Opinions on faith and life

Heads Up!

2009-10-26

No one can serve two masters. — Mt. 6:24, Luke 16:13

I just read an interesting article by a William Welty about 1 Cor. 11:2-16, which concerns head coverings. I found the link through another article of his called Does Nature Teach?, as part of the ISV Bible’s website. This topic is overdue for the kind of examination Welty brings, reminding us of the research of others such as Katherine Bushnell who have been largely ignored. I would encourage you to study that document for yourself.

But I must take exception to the idea expressed here:

Notice the peculiar lack of the definite article in verse three:
  1. pantos andros h kefalh o cristos estin — of every man Christ is the head,
  2. kefalh de gunaikos o anhr — and of a woman the man is a head,

Paul is establishing a principle of authority by means of the metaphor of headship. For the purposes of the example, Paul cites the following order of delegated authority in the relationships mentioned:

Christ is the head of a male. The man is a head (i.e., one of two or more heads) of a woman. The woman’s other head is, of course, Christ. Logic should tell us that Paul is directing the Corinthians that veiling for women should follow the same prohibitions that it does for men.

Now I understand the overall point they are making, which is that Paul’s emphasis is not on what women must do, but what men must not do. Yet their belief that Paul is talking about some chain of command here is not necessary to support the point, and it overlooks that same lack of the definite article for Christ. The English word-for-word equivalent is this:

of-every man THE head the Christ is, head yet of-woman the man, head yet of-the Christ the God
Can we argue that God is only A head of Christ, such that He must have more than one? Not only does the logic break down, the missing definite article is the exception rather than the rule here; only one of the three pairings has it. If anything it is the first pairing of “every man” with “the Christ” which might mean something different. Yet how is Christ a different kind of “one and only head” to men than God is of Christ? And if a woman has two “heads”, one being divine and the other quite human and fallible, is she not “serv[ing] two masters”?

All this adds up to tell us that there is no particular significance to the use of the definite article. And of course it isn’t exactly wise to develop theology on the basis of “the”; isn’t that what the cults are known for, a la John 1:1?

Rather, as I’ve argued before, Paul is engaging in another of his typical plays on words with “head”. He speaks of unity and source to introduce a question about literal head coverings, closing with a return to the theme of unity in verse 12 (13 through 16 deal with a separate aspect of the issue).

The most important point of the article is really centered on those last four verses. Paul does NOT ask a rhetorical question (“Doesn’t nature teach you...?”), but makes a statement of fact (“Nature does not teach you...”) as an appeal to common knowledge: both men and women naturally grow hair on their heads, which continues to grow till it’s cut or falls out.

The article also makes an interesting argument concerning Paul’s mention of “because of the angels”, which the writer believes should be rendered “because of her angels”. They argue that since some angels in heaven do not cover their faces, then somehow this means women’s angels (not men’s, and not single women’s?) wouldn’t want the women they guard to wear hats— but only when prophesying. And that’s it. No tie-in to why women should not wear head coverings just because some angels don’t use face coverings. I’m still... well, scratching my head... over that one.

Anyway, the important thing about any article or writer is that we recognize which arguments are good and which are bad or poorly reasoned. And yes, most people are in the habit of making both, such that dismissing someone over one topic means we may miss out on something very important.

LATER EDIT:

If the husband is the wife’s head (well, one of them), does a head covering signify her power over him?

13 Comments

Lin

’head yet of-the Christ the God"

If the Holy Spirit was communicating chain of command authority, wouldn’t He have Inspired Father instead of God as in Father/Son? And why would He use Kephale when there are very clear Greek words for authority over.

Paula Fether

Good questions. Vital ones, even. But Lin, the "alphas" would only tell you that the "plain reading" method is too complicated for us wimminz, and it’s SO obvious that God ALWAYS means The Father, and the very act of asking questions is a sin for a woman.

truthseeker

You know my favorite take on the notion that a woman’s head must be covered is that it means her husband must wear a doily on his noggin. After all, he is her head, right? :) I told my husband I would go to his church with him if he did so, since he thinks he is my head. He declined the offer.

So, if I do something noteworthy, and it goes to my head...where, exactly, is it going?

wimminz...that is great! It captures the essence, doesn’t it?!

Paula Fether

^^ lolz

Yep.

Dee

Hi Paula...

Speaking of "wimminz" what about Anna the prophetess? Luke 2:36-38...It seems that God gave her the same knowledge concerning Jesus that he gave to Simeon.She served,fasted and prayed in the temple day and night,covered or uncovered,no one knows.Seeing that she was a widow,was not God/Christ the promise,her only head.Could there be such a thing as a transfer of ’headship’ when women whom believe marry???

Wimminz...Paula you are to much :-D

Paula Fether

:-D

"Wimminz" is a kind of embodiment of the idea that somehow we’re non-human, a different species from men. That is what many of them really do teach that we are.

And good point about Anna, one which can also be used in rebuttal to the popular academic belief that the people of Jesus’ day had no concept of a Messiah beyond the political. But yes, she’d have to either acquire a second head (creating a "monster" when applied to families, according to some comps), or essentially treat Christ as a lesser authority than males. Both mock God.

Dee

The ’Fundy’ version (KJV),which i read,says that Anna served,not just worshiped in the temple... Not a version battle,i just thought that that was significant,seeing that she was a woman...

Paula Fether

The base word is latreuO, and can mean service or worship. Here is an excerpt from Precept Austin:

Serve (3000) (latreuo from latris = one hired or latron = reward, wages) means to work for reward, for hire or for pay, to be in servitude, render cultic service. Latreuo was used literally for bodily service (e.g., workers on the land, or slaves), and figuratively for “to cherish.”

In the NT the idea is to render service to God, to worship, to perform sacred services or to minister to God in a spirit of worship (in fact in the NT uses below, note several passages clearly associate worship with serving.)

Serve in this verse is present tense which emphasizes the unbroken habit of Paul’s existence was that of ministering and serving God in a spirit of worship.

Latreuo is found 21 times in the NT (see uses below) and is translated: offer service (1), serve (15), served (1), serving (1), worship (1), worshiper (1),worshipers (1).

In the non-apocryphal Septuagint latreuo describes the service of the priests. The service/worship as in the NT uses in some contexts refers to worship of idols rather than God.

While the majority of examples indicate service, we cannot rule out the "office" of priesthood, ref. Heb. 13:10, and as the beginning of the excerpt stated, it could involve paid work. So if anyone wants to use it to justify paying clergy, they have to admit from Anna’s example that women could be paid for the same "divine service" as male priests.

Dee

Indeed Paula,indeed...That is the point concerning Anna and the use of the word service in the kjv of Luke 2:37...

Most of us onlyist’s who are called fundamentalists to a degree,would never ever have considered women ministering in service to God in the church...

As i said on another of your posts,you have changed my mind.Moreover,it is evident in the scriptures that this OT woman ministered spoke of Jesus,the Savior(covered or uncovered)to "all" who sought redemption in Jerusalem...

and she, at that hour,having come in, was confessing, likewise, to the Lord, and was speaking concerning him, to all those looking for redemption in Jerusalem.Luke 2:38

Paula Fether

"...you have changed my mind"

That’s one! :-D

And it’s good to keep the issue of Bible versions in mind anyway. When we study the history of Bible transmission from before "the days of mingling" to the present, we get a much different picture of the whole issue than if we just compare a few English versions. I wish all Christian education included an overview of translation in general, from any language to any other, so people would understand that it’s never as simple as we think.

Dee

Paula, you would be surprised just how many other women who are KJVO and attend independent fundamental Baptist churches believe that women should stand in mixed congregations and preach the Gospel...

Have a great weekend...

Paula Fether

I can’t say that I would. I’m one of those people who doesn’t fit neatly into any of the usual boxes, so I completely understand. ;-)

And you have a great weekend too!

Dee

Sorry Paula...I wanted to clear this up...Looks like i read Luke 2:36-38 and copied vs 38 from the Young’s literal translation in my bible suite,not the KJV... Man Alive! I may just read more of that translation :-)