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Do Not Let Your Women's Hair Be Like Maenads!

John Collins01/19/20131 Corinthians 11 is a scripture many Christians study from the surface without closely studying the background for Paul's recommendations for woman's headcoverings.  It is often debated, partly because Jewish custom included the shaving of women's heads during times of mourning -- which seems to defy Paul's statements, and partly because of Paul's last statement on the subject: "We have no such practice, nor do the churches of God."

Today, we are going to examine Paul's last statement as compared to the ancient city of Corinth.

Religious cults are nothing new.  Often we find elements in modern cults contained within ancient religious cults, and we often find scriptural topics that apply to specific situations being reused to apply to today's culture where there is very little or no relevance.

Corinth was a focal point for worship of Dionysus, god of wine, ecstasy, and ritual madness.  Dionysus translated means "the god who comes," because he was an outsider god.  In Greek mythology, Dionysus was the only god with a mother who was a mortal.

In religious rituals, followers of Dionysus practiced the "Dionysian Mysteries," rituals that invoked a hypnotic state freeing the mind from its normal state to allow religious ecstasy.  Once the group of cult followers entered this state, sacrifice and orgies followed as part of their religious practice.

Maenads, female followers of Dionysus, had long and flowing hair that was kept wrapped upon their heads with large hairpins, much like the Pentecostal or Branham cult women of today.  During these rituals, the women would pull out the hairpin, letting their long hair flow unkempt.  In this hypnotic state, Maenads would begin uncontrollable sexual activities, hunt down and kill animals with their bare hands by ripping out the heart and other organs, and even tear apart human flesh.

In Corinth, a hotbed of the followers of Dionysus, Paul did not want the early Christians to continue this practice.  This was a very popular cult, and many of the early followers of Christ in Corinth would have either had experience with or have been part of the cult of Dionysus. 

Paul said that any woman who lets her hair down to pray or prophesy dishonors her head.  Letting her hair down for religious experience was forbidden to separate themselves from the way of the Corinthian cult.  

Paul was also familiar with Jewish custom of women shaving their heads, which would have been looked down on by the Greeks.  He told the Corinthians that letting their hair down would be similar to Jewish women shaving their heads, which the Corinthians likely ridiculed.

If a wife does not pin her hair up and keep her head covered, then Paul said that women should shorn their hair, or cut it short -- which was also frowned upon by Corinthian women who kept long, flowing hair.  Paul said that since it was disgraceful for a wife to cut her hair short, then they should keep it pinned up, covering her head.  

This teaching, according to Paul, was not required by the Christian churches of Christ.  Jewish people had no such custom or practice similar to the Maenads.  "Neither," Paul said, "do the churches of God."

As Christians, we should ask ourselves: Why did we follow a false prophet who said that "God won't even listen to a woman's prayer if she cuts her hair?"  Have we looked down upon other Christian women who cut their hair?  Have we let our wives pray with their hair let down like the Maenads, when Paul preached against it?  Or can we argue that it doesn't really matter, because we are not around cults of Dionysus today?  If that doesn't matter, shouldn't we repent of our scornful manner towards other Christian women that cut their hair?  Shouldn't we repent that we followed a false prophet with such a ridiculous false teaching?