Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chapter 5-- Head Coverings, Prophecies and the Trinity

I started some new reading today. In studying the material on the debate regarding women in ministry, I’ve stumbled across references to the book “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” (John Piper, Wayne Grudem, http://www.desiringgod.org/media/pdf/books_bbmw/bbmw.pdf) numerous times—so much so that I decided I couldn’t argue for women in ministry without exposing this book’s weak points. I have a goal of reading all the books (at least all the important ones) on this issue and debating them here on my blog. As I’ve stated with Grudem’s book, “Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth,” he is as guilty as other complementarians are with playing the “1 Timothy 2” card. The issue is no different with this passage of 1 Corinthians 11. I’ve already given some thoughts on this passage with Andreas Kostenberger’s blog post revolving around male headship. Here, however, I’ll exegete this passage again. It seems that Piper and Grudem have both given me another reason to re-examine this passage to argue a convincing case for women. As the saying goes, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Regarding 1 Corinthians 11:5-6, Thomas Schreiner writes, “Paul objects to men wearing head coverings in verse 4…because that is what women wore (11:5-6), and thus a man who wore such a head covering would be shamefully depicting himself as a woman. Conversely, if women do not wear head coverings, their failure to be adorned properly would be shameful (11:5) because they would be dressing like men” (122).

Paul does not object to men wearing head coverings because that is what women wore. The answer to why Paul objects to men wearing head coverings is found in verses 7-9:

“7For a man ought not to cover his head, since(K) he is the image and glory of God, but(L) woman is the glory of man. 8For(M) man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9Neither was man created for woman, but(N) woman for man.”

A man shouldn’t wear a head covering because he is “the glory of God,” meaning that he is the first of creation, the first human God created to be “like Himself.” Because man was created first, he was given authority and power by God and Adam (specifically, the first human) became responsible for all of the human race. Next, “man was not made from woman, but woman from man…neither was man created for woman, but woman for man” (vv.8, 9). The man was literally formed from the dust of the ground by God, while the woman (Adam’s wife, Eve) was formed from a rib in Adam’s side. She, bearing similarity to the male, the source of humankind, should wear a head covering to demonstrate that she is “under” authority.

For men to wear head coverings would look as if they were not the ones in authority, but the ones under authority. The wife was to wear a head covering to demonstrate that she was under authority, the authority of her husband. Paul then, does not tell men to avoid wearing head coverings because to do so would make them seem like a woman. Paul’s writing had nothing to do with preserving gender distinctions, but instead, to show the biblical importance of the tradition itself.

I desire to take time here to show that the “man” and “woman” mentioned here are not just EVERY man and EVERY woman—instead, the two referred to in this passage are husband and wife. The English Standard Version, of which Wayne Grudem served on the Oversight Committee of its translation, writes at the bottom of the page (regarding a footnote in verse 5):

“In verses 5-13, the Greek word ‘gune’ is translated ‘wife’ in verses that deal with wearing a veil, A SIGN OF BEING MARRIED in first-century culture.”

So, for women to wear a head covering was to show authority to their husbands. This clearly does not include single women. Every single woman, in addition, is not forced to show submission to EVERY SINGLE MAN.

As if this response isn’t terrible enough, Schreiner goes on to state (regarding the woman),

“Thus, we can conclude that Paul wants women to wear head coverings while praying and prophesying because to do otherwise would be TO CONFUSE THE SEXES AND GIVE THE SHAMEFUL IMPRESSION THAT WOMEN ARE BEHAVING LIKE MEN” (123).

Wearing head coverings for women had nothing to do with confusing the sexes; it did, however, have everything to do with a woman recognizing that she was under the authority of her husband. Schreiner gives a rather weird interpretation of verse 6:

“A woman’s failure to wear a head covering is analogous to her having her hair cut short or shaved. Every woman in the culture of that day would have been ashamed of appearing in public with her head shaved or her hair cut short, because then SHE WOULD HAVE LOOKED LIKE A MAN” (122).

Yes, for women to appear in that culture with short hair would have been contrary to the normal expectation, but, it was not “looking like a man” that concerned Paul, but instead, it was contrary to nature. This is why Paul writes in 1 Cor. 11:14-15 (ESV),

“14Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.”

Nature is the reason why a woman should wear a head covering, not because if she doesn’t she looks like a man. Imagine what a woman would look like if she cut her hair short, or even shaved it all off! She just doesn’t look “normal,” which is Paul’s point. Women were made to have hair on their heads, because it is comely for a woman to have long hair. Schreiner mentions “looking like a man” as the reason for Paul’s words because of their bias to maintain one sex over the other. There are passages that pertain to sex distinctions, such as Deuteronomy 22, and we should honor those passages; but let’s not add more to the text than is there. Paul’s opening words involve the created order and the purpose of woman’s creation—for the man. The man was not created as the woman’s helper.

I want to take time here to complement Thomas Schreiner for one thing: he does, however, acknowledge that women are exercising their gifts here publicly in the assembly:

“Some scholars have thought that women’s prayer and prophecy were permitted only in private…but the praying and prophesying were probably IN THE PUBLIC ASSEMBLY for the following reasons: (1) the context favors the idea these chapters describe public worship. The subsequent topics focus on the Lord’s Supper (11:17-34) and spiritual gifts (12:1-14:40), and these relate to public worship. (2) Prophecy was given to edify the community when gathered (1 Corinthians 14: 1-5, 29-33a); it was not a private gift to be exercised alone” (123, 124).

Yes, the exercising of gifts occurred here in the public assembly. Women were actually using their gifts before the mixed congregation! This should already make a person suspicious of 1 Timothy 2, since complementarians like Schreiner, Piper, and Grudem, who affirm public exercise of gifts here, deny women public exercise of teaching (a gift) in 1 Timothy 2.

However, there are major problems with other parts of his argument. For instance, his summing up of this section on 11:4-6—

“Women can pray and prophesy in public, but they must do so WITH A DEMEANOR AND ATTITUDE THAT SUPPORTS MALE HEADSHIP because in that culture wearing a head covering communicated a submissive demeanor and feminine adornment” (124).

Paul’s arguing of headship here, according to Thomas Schreiner, has to do with wives wearing a sign of submission to their husbands. That, then, doesn’t involve EVERY MAN, for no one woman is married to EVERY MAN! Schreiner here just ASSUMES that male leadership is the key here—however, that is the thing to be proven! If submission to male headship is in Scripture, this is not the passage in which to find it.

When discussing Paul’s use of Genesis 1 and 2 in 1 Cor. 11:8-9, Schreiner writes,

“Nevertheless, Paul OBVIOUSLY interpreted Genesis 2 as revealing a DISTINCTION IN ROLES BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN” (125).

Where does this come into play? As I stated earlier in this post, men AND WOMEN were praying and prophesying in the public assembly (vv. 4, 5). The only distinction in the text is between men and women wearing head coverings. There was a belief here in showing honor to authority, but that honor to the husband did not mean the woman could not exercise her gifts in the public assembly. Exercising gifts in the public assembly is not tied here to roles, for, notice that Paul does not prohibit women from praying and prophesying here (as he prohibits women from teaching in 1 Timothy 2).

In regard to verses 13-15, Schreiner records,

“The function of verses 13-15 in the argument is to show that the wearing of a head covering by a woman is in accord with the God-given sense that WOMEN AND MEN ARE DIFFERENT. For a woman to dress like a man is inappropriate because it violates the distinction God has ordained between the sexes” (128).

Paul does not argue head coverings because of a distinction of the sexes, but in order for women to show honor to their husbands, and, ultimately, honor to God’s word (Genesis where the husband is given authority in the home and marriage).
Regarding verse 16,

“Paul concludes his argument by saying, ‘But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.’ Now, some have said that Paul actually rejects the wearing of head coverings by women with these words because the Greek literally says ‘we have no such practice’, and thus they conclude that the practice of wearing head coverings is renounced here by Paul. But SUCH AN UNDERSTANDING IS SURELY WRONG. Paul in this verse is addressing the contentious, who, the previous context makes clear, do not want to wear a head covering. The practice of certain Corinthian women who refuse to wear a head covering is
what Paul refers to when he says ‘we have no such practice’” (128).

In order to determine what verse 16 is all about, we have to look at verses 14 and 15:

“14Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.”

The argument about long hair for women and short hair for men refers to the idea of women having “a sign of authority” on their heads, from verse 10. However, notice something: before verses 14 and 15 comes verse 13 which reads,

“13Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered?”

Here, in verse 13, he makes the point that a woman praying with her head uncovered is against rules of propriety; therefore, he is arguing for women wearing a head covering here. In verses 14 and 15 he uses nature as proof that women should wear head coverings (seeing that to do so is the same thing as a woman having long hair). Taking this into account, we march on to verse 16:

“16(Q) If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do(R) the churches of God.”

The English Standard Version begins verse 16 with the word “if”; but this is a mistake in translation. Looking in the Greek, the first word of the verse should be the Greek word “de,” meaning “but.” The word “but” shows a contrast to something previously mentioned.

For instance, I could say, “I like the summer, but the spring has the best temperature.” While I still affirm that I like the summer, I am saying in this verse that the spring is the season I like most. Paul is doing the same thing here. He is not doing away with the idea of wearing head coverings to show authority between husbands and wives; however, what he is saying is that, in contrast to the practice of head coverings, should someone want to protest this idea, there is no custom or practice of so doing among the churches. In the words of Schreiner, “Indeed, the other churches already adhere to the practice Paul recommends here” (128), but the problem with this statement is that Paul is not writing to correct their lack of adherence to a tradition, but to answer the question of the Corinthian church regarding this response of the church to women taking off their head coverings. How do I know this? Look back at 1 Corinthians 11, verse 2:

“2Now I commend you(B) because you remember me in everything and(C) maintain the traditions(D) even as I delivered them to you.”

Paul commends the Corinthian church here because they are performing all the traditions “even as I delivered them to you,” as Paul gave the traditions to them. Verse 3 begins with, “But I want you to understand,” which, as the word “de” indicates, is a transition to something new. This, then, is not a tradition practiced in all the churches, but a question that has been brought up by those of the Corinthian church. 1 Corinthians 11 serves as part of the list of concerns the church had, for Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7:1, “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote.” The issue of women wearing head coverings is an issue which the church at Corinth wrote Paul about.

Paul does not do away with the husband’s headship being acknowledged in the assembly; but what he doesn’t do is remove women and their exercising of their God-given gifts to make room for male headship. Schreiner states this in his conclusion: “More specifically, if women pray and prophesy in church, they should do so under the authority of male headship” (129). Schreiner believes that “we should affirm the participation of women in prayer and prophecy in the church” (129). Sadly though, in many conservative churches I’ve been in, either the male deacon or the preacher, elder, pastor, or any other man MUST ALWAYS pray the prayer over the congregation, while the women sit on the sidelines. If the churches clearly believed this, why do they affirm something different in exegesis than they do in their practice? There is an inconsistency there that complementarians must answer to God for.

While the church would have believed the creation order vouched for their position (vv. 7-9), Paul argues that, the creation order is reversed since Adam, for every man is now brought into the world through a woman (vv.11, 12). This being so, the custom is not one the churches have in operation, although, there are good grounds for implementing such a custom.

The issue of women and head coverings should show complementarians such as Schreiner, Piper, and Grudem that one can wear a sign of authority and still be allowed to publicly exercise their gifts (women). If this is so, women would not “have authority over a man” by teaching, because 1 Corinthians 11 doesn’t surely advocate this position. If a WIFE is having authority over her HUSBAND by teaching him, then, according to 1 Corinthians 11, “a sign of authority” such as head coverings solves this issue.

I’ll leave you with this final note: notice that the gender creation is reversed in the time of Paul and today, for women bring men into the world through birth. Yes, Paul here affirms the equality of men and women. But the creation order (that Adam came before Eve) is trumped by the fact that every daughter of Eve must give birth to every son of Adam and thus, comes before the sons of Adam today. Because of this reversed creation order in humanity, then, wearing a head covering is not a NECESSITY, although it could be a good idea for wives to wear a veil to submit to their husbands. If 1 Corinthians 11 does not use creation order to MANDATE head coverings (with the exercising of gifts), then what makes complementarians believe that 1 Timothy 2 prohibits women from exercising their gifts on the basis of the original creation order? 1 Timothy 2 has to be about something more—a Gnostic heresy in the church at Ephesus. 1 Timothy 2, of course, will be saved for another time.

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