Literalness and Awkward Passages

Being literal is the best way to read Scripture. Even when Scripture is being figurative, you can literally tell, usually. I say “usually” because when you watch the NT interpret OT passages, there are enough strange interpretations to keep an interpreter humble (Matthew 2:23 for instance).

Many people pride themselves on their Biblical literalness. The problem with this is that no one is. Literalness ceases as soon as we’re met with an inconvenient truth.

Literalness flies out the window as we find a handy justification to believe that the verse in question could mean many things, but certainly does not mean what it says.

1 Corinthians 11 about head coverings is a great example. There is much debate as to what it means. Some take it literally and those women cover their heads. Some don’t think it’s literal and so don’t. Others take it literally, but find excuses to dismiss it so as not to be troubled by its literalness.

–Paul’s point is not based on culture, it’s based on creation–the woman was made for the man.
–Paul’s point is not that the covering is long hair–if a woman is not covered she should have her hair cut, which would be redundant.

Paul’s point seems to be this–if a woman takes part in a speaking role in church her head should be covered. That’s what it literally means.

The fact that we don’t take it literally does not change this fact.

One thought on “Literalness and Awkward Passages”

  1. Head coverings are a vessel to convey the treasure of humility. It is possible for vessels to change. Circumcision is an example: in Abraham’s day it was a sign of righteousness by faith, but in Paul’s day it became a sign of righteousness by works. Therefore, circumcision is no longer a requirement for Christians.

    If a church chose to adopt this vessel, and could hold it in a way that would promote humility and submission in women, I would say “Amen” to that. We live in an age where there is such mixing up of the male and female that there is a definite need for Christians to make the distinctions clear again.

    The only problem I see with head-coverings is the “cultural” argument. Almost every picture I’ve seen of women in Paul’s time show them with their heads covered. If those pictures are accurate, then it was a custom at that time. I’ve also heard, but don’t know where to find the info at the moment, that there were certain classes of women (harlots, etc.) who flaunted these customs. Lack of covering their heads would be a vessel to indicate rebellion and wilfulness. Therefore, the women in the church were not to adopt a practice that was used as a vessel for this kind of spirit. It is possible that some took Paul’s teaching that there is “neither male nor female in Christ” too far.

    However, these arguments are assumptions. The important thing is that the treasure (humility, submission) is presented in a suitable vessel…one that will not be misunderstood or misapplied.

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