April 28, 2008

Respect My Authoritaaaah.

I read last night in a letter from Paul to the Corinthians concerning what I have commonly misconceived as a call to orderly and biblically correct worship. In 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, Paul writes about the importance of the appearance of man and woman while praying and prophesying in the presence of God. He connects the relationship between man, woman and Christ by identifying the "head" of each: Christ is the head of man, man is the head of woman, and God is the head of Christ. You can think of it as one being over the other. The authority of one over another is meant to be a blessing from God that allows each an opportunity to willingly submit to that which they are accountable to, and therefore serve God; Biblical authority is nearly completely free of the power struggle we commonly associate with it, in a general sense. So, this little passage of scripture commonly mistaken as a set of chauvinistic rules regarding public worship is actually about the inherent authority in the Church, and, more deeply, our relationship with one another and with God. The "head" Paul speaks about is, by my understanding, literal and metaphorical; literally, he is saying to the Corinthian women of the time, who had begun dressing themselves after the women of the Roman upper class of the first century, to return to a traditional Jewish dress in the presence of God. Women covered their heads in early Christian tradition, and kept their hair long, which served as a natural head covering. Paul is always referencing the bigger picture: 

"But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven." 1 Cor. 11:5

Back then, if you were shaven, you were pretty much a prostitute; however, Paul is not speaking about head dresses and punishment. If you read it a little more carefully, the scripture is specific in addressing that this statement applies directly to the action of praying and prophesying, and that under those specific circumstances, this principle of Biblical authority should be adhered to vehemently. In the same regard, men did not cover their heads while praying and prophesying, because it was considered disgraceful, and also because, as I said earlier, the head of man is Christ, and Christ is the glory of God. This is also one reason why long hair was considered disgraceful on a man (because it is a natural head covering, like the woman's long hair). I know...Jesus had long hair. I'll give you my theory on this later.

I love how Paul brings this all back around by making the distinction that man is never independent of woman, nor woman of man. Though it is true that woman came from man in the beginning, and was created for man, it is also true that man comes through the woman. The man is born from the woman, and is raised and nurtured and loved by women, and it's amazing when you think about it that way, because you can really see the interdependance and the importance of both men and women. One does not rule tyrannically over the other, specifically for this natural principle of interdependence on one another, man to woman.

Now, my thoughts on Jesus' long hair; I may be wrong, but I think it is very highly likely that time has perpetuated a common misconception of Jesus' appearance into a nearly indisputable fact. The only thing wrong with this is the relative and unimportant nature of the topic itself. Can you tell me what long hair is? What is your frame of reference, what is your cultural background? Long hair is an unmeasurable, and therefore relative, term. I may say that long hair on a man is past his shoulders, and you may say that my hair, which spills over my ears, is long (and you would be my Grandfather, who still thinks the only acceptable haircut is the military crew cut). Whose opinion is right? Obviously no one's - there's a culture clash there. The only real evidence of any sort of "Biblically correct hairstyle" is right here in Paul's letter to the Corinthians, when he says, 

"Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?" 1 Cor. 11:14

Long hair meant longer than a woman's. End of story. I am sure that different sects and churches adhered to different understandings of the exact specifications of the scriptures according to what was culturally acceptable at the time, just as we do today. Many things about our religion has changed, and change is only natural. Paul has given the task of judging these matters to each individual church (1 Cor. 11:13), and he is aware that cultural ideals will inevitably enter into that judgment. So to wrap it up, Jesus may or may not have had long hair, according to His tradition, but it is more likely that he had shorter hair. Honestly, even if he did have long feminine hair and a beard, is Jesus accountable to Paul? Is Jesus any less Jesus because of his physical appearance? What if his long hair was a statement against religious regulations, since all who come to Him are not bound by religious law, because He has become the law? Wasn't Jesus already quite an enemy of the Jewish leaders of the time for rebelling blatantly against their doctrine? 

I'll stop here. I think you all get the point I am trying to make, and I could be wrong, but that's just my conclusion.
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