“Praying and Prophesying In the Assemblies: I Corinthians 11:2–16” (Ch 8) by Gordon D. Fee -- By: Thomas R. Schreiner

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 10:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: “Praying and Prophesying In the Assemblies: I Corinthians 11:2–16” (Ch 8) by Gordon D. Fee
Author: Thomas R. Schreiner

“Praying and Prophesying In the Assemblies:
I Corinthians 11:2–16” (Ch 8) by Gordon D. Fee

Thomas R. Schreiner

Associate Dean, Scripture and Interpretation
Professor of New Testament Interpretation
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky


Gordon Fee has written an outstanding commentary on 1 Corinthians, and hence he is a natural choice for this article on 1 Cor 11:2–16 in Discovering Biblical Equality. He divides his article into an introduction, an analysis of the presenting issue in Corinth, an overview of Paul’s response, the matter of women praying and prophesying, the meaning of the term “head,” and the meaning of 1 Cor 11:10. In this review I will follow Fee’s outline in responding to him.1

Fee emphasizes the difficulty of the text in the introduction and in his analysis of the presenting issue, and argues that Paul’s response to it is “generally relaxed” (142) and that Paul is not scolding the Corinthians. No one disputes that the text is complicated, and there are some dimensions of the text that will always elude certainty (such as the reference to angels in v. 10). Nevertheless, the burden of the text may still be discerned by readers today, even if we cannot solve every question. Furthermore, Fee overstates the relaxed nature of Paul’s response, for the language of shame and honor in the text would have spoken powerfully to the culture of Paul’s day and would underscore the seriousness of his admonitions. Moreover, as we shall see, Fee underemphasizes the importance of v. 3 in the Pauline argument. On the other hand, Fee rightly suggests that the problem in the text probably relates mainly to the women, rather than to both men and women (contrary to Collins and Thiselton), and that the verses seem to relate to men and women in general rather than being limited to husbands and wives. Furthermore, he also correctly maintains that determining whether the cultural practice was some kind of head covering or related to the hairstyle of women is not crucial either for unpacking the meaning of the text or for discerning its contemporary application.

Fee’s Overview of the Text

In Fee’s overview of the passage, he argues that a woman who prays and

prophesies without proper adornment brings shame on both herself and on man as the head. He claims that the argument in v.

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