First Corinthians 11:2-16, Calvin, And Reformed Praxis -- By: Christopher G. Petrovich

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 77:1 (Spring 2015)
Article: First Corinthians 11:2-16, Calvin, And Reformed Praxis
Author: Christopher G. Petrovich


First Corinthians 11:2-16,
Calvin, And Reformed Praxis

Christopher G. Petrovich

Christopher G. Petrovich resides in Niška Banja, Serbia, and conducts research in the fields of New Testament exegesis, historical theology, and the sociology of religion.

I. Introduction

It has been suggested that 1 Cor 11:2-16 is “one of the most obscure passages in the Pauline letters.”1 Victor Furnish has proposed that Paul’s argument “may well have seemed unsatisfactory even to the apostle himself”2 while Francis Watson adds that this text has “flaws, obscurities, and illogicalities.”3 What has made Paul’s case in 1 Cor 11:2-16 so controversial and “notoriously

obscure”?4 At the very least, it has arisen from our inability to understand several key statements that would have been transparent to the Corinthian church and “our inability to know exactly what Paul had previously taught the Corinthians on this subject and what they had written to him about it.”5 Is κατακαλύπτω a reference to hairstyles or head coverings? Is Paul speaking to men and women in general or husbands and wives in particular? What does Paul mean by ἐξουσία? Why is it wrong for women to worship with their head uncovered? Is Paul reinforcing the subordination of women or is he elevating women to the role of preaching and teaching? What do the angels have to do with the κατακαλύπτω?6 After an exegesis of this text in conversation with modern interpreters, I will consider the ways a traditional reading coheres or departs from Calvin’s reading of this text and then briefly discuss how contemporary Reformed praxis is the result not only of a particular interpretation of this text but of theological considerations.

II. Identification Of Κατακαλύπτω

Paul commences by praising the Corinthians because they remember him “in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor 11:2).7 Fee suggests that this verse should be understood as “a kind of captatio benevolentiae to introduce chaps. You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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