LESSON 31.

THE SOPHISTRY OF THE VEIL.

233.     To impress the need of a more intelligent interpretation of this passage, we must give some further idea of what has been taught by commentators. If after this general survey the student still clings to the traditional misinterpretation, it will not be for the lack of knowledge that something better is sadly needed. 

234.     "The image and glory of God." The comments here must needs remind one of the words of the Psalmist, "Verily every man at his best estate is altogether vanity." Dr. Agar Beet says, "Man is an outshining of the splendour of God. By looking at him we see in dim outline what God is." Dr. Kling, "Paul indicates the godlike rule and lordly majesty which the position of man as the head of his wife involves." He explains the meaning of "the woman is the glory of the man" thus: "In her management as his housewife, the exalted position of man is manifest." Men would have made precisely the same sense out of the words, doubtless, if Paul had said instead, "The man is the glory of the woman." Dr. Cruden says, "Since God would have the male sex to be a kind of representation of His glory, majesty and power, a man ought not, by hiding his face,. to conceal the glory of God shining in him." Dean Stanley says, "Man, therefore, ought to have nothing on his head which represents so divine a majesty nothing on a countenance which reflects so divine a glory." Dr. Adam Clarke says: "Man is, among the creatures, the representative of the glory and perfections of God. So woman is, in the house and family, the representative of the power and authority of the man."

235.     Dean Alford says, "Man is God's glory: He has put in him His majesty, and he represents God on earth; woman is man's glory: taken from the man, shining not with light direct from God, but with light derived from man." Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, in their commentary, say: "As the moon in relation to the sun, so woman shines not so much with light direct from God, as light derived from man. Through him it [the veil] connects her with Christ." But quaint old Dr. John Lightfoot, who at many points gives the best interpretation of the passage extant, is the funniest of them all on two phrases in it. He says, here, "A woman praying not veiled, as if she were not ashamed of her face, disgraceth man her head, while she would seem so beautiful beyond him, when she is only the glory of man; but man is the glory of God." To be sure! When the "moon" succeeds in outshining the "sun," of which it is merely a reflection, it is time for the "sun" to cry, "Disgraceful!" To sum up, these men effect to be more wise than Moses, who "wist not that the skin of his face shone."

236.     As to the veil, some declare that it is to be worn as an "authorization" to pray and prophesy; others, that it is a "power," because worn by married women, who are raised in dignity because married. (How about a Christian wife of a libertine or drunkard?) But the attempt to substitute the idea of "subjection" no power for the word "power" is shameful. Prof. Lias, for instance, editor of the Cambridge Bible for Schools, for this Epistle, makes this remark: "The abstract is put for the concrete, the authority itself for the token of being under authority." If it be allowable to treat this verse so, then we may read elsewhere, the Son of Man hath a token of being under authority," instead of reading that He "hath power" to forgive sin. "Behold I give you power over all the enemy," might then be read," Behold I give you a token of being under the power of the enemy," and other passages may be corrupted after the same manner. Edwards, quoted by Weymouth and others with approval, substitutes "subjection" for "authority," declaring, in explanation that "Authority and subjection are opposite sides of the same fact." Certainly they are, and so are love and hate, black and white, honesty and dishonesty, the truth and the lie, and those who substitute "subjection" where the Word of God reads "authority" change the truth of God into a lie. 

237.     As to the phrase, "because of the angels," Bishop Ellicott's commentary says, "They are good angels, and should not be tempted" by the sight of a woman's face. Stanley adds to the thought by saying that women must defy authority of even angels before God's throne. But if women had done so badly, no Christ would have been born; there would have been no Gospel for men to preach. To such views, Dr.Agar Beet rightly replies, "If the angels of God are in danger of being led into sin by the sight of a woman’s face, the angels of God are much weaker, in the matter of sensual desire, than the average Englishmen of the present day. "In all this, we are to suppose that angels are all of the male sex; that they cannot see through a woman’s veil; and that women have no other opportunities for "tempting angels" excepting when praying or prophesying in church. Others teach that the angels come to church to see if the women are veiled or not, not the best motive for church-going. Still others, that "angels" mean "spies.” But Dr. John Lightfoot taught that these "angels" were "messengers of espousals" go-betweens seeking mates for young men; and St. Paul rules that girls have a right to unveil their faces, to catch husbands! 

238.     As to Paul's transition from the veil to hair, in general the expositors assume that the woman's hair indicates where the veil should go, and translate the Greek preposition anti (always implying substitution, or barter) as “for," when it should be rendered "instead of," "hair is given her INSTEAD OF a covering." Alford gives us the logic of this teaching:" When we deal with the properties of the artificial state, of clothing the body, we must be regulated by nature's suggestion: that which she has indicated to be left uncovered, we must so leave; that which she has covered, when we clothe the body, we must likewise cover. This is the argument." The italics are Alford's. His reasoning is surprising indeed, when reduced to the syllogism, as contradictory as most of the reasoning on this passage: 

"That which Nature has left uncovered, we must so leave." Nature has left the face of woman "uncovered." 

Ergo: "We must leave" the face of woman "uncovered." 

Again: 

"That which nature has covered, when we clothe the body we must cover likewise." 

"Nature has covered" the face of man with a beard. 

Ergo: "When we clothe the body" man "must cover" the face "likewise." 

239.     Having convinced himself that Paul teaches in this passage the supremacy and splendor of the male sex, next the commentator grows ashamed of the weakness of the reasoning which leads to these conclusions, and apologizes, not for himself, but for St. Paul. The lameness of Paul's logic is due to "his early training in the great rabbinical schools." "He is not free," says Sir Wm. Ramsey (for example), "from the beliefs and even the superstitions of his age. . . . In the non-essentials he sometimes, or often, remains impeded and encumbered by the tone and ideas of his age. . . . The instructions which he sometimes gives regarding the conduct of women are peculiarly liable to be affected by current popular ideas. . . . Where both angels and women are found in any passage,[1] Paul is peculiarly liable to be fettered by current ideas and superstitions."[2]

The truth is, had some of these expositors been one tenth as broad as St. Paul on the "woman question," and honest besides, we should never have been taught these pitiful, puerile and ego-centric perversions of Paul's meaning. If there had been any reasons for ordering women to veil in church, would not the Holy Ghost have seen to it that those reasons were properly voiced by the Apostle whether Paul approved of the ruling personally or not? The Holy Ghost the Spirit of truth does not descend to sophistry, to induce women to do the will of God; and when we find sophistry in association with the Word of God, we may rest assured that it is always because of man's unlawful manipulation of the Word; it cannot belong to the original text.

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[1] As though Paul had about a thousand passages related to “angels and women” instead of one!

[2] More of these apologies for Paul’s logic are given later,—pars. 346-351.

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