henceforth The New Prophecy.

2. And it necessitates something very like the procedure in force in Tertullian's church, ca. CE 200. There, a woman who believed she received a prophetic word during the church meeting was forbidden to speak it aloud. After the liturgy, the woman was to relay this message to the male elders, who would pronounce on the value of the message. If the elders believed that it was truly a divine message, these men would proclaim it at the next liturgical gathering. The woman herself was never to presume to teach or lead such a mixed audience.

3. Fee [The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987)] has advanced beyond many previous analyses by not relying upon the theory that Paul's complex argument itself is confused, or that its various parts are mutually contradictory. Compare, e.g., Hans Conzelmann's assessment of the passage -- that "the arguments within it are somewhat confused" [1 Corinthians (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975), 182] -- which still reflects well the opinion of many scholars on this issue.

Disagreement exists on the issue of whether Paul's aim was broader than simply persuading the Corinthians to change the current liturgical practice of their prophetesses (and prophets?). This question can be answered only by examining the structure of the passage and the use of the two key words mentioned above: exousia and katakalyptw.

4. My own English translation of this passage can be found in the Appendix, where it is printed in the chiastic form illustrated here.

5. While kalymma is an alternate reading in the manuscripts, it should not be the preferred reading. Bruce Metzger [TCGNT, corrected edition (London/New York: United Bible Societies, 1975), 562] calls it an "explanatory gloss . . . read by several versional and patristic witnesses (copbo mss arm? ethro Valentiniansacc. to Irenaeus Ptolemyacc. to Irenaeus Irenaeusgr,lat Tertullian Jerome Augustine)." There is good reason to reject this reading as early evidence of the translational and interpretive tradition I am outlining in this discussion. Westcott and Hort noted this reading in their critical edition (1895) and also rejected it.

6. For example, Fee (I Corinthians, 502-503) argues against the "leader" interpretation because 11:3 is not an argument for woman's subordination to man by virtue of natural law, but rather a rehearsal of the "order of creation" in a strictly chronological sense. Hence, kephalE should not be understood as meaning "leader," but rather "source," especially "source of life." And, on the basis of his structural analysis of the argument, Fee argues that neither should 11:8-9 be taken in a subordinationist sense; on the contrary, since 11:8-9, 11-12 form a chiasm, 11:11-12 should be taken as qualifying verse 8. (Ibid., 512-524; see 493-494 for Fee's structural outline of the entire passage.) Fee especially sees the qualifying statement in verse 12c--"all things (are) from God"--as preventing a subjectionist understanding: "[T]he final qualifier . . . puts the whole of vv. 7-9 into proper Pauline perspective. Both man and woman, not just man, are from God. God made the one from dust, the other through man, and now finally both through woman. This seems clearly designed to keep the earlier argument from being read in a subordinationist way." (Ibid., 524.)

7. Albrect Oepke, "kalyptw, ktl.," TDNT 3.556-557.

8. Ibid., 559. This is a remarkable comparison in light of the subject of 1 Cor 11:2-16. In 2 Cor 3:14, Paul uses the term to refer to that which prevents the Israelites from seeing the glory of God in Christ.

9. Ibid., 561; my emphasis.

10. Cf. Ben Witherington III, Women in the Earliest Churches (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1988; SNTSMS 59), 81-84.

11. Contra Oepke, TDNT 3.561.

12. McGinn-Moorer, The New Prophecy, 122-158.

13. This alerts the reader to the singular significance of the phrase for interpreting this passage, and particularly of the term exousia.

14. While Conzelmann (1 Corinthians, 181) actually gives the translation as "a power," his discussion (Ibid., 189) of what this "power" means makes it clear that he intends a different meaning: "the exousia is a protection, in the sense of a compensation for the natural weakness of woman. . . ."

15. Stephen B. Clark, Man and Woman in Christ: An Examination of the Roles of Men and Women in Light of Scripture and the Social Sciences (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1980).

16. Ramsay, The Cities of St. Paul: Their Influence on His Life and Thought. The Cities of Eastern Asia Minor (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son; London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1908), 203. I am indebted to Witherington, Women in the Earliest Churches, 87, for the initial reference to Ramsay.

17. A search through the Thesaurus Lingua Graeca produced several other instances of in authors of the first century CE or earlier (e.g., Aristotle, Epictetus, Josephus). Thus far, each case that I have investigated has demonstrated the same translational trend as I have outlined here for the LXX passages: the phrase exousian echein is rendered as referring to the "right" or "authority" of the subject of the verb over or in reference to someone or something else. For example, in Aristotle's Politics the phrase occurs in 1291b.41 and 1293a.15; in both cases, it is translated as a reference to the subject's "right (to hold office/to participate)." The subject of the verb here is likewise male. This comparative translational issue in itself is worthy of a detailed investigation.

18. Murphy-O'Connor undercuts his own view because he presumes that the woman's power ought literally to be "on her head," whereas echw epi, when used with a term denoting power (in this case, exousia), means to have "power, authority, control of or over someone or something." See BAGD, 277-278; my emphasis.

19. It should be observed that Ramsay could make this statement about a woman's authority because he was making a comparison between the authority of the veiled, respectable, married, aristocratic woman and the lack of authority of the unveiled, unrespectable prostitute or slave. Most discussions of 1 Cor 11:2-16 compare the status of women versus men, rather than the status of veiled women versus non-veiled women. The former is an important issue but, as I argue below, the latter may be equally as important to understanding the impact of the injunction by Paul to those women who speak forth in the liturgical assembly: katakalyptw.

20. A more typical translation of the verse would be, "As a result, a woman ought to have authority over her head through [the agency of] the angels." For example, William O. Walker, Jr. (in private correspondence dated 1/5/92) has argued for a reading closer to this, since the verb pheilw conjoined with an infinitive carries with it the sense of obligation rather than suitability (cf. BAGD, "pheilw," 598). In spite of her avowedly feminist agenda, Antionnette Clark Wire's translation--in The Corinthian Women Prophets: A Reconstruction theough Paul's Rhetoric (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), p. 21--is virtually identical to the one mentioned above ("should have authority on the head . . ."). Wire herself recognizes "This reversed meaning of the words 'have authority' . . ." which would be required by such a translation, but she attributes the reversal to Paul. She does not address the fact that there are simply no other cases in the extant contemporaneous Greek literature where this verb construction carries such a "reversed meaning" as she imputes to Paul.

Contrary to this traditional trajectory, I have translated opheilei as referring to something that one must give to the woman, precisely because the particular infinitive construction in question (exousian echein) always refers to the authority of the subject of the verb. There are two primary reasons for this translational choice. First of all, it is grammatically permissible. Secondly, the alternative translation "ought to have authority" is too reminiscent of the traditional subordinationist translation and, in light of the interpretive tradition for this verse, seems to imply that there is some deficiency in the woman that creates this requirement. On the contrary, the clear meaning of the Greek is that the deficiency is in the cultural tradition which has prevented her having what is now her due.

21. As examples of this theory, see Murphy-O'Connor (Becoming Human Together, 195-196), and Witherington (Women in the Earliest Churches, 88-89), who arrive at very similar viewpoints on the role of the angels, though they begin from quite different starting points on the passage. Compare also Prusak ("Woman: Seductive Siren and Source of Sin?"), who interprets the veil of 1 Cor 11 as "a brand of shame or a scarlet letter for once having caused the Fall of Adam and of the angels" (99).

22. Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her, 228.

23. Perhaps Wire was trying to move in this direction when she remarked that Paul intended the women prophets' self-imposed use of a head covering to be a sign of their authority (Corinthian Women Prophets, 133). However, her explicit claim is that the Corinthian women prophet's uncovered heads were their sign of proximity to and authority from God. She does not address the issue of class distinctions among women and how they would be reflected in this debate concerning head coverings.

24. This is particularly persuasive since the verse opens with dia touto, a common phrase indicating result. For further discussion of this topic, see BDF #391.

25. My translation. Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her, 229, following the translation of Josef Kürzinger ["Frau und Mann nach 1 Kor 11.11f," BZ 22 (1978), 270-275] has: "In the Lord woman is not different from man nor man from woman. In other words, as Christians women and men are equal." I see a problem with this translation, because I think Paul is indeed saying there is a difference between woman and man, but "in Christ" this difference provides a basis for equality and mutuality, rather than for domination and submission.

26. Many scholars accept the Pauline authorship of the passage, and believe that the subordinationist assumptions of 1 Cor 11:3, 8-9 are the framework for his argument, but do not accept that these assumptions comprise the interpretive key for the passage as a whole. I have followed this trend in arguing that, while Paul may intend these verses to provide the context for his discussion, the main thrust of his argument is not confined to these assumptions. Indeed, whether intentionally or not, Paul's teaching about the power of prophetesses serves to undercut the validity of precisely the same assumptions presented in vv. 3, 8-9. And, according to Fee's analysis, the structure of the passage indicates that Paul's intention was precisely this: to affirm the distinctions between women and men while also affirming the authority of women of spirit.