I Corinthians 11
Basic Question, do these passages present allegories assigning roles to male and female believers in the Body of Christ?
In study of the following passages in Corinthians I can not say with absolute certainty what some of these phrases/passages are intended to convey. While I will offer my opinion I want to acknowledge that it is only my opinion. However what I will do is suggest what I think these verses can not mean when compared to other passages with more direct imagery on the same subject. I do not as a habit of study allow more obscure passages to interpret the more direct passages. And so this is my paradigm, if what is taught or interpreted in one passage violates clearer passages, then the interpretation must be adjusted.
1 Corinthians 11
The question we must ask is does this practice actually have a spiritual significance?. Now in this regard Paul himself does have more to say and later speaks to this same audience about the spiritual imagery or allegory regarding a veil. But be warned and listen carefully. What Paul teaches regarding the veil is the opposite of what we teach. In his imagery regarding a veil he refutes our current practice. I suggest it was his intent to refute it in his day. I mean it was his intent to refute the idea that a veil had spiritual significance.
I think the next question we need to ask regarding this passage is does it have a practical significance? What appears to be suggested here must have been a limited issue in Paul’s time as it is mentioned no where else in the NT. Regarding the practical application of this issue we hear no more about it. There is no teaching regarding this, no instructions! This fact alone should also put it’s importance into perspective for us. *
The Questions then:
1. Does requiring a Female Believer cover her body in a way different from male believers have any: Spiritual Significance?
2. Does requiring a Female Believer cover her body in a way different from male believers have any: Practical Significance?
The First Question First….2 Corinthians 3 Any Spiritual Significance?
Verses 12 thru 18 are those germane to my point. However I urge you to read the chapter for the context in which Paul’s lovely imagery is evoked.
Does a Veil have Spiritual Significance 12-18
12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of the fading splendor. 14 But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains un-lifted because only through Christ is it taken away Periaireo : to take away that which surrounds or envelopes a thing metaphorically to take away altogether or entirely the guilt of sin, to expiate perfectly.(Strongs) 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; 16 but when a (person) turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Katargeo means: to render idle, unemployed, inactivate, inoperative to cause a person or thing to have no further efficiency to deprive of force, influence, power (Strongs)
Paul demonstrates that the veil’s purpose was to hide for a while the fact that Moses’ Law was temporary in its service. It was to be revealed to us that something was coming so much greater in splendor as to overshadow the Law in its glory. Interestingly at Christ’s death the veil in the temple was torn apart by God himself, that veil no longer remains and we can peer directly into the Most Holy Place. The veil has served its purpose and now that greater Splendor has been revealed and no veiling is needed. So much so that here Paul states not only has the veil been lifted, in Christ it has been taken away!
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Free access to the Most Holy Place? Freedom from the shame of sin and its consequences? Freedom to see clearly? Freedom for all as one to see Christ’s glory? 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Brothers and Sisters I again implore each of us to cast away the veil over our eyes, and abandon any practice that violates the elegance of Paul’s teaching here. Paul says with perfect clarity that we are all being transformed into His likeness beholding (and reflecting) the increasing degrees of His revealed glory. Surely no one would dare suggest this applies only to male believers. Paul is completely explicate that this applies to ALL.
“but when a (person) turns to the Lord the veil is removed” As amazing as it is for any of us, we are all the recipients of this unmerited grace. We are all now unveiled beholding the Glory of The Lord. And each of us without distinction are being transformed by that brilliance from one degree of glory to another. Every person in Christ reflects that glory. Consistent with the allegories of the previous study no distinction is made among believers. No believer stands before the Lord and reflects anything but the light of Christ’s unfading Glory.
Remember our question: Does asking a Female Believer to cover her body in a way different from male believers have any: Spiritual Significance? The answer is no.. It would seem from reading Paul’s words that if a veil has spiritual significance it is in its ABSENCE on the body of a believer. It would seem clear that wearing coverings on any believer’s part would defy the allegory Paul uses that we are free to behold His Glory and are being transformed by that vision.
Then to our second question:
Does asking a Female Believer to cover her body in a way different from male believers have any: Practical Significance?
Practically speaking in Western Culture there is no significance to covering one’s head in our society. Because we as human’s lean toward observable signs of religious piety it is not surprising we have adopted this one. Its so easy a visual for both males and females on which to observe one’s piety. But our practice like the passage is wrought with inconsistencies. Our application of this practice is inconsistent even among those applying this text some what literally .
1 Corinthians 11
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 2 I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head-it is the same as if her head were shaven 6 For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.) 10 That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels.*
Verses 1-10 Whatever this means it has no application to our day or even our faith as we understand it. I know that sounds radical but consider these points.
Inconsistencies in our beliefs with these statements.
1. None of us believe or teach that a female believers answer to Christ in any different way than a male believer does. Nothing else in scripture suggests this either.
2. Paul’s teaching in the Epistles says nothing about the covering or uncovering of believer’s heads, there is no general principle being taught here. Apparently it had very limited impact even in his own day.
3. A woman not veiling herself is not shameful in the western world. Further it is not disgraceful for a woman to have short hair either. If we practiced this the majority of women would not be fellowshipped.
4. Men and women are both created in the “Image and likeness God.” No scripture confirms the thought that females are not in God‘s image just as a males are! Quite the contrary can be easily demonstrated
A female ought to veil her face because: because she reflects the glory of man, because it shameful to have short hair. None of these comments can be verified in scripture or in our society.
Here are the inconsistencies in our practices.
1. We take an isolated concept and choose only certain parts to apply literally. We choose arbitrarily, women should cover but they can not exhort or pray!
2. Women must cover their heads but not veil their faces. Veils covered faces.
3. Paul says a woman has been given her hair as “something to throw over her” but many insist she throw something over her anyway.
4. Women must veil but they are by no means forbidden to cut or crop their hair.
5. We ask believers to accept what is unscriptural teachings (that women don’t reflect God’s image) that they don’t answer directly to Christ.
6. We ask the “Bride of Christ’ (well some of the bride women!) to acknowledge they live out some role of human shame when no other passage even hints at such a concept. And this idea (that part of Christ’s bride or body symbolizes sin) defies the allegories we have already considered.
These passages as interpreted make no sense to us today. In addition this is a dialog on a subject for which we are given no direct context. But no matter what it means can we agree Paul would not teach two different things to the same audience.
What are Paul’s clear teachings?
1. Where the Spirit of Christ is there is freedom.
2. In Christ the veil has been taken away.
3. All believers are being transformed in Christ from one glory to another glory.
4. These truths are from the Lord himself..
Personally I have come to the conclusion that Paul is quoting an argument put before him in the first half of “C”11 2-10. It is very difficult to make sense of Paul’s statements if HE is making these arguments. Just consider this concept with me. My thought that this can’t be Paul’s argument is for the following three reasons.
1. Statements are made here that contradict other scriptures.
2. Statements are made here that contradict Paul’s own statements
3. Statements are made here which are very close to Jewish Oral Teachings.
This idea is not without its problems but consider the possibility as an explanation for a conflicted set of statements. It seems to me Paul begins to answer the argument starting at verse 11..Saying “nevertheless”
11 “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman” In the Lord…Paul counters with interdependence the idea stated earlier that men came first so they reflect God’s glory and that women are made for men’s benefit but that benefit is not mutual! That is Jewish teaching but not the Lord’s. 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Paul makes his argument consistently with Jesus statement that God views men and women as “one flesh’ and mutually dependent. Paul notes that the sequence of their creation has been given wrong human interpretation, he demonstrates that they are interdependent. 13 Judge for yourselves; is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? This exhortation could have two facets, one is he’s about to demonstrate the answer. But perhaps also he asking each of us to judge for ourselves whether or not this is needed, its not a universal principle. 14 Does not nature itself teach you that for a man to wear long hair is degrading to him, Obviously biologically speaking hair grows that’s not degrading. However culturally in Paul’s day male wearing long hair had some moral implications regarding prostitution.15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her pride? Earlier its noted a woman with a shaved head is disgraced socially and the opposite is acknowledged here, her long hair is (culturally speaking) is a sign of “good reputation” no need to cover a good reputation. (Greek word doxa = is good reputation). For her hair is given to her for a covering. Paul uses a different word here than used earlier. The earlier word is veil (for the face). That is the word that Paul used in 2 Corinthians 3. Here he uses the word Gk. per-ib-ol'-ah-yon) meaning “mantle” something thrown over the body. And he states plainly…“Her hair is given to her as a “mantle”.
…“Her hair is given to her as a “mantle”. Having plainly stated this he says 16 If any one is disposed to be contentious, we recognize no such practice, nor do the churches of God. Since there are No other references to this issue in the entire NT it is safe to assume he means no practice regarding throwing on a cover is debated or recognized among the other Churches.
Conclusions for Believers
Paul himself demonstrates that a veil carries no spiritual significance, it has been removed in Christ. But that is exactly the position we have taken when we promote that the veil is a “living allegory “ a symbol of man’s sinful state and is worn by the she who is the “glory of man“. And the following verse is the example of bias imposed on the text:. “That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels” First of all this misleading addition to the text of this verse can be detected by the most elementary bible scholar. The verse reads.. “That is why a woman ought to have authority on her head, because of the angels” The word veil does not appear in the Greek. It simply says authority. * This is not complex! The whole inclination to attribute extra requirements not imposed by God is human in origin. This tendency to lay burdens on people is WHY she should have authority (decision rights) regarding her own head, as the angels know that men and women are the same flesh in God’s eyes?
Conclusions for Preaching
Judge for yourselves.. No one who promotes veiling a female believer states it has practical application in our western society. We state it has a spiritual application, but
Paul says it had none. Wearing a covering in public means nothing to our society except fashion or protection from the elements. Quite the contrary in Paul’s day! But a veil now when viewed by most is a universal symbol of human oppression to the dictates of self serving authority.
Why would we elevate to a First Principle Practice an archaic practice, disdained by most contemporary societies? Why would we take a single verse or two and contrive a practice that is a stumbling block to many female believers. And in addition when preaching the truth to women one must abandon clear thematic instruction in First Principle teaching in order to try to explain a convolution of ideas to justify a practice which will be imposed on the female believer in most cases.
*Why do we take social customs of that day and try to make them apply to our day? The reason we can’t make reasonable “head nor tails” of this is because it is impossible to fit the practice into our lives as relevant. Veiling is a foreign issue to us in Western society yet we have many ecclesiae requiring the practice in order to approach the Lord’s table. We have searched to find justification for shaming some one into wearing a garment that the Master of the House does not require, a bold assertion from fellow guests. Although the issue may well have some real relevance in other cultures please allow that I speak to the western culture we live in.
** when this verse is translated as written there is at least a possible answer for the ‘tricky” phrase “because of the angels”. The argument is being made that women need some additional coverage before God. The angels just happened to be there and in dialog with God when he said “Let us make mankind (male and female) in our own image and after our own likeness.. They know exactly what God thought a woman needed “on” to be in His presence. She was pretty much acceptable stark naked. Even after they both sinned it would be wild guess to suggest that when he clothed them with animal skins that we have some knowledge of what that clothing looked like.