Basically he says much the same thing that both Thomas Schreiner and Alistair Begg say so I'm going to try to keep this to a bare minimum.
Now remember, this is Corinth. In the middle of Corinth was a temple to Aphrodite, a thousand priestess prostitutes with heads open and exposed and hair cut short flaunting their sexuality trying to lure men into sexual acts in the temple, put up on the acro of Corinth, the hilltop outside Corinth, this big temple. And these women again flaunting their liberation, flaunting their sexuality. There was a whole attitude there very much like EphesusHere he is repeating this idea about prostitution which has been shown by others to be false. There were indeed a thousand temple prostitutes but they didn't cut their hair or even have it uncovered. You can find pictures of temple prostitutes with a head covering. In fact it is in worship of their pagan deities that the head is most often covered by the Greeks and Romans, both men and women. Apparently there was a very low class of prostitutes who did shave their heads, though the temple prostitutes didn't.
So he says I know you obey me, I know you remember what I said, but I want to tell you this, folks, you've got to realize the head of every man is Christ and the head of the woman is the man. And the head of Christ is God. You have to get one thing straight, women are put in a place of submission to men.... It is to understand as an attitudinal objective that the man is the head of the woman.Here he puts it in terms of attitude as do the others I've covered so far, but again I have to answer that attitude does not seem to be a concern of Paul's teaching in this passage, as it is in other parts of his writings. As I kept noting in Dr. Schreiner's essay it tends to confuse the intent of this passage to interpret it as an inner state at all, as something subjective rather than objective. It's simply about putting something on the female head because that reflects God's creation order and establishes the woman in her proper place under authority. It's an external thing.
Maybe I make too much of this but it seems to me we mustn't make an outer symbol stand for an inner state. You simply can't guarantee inner states and the last thing we want is people fussing about whether or not the head covering really does reflect a truly submissive heart. That way lies madness and hypocrisy. No, it is meant to symbolize the OBJECTIVE POSITION of the woman under male authority. Leave the heart alone -- that's for the woman herself to deal with privately before the Lord.
So, let me give you a little cultural thing. In Corinth, women as a custom covered their heads.Here's that idea that it's about culture getting started again. It is simply not true, as I've said probably too many times by now, that women in Corinth as a rule covered their heads. In Corinth there were at least three cultures mixing together all with different customs about covering the head. Only the Jewish women were known to have their heads covered at all times.
That was how a woman identified her humility, that's how she hid herself as if to say I am not available, I belong to one man. And that was her modesty, that was her femininity. This is how she carried herself and how she clothed herself to demonstrate her womanliness, her femininity. In the Corinthian society, men were uncovered. Their heads were bare, their faces were open and that was the mark of maleness.This is quite simply an elaborate fiction. Somehow somebody got this idea about "Corinthian culture" going and it's now just been repeated and elaborated so many times you'd think it was actual fact, but the sad thing is it's purely fiction.
This whole elaboration about how it reflected modesty or femininity is right in line with what Thomas Schreiner wrote and MacArthur probably got it from him or they both got it from some other source, but it's nothing but a tall tale. Jewish women appear to have covered their heads in all circumstances [I quote Tertullian on this in a few places.], and for them it did -- and still does -- have a connotation of modesty. But the Greek women and Roman women didn't have such a custom, and in any case Paul is not talking about modesty or femininity as such! He's talking strictly about the meaning of the head and its being covered or uncovered.
As for the male head, there is some disagreement about when Jewish men began the practice of covering their heads but some put it before this time, and we know the priests covered theirs, as described in the Old Testament. Roman men apparently did cover their heads in worship of the pagan gods. So it's not true about men either that they were always bare-headed.
Somehow in the Corinthian church these things were getting inverted. And women were praying and speaking the Word of God with their heads uncovered, actually sort of identifying with the prostitutes and the woman's liberation movement.I guess there's no point in continuing to comment on this. It's simply false that an uncovered head had the connotation of prostitution. And it's VERY hard to imagine that a Christian woman would do anything to make herself look like a prostitute anyway!
And men, maybe from some Jewish background or something, were covering their heads and praying and people were looking at them and saying, "They're feministic."It's a reasonable guess if you already believe there was a custom about male versus female head covering that was being violated, but there's no reason to think there was.
So he says in verse 4, look, every man who prays or prophesies having his head covered dishonors his head. What are you doing? Don't do that. Why? You say,"You mean it's a sin to put something on your head when you pray?" No...notSo the fiction simply continues.
unless your culture perceives that as something that's feminine. And the point
there was for a man to cover himself was to be acting like a woman. Men didn't
do that. Verse 5, "And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head and she might as well be like one who is totally shaved, she might as well destroy all of her femininity, look like a prostitute or some liberated person." Verse 7, "A man not to have his head covered..." See, in their society that said something.
So what Paul is saying is this, now listen carefully. Look at your society and mark out the symbols. What are the symbols of femininity in our society? What are the symbols of masculinity? And identify with those. If they don't violate Scripture, if they don't violate God's design for morality, then adhere to those symbols because that says something to your society. Listen, even this society today still knows when a woman looks like a woman. There are symbols in our society for femininity. And you know as well as I do that you can look at a woman who obviously has adapted the symbols of femininity and looks like a woman, and you can look at another woman who looks like she is rebelling against everything that womanhood absolutely means. Can't you tell that difference? Of course you can because even our society has symbols. Every society does.And he goes on pretty much in this vein about the importance of clear sex-role distinctions, as do the others I've commented on so far. It's a valid subject in its own right, of course, and all of them have useful things to say about it, but it's just not what Paul is focusing on in this passage so I'm not going to quote more of it.
Our society has symbols of maleness. You can look at a man and by the way he appears and carries himself and dresses, you can say now that guy's a man. And you can look at another guy and you get the impression that this guy is really very feminine. Because he's denying the symbols of maleness and he's communicating an inverted perverted message. So that's all he's saying to the Corinthians. Look, when you behave yourself as Christians, do so in a way that adheres to the perception of your culture so they'll understand. And further on down in verse 14, even nature has provided an analogy for the symbol of headcoverings by giving faster growing hair to women as a special covering from God. So women then are to take a role of submission as the one who is under the headship of man.
So, in verse 13 he says, "Decide for yourselves." Just decide for yourselves. Take a look at the symbol and make a decision. Is it right that a woman pray to God uncovered? And you know in your society you're going to say no. So follow the custom.I guess this is one major place we can go wrong, if we are thinking it's all about custom. If we are going to try to answer this question ourselves today it is true that we aren't going to answer it the same way Paul clearly expected the Corinthians would, but I think we can probably safely infer that most other cultures even now across the world, and in the West up until oh maybe 150 years ago, would have answered as the Corinthians would have, so that it is just that our own culture has completely lost its bearings with respect to God's order. However, Paul isn't thinking of it as custom, or perhaps more accurately, he's thinking of the consistent and uniform customs he could see in all the cultures of his day as expressive of an intuitive sense of God's order. He goes right on to direct their attention to how hair is worn, which throughout most of history and across most cultures has been as he describes it -- long hair on women, shorter on men -- and argues that since "nature" has covered a woman's head with long hair they ought to be able to understand that this is a principle God wants to see practiced with the addition of another covering.
The sum of what he says is this, if a woman is veiled when she prays or speaks the Word of God, she attests to her womanhood, she affirms her role, she reflects her husband's protective covering over her, she protects the relationship she has with her husband, she doesn't rebel. She knows heaven is pleased. Verse 10 says even the angels are watching. She is acknowledging what verses 7 and following say that this is so important. Man is the image and glory of God and the woman is the glory of man. Boy, that is a verse that just sends the women's liberation people right up in space.It's a very strange idea to us, especially us modern independent women, who are now not only in the West but more and more all over the world. But our sights must be on God and eternity and we must believe what He reveals in Genesis. Fussing about anything about our lives in THIS world is only going to keep us fleshly-minded. It's always best to say I'm wrong, He's right, whether we understand it or not; just keep me on track to the Kingdom of God. Put me in a dungeon if you like, make me the slave of an unspiritual husband if that's what You think I need, just don't let me get off track. I suppose we could even think of it as a special blessing in a way, since it's an opportunity for humbling that men don't have. We all need that, some of us more than others, me especially (He's working on me).
As I've said before I think it's wrong to load the symbol of the head covering with all this meaning about a woman's inner state, I think it's meant to be treated as an external sign of personal authority (symbolized by the head) subordinated to another's authority (symbolized by covering the head), in obedience to God's creation order without all the mind reading. But covering the head is what Paul is requiring and whatever you want to pack into the symbol, that IS the symbol, not the nebulous "feminine adornment" these preachers have reduced it to.