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September 16, 2018

JFYMany say that 1 Corinthians is the most relevant of epistle for today’s culture yet it gets short shrift in the RCL.

It appears for the first 5 ordinary Sundays of Year B – that is now – in the RCL

But if Easter is early, like this year, it get eclipsed.

Furthermore, protestant and Anglican versions of the lectionary further eclipse it by having different readings for ‘Sundays before Lent’.

It touches on many issues that continue to make Paul’s letters points of conflict today: the relationship of new (house) churches to the mainline, charismatics, liturgical order, inter-communion, hierarchies and equality, power and weakness, relationships with on-believers, multi-culturalism, wealth and giving, food and its source, sex, rebaptism, life after death, whether Jesus’s commands can be set aside by personal opinion and, most of all, using one’s own judgement.

There are glossary sections, tasks and questions to guide the reader.

Notable by their absence are any references to J. A. T. Robinson’s ‘The Body’ or his commentary on 1 Corinthians. Nor is there any references to chapter 6’s homosexuality and its mistranslations.


There is a tradition of interpreting 1 1:10 as saying that a woman ought to have ‘a veil’ on her head (e.g. RSV). The Greek text gives exousia (authority, power, freedom). By substituting ‘veil’ for authority, interpreters were identifying the exousia as that of a woman’s husband: when she prays, she should demonstrate that she remains under her husband’s authority. Their view was (is) that the head-covering is not a symbol of a woman’s authority but of a wife’s hierarchical subjection. This would be counter to the idea that in Christ a woman is not defined by her marriage: there is no longer male and female (Gal. 3:28). The text says a woman ought to have authority on her head. Morna Hooker’s analysis above suggests that this is exactly what Paul means. By ceasing to reflect her husband’s ‘glory’ she demonstrates that her authority to pray and prophesy is drawn from God and reflects God’s glory.

Any interpretation raises the difficulty of the application of any such teaching to women who were not married, and to those whose husbands were not ‘in Christ’ . The focus is probably on married couples within the congregation.

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