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Man and Woman: The Divine Order
– J. N. Darby, J. G. Bellett, C. A. Coates,
J. Taylor, G. A. Rainbow


1 Corinthians 11: 2-16
• J. N. Darby
Reading - 1871
• J. G. Bellett
Extract from a Letter
• C. A. Coates
1 - Letter - 1926
2 - Letter - 1932
3 - Letter - 1942
4 - Reading - 1943
• J. Taylor
1 - Letter - 1934
2 - Letter - 1934
3 - Letter - 1938
4 - Reading - 1947
5 - Reading - 1948
6 - Reading - 1950
• G. A. Rainbow


When I was a child, in a then unbelieving household, I recall hearing – source unknown – that 'Ladies wear hats when they go to church'.

Despite the different emphases noted in the sources quoted below, it is my hope that the relative position of man and woman in the divine order – especially stressed in later ministry by CAC and JT –

The Summation gives my personal understanding of Scripture and the points under consideration.

See some related comments on
Guests: My Stand 4: Wrong Attitude towards Women.


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J. N. Darby, 1800-82

Readings on 1 Corinthians,
Belfast, 1871
Collected Writings, 26: 254-55

The notes seem disjointed. It is not known whether shorthand – only introduced in 1837 – or longhand was used, and it appears that only JND's remarks
or his answers to questions were recorded. GAR

Here we have another instance of how the greatest truths are brought into connection with commonplace subjects. Here it is a question whether a woman is to have a covering or not.

In nominal Christianity we have to take things as we find them.

The apostle is not speaking of wearing the sign of subjection at all times, but I believe it would be very comely.

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Women Praying and Prophesying: Extract from letter of J.G. Bellett.

J. G. Bellett, 1795-1864

I have long thought that the expression "praying or prophesying" in 1 Corinthians 11 does not intimate that they are actually to be themselves teaching or praying, but that while women are in the Assembly, in the place, not in the act of praying or prophesying, they are to be covered.

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Letters of C. A. Coates, page 148, August 9, 1926

C. A. Coates, 1862-1945

My dear Mrs. ——,
… I find that a good many have had the subject before them to which your letter refers, and I am glad to know how your thoughts have been formed as to it.

The question as to what suffices to render woman "covered" in the sense of 1 Corinthians 11: 6 is an interesting one.

With much love in the Lord,

Yours affectionately in Him, C. A. Coates.

… I think there is a growing exercise amongst the dear sisters relative to the question of being covered in prayer, and one is thankful for this.

C. A. C.

My dear sister in the Lord, ——
… So far as I see, the instructions of Scripture as to the woman's attire are so worded as to give the prominent place to what is within, but they imply that

We have precise instruction as to the woman having her head covered when she prays or prophesies.

I do not speak of this from any personal observation, for I do not think I have seen any instance of sisters walking about uncovered.

With much love in the Lord,

Yours affectionately in Him, C. A. Coates.

C.A.C. We need instruction and chapter 11 is very important for us, as bringing before us the order that is suitable to God.

Rem.  There are three heads in this chapter, Christ and man and God.

C.A.C. It is sometimes thought that this chapter bears particularly on the woman, but I think it bears very much on man.

Ques. Is it always true?

C.A.C. The difference between the man and the woman is always true, and the relative position between the man and the woman is always true;

Ques. How would a woman prophesy?

C.A.C. This scripture clearly suppose that she will. There are prophetesses in Scripture and it is possible to prophesy without being a prophetess.

A woman must be covered, so a sister would not think of going to see a sick person or anyone to whom she was going to speak of God without having her head covered. It is part of the divine order.

The recognition of Christ as Head is how we get wisdom to move in relation to God, and it would bear especially on the service of the assembly.

Ques. Would you say that we see it objectively in Christ?

C.A.C. Yes, that is helpful. We see the real character of it in Christ.

We cannot doubt that there was a very great lack of what the apostle wished at Corinth, or these disorders would never have existed.

Rem. There is "holding fast the Head" in Colossians.

C.A.C. That is the spiritual and universal side, but this is the side of assembly order, what we can see and hear, the public side – the wilderness side of the position, as we often say.

C.A.C. It is noticeable that the apostle clothes both the man and the woman with glory before he speaks of the coming together of the saints.

Ques. What is the bearing of that on what follows?

C.A.C. I suppose it supplies a correction for the disorder that had come in at Corinth.

Ques. Is it the full height of the divine standard put before the saints?

C.A.C. Yes, as regards conditions here in the created scene.

Rem. The assembly is the only place where divine order is seen under the eye of God.

C.A.C. What is suitable in the created sphere ought to be intuitive to us. "Judge in yourselves", he says.

Ques. In Ephesians it speaks of the all-various wisdom of God being made known through the assembly; is that what you have in mind?

C.A.C. Yes, and it says distinctly that it is becuse of the angels that the women are to be covered, not because men are present, but because angels are present …

Ques. Would you explain the difference between intuitive and instinctive?

C.A.C. Intuitive means that it is intelligent. An animal may have instinct but human beings in their proper glory have intuition. It belongs to the created position.

Headship was soon surrendered.

I suppose the greatest truth of Scripture is the headship of God; that has been fully owned by one blessed anointed Man.

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1 - Letters of James Taylor, 1: 435-36, February 10, 1934

James Taylor Sr., 1870-1953

Miss W. M. Frost,
My dear Miss Frost,
… The subject you wrote about is often considered, but, I fear, a satisfactory conclusion is hardly ever reached.

One thing quite clear in 1 Corinthians 11 is that a woman should not pray or prophesy with her head uncovered.

The use of a bow by many sisters at all times while about the house is based, I believe, on 1 Corinthians 11: 10, the word "authority".

For sisters who do not wear a bow as a symbol of subjection, many are employed in offices, factories, etc., it seems to me the important thing is to be covered at prayer,

I trust the above remarks may be of help to you …

With our united love in the Lord,

I am, affectionately in Him, James Taylor.

Mr. E. Roberts,
My dear Brother,
… The matter you mention is constantly the occasion of exercise among the Lord's people.

Prophesying – conveying the mind of God as from God – although evidently in the province of women in the beginning is scarcely known now, but prayer is, of course, common.

I think "power" in verse 10 refers to covering in verse 6.

A bow which some sisters wear, seems satisfactory; it is at least a recognition of the authority of the Word.

With love in the Lord Jesus,

Affectionately yours in Him, James Taylor.

Mr. J. M. Tebbett,
Beloved Brother,
… As regards your enquiry I would point out that in 1 Corinthians 11 there are two words used as to head covering.

Verse 10 says: "Therefore ought the woman to have authority on her head".

I hope the above remarks will be of service to you …

My wife unites in love in Christ to you and your household,

Yours affectionately in Him, James Taylor.

J.T. … then he elaborates on the question of headship, involving the covering of the head by the sisters.

F.J.F. Would that mean that the apostle approaches the subject of order in the assembly by way of showing that there is order in the universe of God? Has that to do with the universe?

J.T. I would think so. You see from God to Christ and from Christ to man; the word used for man means man as distinct from woman.

H.R.H.T. Is this acknowledgment of the authority under which the woman stands called for only in the assembly?

J.T. I would say at all times. I do not mean when she is sleeping or resting or the like, but where she is functioning in any capacity that a woman should function in. That is what I understand.

H.R.H.T. Praying in the home, would she be covered?

J.T. Quite so. It is to bring in the order of God. We may say, Why should it be? Well God says so and that ought to be enough for every subject heart. If we bow to Scripture, then we get understanding about it

P.L. So that subject holy women would love to reflect subjection in that economy of blessing in which sovereign love and mercy have set them.

J.T. You see how much pleasure God has in these holy women; such as Sarah and others. God dignifies them in the way they are spoken of; Mary too, and many others that could be cited, all as examples for us now …

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J.T. The suggestion is to briefly refer to headship in the first part of the chapter so as to link it on with our present thought of the Lord's Supper. The subject begins in verse 2 [verses 2-3 read].

Ques. Does headship according to the Corinthian epistles allude to the public side of the truth?

J.T. I would think so, especially because of the reference to the hair, and that it is given to the woman for a covering.

A.B.P. Is subjection a feminine thought?

J.T. Of course it is general, but it runs through scripture as characteristically feminine.

L.E.S. Would all this be in mind in Ephesians 5 where it says, "… even as the assembly is subjected to the Christ"?

J.T. Not simply that she is subject as a matter of fact, but that she is subjected.

A.M. The public side is especially in mind, because there is a distinction between men and women, brothers and sisters.

J.T. Yes, and therefore, as has often been remarked, we do not exactly come to meet the Lord, initially; we come to meet the brethren.

A.R. It is not only that people may be looking at us but angels also.

J.T. It would seem that angelic distinction is involved in the fact that angels are spoken of so much as having to say to the assembly.

A.R. More than long hair is spoken of in this chapter.

J.T. That is a verse not much understood; it reads, "Therefore ought the woman to have authority on her head, on account of the angels".

L.E.S. Would it not furnish a bulwark, if understood, over against the incoming of the floods of evil?

J.T. I think it does, and it is a question of how much sisters take it on, because there is a great deal of discussion on ths point;

D.McD. Would you say something in regard to long hair? There are sisters amongst us who have their hair cut.

J.T. Well, this subject affects every brother and every sister particularly.

F.N.W. Is that one way in which priestly sensibilities would show themselves in the sisterhood?

J.T. Yes, 'priestly sensibilities' is a good expression because it is so allied with the service of God,

A.M. So that the public position is only introductory; it is only a means to an end, is it not?

J.T. Gradually we come into the service of God, we come into sonship, sisters and brothers alike.

C.A.M. The matter of headship will continue eternally, I take it.

J.T. Yes, because we are still in the public position; the order in which we are under the government of God now, as we are sitting here in this hall …

A.A.T. Our chapter speaks of a woman praying or prophesying. We know that in the assembly the woman is silent. When does she pray?

J.T. She prays with the brethren; when they pray, she prays.

R.W.S. It would be difficult to have the service of God without the sisters.

J.T. It would not be just right without the sisters, not that it could not be, but the assembly implies brothers and sisters.

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Ques. Is this recognition of headship intended to set us free in regard of speaking to God and speaking to men? I was thinking of the way headship is introduced by praying and prophesying.

J.T. That show that the chapter we have just read has the service of God in mind.

Ques. Will you please distinguish between the thought of Head of the Assembly and Head of every man, as it is in chapter 11.

J.T. I think Christ being the Head of every man would bring out the divine thought as to man. God is dealing with humanity and, of course,

Ques. And the highest thought of manhood would be to be occupied in the service of God?

J.T. That is what I think. There are things added, such as meetings of this kind, and the Lord's day afternoon reading to which the brethren usually rally, and which I think ought to be fully supported and promoted generally,

Ques. Would you say that the idea of the man and woman in their place in the divine economy in the first part of the chapter is in view of that thought being filled out fully in Christ and the assembly?

J.T. That is just what I thought. One has often thought of the man and the woman being brought in in this peculiar way.

Ques. Would you say a little more about the thought of divine order in all these things? Would that assure the divine presence?

J.T. See how the chapter opens. The apostle says "Be my imitators, even as I also am of Christ".

E.B.S. Would you mind saying another word on Him being the Head of every man, in contrast to woman?

J.T. Well, let us read the passage. "I praise you, that in all things ye are mindful of me; and that as I have directed you, ye keep the directions", showing that Paul is stressing himself.

A.J.G. Does that mean that the intention is that every man should learn from Christ, and then that the woman should learn from the man?

J.T. That is just what I think is the truth here.

W.S.S. I was thinking in connection with what you have been saying, would it not bring out the importance of the man on the one hand and the woman on the other hand,

J.T. Quite so. Woman, in this epistle, is put under restriction as to speaking in the assembly, but she is nevertheless part of those who serve,

W.S.S. In the world, woman is seeking a great place and denying the principle that is laid down here.

J.T. Quite so. The place that women have, of course, has greatly caused degeneration because she assumes to have the same place as man in regard of rule.

R.W. In verse 3, it goes back to God, "Christ's head God". So that there is no confusion, but order.

J.T. That is true.

J.S.E. Is there something peculiarly attractive in this allusion to the angels in verse 10 in relation to the woman

J.T. It would show the place that angels have, although, as I said, they are given to be servants to those who are heirs of salvation.

A.J.G. Does this reference to angels involve that angels take account of the maintenance of divine order in the assembly in contrast to the confusion in the world?

J.T. Just so, and, of course, we know angels have fallen, too; some of them have lost their first estate and the judgment of God overtakes them.

P.L. Is their service as ministering spirits but rendered the more intelligent by what is here afforded to them in the instruction as to divine order in the assembly?

J.T. Quite so. Every sister should take account of this. It will not, in any way, decrease her place or importance or service,

Ques. Is it made attractive in that Christ Himself took a place of subjection?

J.T. Quite so, He was subject even to His parents.

W.S.S. Would you be free to say something about the word "authority" in the verse we are considering – verse 10: "Therefore ought the woman to have authority on her head"?

J.T. We might well look at the note given at the bottom of the page.

W.S.S. The note says: "that is, a token of the authority under which she stands".

J.T. That is, she has something above her.

W.S.S. I think you said sometime ago, that it is like the badge or rank which a soldier wears, and of which he is proud, showing that he is under authority;

J.T. Quite so. Under authority does not mean that he is rendered inferior by it, but he can speak with authority because he is under authority.

W.G.C. Does the woman in the ordering of God become the expression of the grace of the assembly as subjected to Christ?

J.T. That is right. In the creation God intended to bring out the great thought of Christ and the assembly.

A.J.G. And you would say that this verse requires that the woman should at all times have authority on her head, and not simply when we are together in assembly?

J.T. That is what I think is right, and I believe the sisters are coming to see that, and to use the token – even if it is only a token of the place that she has and the authority she is under.

A.H.G. Has woman a distinctive place in the setting forth of this principle of subjection?

J.T. I would think so. There is no doubt that God is helping us in our households.

J.T.S. May not the very fact of the token being worn afford opportunity for testimony, testimony to Christ really?

J.T. Just so; and the household underlies that.

Ques. Is it right to make clear that for formal prayer or prophesying a woman requires a real covering; the token you have spoken of would not be sufficient for that?

J.T. Not in the assembly service, but in the household I believe it is wise to have it.

Ques. To wear the token?

J.T. Just so.

Ques. But when you kneel down to pray for the gospel should the women then have a hat on, or a covering?

J.T. Surely, and, as far as I know, they do.

A.J.G. And in a woman's individual prayer when she kneels down at home?

J.T. I would think so, especially of course if it is a household and she is not the only one in it.

Ques. Are not children very observant of order, and do they not take it on quickly, and God helps them?

J.T. I am sure that is so.

C.H. Is it instructive that after Paul has insisted on the place which woman has, he says in verse 11,

J.T. They are necessary. Whys should not God have a right to create humanity?

Ques. Do I understand that the token of authority on a woman's head does not give her the authority to pray or prophesy? What is the authority?

J.T. Well, the authority is given her; that is to say, God, Christ, man, woman – four great thoughts.

Ques. In the case of a husband and wife praying together, is it proper for the man to voice the prayer for both of them?

J.T. I think so. Men pray everywhere. It says

Rem. Yes, that is what I thought. Sometimes it is suggested that the woman should pray too in the presence of her husband.

J.T. Well, I do not know. I did not think of it in that way.

A.J.G. It would seem to be in keeping with divine order that if a brother and a sister are together in prayer, that God should be approached through the head?

J.T. That is just what I was thinking …

J.A.C. Does Peter in his epistle put the responsibility on the husband in saying,

J.T. Very good. Many a time one has thought of that.

A.H.G. Does the adjustment of things in the households in this way prepare the way for the taking of the Supper and for the service of God?

J.T. Well, the setting here is clearly that. We have the culmination of the subject of headship and then the Lord's Supper is worked out from verse 17 to the end.

A.H.G. Would perhaps the weakness in relation to the latter part of the Supper and the service of God be the result of these exercises not having been faced?

J.T. I think that is right. I am encouraged to read this chapter today – I am encouraged in every moment of it – because I can see that the brethren are concerned about it too …

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Man and Woman: The Divine Order
G.  A.  Rainbow

It should be clear to all – as a universal principle – that "God is not [a God] of disorder", 1 Corinthians 14: 33.

An understanding and recognition of the relative place of man and woman before God

There are Many Opinionss

Whether – and when – a woman's head ought to be covered has produced as many opinions as has baptism.

Is the Covering for 'Modesty'?

Some of the world's religions require covering the head – and even the face – for feminine 'modesty'.

Christian women are indeed exhorted to modesty in attire and manner – 1 Timothy 2: 9-10; 1 Peter 3: 1-6 –

Those commonly called 'brethren' – of whatever persuasion – have always accpted Paul's instruction in 1 Corinthian 11 in regard of what they consider an 'assembly' [church] meeting,

The extracts – from J. N. Darby, J. G. Bellett, C. A. Coates and J. Taylor – reflect a growing awareness, a deepening interpetation and a wider application of 1 Corinthians 11: 2-16.

Whether the "authority on her head" of verse 10 – " i.e. a token of the authority under which she stands", JND's translation note – is thought to be

  1. the same as being "covered" or

  2. a "bow" or other symbol to be worn all the time,
the clear, precise and unambiguous statements of verses 4-5 are not affected.

Therefore, this instruction – coming before the formal reference to coming "together in assembly", verse 17 –

In the household there is not only prayer but also prophesying [speaking] – i.e. the reading of the Holy Scriptures and instruction or conversation on what has been read.

The "covered" head would also apply to a mother praying with or instructing her children –

It should be noted that the noun 'covering' is never used.

The mere external following of the detailed directions is not an end in itself,


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• • •  1 Corinthians 11: 2-16  • • •
2. Now I praise you, that in all things ye are mindful of me; and that as I have directed you, ye keep the directions.

3. But I wish you to know that the Christ is the head of every man, but woman's head [is] the man, and the Christ's head God.

4. Every man praying or prophesying, having [anything] on his head, puts his head to shame.

5. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered puts her own head to shame; for it is one and the same as a shaved [woman].

6. For if a woman be not covered, let her hair also be cut off. But if [it be] shameful to a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, let her be covered.

7. For man indeed ought not to have his head covered, being God's image and glory; but woman is man's glory.

8. For man is not of woman, but woman of man.

9. For also man was not created for the sake of the woman, but woman for the sake of the man.

10. Therefore ought the woman to have authority* on her head, on account of the angels.

11. However, neither [is] woman without man, nor man without woman, in [the] Lord.

12. For as the woman [is] of the man, so also [is] the man by the woman, but all things of God.

13. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman should pray to God uncovered?

14. Does not even nature itself teach you, that man, if he have long hair, it is a dishonour to him?

15. But woman, if she have long hair, [it is] glory to her; for the long hair is given [to her] in lieu of a veil.

16. But if any one think to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the assemblies of God.

* i.e. a token of the authority under which she stands.

From the J. N. Darby translation.

Return to the Introduction or Simmation.

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