1 Corinthians 11:1-16

1 μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε, καθὼς κἀγὼ Χριστοῦ.

Become imitators of me, as I am of the Anointed.

This could just be translated as ‘follower’; but the Greek is our root for ‘mimic’, and the Latin is ‘imitatores’, which is the root of…well, you figure it out. So I went with the more literal sense, because a follower is, at heart, an imitator, so why not go with the base meaning?

1 Imitatores mei estote, sicut et ego Christi.

2 Ἐπαινῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς ὅτι πάντα μου μέμνησθε καὶ καθὼς παρέδωκα ὑμῖν τὰς παραδόσεις κατέχετε.

And I laud you that you all are mindful of me and in the way that I gave over to you, you have kept the traditions.

“Laud” isn’t exactly a word we use every day. I was overly influenced by the Latin. There’s a question: do Greek and Latin really have the formal tone we associate them with? Which association is largely based on the Victorian translations, that use words like “laud” and “hail”. And the dictionaries uses are, largely, Victorian-era creations. Liddell & Scott, which is still considered extremely authoritative, was compiled in the second half of the 19th Century. and it’s full of all sorts of formal-sounding words. And, truth be told, reading from L&S has certainly influenced the way I think about Greek and Latin prose. Now, whether that’s justified is another issue.

Anyway, for once Paul seems pleased with the way one of his Communities is treating him. They are following the traditions he has installed.

2 Laudo autem vos quod omnia mei memores estis et, sicut tradidi vobis, traditiones meas tenetis.

3 θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι ὅτι παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἡ κεφαλὴ ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν, κεφαλὴ δὲ γυναικὸς ὁ ἀνήρ, κεφαλὴ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὁ θεός.

For I wish you to know that the head of all men is the Anointed, and the head of women is the man (her husband), the head of the Anointed is God.

Oh dear. We seem to have a flagrant bit of sexism here. Not quite as bad as the passage of Ephesians that tells women to submit to their husbands ( I had the pleasure of reading that in church. Twice, the requisite three years apart per Episcopalian practice), but close enough. What do we make of this? This was the practice and the thought of the times. It reflects the time and place when and where it was written. Does this mean it’s to be taken literally now, 2,000 years later? Well, I think not, but we’re really drifting from the mission here. My intention is to delineate what they believed, and not to debate the degree to which we are bound to the exact words.

And, truly, more important is the last clause, anyway. In Chapter 10, we had a passage in which there was at least an implied equivalence between God and the Anointed; it was the Anointed following the Israelites in the desert as the rock that provided water. Here, though, we have what very much appears to be a hierarchical situation, with God ‘the head’ of the Anointed. This is borderline Arianism; or, perhaps, an Arian could certainly use this passage as evidence for his position. 

Now recall that we discussed Adoptionism when we were reading Mark. Now we have Arianism. One of the scholarly blogs that I recommended a while back had a post about whether Mark was part of the Pauline tradition. His conclusion was no; but the evidence for the conclusion was, IMO, predominantly literary instead of thematic. I don’t put a lot of weight on how closely the wording is between two passages of different books of the NT; my main criterion for similarity is thematic: do they express the same ideas, especially ideas and interpretations of who–or what–Jesus/the Anointed was. I do not think that Mark is part of the Pauline tradition, but a good chunk of Mark follows the same tradition that Paul did. The common thread between Adoptionism and Arianism is that both reckon the Father to be, in some sense, a more elevated, or a more divine form of deity. Or, perhaps better, they recognize that the Anointed is somehow dependent on the Father.

In Adoptionism, the Father chose–adopted the human Jesus at the moment of the latter’s baptism by John. Jesus only became divine at that moment. In Arianism, the filial relationship of the Son entails the existence of the Father at a time before the Son. So, given the ambiguity of Mark and Paul about the divine nature of Jesus (not the Anointed; Paul is dead certain about him, and I believe Mark is, too). I would say that there is some kind of shared tradition, even if Mark hadn’t read Paul’s letters the way that Matthew and Luke read Mark’s gospel. so I tend to disagree with my scholarly betters.

3 Volo autem vos scire quod omnis viri caput Christus est, caput autem mulieris vir, caput vero Christi Deus.

4 πᾶς ἀνὴρ προσευχόμενος ἢ προφητεύων κατὰ κεφαλῆς ἔχων καταισχύνει τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ:

Each man praying or prophesying having something on the head shames his head.

Took me a few minutes to figure this out; he’s talking about a man having his head covered while praying. This is a direct contravention of Jewish practice, where men keep their heads covered at all times. This, of course, is the intent of the yarmulke. Christian tradition, OTOH, says that men must remove their hats when entering a place of worship. And they’re doing it on Paul’s instructions. 

Now, where in the world did this come from? Why did he make this statement? I really cannot say. I am not aware of pagan practice on this sort of thing, but I tend to believe that men did not cover their heads, but the evidence may be inconclusive.

4 Omnis vir orans aut prophetans velato capite deturpat caput suum;

5 πᾶσα δὲ γυνὴ προσευχομένη ἢ προφητεύουσα ἀκατακαλύπτῳ τῇ κεφαλῇ καταισχύνει τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτῆς: ἓν γάρ ἐστιν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ τῇ ἐξυρημένῃ.

But all women praying or prophesying uncovering her head shames her head; for she is one and the same as her having been shaven.

I don’t get this at all. For a woman not to have her head covered is the same as a woman whose head has been shaven. I know that women had their heads shaved in Europe for collaborating with the enemy; is this the same thing? It’s an insight into an ancient practice of which I am sadly unaware. However, the practice of women covering their heads in church survived into my lifetime. In pre-Vatican II Catholicism, women were not allowed in church without something on their heads. I recall the nuns using bobby pins to pin a tissue to the head of a girl who had forgotten her chapel veil on the day we went to mass in school. Also, when the church I attended was remodeled post-Vatican II, a statue of the BVM with her head uncovered was added. I won’t say this caused a stir, but it did get commented on.

5 omnis autem mulier orans aut prophetans non velato capite deturpat caput suum; unum est enim atque si decalvetur.

6 εἰ γὰρ οὐ κατακαλύπτεται γυνή, καὶ κειράσθω: εἰ δὲ αἰσχρὸν γυναικὶ τὸ κείρασθαι ἢ ξυρᾶσθαι, κατακαλυπτέσθω.

For if the woman is not covered, also shear her! But if it shames a woman to be sheared or shaven, let her be covered. 

I’m not going to say much about this to make sure I don’t say something stupid. Or at least ignorant. The point, here, I believe, is not what the practice was, but that these are apparently the traditions Paul gave to the Community, the ones he’s pleased to know are being observed.

6 Nam si non velatur mulier, et tondeatur! Si vero turpe est mulieri tonderi aut decalvari, veletur.

7 ἀνὴρ μὲν γὰρ οὐκ ὀφείλει κατακαλύπτεσθαι τὴν κεφαλήν, εἰκὼν καὶ δόξα θεοῦ ὑπάρχων: ἡ γυνὴ δὲ δόξα ἀνδρός ἐστιν.

For, on the one hand, a man is not obligated to cover his head, being the image and glory of God; the woman is the image and glory of man.

And ‘man’ means, ‘person of masculine gender’, and not human. Here, the word for ‘man’ is ‘aner‘, and not ‘anthropos‘. The latter is more generic; technically, it’s ‘man’, but it’s much more in the sense of human. This correlates to ‘homo‘ in Latin. The Greek ‘aner/andros‘ and the Latin ‘vir‘ have the sense of man, as in manly man.

Again, this is a cultural creation, and I don’t want to debate the ‘shoulds’ here.

7 Vir quidem non debet velare caput, quoniam imago et gloria est Dei; mulier autem gloria viri est.

8 οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀνὴρ ἐκ γυναικός, ἀλλὰ γυνὴ ἐξ ἀνδρός:

For a man (aner) is not from a woman, but a woman is from a man.

Apparently, the men got pregnant in the ancient world?

Seriously, this is a reference to Genesis, with Eve being taken from one of Adam’s ribs. Still, it’s remarkable how the whole mother-thing sort of gets overlooked.

8 Non enim vir ex muliere est, sed mulier ex viro;

9 καὶ γὰρ οὐκ ἐκτίσθη ἀνὴρ διὰ τὴν γυναῖκα, ἀλλὰ γυνὴ διὰ τὸν ἄνδρα.

For the man was not placed because of a woman, but woman on account of the man.

More Genesis. Adam was created first; only after did God realize Adam needed a companion and so created Eve for Adam’s sake.

9 etenim non est creatus vir propter mulierem, sed mulier propter virum.

10 διὰ τοῦτο ὀφείλει ἡ γυνὴ ἐξουσίαν ἔχειν ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς διὰ τοὺς ἀγγέλους.

Because of this the woman is obligated to have power upon her head, because of the angels.

For the first time, we come across some borderline gibberish. The KJV renders it pretty much like I did; newer translations add ‘a symbol of power’ on her head. The head covering is a symbol of subservience.  Really, though, it’s the part about the angels that really throws this out of the range of expected comprehension. 

10 Ideo debet mulier potestatem habere supra caput propter angelos.

11 πλὴν οὔτε γυνὴ χωρὶς ἀνδρὸς οὔτε ἀνὴρ χωρὶς γυναικὸς ἐν κυρίῳ:

Except neither the woman is away from the man, nor the man away from the woman in the lord.

Here, it seems that they belong together according to God’s view.  Now, compare this to Paul’s earlier discussion about marriage, when he was decidedly ambiguous. At best.  Or, perhaps this is not a judgement, but an observation of how it is?

11 Verum tamen neque mulier sine viro, neque vir sine muliere in Domino;

12 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἡ γυνὴ ἐκ τοῦ ἀνδρός, οὕτως καὶ ὁ ἀνὴρ διὰ τῆς γυναικός: τὰ δὲ πάντα ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ.

For if the woman is from the man, in this way also the man is from the woman; but all is from God.

This has more of an egalitarian sound to it.

12 nam sicut mulier de viro, ita et vir per mulierem, omnia autem ex Deo.

13 ἐν ὑμῖν αὐτοῖς κρίνατε: πρέπον ἐστὶν γυναῖκα ἀκατακάλυπτον τῷ θεῷ προσεύχεσθαι;

Judge amongst yourselves: is it pleasurably conforming to notions of suitability, propriety or attractiveness  for an unveiled woman to be in prayer to God?

The part about the pleasurably conforming, etc. is the Merriam-Webster definition of “comely”, which is one of the words Liddell & Scott use to render <<  πρέπον >>.  The Latin is “decet“, which is related to “decent”.

13 In vobis ipsi iudicate: Decet mulierem non velatam orare Deum?

14 οὐδὲ ἡ φύσις αὐτὴ διδάσκει ὑμᾶς ὅτι ἀνὴρ μὲν ἐὰν κομᾷ ἀτιμία αὐτῷ ἐστιν,

For does not nature itself teach you that a long-haired man is a dishonour to it (referring back to ‘nature’)

I would really like to hear the logic behind that statement, or the thinking that gave birth to it. And it makes one wonder about all those representations of Jesus and the Apostles with long hair, doesn’t it? For me, the whole long-hair thing hearkens back to the days of my youth when the length of a man’s hair was a political statement.

14 Nec ipsa natura docet vos quod vir quidem, si comam nutriat, ignominia est illi;

15 γυνὴ δὲ ἐὰν κομᾷ δόξα αὐτῇ ἐστιν; ὅτι ἡκόμη ἀντὶ περιβολαίου δέδοται [αὐτῇ].

but if the woman (has) long hair, she glorifies it (nature again)? That being long-haired is given (to her) as a covering.

Paul certainly has some interesting ideas about biology, here. He is, like so many before him, and so many more after him, mistaking cultural norms for biological, or divine intent. 

A word about << κομᾷ >> in its various forms. It means ‘long-haired’. At the beginning of the Century BCE, the Romans had divided Gaul into two provinces. One was essentially Northern Italy, on the south side of the Alps.  This was generally known as Cisalpine Gaul, (Gallia Cisaplina). The other half, which comprised a good chunk of France, This was known as Transalpine Gaul, or “Gallia Comata”. Literally, “Long-haired Gaul” because of the native hair style of the men.

15 mulier vero, si comam nutriat, gloria est illi? Quoniam coma pro velamine ei data est.

16 Εἰ δέ τις δοκεῖ φιλόνεικος εἶναι, ἡμεῖς τοιαύτην συνήθειαν οὐκ ἔχομεν, οὐδὲ αἱ ἐκκλησίαι τοῦ θεοῦ.

16 Si quis autem videtur contentiosus esse, nos talem consuetudinem non habemus, neque ecclesiae Dei.

  But if someone appears to be contentious,  we do not have such a custom, nor (does) the Community of God.

OK. Who is being contentious? And about what? 

I guess he’s saying that the Community is not, or ought not to be contentious about…long hair on a man? Sorry, I don’t follow this completely. But that seems to be the most likely explanation: that while we don’t have the custom of men with long hair, the Community should not make a fuss?

Regardless, the point is that we’ve just spent about half of this section talking about the relationship between men and women, and a good chunk of that was spent discussing men’s hairstyles and whether women should pray without a veil. I mean, who even has opinions on theses things? So, once again, we end up probably learning more about Paul than about the Community. Here we have a deeply conservative man, who believes that custom = divine intention, an attitude that persists to this day.

But we also get, I think, some insight into the implications Paul had to deal with when he started accepting–more, actively seeking–converts who had been pagans rather than Jews. Pagan customs were very different from Jewish customs, and the customs of Greek pagans from an urban, cosmopolitan city would have been even more different. So some of the women apparently wanted to pray and attend services without wearing a veil. Paul is truly disturbed by this. It bothers him. He is trying to look past it, and he’s wheedling a bit to try to convince all members of the Community to come ’round to his way of looking at this. I’m not sure he’s succeeding.

And does anyone else find it a tad ironic that Paul is a victim of his own innovations? Or get the feeling he’s been hoist on his own petard? He’s found that if you accept pagans, don’t force them to conform to Jewish dietary practice and don’t make them get circumcised, pretty soon you get women coming to worship with uncovered heads. The horror! And really, there is rather a glaring inconsistency in Paul’s attitudes; on the one hand, waive certain restrictions, but OTOH get all uptight about others. Now, it would possibly be uncharitable to point this out, but do we notice that the innovations he objects to concern women? Is that a coincidence? Because let’s not forget Paul’s horror of sexual incontinence. A lot of the Church fathers had a real problem with women. They found them too alluring, and were way too willing to blame the woman for their own lack of self-control. Is Paul the one who originates this attitude? Or did Paul simply reflect what was pretty much the general opinion here? 

I would guess the latter.

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About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on April 25, 2014, in 1 Corinthians, epistles, Paul's Letters and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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