Friday, November 9, 2012

1 Corinthians 10-16, 2 Corinthians 1-7

The Pauline epistles are tricky. On the one hand, you have heaps of brilliant theology and whole long passages of stunning poetry. On the other hand, you have twisty, legalistic arguments about theology and statements that, taken out of context, are cripplingly misogynistic. And even in context, some of the things he says are not exactly uplifting to the "weaker vessels".

1 Corinthians 11:3-12
But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of ever woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as the woman was from the man, even so the man also is through the woman; but all things are from God.

Passages like this one used to make me livid. And then i remembered something: Paul is a man. He is not God. He is not Jesus. He was not even one of the original twelve apostles. He is brilliant and wise and many good and Christ-like things, yes, but he is not the ultimate authority in all things Christian. Not by a long shot. He is fallible, and is prone to his own prejudices and deficits of experience and knowledge.

Paul was never married. He was a life-long celibate. And he thought that everyone should be celibate, to give them more time and energy to focus on God. And i am reminded of the misogyny of C. S. Lewis' early writings, which soon gave way to a wholly egalitarian point of view once he was married. Perhaps if Paul had ever married, he might have softened the edges of some of these verses.

Furthermore, check out the ending: "Neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of Man, in the Lord. For as the woman was from the man, even so the man also is through the woman . . ." There is not a single man alive today who did not arrive here because of a woman. No man can ever live without a woman being involved at some point. We all need one another.

1 Corinthians 13
I've written about this one before, and it remains one of my favorite passages of scripture. It is so simple, so beautiful, so powerful and important. Let me just highlight a few key verses:

"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

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