Name That Glory!!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 November 2011 03:05 Written by Father Bill Tuesday, 22 November 2011 03:05


What is the glory of Paris? The Eiffel Tower, you say? Good answer! Oh, I see. This other fellow says it’s the Arc de Triomphe. Well, okay. There’s no law that says Paris can’t have two glories.

And, so, what is the glory of Athens? The Parthenon! There you go. See? This isn’t such a hard game after all!

What is the glory of Rome? Most folks will say the Coliseum. Or the Seven Hills (though they’re harder to actually see than the Coliseum). No biggie. If Paris can have more than one glory, so can Rome.

How about the glory of Vienna (I used to live there; eat your heart out)? People who’ve never been to Austria might say the Blue Danube. Folks who live there might easily say it’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral smack dab in the center of the city.

You see, when we’re talking about places (at least in English), it is easy to understand “A is the glory of B.” “A” is what comes to mind when we’re speaking of “B.” The glory of a place is what always comes to mind when that place is mentioned. That’s why, in the Old Testament, we find several examples of the cedar tree as the glory of Lebanon.

When we’re speaking of people, however, English speakers don’t often use the formula “A is the glory of B.” However, we have seen that this formula is easily used in the Bible when speaking of people. And, so “strength” is the glory of young men, because strength is what comes to mind when young men are mentioned. Gray heads are the glory of old men, for the same reason – when old men are mentioned, we think immediately of men with gray hair. And, as we’ve seen, skill at psalmistry (composing/singing songs to a plucked instrument such as a lyre or a harp) is the glory of King David in the Old Testament.

Now here is an amazing thing …

I have often presented the subject matter of this and previous blogs in this series, at seminars held in churches or at men’s retreats or similar venues. My students have been able to follow the inductive steps that let them see what “A is the glory of B” means. They can play “Name that Glory!” with complete accuracy.

And then I say, “Okay. We come to 1 Corinthians 11 and Paul tosses off the statement that men are the glory of God and woman is the glory of man. What does each of these phrases mean? Any hands?

No hands!

I wait. Still no one raises his hand. Many puzzled faces look back at me. A few of the faces are not puzzled, but they are suddenly very wary. Many faces go completely blank and unreadable; and long experience has taught me that when this happens in men’s faces, it is because they are alarmed or angry or terrified, and they instinctively grab hold of their emotions and hold them with a very tight rein, refusing to let what’s going on in their hearts show on their faces. It’s a sort of social defensive maneuver, deployed to keep one’s options open.

Why do you suppose this happens? Why does “man [the male, that is] is the glory of God” produce these reactions?

One hundred years ago, I doubt I’d see such reactions. Since the ascendency of feminism beginning in the 1950s through the 1970s, since the dominion of feminist values in politics, economics, academia, and cultural media was consolidated in the 1980s and codified in law and court decisions ever since then, and – most importantly – since evangelicals have more or less made their peace with religious feminism within their own ranks (and, this includes the so-called complementarians), on this side of all these developments over the past 70 years, evangelical men either cannot or will not acknowledge the meaning of “man is the glory of God.”

If they cannot acknowledge the meaning of “man is the glory of God,” it is usually because they are so conditioned against the meaning of that phrase that they are simply incapable of attaching that meaning to the words which convey it.

If they will not acknowledge the meaning of “man is the glory of God,” it is because they know better than to own up to what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 11:7. They know very well how powerful are the deterrents against such an idea, how punitive are the consequences for candidly owning up to Paul’s meaning.

So, let’s put it out on the table and look at it in all its modern scandal: “man is the glory of God.” What this means is this: when God is the subject of our speech or thought, a man comes to mind. A woman does not come to mind (at least not in the Biblical faith!). That is why woman is not the glory of God.

No, it’s a man who comes to mind when Christians speak of God.

When Jesus ministered for three years before He was crucified, the awareness steadily grew in the minds of the religious authorities that this rabbi was saying and doing things that lead inexorably to the conclusion that He was God. And, it because a mere man claimed to be God that Jesus was crucified.

Today, Jesus would be crucified for exactly the opposite claim – that God is a man, not a woman. And, of course, the Apostle Paul would be crucified right alongside him.

We’ll begin to unpack this scandalous meaning of “man is the glory of God” in subsequent blogs. Stay tuned!

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“Man, the glory of God” Means What? Part Three

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 November 2011 04:44 Written by Father Bill Saturday, 19 November 2011 04:44

man glory godNow it’s time to tackle the semantic question: what does it mean to say man is the glory of God? Paul says flatly that man is the glory of God but woman is the glory of man. Yet he never expounds these phrases; he assumes his Corinthian readers already know what he means when he uses these phrases. It’s an assumption that cannot be made with much confidence today.

Fortunately, as we shall see, the idea working in these phrases is comfortable in English prose. And even more fortunately, the Old Testament contains exactly the formulaic phrase “A” is the glory of “B.” along with a few more verses easily reducible to it.

So, to get a handle “A” is the glory of “B,” let’s look at a few examples. And, the first example – while not expressed in exactly the formula we have in 1 Corinthians 11 – is close enough to show us the idiomatic sense of the formula.

Read the following two verses from Isaiah 60, which look to Israel’s future when the Gentile nations shall worship Israel’s God in Jerusalem:

13 “ The glory of Lebanon shall come to you,
The cypress, the pine, and the box tree together,
To beautify the place of My sanctuary;
And I will make the place of My feet glorious.
14 Also the sons of those who afflicted you
Shall come bowing to you,
And all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet;
And they shall call you The City of the LORD,
Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

In verse 13 a number of trees are mentioned. How many? What are they?

Inexperienced Bible students will see three trees mentioned here: the cypress, the pine, and the box tree. More seasoned Bible students will add one more to this list: the cedar.

“Where is the cedar mentioned?” you ask. It is mentioned in that phrase “the glory of Lebanon.” The cedars of Lebanon were so large, so remarkable in their size and beauty, that the region itself became synonymous with these trees. The cedar tree was the glory of Lebanon – it was what came immediately to mind when one thought of Lebanon itself. And, though the trees which originally lent their reputation to Lebanon have largely disappeared, their reputation was so great for so long in history that today the national flag of Lebanon still features that tree at its center.

The cedar is the glory of Lebanon. It is what comes to mind when one thinks of Lebanon.

Now, let’s keep in mind what the phrase “the cedar is the glory of Lebanon” means, and then let us examine a few examples of the exact formula “A is the glory of B.” We’ll begin with something straightforward and simple, Proverb 20:29 –

The glory of young men is their strength,
And the splendor of old men is their gray head.

First, we note that this proverb (like almost all of them) are couplets, two lines in some form of parallelism (formal, rhetorical, semantic, synthetic, whatever). This proverb is called a synonymous parallelism – the ideas expressed are synonymously parallel, and almost perfectly parallel in a formal way as well. For this reason, glory in the first line is parallel with splendor in the second line.

Now, we need to ask, what is the proverb telling us when it says that the glory of young men is their strength or that the splendor (a synonym of glory) of old men is their gray head? Well, if the cedar is the glory of Lebanon because the cedar is what comes to mind when Lebanon is mentioned, then …

When young men are in mentioned, what comes to mind is their strength, their youthful vigor or some other kind of potency arising from youth itself. When old men are mentioned, the color of their hair – the gray color of their heads – is what comes to mind. Again, when A is the glory of B, then when B is mentioned or thought about, it is A that comes to mind.

Will this interpretive formula work in other instances? Indeed it does. Consider, for example, Proverbs 17:6:

Children’s children are the crown of old men,
And the glory of children is their father.

This again is a couplet, though the parallelism is a bit looser than the previous example we examined. “Crown” in the first line is an emblem, it is emblematic of a reward or a prize for meritorious accomplishment. Today we think of a crown as an emblem of royal office – something a king wears on his head – but in the Old Testament that idea is more often expressed by a different emblem of royal office, the scepter.

So, the first line is saying that grandchildren are a reward, a prize of old men.

And, the second line? Ever heard the taunt “Who’s your daddy?” Wikipedia explains this taunt in this way:

Who’s your daddy? is a slang expression that, in one use, takes the form of a rhetorical question. It is commonly used as a boastful claim of dominance over the intended listener. The phrase itself stands out as a noteworthy lyric from the 1968 song “Time of the Season”, by The Zombies: “What’s your name? Who’s your daddy? Is he rich like me?”

The same idea lies behind the second line of Proverbs 17:6 and the contemporary taunt “Who’s your daddy,” namely that one’s worth or identity arises from the identity (and, therefore, the worth) of one’s father.

Interestingly, Jesus’ virgin birth very early on led to the gossipy slander that Joseph did not, in fact, sire his son Jesus, bur rather some Gentile. “Where is YOUR father?” the Pharisees taunt Jesus in John 8:19. Later, in the same argument with Jesus (John 8:41), they challenge him with “We were not born of fornication [implying that Jesus was!]. The taunt “Who’s your daddy” is far older than the Zonbies song in 1968!

Knowing that “A is the glory of B” means that B comes to mind when A is being spoken about helps us to understand statements in the Psalms that would otherwise be very murky indeed.

Consider, for example, the introduction to Psalm 57, written by King David:

1 O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and give praise, even with my glory.
2 Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn.
3 I will praise You, O LORD, among the peoples,
And I will sing praises to You among the nations.

Now, consider that interesting phrase at the end of verse 1: even with my glory. What is that talking about? What does it refer to? If someone were to point to something we could see that is “David’s glory,” what would he point to?

Well, one must know something about David to answer that question. And, the thing we would need to know is listed in 2 Samuel 23:1 which introduces the last words of King David before he died:

Now these are the last words of David. Thus says David the son of Jesse; Thus says the man raised up on high, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel.

Among the things for which David is renowned – things that are his glory, if you will – is the fact that he is “the sweet psalmist of Israel.”

We have lost a sense of the term “psalmist” that was clear to the original listeners of this Old Testament text, namely that a psalm was a song accompanied by a plucked string instrument. No doubt, David developed his musical talent, particularly his skill on the harp, during the long days he spent alone in the fields with the sheep when he was a boy. It was a skill he maintained and matured into adulthood, and it shaped his formation of the Levitical choirs which he created for the worship of the Temple, even before Solomon constructed it.

Now, go back to verse 2 of Psalm 58: “Awake harp and lute! I will awaken the dawn,” David cries out. David addresses his signature instruments as if they are people he awakens from slumber. He declares that he will make such a torrent of music that even the sun will get up!

All that to explain this: when David says in Psalm 58:1 that he will sing and give praise, “even with my glory,” that phrase my glory does not refer to some fuzzy, mushy capacity of David’s soul; rather, it refers to the musical instrument(s) which invariably accompanied the songs which David composed in order to praise God.

So, what does Paul mean when he says “man is the glory of God?” Or that “woman is the glory of man?” It should now be obvious what he means. And, the implications of this are the subject of the next blog in this series.

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“Man, the glory of God” means what? Part One

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 November 2011 02:41 Written by Father Bill Tuesday, 15 November 2011 02:41

If anything in Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 sticks in the modern religious craw it is his statement in verse 7 of that chapter: “Man is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.” Most religious feminists choke at “man, the glory of God” exactly because it is juxtaposed and constrasted with “woman, the glory of man”

First of all, to avoid saying – nay, to deny – that woman is the glory of God is to insult every feminist sensability you can think of. Whatever Paul means by “man, the glory of God,” it necessarily follows that woman is not the glory of God in the same sense that the man is. Of course, it is also true that whatever Paul means by saying that woman is the glory of man, it necessarily follows that man the male not the glory of man in the way that the woman is. For that matter, the man is also also is not the glory of woman! Again, leaving aside precisely what Paul means by these concepts, they are not reciprocal. They are strictly hierachical (cf. 1 Corinthians 1 11:3)

“Glory of God” and “glory of man” are ideas that identify male and female and which distinguish each from the other. And, this can be known for certain from Paul’s exposition even if we do not understand what either of these phrases mean! Throughout the entirety of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, males and females are distinguished from one another. Their natures, their behaviors (both what they do, what they should do, what they should not do), they relationship to one another – all these are distinguished from one another over and over again.

“Man, the glory of God,” then, is an idea Paul predicates of males, not females. And, “woman, the glory of man” is an idea Paul predicates of females, not males. Before we delve into what Paul means by either phrase, we must acknowledge this: the phrases are not synonymous in any sense though they are formally identical. And, we know they are not synonymous in any sense because they are used by Paul to distinguish the man from the woman and vice versa.

To see this, examine the following text of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 in which the words man and woman are rendered in a color different from the surrounding text. Just glance over the passage and you will see – in a visual rather than a semantic way – how Paul distingthishes man from woman and woman from man throughout the entire passage:

 2 Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man , and the head of Christ is God.

4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.

7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man . 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man . 9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.

13 Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

Again, this little exercise establishes that in Paul’s writings, this passage is undoubtedly teaching us about men (i.e. males) and women, and that it distinguishes them from one another at every point. The core distinction between men and women is contained in those phrases man, the glory of God and woman, the glory of man.

We have not yet engaged the meaning of these phrases (that’s coming in subsequent blogs).  But, even without a handle on the meanings of these phrases, we may confidently affirm the following:

  • Men and women differ from one another as glory bearers.  Man is God’s glory (whatever that means), and woman is not.  Woman is man’s glory (whatever that means), and man is not.
  • Paul’s purpose in this passage is to urge upon the Corinthians a specific practice: the covering of women and the absence of covering of men.  In just what context this practice is to be followed is the subject of another blog.  All Christians who comply with Paul’s prescription do so within some sort of context, even those Christians who, for example, have their women with some sort of covering on their heads in all settings, public and private.  Men, for example, will cover their heads because of the weather, but will uncover in settings deemed appropriate for compliance with Paul’s directive in 1 Corinthians 11.
  • There are three glories specified in this passage: man (who is God’s glory), woman (who is man’s glory), and the woman’s hair (which is her own glory).  Keeping these three glories in mind is critical to understanding the meaning of Paul’s prescription.  Specifically, the woman’s hair is given to her both as a covering and as a glory (both are mentioned in verse 15. Consequently, the covering Paul mandates in verse 10 covers two glories: the woman’s glory (her hair) and the woman’s head (for she is man’s glory).  Only the man (God’s glory) is uncovered.

Before fully elucidating Paul’s teaching here, there remain several interpretive points to illumine, and these are the subject of subsequent blogs.  Watch for more.


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