Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Head Coverings: Part 2 Calvin

The view of Calvin on this matter is set out briefly but clearly in his comments on 1 Cor 11:3, where he says, "it is an unseemly thing for women to appear in a public assembly with their heads uncovered, and, on the other hand, for men to pray or prophesy with their heads covered." That certainly seems to settle the matter. What is curious about this fact is that the Geneva Bible, which appeared a relatively short time later, and under the influence of Calvin, held to a different view, as was shown in the last post. Hence, it is profitable to take a closer look at Calvin's comments in the ensuing verses.

In commenting on vs 4, Calvin says, "For we must not be so scrupulous as to look upon it as a criminal thing for a teacher to have a cap on his head, when addressing the people from the pulpit." He goes on to say that Paul's point of concern here is decorum, and "If that is secured, Paul requires nothing farther."

In his comments on vs 5, Calvin insists that women must have their heads covered, to show their subjection. He goes further to insist that it must be a covering in addition to her hair, because some want to argue that it is a woman's hair that is her covering.

According to Calvin, the entire section is concerned with decorum or propriety in the church, and as long as decorum is preserved, the end is accomplished. However, he then seems to become inconsistent, by saying that the man may in fact have his head covered, as long as it is not intended to be "an emblem of authority intermediate and interposed." But the woman must have her head covered. The covering is a sign of her subjection, and apparently for Calvin this was not possible without a visible covering over the woman's hair.

This seeming inconsistency may account for the difference between Calvin and the Geneva Bible on this matter.

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