The Religious A priori

Women And Christianity

Neither Male Nor Female:

Over her Own Head

(1 Cor.11:3-14)

1 Corinthians 11:3-16 (3)But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.
(4)Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head.
(5)But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.
(6)For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.
(7)For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.
(8)For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; (9)for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake.
(10)Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
(11)However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
(12)For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.
(13)Judge for 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 one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.

Before examining the passage we need to understand the situation in Corinth. The reputation of Corinth is such that when we think of that church, we usually think of wild parties, people getting drunk in church, sexual escapades and the like. It is, therefore, easy to overlook the fact that a very powerful "Judaizing" faction was also present. This is clear, there can be no doubt of it from reading 2 Corinthians. That is where, in chapters 11-12 Paul is goaded into boasting of his Hebrew heritage and the trials he has endured for the Lord. There are hints of this faction and it's mendacity toward Paul in 1 Corinthians, where he speaks about "Apollos" and the "super apostles." The faction may not have chimed in and entered the debate until they received the first letter. It is logical to assume that Paul's statements about women speaking, his rebuke of those silencing women, may have stirred them up, but there is no reason to assume that they came in between the two letter. For this reason was should assume that Paul walked a tight rope in addressing the Corinthians. On the one hand, he had to watch himself in relation to those easily swayed by this anti-Pauline faction. On the other hand, there were also the gnostics.

There were Gnostics at Corinth and they were making things difficult, probably feeding the licentious reputation of the Corinthians. Fred Layman, of Northwestern Nazarene University tells us:

Wesley Center Online
"Male Headship in Paul's Thought"
april 2004
Wesley Center for Applied Theology
Northwest Nazerine University

Historical studies have increasingly shown the pervasive presence of Gnosticism in the background of several New Testament books, especially those which are important for this discussion-1 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and the Pastorals. At this stage Gnosticism was not so much a defined religious philosophy as it was a radical pneumatic disposition which was diffused throughout many religions including Judaism and Christianity.

Layman sites:

12Constance F. Parvey, "The Theology and Leadership of Women in the New Testament," in Reuther, Religion and Sexism, p. 121.13Ibid., pp. 121f.14Walter Schmithals, Gnosticism in Corinth (New York: Abingdon, 1971), pp. 160f.15Ernst Kasemann, New Testament Questions of Today (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), p. 71.

Among the doctrines of the Corinthian gnostics were the ideas that the initiate was no longer gendered, and that the initate was above the dictates of morality, especially sexaul morality:

One other belief among the Gnostics is important for our consideration, the idea of androgyny. The pneumatic who has attained perfection and who belongs to the transcendent world is no longer a man or a woman. Those orders belong to this world. Spirit endowment obliterates such distinctions. That which appeared to be men and women was in actuality perfected spirits who were asexual.17 By this doctrine, Gnosticism was one more of several religions which served as vehicles for the emancipation of females and, as a result, attracted large numbers of women.18(Ibid).

16Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion (Boston: Beacon Press, 1953), pp. 270-77; E. M. Yamauchi, Gnostic Ethics and Mandaean Origins (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970), pp. 24-34. 17The view of some gnostic circles was that women ceased to exist as women and were transformed into men, cf. Parvey, "Theology and Leadership of Women," p.134. For the Greek background of the androgynous concept and later uses of it in Judaism and Christianity, see Paul K. Jewett, Man as Male and Female (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975), pp. 24-28.18Schmithals, Gnosticism in Corinth, p. 245.19Ibid., p. 179.20G. B. Caird, "Paul and Women's Liberty," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 54 (1971/72):272f.

(v3)But I want you to understand that Christ F112* is the head R418 of every man, and the R419 man is the head of a woman, and God is the head R420 of Christ.

It sounds as though Paul is setting up a Metaphysical hierarchy. This cannot be the case, however, as he deconstructs it in the next few verses:(11)However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent F117 of man, nor is man independent F117 of woman.
(12)For as the woman originates F118 from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all R427 things originate F119 from R428 God."
Why would Paul set up a metaphysical hierarchy only to knock it down again? Why would he mandate what was already considered natural? The only gender relations that were known in Paul's world were those dominated by men. It is easy to read the Peagles book, or to hear the propagandizing of radical feminism and assume that the Gnostics, because their groups attracted women and because they talked about goddess "Sophia," that they were radically liberating women, and thus Paul's purpose might be seen as one of reinforcing the hierarchy. On the other hand, these Gnostic groups were not necessarily liberating to women. They attracted women in great numbers for their sexual liberation and because they offered a "quick fix" to knowledge of the divine and to salvation, in an otherwise dismal social situation. That does not mean, however, that they taught the superiority of women. As documented above, some Gnostic groups taught that women were "spiritually men." Even the one gender concept leaves the male as dominate. For a more sobering view of these goddess worship religions see the book by Yale Sumeriologist Tikva Fryemere-Kenski: In the Wake of the Goddesses. (1991).

Paul is reaffirming a hierarchy of sorts, but not one in which the husband rules over the wife. He's affirming a hierarchy in which Christ rules over both males and females, and in which marriage is sanctified by God; a rebirth of the originally intended role of partnership between the genders in creation. He disrupts the flow of the hierarchy in social terms and in terms of rank, by first pointing out the reversal in origins, and then by bringing it all back to God as the source of all. But from this context, because he does speak of who comes from whom, it seems clear that Kefalh carries the connotation of "origin" or "source." He brings up origins to say "in the garden of Eden man and woman were meant to work together." This is what egalitarians call "non-heirarchical complamentarianism." Egalitarians are sometimes complamentarians, male and female complament one another, but not in a hierarchical way. Not the only expression of that mutual labor among equals, but the primary expression of it, is marriage. Marriage is good, it is made by God, and genders are good, they are both equal and both made by God. This is what Paul says to the Gnostic faction when the speaks of "heads," the "sources."

If Paul set up a metaphysical hierarchy with God as the "boss" of Christ, he would be a non Trinitarian. Of course the doctrine of the Trinity didn't exist at that time, but we Trinitarians like to think its elements are found in the New Testament and that Paul would have been one if he knew about it. To say that God is the "boss" of Christ is opposed to stated church dogma regarding the equality of persona in the Godhead! Complamentarians often try to soften the blow of this connotation of "boss," by reducing it to "leader," but then is God just the "leader?" It would seem that God's headship is stronger than just Leadership. Is God Christ's "leader?" It seems the most logical approach is to understand the word as "source."

How is Christ the source of "a man?" It's a metaphorical usage! It doesn't have to have a hard and fast connotation that is the same in every enstance. Man is the source of woman in creation (according to Genesis) and woman is the source of man in birth. These both relate to becoming, but they are not exactly the same. God created everything, but God did not take everything out of a rib, nor did God give birth to the universe out of a womb. So these usages don't have to stack up in exactly the same way. Christ is the "source" of life in a spiritual sense. The life of a person is one of the meanings given kephale in Liddell and Scott. In this case spiritual life. Now, Christ is also the source of spiritual life for a woman, but, Paul is setting an analogy because he has a dual purpose. So he's not talking about that aspect for the women here, but he does say man is "a head of a woman." Man is not the only head of the woman, but "a head." So Christ is the head of a man in the sense of spiritual life, man is the source of woman in the garden, but also culturally man was in the dominant role in a marriage. Paul is not necessarily affirming that as a timeless gesture, but he is reaffirming marriage itself. Let's bracket that aspect, however, until the discussion on Ephesians 5:22.

Paul's dual purpose is (1)To get men not to cover their heads in worship; (2) to get women to cover their heads in worship

(4)Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying R421 disgraces his head.

Now why would this be the case? In general there is an ancient custom in mostWestern cultures, and perhaps the world over, of uncovering the head as a sign of respect. When men wore hats, they were expected to take them off in front f the flag or in the presence of the King, and so froth. But this may not be Paul's meaning. Expositors often assume that Paul would accept the Jewish notion of praying with a head covering, because he was Jewish. Those who take this tact often ascribe the head covering here to some kind of effeminate hair do. But it is probably that Paul was undoing the Jewish custom, because it was a sing of condemnation for sin. In the new creation, humanity stands before God redeemed and forgiven, not condemned. To continue to cover the head would be to deny the redeeming power of Christ. that would be why this practice disgraces "his head" (Christ--his source of spiritual life). On this point then Paul works against the "Judaizers."

To the women Paul's concern is probably gnosticism. While the Gnostics at Corinth were not the full blown version we find in the fourth century at Nag Hammadi, it is well documented that some form of proto Gnostic ideas were making their way into the Corinthian church, as documented above. These were lascivious, sexual, transvestite, and opposed to the basic moral schema of society; anti-marriage. It is entirely possible that these Gnostic sects included women who went unveiled. We don't know enough about the customs of veiling first century Corinth. We have good evidence that these gnosticizing groups appealed to women; the reason might be partly because of their sexually liberating tone, which probably included abandoning any head coverings.

Paul writes:

(5)But every woman R422 who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose F113 head is shaved. R423

The term "veil" is no where in the text. The often translated "bearheaded" or "uncovered" is akatakaluptos or akatakaluptos which really means "loose hair" or "lossened hair" (see William Welty,Executive director ISV Foundaton, "Re-Thinking The Veil: Another Approch to 1 Corthians 11."). Why is an uncovered woman (Or a woman whose hair is worne loosely) like one whose head is shaved? Some have speculated that this was the fashion of tempel prostitutes, but not enough is known about tempel culture in acneint Greace to say this. What is known, however, is that the Jews used shaving the head an a penulty for adultory. In the Gospels we see that a woman was about to be stoned for adultory, but this penalty was replaced with shaving the head (Welty,3-4).

Bushnell Writes:

243. (Verse 6) "For if the woman be not covered, let her be shorn." Paul refers to the Oral Law of the Jews. Says Lightfoot: He "does not here speak in his own sense but cites something usual among the Jews." It admits of proof that such was the Oral Law. A woman "sinner" is described in the Talmud as "she who transgresseth the law of Moses and the Jewish law." The gloss explains: "’The Jewish law, that is, what the daughters of Israel follow though it be not written" (i.e. the oral Law). The question was asked: "How does she transgress the Jewish law? Answer: "If she appear abroad with her head uncovered if she spin in the streets," etc., etc., through a long list. For the offenses here enumerated, one of which is uncovering the head, it is prescribed that the wife should be divorced "with the loss of her marriage portion." (Kethuboth, fol. 7, col. 1). Furthermore, in that section of the Talmud called "Sotah," which treats of unchaste women, under the sub-head, Of the duty of Repudiation of a Wife for adultery, we learn that this DUTY rested upon a Jew whose wife was seen abroad with her hair "not done up,” i.e., not covered. Thus we learn that a Jew, even if favorably disposed towards his wife’s profession of Christianity, and toward the practice of unveiling in worship, might be compelled by his relatives or the synagogue authorities, much to his regret, to divorce his wife, if she unveiled. The rest of the story, as to what would be done with the woman who unveiled, and thus furnished sufficient proof of "adultery" to compel her husband to repudiate her, we learn from Dr. Edersheim's Sketches of Jewish Social Life, p. 155: "It was the custom in case of a woman accused of adultery to have her hair shorn or shaven," at the same time using this formula: "Because thou hast departed from the manner of the daughters of Israel, who go with their heads covered . . . therefore that hath befallen thee which thou hast chosen." An unveiled Jewish wife might, then, be tried for adultery; and when so tried, be "shorn or shaven." Paul here cites this obstruction to commanding women to unveil, but he permits it (verse 10).

If the woman prayed (in chruch presumably) with her head uncovered, or her hair worn down loose, it would be the same as a confession of adultory, that's why it would dishonor her head (husband); it's just a way of saying it dishonors the marriage and looks like an endorsement of liscienceious living. How much more could the church ill aford to have prophetesses running around prohesying iin chruch looking like they lived in adultory? The motive for asking the woman to cover the head is not to symbolize her subjection to her husband, but propriety!

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The Religious A priori