1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Instalment 3
Analysing and categorising the different types of arguments and information being used by Paul in 1 Cor 11:2-16
I have argued in the first 2 instalments and in further replies that Paul’s main argument is clear and direct “man ought not” and “woman ought to”.
I have also argued that it is essential to delineate this main argument and to understand what else he says in relation to this main argument.
Further below, you will see my attempt to do this. I divided the content of 1 Cor 11:2-16 into 4 types of literature. I have colour coded them as per the following
Next, is my allocation of these 4 types to the passage.
Now I must admit that even in my allocation, I have some uncertainties in my mind. e.g. should verse 3 be part of the main argument or is it really part of the underlying theology, or is it acting as both?
However, once you look at this passage with these allocations, I think it becomes clearer how Paul is constructing his argument. And that will help us determine the place of each individual statement that he makes. Surely, what is background practical information should not be confused to be part of the main argument or to be given the weight and gravity of the underpinning theological statements.
Once we see his main argument and the underlying theology that is underpinning it, then we have some chance of making sense of and determining why he is giving the background practical information.
It is a bit like a sermon that contains illustrations. The illustrations are there to illustrate and support the main points of the sermon. They are not the main points. Even though we unfortunately sometimes remember the illustrations better than the main points, we need to allow the theology of the sermon to inform our thinking and our lives. If you just remember the illustration, it is very likely in time you will start thinking it is the main theology and the main argument of the sermon. You will elevate it to a place that was not intended. This is what often happens with 1 Cor 11:2-16. The things that are not the main argument and not the main theology are elevated to a role and importance that is not intended by Paul.
Much time and effort is spent on trying to understand what Paul is saying by finding the “cultural key”, the cultural background in the underlying statements, as the key to what Paul is saying. NO, what Paul is saying is abundantly clear in his main argument “man ought not” and “woman ought” AND the underpinning theological statements are abundantly clear. In regard to the background information statements we must primarily seek to understand them in view of what Paul is arguing in the main argument and underlying theological statements. If our key to understanding Paul is culture and understanding culture then … it becomes easy to argue away his main argument and to dismiss his underlying theology.
PLEASE, try and read and understand the background statements as they are before you resort to importing culture. What you think was the cultural situation in regard to hair length and or head coveing wearing in society at the time is not the key to the passage. Rather, understanding what Paul is doing and arguing and saying is the key. Try and figure out why in terms of his main argument he is giving this specific background information. If he wanted to tell you that the key is how Romans did their hair or when they wore their hats, he would have told you. But he doesn’t. Yet, he does give you specific background information that is linked to and illlustrates what he is saying in his main arguments.
Even if you don’t know anything about the Corinthian or Roman or greek culture of the day … you can still read Paul and clearly see that he is saying “man ought not” and “woman ought” and he is basing this on a particular view of creation, of the way that God has created man and woman.
In the following instalments, hopefullly, I will explain how the background information fits it with his main argument and theological statements.
But, for now please read and re-read this passage, thinking about what is the main argument, what is the underlying theology and what is the background supporting information and how they might fit together.