Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sermons and articles 1: Thomas Schreiner on 1 Cor. 11:2-16, Part 5

Dr.Schreiner continues:

Significance of This Text for Today's World
The significance of this text for the twentieth century must be examined briefly. Am I suggesting that women return to wearing coverings or veils? No. *
It should be hard to justify this conclusion by now, since Dr. Schreiner himself has even proved that Paul is asking for women to cover their heads. Surely we are to obey Paul even 2000 years after his time.

We must distinguish between the fundamental principle that underlies a text and the application of that principle in a specific culture. The fundamental principle is that the sexes, although equal, are also different. God has ordained that men have the responsibility to lead, while women have a complementary and supportive role. More specifically, if women pray and prophesy in church, they should do so under the authority of male headship.
The statements here are true enough but are based on other parts of the Bible than 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. This is simply not "the fundamental principle" of Paul's exhortation about the head covering. That the sexes are different, that men are to lead and women support is all quite true but not Paul's point in this passage. The fundamental principle is the hierarchy of headship as ordained by God and the meaning of the literal head in that connection. The hierarchy of headship includes Christ to God and man to Christ (verse 3) which eliminates the idea that it's strictly about sex roles, and in fact it's not about roles, behavior, attitudes, at all.

Now, in the first century, failure to wear a covering sent a signal to the congregation that a woman was rejecting the authority of male leadership. Paul was concerned about head coverings only because of the message they sent to people in that culture.

This is simply not so. No such "signal" or "message" was sent because there was no single "culture" in the church, and no uniform meaning to covering or uncovering the head among the various cultures represented. It had nothing to do with masculine and feminine appearance or roles because both men and women covered and uncovered their heads for different reasons in different cultural contexts. Paul was concerned about head coverings because they represent the hierarchy of authority established by God Himself, authority being represented by the literal head of the person. The man's head is to be uncovered because he is the glory of Christ, and Christ's glory is to be displayed in the worship service, while the man's glory (the woman) is to be concealed so as not to compete with Christ's glory. It may take reading the passage over and over but then it should be clear that this is what Paul is saying.

Again, Paul nowhere mentions or even implies that any existing custom has anything to do with his requirement of the head covering, and again, as a matter of fact there IS no existing custom that represents exactly what he is requiring. He speaks always and only from the point of view of God's own requirements, including the God-given sense from "nature" that women's hair should be long and a man's short or shorter (which apparently in some cultures and certainly in our own day has been lost to our conscience), and that this God-given sense of the woman's long hair as a natural covering shows the need for the action of adding a covering over the head.

Paul is teaching the church something given by the Holy Spirit to the apostles that is a brand-new concept in the world, given to God's people alone.

Today, except in certain religious groups, if a woman fails to wear a head covering while praying or prophesying, no one thinks she is in rebellion. Lack of head coverings sends no message at all in our culture.
Again, it ALSO "sent no message" in Paul's time.

And again, what anyone "thinks" is irrelevant, and no "message is sent" because we've lost the ability to read any such message. We are to learn something new from Paul, not depend on our fallible sense of what's right and wrong about this.

Nevertheless, that does not mean that this text does not apply to our culture. The principle still stands that women should pray and prophesy in a manner that makes it clear that they submit to male leadership.
Again, while submission to male leadership is not completely irrelevant, it is not what the passage is about. It's about acknowledging God's order of authority established for His Creation, and this acknowledgment is also required so that the watching angels will not be offended, as they most certainly must be offended now at the cavalier way God's order is ignored. It's a simple external demonstration that this hierarchy is recognized and honored. While there's plenty in the Bible to teach us that submission to authority as a matter of the heart and demeanor is also required, in this passage that is not the point, the point is only that the head of the woman MUST be covered in order to honor God's ordinances, and the head of the man MUST be uncovered.

There is no need for a deep searching of the conscience about this. There is no need for delicately leaving it to a woman's spiritual intuition to accept or reject it. It is something that was taught by Paul and should be taught now by the leaders of the churches as an ordinance binding upon all who attend worship. The better they teach it the better it will be understood and the more likely that conscience will be engaged, but just as we don't require a man to understand all the spiritual reasoning behind the baring of his head in worship, and just as we don't require a deep understanding of most of the commands in scripture for that matter before we are to obey them, there is also no need to require that we fully understand this commandment either. Of course, given the fact that there has been such confusion and contention about it for so long, it would be only prudent for there to be a protracted period of preaching and studying the passage by a congregation before the practice is enforced by the church leadership. But the point is that this particular teaching is much more about external order than about heart obedience.

Clearly the attitude and the demeanor with which a woman prays and prophesies will be one indication of whether she is humble and submissive. The principle enunciated here should be applied in a variety of ways given the diversity of the human situation.
As I say above, this is not the point of the teaching here. Demeanor and attitude are not Paul's topic. Humility and submission are not Paul's topic. He covers all that elsewhere but not in this context and to keep introducing it here is to confuse Paul's meaning. (As evidenced by this very article). And there is not a variety of ways Paul's requirement can be obeyed, there is only one way and that is by covering the female head and uncovering the male head.

Moreover, both men and women today should dress so that they do not look like the opposite sex. Confusion of the sexes is contrary to the God-given sense that the sexes are distinct. For example, it would be wrong for a twentieth-century American male to wear a dress in public. It would violate his masculinity. Everything within a man would cry out against doing this because it would violate his appropriate sense of what it means to be a man. The point is not that women should not wear jeans or pants, but that in every culture there are certain kinds of adornment which become culturally acceptable norms of dress for men and women.
Again, this is not what the passage is about. Paul is not concerned about culture and he's not talking about masculinity and femininity per se, and there is not the shadow of a hint that the Corinthian congregation suffered in any way from the sexes failing to dress in a way that was appropriate to their sex. Nor is that really a problem in today's churches either if you think about it. The whole idea is a nonissue, a red herring. Problems with dress in today's churches are generally about immodesty, or you might even say a little TOO much display of the differences between the sexes so to speak. In any case Paul would have had no reason to dwell at such length on such a nonissue. He took so much time and gave so many arguments because he was trying to teach something people did not then and do not now intuitively understand -- that the human head represents personal authority and must be either concealed or displayed according to God's order.

Finally, we should note that there is a connection forged in this passage between femininity and the proper submission of women to men. The women in Corinth, by prophesying without a head covering, were sending a signal that they were no longer submitting to male authority.
I know I'm belaboring the point but it does come up in response to what Dr. Schreiner is saying, and I do have the feeling that it needs repeating even if it's tedious.

Again, there was nothing in the cultures of the time to determine this supposed "signal" but the rebellion would have been first of all against Paul and the apostles, since Paul had apparently already given the requirement before and they clearly weren't all obeying it and some were apparently contentious about it. Some of it may simply have been that they didn't understand it. This may be why Paul spends so much time mustering the reasoning for it, so that they would understand it. Perhaps some of the rebellion had a feminist motive, perhaps based on a misplaced notion of the equality of the sexes before God, or perhaps in reaction against some heavyhanded male chauvinism of the sort that needed the care Paul took to show that feminine inferiority was not implied. But it is known that a couple centuries later Tertullian could commend the Corinthian church above all the other churches for the way the women there obeyed this directive about covering the head in his time.

Paul sees this problem as severe because the arrogation of male leadership roles by women ultimately dissolves the distinction between men and women.
This is probably true but it has nothing to do with the passage about the head covering.

Thus, this text speaks volumes to our culture today, because one of the problems with women taking full leadership is that it inevitably involves a collapsing of the distinctions between the sexes.
Unfortunately if the text relates to this current problem at all it may far more likely be due to the fact that nobody requires women to cover their heads in church! If Dr. Schreiner thinks it is about women's not dressing in a feminine enough way, why is it that he gives no examples of this as a general fault in today's churches? Well, he can't because it is NOT a general fault in today's churches. What IS a fault in today's churches is that women -- all women or most women -- don't cover their heads!

And this is bound to have repercussions on the general spiritual health of the churches.

It is hardly surprising, as the example of the Evangelical Woman’s Caucus demonstrates, that one of the next steps is to accept lesbianism.
Well, by giving a wrong interpretation of this text and not requiring women to cover their heads in worship, ironically you are feeding a root of the very kind of disorder that is being lamented here. It's not about feminine dress as such (and some lesbians dress in a very feminine way too), it's about honoring God's order by covering the female head. If God's order of authority is not honored in the covering of the woman's head and her glorious hair, that may very well open the door for the dishonoring of God's authority in other ways, even ultimately to the reversal of the sex roles and the acceptance of sexual perversion. Sin begets sin. Sin is judgment for sin.

The text is not about feminine dress and to make that mistake is only to perpetuate the REAL flouting of God's order in rejecting the head covering, that is very likely to be one of the spiritual roots of sexual disorder in general.

Paul rightly saw, as he shows in this text, that there is a direct link between women appropriating leadership and the loss of femininity.
Once you get off on a wrong interpretation it just snowballs. Paul is not talking about women "appropriating leadership" in this text, and he is not talking about "the loss of femininity" in this text. Granted the first has been a big problem in the churches for a century or so now, though the second if you're talking about feminine appearance is NOT so clearly a problem. But again, the text is about COVERING THE FEMALE HEAD AND UNCOVERING THE MALE HEAD, PERIOD.

There are always spiritual laws and spiritual forces involved in any matter of obedience. If disobedience reigns in one area of Christian life, that gives an entrance to the flesh, not to mention the evil powers and principalities, to encourage further disobedience. This is a principle of the individual spiritual life and it is most likely therefore also a principle of the corporate spiritual life. What if the devil has succeeded in getting the churches to disregard an essential requirement of God's order, and now is getting even church leadership that is concerned about these very encroachments on God's order to contribute to the very problem they want to correct?

In fact I have a suspicion that IF church leadership of an appreciable number of churches suddenly "got it" and enforced it and women were required to cover their heads in worship, just as men are required to uncover theirs, THEN we might very well start to see some reversal of the other problems involving feminism and sexual deviance encroaching on the churches.
We might even see revival and other evidences of wonderful spiritual growth! (or at least we might see the beginning of a serious soul searching in the fear of God that could uncover other ways the churches have been unwittingly in disobedience, and THEN we'd see a new spiritual light dawning).
It is no accident that Paul addresses the issues of feminine adornment and submission to male leadership in the same passage. In conclusion, we should affirm the participation of women in prayer and prophecy in the church. Their contribution should not be slighted or ignored. Nevertheless, women should participate in these activities with hearts that are submissive to male leadership, and they should dress so that they retain their femininity.
Alas, it seems to make sense but unfortunately it doesn't because he's all wrong about what Paul is teaching. Again, it is not about "feminine adornment," and it is not about female "submission to male leadership" and it's not even about the woman's "heart" AT ALL. I'm not even sure women's "participation in prayer and prophecy" SHOULD be affirmed as Dr. Schreiner understands it. If Paul's clear teaching about covering the head is so easily misconstrued and denied, there's no reason to think this part of the passage is rightly understood either.

It may be that in his concern to set the feminists straight he has unwittingly given strength to the very root of the problem he wants to correct.

* [Dr. Schreiner gives this as a footnote here]:

30. The failure to distinguish adequately between what speaks to the first-century
situation and today’s church leads some to the conclusion that women should wear
coverings in church today. Cf. Bruce Waltke, “1 Corinthians 11:2-16: An Interpretation,”Bibliotheca Sacra 135 (1978): 46-57; S. T. Foh, “A Male Leadership View: The Head of the Woman Is the Man,” Women in Ministry: Four Views, ed. B. Clouse and R. G. Clouse (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), pp. 86-87. R. D. Culver, in “Traditional View: Let the Women Keep Silence,” in Clouse and Clouse, pp. 29-32, 48, seems to prefer the wearing of head coverings as well, although he allows some liberty on the question.

Unfortunately Dr. Schreiner has given no basis on which to "distinguish adequately between what speaks to the first-century situation and today's church" and not even a fair justification for thinking in terms of "what speaks to" either situation to begin with. The conclusion that Paul was advocating women's covering their heads is simply the most natural obvious reading of the passage -- and in fact he doesn't deny that, he simply adds the idea that such a covering was culturally conditioned and therefore limited to Paul's time. This is an assumption, an addition to the text. There is absolutely nothing that justifies this idea, certainly not in the text itself, but even in the notions of customary practices of the time he brings to bear on it which are simply not factual. Again, there were at least three cultures represented in the Corinthian church, whose customs differed from the others, therefore there WAS no uniform cultural practice and therefore no uniform meaning to covering the head or not covering it among the members of the Corinthian church. Again, culture and custom are simply irrelevant; Paul is teaching a brand-new practice revealed to the Apostles by the Holy Spirit. I'd also add that Mary Kassian, whose book Women, Creation and the Fall is also published at the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website, as is the book in which Dr. Schreiner's chapter appears, is one who concludes that Paul would have it that even today women should cover the head, though she doesn't strongly advocate this nevertheless.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sermons and articles 1: Thomas Schreiner on 1 Cor. 11: 2-16, Part 4

The Function of 11:7-10 in the Argument
In the next section Dr. Schreiner discusses what it means that woman is the glory of man and I don't have a serious probem with anything he says in this passage so I'll skip over it. Then he discusses the meaning of verse 10, what it means that the woman should have "authority" on her head, and who the "angels" are for whose benefit this should be done. His answers are speculative as are most writers' on the subject, and I'm not going to comment on them because they really don't affect the central point, which is that they are additional arguments in favor of women's covering their heads, and even if we don't quite grasp what Paul has in mind here, that much is not in doubt.
The Qualification in 11:11-12First Corinthians 11:3-10 is a sustained argument in favor of male headship and female submission . . .
Here I have to point out that "female submission" is not anywhere in this passage Paul's subject. It's not that I have anything against the concept, and I'm well aware it is taught by Paul elsewhere so that it is always part of the overarching context, BUT the fact of the matter is that it is NOT what Paul is teaching here. If you read the passage carefully you will see that Paul is taking us step by step through a hierarchy of authority that, while such a hierarchy of course implies submission from lower to higher, in this case is purely objectively descriptive of God's ordering of the sexes and the EXTERNAL signs he wishes Christians to adopt for the purpose of honoring this order. There is no language of interpersonal submission in this passage. Again, of course it is implied, but it is not the point and Paul's meaning is again being muddied up by the imposition of a concept he is not using, same as when Dr. Schreiner simply labels the head covering as a "custom" and as an "adornment." These labelings impose a meaning on the passage that misrepresents what Paul is actually saying.

So, no, this passage is NOT "a sustained argument in favor of male headship and female submission..."
It is a sustained argument FROM God's hierarchy of headship and authority IN FAVOR OF the covering of a woman's head.
...yet with full participation in worship for women (something
Christians today need to remember more often). Verses 11-12 function as a qualification so that the Corinthians will not misunderstand Paul’s argument. Woman and man stand in interdependence in the Lord (11:11). Paul proves this statement in verse 12. Man is the source of woman, but all men ever since Adam have come into the world through women. Paul anticipates the problem that could arise if one stressed his argument in verses 3-10 too rigidly. Male and female could almost be construed as different species,and men as more valuable than women. That is not Paul’s point at all. There is a profound interdependence and mutuality present in the male-female relationship, and neither sex can boast over the other because the sexes are interdependent. Ultimately “everything comes from God.”
Again, I'm not yet sure myself what level of participation in worship Paul had in mind for women, though my own impression is that he is probably not advocating a leadership role in the "prayer and prophesying" for which we are to cover our heads. I haven't yet studied all Paul's teachings on the role of women in the church so I don't have a solid point of view about it. All I can give is this impression for now. But of course Dr. Schreiner is right about Paul's concern to be sure he isn't giving carte blanche to a raw male chauvinism in his advocacy of the head covering.

Since Dr. Schreiner's main impetus for writing his chapter is to answer some feminist arguments, which is the same as the reason for the book itself in which the chapter appears, he goes on in this vein, but since it is not my own concern I will pass over the rest of his statements along these lines. (My concern is simply to establish what Paul is commanding in this passage, which I'm overwhelmingly convinced is for men to have bare heads and women to have a covering over their heads when we are in church.)
The Concluding Argument for Head Coverings in 11:13-16Paul returns in the final paragraph (verses 13-16) to the main burden of the text: women’s wearing head coverings. This is another indication that verses 11-12 do not cancel out the commands given in verses 4-9. Here Paul appeals to the Corinthians’ own judgment (11:13), confident that “the very nature of things” will instruct them with respect to what is fitting or proper. What is the content of the instruction given by nature? Nature teaches that “if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him,” while “if a woman has long hair, it is her glory.”

What is the meaning of the word nature (physis) here? Is Paul simply saying that human tradition and customs have made a distinction between the hair length of men and women? The use of the word practice (sune¯theia) in 11:16 could support this
interpretation. But Paul’s use of nature elsewhere and the use of teach suggest that he is referring to the natural and instinctive sense of right and wrong that God has planted in us, especially with respect to sexuality. This sense of what is appropriate or fitting has been implanted in human beings from creation.28 Romans 1:26-27 is an illuminating parallel because the same word is used. Women and men involved in a homosexual relationship have exchanged the natural function of sexuality for what is contrary to nature, i.e., they have violated the God-given created order and natural instinct, and therefore are engaging in sexual relations with others of the same sex.
I agree with Dr. Schreiner here and think he's said it in an illuminating way.

Nature teaches, then, in the sense that the natural instincts and psychological perceptions of masculinity and femininity are manifested in particular cultural situations. Thus, a male instinctively and naturally shrinks away from doing anything that his culture labels as feminine. So, too, females have a natural inclination to dress like women rather than men. Paul’s point, then, is that how men and women wear their hair is a significant indication of whether they are abiding by the created order. Of course, what constitutes long hair is often debated-what is appropriately masculine or feminine in hairstyle may vary widely from culture to culture.
(Just as a side note, I suspect the norm across the world is for women to have long hair and men's hair at least shorter than the women's, whatever else they do with it as far as styling goes, but that would need more research. In Paul's day in the cultures that surrounded him ALL women wore their hair long and men wore theirs shorter except under unusual circumstances.)
The function of verses 13-15 in the argument is to show that the wearing of a head covering by a woman is in accord with the God-given sense that women and men are different. For a woman to dress like a man is inappropriate because it violates the distinction God has ordained between the sexes. And, according to Paul, if a woman prophesies in church without wearing the symbol of being under male authority-i.e., if she prophesies while dressed like a man-she is in effect negating the distinction between men and women that God has ordained from creation.
Dr. Schreiner has here reduced Paul's concern to requiring the sexes to dress so as not to appear like the opposite sex, but really, what justification does he have for this? Very little it seems to me, and what he has is not derived from the text but is his own invention.

The entire context of the passage is not "dress" at all, nor masculinity and femininity, it's God's hierarchy of order. This hierarchy isn't confined to the two sexes, it includes the relation of man to Christ and Christ to God (verse 3).

The headcovering isn't a mere item of clothing or dress, either, it's a functional piece of equipment as it were, with the purpose of concealing "the glory of man" (which would include the woman's own glory in her hair) so that Christ's glory may be displayed as He is the object of worship.

And again, as I've pointed out a number of times, and this can be verified by any number of studies of this passage, there was no one culture represented in Paul's day which had the exact practice Paul is requiring of the churches -- of men's uncovering their heads and women's covering theirs in worship. There was a mixture of customs, some cultures not requiring women to cover at all, some requiring that men cover in worship and so on. So whether one covered the head or not had NO meaning in terms of masculine or feminine appearance.

This idea is Dr. Schreiner's own invention being imposed on the text, just as his calling covering the head a "custom" and an "adornment" is imposed on the text, as well as the idea that the discussion of headship is about female submission. The whole point of the text is the head covering, nothing else. It is what all Paul's arguments are for, to expain why a head covering is needed. In not one of those arguments does he say a word about female submission, about custom or adornment, about feminine or masculine appearance or the like. All this may be incidentally related to his points but is completely inessential to them. It is the head that must be covered or uncovered because it represents personal authority. Nothing else will do. No other item of dress could qualify. It is all about the head.
In verse 16, Paul concludes his argument by saying, “But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.” Now, some have said that Paul actually rejects the wearing of head coverings by women with these words because the Greek literally says “we have no such practice” (toiaute¯n sune¯theian), and thus they conclude that the practice of wearing head coverings is renounced here by Paul. But such an understanding is surely wrong. Paul in this verse is addressing the contentious, who, the previous context makes clear, do not want to wear a head covering.

The practice of certain Corinthian women who refuse to wear a head covering is what Paul refers to when he says “we have no such practice.” Thus, he says to the contentious that both the apostolic circle (“we”) and the rest of the churches adhere to the custom of head coverings. The instructions Paul has given reflect his own view of the matter and the practice of the other churches. Those who see this advice as limited only to the Corinthian situation have failed to take this verse seriously enough. Paul perceives his instructions here as binding for all churches in the Greco-Roman world. Indeed, the other churches already adhere to the practice Paul recommends here.
Yes. Clearly Paul is affirming the wearing of head coverings in this as in every other statement of this passage, and is here asserting the authority of the apostles to determine practice in the churches.
Such a universal word at the conclusion of the text is a strong indication that the principle that underlies this passage cannot simply be dismissed as cultural.
Yes, but despite Dr. Schreiner's very strong assertion of Paul's requirement of the head covering, here he goes on to undermine it with that phrase "the principle that underlies this passage." To Dr. Schreiner that principle is that the sexes are to dress to distinguish themselves as clearly masculine or feminine, which I've already answered. No, he is quite right that "such a universal word at the conclusion of the text" means we cannot dismiss Paul's requirement as merely cultural, and yet this is exactly what Dr. Schreiner does by inventing a "principle" which supposedly "underlies" the passage which denies that Paul's requirement and the whole tenor of the passage is about covering the head and nothing else.

This will become even clearer in the last part of this discussion.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Thomas Schreiner on 1 Cor. 11: 2-6, Part 3

I want to say again that this article by Thomas Schreiner is terribly hard to read. I want to try to point out where I have this problem but it's even hard to do that. Sometimes what he says seems to me to be right on the money, exactly correct, but then he'll make a completely unwarranted leap to a conclusion that leaves me reeling. Well, I'll try to pin all this down as I go.

At the end of his discussion of the meaning of the word "kephale" or "head," where I've already agreed with his conclusions he has a paragraph I also agree with that I want to note:
I think Paul added the headship of God over Christ right after asserting the headship of man over woman in order to teach that the authority of man over woman does not imply the inferiority of women or the superiority of men. Some Corinthians may have concluded that the headship of man over woman diminished woman’s worth. Paul anticipates this objection and adds that God is the head over Christ. And even though God (i.e., the Father) is the head over Christ, He is not essentially greater than Christ. So too, even though women are under men’s authority, they are not essentially inferior. Paul follows this same pattern in 11:7-12. In 11:7-10, he says women were created for man’s glory and sake. But in 11:11-12, he shows that this does not involve the inferiority of women.
I agree completely.

Now he goes on to the following verses which he thinks depend heavily on the meaning of "head" which he has just disussed, although I don't think it's that crucial myself.
The Relation of 11:4-6 to 11:3
We have spent considerable time on 11:3 because it is fundamental to the whole passage. Verses 4-6 flow from the theological principle enunciated in 11:3. Since Christ is the authority over men, and since men are the authority over women, it follows that no man should wear a head covering when he prays and prophesies, while a woman should. Paul objects to men wearing head coverings in verse 4 because such adornment would be disgraceful. Why? Because that is what women wore (11:5-6), and thus a man who wore such a head covering would be shamefully depicting himself as a woman. Conversely, if women do not wear head coverings, their failure to be adorned properly would be shameful (11:5) because they would be dressing like men. [my bolding]
This simply is not true. The evidence from that time is that Jewish men always covered their heads in worship -- and still do -- and Roman men likewise often did so when worshiping their various gods. A head covering simply is NOT "what women wore" while men did not. Greek women did NOT normally cover their heads; they might or they might not and if they did it was for fashion not conscience. Greek men did not cover their heads. Jewish men AND women both covered their heads in worship. There was less of a clearcut custom among Romans and Greeks, so that you couldn't make a standard out of their practice.
Clearly Paul was teaching them all something new. What he said contradicted at least something in all the cultures though it may have supported some practices as well, just not all the practices of any of the cultures. He was giving a brand-new apostolically authoritative command.
That the shame involved is due to appearing like a man is confirmed by Paul’s explanation in 11:5b-6. A woman’s failure to wear a head covering is analogous to her having her hair cut short or shaved. Every woman in the culture of that day would have been ashamed of appearing in public with her head shaved or her
hair cut short, because then she would have looked like a man.
There is no evidence for such a flat-out statement: Dr. Schreiner doesn't offer any and there really isn't any. Looking like a man may be part of the shame if a woman's hair is cut but there is nothing explicit to say so, certainly not with the air of certainty expressed here. Research done by some on this passage has shown that there was a custom in some cultures for women to have their hair cut in mourning, which many women resisted despite its being a custom [references pending]. It was also done to women caught in adultery in some cases. This seems just as likely a source of the shame. But it also seems likely that women simply regarded their hair as an attractive feminine feature and to lose it would make them feel less attractive and at odds with the culture. In other words, just as Paul implies in verse 15 perhaps people in those days really did judge a woman's long hair to be her peculiar and essential glory and it's only in our time that we've lost this sense of things. In any case, Dr. Schreiner really has no basis for his absolute assertion that it was a shame so strictly because it made a woman look like a man. There are too many other elements involved to justify such a hard and fast singular declaration.

Paul is of course making an analogy between the shorn head and the failure to cover, however, as Dr. Schreiner affirms. But looking like a man isn't the point or at least not the central point (and I've already pointed out that either wearing or not wearing a covering did not make a man or woman look more or less like the opposite sex if you are judging by the customs of the time). The main point throughout the passage is the hierarchy of authority or headship. If a woman will not cover her head it's the same thing as shaving her head because her long hair should teach her that she needs an additional covering, and if she refuses it she might as well also remove her natural covering. Paul clearly expects them all to recognize the shame in cutting the women's hair, so it makes a basis for teaching them the shame they did NOT feel in not wearing an additional covering. The verses about the length of hair are there as one of the arguments for the covering.
Paul explicitly says in 11:15 that a woman’s “long hair” is her “glory.” And if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him (11:14). If we compare verse 14 with verse 15, it is clear that for a man to wear long hair is a dishonor to him because such long hair is the particular glory of a woman, i.e., because if a man wears long hair, he looks like a woman.
Here it is more defensible to say that looking like a woman is the source of the dishonor to a man in having long hair, but again this interpretation is given an emphasis not clearly derived from the passage itself but rather imposed on it. When you put it together with the emphasis on the hierarchy of headship that IS Paul's concern, the dishonor simply appears too superficial when presented as simply "looking like a woman." (Actually, men with long hair hardly ever look like women -- just my own observation).
If we examine verses 5 and 6 in light of verses 14-15, we see that for a woman to wear her hair short or to shave her hair is contrary to what brings her glory, namely, long hair. Indeed, to keep her hair short is to wear it the way a man does (cf. 11:14). Thus, we can conclude that Paul wants women to wear head coverings while praying and 123 prophesying because to do otherwise would be to confuse the sexes and give the shameful impression that women are behaving like men.
Just the addition of a little word makes all the difference here. Paul does not say that her long hair "brings her glory," he said it IS her glory. He then goes on as if to say that what MAKES it her glory is that it is given her for a covering ("peribolaion" -- a different sense than the covering he's been advocating -- "katakalupto"). "But if a woman has long hair it is a glory to her, for *(her) hair is given to her for a covering." The shame then that Paul is offering as another argument is again the shame of being covered if you are a man who is the glory of Christ and of being uncovered if you are a woman who is the glory of man.

Then follows a discussion of whether the "head" mentioned refers to the person's own head or to the authority over that person, man over the woman, Christ over the man and so on but I won't go into that. I agree with Dr. Schreiner that it means both. Both are true: what dishonors one's authoritative head also dishonors one's own head or oneself.
The woman who fails to wear a head covering brings dishonor on her head, man. Three arguments support this interpretation.

(1) Verses 4-6 are an inference or conclusion drawn from the fundamental proposition in verse 3. Why does Paul want women to wear head coverings? Because such head coverings reflect the role relationship intended between man and woman. Since man is the head of woman, woman ought to adorn herself with a head covering. Failure to do so is to bring shame on one’s head, namely, man. Such an understanding of head accords well with the intended connection between verse 3 and verses 4-6.
I agree but then note again that "adorn" is a tendentious and false word to use in this context, an imposition on the text. I'm also not quite sure "role relationship" expresses the point Paul is trying to make. I see his point as relating all of it more directly to God and God's Creation order than to the relations between the sexes, although of course that is always in the picture. He's talking about them all as positions on a hierarchical ladder and not discussing how they are to relate to each other. The man IS the glory of Christ and His glory is to be displayed in worship; therefore the man is not to cover his head so that Christ may be shown forth. But the woman is the glory of man, having been created out of his body, and the man's glory is to be hidden so that Christ's glory alone may shine.
(2) If Paul only wanted to say that one was disgracing oneself, he could have used a reflexive pronoun in verses 4 and 5. By using the word head in an obviously metaphorical way, Paul suggests a connection with the metaphorical use of that word in verse 3.
I agree with this main point that the dishonor is to both self and the authority.

But again I have to point out the unwarranted use of "adorn," which somewhat suggests that the head covering is something less than a simple literal covering, making it instead into a decoration which subtly implies choice. Although of course he wouldn't argue that Paul saw women as having such a choice, when he comes to the end of this article we will find him arguing that we today have a choice they didn't have, and then the insistence on the head covering as an "adornment" supports that conclusion. He's going to argue at the end that we need to be adorned in a feminine way, and that covering the head was only the way THEY adorned themselves to show femininity in THEIR day. This conclusion is more defensible if Paul is only talking about a custom we can regard as an optional adornment and not explicitly a command to cover the literal head. If you look at the paintings of women in prayer drawn on the walls of the catacombs in Rome during the times of the early Roman persecutions, you will see that they have a piece of cloth simply pulled over their heads. This is clearly intended as a functional covering and not an "adornment." When Jewish men covered their heads they used a prayer shawl, or pulled some part of their robe over their head, as Haman did in the Book of Esther. That is also how the Greeks and Romans did it if they covered their heads.

I'm jumping the gun here but I must go on: With all the emphasis on the literal head in this passage, even the ambiguity about the word "head" which serves to emphasize that we ARE talking about the head, also continued in the discussion about the length of the hair and the honor or dishonor attached to it, and the covering or uncovering of the head and the honor or dishonor attached to it, all backed up with arguments concerning HEADship, man over woman, Christ over man, God over Christ, from the Creation and from Nature, to conclude that Paul is only talking about a culturally relative custom of his own day that distinguishes the feminine from the masculine makes no sense. He's clearly arguing for a principle involving the literal head that he has to explain to the Corinthians in great detail and with many examples because it isn't part of their culture so he doesn't expect them to reocgnize it.
(3) Paul says in verse 7 that “woman is the glory of man.” He probably means by glory that the woman is intended to bring honor to the man. She should honor him because he is the head, i.e., the authority (11:3). This suggests that a woman disgraces her head, i.e., man, by not wearing a head covering (11:5), and man disgraces his head, Christ, by wearing a head covering (11:4).
But Paul did not say the woman "brings honor" to the man, that idea is added on here; Paul said she IS his glory. There is no "should" implied. She simply IS his glory, and I believe the idea is that since she was taken out of his side and not directly created from the dust as was Adam she is Adam’s glory while Adam is God’s glory. Therefore when she covers her own head she is covering HIS glory! She is suppressing the MAN's glory which would otherwise compete with the glory of Christ in worship, while the man's bare head shows forth Christ's glory as he IS the glory of Christ. Yes she SHOULD honor the man, but especially honor Christ by covering her head, and he SHOULD honor Christ by uncovering his but to emphasize only this factor would neglect the more fundamental point that he IS the glory of Christ and she IS the glory of man.
Paul might have intended both senses here. They are not mutually exclusive. A woman who does not wear a head covering both disgraces herself and brings dishonor on her authority, who is man. A man who wears a head covering dishonors himself and his authority, Jesus Christ. If one does not conform to the role God intended, one brings dishonor on oneself and on one’s authority. A child who rebels against a parent brings grief on himself and his parents (Proverbs 10:1; 17:25). We can conclude, then, that if a woman failed to wear a head covering and so dressed like a man, she brought shame both on herself and-because her behavior was a symbol of her rebellion against the created order, i.e., the intended relation between man and woman-on the man. Her failure to wear a head covering communicated rebellion and independence to everyone present in worship.19
Well, I agree with his general point that both meanings of "head" are apparently intended in the passage, and his general point about honoring the authority over us, but it needs to be remembered that none of this was reflected in the cultural practices of the day, though Dr. Schreiner seems to take it for granted that culture is Paul's frame of reference. Again, not all the cultures represented in the Corinthian church required a woman to cover her head and at least the Jewish culture and to some extent the Roman did require a man to cover his head in worship. It was not regarded as shameful.

Paul's teaching simply is not about the customs of the day. There is a problem here with imputing a cultural frame of reference to Paul which is far from warranted by his own presentation, and assuming all the Corinthians shared in the view of the head covering Paul seems to be describing. The evidence is that some did not share in that view, and in fact not one of the cultures represented consistently had the customs Paul is teaching. What he is teaching is COUNTERCULTURAL and specific to the Christian Church. Paul is giving the church a command from apostolic authority to do something NONE of the cultures represented did in any consistent way: to uncover men's heads in worship and to cover women's. It's a new thing. It's a Christian thing. It was born of apostolic tradition, led by the Holy Spirit.

In prayer and prophesying.

Dr. Schreiner goes on to argue that Paul accepts that women should pray and prophesy in the public meeting because he links the head covering to this activity. My own working impression from my study of this is that Paul does NOT allow women to do this in any sense at least of taking a leadership role in it, but it's not crucial to the command that a woman cover the head in a worship service and it's so vexed a subject I'm just going to let it go.


Thomas Schreiner on 1 Cor. 11:2-16 Part 2

What is the Adornment for Women in this Passage?
A better, less tendentious question would be "What sort of covering is Paul asking women to use?" "Covering" is the best English translation of the Greek word; the term "adornment" is Dr. Schreiner's own interpretation of the covering and he is imposing it on the text, as there is no reason whatever from the text itself for us to conclude that the covering is anything but a covering, something meant to cover, conceal or hide, rather than a decorative item, which can suggest something inessential, even something that doesn't have to cover anything really.
One of the perplexing questions in this passage is this: What custom regarding adornment is referred to here?
As I point out above, we don't have to think in terms of a "custom" at all, nor in terms of "adornment" at all, if in fact the apostles are requiring something entirely new of the churches, and if what they are requiring is simply intended to cover or to conceal, which is the practical function of clothing in general, and certainly implied in Paul's whole discussion of the covering he advocates.
We cannot treat this complex question in detail,...
What makes the question "complex?" Shouldn't that be explained even if not "in detail" before going on to speculate on a couple of answers? Isn't this chapter aimed at getting to the root of the meaning of this passage? Then you can't leave the reader hanging like this. But on we go nevertheless.
. . . but the two most probable suggestions can be set forth: (1) The custom Paul recommends is for women to wear shawls. (2) Paul objects to long, loose hair that falls down the back; he wants women to follow the usual custom of piling their hair up on top of their heads.
Why are these the only two? Are we to be favored with an explanation of what makes these two possibilities the "most probable"? The idea that long loose hair was Paul's complaint strikes me as extremely IMprobable. In fact this is one of those unwarranted leaps to a conclusion I said earlier that Dr. Schreiner sometimes suddenly springs out of the blue, a breathtaking non sequitur. And calling these selections the "most probable" leaves the reader wondering what other possibilities are being left out.

Well, now I want to see if he gives any explanation for this choice.

He's going to address the second of the two "most probable suggestions" first:
In favor of the view that Paul is speaking against women wearing their hair loose and falling down the back are the following arguments:2
Don't you first need to give an explanation why anyone would think hair is what Paul is talking about at all? The suggestion comes as a jarring non sequitur it seems to me. Paul is saying we are to cover our heads, so how is this is about hair which ALREADY covers our heads without our doing anything?
(1) There is no extant evidence that full veiling, familiar in Islam, was current in Paul’s time. Therefore, the custom described cannot be veiling.
It can't? I don't see the connection. Pardon my incredulity but I'm trying to keep careful track of the confusing logic here as it could easily bulldoze me into confused silence if I don't. I don't understand how this article managed to get published in this condition. Where was the editorial staff?

This seems to be another non sequitur just pulled out of a hat. Where are these ideas coming from?
1). Why is "full veiling" the only kind of veiling we are being invited to consider? "Veiling" can also refer to merely covering the head or hair, not the face.
2) How would "full veiling" answer the idea that hair is the meaning of the covering? Those who argue for a woman's hair as the covering Paul has in mind don't refer to Islamic veiling in anything I've read.
3) Just as a matter of fact there is evidence that full veiling of the Islamic kind was current at least within a hundred and fifty years of Paul's time: Tertullian (c.207) wrote at some length about the head covering, much of it objecting to what he considered to be inadequate coverage of the head in most churches of his day, and at one point comments: "Arabia's pagan females will be your judges. For they cover not only the head, but the face also." So here is some reason to question Dr. Schreiner's statement that full Islamic type veiling was not known in Paul's time. Also, some of the other church fathers of the early centuries advocated covering not only the head and hair but also the face, Clement of Alexandria for one. [This is all from A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs edited by David Bercot].
4) Why is any custom being taken as the standard here at all? Paul refers to NO extant custom whatever. What he is recommending does not necessarily rest on custom at all and there is nothing in the passage to suggest it does. This is an assumption often imposed on the text completely without justification.
(2) The same Greek word that describes the practice of the Corinthian women in 11:5 (akatakalyptos ) [“unveiled,” according to rsv] is used in Leviticus 13:45 (LXX)3 about a leper’s hair, which is to hang unloosed. The problem with the Corinthian women, then, is that they were wearing their hair loose and flowing down their backs.
Apparently Dr. Schreiner is paraphrasing an argument he himself doesn't accept. I don't know whether the original argument makes any more sense, but it doesn't make much sense as he is presenting it. The fact that the same Greek word is used elsewhere in scripture to describe loose flowing hair is considered to qualify as evidence that hair is therefore what Paul is talking about? Am I not following this? This argument is so utterly nonsensical, so utterly lacking in any recognition of the flexibility of language or the context of the passage under discussion words almost fail me. I think I'll let them fail me. What is there to say really? This article is embarrassingly bad even for a novice let alone a well known scholar.
3) The word apokalypto¯ , which is somewhat related to akatakalyptos, is used in Numbers 5:18, where a woman suspected of adultery had to unbind her hair and wear it loosely. The wearing of long, loose hair by an adulteress would support the idea that wearing one’s hair loose was considered shameful.
Yes, but this isn't the subject here. The subject is what is the covering Paul is recommending. So far nothing has been offered to defend the claim that this covering is hair at all. Attitudes toward how the hair is to be worn are another subject altogether.
(4) Respectable women in Paul’s time did not appear in public with their hair long and flowing down their backs. They wore their hair piled up on their heads in a bun. Paul wants the Corinthian women to adhere to this custom.
It may be so as far as hair goes, but again, NOTHING has been offered to show that Paul is referring to the hair as the covering in this passage. These supposed evidences aren't evidences for that.

None of this makes any sense. I don't know why it is included at all. He is going to go on and argue that Paul had a shawl in mind for a covering.
Despite these arguments in favor of the view that Paul is commanding the wearing of hair on top of the head by women, it is probable that Paul is speaking of wearing a head covering of some kind, such as a shawl.
Another startling non sequitur just pulled out of a hat. "Despite" these arguments? We're not going to get something "in answer to" these arguments, only something in spite of them? The mind reels. So we get a lengthy but incoherent consideration of the hair as the covering only to see it flatly dismissed in favor of something merely called "probable" for which no evidence or argument is given at all for preferring it to the previous suggestion. What makes the shawl more "probable"? Apparently we are not to expect an explanation in order to try to think it through for ourselves, we are simply told it's more probable and that's that.
4 That a shawl rather than a full veil is in Paul’s mind is indicated by the word covering (peribolaios) in 11:15, which is not the usual word for veil but probably refers to a wrap-around. The evidence in favor of this position is as follows:
OK, so this is apparently intended as sort of an explanation. But the term peribolaion is used in verse 15 specifically to refer to a woman's natural long HAIR, while katakaluptos is the word exclusively used in the rest of the passage to designate the covering Paul is arguing for. To apply this term to a "veil" at this point is to completely muddy the argument Paul is making.
Paul is using the kind of covering the natural hair forms (peribolaion) as a REASON for an additional covering (katakalupto).
(1) The verb translated as “cover” in the niv (katakalypto¯ ) occurs three times in verses 6-7, and related cognate words occur in verses 5 and 13. These words most often refer to a covering of some kind. For example, the angels who saw the glory of Yahweh in the temple covered their faces (Isaiah 6:2). Judah thought Tamar, his daughter-in-law, was a harlot because she covered her face (Genesis 38:15). Since the word almost universally means “to cover” or “to hide,” the text is probably referring to a hair covering of some kind.5

(2) Philo (30 b.c. - a.d. 45) uses the same words Paul does in 1 Corinthians 11:5,
“head uncovered” (akatakalypto¯ te¯ kephale¯ ), and it is clear that Philo is speaking of a head covering being removed because the priest had just removed her kerchief (Special Laws, 3:60). Akatakalyptos also means “uncovered” in Philo, Allegorical Interpretation II,29, and in Polybius 15,27.2 (second century b.c.). Moreover, it is simply a negative adjective based on the verb katakalypto¯ , which commonly means “cover, veil.”

(3) 119 Esther 6:12 (LXX) employs the same expression found in verse four, kata kephale¯s, of Haman, who hurried home mourning, covering his head in shame. He probably used part of his garment to do this.

(4) A similar expression occurs in Plutarch (46-120 a.d.), where it is specifically stated that the head is covered with part of the toga (himation).6
Now he's on track by my lights, though there's no rhyme or reason to how he arrived here. Yes, Paul is talking about something that covers or hides. We could have done without all the previous windup, even the speculation that a shawl is what Paul had in mind. It could be part of the garment and not necessarily a shawl or separate piece of cloth at all. It MIGHT have been a shawl but if it was then you need evidence to support your suggestion which has not yet been given (and isn't going to be given either).
Verse 15 seems to create a difficulty if Paul is speaking of a head covering. Verse 15 says that her “long hair is given to her for a covering.” But if her hair is given to her for a covering, then a woman would not need to wear another covering over her hair. However, it is improbable that the only covering that Paul requires is a woman’s hair, for we have already seen that the words for covering that Paul uses in verses 4-6 and verse 13 point to a veil or a shawl. Indeed, if all Paul has been requiring is long hair, then his explanation of the situation in verses 4-6 is awkward and even misleading.
Can't argue with this conclusion although it isn't clear how it rests on the previous evidence given.
Verse 15 can be explained in such a way that Paul is not rejecting his earlier call for a shawl. The word for (anti) in verse 15 probably indicates not substitution but equivalence.7
Yes, but again nothing has been said to justify this claim that Paul was talking specifically about a "shawl." Also, the meaning of "anti" as "not substitution but equivalence" usually gets more discussion in studies of this passage, which it needs if you are serious about answering the people who claim the covering is hair. But of course I agree this is how the verse should be read even if evidence is lacking for it.
In other words, Paul is not saying that a woman has been given long hair instead of a covering. Rather, he is saying that a woman has been given long hair as a covering. His point seems to be that a woman’s long hair is an indication that she needs to wear a covering.8
I agree, but again, unfortunately the supporting remarks don't really support it.
To sum up: the custom recommended here is a head covering of some kind, probably a shawl. The importance of identifying this custom can be exaggerated, unless one believes that the custom of the day should be applied to our culture. The major point of the text is clear: women are to adorn themselves in a certain way. The precise kind of head covering Paul had in mind is no longer clear. What is more important, and we turn to this next, is: Why does Paul want the women to adorn themselves in a certain way?
Yes, of course Paul is recommending a head covering of some kind. I'm so glad Dr. Schreiner finally arrived at this conclusion (although, again, it is hard to see how he got here).
But although he sees that Paul really is talking about a head covering he takes it away in the next breath: "The importance of identifying this custom can be exaggerated..."
"...unless one believes that the custom of the day should be applied to our culture."

Oh dear.

He's got it right that Paul is definitely recommending "a head covering of some kind" and a shawl would probably qualify though he's pulled that out of a hat along with so much else he's said. But then without giving any reason why we shouldn't obey Paul's apostolically authoritative command he simply blandly affirms that we don't believe it applies to us any more as if that constitutes an argument against it. Throughout the chapter he's CALLED this covering a CUSTOM and an ADORNMENT, without any warrant from the text itself, but now his own mischoice of terms permits him to dismiss Paul's requirement as MERELY a custom and an adornment. I saw this coming, did you?

Just to repeat:

There is no evidence whatever that Paul had any particular custom in mind that existed in his time.

The fact is that there WAS no universal custom of the time he COULD have been affirming as they all differed from each other and what he is recommending does not reflect any of them fully.
Paul's arguments are not from custom at all, but from universals, the Creation order, the hierarchy of headship established by God, "nature."

It would be just plain out of character for Paul to be affirming a mere cultural standard, unless one happened to exist that perfectly reflected God's standard. It's always God's standard that concerns Paul.
And since it is God's standards to which Paul appeals, rather than any mere human custom, there is no excuse for us in our time not to obey his directive.
Again, Paul is not talking about ADORNMENT either, same as he is not talking about CUSTOM.

But we're not through with this article yet.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

A typical objection to the headcovering

"I'm afraid I feel differently about your 'headcovering' topic," writes a friend. "There are so many instructions and commands in the Bible and especially after the New Covenant that the topic of that is about number 199 in a possible list of 200. If it were essential it would be up there with love and the many other ways we are to act if we have the Holy Spirit in us and are really His."

This objection, which is unfortunately quite typical, comes from a completely Bible-believing Christian -- except for this one passage I guess. Since when is ANY command given in the Bible NOT "essential" to a Christian?

What is it about this particular command that evokes this sort of response? Really, I don't think it's about the command at all, or any of the things people so often say about the greater importance of other commands. I think it's ONLY about what a few teachers have said that people would rather hear, and the fact that it is no longer done in church. That is, it has nothing whatever to do with the Bible or God or anything of a spiritual nature, it's all about extraneous man-determined practice.

To compare this command to commands that require deep dealing with our hearts is simply wrong. Those commands require much self-work in spiritual growth over much time, but this command is simple, external, and easy to follow: wear a hat or pull a scarf over your head when you enter church, period. It's that simple. To do so is to respect God's order of Creation, give no offense to angels, and obey what Paul actually so clearly says in that passage when all the mealymouthed rationalizing convoluted fleshly human tradition is taken out of the way.

This is not to deny that there is spiritual depth to the command that should ideally be understood, but it's not a matter that requires spiritual growth, it's more a matter of spiritual knowledge to be acquired. Unlike the commands that grow us in grace and sanctification, our obedience to this one can be effected in an instant, leaving us free to spend our conscious energies on learning to love our enemy and so on -- as well as growing in spiritual understanding of the headcovering, WHILE we're wearing it.

What does it mean to say "If it were essential it would be up there with love" etc.?
Up there in what sense? Up there in people's minds? Up there in the priorities of preaching? Up there in Biblical importance? --as judged by whom? Paul? He spent an unusual length of writing on it for it to be dismissed as trivial. Sort of like answering Paul with, Well we don't do that any more, therefore we SHOULDN'T do that any more. My point is that it's NOT "up there" or regarded as important -- in people's minds, in the priorities of preaching -- because it's been wrongly disregarded, and it SHOULD be MADE important, should be brought "up there."

How is it LOVE to teach people to think lightly of a clearcut command in the New Testament?

But really, it's not the only one.

This continues to stymie me.

But then prayer is the best way to overcome strongholds, not argument, which is one of my biggest spiritual errors.