Friday, October 31, 2014

Bewitched: A Bible Story for Halloween

As the world focuses on goblins, witches, death, and cemeteries, we find in the Word a lesson for the season…. 
Double, double, Saul in trouble/Flew to Endor on the double. 

The year was about 1007 BC. When our story in 1 Samuel 28 opens, the prophet Samuel has died and King Saul has removed all the fortunetellers and mediums from the land—one of his few obedient acts. 
When his enemies, the Philistines, assembled at Shunem in the north part of Palestine, King Saul cobbled together an army. As he camped with his troops at nearby Gilboa, the size of the Philistine force left him quaking. By all accounts they had the manpower to take out Israel. 
Saul had known all along that the kingdom would eventually go to David. And because at this time David lived among the Philistines, Saul had even more reason to think, “Maybe this is it for me.” So he sought some divine reassurance about his military plans. But God remained silent. All the usual means of knowing His will dried up—the Lord didn’t speak through dreams or the Urim or through the prophets. 
So did King Saul put on sackcloth and ashes and fast? Did he pull an all-nighter in prayer? Did he wait on God? Of course not. He did what he always did—he took matters into his own hands. This time he told his servant to find him a medium so he could ask her what to do. How ironic. This king who, in one of his few acts of obedience to the Lord had outlawed mediums (according to Lev. 19:31; 20:6, 27), sought to know God’s will through a medium. Interestingly, Saul’s servant knew just where to find someone versed in the dark arts. Hm-m-m. Why would he know that?
So Saul’s servant told the king about a woman who lived near where Gideon and Barak experienced their victories—in Endor.  
Now, since Saul had (rightly) decreed that being a medium was a capital offense, he couldn’t exactly show up at the witch’s door wearing his kingly garb. So he disguised himself and took two of his men to Endor. When he arrived at the medium’s house, he told the woman,  “Use your ritual pit to conjure up for me the one I tell you.” (A ritual pit was what magicians used to conjure up underworld spirits.) 
But she protested. Reminding him that the king had outlawed mediums, she asked, “Why are you trying to trap me?” Why should she risk her life for these strangers?
That question alone should have given Saul pause. But instead of reflecting and repenting, he made her promises. In a pathetic gesture of assurance, he did more than merely swear an oath. He did so in the name of Israel’s God: “As surely as Yahweh lives, you will not incur guilt in this matter!” 
Doesn’t that give you the chills—and not in a good way? Saul used the name of the one who is holy, holy, holy to promise that no harm would come to one who violated God’s commands by seeking to communicate with the dead. 
So she conceded. “Who do you want me to conjure up?” she asked.
The Hebrew text here wastes no words. The next line says, “When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out loudly” (vs. 12).  The appearance of the actual prophet told her that her client was King Saul himself.
Some say the one who appeared was not really Samuel, but rather a demon posing as Samuel. Yet the text gives no such indication, treating the one who appeared as the actual deceased prophet. The fact that the woman discerned the identity of her client as soon as the prophet appeared suggests to me that she was usually a fake. At the very least, something out of the norm for her was happening. 
Saul assured the medium that she should calm down and tell him what she had seen.  
Her reply? “I have seen one like a god coming up from the ground!”  
 “What about his appearance?” Saul asked further.
  “An old man is coming up! He is wrapped in a robe.”
  The text in other places tells us that Elijah wore a mantle, which was like a large cape (2 Kings 2). And something about the woman’s description signaled to Saul that the figure was indeed Samuel. So the king responded with respect: “He bowed his face toward the ground and kneeled down” (28:14). 
But Samuel was none too happy. Why? One possibility: he felt unhappy about getting yanked out of paradise. But a more likely option is that he especially disliked being a part of situation in which his very presence stemmed from others’ disregard for God’s Word. Whatever his reason, he asked Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” 
Saul replied by explaining about God’s silence and how terrified he was—how the Philistines were ready to wage war in overwhelming numbers. 
  “Why are you asking me, now that Yahweh has turned away from you and has become your enemy?” Samuel demanded. Even if God had not already determined to kill Saul, He had promised to set His face against anyone who sought a medium (Lev. 20:6). In another touch of irony, in seeking safety Saul had increased the risk. Besides, if God Himself had refused to speak, why would Saul think he’d get any assurance from a lesser source? 
Do you suppose the doom Samuel pronounced was the response that the already-terrified Saul expected? 
Not one to mince words, Samuel continued: “Yahweh has done exactly as I prophesied! Yahweh has torn the kingdom from your hand and has given it to your neighbor David!” (28:18). Saul went on to predict destruction for Israel. “Yahweh will hand you and Israel over to the Philistines! Tomorrow both you and your sons will be with me. Yahweh will also hand the army of Israel over to the Philistines!” (v. 19).
Some understand Samuel as saying, “Rejoice. You’ll be in paradise tomorrow.” But more likely, he was saying, “I’m dead. And you too are a dead man—and not just you, but also your sons.”
The revelation sent Saul over the edge. He threw himself full length on the ground and shook for fear. As he had gone without food and made a nighttime journey, he already had no strength when he arrived. The bad news only added to his weakened condition, draining him of what little energy he had left.  
The woman, seeing how terrified Saul was, had a heart. She basically said, “I did what you required. Now it’s my turn to give orders.” Then she insisted that he let her feed him. But he refused.
When the king’s servants and the woman pressed further, however, he got up from the ground and sat on the bed. Meanwhile, the woman killed her fatted calf, made some unleavened bread, and fed Saul and his servants.  
And the next day Saul and his sons were killed in battle.  
So what do we learn from this story?
Believe God is sovereign. In the larger context surrounding this narrative, the people to whom the story is addressed receive a reminder of how God always had His hand on their nation, even in the bad times. Despite a disobedient king, God accomplished His purposes.
Seek God’s will in God’s ways.  Saul wanted to know the future, but God didn’t want him to know. So Saul took matters into his own hands and demanded an answer in a way that displeased God. Do you think he felt any better once he found out?  
Know that God keeps His promises. Years earlier God had promised to turn against all who sought mediums. And he had promised to put David on the throne of Israel. By the time the story ends, He has fulfilled both promises. He does what He says He’ll do.
Trust the one who is Lord of life and death. The God who allowed a spirit to be brought back from paradise later brought about the pivot-point of history in a sealed tomb. He is the God of the living—the one who raised Lazarus, Dorcas, and Jairus’s daughter. And only He can raise the dead. Why would anyone waste time with those who claim to conjure up spirits when our God has power over both spirits and bodies? And He offers new life to all who trust His resurrected Son. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Are Witches and Wizards Evil?

Halloween is right around the corner. What do we do if our kids want to dress up as witches and wizards? Check out my blog post at Engage (formerly Tapestry).

A Mini-Reader about Women

Time for some quick-read primary sources. 

Have you ever read what Nathaniel Hawthorne had to say about Anne Hutchinson?

What about the transcript of Anne Hutchinson's Trial?  

And "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou.

And then there's Margaret Atwood's Bored. (Thanks to my intern, Michelle, for finding these). 

And let's not forget Virginia Woolf's imaginative piece in A Room of One's Own titled "Shakespeare's Sister" in which she images life for the bard's sister if she shared his level of talent.

And finally, Sojourner Truth's lyric speech, "Ain't I A Woman?" that reveals how class-blind we have been about the gender debate.

Who says we have to save these nuggets for Women's History month?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Forever Mom: What to Expect When You're Adopting

October is Adoption Awareness Month! Today I'm happy to have as my guest Mary Ostyn, author of Forever Mom: What to Expect When You're Adopting. 

Why did you write Forever Mom and what do you hope it accomplishes?
 My greatest hope is that this book will equip and encourage adoptive moms. Too often people think that once a child has a family, all his hurt goes away.  For many children it just isn't that simple.

Why is this book important and relevant?
Many Christian families have heard God's call to care for orphans, but want to educate themselves before leaping in.  Others have already taken that leap, and want to parent in the best, wisest way possible. I wrote this book to equip mothers for this amazing adventure.

How is Forever Mom different from other books on adoption?
Some adoption books  focus the how-to-adopt aspect. Others cover adjustment issues from a clinical perspective. As a mom of many children adopted at different ages, my perspective is very much in the trenches: realistic, compassionate, and encouraging. I also tried to make it clear that I'm far from perfect. In the book I share my mistakes right along with my successes.

Who do you think will benefit most from Forever Mom, and why? 
The mom I held closest to my heart as I was writing was one who went into this great adventure with a ton of hope, but is now feeling tired and a little worn around the edges.  She's wondering if she has what it takes to parent this precious child, who may be more wounded than she expected.  She sometimes feels alone on this journey.  I pray this book will embrace her, equip her, and encourage her to move forward with hope, always remembering that the real source of hope and healing is Jesus.

This book hits the market on November 4. So take advantage of preorder freebies and giveaways available at

Mary Ostyn is the author of Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting. She encourages moms through her books, speaking engagements, and her blog at She lives with her husband and high school sweetheart in Nampa, Idaho, where she homeschools the youngest five of her ten children, including four daughters born in Ethiopia and two sons born in South Korea.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Goldfinch

I can’t now remember why or how, but about two months ago, I received a free three-month subscription to Audible. For the first month, I chose The Fault in Our Stars, the YA bestseller. It’s the first book I’ve ever read that puts me in the point of view of a dying teen who does not process her trials through the lens of faith.

For my second choice, I did some research. What won the Pulitzer for fiction this year? The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Oh? It also made the National Book Critics Circle Award finals. So I investigated further. In book form it ran 775 pages. In audio it ran 32 hours, 29 minutes, and completely filled the memory of my iPhone S5. Ouch! But if I was going to get something free, I wanted to really feel like I’d scored. 

And indeed, I hit the jackpot with this one.

I started listening on the plane to Italy, where I had some business last month. I’m scheduled to co-teach a course there in Medieval Spirituality and Art next May, and I had a list of monasteries to check out (less expensive lodging, more authentic experience).

By the time I headed home via Frankfurt, where I attended the International Book Fair, I was so hooked that I listened to the story for the entire twelve-hour flight instead of sleeping. On Saturday morning I finished the story.

Mid-way through the “book,” I frankly didn’t understand why it won. I would have cut at least 100 pages of the Las Vegas section, which went on and on about two high-school-aged boys snorting drugs, smoking drugs, and drinking drugs into oblivion—rinse, and repeat. This part seemed to contribute nothing to the actual plot.

But by the end, though, the author had my complete respect. She crafted a bildungsroman with a suspenseful story line, a touch of romance, a powerful portrayal of grief, a multi-sensory experience, worldwide travel, and a satisfying ending. And it turned out that the Las Vegas part, even if longer than necessary, did actually play into the finale. (Yet another reason to be suspicious of reviewers who admit “I couldn’t make it to the end” and then go on to criticize a story they don't fully know.)  

In The Goldfinch, Theo Decker, a 13-year-old kid who lives in New York City (isn’t that where most classic stories are set?) survives a bombing at The Met that orphans him but leaves him in possession of an artistic masterpiece. The plot follows him and the painting as he wrestles on the surface with how to get it off his hands, but below the surface with growing up, despair, and beauty. 

During Arts Week at DTS this past week, our speaker, Dr. Rob Johnston, talked about truth, goodness, and beauty. Decades ago, we put the three in that order. We could begin sentences with “The Bible says,” even on TV, and people would listen. But corrupt televangelists and priests contributed to a cultural shift that made us all say, “Show me your goodness before you tell me your truth.” That is, we shifted the order to goodness, beauty, and truth. (It’s not a hierarchy; we need all three. Rather, it’s the order in which we usually prefer to access and process our world.) But lately we want beauty first. And for that reason alone, this book is a cultural artifact that demonstrates what we value. The Goldfinch is full of beauty, both in its literary crafting and in the story itself in which art speaks to the heart.

P.S. The narration by actor David Pittu won the 2014 Audie award for “Best Solo Narration–Male.” He certainly earned it. The character whom critics decry as two-dimensional (“Hobie”) was actually my favorite, doubtless thanks to Pittu’s multi-layered portrayal of him. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Arts Week

One evening Gavin Delahunty, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art,
did a fantastic Gallery Talk for DTS. Here he gives us the background of this piece by Jackson Pollock. 

I enjoyed looking up into "The Day the Clouds Came Down" with students and friends. 

Abbie Powers and Katie Fisher do a Gallery Talk on their creation (see previous post). 

The DTS Gospel choir performed in chapel one day. Glorious!
I'm headed to campus this morning to hear the final message from Dr. Rob Johnston, who has keynoted arts week at DTS talking about how God reveals himself outside of the Bible ("general revelation"). Dr. Johnston was moved to enter ministry by watching the movie, "Becket." I had a similar experience watching "Schindler's List." Has a narrative shaped you and/or altered the course of your life in some way?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Arts Week

I took this photo today as I lay flat on my back on a classroom floor at DTS, staring up into a firmament of silk.

No, I don't normally lie on the floor at work. But this is arts week at DTS! Tomorrow on Wordless Wednesday I plan to feature more photos of this art installation on campus. Sisters Abbie Powers and Katie Fisher collaborated to bring us "The Day the Clouds Came Down."

Abbie writes, "I am an installation and performance artist working primarily in silk, the female figure, movement and video projection. Hand-dyed expanses of silk reference the sublimity of the natural world, the intimacy of the figure, and the evanescence of our breath....

"Silk forms suspended from the ceiling reference clouds, flowers, and underwater environments, as well as an intimate connection to the female figure. The suspended installation pieces are manipulated by either a machine or the viewer, activating both the art piece and the surrounding environment."

Her web site is

Katie is one of my beloved students. She writes, "I am a visual artist. My formal training is in graphic design and illustration. At times I pretend to be a writer. [Don't let her fool you. She's terrific!] Currently my educational interests have taken me into pursuing a Masters of Arts in Media Arts and Worship. Box & Turtle [the name of her web site] is my refuge from the stack of books beside my desk and the endless paper deadlines. I hope you enjoy the spirit of my work and find refuge in it as I have." You can find more beauty from Katie at

Until tomorrow...

Survey: Vast Numbers of Christian Men Addicted to Porn and Having Affairs

By Mark Ellis, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (ANS) — A national survey of Christian men reveals that alarming numbers are using porn and engaging in sexual infidelity.

The 2014 survey was commissioned by Proven Men Ministries and conducted by Barna Group among adult men who identified themselves as Christians.

The statistics for Christian men between the ages of 18–30 are striking: Some 77% view pornography at least monthly; 36% view pornography at least daily; and 32% admit their addiction to porn (another 12% think they may be addicted).

The survey's results for middle-aged Christian men (ages 31–49) are no less disturbing: Some 64% view pornography at least monthly; and 18% admit being addicted to pornography (another 8% think they may be).

Some 55% of married Christian men viewed porn at least monthly, and 35% had a sexual affair while married, according to the Barna survey.

"These statistics knock the wind right out of you," says Joel Hesch, the founder of Proven Men Ministries. "There definitely is a problem with pornography and affairs among Christian men, and people are starving for the church to step forward with solutions. Pornography is one of the biggest unaddressed problems in the church.”

Those who identify themselves as born-again Christians revealed similar struggles with pornography and affairs, with 54% admitting they look at pornography at least once a month and 31% having had a sexual affair while married.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Prodigal Pig

Today I'm happy to feature Don Regier, author of Prodigal Pig Tale, an interactive e-book for iPads and Macs. It is a fantastic, fun book with lots of options for play and exploration (for kids of all ages).

So, Don, what's the story?

The action begins on the McSwine family farm, a run-down piece of real estate populated by lovable pigs. Cunningham (Hamlet) McSwine schemes about leaving so he can follow his heroes, Sir "Frank" Bacon, Pablo Pigcasso, and Captain Pigcard. Sonny, a ragged farmhand, warns him against it, because he himself left home, wasted his inheritance, and is now suffering on a pig farm.

When Hamlet follows his dream, his older sibling Decker must decide whether or not to forgive his brother.

Forgiveness—there's a topic for everybody. What inspired the story?

I got the initial concept from [the late radio preacher] J. Vernon McGee. He alluded to the "prodigal pig" during my first semester in seminary in 1965. I never forgot the idea.

Several other things inspired me: a clay pig that our thirteen-year-old son Brent made in 1985; a scale model of an abandoned gas station on display at the Southland Center; and a personal need to forgive someone.

I love that the story comes out of your own journey. Your book has fab photos, too. Tell me about the set you created.

When I built the set, I started with 1:18 scale model cars. In rusted-out condition they litter the farmyard. I built the house from scratch in the same scale. It looks like a familiar scene that you might encounter on a drive in the country, but it's really a miniaturized model.

Brent helped me make the pigs with Sculpey craft clay. You just roll it around in your hands, and out comes a pig! I photographed everything on a tabletop in my backyard studio. The book features a 3-D gallery where the scenes come to life in depth.

Where can folks buy it? 

Prodigal Pig Tale ($2.99) is available on iBooks for iPads and Macs. 

Where can they hear more from you?

My blog explores a variety of subjects. I'd like for people to comment on the “forgiveness” post with their own forgiveness experience.

Thanks for joining us!

Don is associate professor of Christian Education emeritus and director of special projects in Creative Services at Dallas Theological Seminary. I hope you'll tell your "forgiveness story" and check out his book for your favorite little (and big!) people.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Compelling Love

Compelling Love Original Trailer 1.21.14 from Kurt Neale on Vimeo.

“The most intolerant and narrow-minded people are the ones who congratulate themselves on their tolerance and open-mindedness.” – Christopher Hitchens
When it comes to differences in sexual orientation and gender identity, the culture wars tend to force us into positions of tolerance or intolerance. But what if we were able to reach beyond such polarizing positions and connect with those whose beliefs, values, and lifestyle we disagree with or even find offensive?

Over the past year, Dr. Gary Barnes and Kurt Neale traveled the country, posing this question to scores of people with different sexual and gender identities. Compelling Love & Sexual Identity is the result: a thought-provoking and moving feature-length documentary film that captures their personal stories and candid responses.

Join them for a FREE and EXCLUSIVE screening of the film at the Lakewood Theater (1825 Abrams Rd.) in Dallas on Thursday, November 6 at 7:30pm.

You may get tickets on the website This event is open to the public, so family and friends are welcome to attend.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Churches Talk about Race Relations

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9 brought race relations to the forefront of the news. A survey of evangelical leaders conducted three days prior to the shooting indicates that racial reconciliation was already an ongoing topic among evangelical churches in the United States.

Seventy-one percent of the evangelical leaders surveyed said their churches have discussed the need for racial reconciliation from the pulpit, in seminars or in courses, according to the August Evangelical Leaders Survey.

“The survey shows that evangelicals care about racial reconciliation,” said Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals. “Most have addressed the issue publicly. Some have placed special emphasis on it. Others haven’t but know they should. A few have not, even though many of their members are minorities.”

Paul de Vries, President of New York Divinity School and Senior Pastor of Immanuel Community Church in Manhattan, said, “Even in our racially diverse congregation, racial reconciliation is an important theme going forward toward more complete healing.”

While the survey asked about the churches that leaders attend, denominational, educational and organizational leaders indicated that the topic has been important in their contexts as well.

For example, Doug Beacham, General Superintendent of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC), said his denomination started engaging the issue 20 years ago, when the former IPHC General Superintendent worked to unite two Pentecostal denominational fellowships, which were divided by race, to create the Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches of North America, a fellowship that continues today.

When the IPHC gathered in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1996, denominational leaders repented of seven specific sins, including the sin of racism. The denomination also made changes in their leadership and departmental structure to be more representative of the denomination’s diversity.

“Racial reconciliation remains a major focus of our movement,” Beacham said. “We continue to host and encourage regular dialogue within and outside the denomination between white and African American pastors and churches. Needless to say we still have a long way to go, but I am thankful we are engaged in the process.”

Jay Barnes, President of Bethel University, said that racial reconciliation has been one of the university’s most visible commitments. Bethel University has an undergraduate major and minor in reconciliation studies, an annual reconciliation day with chapel and programming, a Chief Diversity Officer, and several initiatives to increase diversity in the administration, faculty and students.

Anderson said, “Sermons, seminars and courses in churches on racial reconciliation are not just a response to current events. They represent a deep expression of Christian faith – one that was an issue in biblical times as much as today.”

The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Who Were the Women with Shaved Hair (1 Cor 11:5)?

A few week ago, I published this post on's Engage blog (formerly Tapestry):

Erotic art from Pompeii. I've edited it for modesty,
but it demonstrates that no one has a shaved head.
The past fifty years at Pompeii have uncovered an enormous amount of social data that helps us understand New Testament backgrounds. Because the city was buried relatively instantly in A.D. 79, everything was preserved like a time capsule in the same era in which some of the New Testament was written. Interestingly, one of the places that yields data for us is the brothel.

The house of ill repute in Pompeii depicts erotic scenes associated with certain rooms where sexual options appear in paintings with price lists. And this unlikely place actually sheds light on Paul’s meaning in 1 Corinthians 11:5. There he writes, “But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered disgraces her head, for it is one and the same thing as having a shaved head” (1 Cor. 11:5).

Perhaps you, like me, have been taught that having a shaved head identified a woman as a prostitute. Here are quotes from a couple of commentaries that take such an interpretation:

  • “There is the local and contemporary custom that had prostitutes and the likes shave their head” [sic].
  • These women were “cropping their hair, after the manner of the notorious Corinthian prostitutes.”

(Notice that in both cases there is reference to the culture of the day to figure out Paul’s meaning; all commentators resort to culture in trying to figure out the local practices and what they meant.)

But we have no evidence whatsoever that head-shaving was a practice done by prostitutes. We do, however, have evidence that doing so was associated with the punishment for adultery. In fact, we find such a connection in the Old Testament.

In an academic article on the subject, Dr. Phillip Payne writes, “The article in 'the shorn woman' implies a recognized class of woman, probably the accused adulteress whose disgrace paralleled the symbolism of loose hair, since by it a woman places on herself the accusation of adultery. This allusion perfectly fits the ‘bitter water’ ordeal of letting down the hair of a suspected adulteress (Num. 5:11–31) and, if she is convicted, of cutting off her hair.… This custom is paralleled in non- Jewish customs cited by Tacitus (A. D. 98), Germania, 19; Aristophanes 3, 204–07; and Dio Chrysostom (A.D. 100), Discourses, 64.2–3.”

The brothel art in Pompeii depicts prostitutes with full heads of hair, never shaved. Other erotic art from Pompeii shows sexually promiscuous women with their hair done up as the matrons wore it (see photo below). Prostitutes probably indicated their profession not by their hair style but by their dress, as is still true in most places today.

So what does Paul mean if he’s not referring to prostitutes? Payne is probably right. Most likely the wives in Corinth were “letting down their hair,” a practice probably associated with spiritual freedom in Dionysus worship. But doing so was the equivalent to taking off their wedding rings, which shamed their husbands and suggested they were “available.” It’s not that what these women were doing was suggestive or immodest any more than taking off a wedding ring is sexy. But it was shameful and dishonoring because of what it communicated.

And the instruction appears to be something applicable only to wives. The “head” of a woman” is probably her husband (cp. Eph 5), not all men everywhere. Notice, too, that Paul does not tell all the wives they need to do something about their hair (which was their covering, v. 15). He has in view only those marked as speaking to or for God (i.e., praying and prophesying, v. 5). This latter detail is often lost in the debate. Paul was not discussing whether or not women/wives should speak in the gathered assembly. That was a given. The question was only about how they should do so.

Sources: Plutarch; Elaine Fantham in Roman Dress and the Fabrics of Roman Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009; Richard Oster, NT Studies 34, 1998; Antonio Varone, Eroticism in Pompeii. Los Angeles: The Getty Museum, 2001; Phillip Payne, “Wild Hair and Gender Equality in 1 Corinthians 11:2–16,” Pris. Pap. 20:3 (Sept. 2006); p. 12. 


Corinthian Head-coverings

Submitted by Henry Rouse

Hi Sandi, I really appreciate your article, especially since we are beginning a preaching series through 1 Corinthians at our church. You got me thinking.

I also wonder if we actually miss the main point of the passage, especially in my conservative (fundamentalist/literalist) tradition. We focus SO much on getting the cultural practice correct that we actually do things that go 'fundamentally' against the teaching of the text. Surely Paul's point is that the Corinthian believers were doing things that brought shame and dishonor to their "head". That is, the wives were dishonoring their husbands and the men were dishonoring Christ by what they were doing in their cultural setting, especially when it came to their participation in worship in the church. His instruction is that they should stop dishonoring their "heads" when they come to worship. The correct application for today would be to examine if we are doing things in our worship practices that culturally dishonor our husbands, wives or Christ. What I find interesting is that, in my tradition, seeking to apply this passage and 1 Corinthinas 14 ultra-literally we have prohibited our wives (and all women) from participation in worship and forced them to wear culturally irrelevant and embarrassing head coverings. Have we in fact disobeyed the real point of the text and dishonored our wives in an attempt to force a culturally irrelevant literalistic application which is unwarranted and hermeneutically poor?

I don't see the issue as being head coverings, veils, short vs long hair or any such thing. The issue is simple; are we worshipping or even living in a way that culturally honors our mates and our Saviour? If not then we need to change the way we worship and live. We need to be people and churches that live and worship in ways that bring honor and respect to each other and to Christ within the culture that we live.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Response from Dr. Glahn: 

Henry, I think you totally got it. Spot on.

In addition, in a pagan culture, it's sometimes easy to add Christ to the cafeteria of gods, which may also have been part of what was happening in Corinth. My intern lived for a year in India, and she noted, "In 1 Cor 11 on men's hairstyles communicating participation in the Dionysian cult: It just seems to me that rather than focusing on the outward signs of hair style or marriage, Paul is focusing on what the believers' behaviors/styles were communicating to their respective cultures about who they worship.

"I think it's interesting and I can see it's relevance in a polytheistic culture, much like when Hindus accept Christ. Are they simply adding Christ to their pantheon and still showing the signs of worship of other gods, like wearing a bindi that would show that they've been to puja that morning? Or are they shedding off all of the other gods to worship God alone? I think there's a connection there."

Something often lacking in the debate as well is that 1 Cor 11 (head coverings) and 1 Cor 14 ("let the women keep silent") have a more significant chapter between them: 1 Corinthians 13...the far better

Thanks for taking the time to write and encourage. Bless you as you teach!

PS: On the "Notorious Corinthian Prostitutes"

S. M. Baugh in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42.3 (1999): 443-460, noted that there is only one piece of evidence—literary—that Corinth had temple prostitutes, and that was based on Strabo writing hundreds of years after it supposedly existed.

Submitted by Sue Bohlin:

THANK YOU, Dr. Glahn, for all your hard work and the years of working on your Ph.D. to bring fascinating historical details, and thus greater understanding, to our reading of the scriptures.

And thank you for posting an edited picture of Pompeiian erotica. I understand the paintings and sculptures were everywhere in Pompeii.

Sort of like American TV these days.