THE BADGE OF GUILT AND SHAME
1 CORINTHIANS 11 (ON VEILING–COVERING)
BY: KATHARINE C. BUSHNELL
The Christian Church, at least in English-speaking countries, has ceased for the most part to believe that women should be silenced, or that they should even be veiled when taking part in public worship. Yet our commentaries on the Bible go on teaching that the Word of God so directs. The church encourages an active participation on the part of women in its public worship, yet, through Bible instruction, continues to teach that the Apostle Paul forbade all this. Thus, the church displays inconsistency between its teaching and its practice, and the Bible is treated as though lacking authority as a guide.
All this inconsistency must injure church practice and spiritual life at the point of reverence for the Bible. Yet, on the other side, nearly all would concede that the church could not take a backward step by stopping woman’s activities without great injury to its own usefulness. Therefore, a fresh deeper investigation into the Apostle’s utterances is urgently needed, not so much in the interests of women but in that the church may conserve its own interests while at the same time maintaining a consistent course of conduct. The church must give no uncertain sound in both example and teaching and in its proclamation of the Word of God as supreme in authority.
The passage in Paul’s writings, which is supposed to direct women to veil when “praying or prophesying,” is found in 1st Corinthians 11:3 and reads as follows:
3. But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. 6. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. 7. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10. FOR THIS REASON THE WOMAN OUGHT TO HAVE A SYMBOL OF AUTHORITY ON HER HEAD, BECAUSE OF THE ANGELS. 11. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God. 13. Judge among 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. But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.”
(We have used the NKJV because the translation Bushnell uses is hard to understand and comes up so short on punctuation and archaic words.)
First, we must recall that to question the interpretation of a passage of Scripture is a very different thing from touching the Word itself with irreverent hand. Criticism of a Bible exposition may be undertaken in the interests of a deeper reverence for the Word than the expositor who is criticized has shown, though that one at least is sure to raise a cry of “irreverence,” if at all narrow-minded, since he considers his exposition an expression of the real mind of God. We hold the Bible supreme in authority and its text inviolable. But we must not forget that man’s prattle about it may be very foolish.
We capitalize the 10th verse because it seems to be a conclusion drawn from all that goes before in the passage, as is generally conceded, and it is also the most debated verse, as to its import. Dean Stanley says: “In the difficulty of its several portions it stands alone in the New Testament, unless perhaps we except Rev. 13:18 or Gal.3:20.” And Bishop Ellicott says of the same verse: “The two clauses which compose this verse are, perhaps, the two most difficult passages in the New Testament, and accordingly, have given rise to an almost endless variety of interpretations.” First, we will center our attention on this verse because its proper solution is the clue to the proper meaning of the entire passage.
As to the various interpretations: Dr. John Lightfoot says that the expression “angels,” which is quite frequently used in Scripture for human messengers, here means “messengers of espousal.” This term is employed in the East where marriages are wholly arranged for young couples by parents or guardians called “go-betweens.” The words, “Therefore the woman ought to have power on (or over) her head because of the angels” would mean, according to Lightfoot that young women should have the right to unveil in church so that “go-betweens,” whose business it is to search out eligible young women for the sons of their patrons, shall have an opportunity to see their faces. Hence, he makes the passage refer wholly to unmarried young women, a sense that cannot be inferred from the words themselves, which lay down no such restrictions.
On the other hand, Dean Stanley would refer the passage wholly to wives, a restriction that the original might bear. We believe he starts out with the doubtful assumption originating in the teaching of the Church with Tertullian of the 2nd century A.D. that the angels of God fell into sin with women which is his interpretation as the meaning of Gen.6:2: “The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all that they chose.”
The same views are set forth in Jewish works of an earlier date than Tertullian’s writings. He then asserts that a woman’s veil is the sign of her subordination to her husband and draws the conclusion that the Apostle meant to say in the first clause of this verse exactly the contrary to what the text itself of the passage represents the Apostle as saying. Namely, Tertullian concludes that the woman ought to have on her head a sign that she has no power whatever whereas the text reads, in the most simple Greek, that the woman ought to have power over her head, that is, to do as she pleases with it. These are his words: “In this subordination of the woman to the man, we find the reason of the custom, which in consequence of the sin of angels, enjoins that the woman ought not to part with the sign that she is subject, not to them, but to her husband. The authority of the husband is, as it were, enthroned visibly upon her head, in token that she belongs to him alone, and that she owes no allegiance to any one besides, not even to the angels who stand before the throne of God.”
It ought to have been a sufficient answer for all time to Dean Stanley’s interpretation of this verse to say that he has not made Paul’s statement plain. Rather, he has made a plain contradiction to Paul’s statement, which is not interpretation but denial. Every Greek scholar will admit that the original Greek here is so easy that, taken apart from its context, there could be no manner of doubt as to its sense. Dr. Lightfoot is correct in saying that its true sense is, “Let her bare her face if she will… Let her veil if she will.”
Bishop Ellicott accepts the views held by Stanley with a slightly different reasoning as to the “veil,” saying: “They are good angels and should not therefore be tempted,” as though an angel could not see the face of a pretty woman through her veil. And really, what possible practical lesson are we to learn about the “angels”? Are we not taught to believe angels are practically sexless by our Lord’s own words that in heaven we shall neither marry nor give in marriage but be as the angels? The assumption, therefore, that “angels” are all masculine gender goes beyond Scripture light. And then, after all, if a woman were in our day visited by an angel, so extraordinary would be the sight that she would completely forget the prescribed attitude towards “him.” Whatever her training had been, no matter if well drilled in subjection, who could promise that she might, like the ass of Balaam and even under her master’s lash, forget to whom she owed either “allegiance” or “subjection” and merely take her own way out of the angel’s path? Of what account then, is all this advice against such an emergency?
The majority of expositors agree with Stanley. Hence in quoting him, we call the views his, though often he may not be the originator of them. It would serve no useful purpose in this essay to trace those views to their real originators. He found at least part of his teachings in the theology of darker ages than our own, and his immense influence has gained a currency for them they might not have had but for his endorsement. These dark ages were acquainted with forms of vice at least of theories concerning them that we would do better never to call to mind in this cleaner or more ignorant age.
Some of these expositors, good in themselves and without reproach in the treatment of their own wives, become so accustomed to handling dusty old books of pagan ages that they no longer notice the odor of social decay shut up between their pages. Quite unwittingly, they convey it along to the sheets of their own literary productions. And moreover, such is the tyranny that religious traditionalism exercises over the human mind. Likewise, our natural reverence for God’s Word accustoms us unthinkingly to it to such an extent that we are willing to accept a most unusual conception embodied in Scripture interpretation rather than launch our own frail bark on an untried sea of investigation into Scripture truth.
Let us examine Dean Stanley’s exposition from a fresh standpoint and, if possible, divorce it from Christian instruction. For instance, let us study it as one would the religious teaching of the Koran or the Vedas of India. Imagine yourself in a far country unacquainted with its religious customs. You go with your guide to a place of heathen worship from which women are not, as usual, excluded. You see the women all veiled, or at least they draw their veils over the face and mumble behind them when they speak or pray. You ask, “Why do not these women lift their veils when speaking; then we could hear what they say?” Your guide replies, “Our great prophet says they must veil when praying or speaking in public.” You ask, “But does he bid them veil at other times?” “No, only at worship when if they will not veil, he orders them to be punished by having their heads shaved.” When you ask why, you receive the astonishing reply, “In some way, I cannot explain just how, they seem to tempt the good angels in heaven to fall into sin with them. Therefore, they must veil when in public worship.”
Some claim it is to show that women must not obey angels lest the angels command them to sin. Others believe that angels must not see their faces lest they be seduced to sin. You take out your notebook, probably, and prepare the skeleton of a letter to your church paper at home: “The heathen’s inane and insane jealousy of their wives leads them to view good angels with the stupid superstition as to the fall of angels and the danger of it. Their unclean imaginations, which follow their wives with jealous fears particularly in the matter of religious worship, when one would think a woman safe. Strange to say, they fear holy angels as to the virtue of their wives more than demons or men.” Yet, this describes Dean Stanley’s teaching reduced to practice.
What wonder, then, that one would not recognize such a thing as even remotely Christian if found in practice in a heathen land? Since the Church follows no such instruction and practice, is it not time to repudiate such teaching as anti-Scriptural? The Bible says, “The word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward.” (Hebrews 2:2). Both in the Old and New Testament times, the women of the Bible followed the opposite course from that prescribed by Dean Stanley. Hagar listened to the angel as well as Sarah and also as did Manoah’s wife. Likewise, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the women on the resurrection morning heard and obeyed the angels. Would an angel be found talking with a woman unless sent with a message from God’s throne? Are we to suppose that throne so rickety that messengers sent from there cannot be trusted to guard the virtue of women even as zealously as human husbands? And why is the risk to woman’s virtue greater in public worship than at any other time so that the Apostle feels no need of ordering them to veil elsewhere? The entire theory is most extraordinary.
Between the extremes of Stanley’s and Lightfoot’s expositions can be found two classes of interpreters those who hold that women should veil merely as a sign of subordination to their husbands to be seen by the angels present at worship that such is worn. The second class of interpreters teaches that the veil is to be worn, not so much as a sign of subordination as a sign of empowerment to speak and pray.
A few, like Dr. Schleusner, teach that the veil signifies among the Jews that the wearer is married, which is an honor and a power in itself, and is therefore to be worn. However, it is unnecessary to enter into a discussion of these variations. At this verse, The Authorized Version introduces the longest marginal reading to be found anywhere: “. . . a covering in sign that she is under the power of her husband.” The Revised Version does not introduce this marginal exposition, but it introduces italicized words into the text itself, making the reading, “For this cause ought a woman to have a sign of authority on her head because of the angels.”
The original word translated “power” in the A.V. and “authority” in the R.V. is exousia, and is never given any other than its natural sense in any other part of the New Testament. We believe effort has been made to force the sense of this word here. This attempt goes back to the earliest translations of the English Bible, not wholly to find a meaning that would agree with the context here but an effort to save a contradiction between the passage and St. Jerome’s mistranslation of Gen. 3:16.
Jerome’s, Latin Vulgate, rather than the original Hebrew, was the basis of the earlier English Bible translation. At Gen. 3:16 in the Latin Vulgate, we read sub viri potestate cris, “ thou shalt be under the power of the man,” which along with the Latin translation of the Corinthian passage debet mulier potestalem habere in contrast, is not only a contradiction in sense but in words as well. Therefore, reconciliation must be sought. What a pity it was not recognized from the first that the correction should have been made, not here, but in Genesis where the original Hebrew will hardly bear the interpretation that Jerome puts upon the words used there.
This attempt to make “power” equivalent in sense to “a sign of subordination,” is, of course, a contradiction of Paul’s precise language the best that expositors can make of it. To demonstrate, let us choose one of the several passages to be found in the Greek New Testament, which is in the same grammatical construction. We will find the same word for “power” as well as the same preposition for “on” or “over,” governing as here the genitive case and the same verb for “have.” Matt.9:6; Mark 2:10; Luke 5:24; Rev. 11:6; 14:18 and 20:6 are such passages.
And, we will select the first and subject it to the same treatment as has been applied to the one relating to women. “That ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins,” must then read,
“That ye may know that the Son of Man hath a covering in sign that he is under power of – what? Does not that plainly contradict the sense of the text? And it reveals, furthermore, that not only are words introduced to contradict the sense but also the interpolation in the Corinthian passage of the thought that the power goes over to the husband, making it foreign to the text also.
If the woman is to wear a sign that she is under power, it is far more natural to suppose the sign to be worn when addressing God in prayer or speaking in obedience to God’s dictation must be a sign of her subordination to God, not her husband. When applied in the terms of the R.V., the test is equally unsatisfactory. “That ye may know that the Son of Man hath a sign of authority on earth.” Our faith would not help us much towards salvation if placed in one who had merely a sign of authority to forgive sin. In short, the objection is that the original text does not say that a woman is to wear “a sign” or “a covering in sign” of anything. No living soul can be condemned for preferring to abide by the unmanipulated text, however desirable theology may think to alter its exact sense.
Ellicott rightly says, “It has been maintained that the word exousia here means the sign of power, i.e., a veil, which is the symbol of the husband’s power over the wife. The fatal objection to this view, however, is that exousia expresses our own power, and not the power exercised by another over us. . .Whatever interpretation, therefore, we put upon this passage, it must be consistent with this word being interpreted as meaning some ‘power’ which the woman herself has, and not some power exercised over her by her husband.” “To have power over” sounds very different from “ to wear something on.” Dr. Lightfoot says: “It is to be inquired whether ‘to have power’ does not properly, yea always, denote to have power in one’s own hand; not a power above one; as Matt. 7: 29; John 19:10; I Cor. 9:4-5 and elsewhere a thousand times.”
For the sake of the argument, and even granting that “a power” is something to be worn on the head, where is the proof that that something is a veil? Someone will reply “in the context,” but those who most warmly endorse this view admit that the context is not quite sufficient to establish it. Herewith the attempt at demonstration: Dean Stanley gives as a precedent a quotation from Callistratus (Ekphraseis, p. 896), which makes use of the expression exousia trichomatos, which the Dean surmises to mean some sort of head-gear. Trichoma, the nominative form of the word as any one may learn by reference to Liddell & Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, means generally “a growth of hair.” The derivation of the word from thrix, “hair” implies that the word means something like hair or made of hair, more likely a wig than a veil, for the latter was made of heavy cloth in the East.
Why should not women, then, rather wear a wig when praying or prophesying? Callistratus lived two hundred years before the Apostle Paul. Dean Stanley admits that this is “in Greek the only instance ever adduced of such a use of the word exousia,” i.e., in relation to something worn on a woman’s head. Bold indeed must be the expositor who is willing to base a conclusion meant to fashion the head-dress of one half of the human race on the use of so common a word as “power” in a single instance two hundred years before the Apostle gave his directions.
“Power” has come to be used in connection with engines of all sorts, electrical dynamos, hydraulics, mathematics and physics as well as in relation to armies and navies, not to mention many other ways such as legal documents. Would King Edward have given over his right to rule his own realm because of these extraordinary uses of the word “power”? Yet, women are expected to yield at once to the teaching that they have no power whatsoever and must wear a sign of abdication on such slender proof as this sort!
Dean Alford attempts to set forth another demonstration that power means “a sign of subordination.” He finds it necessary, since Dean Stanley has exhausted the resources of the Greek language, to turn to the Latin. Diodorus Siculus speaks of an image of a queen as “having three kingdoms on its head,” to signify that the original of the image was a daughter and a wife and a mother of a king. Here the expression “kingdoms” evidently means “crowns” as that is all that could be put on the head of an image. Dean Alford concludes: “As there (in the Latin reference) from the context it is plain that they (the crowns) indicated participation in the glory of the kingdoms, so here it is evident from the context that the token of power indicates being under power.”
The Dean has merely contented himself with an ignoratio elenchi of sophistry. We do not need the context of his Latin reference to understand that because of association, “kingdom” might be used as a metonym for “crown.” Nor do we need his Latin reference to learn that a crown on an image signified “participation in the glory of the kingdom.” The mere statement is so self-evident that the Dean does not trouble us with the context that we may see the proof for ourselves. A crown may signify a kingdom. However, “power” will only signify “subordination” when “light” may signify “darkness,” or when “truth” may signify “falsehood.” If not, the word “signify” loses its sense as well as the word “power”.
To prove his point he needed to have produced a case in which three crowns were found on an image, and the context showed it was in sign that the person imaged was under dominion in three directions. Of course, no such case exists. It will take more than the proof that “kingdom” is a synonym for “crown,” a sign of “power,” to prove that “power” can be made to mean exclusion from power. “Power” can no more be a “sign of subjection” than it can be a sign of an ox or of a red horse, or some other object not corresponding to it, or else English words lose their sense.
And then, who has proved that the veil carries in Scripture the idea of subjection? Through doctrinal drill, we have become familiar with the thought, but that does not constitute proof. The first mention of the word veil in Scripture is in Genesis 24:65 when Rebecca dismounted her camel to meet Isaac. She took a veil or wrap and covered herself. It is impossible to tell what nature this article of apparel was, or whether it was worn over the head or face or only about the shoulders.
Next is the case of Tamar (Genesis 38:14) who veils herself in the same sort of garment to hide her identity – the context indicating this time that the face is covered. Scripture shows that married women of the Old Testament were often unveiled in public places, even prayer in public as I Samuel 1:13. When men put on a head covering, it was to indicate mourning, guilt, humiliation or shame as David did when he fled from Absalom. “So David went up. . .he had his head covered and went barefoot. And all the people who were with him covered their heads…” (II Samuel 15:30) The whole scene is one of intense humiliation and acknowledgement of guilt. Again, when Absalom is slain, David covers his head in grief. When Haman saw Mordecai’s elevation to honor (Esther 6:12), Haman hastened to his house mourning, and having his head covered.” Again, he fell under the king’s displeasure, “... they covered Haman’s face.” (Esther 7:8). In Jeremiah 14:3-4, the nobles “... were ashamed and confounded and covered their heads,” in the time God visits them in judgment with drought. “The plowmen were ashamed; they covered their heads.”
The Jews considered the veil a sign of shame and humiliation, even for women, and only indirectly a sign of subordination. “Why does a man go abroad with his head not covered, but women with their heads covered” is asked. R. Joshua said, “It is as when one transgresseth, and is made ashamed; she therefore goes with her head veiled,” (Bereshith Rab. Sec.17). Also, this thought accords with the Talmudic teaching that of the ten curses pronounced upon Eve for her sin, the 7th provides that she “dares not appear in public with her head uncovered.”
Dr. Lightfoot further shows that the Talmud agrees with the Bible in teaching that the veil is ever a sign of guilt, shame, humiliation or mourning by citations as follows: “The Scholars of the Wise Men veil themselves and sit as mourners, and persons excommunicate as those that are reproved of God.” “He that was reproved by some great Rabbi ‘kept himself at home as one that was ashamed; nor did he stand before him who made him ashamed with his head uncovered.’ Again: The mourner and the person excommunicated are forbidden to have their hair cut. The mourner is bound to veil his head; the excommunicate does not.” We hold that Dr. Lightfoot by these and similar citations clearly establishes his claim that, “Although we should not deny that the veiling of the woman was some sign of subjection toward her husband [i.e., when he requires it] we do deny, that the veiling of which the Apostle here speaks [i.e., in our context] hath any regard to it.”
Now if we opened a book with those of the Papal Church, we would soon run into great difficulty. We would either be obliged to give up the task or insert words into Paul’s text that would furnish contradictions to his language. Yet, Jews forbade the women to unveil, therefore, they assume and reason Paul must be doing the same. Nevertheless, as Scripture plainly shows, much of the Apostle’s labor was to withstand the vicious teachings of the Judaizers.
One would think that the exactly opposite course would have been adopted by theologians, and they would have assumed that probably the Apostle was giving instruction contrary to the Rabbinical teaching. For our part, we assume that the Apostle meant what he said when he wrote the tenth verse, not what the Rabbins would say. And, we make this assumption for another good reason. This verse is the ergo, therefore the argument that goes before and that follows afterward, which all admit.
Now, it is no small matter to assume that the Apostle is capable of laying down a clear line of argument under divine inspiration, and then summing it up in a proposition so ambiguous that it cannot make sense without introducing a contradiction in the text. Did Paul forget before he got through his argument what he was going to prove and which side he was on? Rather, if there be ambiguity anywhere, it is in the reasoning, not in the summary. Paul knew what he meant. He knew how to state his proposition whether he knew how to argue it out or not. The 10th verse is our beacon light, diffusing rays in both directions before and after. We will not profane the holy text by changing into a contrary meaning the plain sense in a verse that we have the right to assume was written most clearly and precisely of all. “Therefore the woman ought to have power, or authority, over her (own) head because of the angels.”
When God spoke to Moses at the bush, Moses “hid his face.” (Ex. 3:6). When Elijah heard the still, small voice, “he wrapped his face in his mantle.” (I Kings 10:13). Isaiah represents the seraphim as covering their faces. Taking these scriptures as examples, the custom of covering the head with the Tallith in worship probably arose among the Jews. It is not necessary to go into an extended description of this custom. Suffice it to say, only the married man was obliged to wear it whereas “a single man can do as he likes.” (see McClintock and Strong’s Biblical Encyclopedia).
Dr. Lightfoot asserts its import to be that “he should veil himself to show that he is ashamed before God, and unworthy with open face to behold Him.” The only other place in which the Apostle expressly mentions veiling in worship is in II. Corinthians 3 where we find the clue to Paul’s instructions. A careful reading of that chapter leads to the almost certain conclusion held by most expositors that the Apostle has reference to the Tallith.
Verse 4 of I. Corinthians 11 says, “Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered dishonoureth his head.” However, in a footnote regarding that verse, Conybeare and Howson say that “it appears that the Tallith, which the Jews put over their heads when they enter their synagogues, was removed in the apostolic age when they officiated in the public worship. Otherwise, St. Paul could not, while writing to a church containing so many born Jews as the Corinthians, assume it as evidently disgraceful to a man to officiate in the congregation with veiled head.” We mention this view to show reasons for dissenting there from.
The Apostle Paul says the man veiling in worship dishonors Christ, his Head, which is different from saying he disgraces his own head. Again, here is an instance of what we have already mentioned the vicious effect of assuming that the Apostle Paul, who spent so large a part of his time withstanding the Judaizers, must of necessity teach what accorded with their views rather than the opposite. No historical evidence has been brought to light yet to prove that the apostolic age differed from others in the use of the Tallith. Conybeare and Howson all but contradict their own statement in their paraphrase of the 13th and 14th verses of this chapter in 2nd Corinthians, which they read: “Like Moses, who spread a veil over his face… to this day, when they read in their synagogue the ancient covenant, the same veil rests thereon, nor can they see beyond it that the law is done away in Christ.”
We have said that this veiling of the face in worship on the part of the Jew probably arose from the conduct of Moses at the bush and Elijah, but more especially, perhaps, from the veiling of the seraphim with their wings. The Apostle seems to refer to the same instruction on the part of Judaizers in the Colossian church. He says: “Let no man beguile you of your reward [ prize] in a voluntary humility and worshipping [religion] of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head. . .” (Colossians 2:18)
In a few words, I present Dr. Bullinger’s exposition of this passage in his book, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible and refer the reader to his work for a fuller treatment. “The passage is a warning to the saints who had been well instructed as to their standing in Christ that they were not to forget in their worshiping the Father that they had a higher standing than angels, even that of beloved sons, in the acceptance of the ‘Beloved One’.” “To cease ‘holding the Head’ is to lose practically all our special privileges as members of His Body. In our access to Him, it is to take up an attitude before God below where His love and grace has set us. It is to take the place of religious humility as the angels according to what the Jews so thought of them. “It is to worship with veiled faces at a distance instead of with unveiled faces beholding the glory of the Lord.”
Dr. Bullinger adds: “The warning is directed against some individual, who. . .would teach them that as angels in their worship ‘veiled their faces’ and take the most humble place, therefore it was only becoming that they should do the same. These were the only things which the ‘flesh’ could see… But they were not to be thus defrauded of that high calling and standing which they had in Christ and which enabled them to draw nigh with boldness to the throne of grace.”
The veil was a sign of guilt and shame worn by the Jew in worship to signify condemnation before the law. But what has the Christian to do with such a sign when professing that, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law,” and “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1). For such believers to wear a sign of condemnation is to nullify the worth of the atonement, and so dishonor Christ who released them from the condemnation of the law.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, which is Pauline in teaching if not in very fact, 9th chapter and 24th verse, we read, “Christ is… entered into heaven itself, now to appear for us in the presence of God.” That is the reason there is now no condemnation. Our Head stands now in the very presence of God. Moses pleaded, “Show me Thy glory.” The Septuagint rendering is, “Manifest Thyself unto me.” God’s answer under the Old Covenant was: “There shall no man see Me and live.” (Ex. 33:20). What was denied under the Old is granted under the New Covenant. In the person of Jesus Christ, glorified man has entered into the very Presence. Even more so, this very Jehovah who denied the prayer of Moses in the person of our Lord left the promise with His disciples, “I will manifest myself unto you,” using the same word for “manifest” employed by Moses in his prayer and used again in the passage in Hebrews. In the same manner that Christ appears in heaven before God, he appears to His believing disciples. Furthermore, from the moment Christ entered into heaven to appear for us, the Holy Spirit was shed forth upon believers and the mystical Body of Christ was formed of which all believers are members. Thus, God is glorified in Christ to every believer; for they have “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” (2nd Cor. 4:6), and man is glorified in his Head to a position in the very presence of God.
Two persons so situated that they cannot look each other in the face may yet be brought into full view of each other by the interposition of a mirror, and its proper placing. Jesus Christ glorified is that Mirror that reveals God to us and places us in the presence of God. He is the Mediator between God and man. God refuses to accept the presence of man except in the person of Christ. Likewise, man is unable to see the glory of God except in the person of Christ.
Taking a step further in order that we may see the glory of God and that God may see us, no intervening veil may be present. A mirror will not reveal two to each other when it is veiled. A mirror will not intervene to reveal two to each other if either one is veiled. Therefore, we must not be veiled in the presence of Christ our Mediator. The veil of condemnation is only removed by the atonement when we turn in penitence to the Lord. So, the Apostle promises the Jewish nation that “when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil (of condemnation) is taken away.” (II. Corinthians 3:16). This unveiled access to God is that “ministration of the Spirit” which is with “glory.” It is “of the Spirit” because the presence of that Spirit alone makes us members of that mystical Body of Christ whose Head–Christ Himself–stands unveiled before God.
Hence, in 2nd Corinthians 3:17 we read, “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” How does the Apostle use this word “liberty”? Absolutely? It is indeed gloriously true of all that which can be called liberty. However, since the veil is spoken of in the preceding verse, and the unveiled face in the following, it is better understood as referring to liberty from the veil. The veil is to be cast aside, and no more used in worship as in the synagogue. “But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror (R.V.) the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
An ancient mirror was of polished brass and did more than merely reflect the face of the one looking into it. In addition, it lighted that face with its own brightness. What that mirror did in effect “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord” does in very truth in the case of the beholder. Here is the clue to the real import of the Apostle’s teaching in the passage in First Corinthians 11, reinforced as it is in his warning to the Colossian church not to be beguiled by misleading instruction as to the religious observances of angels. On this basis we give the following:
ANALYSIS OF THE APOSTLE’S ARGUMENT FOR DISCARDING THE TALLITH
ACCORDING TO I CORINTHIANS 11
An underlying statement of relations, verse 3
Conclusions as to man based on man’s standing in grace, verse 4
Conclusions as to women, an obstacle in man’s headship, verse 5
Description of the difficulty as embodied in Jewish teaching, verse 6
Additional argument for man’s unveiling based on natural creation, verse 7
Woman’s unveiling is doubly strong, for her relationship to man is similar to her relationship to her Creator, 2nd clause, verse 7 & 8
Conclusion is that the husband ought to allow the wife to unveil in praying and prophesying, verse 10 first clause
An after-argument, opposing the Jewish argument as to “angels,” verse 10, second clause.
A guard against supposing the Apostle draws distinctions obliterated in grace, verses 11-12 and an appeal to their own judgment as to this point, first clause of verse 13
A direct statement that the proper thing in prayer is for women to unveil, as before God. This is not a question.
A statement that there is nothing in the nature of hair itself to be ashamed of, even if a man lets his hair grow long. Not a question, verse 14
Hence, the Jewish woman’s reluctance to show her hair by unveiling is a false modesty. Her hair is her covering itself. Verse 15
Final conclusion: Let any one know, who loves to contend for the Tallith in worship, that “we have no such custom.” Verse 16
“The Head of every man is Christ,” verse 3. These words are spoken properly, not to the human race, but to believers whom alone the Apostle addresses. As Chrysotom says, “He cannot be the Head of those who are not in the Body, who rank not among the members. So when he says, ‘of every man,’ one must understand it of the believers.” Although the Apostle for sufficient reasons does not state it, Christ is the Head of women believers, and the Head of every woman is Christ also. Therefore, there can be no members in the Body who have not their Head in Christ. The word here in the original Greek for “man” is aner, the adult male, the husband. Dean Stanley says “anthropos,” the word for person, would have been the natural word to use with reference to Christ as in 15:45, but for the sake of contrast with ‘woman’ he has changed it to “aner.”
But may there not be another reason also? Since the Apostle is about to discuss the reasons for discarding the Tallith, he would mention the aner as the only one obliged by Jewish prescription to wear it. “Every man [aner] … dishonoreth his Head.” (v.14) Which head? Conybeare and Howson say, “brings shame upon his own head by wearing the token of subjection.” If that be the case as many others also hold, then it must be first proved that a veil is a “ token of subjection.”
Also, a sufficient reason must be shown why Paul lays down the proposition, “the Head of every man is Christ.” Again, it is anti-Scriptural to teach that the servant, who “is not above his Master,” must act contrary to Him who “made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant. . .” Furthermore, it is contradictory to the Apostle’s own injunction concerning our Exemplar in this act: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:5, 7) The aner, then, who professes that Christ has released him from condemnation before the law while he still wears the Tallith in public, which signifies condemnation before the law, dishonors Christ, his Head.
“Every woman… with her head uncovered, dishonors her head” (v. 5), i.e., her husband, for any disgrace she incurs to her reputation dishonors him. “That is one and the same as if she were shaved.” (NKJV used here for clarity.) According to the laws of the Jews, and it is the opposition of the Judaizers Paul has to contend against, shaving followed so frequently upon the offense of unveiling that the disgrace followed at once as though the whole were already done to her. “If the woman be not covered,” etc. (v. 6). Dr. Lightfoot rightly says of this verse that the Apostle “does not here speak in his own sense, but cites something usual among the Jews.” Remember this very important point. When do we ever find any of the Apostles prescribing penalties for disobedience beyond the simple one of separation from the company of believers?
Let us for a moment face squarely all that is involved in accepting the general assumption that the Apostle here indicates a penalty for disobedient women who unveil. In the first place, we need not assume that the Apostle’s mild indication of the nature of the punishment would have passed unheeded as in our day. No, indeed, men of those days would hardly have failed to take full advantage of the privilege of punishing the wife had Paul meant this. Who is to see to the execution of this penalty? Will the Apostle himself be as he was before his conversion when he “punished them often in every synagogue?” Or will he put shears and razors in the hands of husbands to deal with recreant wives? Perhaps. If this view is to be accepted, it will be better to assume that the church would keep a barber employed always for the purpose.
But some say, “We do not need to assume that it needed more than a threat to subdue these disorderly women.” Then, are we to believe that the Apostle under divine inspiration makes idle threats, which there is no expectation of executing? Then, after all, how many more of the warnings in the Bible are mere idle threats? The whole conception from first to last is contrary to our notions of religious liberty as learned from other Scripture. No, Paul does not here speak in his own sense, but “cites something usual among the Jews.”
The customs of the Jews placed the wife terribly in the hands of her husband, who might hale her to their courts for the severest punishment for unveiling, to which the Apostle makes reference. It may not be that such a law would find sympathy in the heathen courts of Corinth except that in a general way under Roman law a wife would be bound to obey her husband in whatever he ordered. At any rate, the religious prejudices of an unconverted Jew of those days would have been greatly aroused by the sight of an unveiled woman taking part in public worship. The Christian community might be brought into peril by the complaint of the more influential Jewish element, as indeed it was, again and again. It is generally conceded that the terrible martyrdom of the entire church at Rome under Nero was brought about through Jewish informants and slanderers.
Therefore, the Apostle must squarely face this difficulty. Even if he would like, he cannot pass over the fact that by every law and custom of that time the man was the head of the woman. Therefore, when he says, “the head of the woman is the man,” he no more constitutes him her head by this dictum than when he says, “the head of Christ is God,” which creates and ordains that relationship. He simply states a fact which he finds in existence and a difficulty with which he must reckon when giving directions to his Corinthian followers. Now, we’ll look at the difficulty.
Dr. Lightfoot’s comments on another passage (Luke 7:37) help us. He says the woman who washed her savior’s feet with her tears was a “sinner;” not necessarily a woman of wicked life although the context shows she probably was. She was a “sinner” in the meaning of Jewish law a woman who had committed one of a list of offenses for which she could be divorced with the loss of her marriage portion. Lightfoot cites from the Talmud to explain: “She who transgresseth the Law of Moses and the Jewish law.” ‘The Jewish law’ that is, what the daughters of Israel follow though it be not written.” “Who is she that transgresseth the Law of Moses? She that gives her husband to eat of what is not tithed... She that voweth and doth not perform her vow. How doth she transgress the Jewish law? If she appear abroad with her head uncovered, if she spin in the streets, if she talks with everyone she meets. Abba Saul saith: If she curse her children.” (Kethuboth, fol.7, col. 1)
We have emphasized the words to which we wish to call attention especially. It was a serious matter to ask a Jewish woman to unveil if it meant that she could be branded by the same term as women of ill fame, and cast off by her husband with the loss of her marriage portion, so that the only alternative to starvation might through the loss of reputation be a life of sin. Again, we quote from the Talmud: Under the section called Sota, that is, “Dissolute woman,” we find these words: “Of the woman suspected of adultery: Yet have they not taught in the name of the Shammites that they only take cognizance so far of the duty of repudiation in case of illicit relation; but it extends also to the woman who goes out with her hair not done up?… It is true, replied R. Mena, “whenever witnesses attest it,”, whence we learn that proof of adultery was considered as good as established if a woman had merely gone abroad with her hair ‘not done up,’ a phrase in all probability meaning not covered with a veil.”
This quotation I make from Schwab’s French translation of the Talmud. The French words are as follows: “Traite Sotah. De la femme soupconnee d’adultere… Cependant, n’a-t-on pas enseigne au nom des Schammaites (dans une Braitha) qu’on connait seulement jusqu’ ici ie devoir de la repudiation en cas de relation illicite; mais il s’etend aussi a la femme qui sort les chevaux defaits… C’est vrai, repondit R. Mena, lorsque des temoins l’affirment.”
Dr. Edersheim, in his book Sketches of Jewish Life adds to the above all that seems necessary to show that the Apostle here refers to these practices among the Jews. He says: “Ordinarily it was most strictly enjoined upon Jewish women that have their head and hair carefully covered. This may throw some light upon the difficult passage in 1st Cor. 11:1-10.” And then follow these words of Dr. Edersheim, who falls into the fallacy of most expositors, of assuming that the Apostle must of course be teaching the same things that the Judaizers taught instead of probably the opposite. “We must bear in mind that the Apostle here argues with the Jews and that on their own ground, convincing them by a reference to their own views, customs and legends of the propriety of the practice which he enjoins. From that point of view, the propriety of a woman having her head covered could not be called in question.”
Must expositors constantly hark back to the childishness of Rabbinical teachings to find a meaning in Paul’s Gospel message? However, Dr. Edersheim proceeds most interestingly and instructively: “The opposite, i.e., unveiling and uncovering the head, to a Jew would have indicated immodesty. Indeed, it was custom in case of a woman accused of adultery to have here 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 head covered…. Therefore that hath befallen thee which thou hast chosen.” Now, a word of explanation. In Numbers 5th chapter, we have an account of the trial by bitter waters for jealousy. In the 18th verse, the direction for the priest is to “uncover the woman’s head,” which really means to shave the head. (See Lev. 10:6 and Lev. 21:10 where the same expression is used.) However, in the course of time the expression came to be used in its most literal sense that any uncovering of the Jewish woman’s head so as to display even her hair was immodest. The Talmud tells of a woman highly respected for her virtue and modesty who boasted that “even the rafters of her own room had never seen her hair.”
Now, let us sum up all we have learned through these quotations from the Talmud as to the customs and prejudices of the Jews and the laws they enforced to sustain them.
1st. A woman who went abroad with her head uncovered could be branded “a sinner,” divorced and cast out penniless by her husband.
2nd. If he could produce witnesses that she had been seen abroad with her hair not properly “done up,” which is equivalent in all probability to saying not covered up, that amounted to proof of adultery for this offense of uncovering the head.
3rd. She would be tried for adultery; and her hair would be shorn or shaven with the formula of the sentence pronounced upon her as follows. “Because thou hast departed from the manner of the daughters of Israel, who go with their head covered... Therefore that hath befallen thee which thou hast chosen.” Now, stronger proof is not needed to show that when the Apostle says of the woman who uncovers her head in public, “for that is one and the same if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn.” (NKJV for clarity) Paul does not prescribe this action, but he only refers to customs among them well understood by all.
Hence, we conclude that the Apostle, who enjoins that men remove the Tallith, explains here the reason why he cannot also at once enjoin that women remove their veils. We all have an inner sense that teaches us that the mere matter of veiling is not one for apostolic adjudication. Paul would not “make an eternal obligation of an external ritual.” Never were truer words uttered than those of John Stuart Mill: “To pretend that Christianity was intended to stereotype existing forms of government and society, and protect them against change, is to reduce it to the level of Islamism or of Brahmism.”
“He is the image and glory of God,” (I. Cor. 11:7). The preceding argument for the removal of the Tallith was based on re-creation. This second argument is generally regarded as based on natural creation. We may not construe this specification as to the man as something from which woman is excluded. Dean Stanley rightly observes, “Taken strictly, the woman is as much the image [and hence the glory] of God as the man; and the words in Gen.1:26 are in the common name Adam or man; “God created man in his own image.”
In what sense are we to understand that man is the “glory” of God? Dean Alford refers us to Psalm 8:6, “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands.” But this dominion was given at creation as much to woman as to man in the words, “Let them have dominion.” Psalm 8:5 of the psalm cited by Alford says explicitly of “man”, “Thou crownest him with glory and honor.” If we turn to the original Hebrew, we find the word “man” to which this pronoun refers is a word that means explicitly not the male but the human race.
Hence, the woman is crowned with glory in the same sense as the man. If the argument, then, that being the image and glory of God entitles to unveiling in the Creator’s presence, the prerogative belongs as much to woman as to man. Logically, this point is often conceded by expositors who adopt a line of argument contrary thereto as does Stanley himself when he says: “He, therefore, ought to have nothing on a head which represents so divine a majesty – nothing on a countenance which reflects so divine a glory. But woman is a reflection of the glory not of God, but of man: he intercepts the glory of the divine countenance; as all his outward manifestations have reference to God, so all hers have reference to man.”
Perhaps it is well that male expositors tell us about their countenances reflecting “so divine a glory,” as we might otherwise never have noticed. These male expositors know more than Moses, who “did not know that the skin of his face shone.” (NKJV for clarity). Jamieson, Fausett and Brown say : As the moon in relation to the sun, so woman shines not so much with the light direct from God, as with light derived from man.” “ Even in grace,” they declare, “much of her knowledge is mediately given her through man. They omit to say that, being excluded from theological seminaries, this is necessarily true. “The woman was made by God mediately through man, who was, as it were, a veil or medium placed between her and God, and through him it [the veil] connects her with Christ the head of man.”
These statements on the part of Jamieson, Fausett and Brown declare for another Mediator besides Christ and are Papal in doctrine though found in a work highly endorsed and in common use by Protestants. And all this is said in reference to natural man, for it relates to natural creation, not spiritual regeneration. None of these commentators limit their eulogies of man to men of moral character; his male configuration and all that is associated with it exalts him to this nearness to God, endows him with the spiritual advantages over woman above described.
These qualities that make the spiritual light of man compared to the spiritual light of woman, as the light of the sun to the light of the moon, belong to the male libertine, the male idiot, the male lunatic, as contrasted with the saintly mother of them. She has the moonlight whereas they have the sunlight of divine glory shining on their countenance. They can instruct her, but not she them in the knowledge of God. The arguments of most commentators on this passage leave us here. Believe it? Who can? Even honest Dr. Lightfoot finds this argument for man’s more excellent countenance something he cannot quite set aside, so he says, “A woman praying not veiled, as if she were not ashamed of her face, disgraceth man her head, while she would seem so beautiful beyond him, when she is only the glory of man; but man is the glory of God.” Certainly. We can all agree on this basis: When the moon succeeds in shining forth with greater splendor than the sun, whereas it is only the glory of the sun, it is time for the moon to hide its face in shame behind a veil!
“But the woman is the glory of the man” (verse 7). First, we must understand just what the word “glory” means here. In Luke 9 when Jesus was transfigured on the mount, his face shone and his garments glistened with whiteness. In the 32nd verse, this appearance is called His “glory.” In Acts 22:11, the Apostle Paul, telling of the bright light that shone around him when on the road to Damascus, says, “When I could not see for the glory of that light,” these two passages are sufficient to give us the import of the word. This word in the Greek is doxa, which carries with it always the thought of something that gives an appearance or display. It cannot be legitimately divorced from that sense and applied to that which is obscured. . .No attempt is ever made to rob the word “glory” of this sense of display anywhere else but in this passage. So when it is said that man is the glory of God, and therefore ought not to veil, it is at once understood that man is a being for God to display as a creature He is pleased with in his creation.
Yet the average expositor sees in the statement “the woman is the glory of man,” a reason for man to treat woman in exactly the opposite manner from the way God would treat him. Because man is the glory of God, they say with the Apostle that man ought to unveil before God. Because woman is the glory of man, woman ought not to unveil, but to veil before man. In exactly similar relations, they find opposite duties according to the sex of the individual. Now if this can be done at one place in the Bible, why not all through? Why may not a woman assume that all those commandments addressed to the male are meant to guide her in an exactly contrary direction, because she is of the opposite sex?
Alford describes woman as “shining not with light direct from God, but with light derived from man” and bases thereon his argument that woman must be veiled. But how can she shine if she is veiled? Jamieson, Fausett and Brown say: “Woman shines… with light derived from man.” Not at all. A veiled woman does not shine. Books on logic inform us that “logical equivocation” consists in the same term being used in two distinct senses. When men apply the use of this word “glory” in such opposite ways according as to whether it is said of man or of woman, they furnish us an instance not of honest argument but of logical equivocation.
If it be argued as a last resort that the expression, “the woman is the glory of man,” means that the woman may be kept by man, as in heathen countries today, for the exclusive gaze of her husband only, then since it is said, “man is the glory of God,” man is to be kept veiled for the exclusive gaze of God alone. Even his wife may not look upon his face since it nowhere says, “man is the glory of the woman.” But all these arguments have grown out of the fundamental error that man is, in some sense that woman is not, “the image and glory of God.” However, the Apostle would teach that woman is all this and “the glory of man besides.”
Why is man the glory of God? Because man is of God, he had his source in God. Coming from God, his parent-Creator, he bears God’s image. Again, man was created for God’s delight, for communion and companionship with God. I believe these reasons are implied by Paul when he speaks of man as “the glory of God.” And then he makes the application in the words of verses eight and nine, that is, because she had her source in man and because she was made for his delight, for communion and companionship with him.
Hence, as God will not have man veiled from him, — “The woman ought to have power over her head”... (verse 10). She ought to have the privilege of unveiling if she wishes. She ought to stand unveiled before man. But what becomes of the statement so generally made by expositors to the effect that Paul writes of the obligation upon woman in the Corinthian church to veil because, copying the heathen priestesses in the temple worship, “they threw off the usual eastern veil of modest attire”? We can well afford to let it rest until some historical proof is furnished. This supposition rests upon the other supposition that Paul is regulating the costume of women.
We do not believe that the propagation of the Gospel and the propagation of the veil for women are equally the concern of this great Apostle’s mind. He makes his point primarily, not upon the veiling of women, not upon subjection of women, but upon freedom from condemnation. As to the historical facts, it is probable that priestesses in heathen temples discarded the veil, even if the head wasn’t shaved as in China with Buddhist nuns today.
What women of pure life, or even secretly impure, must be held back from imitating the notorious women of the town? If the women in the Corinthian church needed such restraint as this implies to keep them from imitating the notorious characters of the town, they were as bad in actual practice as those women. The woman in outward appearance imitates the better, not the worse, until she becomes lost to all self-respect. Over 1000 priestesses were connected with the temple of Aphrodite at Corinth at this time. These slaves probably went about bare-headed. They had their heads shaved. What an incongruous conception! Because women have had their hearts cleansed from sin and have become daughters of the Most High, the Apostle, therefore, must deal sternly with them lest their sense of “liberty in Christ Jesus” lead them to copy the manners of the slave prostitutes of their town! Believe it? Who can?
“Because of the angels.” (Verse 10). Because so little data is afforded us by Colossians 2:18, the other Scripture, it is very doubtful if ever a sense can be discovered for this phrase that will satisfy all and that can actually be proved as the meaning Paul had in mind. After having already given the views of several and our reasons for discarding them as untenable, we will now give our own. Referring back to the passage in Col. 2:18 and Dr. Bullinger’s explanation of its real meaning, we find the Apostle some five years after his Corinthian letter, warning the Colossian Christians against the fallacious arguments based on the attitude of the seraphim as described in Isaiah 6:2 in all probability. Of each of these seraphim, it is said that “with twain he covered his face,” that is, with a pair of wings. Superficial conclusions are drawn contrary to the teaching of the Gospels, namely, that since “angels” worship God with covered faces, man should do the same.
Paul maintains that man under the Gospel is of higher creation than the angels, who are “ministering spirits sent forth to do service for the sake of the heirs of salvation.” (Heb.1:14) In this very letter, the Apostle asked, “Do you not know that we shall judge angels?” (I. Corinthians 6:3) (NKJV for clarity) The conduct of “angels” is therefore no guide to the one holding his relation to Christ, his Head. As a member of Christ’s body, man’s destiny is much higher than the angels. Rejecting Christ as the Head and teaching a voluntary renunciation of this high standing in Christ from a fancied imitation of “angels,” the Judaizer would beguile them of their prize by the assumption that “angels” worshiped women, when actually “angels” worshiped God. When he goes beyond the teaching of the Bible, which gives light here only as to seraphim, Bullinger is “intruding into those things” of the invisible world, concerning which he has scant knowledge. On the other hand, is it likely that the Apostle had failed to give the clear instruction of our Lord on this point as an offset to such error? He denounces the disseminator of this error as intruding beyond his knowledge. . .Would he not also show definitely where the error lay? When the disciples asked our Lord, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” the reply was, “Whoever shall humble himself as this little child.” Then, He adds, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones, for I say unto you that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven,” (Matt. 18:10)
Dean Alford rightly asserts here: “We must remember with what the discourse begun – a contention about who should be greatest among them; and the least are those furthest from these ‘greatest’.” The words, therefore, though they include children in an especial manner, yet refer rather to those members of the Christian body likely to be despised by the more important ones. The warning is to the great dignity of even the least because for each there is an unveiled angelic minister with open face in the presence of God.
Such a warning as this could not have passed unheeded by the early disciples, being so contrary to the synagogue instruction constantly before their eyes in the assumption of the Tallith in supposed imitation of “angels.” In our present passage, the Apostle has found an unveiled Christ in the presence of God as a reason for man’s unveiling. Likewise, he has discovered an unveiled man, the image and glory of God, as an argument for woman, “the glory of man,” being allowed to unveil. Now, here is an after-argument in reference to instruction regarding man’s true relation to “angels” and the true attitude of the angel of even the most humble member of Christ’s body as taught by our Lord Himself, who stands unveiled before God.
Paul says, “For this cause ought the woman to have power over her head [i.e., the right to unveil] because of the angels.” This statement is what I believe to be the right interpretation of this seemingly obscure reference to “angels.” A little historical evidence at this point ought to go a long way. Did the Apostle, as is so often assumed, forbid women unveiling along with the general assumption that both Roman and Grecian law did the same? Also, if as we have shown the law of the Jews was so stringent against it, how did it come to pass that women “sat unveiled in the assemblies in a separate place by the presbyters” and were ordained by the laying on of hands” until the eleventh canon of the council of Laodicea forbade it in 360 A.D.?
Here is the account in the words of Dean Alford in his comments on I Tim.5:9. The same admission is made by Conybeare and Howson, and stands undisputed in church history.
“Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman. . . (I. Corinthians 11:11-12). (NKJV) The Apostle wishes to make it clear that while it has been necessary to discuss the veiling of women and the veiling of men separately “in the Christian state,” distinctions of sex are obliterated. The words, “judge among yourselves” (NKJV) are better construed as the closing clause of these verses than the beginning of the next. See Paul’s order in 11:13: “Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered.” (NKJV)
When the Apostle wrote these words, punctuation marks such as we have were not included. The order of words or an interrogative participle often indicated a question. However, in this instance, nothing exists to determine the matter but the opinion of the expositor and translator. If verse 10 stands in its original sense not manipulated by human hand, then this verse is best construed as a simple statement with the emphasis on the word “proper”. Whether related to public prayer or to prayer in its widest sense, the proper attitude of woman and man before God is “uncovered,” the Apostle asserts.
“Neither doth nature teach you. . .” which again is a statement, not a question. Difficulties not to be ignored occur among those who hold this scripture to be a question. First, as to the fact: Does Nature teach us that long hair is a shame to a man? Then, why does Nature grow long hair on a man unless the barber interferes? Chinese men possess hair as long and abundant as Chinese women because they take pains to cultivate it just as women do. Does Nature teach this most populous people on the face of the earth that her work of growing long hair on these millions of men is a “shame”? No! What does blind Nature know anyway of “shame” and “glory” in purely natural things to instruct us? Here again we have another instance of that teaching that the same thing done under the same circumstances has opposite moral import because done by opposite sexes.
Whether addressed to man or to woman, soon we shall have to inquire concerning every precept of the Apostle to learn whether we are to do that thing or the opposite if we allow such assumptions as these to pass unchallenged. The Apostle has only just informed us that the woman is not apart from the man, nor the man from the woman in the Lord. Now, is he already teaching that they are as far apart as the poles and as far apart as “shame” and “glory” when doing exactly the same thing? Besides, in a day, and among a people who personified and deified the forces of Nature, this personification of Nature seems a dangerous precedent for Paul and we do not believe he would have committed such indiscretion.
Granting for the sake of the argument that it be one, this question is introduced by the negative participle oude, in the original. This exceedingly rare use of the word oude occurs over two hundred times in the Greek Testament but only twice besides here as an interrogative particle. Its general use is to connect whole clauses as contrasted with oute, a negative particle which connects merely words or parts of clauses. In this way, it usually lends a certain negative force to the entire clause.
Let us turn to Luke 6:3 where Jesus exclaims to the Pharisees in irony or great amazement, “Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry?” (NKJV) This question begins with that word oude, but what does it imply? It certainly implies that either they had not read it, or they had not read it to purpose, for they had not received its meaning and lesson. In other words, the not (oude) negates the notion of the verb clause. Now turn to Luke 23:40: “Do you not even fear God?” (NKJV) Here again the “not” negates the notion of the verb since one thief reproves the other for not fearing God. But those who hold that this verse in Corinthians is a question do not wish to imply that Nature does not, but that Nature does teach that long hair is a “shame” to a man. We question the legitimacy of the use of the Greek word oude in that manner.
If this be a question, let us consider the fitness of propounding at least the Greek portion to this Corinthian church, which was considerable. One is tempted at this point to enter upon a hasty historical sketch of the fortunes and vicissitudes of Corinth, capital of Achaia, but space will not permit. We refer the reader to Conybeare and Howson’s, Life of St. Paul for such a sketch. Suffice to say, in the Apostle’s day it had become again the habit of the same people whom in earlier centuries Homer had made famous in the greatest poem in profane literature “the long-haired Achaians,” of the Iliad. Only the last paragraph of this page is included in this document.
Imagine the Apostle Paul submitting then to these boasted descendants of men spoken of a hundred times in this most famous poem as “long-haired Achaians” a question in which he expects a reply in the affirmative: “Doth not even Nature itself teach you that if a man have a long hair, it is a shame unto him?”
Is this evidence sufficient to prove that the Apostle does not here ask a question but makes a simple statement? One more point needs to be considered. A picture of the great Apostle in company with Priscilla and Aquila emerges when he leaves Corinth and sails for Ephesus from whence he returns this Epistle to the Corinthian church. They travel by ship to the nearby port of Cenchraea. Conybeare and Howson say that Aquila, who had been for some time conspicuous, “even among the Jews and Christians at Corinth for the long hair which denoted that he was under a peculiar religious restriction, came to the close of the period of obligation. Before accompanying the Apostle to Ephesus, Aquila laid aside the tokens of his vow. . .”
As expressed in Acts 18:18, “having had his hair cut off at Cenchraea, for he had a vow.” (NKJV) Many refer these words to the Apostle himself as the one having long hair. See also Acts 21:24-26, the Apostle’s association with men of long hair, which he is supposed to teach, is a “shame” to them.
And now we are taught to believe that the Apostle wrote back to this same church in which Aquila was conspicuous for his long hair that Nature itself teaches that such a thing is a shame to a man. Yes, and the Bible, which lays down clear directions for these vows in which the hair was allowed to grow long (Numbers 6:5), must then teach man to do what is a “shame.” For these and other reasons, we understand this verse as follows: “There is nothing in the nature of hair that teaches you (literally, ‘the very nature doth not teach you,’) that if a man wear it long, it is a shame to him.”
“While if a woman wear long hair it is a glory to her; for her hair is given her instead of a covering.” 1 Corinthians 11:15) Thus, this verse is to be translated. Growing out of too strict an interpretation of the instructions as to the trial of jealousy, the Jewish women of later times had been encouraged in the cultivation of a false sense of modesty concerning their long hair.
We have already mentioned the Jewish matron who boasted that the rafters of her own room had never seen her hair. The Jews believed that the evil spirits gained power over a woman who went with her head bare. A woman’s hair must always be concealed. The Apostle now argues what must have appealed with force to these descendants of the “long-haired” Achaians” at least in the nature of hair. Paul says that even if a man wore his hair long, there was nothing of which to be ashamed. Likewise, the same conclusion could be made in the case of woman. Indeed, it was rather “a glory” to her since her hair afforded her a covering. Why should she cover a covering?
Nevertheless, this verse is generally treated as though it meant that because a woman has long hair, the long hair instructs where the covering should be put. The fallacy lies in making the Greek preposition “for” in the words, “her hair is given her for a covering,” carry the thought of addition. Rather, the word, (anti) means barter, exchange, or displacement, not superimposition.
Take, for instance, the expression in Matt.2:22, “Archelaus reigned in Judea in the room of Herod his father.” The four words in italics are covered by the single Greek preposition anti. In the expression, “and grace for grace,” (John 1:16), saying: “The preposition rendered for (instead of) is properly used of anything which supersedes another, or occupies its place.” Had he remembered his own instructions as to the force of anti, Dean Alford might have saved himself from falling into the very reasoning of those who try to make a different sense in this Corinthian passage. His exposition states: “This plainly declares that man was intended to be uncovered – the woman covered. When therefore we deal with the properties of the artificial state, of clothing the body, we must be regulated by nature’s suggestion: that which she has indicated to be left uncovered, we must so leave; that which she has covered, when we clothe the body, we must likewise cover. This is the argument.” The italics are Alford’s. His reasoning as well as those advocating his views is surprising indeed when reduced to the syllogism:
“That which Nature has left uncovered, we must so leave.” Nature has left the face of woman “uncovered.” Therefore, “We must leave” the face of woman ‘uncovered.’” This outcome is left of all the labored effort to show why a contradiction to Paul’s words is meant at verse 10. No, not quite all:
“When we clothe the body that which Nature has covered, we must cover likewise.” “Nature has covered” the face of man with a beard. Hence, “When we clothe the body,” man “must cover” the face “likewise.” We wonder if expositors had not introduced that contradiction of the text at verse 10, whether they could not have wriggled through to the coveted goal on the other side of this following verse. “But if anyone seems to be contentious,” (NKJV, 11:16). The sense is, “If any one is fond of arguing the case,” “we have no such custom...” The custom referred to in verse 16, which someone evidently loved to contend for, was that of wearing the Tallith in worship, not that of women unveiling which was not a custom. Therefore, it would be an insufficient point in the Apostle merely saying it was not a custom.
If the women had unveiled in defiance of the Apostle’s wishes of which there is no proof, this unveiling would have been not only the very opposite but also the defiance of “custom.” However, the practice of wearing the Tallith was a “custom,” and this custom the Apostle repudiates as unbecoming the profession of Christians. He has already shown, however, that he cannot command the unveiling of woman because of man, “the head of the woman.” The Apostle can only say what “ought” to be in her case.
HOW “POWER” BECAME CHANGED TO “VEIL”
The idea that power means “a veil” can be traced backwards historically through Origen (b. 186), Tertullian (b. 160), and Clement of Alexandria (b. 150) to Balentius, the Gnostic, (date of birth unknown) who died about the time of Tertullian’s birth. Dean Burgon says the heresy of Valentinus “must have been actively at work when John wrote his first and second epistles.”[i]
The Gnosticism Valentinus taught was a mixture of Christianity, Judaism, Greek philosophy and Buddhistic paganism whose primal goddess, Bythus, (depth, profundity), bore thirty aeons, (ages, ever-beings). These aeons were arranged in groups of eight, ten and twelve in pairs–male and female–and constituted the Pleroma (fullness). All this nonsense they pretended to find hidden in the meaning of the first three Gospels and Paul’s Epistles. They claimed that Paul referred to their Pleroma where he says “throughout all ages.” The Lord showed thirty aeons when he began to preach at thirty years of age. He showed twelve aeons when He disputed with the doctors in the temple at twelve years of age. Likewise, twelve aeons were shown by the twelve apostles. The other two groups– ten and eight– were shown by the eighteen months Jesus spent on earth after His resurrection! Thus, they parodied and corrupted Scripture as is well known.
Clement of Alexandria was the first Church Father to teach that women should veil. He said, “Because of the angels,” and by “angels,” he meant righteous and virtuous men. “Let her be veiled then, that she may not lead them to stumble into fornication. For the real angels in heaven see her though veiled.”
But where did Clement get this idea that Paul taught women to veil? Dean Burgon’s most valuable work, The Revision Revised, tells us, “As for Clement, he lived at the very time and in the very country where the mischief [of corrupting the text of Scripture] was first rife… Clement moreover would seem to have been a trifle too familiar with the works of Basilides, Marcion, Valentinus, Heracleon, and the rest of the Gnostic crew.” Origen and Tertullian also lived in North Africa. Burgon is not speaking, of course, of this particular passage. Therefore, the quotation is not only more valuable for us, but also carries more weight than anything I could say on this point. Clement’s writings, then, show traces of Gnostic corruption.
And, we happen to know that Clement knew what the Gnostics taught on this verse. He gives us extracts from the writings of Theodotus, a disciple of Valentinus, in which this verse is quoted: “The woman ought to wear a power on the head.” Now when the word “wear” is used, one thinks at once of a covering for the head. Theodotus lived in Asia Minor where the Greek language was used. He could make “have” do duty for “wear” as we find in the N. T., Matthew 3:4, for instance, and interchange them. However, he could not change “power” (exousia) into “veil” (kalumma). Clement might, therefore, think this usage is no great violation of the text since it suited his purpose to make use of the perversion.
But, Irenaeus represents Valentinus as going further since he and his associates without scruple corrupted the text of Scripture. We again quote Dean Burgon as our authority: “The first men who systematically depraved the text of Scripture were, as we now must know, the hierarchists Basilides, Valentinus, and Marcion . . . These old heretics retained, altered and transposed just as much as they pleased of the four-fold Gospel.” Then, Burgon proceeds to point out instances of their corruptions. He limits his remarks to the Gospels because the work we quote[ii] relates wholly to them, the same as was true as Irenaeus tells us of St. Paul’s Epistles.
Clement, Origen, and Valentinus came from the same place–Alexandria, Egypt—which birthed the Gnosticism of which Valentinus in his days was the chief exponent. Valentinus went to Rome in 140 A. D. and died in Cyprus in 160. Coptic was the native tongue of these three men, and “power” bore a close resemblance to “veil” in that language. In an imperfect or dim manuscript of a Coptic translation of Paul’s Epistle, one word could readily be mistaken for or altered into the other. Here are the two words side by side—ouershishi/ ouershoun–which should be written in Coptic to which we do not have access. The first, ouershishi, means power or authority; the second, ouershoun, means veil.
And, Irenaeus, who was about thirty years old when Valentius died, tells us that in the latter’s teaching, the verse read, “The woman ought to have a veil on her head.” With associations which we will presently describe, the Coptic version exhibits many traces of Gnostic influence and perversions.
The Coptic New Testament issued by the Clarendon Press carries a footnote to this verse which says that fifteen Coptic manuscripts read “power,” and “four or five” read “veil.” Because one manuscript is uncertain, we are not told why but naturally infer it is because this particular word is mutilated or faded out, rendering it doubtful which word is meant.
The initiation ceremony of the Gnostics taught a reunion of mortals with celestial consorts of the opposite sex. Naturally, the veil would be desirable to somewhat screen the rites, for the Gnostics fell into gross sensuality. Both men and women veiled. Irenaeus tells us that Valentinus and his associates taught the following as their warrant for these rites. A certain goddess apart from her male consort escaped the Pleroma and conceived and brought forth a formless being called Acamoth (Hebrew for “wisdom” and sometimes called Sophia, Greek for “wisdom.”) Acamoth goes through a series of experiences always sinking lower and lower into degradation. Then, her celestial consort called Soter, “savior” and also blasphemously called Jesus, Paraclete and Christ, goes to her rescue with a band of seventy angels. Irenaeus continues the account wherein we will insert “Soter” always as the name of her consort.
As Soter approaches, Acamoth, filled with reverence at first, modestly veiled herself. By and by, when she looked upon him with all his endowments and acquired strength from his appearance, then she ran to meet him . . . That Soter appeared to her when she lay outside the Pleroma as a kind of abortion, they affirm Paul to have declared in his Epistle to the Corinthians. “And the last of all He appeared to me also, as one born out of due time.” Again, Paul declares the coming of Soter with his attendants to Acamoth in like manner in the same Epistle when he says, “a woman ought to have a veil on her head because of the angels.” Now, when Soter came to Acamoth, she drew a veil over herself through modesty like Moses did when he put a veil upon his face.”
In another place, Irenaeus tells us that sometimes the teaching was, “Beholding the angels along with Soter, she did …conceive their images.” Theodotus says, “Seeing the masculine angels with Soter, she put on a veil.” The whole mass of labels is saturated with sensuality, which we do not care to repeat. Acamoth was typified in the twelve-year-old daughter of Jarius, whom Christ raised from the dead.
To this objectionable source in a book written by Irenaeus, we trace, then, the very first corruption of Paul’s meaning in 1 Corinthians 11:10 to show their false teachings. These passages are garbled from the Scriptures with the view of “adapting them to their own fictions,” to quote his precise language. To those who know the associations of this verse and still accept its twisted meaning let them do so. We will not.
[i] These dates are approximate only.
[ii] Causes of Corruption in the Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, p. 197.
 These facts we gather from the highly valuable work of Dean Burgon, “The Revision Revised,” and of Burgon and Miller, “Causes of Corruption in the Traditional Text of the N. T.”
BADGE OF GUILT AND SHAME, THE [Katharine C. Bushnell] 1