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1 Corinthians 11 is a scripture many Christians study from the surface without closely studying the background for Paul's recommendations for woman's head coverings. 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."
When we read 1 Corinthians 11, applying the culture Paul was speaking to while reading the full context of the scripture, the chapter seems much different than we were taught in the cult:
Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.
You've done well for yourselves, holding to the traditions I bring from the Jews, but there is a better way. He goes on to say:
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.
Jewish custom included the shaving of heads during mourning. Women - yes women - shaved their heads to show their sorrow. The Gentiles looked down upon this practice, and did not understand the tradition of these "shaven women." Paul said that when the women let their hair down, it was no different than the very custom they frowned upon - shaving of the head.
For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short.
And there we have it. Why is this single verse overlooked in the cult? If the woman does not keep her hair up, then cut it short! DO NOT let it flow down like the other Gentiles practicing idolatry! Do not let it flow down long like the Branham cult churches practice!
There was just one problem: Gentiles also frowned upon women who had short hair. â€¦this meant that they had recently shaved their heads! If the women had not shaved their heads, they would have remained long!
But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.
The next portion of the chapter is grossly taken out of context:
For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
Again, I'll ask this question: why "snip" that portion of scripture out of context without reading the very next verse?
Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.
Now, just imagine the small group of Christians living among the pagan worshippers of this false god, and imagine the women of that culture letting their hair down while placing themselves under the spirit of Satan to rip the flesh from humans and animals. Do you think it would be considered righteous to identify yourselves with the worshippers of Baal? These were not Christians among other Christians, isolating themselves over doctrines of hair! These were Christians separating themselves from Satan! And away from women with LONG HAIR, who let them down to worship - just like the cult of William Branham does today!
Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.
Ask yourselves this: If a Branham cult church were to be transported back in time, and somehow manage to be placed directly among the early church at Corinth, what would happen? Would Paul enter the congregation and condemn them for letting their hair down also? Would he speak out against their pride and selfishness, how they look down on other CHRISTIANS who took Paul's advice to cut it short?
It is ironic that the very thing Paul condemned is exactly what we would see if we entered a Branham cult church: women with long hair let down instead of up on their heads while worshipping!