Tuesday, April 13, 2010

1 Corinthians 11: 2-16

We might be working off a theme here, women. There are some verses that are considered 'troubling' or 'demeaning' to women in the Bible. (I know, I know, take a minute to control your shock.) And, because I'm off today (I had to go renew my driver's license in person, so I took the whole day off), I thought I'd talk about one of them. What follows will be, of course, my opinion, and only mine. I make no claims to anything approaching inerrant or even clever thought.

So. First up, 1 Corinthians:

2. Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. 3. But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

So, we start of with a hierarchy, of sorts. God is the 'head', the source of Christ. Christ is the source of man, and man is the source of woman. And, I can see that face you're making. It says *head*, Amber, not *source*. Yes, I can read. Thanks. :) However, 'head', has a lot of definitions, all related, of course. Position, authority, yadda, yadda. But it also means the *source* of things. So, and since this is all about my opinion, 'source'. God exists. Christ proceeded from God the Father (Christ, of course, also being God.) Man was created through Christ. (John 1:3, John 1:10, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:2) Man 'proceeded' from Christ. And, if we go back to Genesis, woman proceeded from man. (Genesis 2: 21-23)

4. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head.

Why? I don't know. My personal theory is that it's because, at the time, most of the Christians were Jewish converts. Jews were required to cover their heads to pray. Perhaps this uncovering of the Christian believers head was partially a way to distinguish themselves.

5. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. 6. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.

As for this, it is my understanding that at this time period, all respectable women covered their hair, no matter their faith. Women of 'ill repute' would go about with their hair showing. A way of advertising their 'wares', almost. And, I'd like to point out, that it says, 'prays or prophecies' - which I take to mean, 'in front of the congregation'. So, following from that, my brain tells me that the woman needs to be sure that she is covered properly (for the time period) in front of a mixed group because she will be speaking in front of men who are not related to her, who have no right to see all of her beauty. It also refutes the claim I've heard that hair is all the covering a woman needs. It makes no sense for hair = covering in the sense spoken of above if you can say, 'if a woman uncovers, shave her. both are equally shameful.' because, according to the hair = covering theory, if she's uncovered, she's already shaved!

7. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. 9. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.

I tend to take this this way: Man is the image and glory of God because Christ was a man. It ties in, for me, to the reasons why women cannot be priests. A priest is acting in the person of Christ - he is the *icon* of Christ. And yes, all Christians are a part of the 'priesthood of believers', but there's another, set apart priesthood that traces back to the Apostles. Anyway. It all ties back to the order of creation. Man is a glory to God, because man came 'directly' from God. Woman is a glory to man, because she came out from him. But, as is pointed out a little later in this section, *both* ultimately come from God. So, in the end, all glory, as is proper, belongs to God.

10. For this reason the woman out to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

And why? Why do angels care if women cover their head? I don't know. I've heard a variety of explanations, ranging from ones that make a fair bit of sense, that angels value it simply for the obedience that it shows to God, to the not so much: such as the fact that angels, being hierarchical in nature, place importance on knowing the 'rank' of other beings. To the completely kind of 'huh?' like the theory that a woman's hair is *so* beautiful that the sight of her, all exposed, drives angels to uh...'know' the women. And that never ends well.

11. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.

Like I said. All things are from God. Whatever glory a woman gives to man, it all goes back to God, in the end. Because all things are from and *for* God, properly.

13. Judge amongst yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14. Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15. But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16. But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

Hmm...it actually says, 'judge amongst yourselves'. So, is it? Is it proper, today, for women to pray to God with their hair uncovered? Is the covering just a cultural issue? For me, personally, I say it's not. But that's something that I feel *personally* called to. At the time this letter was written, the answer would have been 'no' - it is *not* proper for women to go about uncovered. Today, if you look around, I don't believe that we can use the way that the world, or even many, many Christians dress as a judge of what is proper. So we need to either look to the past to what was considered appropriate and adapt modern clothing to meet those standards, or look into ourselves to find what is appropriate.

And...I may have gotten off topic somewhere in there. I'm not even sure if it makes any sense. But, that's just me, going through and reading on my own.


  1. This was really interesting. Yes a lot of these verses still make my blood boil but it was good to hear your explanations.

    What I don't get is how the church eventually justified not covering your hair in church. Any ideas?

  2. Thank you for doing this! I greatly enjoyed reading your personal explanations for these verses. You make a lot of sense and it was very interesting! :)

  3. LK,

    Which ones? I just ask because while I know these are some verses that upset people, but I don't really get why. I think it's because I just don't understand them the same way...

    But then, there's plenty of verses in the Qur'an/hadith that make my blood boil that Muslim women don't have issues with, probably because they don't understand them the way I do...

    re: covering in church - Like so many things, it goes back to Vatican II. A newspaper erroneously reported that the canon requiring women to cover in church was being removed (the Bishop really said that they weren't even discussing it), and then when the new code of canon law came out, the lines regarding covering were not in there. Which led many people to believe that the requirement had been removed. However, the code actually says that anything that is not specifically abrogated in the new canon is still in effect from the old canon. So, under that understanding, the canon requiring women to veil in church is still in effect. But, of course, that's an argument within the church. People against covering say that since it's not in the current canon, it's not a law. People for it use the non-abrogation argument to support it. And...we get nowhere.

  4. Susanne,

    Thanks. It's not 'official Church position' (not that it's against the Church position, either, but I didn't get it from a Church source), but it makes sense to me. :)

  5. The "woman for man" one always gets me. But I like your explanations, they make sense. I agree, there is stuff in the Qur'an that drives/drove me crazy. A lot of it I didn't understand without A LOT of research. Often, as with the Bible, translations and commentary are heavily based in culture and not always accurate.

    its always Vatican II lol I figured thats how it went. A lot of things happened in just that way. I dunno if I could ever go back to praying without covering my head since I have seen it is in all 3 books.

  6. LK,

    *nods* I can kind of understand that one. :)

    Vatican II - Den of Voles. So many things went wrong, and there's a lot of 'back tracking' going on.


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