Because Christianity is bigger than Biblical manhood or Biblical womanhood (Blog of Retha Faurie)

A woman writes to a columnist at a Christian magazine, which hosts an advice column called Wisdom from the Word.

Dear Wisdom from the Word

I read in the Bible that women should cover their heads. I also read that the husband is the head of the wife. How should I live out this passage?

From Christian Wife

The columnist at Wisdom from the Word answers her:

Dear Christian wife

Do as this passage say – throw a blanket over your husband!

Okay, that was a little joke. But “Christian Wife” is not the only person who is baffled by this passage.

This passage seemingly contradicts:

  • … itself, (Is long hair a covering for women as in :15-16, or does she need more of a covering than that, according to :5-6? Or can she decide for herself? – :13)
  • … the rest of the Bible, (Gen. 1:26-27 says that women are made in the image of God and Ps. 8:5 and 2 Cor. 3:18 says that all believers have God’s glory, but 1 Cor 11:7 says that the woman is the glory of man)
  • … and common sense. (1. In a sentence like “every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head” the word “head” seems to have 2 meanings in one sentence – or does it really? These two meanings appear in quick succession, and you almost get the joke1: “Man is the head of the woman.” “Women should cover their heads.” “…but don’t cover up the men.”) (2. Why should man not cover up because he is someone’s glory, and women cover up because she is someone’s glory?) (3. Nature does not teach us that long hair on a man is bad, and many Bible men had long hair – :14) (4. If we should do things because a certain way because women come from man – :8, should it not happen in the opposite way because men come from mothers? Is :8 negated by neither being independent and both needing God and man coming from women in :11-12?) (5. Does glory have the same, significant theological meaning in “the man is the glory of God” and “long hair is the glory of the woman?”)

We should be careful what we take from this passage. Obviously, not all of its apparently “plain” messages are true. Because of the contradictory nature of this passage, and because I do not want to teach falsehood, this blog has – so far – said glaringly little about the passage.

I distrust those who quote that women should cover their head without also quoting that long hair is already a covering. Who would ignore the obvious reference to women praying and prophesying publicly2, but insist you should understand “man is the head” the same way they do or you allegedly do not take scripture seriously.

What should we conclude from “the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” ?

There are several resources on this website on the meaning of “head” to the culture this was written in. As such, this do not need to be covered here. Suffice to say if this was a hierarchy, the order of mention would have been different. (God Christ man woman; instead of man ← Christ, woman ← man, Christ ← God.)

And “the head of every man is Christ” would not be true if head means leader: Men include atheists and Muslims and Hindus and pagans and Jews – none of them treat Jesus as their leader. Also note that women and men could also refer to husbands and wives, which would influence the meaning of the passage.

Click here for Part 2 >>

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1 Had Paul said this as a joke to his hearers, I expect that we would not get the joke. Jokes are actually one of the hardest things to translate so people from another culture understand it. “Wherever you go, you meet people who think that foreigners have either no sense of humour or at best a crude one. They are wrong. Humour is universal. But language is not, and neither are frames of reference. Puns that play on Chinese pictograms … are hard to render in English. Punchlines that assume an intimate knowledge of Italian politics earn few guffaws outside Rome.” – From “You think that is funny”, The Economist.

2  Publicly – there is no chance that God would prescribe clothing for private prayer – any moment is suitable for prayer, even while bathing.

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Comments on: "Headship, head coverings, and glory – what was Paul thinking in 1 Cor. 11? (Part 1: Apparent contradictions)" (4)

  1. Personally, I think the columnist gave the correct answer. Problem solved, lol.

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  2. Hehe, “Throw a blanket over your husband.” Too funny, I’m sure I’ll want to use that sooner or later if I may borrow! 🙂 In seriousness, there was for a time I couldn’t even read the bible because it gave me feelings of worthlessness. In the old testament temple, you had the holy of holies, only the High priest could enter, then the court for only men, then farther out one for women. Why did God like women less? (I thought) But you know who else was put out of the men’s court? Other men if they were lame or had birthmarks. But we wouldn’t think to prevent a man from preaching if he had a birthmark or limp! I’m thankful for having found blogs like these, to see a God who is not a respecter of persons. Weather I understand everything perfectly or not, having a view of God as actually good, & just, and caring about us as people, not just a “system” is something that I just know in my gut is right. Thank you for taking the time to put this together & share.

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    • AFAIK this is true. (People could correct me if it is not.)
      Nowhere in the Bible do you find any record of God saying that the temple should have a section where only the men can go. (God does talk of a place where only the high priest could go, but that excluded almost all men, too.) As far as I know, neither the tabernacle nor the 1st temple (temple of Solomon) had such an area. But the second temple and third temple (temple of Herod) did.

      The tabernacle and temple of Solomon (which did not put that limitation on women) was built to specifications God gave, and which is in the Bible. The 2 later temples does not have instructions in the Bible for how God said it should be built – those limited women.
      Coincidence? No, I do not think so. Traditions of men, it seems, restricted women where God did not.

      Related thought: God said to teach the word (the Jewish Torah, in that case) to your children day and night, talking to them about it always. God did not distinguish between boy children and girl children, or between mothers and fathers teaching. But the rabbis, not inspired by God, later said “it is better to burn the Torah than to teach it to a woman.” Once again, traditions of men kept half of God’s people out where God wanted them in.

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      • The reason for all the “it seems” and “correct me” is because this is partly based on what I could not find when I studied it. Things I did not find may exist.
        Tabernacle and first temple: Found descriptions in the Bible where God say how it should look. Found no mention of a woman’s court either in the Bible or online, nor floor plans showing one.
        Second and third temple: Found no descriptions in the Bible where God say how it should look.
        Second and third temple: Found mention of a woman’s court, and floor plans (of the third temple) showing one.

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