Reasoning from Nature: Verses 14 and 15.
“Doth not even nature itself teach you...”
It is only here that hair is introduced into the subject as a covering; and, only as an illustration of the correctness for a mandatory artificial covering.
It is sad that a lack of education and sound reasoning has led so many to teach the illustration as the object it has been introduced to illustrate.
Just as Paul asked the Corinthians to reason from their conscience, he here asks them to reason with him from the very nature of their lives. Paul is asking, “What does nature teach you? Does not nature say, “If a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair it is a glory unto her.” (The Revised Standard Version reads: “it is her pride.”) These things, Paul is saying, are taught to you by nature.
Here, Paul speaks of the nature of humans in general. He does NOT have Christian men and women in view only. He is saying that it is natural for men to have short hair. We may extrapolate from his reasoning that men are the workers and warriors of society; therefore, long hair would not be conducive to their natural roles. On the other hand, women are the softer sex; whose hair is a sexual adornment (“it is a glory to her”); and, as such she adorns herself with it and employs her long hair in her relationship with the male gender. Paul speaks here to the nature of the heart, and the natural usage of the hair.
His point is that the “hair is given” (to the woman) “for a covering.” The Greek actually reads: γυνὴ δὲ ἐὰν κομᾷ δόξα αὐτῇ ἐστιν; ὅτι ἡ κόμη ἀντὶ περιβολαίου δέδοται [αὐτῇ]. The phrase “ἀντὶ περιβολαίου” is transliterated: anti peribolaiou; English translation: “instead of a covering;” it is so rendered in Young’s Literal Translation (YLT): “... and a woman, if she have long hair, a glory it is to her, because the hair instead of a covering hath been given to her;... . ” A. T. Robertson says, concerning “anti peribolaiou:”
“... Old word from periballw to fling around, as a mantle (Hebrews 1:12) or a covering or veil as here. It is not in the place of a veil, but answering to (anti, in the sense of anti in John 1:16), ... .”
Robertson cites John 1:16 as an example of how “anti” is to be understood in our text. John 1:16 says: καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος· (kai charin anti charitos); English: “and grace for grace.” So, then, the hair “answers to” (Robertson) the veil: it (the hair) “answers,” in the natural arena, to what the veil is in the religious arena.
Regardless of the clear teaching of the Greek scholars on the word “anti” such Bible teachers as Daniel Segraves, in his book entitled Hair Length in the Bible, employes his preferred definition of “anti” and states on page 37, “Long, uncut hair is given to a woman instead of a veil.” Using, as he does, the literal wording from the Greek, with no consideration given to the idiom that all scholars recognize on the word “anti.” Gingrich’s Shorter Lexicon of the Greek NT, p17, states the definitions for “anti” as: “for, AS, in place of.” But, Segraves totally omits “AS”—the meaning that fits the context. This is also the definition found in Arndt and Gingrich, p73, and A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the NT. Here, “anti” does not refer to a replacement but to an equivalent. This phrase indicates equivalency. Therefore, “anti” is a word of COMPARISON. In Ephesians 5 Paul uses “anti” to teach how a man and wife are TYPED to Christ and the Church. The “anti” used in v15 does not mean “instead of” but “COMPARED TO,” because long hair is LIKE a veil—it SYMBOLIZES a veil. The French language Louis Segond Bible of 1910 translates the “anti” in v15: “...la chevelure lui a ete donnee comme voile,” or “...the hair is given to her LIKE a veil.”
The noun peribolaion is from “peri” to throw or cast, and “bollō” around. Used but twice in the New Testament: here, and Hebrews 1:12 where it is translated “vesture.” Thus, something thrown around one, such as a veil (Robertson, Strong, Thayer). It is the peribolaion of verse 15, and not the hair, that identifies the katakalupto (covering) of verses 4, 5, 6, and 7. The peribolaion is not the hair, it “answers” (anti) to the hair, as grace “answers” (anti) to grace (John 1:16, Robertson). In Robertson’s paralleling of 1 Corinthians 11:15 with John 1:16, in relation to the Greek word “anti,” it is understood that hair does not replace the peribolaion any more than one grace replaces another grace. The graces (gifts) of God compliment, and compound, one another, as does the Christian woman’s long hair and the veil that she “casts about” her head, when in prayer or moving in the spiritual gifts during the corporate meeting of the Church.
There are two coverings referenced in our passage: the “peribolaion” (verse 15) which is the “kataka-lupto” (verses 5, 6, 7, and 13): a veil, or wrap, that a woman is to “cast about here head” when she prays or prophesies, but a man “ought not” to put on his head when he prays or prophesies [verse 7]; and the long hair that the woman is given by God as a natural mantle or wrap for her head (which “answers to,” and complements, the required peribolaion)—to be used as her adornment, and a display of her glory. The point made here, is that, just as the hair represents her proper covering in the natural realm, so the veil is the Christian woman’s proper covering in the spiritual realm.
Paul is saying: “It is the nature of men to cut off their hair, and the nature of women to let their hair grow long.” If, then, the woman, by the nature of her own heart permits herself to be covered with hair, what the Apostle is enjoining is in harmony with nature and not contrary to it. So, the reasoning goes like this: “Women, if you, by nature permit your heads to be covered (with hair), then you can understand the Churchʼs requirement of a Religious Article of Clothing,” (a R.A.C).
Concerning this matter, John Chrysostm (A.D. 339-407) writes:
“‘And if it be given her for a covering,’ say you, ‘wherefore need she add another covering?’ That not nature only, but also her own will may have part in her acknowledgment of subjection. For that thou oughtest to be covered nature herself by anticipation enacted a law. Add now, I pray, thine own part also, that thou mayest not seem to subvert the very laws of nature; a proof of most insolent rashness, to buffet not only with us, but with nature also.”
The Apostle is not teaching that a womanʼs hair is the covering taught in verses 3 through 13, as verse 6 more than adequately proves. He is reasoning with the Corinthian women concerning the artificial headcovering, and masterfully employing their long hair as his illustration. It is a mistake (and very poor exegesis) to teach hair as the required covering.
☩ David Ignatius
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