Paul’s Language of Hairstyles or Head-coverings in 1 Cor 11: The Meaning of Kephalē Part 11

Preston Sprinkle

Introduction 

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is an exegetical minefield. Almost every line is subject to debate. Some even seem downright heretical, like when Paul seems to say that women aren’t created in God’s image (11:8). Fortunately, not every question is relevant for addressing the main questions we’re wrestling with: what Paul means when he says that “the man/husband is the head of woman/wife” (11:3) and whether Paul believes that men should be in authority over women in the church. Over the next few pots, I’m going to wrestle with a few of the more important exegetical questions in this passage before we come back to the meaning of kephalē in 1 Cor 11:3 and what this passage as a whole says about men and women in the church. After I come to a somewhat satisfactory reading of the passage, I will then put this reading in conversation with the complementarian reading of this passage, which I laid out in the previous post.

Head-coverings or Hairstyles? 

One of the most perennial debates is whether Paul is talking about head-coverings or hairstyles (or hair length) in this passage. Most readers simply assume that Paul is addressing head-coverings, but the scholarly work on the passage is a bit mixed. While most scholars do think head-coverings are in view1Just a small sampling includes: Thistleton, 1 Corinthians, 823-26; Winter, Roman Wives, 77-96; idem., After Paul Left Corinth, 121-42; Westfall, Paul and Gender; Watson, “Authority of the Voice;” Keener, Paul, Women & Wives; Preston Massey, in several articles; Thiessenn 1987; Engberg-Pedersen 1991; Dunn 1995; Martin 1995; Witehrington 1995; Horrell 1996. (a view held “almost unanimously” by the early church Fathers)2See Finney, “Honour,” 31, who cites Irenaeus, Haer. 1.8.2; Clement of Alexandria, Paed. 3.11; Tertullian, Cor. ch. 14; Or. Chs. 21-22; Marc. 5.9; Cult. Fem. 2.7; Virg.; Augustine, Ep. CCXLV; Jerome, Ep. CXL VII.5. But see Chrysostom, In Ep. 1 ad Cor., Hom. 26.1, who understood Paul to be referring to hair not head coverings (according to BeDuhn, “‘Because of the Angels’,” 297 n. 7.) A. Phillip Brown points out that both Chrysostom and Epiphanius understood 1 Cor 11 to be talking about hair length (Brown, “Chrysostom and Epiphanius”). Phil Payne also cites Macarius Aegyptius (d. circa AD 390) and Ambrose (AD 354-407) as evidence for the hair style/length view (Man and Woman, 150-51)., a decent number of scholars have argued that Paul is talking about hair length and style, not head coverings.3See Payne, Man and Woman, 141-73; Hurley, “Man and Woman in 1 Corinthians,” 43-56; Murphy-O’Connor, “Sex and Logic,” 488-500; Gundry-Volk, “Gender and Creation,” 151-171; Horsley, 1 Corinthians, 153-54; Hays, 1 Corinthians, 185.

Let’s first understand what these two views are arguing for, keeping in mind there are variations within each view: 

The “head covering” view says that it was quite common—if not required—for married women to cover their heads or “veil” in public. (We shouldn’t think of “veil” as something different from “head covering.” In ancient times, “veil” simply meant “with face or head covered,” and it usually referred to pulling the back of your garment over your head. I’ll use the terms “veil” and “head-covering” synonymously throughout).4See Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, Aphrodite’s Tortoise, 9; MacMullen, “Women in Public,” 210. They could uncover when they were at home or in the presence of their kin. But when they were out in public, and especially in a public setting like a worship gathering, they would have covered their heads. The only kinds of women who didn’t cover their heads were single women (who were sexually available), prostitutes, slaves, or married women who were looking to have an affair. Paul’s concern, then, is that some married women were uncovering their heads (perhaps taking their newfound freedom in Christ a bit too far) and were giving the impression that they were sexually available (and therefor dishonoring their “heads;” that is, their husbands) or downright promiscuous. Even if this wasn’t their intention, Paul is concerned that outsiders might misinterpret their behavior (cf. 1 Cor 14:23). 

As far as the men go, it was very common in Roman culture for men of high social standing to cover their heads while they worshipped pagan gods. Paul therefore wants to distance the Christian men from these practices since they reinforced the social hierarchy he was trying to dismantle, and (possibly) also in light of the association with pagan practice. 

The “hairstyle/hair length” view says that Paul was telling men not to wear long hair, since long hair on men blurred gender distinctions and was commonly associated with effeminacy and homosexuality.5It’s usually described this way, but calling it “homosexuality” is way too broad and anachronistic. The specific cultural taboo would have been for men of status to play the passive role in male same-sex sexual relationships. Many Romans would not have a problem with a Roman male of status playing the active role in such sexual liaisons. What would have been taboo is a man of status playing the passive role. Using the world “homosexuality” or “homosexual” to express this—so common among modern scholars—is unfortunate, since it’s too modern and way too broad. It basically refers to any person who experiences same sex attraction, which wasn’t a defined category in the ancient world and certainly wasn’t Paul’s concern here. As for the women, respectable married women would wear their hair bound up above their head. Only sexually promiscuous women—or women who belonged to the cult of Dionysius—would wear their hair unbound and disheveled. Paul therefore is concerned that women honor the cultural codes of modesty and respectability, and that men would follow God’s design for their masculinity. 

To analyze these two views, I’ll first look at Paul’s language in this post to see which view is better supported by the actual words he uses. In the next post, I’ll examine the cultural context of first-century Corinth to see whether hair style/length or head-covers makes the most sense.  

Paul’s Language 

Paul uses three different words or phrases to describe “coverings” in this passage, and each one is subject to debate. The first phrase is kata kephalēs echōn, which occurs in 11:4. The NIV reads: “Every man who prays or prophecies with his head covered dishonors his head…” The NIV’s “with his head covered” is kata kephalēs echōn, which literally means something like “having down from the head.” Paul doesn’t specify what kind of object is “down from the head.” He could have in mind either a material covering or hair. 

Unfortunately, the exact phrase kata kephalēs echōn without an explicit object occurs nowhere else in the Bible. In fact, it occurs nowhere in Greek literature, except, of course, in places where the early church fathers were quoting Paul.6See A. Philip Brown II, “Chrysostom and Epiphanius,” 366-67. We do see the phrase with an explicit object, however, in several Greek authors.7All of the following quotations are from the LCL translation as cited by A. Philip Brown II, “Chrysostom and Epiphanius.” Plutarch provides us with what is probably the closest parallel to 1 Cor 11:4, when he writes: 

after disembarking, he was walking with his toga covering his head (kata tēs kephalēs echōn to himation). (Moralia, “Sayings of the Romans,” 200F)

Here, the phrase kata tēs kephalēs echōn is used, but unlike Paul, Plutarch provides us with an explicit object, himation(“toga, garment”), so it’s clear that a head covering is in view. There are three other places in Plutarch where similar phrases occur: 

that fellow [Demetrius] would be already reclining at table in great state, having the hood of his toga drawn down behind his ears (echōn …kata tēs kephalēs to himation). (Lives, Pompey 640C)

but when he [Caesar] saw Brutus with his sword drawn in his hand, then he pulled his garment over his head (epheilkusato kata tēs kephalēs to himation), and made no more resistance. (LivesCaesar 739D)

the second [divorce] was Sulpicius Gallus, because he saw his wife pull her cloak over her head(ephelkusamenen idōn kata kephalēs to himation). (Roman Questions, 267C)

The first two references have the verb echō (“have”) with the phrase kata kephalē(“according to the head”). The second two have a different verb connect to kata kephalēs. All four refer to head coverings, but all four provide an explicit object, to himation, whereas Paul does not.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus (circa 60 B.C. – 7 B.C.) also uses phrases similar to Paul’s kata kephalēs echōn on three occasions, but like Plutarch, he supplies an explicit object in every case: 

shorter than a man of average stature, having a mantle over the head (echousa kata tēs kephalēs). (Roman Antiquities 3.71.5)

Camillos…since he had prayed and had drawn his garment over his head (kata tēs kephalēs heilkuse to himation), desired to turn… (Roman Antiquities 12.16.4)

When he was about to depart, he both drew his garment over his head (peribolen kata kephalēs heilkuse) and held up his hands to the sky, as the custom is, and made prayer to the gods. (Roman Antiquities, 15.9.7)

There’s one more reference in the LXX that’s significant, since kata kephalē(without echō) is used to refer to a covered head: 

Afterward Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman rushed home, with his head covered (kata kephalēs) in grief. (Esth. 6:12)

Here, the translator used kata kephalēs to translate hapori rōsh, which means “head being covered.” While kata kephalēsby itself can refer to a wide variety of things that don’t involve head coverings,8A. Phillip Brown lists the following places where kata kephalēs occurs where it’s not referring to head coverings: Dionysius, Roman Antiquities, 6.3.3; 11.26.4, line 6; 19.8.3, line 6; Plutarch, Vitae Decern Oratorae 842B; Pyrrhus 399B; Les Papyrus Fouad 129.11; P.Oxy. 33.2672dupl, lines 15-18;Josephus, Ant, 1.50.4; 2.252.2; 13.117.5 (Brown, “Chrysostom and Epiphanius,” 371). at least in this one case, it does refer to a head covering without an explicit object (e.g. himation, peribolen) in view. Interestingly, a later editor substituted kata kephalēs with katakekalummenos—the same verb that Paul uses 3x in 1 Cor 11:5-7.9Both Watson (“The Authority,” 529) and Massey (“The Meaning,” 512) see this as evidence for the head covering view, while A. Phillip Brown (“Chrysostom and Epiphanius,” 371) says that this editorial correction “suggests that at least one Greek scribe felt that kata kephalēs was too ambiguous a rendering and changed it to a more explicit construction.” I think Massey is probably correct when he says “the fact that kata kephalēs not only points in the direction of meaning katakaluptein, but these equivalents convey the sense of ‘to cover the head with a garment’” (“The Meaning,” 512).

The evidence above can be interpreted in different ways. On the one hand, since kata kephalēs echōn always occurs with an explicit object when coverings are in view, one could argue that these parallels are irrelevant for understanding Paul’s phrase, since he doesn’t mention an object (i.e. garment, toga). If Paul was talking about head coverings, he would have mentioned the garment covering the head (e.g. himation), but he does not.10It also should be noted that John Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407) and Epiphanius of Salamis (ca. A.D. 315-403) interpreted Paul to be referring to long hair on men (see Brown, “Chrysostom and Epiphanius”). On the other hand, one could argue that all the parallels above, especially LXX Esther 6:12, are close enough to suggest that Paul doesn’t need to specify the garment; it’s implied in the phrase kata kephalēs echōn. Perhaps Paul’s other words in this passage that refer to some kind of covering, akatakaluptō (“uncovered”) and katakaluptein (“to cover”), can help supply the meaning of kata kephalēs echōn.

Unfortunately, those words too are fraught with ambiguity. In v. 5, Paul contrasts men who pray and prophesy kata kephalēs echōn with women who are “uncovered,” or akatakaluptō, a word he uses again in v. 13. Figuring out the meaning of akatakaluptos should help us understand kata kephalēs echōn

Advocates of the head covering view point out that akatakaluptos is used in Philo to refer to a head covering (that is, a head without a covering) and not a certain hairstyle or hair length.11Spec. Laws, 3.60 uses the same words Paul does, akatakalyptō te kephalē, the context “is clear that Philo is speaking of a head covering” (Schreiner, “Head Coverings,” 126). See also Philo, Allegorical Interpretation 2.29 and in Polybius 15.27.2 (Schreiner, “Head Coverings,” 126). In commenting on Numb 5:18, Philo writes:

When these preliminaries are completed, the woman is to come forward with her head uncovered (akatakalyptōte kephalē), bringing the barley-meal, as has been said, and the priest holding the earthen vessel with the earth and water in it stands fronting her and pronounces as follows… (Philo, Spec. Laws, 3.60)

Philo’s phrase akatakalyptō te kephalē is the exact some phrase Paul uses in 1 Cor 11:5 and it can only mean “with her head uncovered.”12Massey, “The Meaning,” 519. Massey points out that Josephus also comments on Numb 5:18 and interprets the passage the same way (i.e. the woman’s head covering being removed) (Ant. 3.270). Another text from Lucian (ca. A.D. 125-180) has akatakaluptos in connection with kephalē, which is similar to Paul’s use in 1 Cor 11:7. 

Sosandra and Calamis shall adorn her with modesty and her smile shall be noble and slight like that of the original, from whom shall come also the simplicity and decency of her drapery, except that she shall have her head uncovered (akatakaluptos autē estai tēn kephalēn). (Portraiture, 6)

Interestingly, Lucian latter admits that the statue of the woman will be modest in every way, except for one thing—she’ll be unveiled. This suggests two things which will be relevant when we discuss the cultural background of head coverings and hair styles/length. First, the veil was considered to be a sign of modesty. Second, artists took some liberties to portray women unveiled, even though this was contrary to custom.13See Massey, “The Meaning,” 518, who also cites G. Ferrari, Figures of Speech, 17-25 (esp. 19); L. Llewellyn-Jones, “A Woman’s View? Dress, Eroticism, and the Ideal Female Body in Athenian Art,” in L. Llewellyn-Jones (ed.) Women’s Dress in the Ancient World (Swansea: Duckworth, 2002), 171.

There’s an important and much debated reference to akatakluptos in LXX Lev 13:45. The CSB and NASB interpret the Hebrew text as:  

The person who has a case of serious skin disease is to have his clothes torn and his hair hanging loose (tiprāʿû), and he must cover his mouth and cry out, “Unclean, unclean!” (Lev. 13:45 CSB)

As for the person who has the leprous infection, his clothes shall be torn and the hair of his head shall be uncovered (tiprāʿû) and he shall cover his mustache and call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” (Lev. 13:45 NASB)

The difference in translations are due to the different meanings of the Hebrew word pāraʿ.  According to Jacob Milgrom, “The root prʿ has something to do with the hair of the head.”14Milgrom, J. (2008). Leviticus 1–16: a new translation with introduction and commentary (Vol. 3, p. 608). Yale University Press. It can mean “untrimmed, uncovered,” or “disheveled.” Milgrom opts for “disheveled” hair for Lev 13:45, but says that the LXX (where akatakluptos translates pāraʿ ) and some later rabbis interpret the word to mean an “uncovered” head; that is, the removal of a head covering. 

It’s worthy to note that Num 5:18 uses the same phrase “uncovered head” (pāraʿ rōsh) and the LXX translates this phrase with “will uncover the woman’s head” (apokalupsei tēn kephalēn tēs gunaikos). Both Philo and Josephus interpret Numb 5:18 to mean “uncovered head.”15Josephus, Ant. 3.270; Philo, Spec. Laws, 3.60, who uses the phrase atakapluptō te kephalē to describe the woman’s head, the same phrase Paul uses in 1 Cor 11:5; see Massey, “The Meaning,” 519, contra Padgett, “Paul on Women,” 70, who says that Philo interprets Numb 5:18 to mean “with unbound or loosened hair.” So when Phil Payne and others say that the only time akatakaluptō is used in the LXX is in Lev 13:45, where it means “to let the hair on the head hang loosely,”16Payne Man and Woman, 167; Murphy O’Connor, “Sex and Logic,” 488 (cf. Num 5:18 where the cognate verb is used to mean “loosen the hair of the woman;” see Fee, 1 Corinthians, 562). The Hebrew phrase in Lev 13:45 here is rōsh porua. Thistleton points out, however, that akatakaluptos can mean loose hair or head covering and it really depends on the context (Corinthians, 831). I think they’re being overly confident in this translation. This might be an accurate translation of the Hebrew, but it goes against the LXX, Josephus, and Philo, who all use a Greek phrase that means “uncovered head” not “disheveled hair.” 

A third word Paul uses to refer to “covering” is katakaluptein, which occurs three times in vv. 6-7:

For if a woman does not cover (katakaluptetai) she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover (katakaluptesthō).A man ought not to cover his head (katakaluptesthai tēn kephalēn), since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.

This same verb is used in several places in the LXX to refer to a head covering or veil. For instance, in the book of Susana, it clearly refers to a veil, not hair:

They…ordered that she be unveiled (apokaluphthenai), for she was veiled (katakekalummene), in order that they might be filled with her beauty (Sus 32)

The same goes for Genesis 38 and the reference to Tamar veiling her face:

when Judah saw her, he thought that she was a harlot for her face was veiled (katekalupsatō gar to prosopōn) (Gen 38:15)

And although it’s not technically about a head covering, Isaiah 6 is relevant: 

Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces (katekalupton to prosōpon) with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. (Isa 6:2)

In extra biblical Greek literature, katakaluptein is used in context where a head covering or veil is in view. Most important are instances where there is no stated direct or indirect object; the veil/head covering is simply assumed. For instance, Plutarch writes: 

In Boeotia, after veiling the bride (tēn numphen katakalupsantes), they crown her with asparagus (Advice to the Bride and Groom, 138D)

Here, the verb katakaluptein clearly refers veiling the bride, even though no material object (veil, covering) is specified. This is similar to Paul who also uses the verb without mentioning the kind of material that one is being covered with. 

There are other uses of katakaluptein in Plutarch, where people “cover” statues and it’s implied that some kind of fabric is used, without the fabric being named (Alcibiades, 34.1; Mulierum virtutes 253E; see also Dio Chrysostom, Roman Antiquities, 60.13.3; 63.27.3). Preston Massey boldly concludes: “The verb katakaluptō, from Homer to Athenaeus (a period stretching approximately 1000 years), means ‘to veil’ or ‘cover the head’ in texts describing dress and physical appearance.”17Massey, “The Meaning,” 523. Paul’s phrase katakaluptesthai tēn kephalēn (“to cover the head”) in 1 Cor 11:7, then, “is not idiosyncratic; it conforms to conventional usage. No first-century Greek would find the phrase puzzling.”18Massey, “The Meaning,” 517.

Plus, katakaluptein is applied equally to both men and women. Women are to katakaluptein (v. 6) while men are not to katakaluptein (v.7); that is, to not do what the women are supposed to do. If Paul is telling women to put up their hair when they pray and prophesy, it’s unlikely that Paul telling the men to do the opposite, to not put up their hair, since this was not a practice among men.19Rightly Fee, 1 Corinthians, on 11:7.

The linguistic data so far seems to heavily support the head covering view. But the hair style/length view is not without evidence. To my mind, one of the strongest arguments for this view comes in 1 Cor 11:13-15, where Paul not only explicitly talks about hair length, but does so as further proof that a woman should not pray with her head “uncovered” (akataklupton, v. 13).

Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered (akataklupton)? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair (koma), it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair (koma), it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. (1 Cor 11:14-15)

Paul’s statements about hair length are correlated with the word akataklupton, which is the same word used in 11:5 to refer to “uncovered” (akatakaluptō) women. This suggests that Paul might have been talking about hair all along. The lexical data surveyed above heavily supports the head covering view, to my mind, but this view will have to address Paul’s language in vv. 13-15, which seems to support the head style/length view. We’ll return to this point below.  

Further support for the hair style/length view comes in vv. 5-6, where Paul talks about women being shaved or shorn as a logical corollary to being “uncovered” (akatakaluptō). After all, shaved and shorn heads are about hair. Therefore, it makes more logical sense that Paul is talking about hairstyle/length, especially since, as we just saw, akatakaluptō is correlated with hair length in vv. 14-15. According to this interpretation, Paul explains himself clearly in v. 15b, where he says that a woman’s long hair has been given to her as, or instead of (anti) a “covering” (peribolaiou). “This implies that Paul did not require women to wear any item of clothing on top of their modestly-done-up hair,” says Phil Payne. “After all, why would Paul end his argument by stating that a woman has been given long hair as a covering if his point all along was to require a garment head covering?”20Man and Woman, 206

Francis Watson, who finds the hairstyle/length view to be “awkward and improbable,” raises a good point about what Paul says in vv. 14-15. “If his [Paul] problem were with loosed hair, one would not expect him to speak so positively about long hair (v. 15).”21Watson, “Authority,” 534. In other words, if long hair is a woman’s glory, shouldn’t she let her glory shine instead of covering it up on her head? Watson goes on to argue that Paul’s discusses hair length in vv. 14-15 as an analogy to head coverings, not as the covering: 

Nature provides a covering for woman, in the form of her long hair, and this natural “covering” is said to confirm the appropriateness of the head-covering that Paul seeks to impose…The covered female head is equivalent to long hair, the garment that nature itself has provided for women (v. 15).22Watson, “Authority,” 533.

While I think both views have merit based on Paul’s language and argument, I do think the head covering view makes better sense of Paul’s actual wording. The words Paul uses most naturally refer to head coverings not hair styles/length. As far as women being shaved or shorn in vv. 5-6, this actually makes good sense if head coverings are in view, once we understand the cultural significance of head coverings (see my next post). In short, if married women uncovered their heads in public, this would be a sign of sexual availability, if not infidelity. The penalty for such an act would be to shave the woman’s head. Paul’s logic in 11:5-6, then, would fall right in light with cultural custom. 

As for the explicit reference to hair length in vv. 14-15, this could go both ways. Not only is it an odd way to encourage women to wear their long hair bound up on their head, as Watson points out, but it also shows that Paul knows very well how to talk about hair length. Why, then, would Paul opt for words that most naturally refer to head coverings in vv. 4-7, when he could have just said “long hair” (koma) all along? 

Conclusion 

In light of Paul’s wording throughout 1 Cor 11:2-16, I think the head covering view makes the most sense. In any case, I don’t think the issue can be solved by looking at Paul’s language alone. Paul’s cultural context is just as important. Both head coverings and hair styles/length carried much currency in Paul’s first-century culture. And I think it’s rather clear that Paul is assuming and interacting with certain cultural taboos that would have been familiar to his audience. We’ll explore what those may be in the next post.


  • 1
    Just a small sampling includes: Thistleton, 1 Corinthians, 823-26; Winter, Roman Wives, 77-96; idem., After Paul Left Corinth, 121-42; Westfall, Paul and Gender; Watson, “Authority of the Voice;” Keener, Paul, Women & Wives; Preston Massey, in several articles; Thiessenn 1987; Engberg-Pedersen 1991; Dunn 1995; Martin 1995; Witehrington 1995; Horrell 1996.
  • 2
    See Finney, “Honour,” 31, who cites Irenaeus, Haer. 1.8.2; Clement of Alexandria, Paed. 3.11; Tertullian, Cor. ch. 14; Or. Chs. 21-22; Marc. 5.9; Cult. Fem. 2.7; Virg.; Augustine, Ep. CCXLV; Jerome, Ep. CXL VII.5. But see Chrysostom, In Ep. 1 ad Cor., Hom. 26.1, who understood Paul to be referring to hair not head coverings (according to BeDuhn, “‘Because of the Angels’,” 297 n. 7.) A. Phillip Brown points out that both Chrysostom and Epiphanius understood 1 Cor 11 to be talking about hair length (Brown, “Chrysostom and Epiphanius”). Phil Payne also cites Macarius Aegyptius (d. circa AD 390) and Ambrose (AD 354-407) as evidence for the hair style/length view (Man and Woman, 150-51).
  • 3
    See Payne, Man and Woman, 141-73; Hurley, “Man and Woman in 1 Corinthians,” 43-56; Murphy-O’Connor, “Sex and Logic,” 488-500; Gundry-Volk, “Gender and Creation,” 151-171; Horsley, 1 Corinthians, 153-54; Hays, 1 Corinthians, 185.
  • 4
    See Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, Aphrodite’s Tortoise, 9; MacMullen, “Women in Public,” 210.
  • 5
    It’s usually described this way, but calling it “homosexuality” is way too broad and anachronistic. The specific cultural taboo would have been for men of status to play the passive role in male same-sex sexual relationships. Many Romans would not have a problem with a Roman male of status playing the active role in such sexual liaisons. What would have been taboo is a man of status playing the passive role. Using the world “homosexuality” or “homosexual” to express this—so common among modern scholars—is unfortunate, since it’s too modern and way too broad. It basically refers to any person who experiences same sex attraction, which wasn’t a defined category in the ancient world and certainly wasn’t Paul’s concern here.
  • 6
    See A. Philip Brown II, “Chrysostom and Epiphanius,” 366-67.
  • 7
    All of the following quotations are from the LCL translation as cited by A. Philip Brown II, “Chrysostom and Epiphanius.”
  • 8
    A. Phillip Brown lists the following places where kata kephalēs occurs where it’s not referring to head coverings: Dionysius, Roman Antiquities, 6.3.3; 11.26.4, line 6; 19.8.3, line 6; Plutarch, Vitae Decern Oratorae 842B; Pyrrhus 399B; Les Papyrus Fouad 129.11; P.Oxy. 33.2672dupl, lines 15-18;Josephus, Ant, 1.50.4; 2.252.2; 13.117.5 (Brown, “Chrysostom and Epiphanius,” 371).
  • 9
    Both Watson (“The Authority,” 529) and Massey (“The Meaning,” 512) see this as evidence for the head covering view, while A. Phillip Brown (“Chrysostom and Epiphanius,” 371) says that this editorial correction “suggests that at least one Greek scribe felt that kata kephalēs was too ambiguous a rendering and changed it to a more explicit construction.” I think Massey is probably correct when he says “the fact that kata kephalēs not only points in the direction of meaning katakaluptein, but these equivalents convey the sense of ‘to cover the head with a garment’” (“The Meaning,” 512).
  • 10
    It also should be noted that John Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407) and Epiphanius of Salamis (ca. A.D. 315-403) interpreted Paul to be referring to long hair on men (see Brown, “Chrysostom and Epiphanius”).
  • 11
    Spec. Laws, 3.60 uses the same words Paul does, akatakalyptō te kephalē, the context “is clear that Philo is speaking of a head covering” (Schreiner, “Head Coverings,” 126). See also Philo, Allegorical Interpretation 2.29 and in Polybius 15.27.2 (Schreiner, “Head Coverings,” 126).
  • 12
    Massey, “The Meaning,” 519. Massey points out that Josephus also comments on Numb 5:18 and interprets the passage the same way (i.e. the woman’s head covering being removed) (Ant. 3.270).
  • 13
    See Massey, “The Meaning,” 518, who also cites G. Ferrari, Figures of Speech, 17-25 (esp. 19); L. Llewellyn-Jones, “A Woman’s View? Dress, Eroticism, and the Ideal Female Body in Athenian Art,” in L. Llewellyn-Jones (ed.) Women’s Dress in the Ancient World (Swansea: Duckworth, 2002), 171.
  • 14
    Milgrom, J. (2008). Leviticus 1–16: a new translation with introduction and commentary (Vol. 3, p. 608). Yale University Press.
  • 15
    Josephus, Ant. 3.270; Philo, Spec. Laws, 3.60, who uses the phrase atakapluptō te kephalē to describe the woman’s head, the same phrase Paul uses in 1 Cor 11:5; see Massey, “The Meaning,” 519, contra Padgett, “Paul on Women,” 70, who says that Philo interprets Numb 5:18 to mean “with unbound or loosened hair.”
  • 16
    Payne Man and Woman, 167; Murphy O’Connor, “Sex and Logic,” 488 (cf. Num 5:18 where the cognate verb is used to mean “loosen the hair of the woman;” see Fee, 1 Corinthians, 562). The Hebrew phrase in Lev 13:45 here is rōsh porua. Thistleton points out, however, that akatakaluptos can mean loose hair or head covering and it really depends on the context (Corinthians, 831).
  • 17
    Massey, “The Meaning,” 523.
  • 18
    Massey, “The Meaning,” 517.
  • 19
    Rightly Fee, 1 Corinthians, on 11:7.
  • 20
    Man and Woman, 206
  • 21
    Watson, “Authority,” 534.
  • 22
    Watson, “Authority,” 533.
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10 comments on “Paul’s Language of Hairstyles or Head-coverings in 1 Cor 11: The Meaning of Kephalē Part 11

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  1. Ryan Cerbus on

    How do the priestly garments of the OT fit into Paul’s instructions? Because there was a linen turban as part of the high priestly garb (Lev 16:4) and wearing it was an explicit command for the high priest.

    Why would a head covering on a male priest be required in the OT but then seen as dishonouring his head in Corinth?

    Reply
    • preston on

      In my opinion, this is one of many reasons why I don’t think what priests did in ancient Israel should inform what Paul was getting at in this passage. I think the significance of head coverings in 1st century Corinth (a Roman colony) provides us with a better cultural context to understand the significance of head coverings on men. I’ll tease out this context in the next post.

      Reply
  2. Andrew Bartlett on

    A couple of points that may help with 1 Cor 11:4, where Paul uses the expression kata kephalēs echōn (‘having down from head’), and an observation on v16.
    1. I think there is more significance in the Biblical precedent in Esther 6:12 (LXX) than you have mentioned. The expression kata kephalēs (‘down from head’) is used to describe Haman when he goes home in grief and frustration after being humiliated before Mordecai. The setting is the Persian Empire in the fifth century BC. Artefacts from the Persian Empire show some elaborate hairstyles for high-status men, including hair arranged to project behind the head. (Next time you are in London, look in at the British Museum.) When Alcibiades, the fifth-century BC Athenian statesman, adopted a Persian lifestyle, this involved ‘tying his hair up in a bun’: David Stuttard, Nemesis: Alcibiades and the Fall of Athens (Harvard, 2018), 195. If the Septuagint translator of Esth. 6:12 had understood the relevant expression in the original Hebrew (literally, ‘covered’) in its ordinary literal sense, kata kephalēs would have been a strange translation to adopt. But the translation is explicable if the translator was using kata kephalēs in the same sense as is used by Paul. Whether rightly or wrongly, it seems the translator understood that Haman went home with his hair untied and hanging down loose. This would express grief and shame.
    2. Verse 4 contains a word-play on what Paul has written in verse 2. The last two words of verse 2 are paradoseis katechete, meaning ‘you are holding fast the traditions’. The verb katechō (‘have down’, in the sense ‘hold fast’) is a compound derived from kata (here meaning ‘down’) and echō, meaning ‘have’. So in verse 2 Paul is commending the Corinthians by way of general introduction because they kata-echō the traditions (= hold them fast); then in verse 4 he is censuring the men because they kata echō the head (= have long hair hanging down). This word-play explains Paul’s choice of words. It emphasizes the contrast between verse 2, which is a general commendation of the Corinthians for holding to the traditions delivered to them, and what follows in verses 3–16, where Paul is critical of the Corinthians, both men and women, for adopting a custom that they did not receive from him or his colleagues.
    3. On the hairstyles reading, verse 16 (“we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God”) refers to the Corinthians’ custom of praying and prophesying with long hair hanging down. On the head-garment view, what does “no such custom” refer to?

    Reply
    • preston on

      Thanks Andrew, I’ll look into this!

      1. Re: Esth. 6:12. This is interesting. I’ll look into this more.
      2. I hadn’t caught the katechete / kata-echo connection in vv. 2 and 4. That’s interesting. I’m not sure it supports the hair style/length view instead of the head covering view.
      3. To my mind, the “no such custom” could refer to the hair statements in vv. 13-15, but this doesn’t in itself mean that vv. 4-10 aren’t about head coverings. Of course, the head covering view as to deal with vv. 13-15; it’s one of the challenges for that view.

      Reply
  3. Philip B. Payne on

    Preston: Head-coverings or Hairstyles?

    Philip B. Payne: Throughout this post Preston uses “head-covering” as equivalent to covering with a garment. This is surprising because he acknowledges that the Greek word for “covering” can refer to many different kinds of covering, including hair. In fact, the only instance in the Greek Old Testament of the word Paul uses in this passage for “uncovered” (ἀκατακάλαπτος in Lev 13:35), translates the Hebrew word identifying hair as the covering. Furthermore, 1 Cor 11:13’s reference to an “uncovered” women is explained in 11:5 as referring to her long hair. In addition, the only specific word for a garment covering in 1 Cor 11:2–16 is also in 11:15, where hair is identified as that covering: “But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her, because long hair has been given to her as a covering (peribolaiou = “wrap around”).” Furthermore, 11:14 identifies long hair as what is dishonoring for a man. This explains the wording in 11:4, “Every man praying or prophesying ‘having down from the head’ disgraces his head.” Andrew Bartlett’s perceptive comment adds further evidence that hair is the covering Paul refers to in 11:4.

    Preston: The garment-covering view is the “view held ‘almost unanimously’ by the early church Fathers.”

    Philip B. Payne: Preston’s endnote 2 refutes this by citing scholars who identify four church fathers who identify the covering as hair. This contradicts Preston’s, “almost unanimously.” Preston inaccurately depicts the evidence in his text to give the impression that the garment-covering view has far more support than his footnote acknowledges. And even Preston’s footnote does not adequately express the extent of the support by church fathers that Paul writes about hair covering the head. Not repeating the passages Preston cites from BeDuhn, the following six church fathers also refer to hair as a woman’s head-covering:

    Tertullian (AD 160–240) confirms this convention in On the Veiling of Virgins 7: “Hair serves for a covering … for their very adornment properly consists in this, that, by being massed together upon the crown, it wholly covers the very citadel of the head with an encirclement of hair” (ANF 4:32). The typical way for a Roman, Greek, or Jewish woman to put up her hair was with a strip of cloth or a hairnet.

    Macarius Aegyptius (d. c. AD 390), Homiliae spirituales 12.18, explicitly identifies the covering: “Question: Why is it said, ‘a woman praying with uncovered head?’ Answer: Since in the present apostolic time they have been permitted hair instead of a covering.” He specifically interprets 1 Cor 11:5 as referring to hair, not to a veil.

    Ambrose (c. AD 339–397), Duties of the Clergy 1.46.232, writes, “Is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered; doth not nature itself teach you that ‘If a woman have long hair, it is a glory unto her’? It is according to nature, since her hair is given her for a veil, for it is a natural veil” [H. de Romesin, The Principal Works of St. Ambrose (NPNF2; ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 10:37].

    Chrysostom (circa AD 354–407) quotes 1 Cor 11:6b followed by 11:14b–15 in Hom. in ep. 1 ad Cor. 1–44 (PG 61:219.3). He notes in hom. 26.4, “he said not, ‘let her have long hair,’ but, ‘let her be covered,’ ordaining both these to be one … he both affirms the covering and the hair to be one.”

    Clement of Alexandria, Paed. 3.11, writes, “It is enough for women to protect their locks, and bind up their hair simply along the neck with a plain hair-pin, nourishing chaste locks with simple care to true beauty” (ANF 2:286).

    Pelagius recognized that Paul was talking about the hair of both men and woman being displayed erotically: “Paul was complaining because men were fussing about their hair and women were flaunting their locks in church. Not only was this dishonoring to them, but it was also an incitement to fornication” [PL 30:749D, translation from Gerald Bray, ed. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament VII 1–2 Corinthians (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 106].

    The archaeological studies by Benzinger and Krauss emphasize that in NT times women faced no compulsion to be veiled, and Oepke adds that “Mary and other holy women are often depicted without veils” (Oepke, “κατακαλύπτω,” TDNT 3:563). A gradual shift to garment head coverings within Judaism in the centuries after Christ may possibly be reflected in the change recorded from the earlier Mishnaic rule that a woman may be divorced without receiving her Ketubah if “she goes out with her hair unbound” (m. Ketub. 7:6) to “if she goes out with uncovered head” (b. Ketub. 72a, b). The explanatory note at b. Ketub. 72a, “With hair loose or unbound,” however, supports the original meaning, that an “uncovered head” is a head not covered with hair modestly done up. This practice is still affirmed in b. Giṭṭ. 90b, “a wife go[ing] out with her hair unfastened.”

    Preston endnote 3: “Gundry-Volk” should be “Gundry-Volf”

    Preston: “The ‘head covering’ view says that it was quite common—if not required—for married women to cover their heads or ‘veil’ in public.”

    Philip B. Payne: It is true that some make this claim. But if this claim were true, why are women in Greco-Roman art typically depicted without a garment over their heads? Why did Ovid write “that the different ways of dressing the hair in Rome were equal in number to the acorns of a many-branched oak, to the bees of the Hybla … every new day adding to the number” (Ars am. 3:135–68)? Why would Juvenal write, “So important is the business of beautifications; so numerous are the tiers and storeys piled one upon another on her head!” (Sat. 6.501–503)? It does not make sense to suppose that the elaborate hairstyles in such a profusion of variations depicted on respectable women were created and preserved in art, but were never or rarely displayed in public. The absence of comparable graphic abundance or such a variety of hairstyles in portraiture of women from societies that require veiling indicates that women’s hair must have been commonly visible in the Greco-Roman world in the time of Paul. Bruce W. Winter, Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communities (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 104 states, “Statue types displayed the simple hairstyles which epitomized the modest wife and were worn by members of the imperial family. These statues were replicated throughout the Empire and represented ‘fashion icons’ to be copied by modest married women.” For examples of such fashion icons with no veil, see P. Scherrer, Ephesus: The New Guide (Turkey: Austrian Archaeological Institute, 2000), 199 fig. 2; A. T. Croom, Roman Clothing and Fashion (Stroud: Tempus, 2000), 98. S. E. Wood, Imperial Women: A Study in Public Images, 40 B.C.–A.D. 69 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1999), 1 notes, “Works of the visual arts would show her [a married woman] how they [imperial wives] dressed and how they wore their hair.” Juvenal Satires 6.617 confirms this influence, “What woman will not follow when an empress leads the way?” David W. J. Gill, “The Importance of Roman Portraiture for Head-Coverings in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16,” TynBul 44,2 (Nov. 1993): 251, 258 notes that such portraits suggest “it was socially acceptable in a Roman colony for women to be seen bare-headed in public…. It is this long hair [done up properly] that is seen as a head covering which is worn instead of a veil…. Long hair…was a symbol in Roman society of a wife’s relationship to her husband.” Cynthia L. Thompson, “Hairstyles, Head-coverings, and St. Paul. Portraits from Roman Corinth,” Biblical Archaeologist 51,2 (June, 1988): 112 understood Paul to be suggesting “that women’s long hair be a ‘wrapping’…that is, fastened up, as contrasted to being allowed to flow unimpeded around the shoulders.” J. P. V. D. Balsdon, Roman Women, their History and Habits (London: Bodley Head, 1963), 252 notes that “in the republic, younger women dressed their hair in simple style, drawing it to the back of the head to form a simple knot, which was thrust through with a pin” but that gradually they adopted more ornamentation. Older women, too, wore their hair up in standard conventions.

    Preston: “We shouldn’t think of ‘veil’ as something different from ‘head covering.’ In ancient times, ‘veil’ simply meant ‘with face or head covered,’ and it usually referred to pulling the back of your garment over your head. I’ll use the terms ‘veil’ and ‘head-covering’ synonymously throughout”

    Philip B. Payne: According to Webster’s New World Dictionary of American English, Third College Edition, 1479, “veil” refers to “any piece of cloth used … [to] conceal” and the verb “veil” means “to cover with or as with a veil 2 to conceal, hide, disguise, screen, obscure, etc.” In contrast, a head-covering can be anything that covers the head. Head-coverings rarely imply intent to conceal. Consequently, to use the expressions interchangeably is confusing to English readers. Arabian custom mandated facial covering of women. The vast majority of classical scholars do not regard facial veiling to have been customary in the Greco-Roman world.

    Llewellyn-Jones’s Aphrodite’s Tortoise: The Veiled Women of Ancient Greece is widely regarded as the most detailed defense of the thesis that it was customary in the Greco-Roman world for women to be veiled. Having spent an entire day reading it, however, I found its logic tortured and strained and its thesis unconvincing. Llewellyn-Jones freely acknowledges that his view is a minority opinion among classical scholars.

    Greek had many different words for “veil”: κάλυμμα (used elsewhere by Paul, always with a sense of concealing, 2 Cor 1:13–16, the veil with which Moses covered his face), including ὀθόνη, πύκνωμα, προκάλυμμα, παρακαλυμμα (as in “cover one’s face” LSJ 1311), ἐπικάλυμμα, ἐπικαλυπτήριον. If just any covering were equivalent to a veil, why would Greeks use different words to distinguish facial coverings from other head coverings? Just because some biblical scholars have used “veil” and “head-covering” interchangeably is not adequate justification to conflate the two. Facial veils were used in specific contexts, such as a wedding and the “veil dance.” Facial veils conveyed very different meanings than the capite velato, so the two should not be conflated.

    Preston’s text states, “a decent number of scholars have argued that Paul is talking about hair length and style, not head coverings.”

    Philip B. Payne: Preston’s footnote omits virtually all of the European scholars who conclude that there is a growing consensus that this passage is about hair, including all the ones I cited in my comment to Preston’s post #10, where I identified 17 statements in this passage that are incompatible with the view that this is about garment head-coverings symbolizing subordination. Torsten Jantsch and Francis Watson argue that a growing consensus regards this passage as not about head-covering garments, but hairstyles. This consensus includes:

    Torsten Jantsch, “Die Frau soll Kontrolle über ihren Kopf ausüben (1Kor 11,10). Zum historischen, kulturellen und religiösen Hintergrund von 1Kor 11,2–16,” in Frauen, Männer, Engel: Perspektiven zu 1Kor 11,2–16 (ed. Torsten Jantsch; Biblisch-Theologische Studien 152; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2015), 97–144.

    Wolfgang Schrage, Der erste Brief an Die Korinther: 1 Kor 6,12-11,16 (EKKNT 7/2; Zürich: Benziger, 1995), 2:487–533, especially 491–494 and specifically 492 n. 20.

    Andreas Lindemann, Der Erste Korintherbrief (HNT 9/1; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000), 240; Marlis Gielen, “Beten und Prophezeien mit unverhülltem Kopf? Die Kontroverse zwischen Paulus und der korinthischen Gemeinde um die Wahrung der Geschlechtsrollensymbolik in 1Kor 11,2–16,” ZNW 90 (1999): 220–49, at 231–233.

    Martina Böhm, “1 Kor 11,2–16. – Beobachtungen zur paulinischen Schriftrezeption und Schriftargumentation im 1. Korintherbrief,” ZNW 97 (2006): 207–234.

    Stephan Lösch, “Christliche Frauen in Corinth (I Cor. 11,2–16),” TQ 127 (1947) 216–261.

    For extensive bibliographies of scholars arguing hair is the covering, see:
    A. Philip Brown II, “Chrysostom & Epiphanius: Long Hair Prohibited as Covering in 1 Cor 11:4, 7,” BBR 23.3 (2013): 365–376.
    Jason David BeDuhn, “‘Because of the Angels’: Unveiling Paul’s Anthropology in 1 Corinthians 11,” JBL 118 (1999): 296 n. 7.

    Preston: “The only kinds of women who didn’t cover their heads were single women (who were sexually available), prostitutes, slaves, or married women who were looking to have an affair. Paul’s concern, then, is that some married women were uncovering their heads.”

    Philip B. Payne: Has Preston or people advocating the view he describes actually looked at extensive examples of Greco-Roman busts of women, portraits of women, and depictions of women on pottery and other media? The vast majority of women so depicted have no garment head-covering, including respectable upper-class married women. Preston cites James Hurley, whose major original contribution in his Ph.D. at Cambridge regards head-coverings in Greco-Roman art, concluded that it was common for Greco-Roman woman to go about without a garment covering their heads. Since Preston cites Hurley in n. 3, he should be aware of this. https://romanpagan.wordpress.com/head-covering-for-women/ concludes that “when a head covering was worn at all – head covering was by no means universal … When women were in the public sphere, such as shop-keeping, it is probable that they did not veil their hair – at least this is what the archeological record suggests. While many ancient women in the public sphere may not have worn the palla they could still signal their respectability to others by ensuring that their hair was not loose but tied up into a tidy, off-the-face hairstyle, perhaps with vittae, which may have been more sacrally significant than the palla. … it seems unlikely that everyday veiling for women could be argued to be an essential part of Roman polytheistic practice. It is significant that amongst Roman coins depicting Pietas it is not necessarily the case that her head is always covered. Nor is Juno – the patron Goddess of married women and mothers – always shown with her head veiled. Likewise, the majority of female busts and statues of Roman women (Vestal priestesses excepted) that have survived into our own age are without a head covering.”

    Preston: “it was very common in Roman culture for men of high social standing to cover their heads while they worshipped pagan gods”

    Philip B. Payne: Capite velato is the term “used in Roman religious contexts to refer to the act of covering the head … by a fold of the toga drawn up from the back … when performing sacrifices. … the Etruscans by contrast did things ‘Greek-style’ (ie. capite aperto or ‘with bare head’),” cited from http://www.novaroma.org/nr/Capite_velato. Classical Sculpture: Catalogue of the Cypriot, Greek, and Roman Stone Sculpture in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 2006), p. 169 states, “In Roman art, the covered head is a symbol of pietas and the individual’s status as a pontifex, augur or other priest.” This applies to both male and female leaders in worship. See https://romanpagan.wordpress.com/head-covering-for-women/.

    The capite velato did not primarily symbolize high social standing, although such persons were often of high social standing.

    Preston: “Paul therefore wants to distance the Christian men from these practices since they reinforced the social hierarchy he was trying to dismantle, and (possibly) also in light of the association with pagan practice.”

    Philip B. Payne: Preston’s statement that Paul calls every man disgraceful simply for praying or prophesying with a garment over their heads is speculation. Why would Paul call “disgraceful” what actually symbolized piety and devotion? For example, https://romanpagan.wordpress.com/head-covering-for-women/ states, “Covering the head thus denotes piety.” But it makes sense that Paul would call disgraceful “every man” displaying long effeminately-styles hair and every woman letting her hair down loose when praying and prophesying (which was grounds for divorce). After all, many of Paul’s contemporary authors did call these things disgraceful. For example, Pseudo-Phocylides (30 B.C. – A.D. 40) 210-14 wrote, “Long hair is not fit for men…because many rage for intercourse with a man.” See many more citations in:

    H. Herter, “Effeminatus,” RAC 2:620-650;

    Philip B. Payne, “Wild Hair and Gender Equality in 1 Corinthians 11:20-16,” Priscilla Papers 20:3 (Summer 2006) 9 and 18 n. 15 (available for free download at ww.linguistsoftware.com/payneessays.htm);

    James Bassett Hurley, “Man and Woman in 1 Corinthians: Some Exegetical Studies in Pauline Theology and Ethics” (Ph.D. diss., Cambridge, 1973) 54; Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 162–194, 254–271 and “Did Paul Require Veils or the Silence of Women? A Consideration of 1 Cor. 11:2-16 and l Cor. 14:33b-36,” WTJ 35 (Winter, 1973): 190–220;

    Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, “Sex and Logic in 1 Corinthians 11:2–16.” CBQ 42 (1980): 482–500, 485–487 and Paul: A Critical Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997) 279;

    Raymond F. Collins, First Corinthians (SP; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1999) 396–399;

    C. K. Barrett, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (HNTC; New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 257;

    Robin Scroggs, “Paul and the Eschatological Woman” JAAR 40 (1972): 283–303; 297;

    Gerd Theissen, Psychological Aspects of Pauline Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987);

    Stephan Lösch, “Christliche Frauen in Korinth (I Cor. 11,2-16),” TQ 127 (1947): 251-58;

    Isaksson, Marriage and Ministry, 165–186;

    W. J. Martin, “1 Corinthians 11.2-16: An Interpretation,” in Apostolic History and the Gospel: Biblical and Historical Essays presented to F. F. Bruce (ed. W. W. Gasque and R. P. Martin; Exeter: Paternoster, 1970), 233;

    Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad, 1983), 227;

    Alan Padgett, “Paul on Women in the Church: The Contradictions of Coiffure in 1 Corinthians 11.2-16,” JSNT 20 (1984): 69-86;

    Richard A. Horsley, 1 Corinthians (Nashville: Abingdon, 1998), 154.

    https://romanpagan.wordpress.com/head-covering-for-women/ states, “It seems that only a lady of relative leisure could have easily got around with a palla draped over her hair, in the style we see in Roman statues, which suggests that the palla may have been a means for wealthy freeborn women to indicate their socio-economic rank, while projecting an image of modesty and chastity.” Ironically, on the view that the coverings are garments, Paul commands women to cover their heads with a garment, which was sign of social status, but Paul prohibits men from covering their heads with a garment because this was sign of social status!

    Preston: “The “hairstyle/hair length” view says that Paul was telling men not to wear long hair, since long hair … was commonly associated with effeminacy and homosexuality.5” Preston’s note 5 states: “It’s usually described this way, but calling it “homosexuality” is way too broad and anachronistic.”

    Philip B. Payne: I do not know of any scholars who describe Paul’s references to homosexual acts or hairstyles that were used to solicit homosexual hookups as “homosexual” defined broadly as people who experience same-sex attraction. Preston gives an unfair pejorative characterization of the “hairstyle/hair length” view, which in any event should be described as “long hair as the covering view” in contrast to the “garment as the covering view” since both views identify what they believe Paul refers to as covering the head.

    Preston: “Only sexually promiscuous women—or women who belonged to the cult of Dionysius—would wear their hair unbound and disheveled.”

    Philip B. Payne: Preston should refer to the maenads rather than “women who belonged to the cult of Dionysius” since it is not all women in the Dionysiac cult, but maenads that are depicted as doing this. Furthermore, the key issue was the symbolism of unbound hair, not disheveled hair.

    Preston: “As far as the men go, it was very common in Roman culture for men of high social standing to cover their heads while they worshipped pagan gods.”

    Philip B. Payne: But Paul is writing in Greek to a Greek-speaking predominantly Hellenistic audience. Since Greeks did not cover their heads while they worshipped, it is unlikely Paul is addressing this Roman custom.

    Preston: “Paul therefore is concerned … that men would follow God’s design for their masculinity”

    Philip B. Payne: I am not aware of any scholars of this persuasion who have written that “Paul therefore is concerned … that men would follow God’s design for their masculinity.” Ironically, complementarians’ stress on “God’s design for their masculinity [and femininity]” has contributed to many men—and also women—wanting to change their sex. Rather, Paul describes effeminate hairstyles as “disgraceful” because that is how this was in fact commonly viewed in his day, as demonstrated by H. Herter, “Effeminatus,” RAC 2:620-650. Paul shows in 11:7 that he regarded what this symbolized as rejection of how God created them. Paul was probably also concerned about this because he knew that effeminate hairstyles were used to solicit homosexual hookups, contrary to God’s law. We know Paul regarded homosexual hookups as contrary to God’s law from what he wrote earlier in this letter, “Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:9–11 NIV). “Men who have sex with men” translates two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts. Paul also teaches this in Romans 1:26–27 and 1 Tim 1:9–11. See David F. Wright, “Homosexual or Prostitutes? The Meaning of arsenokoitai (1 Cor. 6:9, 1 Tim 1:10),” Vigiliae Christianae 38 (1984): 125-153, reprinted in W. R. Dyness and S. Donaldson, eds., Homosexuality and Religion and Philosophy, Studies in Homosexuality 12 (New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1992). David F. Wright, Homosexuality: The Relevance of the Bible EQ 61:4 (1989): 291-300.

    Preston: Note 10: “It also should be noted that John Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407) and Epiphanius of Salamis (ca. A.D. 315-403) interpreted Paul to be referring to long hair on men (see Brown, ‘Chrysostom and Epiphanius’).”

    Philip B. Payne: This should be in the text, not relegated to an endnote.

    Preston: “Perhaps Paul’s other words in this passage that refer to some kind of covering, akatakaluptō (“uncovered”) and katakaluptein (“to cover”), can help supply the meaning of kata kephalēs echōn.”

    Philip B. Payne. Preston at this point in the argument should have included that Paul in this passage does explicitly identify what covering (11:13) is a dishonor for a man (long hair) and what covering is a glory for a woman (long hair) in 1 Cor 11:14–15: “Does not nature itself teach you on the one hand that if a man has long hair it is a dishonor to him, but, on the other hand, if a woman has long hair it is her glory? Because her long hair is given to her as a covering.”

    Preston: “Advocates of the head covering view point out that akatakaluptos is used in Philo to refer to a head covering (that is, a head without a covering) and not a certain hairstyle or hair length.11 [endnote 11: Spec. Laws [sic], 3.60 uses the same words Paul does, akatakalyptō te kephalē, the context “is clear that Philo is speaking of a head covering” (Schreiner, “Head Coverings,” 126).] In commenting on Numb [sic] 5:18, Philo writes:
    When these preliminaries are completed, the woman is to come forward with her head uncovered (akatakalyptōte [sic] kephalē), bringing the barley-meal, as has been said, and the priest holding the earthen vessel with the earth and water in it stands fronting her and pronounces as follows… (Philo, Spec. Laws, 3.60)
    Philo’s phrase akatakalyptō te kephalē is the exact some phrase Paul uses in 1 Cor 11:5 and it can only mean “with her head uncovered.”

    Philip B. Payne: Of course, it can only mean “with her head uncovered.” The real question should be, rather, “What is the covering? Is it a garment or hair?” The way Preston frames the issue throughout this post gives the false impression that “covering” necessarily refers to a garment.

    It is simply not true that in Philo, Spec. Laws, 3.60 “akatakalyptō te kephalē … can only mean ‘with her head uncovered’ … ) and not a certain hairstyle or hair length.” To the contrary, it is precisely because Philo is “commenting on Num 5:18” (as Preston correctly states) that the meaning of the text that is being translated from Hebrew into Greek with added commentary should be interpreted to accord with the meaning of the Hebrew text Philo is citing. There is no doubt that in the Hebrew text of Num 5:18 that Philo is translating and commenting on, [rp refers to hair let down, not to a garment covering. See HALOT 970; cf. KBL 779, “let the hair of the head go loose”; BDB 828 “let go, let loose, unbind head.” Hebrew scholars agree that [rp means “to let the hair on the head hang loosely.” [rp is regularly used to indicate long hair hanging down loose or disheveled, e.g., Lev 10:6; 13:45; 21:10; Num 5:18; 6:5; Ezek 44:20; m. Ketub. 2:1; 7:6, “with her hair unbound”; b. Taʿan. 17b.

    Following is the text of Philo, Spec. Laws, 3.58–62 from http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/yonge/book29.html. Square brackets identify corresponding text in Num 5:16–28. Philo’s citations from the text and comments on it follow the order of the text of Num 5:16–28 very closely. It is clear that in these verses Philo intends to convey the meaning of the Hebrew text and to comment on it. Consequently, the meaning of the Hebrew text of Num 5:18 is the best guide for understanding the meaning of akatakalyptō te kephalē in Philo, Spec. Laws, 3.60, namely that it refers to the hair of the accused adulteress let down loose. A woman’s hair let down loose was the clearest way to symbolize undisciplined sexuality in Philo’s day. Consequently, understanding akatakalyptō te kephalē to refer to hair let down loose fits Philo’s context of the accused adulteress perfectly. Note how closely the following text of Philo’s Spec. Laws, 3.58–62 tracks with the text of Num 5:16–28:
    (58) Then the law proceeds to say, [Num 5:16] the priest, [Num 5:17] having taken an earthen vessel, shall pour forth pure water, having drawn it from a fountain, and shall also bring a lump of clay from the ground of the temple, which also I think has in it a symbolical reference to the search after truth; for the earthenware vessel is appropriate to the commission of adultery because it is easily broken, and death is the punishment appointed for adulterers; but the earth and the water are appropriate to the purging of the accusation, since the origin, and increase, and perfection of all things, take place by them: (59) on which account it was very proper for the law-giver to set them both off by epithets, saying, that the water which the priest was to take must be pure and living water, since blameless woman is pure as to her life, and deserves to live; and the earth too is to be taken, not from any chance spot, but from the soil of the ground of the temple, which must, of necessity, be most excellent, just as a modest woman is. (60) [Num 5:18] And when all these things are previously prepared (τούτων δὲ προευτρεπισθέντων), the woman with her head uncovered (ἡ μὲν ἀκατακαλύπτῳ τῇ κεφαλῇ), bearing the barley flour in her hand, as has been already specified, shall come forward; [Num 5:19] and the priest standing opposite to her and holding the earthenware vessel in which are the water and the earth, shall speak thus: (61) “If you have not transgressed the laws of your marriage, and if no other man has been associated with you, so that you have not violated the rights of him who is joined to you by the law, you are blameless and innocent; [Num 5:20] but if you have neglected your husband and have followed empty appetites, either loving some one [sic] yourself or yielding to some lover, betraying your nearest and dearest connections, and adulterating them by a spurious mixture, [Num 5:21] then learn that you are deservedly liable to every kind of curse, [Num 5:22] the proofs of which you will exhibit on your body. Come then and drink the draught of conviction, which shall uncover and lay bare all thy hidden and secret actions.” (62) [Num 5:23] Then the priest shall write these words on a paper and dip it in the water which is in the earthenware vessel, and give it to the woman. [Num 5:24, 26] And she shall drink it and depart, awaiting the reward of her modesty or the extreme penalty of her incontinence; [Num 5:28] for if she has been falsely accused she may hope for seed and children, disregarding all apprehensions and anxieties on the subject of barrenness and childlessness. [Num 5:27] But if she is guilty then a great weight and bulk, form her belly swelling and becoming full, will come upon her, and a terribly evil condition of her womb will afflict her, since she did not choose to keep it pure for her husband, who had married her according to the laws of her nation.

    The text that precedes Spec. Laws, 3.58–62 is a general discussion of the bitter water test for infidelity consisting almost entirely of explanations of procedures in Philo’s day that have no corresponding statements in Numbers 5:11–31. There is no comparable close correspondence between Philo’s introduction to the bitter water test in Spec. Laws 52–57 and the text of Numbers 5:11–31 that would support identifying the earlier Spec. Laws 56 as Philo’s interpretation of Num 5:18. Consequently, one is not justified in assuming that Spec. Laws 56 identifies the meaning of akatakalyptō te kephalē. Nor is it clear from the Greek text of Spec. Laws 56 what Philo intended by “that which is on the head.” At two points Yonge’s translation of Spec. Laws 56 specifies a garment where the Greek text does not require this: “the priest … shall take away from her the head-dress on her head (τοὐπίκρανον ἀφελών; LSJ 640 epikranon, “that which is put on the head, head-dress, cap.” Epikranon combines epi = “on” and kranon = “head,” e.g. Yonge’s English-Greek Lexicon, 275: “With two heads … ἀμφί κρανος, ον … With three heads … τρί κρανος, ον … With many heads, μυριόκρανος, ον, Eur.; πολύ κρανος, ον, Eur.”), that she may be judged with her head bare (γεγυμνωμένῃ τῇ κεφαλῇ), and deprived of the symbol of modesty (τὸ τῆς αἰδοῦς περιῃρημένη σύμβολον), which all those women are accustomed to wear (χρῆσθαι the infinitive of χράομαι, LSJ 2001, “enjoy, have, use,” BDAG 1087, “make use of, employ”; χρῆσθαι, does not imply a garment in the way “wear” does in English) who are completely blameless.” The single word translated “the head-dress on her head” simply means “that which is on her head.” It does not specify what is on the head. The “symbol of modesty” could also refer to a woman’s hair modestly done up, just like it does in the Num 5:11–13 passage that Philo is commenting on. Furthermore, the verb translated “wear,” which implies a garment, in fact, simply means “use,” which applies equally well to hair or garment. If Philo intended τοὐπίκρανον in Spec. Laws 56 to mean “the head-dress” or some other garment, it still would not determine the meaning of akatakalyptō te kephalē does in Spec. Laws 60. Like almost everything else in Spec. Laws 52–57, this reference in 56, if it is to a garment covering, does not correspond to the meaning of anything in the Hebrew text of Num 5:11–31.

    Philo’s running commentary of Num 5:16–28 in Spec. Laws 58–62, however, situates akatakalyptō te kephalē at the exact point in the text where Num 5:18 states, “he [the priest] shall loosen her hair” (NIV), so this is the most natural way to understand Philo’s akatakalyptō te kephalē. Philo was writing for a Jewish audience, where it was more common for women to wear a garment over her head in public than in Hellenistic societies like the church in Corinth. This is evidenced by typical Hellenistic depictions of women. In Philo’s cultural context, in order to loosen the hair of an accused adulteress, priests probably had to remove the woman’s garment head-covering first. So if Philo intended Spec. Laws 56 to refer to the removal of a woman’s head-covering garment, this still would be compatible with akatakalyptō te kephalē in Spec. Laws 3.60 referring, like Num 5:18 does, to hair let down loose.

    Reply
    • preston on

      As always, thanks for your thorough response. Some of your points will be addressed in the next post, which I’ve had written for a while but still need to clean it up a bit before I post it.

      Reply
      • preston on

        FYI, I posted a very lengthy response to Phil’s comment but my internet cut out and it got lost. Much of what I wrote will come up in my forthcoming post.

        Reply
  4. Philip B. Payne on

    Note: this is part 2 of Philip B. Payne’s comment.

    Preston: “it’s unlikely that Paul telling the men to do the opposite, to not put up their hair, since this was not a practice among men.”

    Philip B. Payne: H. Herter, “Effeminatus,” RAC 2:620-650 cites over 100 passages in Greek literature about men putting their hair up like a woman does. Most of them ridicule this practice, and more of these citations are near Paul’s time than any other period. Therefore, Preston’s assertion is simply not true that “this was not a practice among men.”

    Preston: “Preston Massey boldly concludes: “The verb katakaluptō, from Homer to Athenaeus (a period stretching approximately 1000 years), means ‘to veil’ or ‘cover the head’ in texts describing dress and physical appearance.”17 Paul’s phrase katakaluptesthai tēn kephalēn (“to cover the head”) in 1 Cor 11:7, then, “is not idiosyncratic; it conforms to conventional usage. No first-century Greek would find the phrase puzzling.18… The linguistic data so far seems to heavily support the head covering view.”

    Philip B. Payne: Preston T. Massey alleges, in spite of the clear evidence of Lev 13:45 to the contrary, “when a text discussing the loosening or unbinding of hair is mentioned, the adjective ἀκατακαλύπτος is not used.” He lists this as his second major conclusion even though he provides no support from any citation of Lev 13:45 that even hints that it might refer to anything other than hair. Massey omits evidence of continuing references to loosed hair in Paul’s time. Massey also dismisses the most natural reading of Paul’s affirmation in v. 9 that woman is given hair “as a covering.” Although Massey cites Callimachus’s prohibition of women “with hair unbound” in Hymn to Demeter 6.5, he makes no mention of its relevance to the exegesis of 1 Cor 11:5–16. Callimachus confirms the convention that respectable women wore their hair up and the wealth of evidence that women’s hair let loose was shameful. Massey’s entire argument is structured to repudiate the straw man idea “that the verb κατακαλύπτω means ‘to cover the head with long hair.’ ”

    Preston Sprinkle cites Preston T. Massey approvingly for this conclusion and appeals to Massey nine times in his footnotes. Massey, however, is not a reliable guide. He repeatedly misrepresents the data. In each of his five conclusions to “The Meaning of κατακαλύπτω and κατὰ κεφαλῆς ἔχων in 1 Corinthians 11.2–16,” NTS 53 (2007): 502–523, at 523, one regarding κατὰ κεφαλῆς ἔχων and four regarding κατακαλύπτω, Massey makes statements that are refuted by evidence he cites or refers to in this article.

    Massey states in his first major conclusion regarding κατακαλύπτω that he found NO instance where “the verb κατακαλύπτω can suggest a head covering other than an artificial material of some kind. No exceptions to this were found” (p. 523). As part of the evidence for this Massey states regarding the LXX, “There are three references with the affect-loaded sense of ‘to veil the face’ or ‘cover the head’” (p. 514), but on p. 510 n. 34 he excludes two references that he did find: Jer 28:51, “Disgrace has covered (κατεκάλυψεν) our faces,” and Isa 6:2, seraphim “with two wings covered their faces.” Neither “disgrace” nor “wings” is an artificial material, so both disprove his first conclusion.

    Since “disgrace” and “wings” are not textiles either, both references also disprove Massey’s third major conclusion on p. 523: “when a construction such as κατακαλύπτεσθαι τὴν κεφαλήν is found, the notion of a textile covering inheres within the verb.”

    Massey states as his second major conclusion, “when a text discussing the loosening or unbinding of hair is mentioned, the adjective ἀκατακαλύπτος is not used” (p. 523). He states this in spite of LXX translation of Lev 13:45, where ἀκατακαλύπτος replaces the Hebrew expression [wrp hyhy wvarw. Massey acknowledges on p. 513 and n. 44 that “the more accurate understanding of this expression…[means] do not go about with your hair disheveled, or flowing free and in disorder…. [This judgment] has not been overturned by OT scholars.” Massey provides no support from any citation of Lev 13:45 that even hints that it might refer to anything other than long hair. Even though on p. p. 512 n. 39 he treats the LXX as a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (“The translators of the LXX understood the Hebrew çar ywpjw as meaning κατὰ κεφαλῆς or κατακαλύπτειν”), he attempts to dismiss the evidence of Lev 13:45 by proposing that “the translators of the LXX do not understand the Hebrew verb xrp [sic] in the modern sense of ‘to let the hair hang loose’” (p. 520). “Hair hanging loose,” however, by scholarly consensus and Massey’s own acknowledgement just cited, is its ancient sense. For example, HALOT 970; cf. KBL 779 “let the hair of the head go loose”; BDB 828 “unbind (hair).” [rp is regularly used to indicate long hair hanging down loose or disheveled, e.g. Lev 10:6; 13:45; 21:10; Num 5:18; 6:5; Ezk 44:20; m. Ketub. 2:1; 7:6, “with her hair unbound”; b. Taʿan. 17b. Furthermore, both Num 6:5 and Ezek 44:20 prove that their LXX translators did understand [rp to refer to long hair.

    Similarly, Massey writes, “The KJV (1611) contains the older translation of çar xrp [sic.] as ‘to uncover the head’ or ‘to have a bare head’… they misunderstood the Hebrew” (p. 520 n. 65), but the KJV did translate this expression as referring to hair in Num 6:5 and Ezek 44:20. On page 512 n. 38 Massey also mistakenly states that Hatch and Redpath “list the testimony of A B and S for κατακεκαλυμμένος” in Esth 6:12. Hatch and Redpath actually list only S2 for this reading and distinguish this reading from “[A B and S1 al.]”.

    Massey himself on p. 520 n. 65 indicates that he leans against the view that the LXX translators misunderstood the Hebrew: “I lean toward the view that Jewish translators were simply making the legal prescription applicable to their own times.” Massey provides no evidence, however, that a garment covering had replaced the hair let down custom in the time of the LXX translators centuries before Paul. The continuation of the hair let down custom is confirmed in m. Soṭah 1:5 and even as late as b. Soṭah 8a, 9a; b. Taʿan. 17b; and Pesiq. Rab. 26. B. Soṭah 8a, 9a states, “what is the object of the text [of Num 5:18] declaring, ‘and let the hair of her head go loose’? It teaches that the priest tears down her hair…. She plaited her hair for him; therefore the priest tears down her hair.” This shows that even in the “bitter water” convention for women, the one passage in Josephus Ant. III.270 where mention is made of a garment (ἱμάτιον), this need not have been to exclusion of hair let down. Josephus’s lack of reference to the woman’s hair being loosened, like his omission of most of the details of Num 5.11-31, should not be assumed to negate it. As the custom of secluding women, especially among the upper classes in Jerusalem, became associated with veiling, the removal of a garment head covering might have to precede letting the hair down. Josephus’s account is just three sentences long, far more abbreviated than Num 5:11-31, and most of those three sentences address issues not in the Numbers account. Nothing in the Josephus text corresponds to either the MT or LXX account from Num 5:11-18a, and nothing in 5:18 comes close to matching the wording of either except καὶ τὴς κεφαλῆς for καὶ … τὴν κεφαλήν. Nor does Josephus even use the word ἀκατακαλύπτω, so his text is very weak evidence that ἀκατακαλύπτω in translations from Num 6:5 would not refer to hair. Furthermore, Josephus wrote after Paul so could not have influenced what Paul meant by ἀκατακαλύπτῳ in 1 Cor 11:4.

    Although Massey describes his study as, in part, “an attempt…to explore the precise meaning of this Hebrew expression” (p. 506) his article misspells each of the three Hebrew words it cites from Lev 13:45 and reverses the Hebrew word order of the entire phrase, writing it backwards on p. 513, representing [wrp hyhy wvarw as wçar whyhy xwrp. The article misspells [rp as xrp in each of its twenty-three occurrences on pp. 505, 506, 513, 514, 520, 521 and omits evidence of continuing use of this expression with hair let loose in Paul’s time such as b. Soṭah 8a-b, 9a and b. Taʿan. 17b, “The following [priests] incur the penalty of death, those who are intoxicated with wine and those whose hair has grown long” [J. Rabbinowitz, Hebrew-English Edition of the Babylonian Talmud (I. Epstein, ed.; London: Soncino, 1984)].

    Massey presents his argument as a refutation of the position of Abel Isaksson, Marriage and Ministry in the Temple: A Study with Special Reference to Mt. 19:3-12 and 1 Cor. 11:3-16 (ASNU 24; trans. N. Tomkinson et al.; Lund, Sweden: C. W. K. Gleerup, 1965), 173, who (Massey says) “claims that the verb κατακαλύπτω means ‘to cover the head with long hair’” (p. 505). This statement by Massey, however, misrepresents Isaksson’s position. Massey omits Isaksson’s specification, “Here also”, which identifies the meaning of κατακαλύπτω in this particular context, and thereby makes Isaksson’s assessment of what the word conveys in this context appear as though he taught that this is a meaning of the word in and of itself. Isaksson’s immediately preceding sentence translates 1 Cor 11:7, “For a man ought not to cover his head (with long hair)”, making it clear by the parentheses that he understands the verb κατακαλύπτω to mean simply “to cover”, but that its context supports understanding the covering to be “with long hair.” Isaksson does not claim that the verb κατακαλύπτω inherently means “to cover the head with long hair” or that this meaning should be listed in lexicons.

    As the vast majority of Massey’s examples show and as he acknowledges specifically regarding the LXX (but also implied for each period) on p. 514, “The most frequent meaning is simply ‘to cover’.” Κατακαλύπτω does not in itself specify what the covering is or what is covered. Instead, readers are dependent on the content of each passage to determine what covers what. This is why LSJ 893 does not list as a meaning of κατακαλύπτω what Massey’s fourth and final major conclusion alleges is “the basic lexical meaning of κατακαλύπτω as signifying a veil or fabric covering for the hair” (p. 523). Massey errs in insisting on “the precise meanings” (p. 505) of words that are general terms for “cover.”

    Massey’s statement on 509 is misleading, and not just because he misrepresents the Isaksson-Hurley theory: “There are no references in the literature of classical Greek that support ἀκατακάλυπτος as describing hair that has been unbound or let loose. It follows … that the IH [Isaksson-Hurley] theory lacks linguistic support from classical Greek literature.” Massey’s deduction is misleading because, as he admits in n. 27, “In fact, the verb ἀκατακαλύπτω may not exist in ancient Greek. It is not listed in LSJ ….” Similarly, the first occurrence of ἀκατακάλυπτος listed by LSJ is LXX Lev 13:45. Nor does Massey cite a single classical Greek instance where κεφαλή is the object of κατακαλύπτω.

    Preston: “Paul’s statements about hair length are correlated with the word akataklupton, which is the same word used in 11:5 to refer to “uncovered” (akatakaluptō) women.”

    Philip B. Payne: Preston is correct about this important observation. Paul’s logic here directly ties “uncovered” with long hair. Furthermore, Paul’s imperative “Judge for yourselves, ‘Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered’ assumes that his Hellenistic audience will agree with him that it is improper for a woman to pray with her head uncovered. But it was Hellenistic custom for people to pray without a head-covering garment, so his audience would almost certainly NOT agree that it was improper for a woman to pray without a head-covering garment. But it should be obvious that Paul’s audience would agree that is WAS improper for a woman to pray with her hair led down loose for two reasons. First is that women are almost always depicted in Hellenistic art with their hair done up over their heads. Second is that there are so many prohibitions of women’s hair let down loose in Hellenistic literature. Consequently, “Judge for yourselves” strongly favors that Paul in arguing that it is improper “for a woman to pray with her head uncovered” was referring to hair, not a garment.

    Preston: “Further support for the hair style/length view comes in vv. 5-6, where Paul talks about women being shaved or shorn as a logical corollary to being “uncovered” (akatakaluptō). After all, shaved and shorn heads are about hair. Therefore, it makes more logical sense that Paul is talking about hairstyle/length, especially since, as we just saw, akatakaluptō is correlated with hair length in vv. 14-15.”

    Philip B. Payne: I agree completely.

    Preston, approvingly cites Francis Watson “If his [Paul] [sic] problem were with loosed hair, one would not expect him to speak so positively about long hair (v. 15).”

    Philip B. Payne: Watson omits the end of Paul’s sentence, which makes it clear that Paul regards long hair “used as a covering” to be a woman’s glory: “for her long hair is given to her as a covering.” Consequently, the way Paul speaks so positively about long hair is precisely about long hair used “as a covering.” This wording directly contrasts with and repudiates long hair let down loose while praying publicly. Paul does not state or imply that a woman’s long hair let down loose is her glory. He reasons the opposite, “for her long hair is given to her as a covering.” Paul may have intended the passive voice “has been given to her” as a divine passive implying that it is God (via nature) who has given her long hair.

    Preston: “Watson goes on to argue that Paul’s discusses hair length in vv. 14-15 as an analogy to head coverings, not as the covering.”

    Philip B. Payne: Where does Paul discuss hair “not as the covering”? Paul does not state “for her long hair is given to her as an analogy of a covering.” Paul explicitly states, “for her long hair is given to her as a covering.” Preston supports Watson saying that Paul does not mean what Paul explicitly states! Please let Paul explain what he means! And when Paul’s explanation does not fit your interpretation, reconsider your interpretation. Don’t deny Paul’s explanation. I find it significant that even Francis Watson acknowledges that a growing consensus regards this passage as not about head-covering garments, but hairstyles.

    Preston: “the head-covering that Paul seeks to impose”

    Philip B. Payne: Where else does Paul, the apostle of liberty, “seek to impose” such a legalistic rule?—indeed, one that is contrary to vast majority of depictions of women in Hellenistic art!

    Preston: “the garment that nature itself has provided for women (v. 15)”

    Philip B. Payne: Yes, Paul does regard hair as “the garment that nature itself has provided for women.” Consequently, it is natural to understand hair as the covering Paul refers to throughout this passage.

    Preston: “While I think both views have merit based on Paul’s language and argument, I do think the head covering view makes better sense of Paul’s actual wording. The words Paul uses most naturally refer to head coverings not hair styles/length.”

    Philip B. Payne: The question should be, “What head covering is Paul referring to? A garment or hair?” Even by Preston and Watson’s explanation, hair is nature’s covering. So why should it not be considered as the covering Paul is referring to? It is a false dichotomy for Preston to write throughout this post “head coverings not hair styles/length” as though “head coverings” can only be garments.

    Preston: “In short, if married women uncovered their heads in public, this would be a sign of sexual availability, if not infidelity.”

    Philip B. Payne: Abundant evidence from Greek literature makes it clear that hair let down loose symbolized “undisciplined sexuality.” This provided grounds for divorce. It was almost universally regarded as disgraceful. And in Paul’s day, both Jewish and Hellenistic laws state that the penalty for a woman convicted of adultery was to have her head shaved. Furthermore, such a woman was referred to as “the shorn woman.” All this perfectly fits Paul’s wording in 11:5–6. The overwhelming majority of depictions of Hellenistic women, including respected married women, have no garment covering. So it is highly unlikely that for a woman not to wear a garment over her head would be regarded as “a sign of sexual availability, if not infidelity.” Indeed, why would Paul assert, “EVERY woman who prayers or prophesies with uncovered head disgraces her head” if by “uncovered” he meant without a garment cover? But Paul’s wording makes perfect sense if Paul by “uncovered head” was referring to a woman with her hair let down loose. This fits because by Hellenistic consensus, loosed hair was in fact disgraceful for every woman.

    Preston: “vv. 14-15 … is … an odd way to encourage women to wear their long hair bound up on their head”

    Philip B. Payne: This misrepresents Paul’s statement, as I explained above. Paul makes it clear in 11:14–15 that “long hair is the glory of a woman if she wears it as a covering.” It would, however, be incongruous for Paul to affirm that a woman’s long hair is her “glory” (11:15) if his main point were that women should cover their hair with a garment.
    My Man and Woman, One in Christ provides a concise overview of Roman, Hellenistic, and Jewish attitudes toward hair let down loose and head-covering garments.

    Preston: “Why, then, would Paul opt for words that most naturally refer to head coverings in vv. 4-7, when he could have just said “long hair” (koma) all along?”

    Philip B. Payne: The words in 11:4–7 refer either to “having down from the head,” which more naturally refers to hair than a garment (as Andrew Bartlett’s comment argues), and “covered” or “uncovered,” which do not by themselves identify what the covering is. Paul explains in 11:13–15 that for both men and woman “uncovered” refers to hair. The Corinthians knew exactly what Paul was talking about because they had seen one or more women with hair let down loose praying or prophesying in the way maenads in the Dionysiac cult (which had enormous influence in Corinth) would let their hair down and give ecstatic prophesy.
    Pausanias 10.6.2 referred to “women who go mad in honor of Dionysus” and celebrate “mad revels” on Mount Parnassus near the Gulf of Corinth. Stephan Lösch, “Christliche Frauen in Corinth (I Cor. 11,2–16),” TQ 127 (1947): 216–61, 236–46 and Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad, 1983), p. 227 argue that many believed that in order for women in Dionysiac revelries to make prophetic utterances they had to let their hair hang loose. Euripides, Bacch. 695 . (LCL p. 45) states, “They shook their long hair [κόμας] out over their shoulders.” Nonnus, Dion. 45.47–48 (LCL 3:322–323) states, “Many a maiden driven crazy shook her hair loose.”’ Lucian, Dionysus 2 (LCL 1:50–51) states, “They toss their hair in the wind.” Sayings like this are typical in the Dionysiac literature, e.g. E.g., Plutarch, Mor., 249E–F; Livy 39.13.10–12; Diodorus 4.3; Ovid’s Aeneid 6.384 ff.; Dittenberger, SIG 2:401–11 (no. 736); Jan N. Bremmer, “Maenads,” OCD3 (1966), p. 908a. Merkelbach notes that ‘initiation into the Dionysiac Mysteries was accompanied by initiation into sexual life’ and that it was so pervasive that “almost every Greek did join in.”

    Likewise, men would use effeminate hairstyles to solicit homosexual hookups in Dionysiac revels that took place in mountains near Corinth. The Roman historian Livy (59 B.C.-17 A.D.) writes that in Dionysiac initiation rites “there were more lustful practices among men with one another than among women” (LCL, 11:255).
    Since Paul does explain what it means for men and women to be “uncovered” in 1 Cor 11:13–15, Preston should consider the corresponding question: If Paul intended to refer to a garment covering, why didn’t he use a word such as kalymma? After all, he used kalymma four times in his second letter to Corinth 3:13– 16.

    Preston concludes: “I think the head covering view makes the most sense.”

    Philip B. Payne: There are fourteen key reasons to interpret the “uncovered head” of women in this passage as referring to hair hanging loosely and the “covering” Paul requires as hair done up:

    1. Paul writes that a woman’s long hair is given to her “as a covering” in 11:15.
    2. Social convention in Corinth required women to wear their hair done up in public, but it was contrary to Hellenistic custom to pray in public with a garment over one’s head. Loosed hair was disgraceful (11:5) and symbolized sexual looseness in Roman, Greek, and Jewish culture.
    3. Women loosening their hair when “prophesying” fits the cultural influence and specific practice of the Dionysiac cult, which was popular in Corinth. This explains why women in the church Corinth might have let their hair down as a sign of their freedom.
    4. Women letting their hair down fits the warped Corinthian ideas about marriage and sex (cf. 1 Corinthians 5–7) and their overly realized eschatology.
    5. Because wild hair was a peculiar and apparently new Corinthian church aberration, it is compatible with Paul’s praise in 11:2 followed by “but I want you to know” in 11:3. This suggests that Paul here addresses a novel issue in Corinth.
    6. Hair that was let down ties in more directly with Paul’s introduction in 11:3. His introduction lays a foundation for respect to one’s source. Cultural evidence confirms that hair let down signaled disrespect.
    7. The only occurrence in the text Paul cited the most, the LXX, of “uncovered” (11:5; ἀκατακάλυπτος, in Lev 13:45) translates [“Wrp;, from [rp. Hebrew scholars agree that this means “to let the hair on the head hang loosely” (HALOT 970; cf. KBL 779; BDB 828). This is the earliest instance of the word “cover” (κατακαλύπτω) occurring with “head” in the TLG database. Its phrase, “his head uncovered” (καὶ ἡ κεφαλὴ αὐτοῦ ἀκατακάλυπτος), parallels 1 Cor 11:5, “her head uncovered” (ἀκατακαλύπτῳ τῇ κεφαλῇ).
    8. “Uncovered” (ἀκατακάλυπτος) is explained twice in verses 5–6, using “for” (γάρ). Both reasons explain the uncovering as equivalent to hair being clipped or shaved. This associates the covering as hair and fits most naturally if “uncovered” refers to a woman with her hair let down. In Greek literature, the word for “hair” was typically omitted in contexts involving the verb “shave” or “cut.” Furthermore, “head” often implied “hair.” For instance, using this same verb, Num 6:9 states (with omitted words in brackets), “But if a man dies very suddenly beside him and he defiles his dedicated head [of hair], then he shall shave his head [of hair] on the day when he becomes clean.” In this case, it is clear that “head” substitutes for “hair” because it is followed by “shave his head.” Numbers 6:18–19 states, “The Nazirite shall then shave his dedicated head [of hair] … and shall take the dedicated hair of his head and put it on the fire … after he has shaved his dedicated [hair].” Both the LXX and MT omit the word “hair” twice. “Hair” is also omitted as the object of the verb for “to cut” in LXX Jer 7:28–29, “This is the nation that has not obeyed the Lord its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips. Cut off [the hair of] your head and throw it away; take up a lament.” MT Jer 7:29 has a feminine imperative and suffix, “cut off her hair.” Callimachus, Hymn. Cer. 6.125 uses “head” to convey “hair”: ὣς πόδας, ὣς κεφαλὰς παναπηρέας (“unsandaled with head = hair unbound”).
    9. In Paul’s day, an accused adulteress had her hair let down, and shaving was the penalty of a convicted adulteress. I document this in Man and Woman, One in Christ pages 171–173. This explains why an uncovered woman is the same as a woman with shorn hair (11:5). This explanation works only if “uncovered” refers to hair let down.
    10. This interpretation consistently identifies the head covering for both men and women as referring to hair, as one would expect from their parallel terminology to convey opposites: women’s heads should be covered (11:5–6, 14), but men’s should not (11:7, 14).
    11. It makes sense of verse 13, “Judge for yourselves.” The vast majority of the Corinthian believers would agree that loosed hair is shameful for every woman (11:5), but it is almost certain that they would not agree that every woman whose head is not covered with a garment disgraces her head.
    12. Hair as the covering is perfectly consistent with Paul’s statements that a woman’s long hair is her “glory because long hair is given to her as a covering” (v. 15), and “We, the churches of God, have no such custom” (v. 16). But these statements are incongruous if Paul was imposing a garment custom:
    13. It avoids the inconsistency of Paul demanding that women follow a Jewish head-covering custom, but prohibiting men from following a Jewish head-covering custom.
    14. It avoids making irrelevant both Paul’s and Peter’s prohibition of women wearing braided hair interwoven with gold, since hair would not be visible if covered by a garment.

    Not surprisingly, many scholars interpret the “covering” in 1 Cor 11:2–16 as hair. Among the many advocates of this interpretation, detailed argumentation is given by:

    David E. Blattenberger III, Rethinking 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 through Archaeological and Moral-Rhetorical Analysis (Lewiston, NY: Mellen, 1997).

    Craig L. Blomberg, “Neither Hierarchicalist nor Egalitarian: Gender Roles in Paul,” pages 329–372 in James R. Beck and Craig L. Blomberg, eds., Two Views on Women in Ministry (Counterpoints Series; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), especially 344.

    Martina Böhm, “1 Kor 11,2–16. – Beobachtungen zur paulinischen Schriftrezeption und Schriftargumentation im 1. Korintherbrief,” ZNW 97 (2006): 207–234.

    Raymond F. Collins, First Corinthians (SP 7. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1999), 396–405.

    Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad, 1983), 227–230.

    Marlis Gielen, “Beten und Prophezeien mit unverhülltem Kopf? Die Kontroverse zwischen Paulus und der korinthischen Gemeinde um die Wahrung der Geschlechtsrollensymbolik in 1Kor 11,2–16,” ZNW 90 (1999): 220–49, especially 231–233.

    Judith M. Gundry-Volf, “Gender and Creation in 1 Corinthians 11:2–16: A Study in Paul’s Theological Method,” in Evangelium, Schriftauslegung, Kirche (eds. J. Ådna, S. J. Hafemann, and O. Hofius; FS P. Stuhlmacher; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997), 151–171.

    Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians (IBC; Louisville, Ky.: John Knox, 1997), especially 244–248.

    Richard A. Horsley, 1 Corinthians (Nashville: Abingdon, 1998), 153–154.

    James Bassett Hurley, “Man and Woman in 1 Corinthians: Some Exegetical Studies in Pauline Theology and Ethics” (Unpublished Cambridge Ph.D. Dissertation, 1973), especially 43–56.

    James B. Hurley, “Did Paul Require Veils or the Silence of Women? A Consideration of 1 Cor. 11:2–16 and l Cor. 14:33b–36.” Westminster Theological Journal 35 (Winter, 1973): 190–220.

    James B. Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press and Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), especially 66–68, 162–194, and 254–271.

    Abel Isaksson, Marriage and Ministry in the Temple: A Study with Special Reference to Mt. 19:3-12 and 1 Cor. 11:3-16 (ASNU 24; trans. N. Tomkinson et al.; Lund, Sweden: C. W. K. Gleerup, 1965), 165–186, especially 173.

    Torsten Jantsch, “Die Frau soll Kontrolle über ihren Kopf ausüben (1Kor 11,10). Zum historischen, kulturellen und religiösen Hintergrund von 1Kor 11,2–16,” in Frauen, Männer, Engel: Perspektiven zu 1Kor 11,2–16 (ed. Torsten Jantsch; Biblisch-Theologische Studien 152; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2015), 97–144.

    Andreas Lindemann, Der Erste Korintherbrief (HNT 9/1; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000), 240.

    Stephan Lösch, “Christliche Frauen in Corinth (I Cor. 11,2–16),” TQ 127 (1947) 216–261.

    W. J. Martin, “1 Corinthians 11.2-16: An Interpretation,” pages 231–241 in Apostolic History and the Gospel: Biblical and Historical Essays presented to F. F. Bruce (ed. W. W. Gasque and R. P. Martin; Exeter: Paternoster, 1970), 233.

    Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Paul: A Critical Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 279.

    Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, “Sex and Logic in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.” CBQ 42 (1980): 482–500, especially 485-487.

    Jerome H. Neyrey, Paul, in Other Words: A Cultural Reading of His Letters (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 1990), 131.

    David W. Odell-Scott, A Post-Patriarchal Christology (Altanta: Scholars Press, 1991), 178.

    Alan G. Padgett, “Paul on Women in the Church: The Contradictions of Coiffure in 1 Corinthians 11.2-16,” JSNT 20 (1984): 69-86.

    Alan G. Padgett, As Christ Submits to the Church: a Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011).

    Alan G. Padgett, “The Significance of ἀντί in 1 Corinthians 11:15,” TynBul 45 (1994): 181–187.

    Wolfgang Schrage, Der erste Brief an Die Korinther: 1 Kor 6,12-11,16 (EKKNT 7/2; Zürich: Benziger, 1995), 2:487–533, especially 491–494 and specifically 492 n. 20.

    To summarize, contextual and cultural factors overwhelmingly favor that the head coverings Paul prohibits in 1 Cor 11:2–16 are hair, not a garment. Men are not to depict themselves as women by wearing long effeminate hair, and women are not to symbolize sexual looseness by letting their hair down so it hangs loosely over their shoulders. Paul prohibits these acts because in the Corinthian culture context at that time, the symbolism of these practices undermined Christian marriage and morality.

    Reply
    • preston on

      Thanks Eddie, I’m aware of it, but haven’t read it yet. I do know that Mark Goodacre wrote a critical response to it, and then Martin wrote a critical response to Goodacre’s critical response. So…yeah, I’ve got more reading to do! (I do know that hardly any scholar follows Martin’s interpretation.)

      Reply

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