Because of the Angels

If one were to write a list of all the most baffling passages or phrases in Scripture, ‘because of the angels’ would probably be on it somewhere towards the top. It could mean anything. I mean it – I’ve spent the better part of the day looking for possible interpretations. Some are contradictory, some are similar but have a subtle difference in meaning or implication, some draw from other verses to help explain what Paul might have meant, some try to imagine what the original audience might have understood it meant, and some imagine what angels are up to. This isn’t even a complete list because people have thought up these interpretations for two millennia and they’ll continue thinking up new interpretations that I can’t even think of for millennia to come.

But first – we have to figure out which verse is the best translation; after all, there’s some disagreement about what the verse itself is. Is a woman supposed to wear a head covering or a veil? Is it a sign or symbol? is it power or authority? Whose authority is it – her own or her husbands?
Now the original language doesn’t include a word meaning ‘sign’ or ‘symbol’ or ‘veil’ or ‘head covering’ the most literal translation is: “because of this ought the woman authority to be having on over the head because of the messengers.” Angels and messengers are the same word, and wife and woman are the same word, so they could go either way. Now elsewhere, ‘authority’ is always used in the active sense: “For I am a man under authority, when I say ‘come’ someone comes, when I say ‘do this’ someone does it.”(Matthew 8:9 or Luke 7:8) If this were any other passage, there would be no doubt that the authority belongs to the subject of the sentence, to the woman. But translators aren’t afraid to say that the woman has to wear a sign of the authority of someone else over her; in other words, suggest a passive sense to the word authority in this context which is never used elsewhere in scripture.

… because of the angels … – 1 Corinthians 11:10
Here are 53 translations of that verse that make it really difficult to answer the question: Which one is right? Look through them and choose your favorite.  –

My favorite doesn’t actually come from the English, but the Spanish Traducción en Lengua Actual (TLA): Por eso, la mujer debe ejercer control sobre su cabeza, para respeto a los ángeles. Which translates to: That’s why the woman should exercise control over her head, out of respect to the angels. Because none of us are really sure which sense is the best translation of the verse we’re not really sure where to begin applying it to us or how to interpret it:


1.) Angels are watching us worship; they see women wearing head coverings as a symbol or sign that they’ll no longer usurp or long for the man’s position of authority and they are content with their role; and they see men with bared heads communicates that they will exercise authority in their role and not be domineering or passive – their role as men is also redeemed.

2.) Angels are watching us worship; they are in charge of reporting to God who is obeying the rule that women out to wear head coverings and men ought not wear a covering on their head. They mark down every act of in-decorum or indecency.
Charles Spurgeon – Spurgeon’s Sermons on Angels, (Kregel Academic, 1996), page 98.

3.) Angels are watching us worship; they cannot tell the difference between men and women unless women wear head coverings and have long hair and men don’t wear head coverings and have short hair.
an observation from:

4.) Angels are watching us worship; they are pleased when wives wear a symbol of their husbands’ headship and authority over them when they pray or prophesy. They like things like propriety, due subordination, and order and they like it when women wear head coverings to show that they are proper women, showing due subordination, and in the proper order.

5.) The word ‘Angel’ is the same for ‘Messenger’ and can be used to refer to elders / deacons / leaders of the church in particular; this symbol is to show the leaders that women are praying and prophesying under the headship of their husbands.

6.) The word ‘Angel’ is the same for ‘Messenger’ and can be used to refer to spies, outsiders who monitored gatherings to report on the activities to prevent riots. Paul wants men and women acting according to decorum so that these spies have no reason to suspect that they’re planning to rise up against the emperor.

7.) Angels refers to fallen angels / nephilim / sons of God that lust after women; wearing a head covering is divine protection from these demons. (Do angels have x-ray vision and head coverings have magic lead-like powers to prevent being seen-through? One would expect the lack of head coverings to lead to the resurgence of giants; which would make for some amazingly spectacular football and soccer games.)

8.) A head covering gives women authority to cast out demons; fallen angels – without one they would not obey because women lack authority.
a comment on:

9.) Because the angels submit and cover their own glory in God’s presence because of the heavenly order, women ought to cover their glory – their hair – in the presence of men because they are to submit due to creation order. Angelic style worship serves as an example for human worship, if angels cover then so must women.

10.) Whatever it means; it’s not cultural so the action of wearing a head covering applies today and we ought to take it seriously.

11.) Because the angels do not aspire to equality with God must cover in his presence, women are not to be the equals of men or the same as the men and so they must cover in their presence.

12.) Angels serve as ‘mediators’ through whom messages, prophesy, and prayers are sent – impropriety offends them so much so they will leave and not take your messages to God; but propriety gives them reason to remain and deliver God’s messages to us.

13.) It is a reference to an existing belief that people who attend must be perfect and perfectly obedient because angels will be there and they are more important and worthy of reverence and human desires or ideas are less important.

14.) It is a reference to the other mention of angels in the same letter; namely that men and women will have authority to judge over angels and therefore women have authority to decide what they ought to wear over their own heads.

15.) Angels means angels, not church leaders, spies, or anything else. It can’t mean that women are to wear head coverings because the angels veil themselves. It can’t mean that the angels approve of women wearing head coverings. The only question is whether or not good angels or bad angels are being referred to; if the later, then it’s written that angels fell from heaven because they lusted for women, or women are liable to injury from bad angels when they appear unveiled in public. If good angels, then good angels flee from unveiled women (lest they fall into temptation.) Quite possibly, it means out of reverence and respect for the angels who are always invisibly present in the gathered assembly.

16.) Because of the angels is a reminder that women ought to wear veils as a mourner might as a mark of the woman’s shame because of her increased subjection to man in Genesis 3:16 (and there’s two angels mentioned in that passage, so maybe a reminder of that, too.)

17.) Because of the angels is a reminder that women ought to be proper and not confused with temple prostitutes who were improper by not wearing head coverings.

18.) Because of the angels is a reminder that angels worship in a quiet, orderly fashion, and ecstatic, excited, loud worship isn’t how they do things and it’s undignified when women dance around speaking in tongues and their head coverings fall off or are cast aside. After all, Paul mentions speaking in the tongue of angels in 1 Corinthians 13:1, so perhaps he’s translating a message on their behalf to turn down the volume? Or it’s a reference to 1 Corinthians 14 about not giving unbelievers reason to think that everybody is out of their minds.

19.) The angels are watching the conduct of women, which serves as an example to them of the right thing to do. The angels, who are in perfect and total submission expect men and women to perfectly and totally submit to Christ in the same way.

20.) Because of the angels is a reminder that gender is very important that women act like women, do what women do, while wearing what women wear and men act like men, do what men do, while wearing what men wear and it is improper for women to aspire to be less womanly or more like men. Angels never try to be something they’re not and neither should women.

21.) Because of the angels is a reminder that human messengers – visitors from other churches were watching them and would imitate them when they went back to their own churches, so they ought to set a good example of proper behavior.

22.) Because of the angels is a reminder of one of the subjects that he personally taught them, something they all understood without it having to be explained. Unfortunately, none of us sat in on that lesson so we have no idea what it could be. It might be their equivalent of : “… because of the purpose-driven life …” or ” … because of left behind …”; give us a few decades and some elements of these teachings could be lost – give us a few centuries and they’ll be non-existent – give us a few millennia and they’ll be irrelevant.

23.) ‘Because of the angels’ is too obscure to really understand what it means. But the central reasoning of the passage remains clear, the angels are mentioned to support the main part of the verse, that is, women are to wear a symbol of authority on their heads. The best solution is that the angels are good angels who assist in worship and desire to see the order of creation maintained.
Source: Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood; verses 1 Timothy 5:21 and 1 Peter 1:12

24.) ‘For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.’ is a more correct understanding of the passage. ‘for this reason’ refers to headship, ‘because of the angels’ refers to offending angels by looking like prostitutes who don’t wear head coverings, and ‘a sign of authority on her head’ refers to the head covering that gives her the authority to minister by prayer and prophesy while she submits to the headship (authority) of her husband who is under the headship (authority) of Christ; she is not to pray or prophesy apart from her husband. We know the angels understand headship because they veil their faces in Isaiah 6:2. The head covering is a woman visibly acknowledging this principle.
Source: Letters to a Troubled Church 1 and 2 Corinthians by Ray C. Stedman

25.) Revelation tells us that the serpent is Satan. Satan is a fallen angel. When Satan rebelled from heaven, he amassed a small following of other angels. ‘Because of the angels’ is a reminder that Eve was deceived by an angel and proper submission to authority will keep all women from making the same mistake twice.
A comment:

26.) ‘Because of the angels’ most certainly cannot refer to the Sons of God in Genesis 6 because it has too many issues.


So there you have it – the most baffling verse and the most confusing interpretations in one convenient place. Which is your favorite version of the verse and favorite interpretation? I’m partial to #14 myself – because it most closely agrees with my favorite version of the verse:
‘That’s why the woman should exercise control over her head, out of respect to the angels’ because It is a reference to the other mention of angels in the same letter; namely that men and women will have authority to judge over angels and therefore women have authority to decide what they ought to wear over their own heads.


2 thoughts on “Because of the Angels

  1. I vote either 6 or 14.
    I can see Paul wanting people to not look rebellious when a stranger comes to one of their meetings, which is how any freedom for women would appear in a patriarchal setting.
    And I can see women having the same ability and authority to judge the angels that men do would also mean that at the very least they should be able to judge what they do or do not wear on their head. Unfortunately, freedom and authority for women don’t really fit too well with complementarian/patriarchal beliefs, so I’m thinking that’s where the plethora of other interpretations (and translations) are coming from.

    Liked by 1 person

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