Sermon Decoding – Part 2

Head covering – wearing one, not wearing one, sent all sorts of signals as a culture. Men – head covered said something about your status – Augustus, lead worship, cover your head as a sign of your status, upper-class. upper-class Corinthian men seemed to be covering their heads. It dishonors Christ to exalt themselves above their brothers who have uncovered heads, as Christ died for all of their ‘heads’. For the women, other way around. It was common to wear head coverings as a sign of sexual faithfulness to their husbands. To have an uncovered head sends a bad signal. For us, hair doesn’t have that same connotation, but our wardrobe/ dress can do much the same thing.

One thing people have pointed out is that the tradition of Christian Head coverings is unlike what was culturally practiced. The speaker refers to the Roman custom of capite velato – which doesn’t give us a lot of information. It is the practice of the person officiating worship to cover his own head – but it’s not known if non-officiants also covered their heads. It’s not known if non-Romans, like the Greek Corinthians, would have picked up on this tradition, or if the slight was by their Roman brothers always covering their heads and the Greeks not covering theirs or not thinking they have to or being made to in order to participate. It is true that Jewish women had to wear head coverings or else it would send the signal that they have been unfaithful to their husbands – but what about the Greek and Roman women? It doesn’t seem either culture had a belief about the signals that head coverings could or would send either way. We just don’t have a lot of information about the minutiae of daily life where culture and practices clash in the ancient early church.

We need to distinguish three things:
1.) The command – that’s given
2.) The situation / occasion – what’s going on
3.) The principle – rational/why

If the situation is different between us and the original hearers, then the command will need to look different for us. We’re still supposed to apply it, the principle is still true, but the way we apply it might not look the same – greet one another with a holy kiss.

Head covering means nothing to us – “you’re upper class” or “you’re promiscuous”.

Long hair – being told to get a hair cut, nazarites, Samson had long hair. “That word does not mean what I think you think it means.”

The context is different. Missionaries in Turkey, head covering does send cultural signal. Different for us because context is different.

Something in common – confusion about gender and the signals they’re sending – that’s our confusion as well. We don’t always know how the signals we send interact with how we relate as men and women. So the Principle is still true – God’s word needs to speak into our lives.

And right about this point I started to transcribe the notes more thoroughly. It’s like everything that proceeded is the build up – the long, slow, pull of roller coaster as it climbs to the top of the rise – right before the big dip that builds up speed, banks left and right, turns here, twists there goes up and down quite a few times and finally throws you into the loop, here’s where the argument really begins …

1st principle: God matters most – 1 Corinthians 11:3; “ But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” The word ‘head’ it means ‘authority’ lots of scholarship has been done the ancient use of the word ‘head’ and I think it has really shown that the notion of ‘authority’ is here in this word.

Not necessarily. I know, everybody says: “But Wayne Grudem proved that ‘kephale‘ means ‘authority’!” Grudem admits to using a computer program tabulate for him the instances of the word ‘kephale‘ in the computer’s database of 3,226 instances of the word. Of the 300 metaphorical uses of the word ‘kephale‘ only about 2% suggested authority. It somehow jumps up to 15% when zeroed into Scripture. Not only that, but some of the other results for ‘kephale‘ meaning ‘at the end / starting point‘ beats it in that 5% of the time it suggests the end and it jumps up to 22% when zeroed into Scripture and ‘kephale referring to a whole person 5% of the time and jumps up to 39% when zeroed into Scripture. The thing is – I know this from studying languages – the computer isn’t infallible. It doesn’t understand nuance, it doesn’t understand plays on words. Computers tend to be literal and don’t understand figurative language. Grudem hasn’t individually checked each word in each instance to click the box: “this means x” “that means y“. He couldn’t tell you the difference between source 13, 449, 1022, 2935, or 3107 because he’s counting on the computer to have understood something he probably didn’t look at himself. Not only that, 3,226 sources in a computer database is a rather shallow indicator of the use of the word “head”. What Grudem discovered was that 87% of the time, ‘kephale’ was not used in the metaphorical sense and simply meant ‘a head (of a person or animal‘. Statistically, ‘kephale’ is more likely to mean ‘‘a whole person’ than ‘a person who has authority over another person’. Which presents it’s own problems because a reading of the verse as: “men are a whole person over women.” Makes pretty much no sense. It’s quite probable that Grudem limited his number of sources just so that he could rule out a number of not so common metaphorical uses. After all, the Bible  uses the word ‘head’ just about 300 times and it doesn’t always mean the exact same thing. It’s also not a reliable indicator of the meaning of a word to take samples from various authors work from various centuries and to say ‘this is what it means’. 3,226 sources or instances of a word will give you a small list of potential meanings, 10,000 sources of the same word will give you a larger list of potential meanings. Which would you trust more? Grudem chose to ignore that his computer had 12,000 total instances of the word “kephale” in it’s database and focused on just 3,226 sources. That leaves plenty of room for ‘kephale‘ to mean something other than ‘authority over’ that Grudem  can ignore because it wasn’t included in his sample. Putting aside Grudem’s vast scholarship on the work, the best sources that do indicate that ‘kephale‘ means ‘authority‘ date as far back as the medieval era, therefore it was after Paul’s time, not concurrent with his usage of the word. According to ‘Abusing Scripture: The Consequences of Misreading the Bible’ by Manfred Brauch: “… The lexical data from common Greek usage and the data from the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament lead to the conclusion that, in ordinary Greek usage, the word kephale did not have the metaphorical meaning of chief or ruler or someone having authority over. Further attestation for this conclusion is the fact that in the entire Gospel record, as well as in the rest of the New Testament outside of the Pauline passages (1 Cor 11; Col; Eph), where persons in positions of authority and control are frequently mentioned, the word kephale is never used for such individuals. That would not have been the meaning Gentile and Jewish Greek speakers would have understood in Paul’s time when he used the term to designate persons in certain relationships. It is quite improbable, therefore, that Paul conveyed the idea of something having authority over when he used kephale to describe those relationships…” So what we have here is a “kephale” means authority, ignore everything that says otherwise scenario.

Now the reason that Paul is using the word ‘head’ – it’s a play on words, the issue is what’s on their literal head – Paul is taking head and using it in a figurative sense. And he’s unmistakably saying there are lines of authority here in the way that men and women relate but he’s putting it in a bigger context. And part of the context for us to understand is that he’s talking specifically about the church and the family. This is not speaking to the way men and women interact in our roles when it comes to the workplace / our vocation, but it is saying something about church and family. It’s mostly talking to marrieds because of the husband/wife aspect of it, but not all of it – because the principles are certainly true still for us in the church whether we’re married or single. But the context that matters most that Paul wants them to get-is that God matters most.

So – it doesn’t really apply to you, but yeah, it sort of kind of does? That’s the sort of mixed message that’s common these days. By default, the Bible is written by mostly married men and doesn’t care to explain how to apply itself to other contexts. I know, Paul was single – but he was married to the ministry. I don’t think he really meant to write the rules in such a way where only married men were leaders, but single men aren’t often qualified for leadership as they don’t have families according 1 Timothy. The problem here is that the word for ‘husband’ is the same word for ‘man’ and the word for ‘wife’ is the same word for ‘woman’ in Koine Greek. The pastor wants to interpret these verses for husbands/wives to apply for men/women. In this way, they can make it apply to both marrieds and singles. There’s just one problem with that, the idea that men (in general) have authority over women (in general) is often viewed as a mis-translation, the teaching is that certain men have authority over certain women, fathers have authority over their daughters, husbands have authority over their wives, and church leaders have authority over the women in their congregation. Here on out in the rest of the sermon, it’s pretty tough to tell when the speaker says “man” meaning “husband” and when he says “husband” meaning “wife.”


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