Probably the most scholarly words in the Oneness Apostolic churches I have ever seen written on 1 Corinthians 11- otherwise known as the “hair chapter”- is from The Literal Word by M.D. Treece. Most writings on the subject are filled with anecdotes and circular reasoning and don’t very much address the claim that women’s hair must be uncut. It is often mentioned with little evidence. I have to give M.D. Treece credit for trying to tackle this issue.
(Disclaimer: The verses in 1 Corinthians 11, taken by themselves, do not address the fact that women were allowed to shave their heads in the Old Testament when they took the Nazarite vow. The actual meaning of the verses in 1 Corinthians 11 are a widely debated topic among scholars and what is demonstrated here is simply how M.D. Treece’s own logic does not make sense within itself. It does not demonstrate or argue whether or not M.D. Treece is right or wrong about his beliefs and translations otherwise concerning hair/veils/having hair down the head/customs of the day or any other assertion.)
He translates verse number 4 “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoreth his head” as “And every man praying or prophesying having hair down his head disgraces his head”. (pg 247) I have a photo of his comments on this so you can read his comments on it for yourself below.
So, he translates the word covered as “having hair down his head”. On page 249, he begins to look at the word “uncovered”. He says the covering is hair and not a literal veil. He says “That is the central theme of this discourse.”
The real focus here is going to be on vs 6 “For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn; but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.” He translates this as “For if a woman is not covered, let her hair be cut; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved, let her be covered.”
Let’s look at this closely a minute. He defines “covered” for a man as “having hair down his head”. So, let’s insert that definition into his translation and see if it works:
“For if a woman doesn’t have hair down her head, let her hair be cut, but if it’s disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved, let her have hair down her head.”- Doesn’t make much sense does it?
First of all, I have read that some people want to say that the word shorn means “to cut”. There is a difference between the words shorn and shaven. We know what shaven means but what does it mean to be “shorn”?
According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, it means “absolutely, of shearing or cutting short the hair of the head”. See below:
STRONGS NT 2751: κείρω
κείρω; (1 aorist ἐκειρα (Acts 8:32 T WH marginal reading)); 1 aorist middle ἐκειραμην; from Homer down; to shear: a sheep, Acts 8:32 ((cf. above) from Isaiah 53:7). Middle to get or let be shorn (Winers Grammar, § 38, 2 b.; Buttmann, § 135, 4): τήν κεφαλήν, Acts 18:18; absolutely, of shearing or cutting short the hair of the head, 1 Corinthians 11:6 (cf. Winer’s Grammar, § 43, 1).
It means to shear like a sheep, or like a military haircut.
Let’s look at M.D. Treece’s translation and see if it makes sense when we insert these definitions:
“For if a woman doesn’t have hair down her head, let her hair be shorn like a sheep, but if it’s disgraceful for a woman to have her hair shorn like a sheep, or shaved, let her have hair down her head.”
This makes much more sense, doesn’t it? If these definitions are used, not only does the translation make sense but it also means that there is no prohibition against women cutting their hair.
Every single argument for uncut hair is based on the idea that the word shorn means a little trim, but we can clearly see that this is not what the word means simply by looking at the definition in the Greek Lexicon. If you read arguments for women’s uncut hair, this foundational argument is often skimmed over and the anecdotal arguments and circular reasoning begins with a lot of fear sprinkled in about what is going to happen to you if you disagree. But when we put aside the fear and traditional teachings we can clearly see that the word shorn means to shear like a sheep and does not mean what some are saying it means.
(Written for the Facebook group Breaking Out.)
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