Head Coverings in Worship: Why Female Hair Is a Testicle

One of the joys of being friends with bible scholars is the stuff they share with you to explore. Recently, my colleague Trevor Thompson, who is a New Testament scholar here at ACU, shared with me some of the work of another NT scholar, Troy Martin, who is a friend of Trevor's. One of Martin's areas of expertise is using ancient medical texts to illuminate NT passages, particularly passages that seem confusing to us. In various studies Martin makes the observation that some of these confusions stem from the fact that we don't share the same medical understandings of the NT writers and their audiences. When ancient medical terms or ideas are used we often miss the meaning.

A good example of this comes from 1 Corinthians 11.2-16.

This passage has caused a lot of head scratching. In this text Paul makes an argument about women needing a head covering during worship. But what is strange is that after making this argument Paul seems to undercut and contradict himself. Specifically, in vv. 5-6 Paul makes the argument that a woman should wear a covering to cover her hair during worship. Not doing so would be a "disgrace" (NIV).

So far so good. But a few verses later Paul makes an argument from nature that seems to contradict what he has just argued, that a woman's hair is a "disgrace" if uncovered. The perplexing text is v. 15:
...but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.
You can see the problem. In vv. 5-6 the woman's hair needs a covering to avoid disgrace. But in v. 15 a woman's hair is its own covering and her glory. What's the deal? Is a woman's exposed hair disgraceful or a glory? Does a woman need to cover her hair or is her hair its own covering?

This is one of those passages where Martin argues that a proper understanding of ancient medicine, in this case reproductive medicine, can help resolve the apparent paradox. Specifically, in an article Martin published (Journal of Biblical Literature, 123/1, 2004, 75-84) he argues that the root of the interpretive paradox has to do with the proper interpretation of the word "covering" in v. 15.

The word rendered "covering" in v. 15 is peribolaiouPeribolaiou can refer to an outer garment and given the discussions about covering up in this text most translators have gone with this meaning. However, Martin points out that in the ancient world peribolaiou had a wider range of meanings.

Specifically, peribolaiou could refer to testicles. Which raises a question about the connection in the text with women's hair. Why is Paul talking about reproductive anatomy in a discussion about hair?

According to Martin, it has to do with how the ancients understood where sperm was stored and how hair aided the movement of sperm through the body.

Two ideas are important here. First, the ancients saw the head as the place where sperm was stored. Second, the ancients saw the hair as functioning like a straw, exerting a sucking force on the sperm. That is, where more hair was located more suction was exerted.

The idea is roughly as follows. A woman has a lot of hair on her head so that, when sperm enters her body during intercourse, the hair can suck the sperm upward and into her body. For the man the goal is to pull the sperm down and out of the body. The testicles were believed to be "weights" that helped exert this downward pull.

What all this means is that, according to the ancients, the hair was a part of reproductive anatomy, with the female's hair functioning as the analog of the male's testicles. The testicles in the male pull semen down and out and the hair of the female pulls the semen up and in.

This is one reason why Paul considers long hair on a man to be problematic. If a man grows his hair long he'll be unable to eject semen as his long hair will exert too much suction upward. (Insert funny and inappropriate joke about my own long hair.) A similar line of argument goes for females with short hair.

And all this explains what Paul is saying in 1 Cor. 11.15. Paul's argument is that a woman's long hair is proper to her nature. Why? Well, just as a man has testicles so a woman has long hair. The proper reading of v. 15b is this: "For long hair is given to her as a testicle."

And if a woman's long hair is sort of like a testicle then of course you'd want to keep that covered up during the worship service.

All of which brings us to the issue regarding if today's women should continue to keep their hair/testicles covered in Christian worship. At the end of the paper Martin concludes:
Informed by this tradition, Paul appropriately instructs women in the service of God to cover their hair since it is part of the female genitalia. According to Paul’s argument, women may pray or prophesy in public worship along with men but only when both are decently attired. Even though no contemporary person would agree with the physiological conceptions informing Paul’s argument from nature for the veiling of women, everyone would agree with his conclusion prohibiting the display of genitalia in public worship. Since the physiological conceptions of the body have changed, however, no physiological reason remains for continuing the practice of covering women’s heads in public worship, and many Christian communities reasonably abandon this practice.

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49 thoughts on “Head Coverings in Worship: Why Female Hair Is a Testicle”

  1. Well this was certainly an informative (not to mention provocative) post.  Those silly ancients ;-)

    I have no dog in the (legalistic) fight over hair and appropriate covering of said ornament in worship.  Though I guess worrying about something like that offending god or fellow worshipers could potentially distract me from other really urgent convictions and the follow-through...

    In Hinduism, devotees go to the temple and have their heads shaved, as a sign of surrender (of ego) to the god(s).  The hair is given as a sacrifice to the god, presumably.  I believe that all of my nieces and nephews have had their heads shaved around the age of 3 or 4 -- girls as well as boys.  From photographs of family inside the Hindu temple at festivals or various rites of passage (I have not entered a Hindu temple myself), the women are not permitted to go into the equivalent of the "holy of holies" where only the priests and Brahmin men are allowed to go.  Hair or no hair, the women stand back and look on from a "safe" distance when their family members or children are being ritually initiated in some way.  Because the Hindu religion dates back to ancient times, and because they have largely maintained those ancient traditions, I find it fairly fascinating.  Though I wouldn't want to *be* a Hindu.  Especially a woman.  Or a woman from a caste other than Brahmin.  D'oh!

  2. Fascinating stuff! I had come to the same sort of conclusion, although mine was very uninformed and mostly an argument from analogy--I know that in some Amish and Middle Eastern cultures they have the idea that a husband is the only person who should see his wife's hair when it's down, and it should be covered or put up when she's out in public. Since we don't have a cultural understanding like this, a better analogy might be breasts. I can certainly get on board with requiring women (and men) to pray with shirts on to prevent distractions. Of course, that's just my uneducated reasoning, so I definitely appreciate having some facts to go along with it.

  3. I've heard of ancient Mediterranean prostitutes having their heads shaved.  Was that contraception?

  4. Hi Lunch Meat.  I'm reminded of the K-12 fundamentalist private school that I attended from 5th-7th grade...  Strict dress code.  Girls' skirts had to be precisely 1" below the knee.  If the authorities were in doubt, the girl's skirt would be measured with a ruler.  So what defines modest covering of sacred body parts?  Pharisees and their fence laws will drive a person to distraction (and spiritual exhaustion) faster than the struggle to live by the law that Christ taught (e.g., Love).  If we think of all of life (inside the sanctuary, as well as outside of it) as sacred space and holy ground, just do and be according to conscience.  When I have visited India, I do not wear shorts, though it is tropical rainforest hot.  Women's legs exposed are taboo in their culture.  Though midriffs exposed in the traditional sari attire is O:K...  Is our culture right in objectifying women's breasts?  Do we demonstrate our holiness by our conformity to the culture, or do we question and critique it?

  5. Don't know if you've come across it, but Mark Goodacre did a podcast on this a good while back which can be found here: 
    http://bibliobloglibrary.com/p/13149

  6. This is very interesting. I suppose we can interpret that the Nazarite practice of long hair would mean an decreased sexual desire.

    But what then do we make of Luke 7:38 and the "woman of the city" drying Jesus' feet with her hair, especially when the uncovering the feet is sometimes a euphemism for sex?

    Peace,

    David

  7. Iconically, Jesus is portrayed as having long hair himself.  I guess you could argue - contra the "married Jesus" media storm - that our Lord's hirsuteness speaks to his celibacy.  Conversely (again, iconically), Paul is portrayed as balding, with just a tuft of hair on his crown.  Paul the stud?

    BTW, Richard, with a headline like "Why Female Hair Is a Testicle", are you angling for a record number of hits? ;) 

  8. That is absolutely spectacular. Totally made my day. Yet another nail in the coffin of the flat, wooden, literal reading of scripture. As if it needed any more nails!

    Yet another reason to reduce our practical understanding of scripture to loving God with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves. Maybe, just maybe, if we'd put our Bibles away for a few years and just practice applying that greatest commandment in all situations things would start falling into place.

  9. Geez, what a shame the Holy Spirit was influenced by the ancients and didn't remember how he had designed the reproductive system of humans while he was inspiring Paul to write this passage!

    Could it be that if the woman has long hair she has her head covered for 'normal' activities as God intended?  Bald women would of course violate this!  But, that while praying an additional coverering besides hair is required as a symbol of submission?  Naaaah, too simple and besides it makes this nonsense about Paul considering hair on the head to be part of the female genitalia seem reasonable.

  10. Hey now, I'm not a stats chaser. I let my content do the talking. :-)

    Still, am I aware that the title might be provocative?

    I might be.

  11. I read Goodacre's article and I've also read Martin's response to Goodacre in an article forthcoming in JBL.

  12. I read Goodacre's article as well as Martin's response in a forthcoming article in JBL. I'm sure the bible scholars will have a lot of fun sorting it all out.

  13. These ancient medical theories were quite specialized. Most people would not have heard about it. Therefore, Troy Martin's interpretation of peribolaion is perhaps possible, but far from probable.

  14. Hi David. Something that's helped me a lot in my understanding of how to read and consider the scriptures is the Incarnation. Almost nobody would argue that Jesus was both fully God and at the same time FULLY human. Jesus was SUPERnatural and simultaneously VERY natural. He could multiply food to feed thousands, but himself could also experience hunger. He could open blind eyes yet himself get tired. He was the I AM yet also a Jew. I think the Incarnation is a good analogy for the scriptures; they are both fully God and fully human. The "fully God" aspect of the scriptures cannot be divorced from their "fully human" dimension. To suggest Paul wrote totally outside of the context of being a 1st century Jew, is to deny the "fully human" aspect of scripture. To deny he was inspired by the Holy Spirit is to deny the "fully God" aspect of scripture. If this all sounds like double talk think about the great I AM having a bowel movement somewhere along the road to Jerusalem. Selah

  15. It's always kinda funny to learn about the ancient world and it's perspectives. I suspect someone in the distant (or not so distant) future will feel the same way about our current understanding of life, the universe and everything.

    Thanks, Richard, for sharing this.

  16. Oy Vey.  Does Todd Akin and the other re-publicans like him know about this?  I reckon then that women who get “legitimately raped” could just “shut the whole thing DOWN” by shaving their heads and stopping impregnation?

    btw, This just may be fb worthy, obliged.

  17. "everyone would agree with his conclusion prohibiting the display of genitalia in public worship"

    I'm not so sure. Didn't the early Christians baptize in the nude? I think I recall reading that they did. (Specifically, I think it was in MacHaffie's Her Story, but I don't have my copy on hand so I cannot verify that.)

    I had never before noticed a contradiction in that passage because I had read this as being a typical Pauline double-take: what is glorious is our shame.

  18. I should clarify my definition of the Pauline double-take: those things which we take to be glorious are shameful to us if we flaunt them or overvalue them. The glorious becomes shameful to a Christian. As a modesty precaution, women should cover up! I'm ventriloquizing; I don't always agree with Paul on this, but that's how I had read it.

  19.  The purpose of Paul's comments isn't the covering of the woman's head. It is the covering of the man's head. That is why it is mentioned first. Read your sentences in order to follow the argument. The problem wasn't the uncovering of women. It was the covering of men. Verse 3 gives the theology. Verse 4 gives the problem. Men covering their heads in worship like the pagans. That is why Paul mentions men first. That is his subject. Read it the way Paul wrote it, in the way that Paul wrote (and give the Spirit of God a little credit) and it begins to make sense. Men, don't cover your head in worship like the pagans. Did you ever wonder why we take off our ball caps when someone prays at a softball game?

    Stop thinking like Freud and begin to think like God. Theology not psychology. Man is the image of God. Don't veil your head in his presence. Psychoanalysis begins with the testicles. Bible men and women begin with God.   

    Here is Augustus at woship in Corinth. Don't do that.
     
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/Augustus_as_pontifex_maximus.jpg
     
     

  20. The purpose of Paul's comments isn't the covering of the woman's head. It is the covering of the man's head. That is why it is mentioned first. Read your sentences in order to follow the argument. The problem wasn't the uncovering of women. It was the covering of men. Verse 3 gives the theology. Verse 4 gives the problem. Men covering their heads in worship like the pagans. That is why Paul mentions men first. That is his subject. Read it the way Paul wrote it, in the way that Paul wrote (and give the Spirit of God a little credit) and it begins to make sense. Men, don't cover your head in worship like the pagans. Did you ever wonder why we take off our ball caps when someone prays at a softball game?  Stop thinking like Freud and begin to think like God. Theology not psychology. Man is the image of God. Don't veil your head in his presence. Psychoanalysis begins with the testicles. Bible men and women begin with God. Here is Augustus at woship in Corinth. Don't do that. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/Augustus_as_pontifex_maximus.jpg

  21. All from one man's (Troy Martin) understanding of ancient physiological conceptions!?

    I think others need to look the assertion Paul understood hair to represent testicles a bit, and weigh in on it, before we accept THAT claim, and THIS post unconditionally, and without reservation ... just in case Troy Martin's assertion is false.

  22. Love you Richard. Thanks. I've actually cited this passage a few times as among my more befuddling Paul problems. I won't put all my eggs in this basket, but this clears it up a bit. Its now decided: I'll stop sneering at short haired women, stop detesting long haired men, stop trying to convert them to the natural path to goodness, and in turn give Paul a shoulder shrug, a hug, and a kind smile (that says, "aw, that's cute how you think that"). "Natural theology" is always a tricky thing...

    Unless....unless...somebody in a few days does an amazing NPR interview with some mad scientist, proving the suctioning capabilities of hair!

  23. I've tried applying the two-natures logic of the Incarnation to the scriptures. It can help to illuminate some things and always look deeper where we might have given up, but the logic is wearing more and more thin on me. On a basic level, its simply not required of us in the Creed, if nothing else. Not only did Jesus say that we won't find life within these scriptures, but its an odd thing to put such divine status on a human product--however inspired. The biological, created, human person is of a greater character than its non-biological creations. For folks like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Incarnation continues to expose to our minds how unbelievably amazing the human person is; it is the image of God; the human (not its books or its buildings) is the cutting edge of the universe. And the Son of Man is thus regarded as the cutting edge of this cutting edge. That's at least one way to view it...

  24. But why would paul privilege reproductive issues?

    If that word for covering just means wrapper, like the wrapper on a chocolate bar, as well as covering, why should we expect him to prioritise it as referring to testicles, especially given that the verse already has loads of different "covering" synonyms.

    It'd be like saying, "I'm going to hammer that bit, then knock that bit off, then bang that bit", and claiming that the third was a euphemism!

    Seems more reasonable for paul to be saying, "cover your hair or get rid of it, if you don't care about it's glory", he's talking about visual things, signs and expressions, not reproductive things.

    And anyway, this interpretation neatly avoids the tricky sections of the verse, the bits we should actually be looking at; the whole "man is God's glory, woman is man's" part.

    It's hard not to read this as a diss of women, especially given that paul then compensates for it by saying "but even though this is the case, obviously every man is born from a women, so it balances out".

    Of course paul offers an out in his arguments: If you feel that hair isn't important, and you'd be happy to shave it all off, then don't worry about it.

    He also says that the natural order of things should recommend his views. But of course, in our culture, and in many cultures, it doesn't; long haired men are all over the place, without much notice.

    So here's what I think's going on:

    First off, this is not framed as a modesty thing, it is not about hiding your beautiful locks away.

    Why? Because hair is a glorious covering, if it was "a testicle", then it would already be covered by modesty in worship and everywhere else. Paul doesn't say "only be modest at those times that you gather together" he says that you should always focus on adorning yourself with deeds rather than showing off your body. It's an everyday thing.

    Instead, hair is already a sign of glory, to be supplemented with another. By this argument a legit head covering would be a crown! Or maybe a little hat, like the jewish men now wear.

    And equally, in contrast with that tradition, the christian men are asked not to wear those hats.

    There's obviously something funny going on there, some weird cultural symbolism, as it's bracketed on one side with "God is head of Christ is head of Man is head of Women", and "it's our standard practice" on the other.

    So how about this Head covering/head baring is a way of symbolising spiritual stuff with what we do with our bodies. It emphasises God's idea of the difference between men and women, in the context of God's relationship to us, via the existing cultural weight that hats and hair styling have.

    If how you dress your head is pretty much without weight, then it doesn't matter. But if it matters at all, personally or publicly, then do something about it.

    The verse is a little annoying in that it doesn't really explain what this "being the head of" business is about, just says, "Yeah it relates to that, obviously!". But just because a verse brings up concepts it doesn't full resolve, doesn't mean we should bypass those concepts entirely and say that it's actually about sexual modesty.

  25. But why would paul privilege reproductive issues?

    If that word for covering just means wrapper, like the wrapper on a chocolate bar, as well as covering, why should we expect him to prioritise it as referring to testicles, especially given that the verse already has loads of different "covering" synonyms.

    It'd be like saying, "I'm going to hammer that bit, then knock that bit off, then bang that bit", and claiming that the third was a euphemism!

    Seems more reasonable for paul to be saying, "cover your hair or get rid of it, if you don't care about it's glory", he's talking about visual things, signs and expressions, not reproductive things.

    And anyway, this interpretation neatly avoids the tricky sections of the verse, the bits we should actually be looking at; the whole "man is God's glory, woman is man's" part.

    It's hard not to read this as a diss of women, especially given that paul then compensates for it by saying "but even though this is the case, obviously every man is born from a women, so it balances out".

    Of course paul offers an out in his arguments: If you feel that hair isn't important, and you'd be happy to shave it all off, then don't worry about it.

    He also says that the natural order of things should recommend his views. But of course, in our culture, and in many cultures, it doesn't; long haired men are all over the place, without much notice.

    So here's what I think's going on:

    First off, this is not framed as a modesty thing, it is not about hiding your beautiful locks away.

    Why? Because hair is a glorious covering, if it was "a testicle", then it would already be covered by modesty in worship and everywhere else. Paul doesn't say "only be modest at those times that you gather together" he says that you should always focus on adorning yourself with deeds rather than showing off your body. It's an everyday thing.

    Instead, hair is already a sign of glory, to be supplemented with another. By this argument a legit head covering would be a crown! Or maybe a little hat, like the jewish men now wear.

    And equally, in contrast with that tradition, the christian men are asked not to wear those hats.

    There's obviously something funny going on there, some weird cultural symbolism, as it's bracketed on one side with "God is head of Christ is head of Man is head of Women", and "it's our standard practice" on the other.

    So how about this Head covering/head baring is a way of symbolising spiritual stuff with what we do with our bodies. It emphasises God's idea of the difference between men and women, in the context of God's relationship to us, via the existing cultural weight that hats and hair styling have.

    If how you dress your head is pretty much without weight, then it doesn't matter. But if it matters at all, personally or publicly, then do something about it.

    The verse is a little annoying in that it doesn't really explain what this "being the head of" business is about, just says, "Yeah it relates to that, obviously!". But just because a verse brings up concepts it doesn't full resolve, doesn't mean we should bypass those concepts entirely and say that it's actually about sexual modesty.

  26. But why would paul privilege reproductive issues?
    If that word for covering just means wrapper, like the wrapper on a chocolate bar, as well as covering, why should we expect him to prioritise it as referring to testicles, especially given that the verse already has loads of different "covering" synonyms.
    It'd be like saying, "I'm going to hammer that bit, then knock that bit off, then bang that bit", and claiming that the third was a euphemism!
    Seems more reasonable for paul to be saying, "cover your hair or get rid of it, if you don't care about it's glory", he's talking about visual things, signs and expressions, not reproductive things.
    And anyway, this interpretation neatly avoids the tricky sections of the verse, the bits we should actually be looking at; the whole "man is God's glory, woman is man's" part.
    It's hard not to read this as a diss of women, especially given that paul then compensates for it by saying "but even though this is the case, obviously every man is born from a women, so it balances out".
    Of course paul offers an out in his arguments: If you feel that hair isn't important, and you'd be happy to shave it all off, then don't worry about it.
    He also says that the natural order of things should recommend his views. But of course, in our culture, and in many cultures, it doesn't; long haired men are all over the place, without much notice.
    So here's what I think's going on:
    First off, this is not framed as a modesty thing, it is not about hiding your beautiful locks away.
    Why? Because hair is a glorious covering, if it was "a testicle", then it would already be covered by modesty in worship and everywhere else. Paul doesn't say "only be modest at those times that you gather together" he says that you should always focus on adorning yourself with deeds rather than showing off your body. It's an everyday thing.
    Instead, hair is already a sign of glory, to be supplemented with another. By this argument a legit head covering would be a crown! Or maybe a little hat, like the jewish men now wear.
    And equally, in contrast with that tradition, the christian men are asked not to wear those hats.
    There's obviously something funny going on there, some weird cultural symbolism, as it's bracketed on one side with "God is head of Christ is head of Man is head of Women", and "it's our standard practice" on the other.
    So how about this Head covering/head baring is a way of symbolising spiritual stuff with what we do with our bodies. It emphasises God's idea of the difference between men and women, in the context of God's relationship to us, via the existing cultural weight that hats and hair styling have.
    If how you dress your head is pretty much without weight, then it doesn't matter. But if it matters at all, personally or publicly, then do something about it.
    The verse is a little annoying in that it doesn't really explain what this "being the head of" business is about, just says, "Yeah it relates to that, obviously!". But just because a verse brings up concepts it doesn't full resolve, doesn't mean we should bypass those concepts entirely and say that it's actually about sexual modesty.

  27. Huh...Who knew? Well, if he's right about this, it makes me wonder if some scribe who had the same understanding inserted this later, because otherwise there might be an argument here against the inspiration of this particular scripture...Just sayin'

  28. Now you know . . . I have been known to play with my wife's hair from time to time. It is usually when I think she is sexy or when I'm trying to tease her. Sometimes I do this in public . . . especially if we are in the produce section of the grocery store.   I wouldn't tell just anyone this but . . . I have even done this in the assembly room (where our congregation worships) . . . as we are sitting waiting for the assembly to come to order.   Just a stroke or two.  Now Richard . . . thanks to you . . . whenever I play with my wife’s   hair I'm going to wonder if I'm really playing with her testicles.  Oh the guilt!  I’ve played with my wife’s testicles at church!

  29. I was just about to consider removing your web page in favour of one less intellectually taxing.  I'm not now!

  30. I do not claim that this is not a very difficult passage for me, but I think jumping to conclusions outside the unfolding, Biblical Story Of Redemptive History is unhelpful in understanding any passage. Jumping from Divine Authority, to reproductive organs doesn't really clear anything up for me. Assuming the Bible authors were nitwits and did not understand their own scripture undermines all Biblical interpretation. It places reader over writer, us above scripture. Reader becomes author. As D. A. Carson said, "We have 'Gagged God.'" God is de-throned.  In the flow of Biblical history, man was created first. We must read Genesis (and believe Genesis) before we understand either problem or solution in Scripture. I have a personal, hermeneutical rule that I always try to follow: Never letting a difficult passage contradict a simple passage or the entire story of the Bible.  I want to back up to a similar passage. Paul tells Timothy this is still an important truth.  1 Timothy 2: 13-15 refers to the creation, the fall, the curse and the promise. It is still in effect. ·       Adam created first·       Eve deceived first·       The curse included pain in childbirth. ·       The curse is still here. But the woman will not be lost because of it. What if she dies in childbirth, because of that curse? It seems the curse is still in effect. She is saved by faith. Because of the Promised Son. The whole Bible story is here. God's order at creation was God, Man, Woman, Nature. At the fall the order was reversed: Nature, Woman, Man, God. This is no insignificant detail to be ignored. The entire Word of God is based on it. Paul's argument in 1 Timothy 2: 13-15  reflects Biblical Theology, not social customs of the day:  Order of Creation, order of fall, curse, salvation. The whole story of the Bible is here. When we no longer know, believe or teach the Bible, any wild and vulgar teaching will tickle itchy ears. Man is placed above God. Freud is placed above God. Paul's theology has not changed in 1 Cor 11:2. But the order here is God over Christ. That is because Jesus was made lower than the angels and learned obedience in God's unfolding redemptive history. (Hebrews 2: 9, 14-17;  Phil 2: 5-8) The order was changed from creation because of the unfolding redemptive plan. Jesus entered history as man. But was raised to the Right Handed Throne. So, the order here is God, Christ, Man, Woman.  Now, here in 1 Cor. 11: 3, Paul's first point in his argument is: Man's head should not be covered. So that would be his subject. We are drawn to women's uncovering, but that is not Paul's subject. The subject is the man. And, ancient custom does seem to bear that out. The Roman custom was to pray to idols with head covered. That is why I included the picture of Augustus with his head veiled. In this sculpture he is offering to the gods. I think part of the problem with understanding this passage is, that we never saw any man cover his head when he prayed.  The whole biblical story cannot be ignored.  Richard Oster has a paper on this called "When Men Wore Veils to Worship: the Historical Context of 1 Corinthians 11.4" that I found very helpful in trying to understanding this. This is my direction of thinking on this thus far. Subject to change.

  31. and I quote: "This passage has caused a lot of head scratching." (first sentence of third paragraph above)I'll bet it has. LOL

  32. hmmm, interesting stuff (i too have long/THICK hair too :P )...but now I thought of Hebrews chapter 8 verse 13 (13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away)...the thing is that in this whole chapter they talk about Jesus being our high priest in Heaven, but high priest were to be from the tribe of Levi...and Jesus is from the tribe of Judah...See i have always been taught that the new covanent covered this aspect of the law (not a change from the Saturday Sabbath). and seventh day adventists (which for those who havn't heard of them before, sda's are like Jewdism on steroids...) follow/believe this (i'm not sure if  or how many religions think this way...).

    and yes, i was raised SDA, but now at 25 I have done much biblical searching and much search of my own heart, and can i accept (only on faith) that i am saved? im NOT saying i donot believe in God, i just mean "it's our problem that we need to put up with all this worlds contraversy?" see why do we have Gods laws (all laws r ment to protect, even if  certain laws are WRONG!!! *cough* laws against marijuana...)


    and if i blab the rest of my thinking how r humans not spoiled? read Rev 10:4... ;)
    Gabe

  33. My denomination officially preaches uncut hair for women, from this passage. They have concluded that women's hair is our covering. I have long hair, though I do trim it like a big rebel. This article is quite amusing, and perhaps the correct reading! Thanks for amusing me and giving me more info, as always.

  34. I think ancient understandings of physiology were more symbolic and poetic than our post-enightenment categorizing allows for. Like apocalyptic metaphor, symbols are used to invest the physical with a fuller meaning. Which is why the "seed of the woman", the protoevangelion, is so radical. Women didn't have seed of their own. They were seen as the passive soil into which seed was sown, even up until medieval times. (Now we know that soil itself is far from passive, the more microbial diversity, the more fertility!) And Adam may have been created first, but Christ was the second, the firstborn from among the dead, the seed of the woman, not the man. But this passage is rather strange. One would expect, with songs of hope and promise like the Magnificat, that Mary was referring partly to herself when she said "He hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden. He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek." And one would expect women, in the new creation, to be lifted up from their lowly status under their husbands and fathers,...but no...we are led to water but not allowed to drink. Divine authority reinscribes the same old social stratification of empire after empire after empire. In short, it sucks. I've tried, and despaired, of reconciling the stirring passages in Scripture, the ones that make my heart burn with excitement and longing and hope, with the ones that that sit deep down in my bowels, as this one does, like a burden that needs to be expelled, but just won't. And I've tried very hard to put the model submissive wife, female churchling and daughter into practice. EVERY TIME, it's come back around and bit me in the butt. I finally reached a point where I couldn't take it any more. Have since been searching for an exit, and every time I think I've found one, it gets slammed in my face. That's my POV. So many times I've been tempted to just walk away from everything and am thinking that atheists have it a whole lot easier. 

  35. Thanks Sarah. Your's is a powerful POV. I think many of us suffer from this "biblical fatigue," let alone all the crap women put up with in the church. For my part, I can't blame anyone for walking away.

  36. This is the CRAZIEST nonsense I have ever read.  Did you even read 1Corinthians 11 where Paul talks about the authority of God, over man and man over woman and the part about the angels? Nothing in there about testicles, hair or semen. Not so much Experimental Theology as it is, weird stuff I thought up while smoking dope. THAT'S a better title for your blog.

  37. Why is it inherently pagan for a man to cover his head in the presence of God? Is it arbitrary symbolism or does it have a logical root?  For instance, red wine symbolizes blood and bread symbolizes the body; we can see the material connection. If it is obviously pagan for a head to be covered in the presence of God, then it is maddeningly contradictory to say that it is vice versa for a woman...unless there is cultural context here.  I want to think like God, but I still (after 46 years) don't know what He was thinking here.  I have always suspected that we don't understand something that is going on in this passage.

  38. a womans hair is her glory as it undoubtedly is but in the church meeting the only glory to be sought and displayed should be Christ's

  39. Thanks for the wonderful lesson above, the writer be blest, sister please read the book of Judges chapter 4, chapter 5 and chapter 6, after the death of Moses and Joshua, Israel had to faithful male to lead them, sin everywhere, people did what was right in their own eyes, but one female was faithful, sister see God's amazing love for women mostly faithful ones like Deborah, FEMALE JUDGE IN ISRAEL, also remember what Jesus thought about MARY AND MARTHA, one person was in the kitchen and the other person was with Jesus, brother AND APOSTLE PAUL just insisted on orderliness 1cor.14:34 because of course he knew with God nothing shall be impossible LUKE 1:37, so sister, let no one change your calling, follow the voice of the HOLY SPIRIT, AMEN.

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