“I’m having a revival. It’s been going on about three years, though it took a while to notice, just as you don’t realize a radiator has warmed your room till it’s been happening a while. My personal great awakeninginvolves ‘a more determined quest for Him who is the sole object of it all.’This means trying ‘to discern what is pleasing to the Lord’ (Ephesians5:10), even when it’s baffling. It means launching out and putting asymbol of ‘glory’ on my head at church because I think 1 Corinthians 11tells me to, even if I may turn out in the end to be wrong.”
Quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Seu frames the question of whether or not to wear a headcovering for her Protestant Evangelical readers in terms of discipleship and of a desire tofollow the commands of God absolutely. In so doing, she attempts to break through themotif of ‘confusion’ that dominates Evangelical writing on this passage, i.e. that the passage is unclear, confusing or “troublesome.”
Questions of clarity aside, Seu is a lonevoice asking what some would now see as the wrong question regarding 1 Corinthians11. The second half of the twentieth century has witnessed a marked shift in theinterpretation of this passage, as opportunities for women in Western society have rapidlyexpanded both inside and outside of the Church. Interpreters now ask: what does this passage say about the position of women in the Church? In light of this, there tends to bea focus on the implications of women praying and prophesying (1 Corinthians 11.5) andthe apparently egalitarian impulse behind 11.11-12.
Any discussion of the propriety of wearing a head covering is mostly set aside as irrelevant or as tending toward theenforcement of “rigid dress codes.”
Andrée Seu, “A symbol of glory,”
For examples, see Linda Mercadante,
From Hierarchy to Equality: A Comparison of Past and Present Interpretations of 1 Cor 11:2-16 in Relation to the Changing Status of Women in Society
, (Vancouver, BC:G-M-H Books, 1978), 11-13; Gordon D. Fee,
The First Epistle to the Corinthians
, The New InternationalCommentary on the New Testament, ed. F.F. Bruce (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 492.“Troublesome”: Craig S. Keener,
Paul, Women and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Lettersof Paul
, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1992), 20.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptural references are to 1 Corinthians.
Paul, Women and Wives