Thursday, December 29, 2005

1 Corinthians 11 The Source

Here is this text from The Source translated by Ann Nyland.

"Ch.11:1 Become imitators of me just like I too am an imitator of the Anointed One!

Paul addresses more complaints and questions from the Corinthian assembly.

2-3 I praise you for always keeping me in mind and for adhering to the teachings that I handed over to you. Now, I want you to know that the source of every man is the Anointed One, the source of woman is man, and the source of the Anointed One is God.

4-9 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered disgraces his head. Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered disgraces her head – it would be one and the same if she’d had a shaved head. If a woman doesn’t cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off, and since it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or
shaved off, she should cover her head.

On the one hand, a man ought not to cover his head as the man is the portrait of the beginning of God’s splendor, and on the other hand the woman is the splendor of man. Man is not from woman but the woman is from man, for in fact man was not created by means of a woman, but the woman was created by means of a man.

10-12 For this reason the woman ought to have her authority upon her head on account of the Messengers, except that, as far as the Lord is concerned, a woman isn’t separate from a man nor is a man separate from a woman. It’s a fact that just as the woman comes from the man, in the same way too the man comes through the woman! But all things are from God.

13-16 Judge for yourselves! Is it fitting for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Even nature itself teaches you that if a man has ornamentally arranged hair it disgraces him, but if a woman has ornamentally arranged hair it gives her splendor! Ornamentally arranged hair is given to her in place of a coat. But if anyone is inclined to be obstinate about this, let me say that we have no such custom, nor do any of God’s assemblies.

17 Now in giving you these instructions I don’t have any praise for you, because your meetings do more harm than good!"

My personal notes:

κεφαλη - this means the physical head of a person. However, there is no instance that I am aware of in Greek where head was used as a metaphor for leadership or position in an hierarchy.

In Scott and Liddell the meanings are ( I abbreviate this somewhat) I head II the head or upper part of anything, the head or source of river. III a wig or headdress IV metaphorical the point, sum, or conclusion. Related meanings are the principal amount of money, the summary of an argument, the finish of a thing.

If 'head' is used, it sounds hierarchical in English. If 'head' is not used then any relationship to covering the head because the woman is the splendour of the man is lost. Was the use of the word 'head' here an intentional play on words?

The use of the term is not insignificant and implies that the man represents the household, which I believe was true in that economy; and the wife is not independent of the husband, as the husband is not independent of the wife. Obviously, men are born of women, and originally woman was created from man. Balance. Man and woman come from each other.

It doesn't say anything about who makes decisions. Decision making in the family was set out very specifically by Aristotle. I will reread this some day. However, there is nothing in Corinthians 11 that refers to this aspect of life that I can see. Greek philosphy had a very detailed approach to the will of a person and decision making. (Women didn't have much capacity for that according to Aristotle) However, I do not believe that the word 'head' was ever used in this context. The usual word in that context was βουλη.

long hair - Does the Greek say 'long hair' or 'ornamentally arranged hair'? It does not say 'long' and 'hair'. The word here means growing your hair - κομαω but the usual context in Greek suggests that it was for decorative reasons.

verse 10 It simply says that a woman is to have 'power' on her head. That's it. I can't add much to that. However, many early church fathers had the word 'veil' here instead of power so we know what they thought.


I grew up in a meeting where we wore hats. I even remember briefly attending an assembly that had given up on hats and then saw the light and had a scarf table on the way in by the door. Now I attend an evangelical Anglican Church where hats are never discussed. I don't have an explanation for this chapter. However, I cannot see any possible connection between long hair and wearing a hat and spirituality.

Is a hat only a symbol of something that is so irritating a woman would never wear one unless she was commanded to do so? It then follows, if a woman wears a hat you know that the husband is in charge in that household. I don't actually think that is what was intended in this chapter. Maybe a woman should wear a hat in the spirit that the queen wears a hat. However, I have no idea why the queen wears a hat. I suppose that she likes to wear a hat. It certainly doesn't seem to indicate that she is under her husband's authority.

In my view, this is a chapter about good order and appropriate behaviour. In other epistles, it is not required for a church leader to have a wife that wears a hat. However, church leaders must have their families under control.


Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, do you have the edition of The Source with Ann Nyland's notes? She has about two whole pages of notes on this passage, not available online. Here is part of her note on the word "authority" in v.11:

The possessive pronoun is omitted, thus the authority is the woman's own, according to the normal rules of Greek grammar...

And here is part of her note on "Messengers", her rendering of "angels", which gives an interesting interpretation:

...There may be another explanation. In Rome at the time of Paul's writing, a woman who wore something on her head in public - a veil, a hood, any covering - was under the protection of Roman law. No man would dare approach such a woman under risk of grave penalties. The wearing of a sign of her authority on her head may indicate that the woman is under the protection of angels. In fact, this may be supported by verses 5 and 6. A Roman woman of the times who went into public with an uncovered head was not under the protection of Roman law, and an attacker was entitled to plead extenuating circumstances. Thus, in this light in 1 Cor. the woman would have the authority, the right, to be under the protection of angels.

Gerald said...

κεφαλη - this means the physical head of a person. However, there is no instance that I am aware of in Greek where head was used as a metaphor for leadership or position in an hierarchy.

How about Judges 11:1, 2 Samuel 22:44 (and Psalm 18:43, same as previous) and Eph 1:22?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Hi Peter,

Thanks. I do not have her notes. I read an incredible amount on these chapters, many of the same books Ann Nyland read, about 10 - 15 years ago. Then, I just let it all go and stopped worrying about it. I have been reluctant to reimmerse myself so intensively in women's issues and have been reading the Gothic gospel instead along with a few novels, as you can see. However, you have picked out an excellent paragraph from Nyland's notes. Thank you so much.

I realize that my responses often fall short of scholarly but sometimes I think it must surely be of interest if I simply share how a woman thinks about these things, when she is forced to. The truth is, as I get older, (I must be the same age as you, Peter) these matters become less important, less intense, than before.

What makes it more interesting is that I get to learn so much from your input. I do appreciate it. Thanks.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Hi Gerald,

Forgive me - I am running out of time. First, in Hebrew meaning number 6 for head is leader or chief.

Next. In Ephesians it looks like a play on words. Christ is the κεφαλη, the sum, conclusion, the capital sum of money, the summation; and the church is the fulness, also for us in English the completion. So one is the fulness of the other. They do not exist apart.

I assume that this is metaphorical, about men and women in general, we must exist in and for each other as sexes. However, what application does this have to the individual? First, Paul made celibacy a legitimate choice. The individual is complete without a partner - never doubt that.

Man is not Christ and woman is not a brainless body. Somehow we must interpret this. We cannot take it as the literal meaning. Each person interprets this based on what they already believe about men and women.

I have written about a related subject here.

What concerns me most of all, is that some Christian men do not see that Christian women have personal ambition and drive as part of their natural personality makeup. They could bcome very frustrated if they are made to subvert this to a husband or deny its existance.

The young woman must plan and prepare for her career many years before she knows if and who she will marry. Sometimes two careers come together, sometimes they do not; some women, like some men, do not have the same focused drive for a career and are content to support.

However, women have in equal proportion intellect, drive and ambition; they have to spread it thinner and are mostly happy to do that. I have nowhere ever heard of any woman who actually believes that women are more driven by impulse than men. In fact, I would say that today most women are overwhemingly convinced, and are supported by statistics in this, that men are far more driven by impulse than women.

I find this unfair and have to say that in my job in the secular education system I have had many friends and colleagues who are men, and I find only trivial culturally conditioned differences between us. We are generally able to overlook these differences and relate to each other as people without obsessing on imaginary differences. I would like to see this carry over into the Christian community.

Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, thank you for your kind comments.

Gerald asked about "Judges 11:1, 2 Samuel 22:44 (and Psalm 18:43, same as previous) and Eph 1:22". Well, the first three of these are in Hebrew, rather than Greek; or perhaps in LXX which very often translates Hebrew idioms far too literally. The first of these is anyway an incorrect reference, and the other two references are not correct in LXX, so I assume you are referring to the Hebrew only. But my original point was only about Greek, and perhaps I should have restricted it to good Greek rather than translation Greek.

As for Ephesians 1:22, the point here is that the church is the body (v.23) and Christ is the head within that body. What is the role of the head in the body? We may think in terms of leadership and authority, but it is by no means clear that the Greeks did. But one thing which would have been clear is that the head is the source of nourishment for the body, and also the seat of most of its senses.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Hi Peter,

I have trouble locating old comment sections, so I will post about Eph. 1:22 in a day or two and bring the discussion up to date. Thanks for your ideas.

I assume you know much more Hebrew than I do, and more than a little Greek. So either way I am interested in your comments.