PAULíS REAL TEACHING AS TO VEILING.
240. The real purpose of this passage, 1 Corinthians 11: 1-16, was to stop the practice of men veiling in worship, as Dr. John Lightfoot so ably contends. The Jewish man veiled as a sign of reverence before God, and of condemnation for sin. This sort of head covering was called a tallith, and is worn, to this day, "by all male worshipers at the morning prayer on week days, sabbaths and holy days: by the hazzan at every prayer before the ark: by the reader of the scroll of the law when on the almemar;" so states the Jewish Cyclopaedia. The hazzan is the chief functionary of the synagogue, and the almemar is the reading desk. The Romans also veiled in worship, and the Corinthian church was made up in large part of Roman converts. The testimony disagrees as to whether Greeks veiled in worship, or did not. The question therefore arose, were women to be forbidden veiling, as the Christian men, or not? Paul, in the passage, (1) forbids men to veil; (since "There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus"); (2) permits women to veil; (3) but guards against this permission being construed as a command to veil, by showing that ideally the woman should unveil, before God, man, and angels; (4) shows that there is special propriety in women unveiling when addressing God in prayer; (5) declares that (contrary to the teaching of the Jews) there is nothing for a woman to be ashamed of in showing her hair, for it is a "glory" to her; (6) and disavows veiling as a church custom.
241. St. Paul's words are to be interpreted as follows:
3. But I wish you to understand that of every [Christian] man Christ is the Head; but of a wife the husband is a head [also]; and God is Christ's Head.
4. Any [Christian] man praying or prophesying, having his head covered [as is required among the Jews, in sign of guilt and condemnation] dishonors his Head [Christ, who has atoned for all his sins].
5. But any wife praying or prophesying bareheaded dishonors her [other] head [her husband], for it would be one and the same thing as [having] her head shaved.
6. For [Jewish law provides that] if a woman is not covered, let her be shorn. Now if it would bring disgrace to a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
First of all we wish to say, where the practice has ceased of veiling in sign of guilt and condemnation before God and His law, this whole teaching, in its literal sense, has no application; the veil has no significance, and can be worn or rejected in worship. But the spiritual teaching remains, that among those who believe that Christ has made for them a full and SUFFICIENT atonement, any badge that signifies guilt or penance for sin is out of place, for women as much as for men. This is the lesson for all Christians to learn. Women need to especially learn a lesson here; what have they to do with wearing a badge of servility to the male, because of Eve's sin? Has not Christ atoned for Eve's sin also? Does that remain as the one point where Christ's atonement failed?
(Verse 3) We add the word "Christian," to verse 3, because, as Chrysostom says: "He cannot be the Head of those who are not in the Body . . . so when he says 'of every man' one must understand it of believers." We add "also" because woman could not be a believer at all, and in the Body, unless Christ were likewise her Head. The word used here and throughout this passage, for man, is aner, meaning "the adult male, or husband." Dean Stanley rightly explains, "Anthropos ["man" without regard to gender] would have been the natural word to use with reference to Christ . . . but for the sake of contrast with 'woman' he has changed it to aner." But there is a further reason: according to the Oral Law of the Jews the aner alone was obliged to wear the tallith.
(Verse 4) "Every man (aner) . . . having his head covered dishonoreth," not "his own head, by wearing the token of subjection," as expositors say, but dishonoreth Christ. The symbolic language of "headship" having just been introduced, in all fairness it requires its application to what follows. Besides, Paul taught actual "subjection" of man to man, and to religious leaders Ephesians 5:21, 1 Corinthians 16:16, and hence could not teach that the mere symbol of "subjection" was not to be allowed the male. The meaning is, "every man . . . having his head covered dishonors Christ his head," by wearing the tallith.
242. (Verse 5) If I should describe how I had burned down a house, I should have small chance of escaping punishment by a mere denial, later, that I had done so. A sufficient proof that I had done the deed is "But you have even told how you did it." So here; a description by the person as to how a thing may be done nullifies the force of a seeming denial by that same person of that deed. Says Dr. A. J. Gordon: "It is quite incredible that the Apostle should have given himself the trouble to prune a custom which he desired to uproot, or that he should spend his breath in condemning a forbidden method of doing a forbidden thing." These words prove conclusively to an unprejudiced mind that Paul did not silence women praying and prophesying in the churches, as is claimed in the ordinary interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:34.
"Dishonoreth her head," i.e., her husband rather than her own head, in analogy to the argument of verse 4. This is because she would lay herself open to the charge (before Jewish law at least), of being an adulteress, and such a charge is always considered dishonoring to a husband. In what sense it would amount to having the head shaved, the next verse explains.
243. (Verse 6) "For if the woman be not covered, let her be shorn." Paul refers to the Oral Law of the Jews. Says Lightfoot: He "does not here speak in his own sense but cites something usual among the Jews." It admits of proof that such was the Oral Law. A woman "sinner" is described in the Talmud as "she who transgresseth the law of Moses and the Jewish law." The gloss explains: "íThe Jewish law, that is, what the daughters of Israel follow though it be not written" (i.e. the oral Law). The question was asked: "How does she transgress the Jewish law? Answer: "If she appear abroad with her head uncovered if she spin in the streets," etc., etc., through a long list. For the offenses here enumerated, one of which is uncovering the head, it is prescribed that the wife should be divorced "with the loss of her marriage portion." (Kethuboth, fol. 7, col. 1). Furthermore, in that section of the Talmud called "Sotah," which treats of unchaste women, under the sub-head, Of the duty of Repudiation of a Wife for adultery, we learn that this DUTY rested upon a Jew whose wife was seen abroad with her hair "not done up,Ē i.e., not covered. Thus we learn that a Jew, even if favorably disposed towards his wifeís profession of Christianity, and toward the practice of unveiling in worship, might be compelled by his relatives or the synagogue authorities, much to his regret, to divorce his wife, if she unveiled. The rest of the story, as to what would be done with the woman who unveiled, and thus furnished sufficient proof of "adultery" to compel her husband to repudiate her, we learn from Dr. Edersheim's Sketches of Jewish Social Life, p. 155: "It was the custom in case of a woman accused of adultery to have her hair shorn or shaven," at the same time using this formula: "Because thou hast departed from the manner of the daughters of Israel, who go with their heads covered . . . therefore that hath befallen thee which thou hast chosen." An unveiled Jewish wife might, then, be tried for adultery; and when so tried, be "shorn or shaven." Paul here cites this obstruction to commanding women to unveil, but he permits it (verse 10).
"Now if it is a shame," The word translated "but" (de) readily admits of the translation "now" in this sense, see John 6:10, 19:23; 1 Corinthians 15:50, etc. That is, if it be a case in which disgrace and divorce would follow, she is permitted to cover her head, "Let her be covered."
244. A little historical evidence at this point ought to go a long way. If the Apostle, as is so often assumed, was accustomed to forbid women unveiling, how did it come to pass that women "sat unveiled in the assemblies in a separate place, by the presbyters," and were "ordained by the laying on of hands," until the eleventh canon of the Church Council of Laodicea forbade it, in 363 A.D.? I give the account in the words of Dean Alford in his comments on 1 Timothy 5:9; the same admission is made by Conybeare and Howson in their Life of St Paul, and stands undisputed in church history.
(To be continued).