2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. 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 dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors 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.
7 A man ought not to cover his head, 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 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.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. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.
To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people (i.e., us):
This is perhaps the most challenging passage in the letter to properly interpret because it is so laden with first century cultural and contextual issues which are, for all practical purposes, impossible to competently interpret and confidently understand. As a result, where there is a vacuum of understanding, the proliferation of interpretations abound.
Perhaps the main way this text has been interpreted through the centuries is with respect to authority relationships between men and women. Because I am an elf among giants in the realm of biblical interpreters who have taken on this text through the ages, I will tread with great caution in any assertions I make, and stay close to the holdings of my trusted teachers.
It strikes me that today’s text, as convoluted as it may seem based on two thousand years of cultural, geographical and linguistic differences, holds immense importance for our twenty-first century context. As a person who grew up and came of age in the benign surrounds of a late twentieth century small town in Arkansas, to say the world has changed seems a profound understatement. Then again, maybe from even before first century Corinth these issues have always been as present and confoundingly sophisticated as they seem to be now. I grew up with a fairly simple understanding that when the bible said, “male and female he created them,” it meant “male and female he created them.” In 2014, Facebook relented from their prior 58 pre-selected gender options and now permits unlimited gender identity classifications for its United States based users who lodged the complaint.
It strikes me that a well placed, “ToTo, we aren’t in Kansas anymore” assertion would fit well here.
In the end, it comes down to a choice between the worldview shaped by the biblical vision of God’s Kingdom and all the other world-views being socially constructed and advanced as we speak; all of which are mere variations on the broken legacy of Genesis 3. It may seem like an oversimplification, but underneath the catastrophe of the so-called sexual revolution and the radical feminist movements of the 1960’s are gross misunderstandings and egregious misappropriations of the bible. Human sexuality is a good gift. Feminism is a good gift. Unfortunately both have been radicalized by the ancient rebellion against God and have led not only to the tragic distortion of God’s Creation but to all manner of reactionary biblical interpretations by the church itself in response; sadly—including our haircuts.
The only way forward is a return to the fundamental realities of the humble people of God immersed in the world of the Word of God and the Spirit of God which alone advance the will of God—which is nothing short of the gospel of the Kingdom of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Thank you for the clarity of Scripture, especially in the midst of this age of confusion we now inhabit. Come Holy Spirit and give us compassion and great patience for the broken and confused. Moreso, give us the kind of love that can endure being disdained and dismissed for daring to believe in the simple clarity of your Word. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
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