Problematic Biblical Issues & Analysis of Corinthians - Theology Assignment Help
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As time moves further and further away from the cultural settings in which the books of the new testament were authored, the gap between what the bible says and what is considered decent in wider society, continues to widen. Although some problematic biblical issues, such as the books undeniably complete condemnation of homosexuality, have found theological avenues of reconciliation, others have not. 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is a section of the new testament that has not only failed to find reconciliation with wider society, but it commands that a line in the sand be drawn between those who wish to be open to new ideas and better information, and those who desire to maintain their obligation to the idea that scripture is always the truthful Word of God. For those who choose to maintain their allegiance to the message of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, they must accept that doing so will cause harm to others. Although the harm caused by adherence to this passage has evolved over the years. Initially the passage brought harm primarily to women only, however as society, science and humanity has developed, 1 Corinthians is now harmful not only to women, but any humans who identify outside of the binary gender expression that the bible insists is not only correct, but also divine.
Analysis of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
The preceding chapters in 1 Corinthians explain that Paul is writing to the Church in Corinth in regards to reports received via the House of Chloe (1 Cor 1:11). These reports described disagreements and disputes happening within the church surrounding numerous theological and practical issues. In 1 Corinthians Paul is responding to these reports, seeking to clarify with the community’s which beliefs and practices they ought to be adhering to. In chapter 11, Paul is addressing an issue regarding the (mis)use of head coverings within the church.2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you.
After a brief opening in verse one that asks listeners to “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” Paul opens his argument on head coverings in church by offering praise for the church I Corinth for the effort they have made in following his example and abiding by the teachings and traditions he passed along. Offering praise and encouragement was a typical way for Paul to open his letters to the churches he established (e.g. Ephesians 1:15-17, Philippians 1:3-6, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10,). Paul commends the church for following the traditions as they were passed on, implying that the issues being reconciles in 1 Corinthians are regarding matters the church had not been instructed on with full clarity and were left up to their own interpretation.
3 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head
Introducing the issue with theological foundation in verse three begins to tackle the issue regarding the use of head coverings in church, specifically when in prayer or prophesying. Although it can be assumed from Paul’s statements that men were wearing head coverings in church and the women were not. What is not clear, is why this is was a problem – and there are multiple theories as to why this aspect of the Corinth Church was being scrutinised. The four primary rains of through as to why this was an issue are;
Head coverings here used in pagan culture during worship and the use of head covering in Christian worship was thought to either align Christ with paganism or to diminish him to the level of a pagan god.
Head coverings when used by men were reflective of the veil of Moses in Exodus 34 and so was glorifying God’s old covenant and law rather than the new one formed in Christ.
Head coverings used by men were often intricate and richly designed and wearing them may have been interpreted as a symbol of vanity that may distract from praising Christ.
Head coverings on men were seen as effeminate in opposition to the gender binary and so were seen as disgraceful.
When women don’t wear head coverings it opposes the biblical gender hierarchy in which women is under the authority of man.
When women don’t wear head coverings, their hair will shift focus from Christ.
When married women don’t wear head coverings they advertise themselves as available and risk disrespecting their husbands.
Although arguments (that cannot be explored due to the limited scope of this piece) can be made for each of these ideas, the passages that follow indicate that Paul’s primary message in this section of the epistle is regarding proper enforcement and expression of binary gender roles within the church specifically in relation to their ontological origins.
.7 A man ought not to cover his head,[b] since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own[c] head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.
Paul centres his message and justifies the preceding passage by following it up with demonstrating how his stance on head coverings is reflective of God’s order of Creation, mirroring the language of Genesis 2 to emphasise his point. Although the latter half of this passage appears to argue for equality between men and women, it has rarely been interpreted this way, and interpretations that do argue for a reading of equality are hindered by every other point Paul makes, that clearly denotes a hierarchy of authority that spans from God to women. When this authority is explored in the context of Jesus relationship to God (comparable to man’s relationship to women in a Pauline context), for example in Jesus prayer to the Father in Mark 14 (& Luke 22, Matt 26) there is a clear requirement of submission. This biblical example of submission makes it difficult to genuinely come to an interpretation of man’s authority over women that wouldn’t also demand that women respond to men with the “yet not My will, but Yours be done” Jesus offered the Father in submission to His Authority. When this comparison of authority is made in scholarly and especially in sermonic settings, Jesus’ submission to God is often painted as joyful, and encourages women to also submit joyfully to men (or more specifically their husbands). The same passage used to show Jesus’ submission also shows his reluctance, the full verse reading “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Hardly joyful.
A note on the “because of the angels” – while Peppiatt implies that it is on the angels account that head coverings must be worn, there is no scholarly consensus on what this line actually means or why it is included.
13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.
The passage that most starkly shows how wide the temporal gap between authorship and current times is Paul’s assertion that nature itself reinforces his argument, but also makes it obvious. For the society Paul was addressing, the notion of men having short hair and women having long hair and the connotations of decency attached to hair length would have been obvious and common sense for the time. In a current context though it is absurd to attach the idea of hair length, or any other personal style choices, to nature.
16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.
In regards to the question regarding whether or not Paul’s message on head coverings along with the divine hierarchy of authority outlines above has any flexibly, verse 16 responds with a resounding ‘no’. The finality of verse 16 essentially renders any attempts to recontextualize 1 Corinthians 11 into a message more palatable for the timbre of current society, completely futile – although this has certainly not stopped many from trying. Some of these efforts will be considered below regarding historical and current application of the passage.
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