Greek and Head Coverings

Discussion in 'Languages' started by CharlieJ, Feb 27, 2009.

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  1. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    I copied this here to avoid further broadening the other thread. Since few Christians really know Greek well, it is important that misconceptions of Greek are challenged. Lynnie, I do not know if you read Greek, but your statement is erroneous. I'm not saying your theology is wrong, only your argument from the Greek text. Please allow me to explain below.

    First, a bit of a resume from me, since it is reasonable for someone to be skeptical of my assertion. I minored in Greek in college, pushing myself beyond the program. By the time I finished undergrad, I had 15 credits of graduate level advanced Greek. I could have stayed on at the University teaching beginning Greek, but I chose not to. During my studies, I had a class in which I translated and exegeted the entire book of 1 Corinthians. I have discussed this particular passage at length with the Greek departments of several different schools. I have continued to teach myself Greek, reading several Greek grammars cover to cover and translating around 2 chapters per day. I also tutor Greek for ministerial students. I have branched out some to study the Greek of the Apostolic Fathers and early Christian writings, as well as the morphology and pronunciation of the Koine period.

    If you will excuse that digression, I'll address the issue you raised, then add a little bit of my own analysis. You spoke about two nouns in the passage. I will examine those. The first is εξουσιαν, translated "power" (KJV) in v. 10. The word generally means authority or ruling power, and whatever it means here must be determined by context. There is no parallel usage of this word for comparison. It does not mean "hat" or "shawl" or "hair" or any particular object. So, in brief, this cannot possibly tell us what the covering is, only that it is related to authority.

    The second word is περιβολαιου, translated "covering" in v.15. What is interesting about this word is that it usually refers to a piece of clothing, like a cloak (LXX - Ex. 22:7; Deut. 22:12; Ps.102:26). Since περιβολαιου is the object of the preposition αντι, often meaning "instead of" or "in the place of", those who assert that hair is the equivalent of a cloth covering are doing so by making an exegetical argument from the passage. They are not simply ignoring the text or ignorant of Greek.

    There is actually a third term for the covering. It is the prepositional phrase κατα κεφαλης in v.4, literally "down from the head." This verse is rendered quite loosely into English (for good reason), but literally would read, "Every man praying or prophesying having down from the head dishonors his head." The object of "having" is unstated, but "down from the head" describes where it is. This does not bode well for hats, which usually sit on top of (επι) the head.

    The verbs used for "cover" throughout the passage are various inflected forms of κατακαλυπτω. This verb is well translated by "cover" and is used in various contexts. Some have no reference to clothing, such as fat covering organs (Ex. 29:22) or the waters covering the sea (Is. 11:9). However, in the two passages in the Septuagint where a piece of clothing is in view, it is in both cases a veil (Gen 38:15; Susanna 32) covering the face. The Greek lexicon BAGD also indicates that in the middle voice (the form in which the 1 Cor. 11 verbs occur), the prevalent secular usage meant to put on a veil which covered the whole face. In other words, a "hat" is not in view. It is the top and front of the head, the face, that is covered.

    The adjective translated "uncovered" is ακατακαλυπτος. This is a very rare word, but its single use in the Septuagint of Lev. 13:45 is extremely enlightening. The ESV reads "let the hair of his head hang loose." However, the Greek text would read, if woodenly translated, "His head [will be] uncovered (ακατακαλυπτος)." Here, the word head is used to mean hair of the head. Hebrew does this too, and the Greek is actually following the Hebrew literally. So, the phrase "head uncovered" can actually mean "having the hair unkempt" or something very similar.

    It seems to me, reading with my Greek eyes, that there are two possible interpretations of the covering. First, if it is an actual piece of cloth, it is NOT a hat. It is a veil, and the purpose is to cover the face. For some reason, in English, we associate "head" more with the back then the front, but the usage of the verb in the Koine and earlier periods unambiguously points to the face.

    Or, it is possible to see the covering as decently ordered hair and the uncovering as indecently exposed or inappropriate hair. Just to give a cultural reference, in the movie Loving Leah, the Orthodox Jewess has beautiful long, red hair. However, she puts it up into something like a bun and wears a wig that is barely shoulder length. She explains that only her husband should see and desire the beauty of her hair.

    And, as a confession, I did not always hold this opinion. I was pro hats in college and argued with several Greek professors about it. I didn't change my mind until studying the issue again after college.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2009
  2. he beholds

    he beholds Puritan Board Doctor

    Thank you for the tone of the OP! It was easy to read and respectful.
  3. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Great exegesis, Charlie. There nothing I could add sitting here at work. Now, when I get home . . . nah, good job.
  4. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    Charlie, you told LadyFlynt she was incorrect, but you quoted Lynnie. Did you mean Lynnie?
  5. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    Great apologies. I will edit. Somewhere between my lexicons I got the name wrong. Duh! Way to keep me humble ;)
  6. Scottish Lass

    Scottish Lass Puritan Board Doctor

    Not quibbling with the Greek at all, but I don't know any current women who cover who wear hats. Most of us wear some version of a scarf, and many cover their hair completely.
  7. Knoxienne

    Knoxienne Puritan Board Graduate

    I wear my hair in a bun with a snood and a hat over that. That way it's all covered for services.
  8. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Most in the Dutch tradition wear hats.
  9. Scottish Lass

    Scottish Lass Puritan Board Doctor

    And I have no problem with that. Charlie's treatment seemed to address only hats, however.
  10. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    According to my reading of the passage, if the covering is some kind of clothing, it is designed to cover the top of the head and the face. In other words, a hair covering is not the intention of the passage. All the biblical usages (Septuagint) and the prevailing secular usage points to that. There may be other evidence that I don't have access to, and if that is the case, I would revise my statement.
  11. LadyFlynt

    LadyFlynt Puritan Board Doctor

    However, church history and practice has never backed this view (covering the face).
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2009
  12. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    I have only ever seen the hat version. I saw one lady at an ARP church with a scarf on & assumed that she was a muslim seeker.:lol:
  13. Augusta

    Augusta Puritan Board Doctor

    Charlie, doesn't the "sign of power" on her head give the impression that it is the sign that is important and not what it is? Many times in scripture it is the thing signified which is important, and not so much what is used. Like for instance baptism, it is a washing, but can be pouring, dunking, or sprinkling. The water, however, must be present. Or with communion, you must have bread, not really a specific kind, and there must be wine, but not necessarily a Merlot, and even grape juice is allowable according to some.

    I can see veiling possibly being necessary, I think of the seraphim in Isa. 6 who covered their face. Also, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries women wore veils coming down from their hats. In light of your stating that it is the top of the head and face that seem to be important from the text, this does not rule out hats per se. Just because back then most covering were with cloth does not mean that a cloth hat is out of bounds. Hats are wool cloth and even rattan is a shaped cloth though not the same type.
  14. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    CharlieJ, I found your post interesting. Perhaps I'm being dim, but I'm not sure what you are concluding. Based on your analysis, the proper modern application of this passage should be ....
  15. Knoxienne

    Knoxienne Puritan Board Graduate

    Another reason for my many hats! :graduate::pilgrim::scholar::gpl:
  16. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    Well, the word "sign" isn't in there. The text literally reads that the woman should have "authority" on her head. Translations beyond that are conjectures as to the intention, as even the BAGD Greek lexicon admits. For what it's worth, I think "sign of authority" is as good a guess as any other. I'm not sure how that affects the broader interpretation.

    I think this passage, along with Moses' veil (Ex. 34; 2 Cor. 3) lend credence to the idea that God is concerned about the front, not the back, of the head. I am not aware of any place in Scripture where a woman covers the back of her head (though it may be in there; its a big book).

    Yes, you're right. I should have spoken more carefully. A hat with a front veil would be considered a "down from the head." A hat which just sits on top would not.

    -----Added 2/27/2009 at 01:53:03 EST-----

    I'm not entirely sure. My purpose was to show that the Greek is not a magic bullet that solves the exegesis of the passage. It is important to give weight to both grammatical and historical features. Also, several people have raised broader theological concerns (creation, OT law, etc.) that are relevant. There are really multiple views and subviews on the teaching of this verse. So, I'm not willing to specify any more than in my original post. This is, after all, the languages forum.
  17. Augusta

    Augusta Puritan Board Doctor

    Thank you Charlie, I am out of thank you's. :)
  18. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    Thank you for your time and imput, I really do appreciate it.

    I did not refer to the noun you mentioned in paragraph 3.

    You said "The second word is περιβολαιου, translated "covering" in v.15. What is interesting about this word is that it usually refers to a piece of clothing, like a cloak (LXX - Ex. 22:7; Deut. 22:12; Ps.102:26). Since περιβολαιου is the object of the preposition αντι, often meaning "instead of" or "in the place of", those who assert that hair is the equivalent of a cloth covering are doing so by making an exegetical argument from the passage. They are not simply ignoring the text or ignorant of Greek."

    Piper/Grudems's Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Ch 5 ( Thomas Schreiner) pages 126-137, long exegesis on 1 Cor 11 with Greek.

    Page 126: Indeed if all Paul has been requiring is long hair, then his explanation of the situation in verses 4-6 is awkward and even misleading. Verse 15 can be explained in such a way that Paul is not rejecting his earlier call for a shawl. The word for ( anti) in verse 15 probably indicates not substitution but equivalence. In other words, Paul is not saying that a woman has been given long hair instead of a covering. Rather he is saying that a woman has been given long hair as a covering. His point seems to be that a woman's long hair is an indication that she needs to wear a covering" ( italics in text).

    This is only one little snip from a much longer treatment loaded with Greek in Piper/Grudem's book. I include it to show that not all Greek scholars treat the preposition and passage the same way you do. I DO appreciate you taking time to write your post, but I am not convinced.

    I take it we all looked at our interlinears, that Paul uses the exact same verb in verses 2 & 23 for handing down headcoverings and communion? So whatever that headcovering is, it is given to the church the same way communion is?

    Thanks again for your time and imput.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2009
  19. Archlute

    Archlute Puritan Board Senior

    You're forgetting that Moses is a part of our history :)
  20. LadyFlynt

    LadyFlynt Puritan Board Doctor

    If you read the passage, you will find that he covered his face because of the glow from being "face to face" with Gd. He covered his face from the people. Entirely different scenario.
  21. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    That was really wonderful! I use to believe that it was the hair past the neck of which Paul spoke, before turning to the thinking that he was using it as an example. However, I could be persuaded with more discussion to once again think it is the hair which would come down past the neck. I am glad to see a well thought out and accurately interpreted account of this text. Thanks for your work!
  22. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    Again... if it's hair he's talking about, why does he recommend shearing short hair rather than allowing it to grow back?
  23. Archlute

    Archlute Puritan Board Senior

    It's interesting that in 2 Cor. 3 Paul makes the connection between Moses and believers regarding their being transformed from glory unto glory, which seems to him not to have been an entirely different scenario, although a biblicistic reading of those two seemingly separate texts might find a way to rule that out . You should have noticed by the smiley that I was making a statement in a chiding and friendly manner, and not attempting an argument.

    However, since you would argue, I should note that what I always find more interesting here is that some of the women who become so adamant on this issue seem to miss the point being made altogether. The veil (which for other good linguistic reasons not yet mentioned here I take to be the dear lady's hair) is a sign of submission and humility not merely to the husband, but also before the church and the holy angels, and yet here on the PB we regularly have women who would seek to hammer the issue, lecturing and usurping other men of the church! How ironic is that?!? Or, how inconsistent, rather. I should think that they should go home and discuss these things with their husbands, rather than make a scene of themselves on the internet. Pronouncements do not seem to me to be very fitting from you in light of the seriousness by which you would seek to take the scriptures.
  24. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    ''yet here on the PB we regularly have women who would seek to hammer the issue, lecturing and usurping other men of the church!.......make a scene of themselves on the internet."

    "Pronouncements do not seem to me to be very fitting from you in light of the seriousness by which you would seek to take the scriptures."

    This criticism of LF's heart and motivations is enough to make me sick :barfy:

    I thank God for women like Lady Flynt who want to encourage other women to obey the word, study the Word, and let their thoughts be full of God's Word.

    Guess what...there are some women out there who are actually smarter in theology than many men. Submission is not about brains or ability, it is about God's created order. And last time I looked the internet was neither a church or a marriage. It is a place where brothers and sisters as family interact to challenge and edify one another. Thank God for women like Lady Flynt who are not watching the latest Beth Moore DVD, but trying to dig deep into Reformed doctrine.
  25. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    That is worthwhile remembering. If men interact on a board where women are freely permitted to discuss matters then they really shouldn't ask them to learn at home as if they are not welcome in the discussion. But the daughters of Sarah should also seek to reflect the created order which exists in marriage and the church when they are participating in discussions on the internet, and exhibit the same meek and quiet spirit which is in the sight of God of great price.
  26. LadyFlynt

    LadyFlynt Puritan Board Doctor


    Thank you to the others that responded on my behalf.

    On the question of my integrity, as I've stated before, my husband is fully aware of everything I participate in, encouraged my joining of the PB years ago, and we discuss the threads here.
  27. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

  28. Mark Hettler

    Mark Hettler Puritan Board Freshman

    I am Lynnie's husband. I want to say that the first thing she did, years ago, when she began considering what the Bible has to say on this subject, was to "go home and discuss these things with her husband." And I consider the insuation that she did anything contrary to that to be slander. I can also assure you that she is not here to "lecture" anyone but simply participate in intelligent discussion of what the Bible says.

    Most of her insights on what the Greek says on this subject, we worked through together. I am not a Greek scholar either, but having an M.Div. from Westminster, I think it's fair to say I know good Greek scholarship when I see it. When the subject first came up in our home, I went to the Westminster Seminary library and read every commentary on 1 Corinthians 11 that they had there at the time, from Calvin to International Critical, and I am satisfied that our understanding of the Greek in this passage, while not unanimously held, is unquestionably a credible one.
  29. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    If I may interject something here--

    These diversions to discuss the character of the debaters are ad hominems which will serve no useful purpose either to discovery of the truth or to bringing unity to the body of Christ. Rather, this kind of argumentation--if it can be called that--serves only to inflame emotions and cause strife and divisions. In the interests of brotherly love and kind discussion, please think about what you're about to post before you do so. How would you feel if your post was by someone else, directed towards you?
  30. Archlute

    Archlute Puritan Board Senior

    Dear Mark,

    I am speaking about current application of the doctrine of that text to the discussions on this board. I said nothing as to whether or not the issue was discussed with you in the past or not, and to be honest, that point is really irrelevant. If I found that my wife was making corrections of other men on an internet forum, theological or otherwise, I would make some corrections of my own, and would assist her in finding a more productive use of her time.

    The church, being the body of Christ, is not limited in its interaction to the four walls of the building during formal worship services, and I expect of my family that they will abide by Christian principles whether inside or outside that setting, when it comes to relational structures. If you go back and reread her remark, you may be able to understand how it comes off not as simple and intelligent discussion, but rather as a dogmatic statement that I find does not fit the mold in which you are attempting to have it placed.

    The same could be said of any number of threads that have come up on the PB regarding this issue that I can remember from years back. It seems that it has become a greater fixation that is right or healthy, and that more often than not the "simple discussion" has turned into a defensive lecture that does not well adorn the very doctrine taught by the apostles on this matter. This issue should not become the point of identity that it seems to have become with some on this board. I would rather see Gospel, Christ, and good works be a much greater part of our identity here than argumentation over fine points of Greek, which I might say are not being grasped as much as would be hoped.

    We've already had a number of threads like this, and I think that it may be more profitable to step off of our hobby horses, and move into some other waters that would be of greater benefit to our minds, seeing how most minds have been made up on this point, on this board, for some time now. When that is the case, these threads move from helpful discussion to unseemly shield-beating.
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