Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Eite oun esthiete, eite pinete, eite ti poieite

 Whether therefore you eat or drink or anything you do, do all to God's glory. Be harmless to Jews and to Greeks and to God's church, as I also always in all things please, not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, that they may be healed. Be my imitators in the way I too [am] Christ's. I praise you in that in all things you have remembered me and are holding down the traditions that I have traditioned to you. And I want you to remember that Christ is the head of every man, and the man head of woman, and God head of Christ. Any man offering prayer or prophesying down on [the] head, shames his head; any woman offer prayer or prophesying with the head uncovered, shames her head, for it is one and the same with having been shaved. For if a woman does not cover, let her be shaved, and if shameful for a woman to be shaved or sheared, let her cover. For indeed a man ought not to cover the head, being the image and glory of God; and the woman is man's glory. For man is not out of woman, but woman out of man. For likewise man was not formed through the woman but woman through the man. Through this, the woman ought to have authority upon the head, through the messengers. Nevertheless, neither is woman separate from man, nor is man separate from woman, in the Lord. For just as the woman is out of the man, so the man through the woman, but all things out of God. Decide for yourselves: is it fitting for woman to offer prayer to God uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man is tressed, it is dishonor to him, and if woman is tressed, it is her glory? For the tress is given to her in place of a veil. If any seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do God's churches.

[1 Corinthians 10:31-11:16, my very, very, very, very rough translation. The chapter division here, I think, is very misleading; 11:1 cannot be correctly understood at all except in terms of what comes immediately before, and I think the end of 1 Corinthians 10 is essential as well to the rest of the passage. To say that some of the Greek here is difficult is an understatement. The word kata used of the head, literally means 'down', but it's one of those prepositions that can mean a number of things. In the sentence about men offering prayer and prophesying, considering only it, it could mean 'against', but 'kata' is also a part of the word later used for uncovered, akatakalypto; in this usage it means not-covered-down, in something like the way we would say 'not covered up'. Most translations therefore take it to indicate a covering; I'm not wholly convinced that this is so, and suspect that there is some difficult double sense here, but I don't have a better account. The point about shaving is often taken to be related to the fact that a shaved head was the penalty for an adulteress or prostitute; if this is the case, Paul's concern might possibly be wives acting in a way that Jews and Gentiles would both have associated with unmarried women (and perhaps of a rather unrespectable kind) or at least in a way inconsistent with what would have been seen appropriate for a married woman -- the words 'man' and 'woman' throughout could be translated 'husband' and 'wife'. If I were doing a less wooden translation here, I would be inclined to do this; but for my purposes here, I did not want to commit without something more definite in the passage. But it's worth noting that St. Augustine in discussing this passage argues that St. Paul is specifically referring to marriage customs, and not making any general comments about women, whom, of course, he argues are equally in the image of God.

Literally nobody knows what the angels (messengers) are doing in the passage, in part because Paul doesn't explain it at all, but quite clearly takes it to be obvious. That might suggest that we should see it as a reference to human messengers, and some have suggested that it means envoys from other churches. That would fit with the previous comment about being blameless with respect to the church and the later comment about the custom of the churches; but while others in the New Testament use the word this way, that's not usually how Paul uses it. Some people have the view that it's a comment about hierarchy -- angels being higher than us in the hierarchy -- but Paul quite clearly stated the hierarchies he had in mind, and the angels weren't mentioned then. It was a common Jewish belief (and has always been the Christian belief) that the angels were involved in worship, and this is definitely a context in which worship is involved, and indeed, the whole context has to do at least broadly with matters of worship, which is why I translated with 'offering prayer' rather than just 'praying', since it seems to be clearly indicating specifically a kind of prayer that, like prophesying, would serve a formal function in church life. If that's in view, Paul may be indicating the dignity of the occasion; some suggest he is saying that we should imitate the angels in worship, but that seems to me to make even less sense of the passage, particularly if we translate in terms of 'husband' and 'wife'. Again, Paul quite clearly is taking it to be obvious, since it's part of a rhetorical argument that keeps emphasizing things as obvious, and I think this is the primary, even if not very informative clue: whatever he means has to be either obvious from context, in which case church envoys are probably meant, or from a very common belief, which may or may not be the case with any of the proposals about angels.]