In an attempt to do a study contextually on 1 Cor. 11:1-16, there is a need to first understand the customs and civilization of the age and time apostle Paul, the Corinthian church, and all the other churches in existence then lived in. Secondly, to also know and understand the particular problem on ground in which he (Paul) was addressing in this Epistle. When we allow this background information form the foundation of our understanding, it becomes very easy to fully comprehend the mind and motive of the writer; what exactly was his aim and goal for the holy writ.It appears, it was a political law and custom among Greeks and Romans, and among the Jews, an express law, that no woman should be seen abroad without a veil; she would be dishonouring her head-husband for the married, and father for the unmarried. Failure or refusal to be veiled publicly as a woman then was viewed and required to appear as if she was shorn for the punishment of whoredom, or adultery (Num. 5:11-18). Or, like the women reduced to the state of servitude or slavery, who also had their hair cut off, so that it is deprived of it’s ornaments; and the female Greeks too are shorn off at the time of their mourning.
It was a Greek custom for (both men and women) to be bare-headed in public prayers, but heathen priests of Rome and Jewish men cover their head in worship; and it was the manner of the heathen priestesses to remove their veils when they are inspired to begin to prophesy. History also have it that, the female heathen temple prostitutes were usually identified with their shorn head, and their male counterparts wearing long hairs. The principle of the veil informed and ensured the architectural designs and pattern of buildings then too, which were walled and fenced to serve as a veil for the women when they are at home; but would need a veil when leaving the compound or going out to express their subjection under a man’s authority. So in those ancient times, a woman appearing without a veil would be considered a woman that has a want of proper respect to her husband or her father as the case may be. It is just like a married woman dressing loosely or tries to look sexy in public in modern times or present day, is viewed as a disgrace to her husband and womanhood, because she is suspected to be not very sound in her morals. So a woman appearing in public being unveiled in that era, when she is not under the punishment of committing adultery or whoredom, and she is neither a slave or under any kind of servitude nor even mourning, would rather be revealing her bankruptcy of moral values and lack of respect for her head-husband!
Secondly, the apostle Paul reprehend a particular irregularity in their manner of conducting public worship in the Corinthian church: the women were their being made subject to and under the men, after the liberty they received in Christ. The claimed equality with the male sex, stressing their liberty on the ground of the abolition of the distinction of sexes in Christ (Gal. 3:28). Some women overstepped their bounds of propriety, and came forward to pray and prophesy without the customary head-covering for females, which was the common token of their subjection to their husbands in that age and time. Some when under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, or even pretending to be removed their veils as they prayed and prophesied; just the same way heathen priestesses do then too.
Verse one of chapter eleven reveals it is the concluding part of apostle Paul’s teachings and admonitions in the previous chapter; it is the concluding part of chapter ten, and shouldn’t be viewed as part of chapter eleven. Chapter eleven begins with a commendation from the apostle before he reprehend them in verse two. It was prudent of him and also fitting to commend what was good in them first before his reproof; to show that the motive of the reprimand was merely for correction and not any form of condemnation, or from an ill-will, or from a sense of humour rather than finding fault. It will therefore, procure more of their attention, and secure regard for it.