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1 Cor 11.16 - Character of Pauline Exhortation

1 Cor 11.16 - Character of Pauline Exhortation

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 JBL 110/1
(1992;
679-689
1 CORINTHIANS 11:16 ANDTHE CHARACTER OF PAULINE EXHORTATION
TROELS ENGBERG-PEDERSEN
Copenhagen University, DK-1150 Copenhagen K, Denmark
My aim in this article is not to reconsider yet again in detail the wholecomplex set of issues that have hitherto been raised in the scholarly discussion of 1 Cor 11:2-16, thereby adding one more item to an already bulkydossier of literature on the passage. Rather I intend to elucidate the meaningof the final verse of the passage, which has received only scant attention, andto employ that verse, together with a certain understanding of the overallframe of the passage, to throw light on Paul's argument in the passage itself.Two things stand out if one surveys the rich literature on 11:2-16:(1) There is not sufficient agreement among scholars on how to understanda number of points in the passage to prevent them from constantly proposingnew overall readings of 
it.
1
(2) The nonscholarly interest of scholars very ofteninfluences heavily their decisions on the exegetical questions.
2
Let me declaremyself briefly in relation to this connected issue of understanding andinterest.I believe that, details apart, there is in fact sufficient reason for understanding the passage in the traditional way: it is genuinely Pauline; it is concerned with the behavior of women in terms of headcovering when prayingor prophesying during service; and it advocates that a distinction be maintained in this respect between men and women, the men being required (orallowed) to pray and prophesy with their heads uncovered and the womenbeing required to do it with their heads covered.
3
In addition, I believe that
1
The most recent example is Thomas P. Shoemaker, "Unveiling of Equality: 1 Corinthians11:2-16;'
BTB
17 (1987) 60-63; he suggests that 11:3-9 is not Paul's own view but
"a
quote
derivedfrom those who would have women submit to veiling and accordingly to a hierarchical structure"(Shoemaker's emphasis).
2
This observation, of course, is based on an impression and cannot therefore be immediatelyconfirmed or disconfirmed. I think it applies, for example, to the discussions by Robin Scroggsin "Paul and the Eschatological Woman,"
JAAR
40 (1972) 283-303, esp. 297-302, and byElisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza in
In Memory of Her
(New York: Crossroad, 1983) 227-30.
3
That is, presumably with the top of their
ίμάτιον
thrownover their
heads,
but not so as to
cover
their
faces. For
argument
and
further
discussion
(also of the
archaeological evidence),
seeG.
Theissen,
Psychohgische Aspektepaulinischer 
Theologie
(FRLANT
131;
Göttingen: Vanden-hoeck & Ruprecht, 1983) 161-80.
679
 
680
Journal
of Biblical Literature
there
is sufficient reason for understanding central elements in the actual
content
of Paul's argument in the traditional way, but this
will
become clear later. As for interest, I have none here in showing that Paul is speaking either for or against women's liberation or any such thing, for the simple reason that
I
do not find it in any way binding on us whether he did one thing or the
other.
I do have another interest, however, which concerns the question of how in general to understand Paul's theology in 1 Corinthians. In particular,if Paul's "religion" is to be understood as an idiom that informs the way in which Paul and his associates thought, wrote, and acted, then how does hehimself formulate that idiom (in what we call his "theology," the grammar of 
that
idiom) and how does that formulation interact with his actual writing in
a
passagelike
the one we are considering?
4
Here, moreover, I have a morespecific interest, which is to show that in the particular way in which that
passage
argues, it explicitly reflects Paul's theology as developed elsewhere
in
1 Corinthians, thereby supporting an understanding of that theology as being
itself 
also concerned with the question of how to employ the Christianidiom in one's own argumentative practice.
5
The
second thing that one may note about the scholarly literature on the
passage
is that although scholars speak and write about 1 Cor 11:2-16,
very 
few actually say anything about 11:2.
6
But that, surely, is where we shouldstart.
I.
The Frame (11:2, 3, 17, 22, 23) When 11:2 is read in its context (both backward, to 11:1, and forward, to11:17, 22, and 23), three ideas in the
verse
stand out: (a) that of praising,(b) that of the Corinthians remembering Paul, and (c) that of their holding
on
to his teachings. The second of these ideas takes up directly 11:1 at the
end
of the preceding section and I shall come back to it later. The
first
and
third
ideas are connected, as is clear from w. 17, 22, and 23: In v. 17 Paulspeaks of something that he
cannot 
praise
(a);
he repeats the point about notpraising in v. 22; and then in v. 23 reintroduces the idea (c) of what he hadhimself received from the Lord and had also taught the Corinthians.
The
question is therefore: When Paul frames
11:3-16
in this particular 
4
The talk of idiom and grammar is inspired by George A Lindbeck's development of thissimile for a proper understanding of religion and doctrine, see his
The Nature of 
Doctrine
Religion
and 
Theology 
m a
Posthberal 
Age
(London
SPCK,
1984)
5
I have argued for this more general understanding of the theology of 
1
Corinthians m "TheGospeland Social Practice according to I Corinthians,"
NTS 
33 (1987) 557-84
6
For obvious reasons the commentaries generally fare better here
than
most independentarticles on the
passage
The only real discussion I have come across m the many articles on
II
2-16 is James Β Hurley, "Did Paul Require
Veils
or the Silence of Women? A Considerationof 
I
Cor 11 2-16 and I Cor 14 33b-36,"
WTJ 
35 
(1972/73) 190-220, esp 191-93 On ρ 193 Hurley 
m
effect raises the question about the relationship between 11 2 and 3-16 that I elaborate below
 
Engberg-Pedersen: 1 Corinthians 11:16681 way, is there anything in that passage
itself 
to which this set of ideas (of praising and holding on to Paul's teachings) is relevant?
Will
the idea of 
 praising 
the Corinthians for 
holding 
on
to Paul's teachings make any sense atall in relation to
11:3-16?
Before considering this question we should note that the idea of praising
or 
not praising is not just a more or 
less
natural idea that anybody may hit
upon.
It is part of a
topos
about how to address people in an exhortation.
7
Thus,
by starting out in this way Paul shows himself 
to
be aware of 
the
specific
issue
of how to address the
Corinthians.
How, then, is this relevant to
11:3-16?
The
best (because most natural) answer is that in w. 3ff. Paul is
cor-
recting 
something that he had in fact taught the Corinthians and that they 
had
in fact held on to and applied (in
itself 
correctly) to the question of 
head-
covering. Thus, the meaning of 
the
transition from v. 2 to v. 3
will
be: I praise you for remembering me and holding on to my teachings
but there is one
point
where your loyalty to my teachings, though praiseworthy in principle,should be corrected. In 11:3-16, then, Paul prescribes something to the Cor
inthians
(as he
says
in v. 17
8
), but he is not blaming them for the behavior they have hitherto adopted for the precise reason that in that behavior they have been conforming to something he had himself taught them.If this is correct, then it is also important. For it sets the scene in termsof tone for the whole of w. 3-16.
II.
The Argumentative Structure of 
11:3-16
I
am interested here only in the structure of the argument as opposed
to
its content, but since the former cannot be completely detached from thelatter, I shall presuppose a certain understanding of the content and only refer in the notes to other, more thorough treatments of the various issues.
Up
to v. 11, Paul's argument is (to modern ears, at least) strange butintelligible. The underlying idea is this: there is a certain ontological hierarchy with God at the top and with men being closer to Christ and (through
him)
to God than women, who are one step farther down in the hierarchy;
9
7
And so we are, as it
were,
in
Malherbe
territory;
see
Abraham
J.
Malherbe,
Moral 
Exhorta
tion:
A
Greco-Roman Sourcebook 
(Library 
of 
Early Christianity 
4;
Philadelphia: Westminster,
1986), and
also
his
collection
of 
papers,
Paul and the
Popular 
Philosophers 
(Minneapolis:Fortress,
1989).
8
With
Nestle-Aland
26th ed. I
read
Τούτο δε παραγγέλλων ούκ επαινώ δτι . . . and
under-
stand
τοΰτο
both
as
referringbackward
and as the
direct
grammatical
object
of παραγγέλλων.
This
is
linguistically 
most
straightforward,
whereas
in
terms
of 
meaning
it
represents something
of a
lectio
difficilior,
since
it
precisely 
raises
the
question
I am
pressing
about
the
meaning
of the
frame
of 11:3-16. If 
that question
can be
adequately answered,
the
chosen
text
will
be the
correct
one.
9
I
have
no
qualms
whatever about talking
of an
ontological
hierarchy.
What
else
could 
be
meant
by the
talk 
of a
"head"(hierarchy)
and of God
(ontology)
as the
supreme
head?
It is
difficult
not to see
scholars
who
deny 
this
as
engaged
in
special
pleading.
For
example,
when

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