Sex Bias in the New Testament – The “Veil” – Part 2

veil debatesIn part one of “Sex Bias in the New Testament” I started covering passages of scripture that have been used for centuries to subjugate and control women. What people do not know about these passages, due to lack of education in Hebrew and/or Greek, is that men have changed the meaning of scripture through translation to insert their own preconceptions and opinions about women. They have substituted and/or changed words or, changed or added punctuation that will change meaning and take authority and power away from women. Many of these words that they substitute, have nothing to do with the original words in the manuscripts.  Thus, the end result being subjugation and abuse of women throughout history.

Since this is a long topic and I have eight MISFITS in these passages to cover, it is imperative that I break it up into several articles for ease of reading as well as for brevity. Let’s review the passages in question:

1 Cor. 11: 1-16 – 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 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 dishonours his Head; (5) but a woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours 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 dishonour 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 dishonour 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 the point, we have no such custom, nor have the churches of God.”

I would sincerely ask that you please click on the link above for the first article to see the first three MISFITS. I will take up on Misfit #4 here.

The Fourth MISFIT

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,” — 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 (Read my chapter, “Male and Female Created He them”  in my book, Religion’s Cell: Doctrines of the Church that lead to Bondage and Abuse). 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.

The Fifth MISFIT

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 part from man, in the Church of God.

The Sixth MISFIT

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 Dobschutz, Prof. N.T. Theology in 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 honourable women of better standing were Christians. . . But the Christian community could not have lacked persons who before their conversion followed dishonourable pursuits any more than it lacked slaves. . . Should the honourable matron, used to a strict morality, sit, not only next her slave, but also next 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 chase seclusion and subjection prescribed by usage for the honourable 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.”

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.”

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 “honourable 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 imitate 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!

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,–Ex. 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 (2Cor. 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.

— Katherine Bushnell, 1923

(To be Continued)

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