St. Paul and Sex

Written by Father Bill No Comments

“Man is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.”

Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 5 is not difficult to understand, though religious feminists seem to find it challenging. On the other hand, Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 seems to be very difficult to understand if one surveys the almost wildly diverse interpretations given to it by just about everyone (including both patriarchalists and religious feminists).

So, while Paul in Ephesians is merrily spun by religious feminists, his teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 is usually ignored as treating some obscure cultural issue pertaining to First Century Corinth, but having no relevance to modern Christian faith. It’s commonly referred to as “the head covering passage,” though the covering of women is actually an application, a behavioral consequence, of the truth about the sexes which Paul is expounding in 1 Corinthians 11.

The two passages, however, are the most dense in Paul’s letters on the subject of the sexes: That one is spun to say what it most emphatically never says and the other is dismissed as (at best) a cultural curiosity shows how seriously confused modern Christians are about the tenets of their faith at a place where the world attacks those tenets with special ferocity.

1 Corinthians 11 contains special problems beyond its subject matter. A quick beginning-to-end reading of the verses sounds very much as if Paul is reviewing teaching that he likely gave the Corinthians when he was previously with them. He speaks of man, the glory of God, and woman, the glory of man, as short-hand terms which he expects his readers to understand, for he writes not one syllable to define these concepts.

Add to these problems other obscure statements: because of the angels and authority on her head along with an obvious play on multiple meanings of the word head (Gk. kephale).

None of these difficulties in 1 Corinthians 11 are insuperable. Yet, they are variously parsed by students or expositors of the text. And, so, this present blog serves to introduce a series of additional blogs devoted to the overall teaching that Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians 11 as well as specific interpretive pitfalls in this passage (not pitfalls for Paul, of course; it’s his religious feminist despisers and his pusillanimous defenders who are always falling into pits!).

Prospective (at this point) blog topics in this series will include:

  • Glory of God, Glory of Man: what do these phrases mean?
  • Image and Glory: are they the same? Different? What difference?
  • Worship and Glory: the overall argument of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16
  • The Veiling of Women: an archaic Corinthian custom?
  • The role of the sexes in worship: why men are up front and leading while women are present and participating

Watch for additional blogs in the series.

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