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 follows 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 teach 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, a 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 therefrom.
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 moreso, 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: Click here to continue with part 2