THE SOPHISTRY OF THE VEIL.
216. We can prove that the usual interpretation of St. Paul's words about veiling is wrong, because it is a misfit all around. Please read over carefully 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, and keep your Bibles open to the passage while we study it. The usual sense (not ours) put upon these words by expositors, beginning with verse 3, we give in the language of Dr. Weymouth's Modern English translation: (3) "I would have you know that of every man, Christ is the Head, that of a woman her husband is the Head, and that God is Christ's Head. (4) A man who wears a veil praying or prophesying dishonors his Head; (5) but a woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her Head, for it is exactly the same as if she had her hair cut short. (6) If a woman will not wear a veil, let her also cut off her hair, but since it is a dishonor to a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her wear a veil. (7) For a man ought not to have a veil on his head, since he is the image and glory of God: while woman is the glory of man. (8) Man does not take his origin from woman, but woman takes hers from man. (9) For man was not created for woman's sake, but woman for man's. (10) That is why a woman ought to have on her head a symbol of subjection, because of the angels. (11) Yet, in the Lord, woman is not independent of man nor man independent of woman, (12) For just as woman originates from man, so also man comes into existence through woman, but everything springs originally from God. (13) Judge of this for your own selves: is it seemly for a woman to pray to God when she is unveiled? (14) Does not 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 her glory, because her hair was given to her for a covering? (16) But if anyone is inclined to be contentious on this point, we have no such custom, nor have the Churches of God."
217. MISFIT 1. Now please note, first of all, that at verse 10, first clause, Dr. Weymouth substitutes something totally different from what the text says. The text reads, "ought to have power," while Dr. Weymouth, following the usual interpretation, says, "ought to have… a symbol of subjection." The original word for "power," here, is exousia, meaning authority, right; the same word for "power," and preposition for on, epi, (often translated "over"), with the same construction, will be found in many places, for instance, Revelation 11:6, "They have power over waters to turn them to blood." And likewise in Matthew, Mark and Luke, in the sentence, "The Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins." Furthermore, the original text here has never been called into question; the reading is as simple as it could possibly be, "The woman ought to have power over (rendered "on" in the English Versions) her head." No scholar questions this.
218. At this place, the Authorized Version introduces the longest Marginal Note to be found in the whole Bible. Where Paul says, "ought to have power," the Note reads, "That is, a covering in sign that she is under the power of her husband." This is certainly a most extraordinary substitute for the words of Scripture. Had it read merely, that she was to be "under power," even that would have been a contradiction of the explicit statement of St. Paul; but they add to this contradicting thought: The woman is not only expected to yield to authority, instead of wielding authority, but also to "wear a sign" that she renounces the authority Paul gives her. And not only is she to renounce that authority, but to renounce it in favor of a particular person, her husband. The Bible St. Paul says nothing of this sort, but the Marginal Note, and the Bible Commentators teach it. For our part, we think it suspicious because that husbands, not wives, have discovered this extraordinary meaning for St. Paul's words. If indeed a woman should wear "a sign of subjection" (and scholars can produce no Scriptural proof that a veil is a sign of subjection), then why should it not rather be a sign of subjection to God, whom she serves in prophesying, or whom she addresses in prayer? Why is the husband thrust in by husbands, at this point? Dr. J. W. Thirtle makes the sensible remark here, "The context puts in no plea for anyone outside the woman: it is THE WOMAN"S OWN AUTHORITY that is in question, and the Apostle defends it with his decisive OUGHT." (The capitals are Dr. Thirtle’s.)
219. This phrase in verse 10 is manifestly a conclusion the ergo of all the foregoing arguments of the passage. Now we ask, If you were arguing a point, would you, or would you not, know the point you were arguing? Certainly you would know it. And would you know how to state your point? Certainly, even if you could not argue it, for you have your right mind. St. Paul was a highly intelligent person, and to pretend that he knew how to argue a point, but could not express the point in plain words, is puerile. Whether Paul knew how to argue clearly or not, he knew how to state what he was arguing about, or St. Paul's intelligence was far below the average man’s. And when we believe that St. Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit in what he wrote, then we must yield at once that verse 10 means what it says, and we dare not reject its teaching for the "vain traditions of men."
Of the usual interpretation here, Sir William Ramsay, our
present-day most widely accepted authority on St. Paul, says
very truly, "Most of the ancient and modern commentators say
the ‘authority’ which the woman wears on her head is the
authority to which she is subject a preposterous idea which
a Greek scholar would laugh at anywhere except in the N. T.,
where (as they seem to think), Greek words may mean anything
that the commentators choose." Here, then, in the usual
interpretation, is a Tremendous Misfit.
221. MISFIT 2. As to the second clause of verse 10, "because of the angels," a very common explanation, given by Dean Stanley for instance, one of the Translation Committee that produced our Revised Version, is that the angels and women fell into sin together, and therefore, he says, "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 else besides, not even to the angels who stand before God's throne." This teaching (1) contradicts Hebrews 2:2. "The word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward." (2) It assumes that angels are males, whereas they are sexless Mark12:25. (3) We have already, in par.158 and note, disposed of the superstition that angels sinned with women. (4) Christian women belong to Christ, who purchased them with His own blood, not to their husbands. (1 Corinthians 6:19,20).
222. MISFIT 3. Verse 4. Commentators set forth two or three views here: Men dishonor their own heads by wearing a "token of subjection." If so, then Christ dishonored His head when "He took on Him the form of a servant." Why are not men called upon to imitate Christ's humility? Another view is, that because Christ is man’s Head man must not veil in His presence. This is more nearly correct. But if man must unveil before Christ, because Christ is man’s Head, in the same sense Christ is woman’s Head, and therefore she will dishonor Him unless she unveils in His presence. And if it is because of "headship," then, since man is woman’s head, she should, for the same reasons, unveil before man. Here is a double reason why woman should unveil.
But next, in verses 5 and 6, we come to a clear
statement which has given occasion for the assumption that
Paul is arguing for the veiling of women, not against the
their veiling. Can we get an explanation for the words,
"Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head
uncovered, dishonoreth her head," which can be reconciled
with St. Paul's logic for unveiling? We promise a
satisfactory explanation in due course.
Please note that the penalty, “Let her be shown or shaven.”
Is softened to "Let her cut off her hair," by
Dr.Weymouth, though it is not all what the words mean. It is
too much, even for these hardy expositors, to claim that
Paul actually commanded the church to punish unveiled women
after this fashion.
(To be continued.)Lesson 30 Home