Bill Curry said:
I understand that commentaries are very useful tools if you want to ignore a clear teaching in the text. I suppose your commentaries on 2 Timothy 3:16-17 let us know that the author intended to include the qualifier “If the appropriate Calvinist commentaries are available.”
I think it is fairly clear that you don’t think or act like the Bible is inspired. You are just in denial about it. Steve, I await you next round of insults. Let your light shine.
1.Clear to whom? The original audience? Or a modern audience?
Clear to the Corinthians? Or clear to an American living in the 21C?
Curry’s obscurantist dismissal is just as silly as saying that “commentaries on Dante or Shakespeare are very useful tools if you want to ignore the clear meaning of the text.”
We study Bible commentaries for the same reason as we bone up on Medieval Florentine cultural history and or Elizabethan cultural history if we wish to understand the text as it was meant to be understood by the implied reader.
All Curry’s objection achieves is to illustrate the intellectual backwardness of unbelief.
2.One of the primary interpretive issues in 1 Cor 11:3-16 is the cultural significance of fashion at that time and place.
It should be unnecessary to point out that where a 1C Greco-Roman or Jewish dress-code is concerned, what would be “clear” to the Corinthians is not automatically clear to a 21C American.
The inspiration of Scripture is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Christians believe in historical revelation. The interpretation of Scripture is naturally bound up with the customs and conventions in which it was revealed. That’s the port of entry. The inspired writers exploit the cultural preunderstanding of their target audience to convey their message.
3.Let’s looks at just a few of the salient considerations. As one commentator explains:
Research by classicists demonstrates an unevenness and fluidity in the expectations and status of women in mid-century Roman culture, depending on a variety of factors…Augustus reformed family law in ways which affected the status of women some three times between 18BC and AD 9.
How does this relate to language about “head” (kephale)? (i) The laws of Augustus to which we have alluded also modified the system of guardianship (tutela) of women inherited from the closing yeas of the Republic…Under Claudius guardianship of freeborn women was abolished, although not for freedwomen.
Further, a considerable amount of archaeological research on this subject also demands attention…Archaeological evidence shows “the side-spread use of male liturgical head coverings in the city of Rome, in Italy, and in numerous cities in the Roman East…on coins, statues and architectural monuments from around the Mediterranean Basin.” Men covering their heads in the context of prayer and prophecy was a common pattern of Roman piety.
A. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Eerdmans 2000), 801-802,805.
This is from the standard commentary on the Greek text of 1 Corinthians. I’d add that Thiselton is not a “Calvinist commentator.” And he inclines to the egalitarian position, which puts him to the left of me. So I’m not citing a sympathetic source.
The background in Roman law and Roman piety, which would be clear to readers living in the mid-1C Roman Empire, would not be clear to modern readers.
Why should the length of a man’s hair be an issue? In Paul’s world, for a man to attach too much importance to the way his hair was dressed hinted at effeminacy, at sexual ambiguity. If he let his hair grow long, it proclaimed his homosexuality both for Jews and for Gentiles. The Roman Juvenal speaks dismissively of “a long-haired catamite” (Satires 8:130), whereas the Jewish philosopher Philo rails against homosexuals because of the “provocative way they curl and dress their hair” (The Special Laws 3:36). Hair was grown long in order to create a feminine hairdo. The normal hair length for men was the short-back-and-sides that one sees on Roman statues of the period. For Jews the standard was set by the priests: “They shall not have their heads or let their locks grow long; they shall only trim the hair on their heads” (Ezk 44:20).
Lesbians shaved their heads to be comfortable when wearing wigs, or else cut it short as men did. Lucian describes a woman “with her hair closely clipped in the Spartan style, boyish-looking and quite Masculine” (The runaways, 27).
J. Murphy-O-Connor, 1 Corinthians (Doubleday 1998), 112-113.
Murphy-O’Connor is not a “Calvinist commentator.” He is a liberal Catholic Bible scholar and authority on Roman Corinth.
And what he says about hairdos at the time of writing is not interchangeable with modern American culture.
In Jerusalem, Tarsus, and for some of the women of Corinth (including members of eastern immigrant communities, probably including many Jews), it sufficed to cover the hair, the most prized potentially public object of male desire (e.g., Apuleius Metam. 2.8; Sipre Num . 11:2.1-3). Traditionalists expected modest wives to shield their beauty from other men’s gaze (e.g., Seneca Controv. 2.7.6).
Few expected single girls, who were supposed to need husbands, to cover their hair, but married women were to protect their hair from public view. Well-to-do Roman matrons, however, paid well for expensive hairstyles, following fashions generated by the impresses; upper-class women were far less likely to cover their heads (cf. 1 Tim 2:9). In public, even well-to-do roman women probably pulled a mantle over their heads, but if the church met in homes, the need for such behavior may not have been evidence. Because mot Christians gathered in the wealthier homes, Christians of different social strata and background met together.
C. Keener, 1-2 Corinthians (Cambridge 2005), 91-92.
Keener is not a “Calvinist commentator.” His hails from the Assemblies of God. And he’s an egalitarian, unlike me.
He’s describing the unwritten rules of a multicultural civilization very unlike our own.
Once again, this sort of historical context is not something which would be plain to a modern reader belonging to an entirely different culture.
Militant unbelievers are so duplicitous. On the one hand, they dismiss the Bible as the product of a Bronze or Iron Age culture.
On the other hand, they dismiss an interpretation which is culturally sensitive to, and historically informed by, the customs and conventions of that time and place.
But I want to thank Bill Curry for once again reminding us of how retrograde unbelievers must be to justify their unbelief.