Buried Talents: 1 Corinthians 11, An Speculative Translation

[This is not new material. I’m posting it this way to extract this argument from my more conventional arguments previously post, which I think are actually right. I have less confidence in this interpretation than I did before, but it’s too cool to delete entirely.]

I suggest the following alternative interpretation of “head” with some trepidation. I don’t believe that any commentator has ever made this proposal, and one should walk lightly when trying to be the first in nearly 2,000 years of scriptural exposition to propose a new idea. But I see another possible meaning for “head” in the context of 1 Corinthians 11 worthy of consideration.

“Image”

In verses 7-9 of 1 Corinthians 11, Paul states that man is the image and glory of God, and woman is the glory of man. Surely, this is a reference to the Genesis accounts. Genesis 1:26 plainly states that the Godhead made both man and woman in their image. And yet God made Adam first, in His image, and then made Eve from Adam’s rib.

Eve was also made in God’s image, and so Paul does not state that woman was made in the “image” of man. Rather, she was made as the glory of man. Certainly, the fact that woman was made in God’s image, as was man, does not argue for the subordination of women (except in the sense that all Christians are to be in submission to all other Christians) (Eph. 5:21).

Now Paul does not say so in chapter 11, but he states in a number of other places that Christ is the image of God:

(2 Cor. 4:4) The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

(Col. 1:15) [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

Thus, we see that Christ is the image of God and man is the image of Christ. Just what did “image” mean when 1 Corinthians was written?

In an account appearing in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus uses eikon, the Greek word translated “image” in 1 Corinthians 11, in an instructive way:

(Matt. 22:16-22) They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

“Portrait” translates eikon. An “image” was simply a portrait, especially one made by engraving as on a coin. Certainly, the word could be used in a broader sense, but the most literal definition of eikon is a portrait.

The word eikon — sometimes in its diminutive form eikonion — was the word which was used for a portrait in Greek. … It is the nearest thing to our modern word photograph.”

William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians (Westminster Press, Philadelphia 1959), page 142.

And a portrait is a representation of what? A head. Thus, if I’m metaphorically your portrait, then you’re metaphorically my head. The closest English equivalent I can think of is “model.” If I’m your image, you’re my model.

We haven’t yet come far enough to be confident of this conclusion, and I readily concede that it would not be standard English usage. After all, “head” in English connotes “ruler,” and this is a thought that is very foreign to being the model for an image.

“Glory”

To test this theory, we must look at the meaning of “glory.” Like “image,” “glory” is a word rich with theological meaning. The glory of God first appears while the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness. It represented the presence of God Himself:

(Exo. 24:15-18) When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

When the Israelites finished the tabernacle, the glory of God descended to dwell in the Holy of Holies:

(Exo. 40:33-35) Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

God then began to speak to Moses from within the cloud of glory “face to face.”

(Exo. 33:10-11) Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

(See also Deut 5:4).

In the Psalms 8:3-5 we again see glory associated with the head or face, with glory being pictured as a crown surrounding the head:

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

The picture is that glory is much like a halo, being a radiant presence surrounding the head.

In the account of the Transfiguration, we see that Luke places emphasis on the face of Jesus as showing His glory:

(Luke 9:28-32) About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.

In one of the Bible’s most lyrical passages, Paul associates the image of God with God’s glory. Paul states that God glorifies (brings into the presence of His glory, that is, heaven) those whom God has conformed to the likeness (eikon, or image) of Christ. Thus, all Christians are re-made by God in the image of Christ, and so they ultimately partake of God’s glory.

(Rom. 8:29-30) For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness [image] of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

The same thought appears in 1 Corinthians:

(15:42-49) So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness [eikon] of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness [eikon] of the man from heaven.

Among Paul’s points is the idea that Christians shed the image of Adam (the earthly man) and replace it with the image of Christ (the man from heaven). By taking on the image of Christ (becoming portraits of Christ), we will be raised in glory, that is, in the presence of God where His glory dwells.

(2 Cor. 4:4-6) The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Once again, Paul associates “image” with “glory” and with “face.” Here, we are told that Christ is the image of God. Accordingly, the glory of God shines forth in the face of Christ. Logically, then, we would expect that Christians, who are the image of Christ (1 Cor. 11:3), would show forth the glory of Christ in their faces.

And as we read earlier in the Psalms, glory is sometimes pictured as a radiant crown surrounding the head:

(1 Pet. 5:4) And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

We see the glory of God repeatedly connected with the face or head, such as the face of Christ, the face of Moses, the face of all Christians, or a head crowned with glory. “Glory” is thus pictured in the Bible as much like the halos that we see around the heads of “saints” in much Christian art.

And so we see that the Bible repeatedly associates “image” and “glory” with the head or face. Moreover, except for the relationship of women to men (which we’ve not yet considered in this context), we see that the relationship God:Christ:Man is a relationship that follows image and glory. Christ is both the image and glory of God. Man is both the image and glory of Christ (as well as God). Therefore, since Paul describes the same relationship in terms of “head,” we see that God as Christ’s “head,” and Christ as man’s “head” is simply the reverse of Christ as God’s glory and image and man as Christ’s glory and image.

In other words, God is the model of which Christ is the portrait, and Christ is the model of which men are the portrait.

Moses’ veil and the glory of God

Perhaps the key passage to understanding 1 Corinthians 11 is found in Exodus, where we see an association between God’s glory, the face, and a veil:

(Exo. 34:29-35) When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them.

Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the LORD had given him on Mount Sinai. When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD.

This may well be the passage that Paul had in mind in his teachings in 1 Corinthians 11. We see that Moses removed his veil when talking to God. Paul may well be reasoning that if Moses considered it appropriate to remove his head covering when speaking to God, the same rule should hold true when Christian men address God.

This passage is the basis for Paul’s teachings in 2 Corinthians 3:7-18:

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Paul reminds the Corinthians of the account of Moses’ face becoming radiant from being in the presence of the glory of God. Paul says that all Christians also reflect the glory of God due to the workings of the Holy Spirit within us. But Moses’ glory was temporary and faded away. He even wore a veil to hide the fading of his glory. But the Christian’s glory is not only permanent, it is ever increasing.

The idea behind this passage is surely very much the idea behind 1 Corinthians 11. Christians reflect the glory of Christ. Because our glory is greater than Moses’, being permanent and ever increasing, we should not veil the glory when speaking with God, but should boldly speak with unveiled faces.

In fact, one advantage of this interpretation is that it explains why concern for someone’s metaphorical “head” affects what one wears (or doesn’t wear) on one’s literal head. This aspect of 1 Corinthians 11 has puzzled commentators, but if Paul is urging us to follow Moses’ example of speaking to God without a veil, the metaphor makes sense.

Why does Paul treat women differently from men?

The difficulty that this interpretation leaves is why should women be veiled when men should not? While the doctrine of man being in the image of God and Christ and of Christians sharing in the glory of Christ are well documented, why are women treated differently from men? After all, women Christians are just as much in the image of God and just as reflective of the glory of God as men! Paul’s explanation is in verses 7-9:

A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

Paul is referring the Genesis 2, where Eve was made as a suitable complement for Adam. Paul does not refer to woman as the image of man, because Genesis 1:26 plainly states that she is made in the image of God (“our image”-which includes Christ’s image, too). But Paul concludes that woman is nonetheless the “glory” of man because Eve was made “from” Adam, and Eve was made “for” Adam.

(1 Cor. 11:10) For this reason, … the woman ought to have [control over] her head.

Thus, Paul concludes that woman’s role as suitable complement to her husband requires her to exercise control over her literal head.

(1 Cor. 11:13-16) Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you … that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice — nor do the churches of God.

Paul reasons that because a woman must exercise authority or control over her head in a manner consistent with her role as a suitable complement to her husband, she must wear long hair and must have her head covered while praying to God. Why?

The reasons that Paul gives are “the very nature of things” and “we have no other practice.” In verse 5 he stated that she would “dishonor her head,” meaning dishonor her husband, by violating these directives. Indeed, in verse 6 Paul declares that to do otherwise would be a “disgrace.”

These statements by Paul are references to the expectations of other people, that is, culture. Paul doesn’t say that failing to wear a head covering would be a violation of God’s eternal command regarding head coverings; rather, he sees such a failure as a violation of propriety and convention.

Black makes the point that Jewish women were expected to wear head coverings, regardless of where they were in the Roman Empire (Ibid, page 204). The Jews formed the core of many, if not most, congregations at the time 1 Corinthians was written, and many church practices were borrowed from Jewish synagogue practice — not necessarily as doctrine but as a convenient standard of behavior that would not offend the Jewish members.

As to the two other major cultures that made up Corinthian society (as well as the society of the eastern Roman Empire in general), the Greeks and the Romans, Black comments:

Though we cannot be sure, the evidence seems to favor the position that in Corinth, women in the marketplace would often be covered, and in religious contexts they would usually be covered. All that can be stated with assurance, however, is that “the wearing of a head-covering by an adult woman (especially in ritual context) was a traditional practice known to Jews, Greeks, and Roman.”

If we look ahead to 1 Corinthians 14:35, we again see Paul’s particular concern for the sensibilities of the Jews in the role of women. After restricting women as to their speech in the assembly, Paul states:

1 Cor. 14:33b-34a, 36 As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. … Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?

Of course, the word of God originated not with the Corinthians but with the Jews in Judea, and it reached the Jewish people first. This is a plain reference to the sensibilities of the Jewish members with respect to the role of women, and the language is remarkably similar to 1 Corinthians 11:16:

1 Cor. 11:16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice — nor do the churches of God.

Thus, we see that there are eternal principles involved. Christian men and women are made in the image of God and Christ. Christ is the image and glory of God. Christian men and women are the image of God and Christ. And Christian wives are to be complements for and, therefore, the glory of their husbands.

And being someone’s glory has significance, demonstrated throughout the Bible. For example, God’s glory radiantly and powerfully showed forth the very presence of God. Indeed, God spoke and acted by the means of His glory. By declaring that Christ is God’s glory, Paul tells us that God speaks and acts through Christ and that the words and actions of Christ bring praise to God.

Thus, the fact that Christians are the glory of God and Christ means that the Godhead speaks and acts through all Christians (through the Spirit’s indwelling). For example, Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Cor. 2:6-16; 2 Cor. 3:3; 3:18; Phil. 2:12-13; Eph. 5:18-19. Therefore, Christians bring glory (or shame) to God by their actions and by how they exercise the authority and control over themselves that God has given them.

In the ordinary circumstance, Christians do not wear head coverings when speaking with God. Moses uncovered his face when speaking with God, even though his glory was an inferior, temporary, fading glory. 2 Cor. 3:7-18. But our glory as Christians is permanent and increasing — not fading. Therefore, we should boldly show forth God’s glory — not only in public but especially when addressing God in prayer.

If Moses’ relationship with God was such that he spoke to God with an uncovered head, then Christians have much less reason to cover their heads. Head covering evidently showed not respect so much as unworthiness — hiding one’s face or head from God. Christians have no reason to hide.

But this is far from an absolute rule. While there is important symbolism in this practice, and while it reminds us of our intimate relationship with God — we who can speak with God with more intimacy than Moses — there may be concerns that override such symbolism.

One overriding concern is the role of wives as complements to their husbands. Any practice that might appear unsubmissive or rebellious against the marriage covenant must be avoided. In the First Century, a woman having her head uncovered in a public place — especially a place of prayer — indicated to many that the woman was in rebellion to her husband, even brazenly immoral.

While the symbolism may not have been universal, it was common enough that the early church had to take it into account in its practices. Therefore, women could not pray with uncovered heads without reflecting badly upon their husbands to whom they owe a duty to bring no shame, but only glory. In particular, the practice of covering a woman’s head showed respect for the sensibilities of Jewish Christians.

Accordingly, the lesson flows not from the power of men over women, but from the unity and one flesh ideal of husbands and wives. The actions of the wife reflect on the husband, for good or bad. What is perceived as a bad reflection may often be defined by the local culture, and so wives must be willing to forego some of the freedom that they otherwise enjoy in Christ for the sake of reputation.

Reconciliation of “source” and “model”

One further advantage of the “model” interpretation of “head” in 1 Corinthians 11 is that it shares the advantages of taking “head” to mean source. After all, the essence of the idea behind the “model” interpretation is that a person’s head is the source of the glory shown forth through that person. Thus, God is the source of Christ’s glory, thereby making Christ like a portrait of God.

A re-translation

Thus, we can re-translate verse 3 as follows:

3 Now I want you to realize that the model of every man is Christ, and the model of a woman is man, and the model of Christ is God.

or as

3 Now I want you to realize that the “head” of which every Christian man is a crown of glory or portrait is Christ, and the “head” of which a woman is a crown of glory is man, and the “head” of which Christ is a crown of glory or portrait is God.

But we need to make one more change. You see, “man,” or aner, can mean husband or man. The true meaning can only be determined by context, with “husband” being the more common usage in the New Testament. “Her head” thus becomes “her man,” which certainly would mean “her husband.” Moreover, since women are complements to their husbands, not to all men, any other translation would make no sense.

Some commentators protest using aner as both “man” and “husband” in the same passage, but Paul’s word play cannot be so limited. He uses kephale to refer both to a person’s literal head and to a metaphorical head, that is, to a body part and to someone to be glorified. Paul is thus changing the meaning of his words to use word plays to make or illustrate his points.

Gune can mean either woman or wife, and we see Paul similarly shifting meanings in 1 Cor 14:33-35, where gune is translated “woman,” but requires women to ask their husbands questions at home, clearly indicating that wives are in mind. But, of course, it is improbable that Paul meant to allow single women to ask questions and prevent married women from doing so. Rather, the Greek language itself uses one word for either man or husband and for either woman or wife, and this leads to a subtle tendency in Greek writing to assume that all women and all men are married, which was typically the case but certainly not always the case.

Thus, we translate,

3 Now I want you to realize that the “head” of which every Christian husband is a crown of glory or portrait is Christ, and the “head” of which a wife is a crown of glory is her husband, and the “head” of which Christ is a crown of glory or portrait is God.

Plainly, woman is modeled on man, man is modeled on Christ, and Christ is modeled on God. Just so, shameful behavior by a wife reflects badly on her husband, since she represents her husband to the world. Shameful behavior by a Christian man reflects badly on Christ, since men are to represent Christ to world. Accordingly, any behavior considered to shamefully reflect on one’s “model” in terms of local culture is forbidden.

The balance of this passage would then be translated as follows:

4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors Christ. 5 And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her husband[10]-it is just as though her head were shaved. 6 If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.

7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of her husband. 8 For the husband did not come from the wife, but the wife from the husband; 9 neither was the husband created for the wife, but the wife for the husband. 10 For this reason, and because of the angels, the wife ought to have control over her head.

11 In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not culture teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice-nor do the churches of God.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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0 Responses to Buried Talents: 1 Corinthians 11, An Speculative Translation

  1. Alan says:

    Let me add one more thing. Paul's argument that all the other churches practice head coverings really is an argument against this being a cultural rule. He was saying that the Corinthians did not have the right to introduce a practice that was contrary to what is universally practiced elsewhere — regardless of any cultural differences. He anticipatd opposition. In effect he said, "Stop arguing about it, and get back in line."

  2. Alan says:

    I'm not aware of anyone who thinks there was no headcovering practice in any first century church. So "such" cannot be the correct translation.

    Context rules in translation, and the context demands "other". Paul has laid out in the strongest terms why women should wear headcoverings when praying and prophesying. In conclusion, he addresses those who would argue against the practice.

    If Paul said there was no "such" practice, then he is in effect nullifying everything he said previously. In other words, if anyone disagrees, then they are ok because nobody is using head coverings anyway.

    But if Paul said there was no "other" practice, then he is conclusively shutting down the argument of the opposition. There is just no other option for the church.

    Only one of those make sense. And, again, context rules in translation.

  3. Alan says:

    Paul concludes by deeming the whole argument cultural by saying that the church universal has “no practice like this

    Paul concludes that culture has nothing to do with the argument, by saying that the church universally practiced head coverings Quite obviously the early church did practice head coverings. So Paul could not have been saying the church universal had no such practice. The fact is that the church did have such a practice.

    Can you point to a single piece of historical evidence that the early church did not wear head coverings in the situations Paul prescribed here? Or a single credible historian or commentator who holds that position?

  4. Nick Gill says:

    When he says, "no such practice," I believe he means the exact opposite of what you believe he is affirming with the translation, "No other practice."

    I believe that he is saying that there is no universal mandate that says all Christian women for all time must wear head coverings.

    That is no different than his statements in chapter 7 about marriage. He lays out (quite strongly) the benefits of remaining single, and then makes sure everyone knows that such a practice is not a rule of faith.

    He is continuing in Jesus' path of removing unnecessary barriers for women. Jesus commended Mary for violating gender roles by sitting at his feet in the male area of Lazarus' house.

    Context can't make a word mean its opposite. If it can, all language is meaningful. By which I mean meaningless, but you'd have to use context to figure it out.

  5. Alan says:

    I don’t believe that any commentator has ever made this proposal, and one should walk lightly when trying to be the first in nearly 2,000 years of scriptural exposition to propose a new idea.

    Indeed. It seems that any interpretation will do, as long as it does not hold that “head” implies authority.

    The reasons that Paul gives are “the very nature of things” and “we have no other practice.” In verse 5 he stated that she would “dishonor her head,” meaning dishonor her husband, by violating these directives. Indeed, in verse 6 Paul declares that to do otherwise would be a “disgrace.”

    These statements by Paul are references to the expectations of other people, that is, culture.

    Those are not the only reasons given in the passage. Paul starts out saying woman should wear the covering because man is the head of woman, and that whenever a woman prays or prophesies with uncovered head, she dishonors her head (man). He also says she should cover her head because she is the glory of man (in contrast to man being the glory of God). And he reasons that the head covering follows from the facts that woman came from man (not the other way around) and that woman was made for man (not the other way around). Then he appeals to nature, drawing an analogy from her hair. Finally, he reasons that the Corinthian women should wear coverings because all the other churches do that. Of all the reasons given, only the last one (all the other churches do it) could be said to be cultural.

  6. Nick Gill says:

    Both of you are ignoring the translation issue concerning ‘toioutos’ in 11.16.

    ESV, NRSV, and the KJ line translate it “such” – as in “no SUCH practice.”

    NIV, NASB, NLT, NCV, translate it “other” – as in “no OTHER practice.”

    That’s a BIG difference in meaning. If it means ‘other’, then Alan is right – Paul is saying stop arguing about it (universally) and get those veils on your heads.

    If it means ‘such’, then the universality of the command is debatable.

  7. Nick Gill says:

    Hair length isn’t cultural?

    “Phusis” (nature) does not mean what we see on the Discovery Channel and it doesn’t mean “how God made things”; it means “how things have been for as long as we can remember” – see Eph 2.3.

    And a quick context search of NT usage shows that ‘toioutos’ means SUCH. Look for it in Matt 18:5, Matt 19:14, and (VERY USEFULLY) Mark 7:8.

    Why usefully? Because it is right next to the Greek term for ‘other’ or ‘different’ – ALLOS.

    So, Paul is saying that universally, we have no custom “like this.”

    Nature is a cultural reference, as I’ve mentioned before with the Nazirites.
    Paul concludes by deeming the whole argument cultural by saying that the church universal has “no practice like this.”

  8. Kyle says:

    Guys, not to stop any of the wonderfully interesting debate on the use of the Greek language, but I feel the conversation might have gotten off track….correct me if I’m wrong.
    We don’t know the whole background for Paul’s arguement here, and it seems silly to engage so passionately in things that are conjecture. What we do see, quite dynamically, is that women played an important part in the assembly of the early church. They actually…you know…did stuff other than making communion trays.
    Just wanted to keep perspective and all. Thanks for your time!

  9. Alan says:

    Kyle,

    Nothing is said in 1 Cor 11:1-16 about the assembly. Not one word.

  10. Jay Guin says:

    Alan wrote —

    Those are not the only reasons given in the passage. Paul starts out saying woman should wear the covering because man is the head of woman, and that whenever a woman prays or prophesies with uncovered head, she dishonors her head (man).

    “Head” does not mean “ruler” or “leader” in NT Greek. It just doesn’t. In context, as a metaphor, it could, but you cannot start with that assumption. You therefore cannot presume such a meaning from the statement that the “man is the head of the woman.” You just can’t.

    He also says she should cover her head because she is the glory of man (in contrast to man being the glory of God).

    How does X being the glory of Y mean that Y has authority over X?

    And he reasons that the head covering follows from the facts that woman came from man (not the other way around) and that woman was made for man (not the other way around).

    And the fact the woman was made for man means that wives (not women) must be a suitable complements for their husbands (not all men!). If a head covering is required to avoid shame in a given culture, it only makes sense that she should wear a head covering.

    Then he appeals to nature, drawing an analogy from her hair.

    How, in fact, does the “nature of things” teach us that a woman’s hair is her glory? Well, we men like women’s hair! Many cultures insist that no man be allowed to see a married woman’s hair, as a matter of modesty.

    But Paul also says that long hair on a man is a “disgrace” due to the “nature of things.” And yet, today, women often find long hair on a man very appealing. And, for that matter, it seems to have worked pretty well for Samson!

    How can it be sin for a man to have long hair when the Nazirite vow required it? (Numbers 6, Judges 13 (Samson), 1 Sam 1:11 (Samuel was a Nazirite his entire life)), these vows were made by God or even at God’s instruction (Judg 13:3-5)! “Nature” in this context simply cannot refer to eternal truth. This means culture is in mind. What else could it mean?

    Finally, he reasons that the Corinthian women should wear coverings because all the other churches do that. Of all the reasons given, only the last one (all the other churches do it) could be said to be cultural.

    V. 16 is in fact better translated in the KJV, “we have no such custom.” Toioutos is always “such” in 1 Cor, where it occurs 9 times. Hence, Paul is saying the churches have no custom. Either way, the argument is from custom. Can you imagine Paul saying: God commands us to refrain from adultery, and besides, adultery is shameful and not our custom! Why refer to custom when he, an apostle, can simply declare the answer!

    You skipped 1 Cor 11:13, which refers to what is “proper,” or “comely” in the KJV.

  11. Kyle says:

    Alan,

    You’re right, Paul doesn’t say “While assembling when women are prophesying or praying.” Although, given the context of 1 Cor. 16:17-34, I believe you can infer that some of this can be directed toward when they assembled together. Also, the assembly seems like a fine time for people to prophesy.

    If this isn’t discussing the assembly, when did women and men prophesy? What is the point of prophesying without an audience?

  12. Jay Guin says:

    Alan wrote,

    Nothing is said in 1 Cor 11:1-16 about the assembly. Not one word.

    Hmm. We have men and women together praying and prophesying. We next read about prophesying in c 12 and c 14, where it and prayer (14:14-15) are again topics, and it’s clearly in the assembly.

    Paul refers to the presence of the angels, which is generally thought to be a reference to the Jewish belief that angels are present at worship gatherings. (Morris, in the Tyndale commentary series, for example.)

    The women are required to cover their heads, which was generally not true in the home, only in public. If this were a private gathering, why the concern over head coverings?

    Moreover, the immediately following discussion deals with communion. The prayer/prophecy discussion begins with “I praise you …” while the communion discussion begins with “I praise you not …” creating an obvious rhetorical connection.

    Just so, 14:40, commanding that things be done “decently and in order” can easily refer to the problems dealt with in chapters 11-13.

    Chapter 12 deals with misuse of spiritual gifts in the assembly, including prophecy, easily connecting the discussion.

    And if 11:2-16 isn’t dealing with the assembly, what event is in mind? Prophesying at home? A special, Pentecostal “come to Jesus” meeting? And what does the reference to “because of the angels” mean?

    If Paul is concerned about head coverings in prayer and prophecy, wouldn’t he be particularly concerned about head coverings in the assembly, which is where prophecy seems to have been occurring and where men and women would necessarily pray together?

    I just have trouble even imagining what kind of meeting 11:2-16 could be discussing if not the assembly.

  13. Alan says:

    Jay,

    You make a connection between praying and prophesying and the assembly, but that connection is not in the text. In verse 17 he begins a new subject, saying that the following discussion is about the assembly. (in contrast to the preceding discussion which was not). So chapters 12 and 14 are part of a separate discussion.

    He says "I praise you" in the first part of the chapter, then "I praise you not" in the next discussion. Rather than connecting the two contexts, that clearly separates them. And the latter conversation is clearly identified as covering problems in the assembly. If the first part of the chapter also addressed the assembly, then he would not be able to praise them for it, because their assemblies did more harm than good. The fact that he could praise them for it makes it clear that it was NOT addressing the assembly.

    Your argument about angels presumes that angels are *only* present at the assembly. I doubt you really believe that.

    The statement about "decently and in order" (14:40) refers to the entire discussion about the assembly, which begain in 11:17.

    Spiritual gifts were used outside the assembly as well as in the assembly. Chapter 12 occurs in the context of a discussion of the assembly. That certainly does not support the notion that prophecy only occurs in the assembly, nor that every discussion of prophecy must be limited to the context of the assembly.

    11:2-16 is addressing every context in which a woman prays or prophesies. The reference "because of the angels" does not imply the assembly. Angels are present with Christians outside the assembly. (Heb 13:2 for one of many examples)

    Paul was concerned with head coverings when woman pray or prophesy. Since woman were forbidden to speak in the assembly, that obviously was not an issue there.

    Your arguments betray your preconceptions. All of them rest on assumptions that are not stated in the text.

    Paul's instruction about head coverings was limited to when the woman is praying or prophesying. That is much more limited than the then-existing Jewish practice. He doesn't specify where or when, so the expectation was that wherever and whenever a woman prays or prophesies, she must wear a head covering.

  14. Kyle says:

    Alan,

    If head coverings were not required for a woman at home, then the only time this issue would need to be addressed would be in a public assembly, correct?

  15. Kyle says:

    Also, I'm very confused on how anything Paul is saying in 11: 2-16 could be considered a praise from Paul to the Corinthians. Could someone clarify that for me?

  16. Alan says:

    Kyle,

    1) I'm not sure where you are getting the idea that the head covering was not required at home (when the woman was praying or prophesying at home). The passage simply says it is necessary when she is praying or propesying, regardless of the place.

    2) It would help if we had the list of questions from the church that Paul was answering. It appears to me from Paul's answer that generally the church was complying with the teaching about head covering, but a small group was protesting and demanding an explanation for why it was necessary. So Paul praised them for their general obedience, and explained to the contentious ones why they needed to comply also.

  17. Alan says:

    Nick,

    1) The instruction about head coverings is just one among many things in this letter that applied outside the assembly.

    2) I am not the one who is allowing current culture to influence the meaning of the passage. I am simply parsing the words on the page. You are applying assumptions based on differences between their environment and ours.

    3) There are many scriptural examples of prophecy outside the assembly. Just read about Elijah and Elisha. Or Jesus for that matter. Acts 21:9 speaks of Phillip's daughters who prophesied (and of course we know they were not permitted to speak in the assembly! — I know, you'll call this one a circular argument. But so is your denial of it.) Zechariah prophesied outside the assembly in Luke 1. Caiaphas prophesied in a meeting of the Sanhedrin in John 11. Agabus prophesied outside the assembly in Acts 21. Paul prayed in tongues outside the assembly (a form of prophecy), etc….

    4) It is worth discussing whether this command applied to a woman praying in private. The fact that the head covering was a "sign of authority" might mean that it was meant to communicate to others present that she was not in authority as she prayed or prophesied — and therefore it might only have been required when others are present. Or maybe not. I don't have a clear answer about that. But 1 Cor 14 unequivocally teaches that she was not permitted to speak when the whole congregation is assembled (vs 23, vs 26 etc). Yet the head covering applied when she was praying / prophesying. So it clearly applied outside the assembly.

  18. Kyle says:

    I just don't think that makes any sense…it seems inconsistent to say, "She could prophecy publicly outside the assembly" but within the assembly she cannot, head cover or no head cover.

  19. Nick Gill says:

    Alan,

    As you’ve said, context must rule. That includes historical context.

    1) The letter would be read in the assembly. Any cultic instruction would be assumed to primarily refer to the setting in which the instruction was received.

    2) With assembly occuring in the home, the line between assembly and the rest of life was much blurrier than today. Reading our clear categories back into the 1st century milieu is probably unhealthy.

    3) Are there any NT examples of private prophecy, or is that a hypothetical concept you’re drawing from your interpretation of 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2? Paul says prophecy is for the believers, and I can’t find an instance of non-public prophecy.

    4) Can you explain how a woman praying alone in her closet could dishonor her husband by praying without her veil?

  20. Alan says:

    Kyle,

    I'm sure Naaman didn't think it made sense to dip in the Jordan seven times to be healed from leprosy. Obedience is a matter of faith. Sometimes we don't know why God commanded what he did.

  21. Kyle says:

    Yes I agree obediance is a matter of faith. However, I don't think intellectual honesty should necessarily be sacrificed in the name of "faith." Not to say that you are doing that. Merely saying that your thoughts are well explained but they do not add up for me.

    In other words, since the thought seems inconsistant to what I understand about the nature and character of God, the thought perhaps is incorrect.

  22. Pingback: Buried Talents: “Women should remain silent in the churches” (Does 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 address the assembly?) « One In Jesus.info

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