1 October 2014
First Corinthians 11 Analysis Almost two thousand years has passed since The First Letter to the Corinthians was written, and the letter is still widely known today. It is in chapter 11 that the readers are shown the guidelines for the roles of men and women to play in society’s everyday life. Today’s definition of what is culturally acceptable is vastly different from the time of when the letter was written, the message has lost its meaning throughout time. Due to the fact that the First Corinthians has been translated into several different languages, some of the meaning of the letter was lost in translation, making it difficult to understand the context in which Paul the Apostle left his people to interpret his letter. For instance, First Corinthians 11 is seen as a very controversial passage today, mainly due to the fact that the passage can be interpreted in several different ways, making it hard to get the true meaning of Paul’s message to the Corinthians. In First Corinthians 11, Paul puts an emphasis on the hierarchy of the Christian world. The main goal of this letter is keep maintaining the cultural conformity in Corinth to keep the peace among its people. A majority of the passage discusses how proper men and women should dress. The letter also directs the ongoing argument of equality among men and women. Although Paul discusses the hierarchy of the Christian world and the role they play, there is a defining line among the value put on men and women in Corinth. Paul begins First Corinthians 11 by praising his follower in Corinth for continuing to practice the customs he had taught them previously in Church (Ehrman, 2004). The commending of his Corinthian followers may have been a strategic move made by Paul, so that when he proceeded to give his criticisms later in the letter, the Corinthians would be more likely to heed his critical advice. A further encouragement to his followers to do as they did in the past and follow his instructions without hesitation. All through the rest of the letter, Paul gives his criticisms for the Corinthians for not participating in the traditions and breaking rules, meaning that he doesn’t truly praise his followers. Paul then proceeded to give his core message of the passage that he will return to several times in the passage. Paul writes to his followers in First Corinthians 11:2 that “Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ” (Ehrman, 2004). This hierarchy system is the base of Paul’s belief system on his stance on the spirituality placement of men and women. It shows that at this time, women were at the bottom of the hierarchy, leaving them with little freedom and power. The passage then moves to the appropriate clothing to wear and the proper way to pray while worshipping. First Corinthians 11:4 discusses the matter of whether one should wear a head covering while praying. The verse says that a man who prophesies and prays with a head covering disgraces his head (Ehrman, 2004). This is due to the fact that it was traditional for men to wear veils on their heads when worshipping idols (Krell, 2010). For this reason men were to keep their heads uncovered to honor Christ. However, women were to have their hair covered at all times when they were in a public setting or while worshipping. For if a woman prophesies or prays with her head uncovered is equally disgraceful as having her head shaved. A woman who doesn’t have her head veiled brings disgrace to her family’s name. At this time it was a tradition for women to have their heads veiled to show their respect to their husbands and the Church (Marlowe, 2008). Paul makes this statement to encourage women to conform to the tradition to prevent any distractions from the communities worship.
During this time there were many women who took “all things are lawful to me” (Ehrman, 2004) to break free from the