Our scholars always find a way out of difficult Biblical passages. Verification of scholarly opinions is as varied as the scholars themselves, and often their conclusions come out very different from each other. So it is left for the believer to pick and choose the explanation that fits his taste, his culture, his preconceived ideas. Often pastors make their decisions based on what he is sure his church will be able to swallow.
If this sounds cynical to you, take a look at some of the findings of modern scholarship regarding the whole controversy swirling around the place of women in the church. Indeed, the even deeper question of authority and church government. But just before you do that, go to the original and perfect Scholar of the Church, Jesus Himself as manifested by His Holy Spirit, and as communicated in word form to one Apostle Paul. Read his words in I Corinthians 11 and 14, for example, with no commentary. No scholarship. I'll read it with you. Let's pretend we are supposed to read it as it is, and obey it as the writer intended.
No cheating now! Put Macarthur aside, though I know he is a heavyweight in the Scriptures. Put them all aside, and just read Paul. What do you get?
Do you get that Paul himself was a scholar? Schooled in the law of Moses? I think so. The Holy Spirit did not tell Paul to let Moses go in his thinking processes. We who are under the law of the Spirit have bought into all that God ever wanted from His people. Holiness and order are surely two of those things.
In dealing with women issues, Paul appeals to the creation and then the fall, as recorded in Genesis, a book which he includes in "the Law." Don't we also use these Old Covenant books as examples for issues we need to deal with on a regular basis? The courage of a David, the faith of an Abraham, the prophecies of Isaiah and the rest? Does God forbid or encourage use of the revelations before Jesus came to earth? I think the answer is obvious.
Most modern Western believers have given up on the idea of exclusive male leadership. Of those who remain firm on this issue, most have abandoned the head covering. I think it is safe to say that both teachings were united in Paul's mind. To have male authority is to have the wives of those men indicating their support of same by a visible symbol. Paul saw this as one issue, not two. Perhaps we should not divorce the two either.
What! Oh the groans coming up as a chorus from women of God. What!? Return to another century, when women were downtrodden and... Hold on, hold on. The only century I appeal to is the first century, the one when all the foundations were laid. Nor do I wish for women to be walked upon by men, only to return to a supreme respect of God-given authority and make that respect public.
Impossible! Women won't do it! Ask your wives this very day to start wearing a head covering in church. The response will be anywhere from ridicule to...You must fill in the blank.
But the question remains as to whether this teaching is from God, not whether a woman will yield to it. For there are women who do. In many nations. In some denominations. And individuals sprinkled here and there. Why do they do it? What translation are they reading?
Good that you bring up translation. Unfortunately, the translation you read about this matter, could be a determinant as to where you will go from here. KJV people, usually the most conservative of folks, point to I Corinthians 11:16, and end the matter right there. Does the Bible not say, did Paul not say, "Look, I don't want to argue about this, and I won't. No matter what I just said about nature and the book of Genesis and common sense and the angels and all the rest, it's really not that important, and none of the churches have made a rule about this, so go do what you want." ? (My paraphrase)
That surely is what KJV says, isn't it? This issue is dead. Not to be argued about. Just my opinion. Next issue, the Lord's Supper.
But what if the New American Standard Bible is true? This is Macarthur's favorite, and I think he is not alone in praising the accuracy of this translation. One word in the NASB is different. Only one. But if it is true, readers need to be going to the hat or scarf stores this very day.
The English word switches from such, "we have no such custom," to other, "we have no other practice."
In other words, you people who want to argue, and introduce some new teaching into the church, you need to understand that from the beginning women have showed respect in this way to their husbands, and we are not changing that now. No other custom has come along to replace the obvious, so cover your heads.
So everything is based on one Greek word? Not at all! Paul never forbids the covering. Even in the KJV, it is quite a permissible thing for a woman who "gets" the teaching that Paul is trying to share with the church. But not required.
In the NASB, (and NIV) there is suddenly a requirement added to his line of thought. I want to talk about the line of thought later, but for now, let's take a deeper look at the Greek. For non-scholars like myself, the best way to do that is to consult one Mr. Strong. Strong's concordance says that the word used, toyootos, means literally "truly this, of this sort." It is translated "like" or "such (an one)" in the KJV. Given that clear meaning, it is not yet obvious why modern translations, usually trying to clarify and update meanings for later English audiences, would have changed the very essence of the word.
Score one for the KJV thus far. "Such" fits the original Greek. So let's see how that word is used by Paul and others elsewhere in the New Testament. Slam dunk. In every case, Strong's meaning applies. Never is the text talking about some "other" class. Always it is "of this sort."
So what was going on in the minds of translators when they changed, in this one passage, the basic meaning of the word? A more modern translation, speaking to moderns who do not care for this doctrine in the least, would surely have left the original Strong/KJV meaning?
There is one more possibility for the text. To which "custom" does Paul refer? The old custom of covering the head? Or the new practice emerging , of leaving the head bare? Could Paul be saying, "You people who are trying to introduce new ways into the church of Jesus need to understand that we have no such custom and will not abide by your innovations. Cover your heads!"
In my mind, the issue is not settled. I have learned not to base my beliefs on what I see around me in the church, whether a "good" or "bad" one, whether conservative or liberal, my denomination or someone else's. The question is always, what did the apostles say, and why did they say it?
I'd like to tackle that question in the second and final portion of this message. After that, consider his teaching, and decide on your own, if you believe the KJV gives you that option, about what you will do about it.
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