LESSON 30.

THE SOPHISTRY OF THE VEIL

(Continued).

224.     MISFIT 4. Verse 7 reads, "A man ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God." And so is woman, in precisely the same sense,  "In the image of God made He him, male and female made He them" (see pars. 23-25), and hence she ought not to cover her head. Any argument drawn from the "image" idea must apply surely quite as equally to woman, who was created at the same time as man, and by the same act. It is the spirit of phallic worship which contends that this image inheres in physical sex, not the spiritual characteristics. And if a man ought not to veil before God because he is "the glory of God," then woman should not veil before man because she is "the glory of man." Here then is set forth again a double reason for women unveiling. Yet the commentator declares this an argument for the veiling of woman.

225.     MISFIT 5. Verses 11 and 12, if they mean anything, are an argument that men and women are to be dealt with exactly alike, are on precisely the same level "in the Lord" (that is, after they become Christians); these words cannot be fitted to an argument placing woman under the power of man, or legislating specially for her apart from man, in the Church of God. 

226.     MISFIT 6. Verse 13, "Judge in yourselves." Rather, "among yourselves." This phrase should end verse 12; see 10:15. According to the usual representation of conditions at Corinth, St. Paul would never have said this, in connection with verse 13, unless he meant that the men should judge for the women; and there is not a scrap of evidence that he meant any such thing, especially since he had already said that the woman ought to have authority over her own head. We will describe these conjectured conditions at Corinth in the words of Dr. Ernest Von Dobschütz, Prof. N. T. Theology in the Strasburg University, written in 1904: “Corinth was full of prostitutes. The temple of Aphrodite on the fort alone possessed over a thousand 'hierodules' (temple slaves), a dedicatory gift to the goddess from men and women, as Strabo tells us. We cannot discover the character of the female element in the Christian church. It is very certain that many honorable women of better standing were Christians. But the Christian community could not have lacked persons who before their conversion followed dishonorable pursuits any more than it lacked slaves. Should the honorable matron, used to a strict morality, sit, not only next to her slave, but also next to a former prostitute? Should the former lay aside her veil, which she was accustomed to wear outside the house, or should the latter assume it? Were the freedom and equality with men, which were conceded in public life to the hetaira, to hold good, or the chaste seclusion and subjection prescribed by usage for the honorable wife? The Gospel recognized the full equality of man and woman in religion, more clearly perhaps than was the case in pagan cults, or even in Judaism itself. Did not the claim of women to equality of position within the church follow? As usual, the freer and more progressive tendency gained more acceptance.”

227.     Then the writer draws a picture of the women all arrayed against Paul, proving themselves his worst enemies in the Corinthian church, and adds: "He (Paul) becomes impassioned whenever he has to speak of their 'emancipation,' which nothing could bring to reason… Paul insists on veiling.” He declares their position of subordination "demands an external sign, 'because of the angels' lest they [the angels] should lust after the woman, who belongs to her husband alone."

228.     Let us women exercise a little common sense here. These temple women, dedicated to the goddess of sensuality, Aphrodite, were slaves. They went bareheaded, having shaved heads. Some were supposed to have been converted, and to have entered the church; and the question arises, shall the "honorable women of better standing" be allowed to copy slave-prostitutes in dress and manners? They are determined to do so, and defy Paul's authority, while the latter "becomes impassioned whenever he has to speak of their 'emancipation'." Could anything be more ridiculous? Free women, because emancipated, wishing to ape slaves! Imagine women of our Southern states, after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, or their own enfranchisement, being provoked thereby to copy the dress of the negresses! 

229.     This is all pure conjecture. There is not a scrap of historical evidence that the women at Corinth wished to unveil, and there exists considerable evidence to the contrary. But were it true, and St. Paul had such difficulties to contend against, then he would never have said, "Judge in yourselves," but "The men alone must judge for the women."

We believe that the remainder of the verse is a simple statement: "It is comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered." Moses, when veiled before the people, always unveiled when he went back into the Tabernacle to commune with God, Exodus 34:34; thence Paul rules that the women, even if not free to unveil before men, will be doing a very proper thing to unveil before God (2 Corinthians 3:18). We must bear in mind, here, that a change from question to statement does not involve the change, in Greek, of the order of words, (such as from "is it" to "it is"); and punctuation is a matter of more recent days than Paul's time (see par.17).

230.     MISFIT 7. Verse 14 purports to be a question asking, "Doth not nature itself teach you that if a man have long hair it is a shame?" Now every candid person must answer this question with a "No." It is not nature, but the barber who keeps man’s hair short. In China, millions of men wear long hair, and nature has never taught them that it is a shame. Furthermore, the last time the Corinthians saw the apostle Paul before he wrote this Epistle, he himself had long hair (Acts 18:18); and to the Jew, accustomed to religious vows (Numbers 6:1-21), long hair, religiously speaking, was more of a "glory" than a "shame." Additionally to this, the native Corinthian's would have thought this a strange question to submit to them, for they would boast[7] that they were descendants of the “long-haired Achaeans," celebrated as such on almost every page of that most famous and most ancient Greek poem, Homer's Iliad. Therefore we do not believe that St Paul asked a question, here. His simple statement of fact, "Nor doth nature teach you," has been changed into a question by the uninspired men who put in the punctuation marks centuries later than St. Paul wrote these words. As a question, this is a Tremendous Misfit. It contradicts a fact of nature; it makes St. Paul inconsistent in his practice with his teaching; it is an entirely unsuitable question to submit to Achaeans. 

231.     MISFIT 8. Verse 16, "We have no such custom." What custom? Most commentators assume that this means, "We have no such defiance of custom, as women unveiling." But this is not what Paul says, but the exact contrary. We cannot insert "defiance of custom" in the place of "custom" without introducing a contradiction. Paul is talking of some custom, which he repudiates. What is it? Veiling, of course; this is the only custom mentioned (unless it be that of wearing long hair, a custom for women; or wearing short hair, which was the usual custom for men, and no one thinks it means the latter). Paul has been talking, almost wholly, of the custom of veiling, and he now says, "We have no such custom." He renounces the custom. This verse cannot be easily reconciled with the teaching that St. Paul is here strengthening a prevalent custom.

232.     Now we have discovered that every portion of St. Paul's argument (if we change the punctuation of verses 13 and 14), and certainly his plain statement that women "ought to have authority" over their own heads, fits better to an argument for unveiling than for veiling. But there remain the statements in verses 5 and 6, where Paul says that the woman who unveils dishonors her head. Can they be explained to accord with the idea that St. Paul is not teaching the veiling of women? We promise a satisfactory explanation to that effect in due course. But before we leave our present topic, we must consider how at variance with common sense and true religion as well as sound logic is the whole tenor and spirit of this traditional misinterpretation of St. Paul. So true is this, that after standing for its teaching, as to the main points (those that appeal to the vanity of the male sex, and the love of dominion over the female sex), then men apologize that such (worthy) points are not supported by worthier arguments on the part of St. Paul, as though the Holy Spirit could not have caused the Apostle to set forth God's good reasons for veiling women, had God wished women to be veiled! (See further on for the apologies, pars. 346-353).

(To be continued).

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[7] Whether the boast were true or not, we need not discuss here.

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