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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hen Scratches June 10, 2008

I shall most certainly have to toss out a few more half-baked posts, my last few were the best conversation starters yet and gave rise to quite wonderful comment threads. Thank you ever so much.

Among the comments on agape and kephale are some fascinating contributions. I can't quite compete with (oops, I meant complement)Dave in entertainment value but the comments do.

E provides an article which is a must read. We have been having the conversation on and off for over a year, in whispers, as to whether the fact that some ancients believed that semen was stored in the head was significant to the interpretation of 1 Cor. 11. I will leave Paul's Argument from Nature with you. No, I don't think this is a whackjob. What do others think?

In other encouraging notes on the gender front, TC has bought the TNIV study Bible for his wife and Iyov pounces on people who hold to this position.

All the recent posts on words like charis, psyche, agape etc. have got me thinking about how words have been invested with meaning subsequent to their appearance in the scriptures. Studying this helps to break through our misconceptions.

In ending rather abruptly, I just want to add that my writing here at all right now is a demonstration of philia, (or agape, but that sounds rather lofty, so I will revert to philia, a humbler word for the same thing - a bond of affection). I enjoy the bibliosphere and I am reading and enjoying the various conversations around and about. At the moment all my creative juices are required for writing report cards.

And I would love to hear your thoughts on agape and philia. Philia, the bond of affection and interdependence in Aristotle, is usually translated as "friendship." Is philia synonymous with agape, Christian charity? They both promote social bonds of fellowship. There is a charity/organization near my home called Philia, and this has got me thinking.


At Wed Jun 11, 04:35:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

some ancients believed that semen was stored in the head was significant to the interpretation of 1 Cor. 11. I will leave "Paul's Argument from Nature" with you. No, I don't think this is a whackjob. What do others think?

Is this the choice, to think this interpretation is whackjob? Hippocrates's and Aristotle's spurious female biologies are not really the issue. The questions are these: 1) Is Paul really buying into the "nature" of women's hair as some counterpart to testicles? 2) Would the people in Corinth have followed this "euphemistic" argument for hair covering during prayer? (The practice of testicle covering during prayer needs no addressing?)

3) Is Euripides's Hercules (i.e., Heracles) referring to his scrotum by σαρκὸς περιβόλαι’?

4) Do the people in Corinth read Paul's statement as some allusion to this one line in the play when he writes of the female counterpart περιβολαίου as being the sperm-holding ἡ κόμη?

The Corinthians and Paul likely would have been familiar with Hippocrates, with Aristotle, and with Euripides. So we should be familiar with the same writers.

But the context of Line 1269 of Hercules suggests that the plural σαρκὸς περιβόλαι’...ἡβῶντα are not testicles but are the snakes that Zeus's Hera has hurled on Heracles while the latter is a baby in his cradle: ἔτ’ ἐν γάλακτί τ’ ὄντι γοργωποὺς ὄφεις ἐπεισέφρησε σπαργάνοισι τοῖς ἐμοῖς ἡ τοῦ Διὸς σύλλεκτρος,

Twice earlier in the same play, Euripides uses the word. In Line 562, it's Heracles talking again and even mentioning hair: οὐ ῥίψεθ’ Ἅιδου τάσδε περιβολὰς κόμης
καὶ φῶς ἀναβλέψεσθε,

E. P. Coleridge translates that as "Cast from your [hairy] heads these chaplets of death, look up to the light" The context shows that the "chaplets" refer not to any testicles or scrotum but to thoughts of cowardice.

The third use of the word περιβόλαι’ in lines 548 - 549 make this clear. It's Heracles asking a question of Megara, who answers him:

κόσμος δὲ παίδων τίς ὅδε νερτέροις πρέπων;

θανάτου τάδ’ ἤδη περιβόλαι’ ἀνήμμεθα

Coleridge makes that:

What is this dress they wear, suited to the dead?

It is the garb of death we have already put on.

In line 534, Megara has already begun to talk of the exigencies. And notice how he mentions the "nature of women" (Coleridge translating) but not with any reference to hair as some counterpart to a scrotum or testicles:

διολλύμεσθα· σὺ δέ, γέρον, σύγγνωθί μοι, πρόσθεν ἥρπασ’ ἃ σὲ λέγειν πρὸς τόνδ’ ἐχρῆν· τὸ θῆλυ γάρ πως μᾶλλον οἰκτρὸν ἀρσένων, καὶ τἄμ’ ἔθνῃσκε τέκν’, ἀπωλλύμην δ’ ἐγώ.

We are being ruined; forgive me, old friend, if I have anticipated that to which you had a right to tell him; for women's nature is perhaps more prone to grief than men's and they are my children that were being led to death, which was my own lot too.

Troy W. Martin's argument is not wacky, if from genitalia, but it's definitely a stretch of what Euripides has Heracles (and Megara) saying about lethal head coverings on men (i.e., thoughts and snakes) and about the nature of females (without reference to sperm in their hair).

At Wed Jun 11, 04:54:00 AM, Blogger Nathan Stitt said...

That pdf article was an interesting read. I'm not really sure what else to type as this is taking a while to digest.

At Wed Jun 11, 06:49:00 AM, Blogger E said...

Well, I have to give the "hat tip" to Michael S. Heiser for the "Paul's Argument from Nature" pdf article, since (besides being stored on his site) I learned of it via his post on "Beginning a Serious Discussion about Inerrancy" at his blog The Naked Bible.

At Wed Jun 11, 08:20:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


Thanks for your research on this. It is a good counterbalance. I just commented on the earlier post,

I do think there are allusions to reproduction in this passage and an important aspect of this discussion is that biologically men are born from women, but cosmologically(?) woman is created from man.

Another useful point in the article is that the covering was not a symbol of submission, one has to count that out, I think, since free women wore a veil, and slave women did not. It is rather a symbol of status or decency.


I'll have a look at his site. Thanks.

At Wed Jun 11, 10:57:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

Suzanne, you are correct about head coverings being a sign of status. See, for example, my discussion of Bava Kama 8:6 in this long post

At Wed Jun 11, 11:07:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I'm not sure what to make of the argument that peribolaion might mean "testicle". But the idea that a woman's hair might be considered to be part of her genitalia, and to be covered for that reason, certainly makes some sense - and perhaps for the same reason as in most cultures women's breasts are covered. This is not because hair or breasts have any actual reproductive function, but because they are potentially sexually stimulating to men.

Indeed this kind of argument is put forward in certain non-Christian cultures today, that women's hair must be covered to avoid leading men into sexual temptation. And this would make some sense of Paul's argument in 1 Corinthians 11 - a sense which we would soon understand if it were adjusted to refer to women with bare breasts rather than uncovered hair.

Now I don't want this to be used as an argument that women in today's churches, in western countries, should cover their hair. For in our cultural context (but not in some other contemporary ones) women's hair is not considered to be sexual temptation for men. But we should respect the general principle which is probably behind what Paul writes, that Christians should not expose parts of themselves which are likely to cause sexual temptation to other Christians.

At Wed Jun 11, 11:55:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

women's hair is not considered to be sexual temptation for men

Paul also writes διὰ τοῦτο... διὰ τοὺς ἀγγέλους (because of this... because of the angels)

and τῷ θεῷ προσεύχεσθαι (to pray to God).

Why do men and "angels" and God all watch women thusly?

At Wed Jun 11, 12:09:00 PM, Blogger tc robinson said...

Well, after consider all the translation options, I had to recommend the TNIV SB to my wife. Even as a comp. I couldn't recommend those translations that reflect a theological bias at Eph 4:8; 2 Tim 2:2 and Jas 3:1; 2 Pet 1:21 and so on.

I believe this whole gender-issue is turning me into a gruppy old in my early 30s.

At Wed Jun 11, 03:21:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I am citing the relevant passage from your post here,

Someone bared the head of a woman in the marketplace. She came before R. Akiva, who required [the defendant] to pay her four hundred zuz. [The defendant] said to him, “Rabbi, give me time [to pay her]. He gave [the defendant] time. [The defendant] caught her standing at the door of her courtyard and broke a jar of oil in front of her, containing no more than an issar’s worth of oil. She exposed her hair and mopped up the oil and put her hand [with the oil] on her hair [so making use of that small quantity of oil]. Now [the defendant] had set witnesses up against her. Then [the defendant] came before R. Akiva. [The defendant] said to him, "Rabbi, to a woman such as this am I to pay off four hundred zuz?" He said to [the defendant], "You have no claim whatsoever. He who does injury to himself, even though he has no right to do so, is exempt. But others who did injury to him are liable. He who cuts down his own shoots, even though he has no right, is exempt. Others who cut down his shoots are liable."


I find your comments quite refreshing.

At Wed Jun 11, 04:21:00 PM, Blogger Doug Chaplin said...

Suzanne, thanks for the link. It does (if you will excuse the metaphor) leave me scratching my head while seeking release from my confusion.

At Thu Jun 12, 01:17:00 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Why do men and "angels" and God all watch women thusly?

We don't always, jk. But God knows, if we knew why it happened, we'd just turn it off.

By the way, "for the angels" may imply that right behavior is a testimony, because angelic eyes could always be watching.


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