Gilbert House Fellowship #117: 1 Corinthians 6-11

symbol-of-authorityWE CONTINUE our study of the most remarkable books of the Bible, 1 Corinthians. This week, we cover Paul’s instructions to the church concerning sexual immorality, lawsuits against fellow believers, the right of those in full-time ministry to earn their living in that calling, marriage and divorce, eating food sacrificed to idols, and taking the Lord’s Supper with an unrepentant heart.

We also discuss what Paul meant when he told the Corinthians that “we are to judge angels” (1 Cor. 6:3), and the puzzling verses (1 Corinthians 11:2-16) telling wives to “have a symbol of authority” on their heads, “because of the angels.”

This was actually based in the 1st century understanding of human physiology. It was believed by the top physicians and scientists of the day, like Hippocrates (of the Hippocratic Oath), that hair was hollow and exerted suction inside the body to draw reproductive fluid into the shafts. Thus, men with long hair were preventing the fluid leaving the body, and women with short hair prevented the fluid from being drawn up into the body to produce children.

Further, since a woman’s hair was considered part of her reproductive system, appearing in church with her head uncovered was considered, well, indecent. And the Mount Hermon incident with the Watchers, the angels who “left their proper dwelling” and took human wives (see Genesis 6:1-4), was clearly in Paul’s mind when he wrote these verses.

For a more thorough analysis of the head covering of 1 Corinthians 11:13-15, give a listen to Dr. Michael Heiser’s Naked Bible Podcast episode #86.  Here are links to the papers Mike references in his podcast (links open PDF documents):

Click here for the complete archive of our New Testament Bible studies to date, and click here for the Old Testament studies to date.

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2 Comments

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2 Responses to Gilbert House Fellowship #117: 1 Corinthians 6-11

  1. Pingback: Because of the angels – Weapon of Mass Distraction

  2. I’ve read the article and reasoning by Troy Martin and have the following questions.

    1. In Numbers 6 we read about the Nazirite. Concerning the hair it says “All the days of his [the Nazirite’s] vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the LORD, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long”. This implies that ordinarily men wore their hair short, otherwise there would be no distinction between Nazirites and non-Nazirites. That being the case, can it not be argued that it is “natural” for a man to have short hair, and this may be what Paul had in mind when he wrote 1 Cor 11:14? Numbers 6 was long before the theories of Hippocrates, and I imagine Paul would pay more attention to Moses than to Hippocrates.

    2. Similarly, in Leviticus 19:27 we have the commandment “You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard”. Beards were “natural” for men (e.g. 2 Samuel 10:4,5; Psalm 133:2; Jeremiah 41:5). Even today, observant Jews sport luxuriant beards. On the Hippocratic theory, would not all that hair “suck up” the semen and therefore be against nature?

    3. In verse 3 Paul begins the discussion by saying “The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God”. This must surely be important, if not foundational, otherwise why write it? That being the case, in the following verses “head” may not necessarily be the lump on top of an individual’s neck.

    4. Paul concludes with verse 16, which seems to me to be the final word on the subject: “If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God”. Doesn’t this indicate women don’t need a veil/head covering? Can’t we abandon the head covering bit not because Paul was arguing from faulty physiology but simply because the Scripture (Paul’s writing) says so?

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