Sunday, May 07, 2006

Head covering? Keep your hair on!

Sequel to: How long is your hair? 1 Corintians 11:13-15

1 Korintiërs 11:2-16 still is a confusing passage. At least it is clear that Paul is writing about local customs of his time.

An important verse is 1 Corintians 11:10 (TNIV):
It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels.
An important principle is layed down here; a women does not need to let herself be prescribed by others what to do. She's the boss of her own head.

We also make some progress when we look at the end of this passage. Paul seems to give some conclusions there.

In verse 15b Paul says something like: For hair is given as a substitute for head coverings.
The argument seems to be that we do not need to have ourself head coverings prescribed, because we already have hair on our heads. This conclusion fits the preceeding verses very good, when we translate these verses as William Welty suggests.

Verse 16 then could be rendered as: But if anyone seems to be disturbed by all of this, neither we nor the churches of God have any such custom.

What on earth are we in fact talking about? Is the Kingdom of God about veils, lengths of hair, skirts and trousers? What do we think we are up to? We will not make this into a moot point!

Our conclusion could be that we are not dealing with essential matters of the faith here. Paul is dealing with a local issue; appearantly some people made a problem of it. Unfortunately the details of this issue got lost and this passage assumed a life of its own in church history...

The original post in Dutch can be found here.


Suzanne McCarthy said...


I would like to do one last post on this topic with the Greek for verse 10 "power on your head".

I agree with your conclusions. Our pastor preached on Galatians 6 today, and talked about how the gospel is not about "outward religious observances."

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered about verse 16. HCSB has "But if anyone wants to argue about this, we have no other custom, nor do the churches of God," but NKJV "But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God." Reading the NKJV/KJV, I always wondered if Paul was saying "we have no custom of being contentious." HCSB could still be understood as "we have no custom of arguing about head coverings." Also, I don't have my ap. crit. with me; presumably the NU text actually says "we have no other custom," but the Byzantine/TR (which I have on my computer, because they are public domain and NU is not) has "τοιαυτην συνηθειαν ουκ εχομεν", i.e. "we do not have this sort of custom," which makes sense as well if we think it is referring to the custom of being contentious or of wanting to argue about head coverings.

Ruud Vermeij said...


I also wondered about verse 16. I already have blogged about this in Duth. I hope to make a translation soon.


Maybe you can share some thoughts of the sermon on Galatians 6?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Kenny, Ruud,

There is no text variant for verse 16 "other" rather than "such". I have read a few online articles and can't find any defense for that translation. I will keep looking.

Here are two excellent articles I did find. Norman Anderson and Carelink Ministries

Ruud Vermeij said...

The Carelink Ministries seems from a couple that identify themselves as Christadelphians.
I have never heard of Christadelphians before, but they appear to be a minor group with odd teachings, see Religious and Christadelphians - Bible Believing People.
(What not necessary means they have nothing usefull to say on this subject, but be cautious...)

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Yes, I think the Christadelphians vary from orthodox Christianity on more than one point.

I am still looking for some explanation for how verse 16 came to have 'other' in it in several English translations. I have no idea.

I have mentioned one detail from the Galatians sermon on the BBB. The pastor talked about the relative importance of Christ's death in comparison to all the other teachings.

Personally, I wonder how Paul could say circumcision doesn't matter, but how long your hair is does matter. That is just shifting the emphasis from one outward ritualistic observance to another.