Frist off, please note that I am not in any way trying intentionally to be offensive in what I am about to say. I have legitimate and sincere questions on this passage, so please bear with me and let us not necessarily let our emotions get ahead of our head.
I must also state that I am NOT a racist and am trying my hardest to “rescue” the following passage from racial overtones as I think you will clearly see by the tone of the rest of this post.
In 1 Corinthians 11:14-15, Paul seems rhetorically to tell us that even physis (often translated “nature”) (Lat. natura) teaches us that it is an atimia (often translated as “disgrace”, sometimes “dishonor”, though I prefer the latter) (Lat. ignominia) for a man to have long hair. He goes on to state that, contrarily, it is a doxa (often translated as “glory”, soetimes “pride”–in a good sense?–which I prefer, though a sense of beauty could also be implied) (Lat. gloria) for a woman to have long hair.
My main concern stems from this latter statement. Paul seems to use an argument from “nature” in this passage. If “nature”, which God created, is being referred to here and is used to show that long hair is a doxa (glory/pride/beauty) to a woman, what of those races of people who cannot grown long hair, such as peoples of Africa? Is, for instance, their hair objectively to be considered less beautiful? After all, when you invoke “nature”, you are implicitly invoking the whole/totality of it, are you not? You are making a blanket statement. You are invoking the whole of nature and its laws.
If this text is inspired/inerrant, why would it apparently be excluding a whole group of people in this manner (unless I misunderstand the concepts of inspiration/inerrancy?)? After all, long hair can’t be the “pride”/“gory”/“beauty” of someone who can’t grow it long, can it? Or, can it? After all, I know of people of African descent who wish for long hair and, sadly(?) even light skin. Surely such is not right, is it?
On a side note, this passage may also speak to the objectivity vs. subjectivity off beauty – a topic which I plan to address on another thread, if it has not been addressed already.
Can anyone come up with an answer to this problem? I am interested in all views, of course, but I would also like to hear from those of African descent from various faith traditions and how they understand this passage.
The only solution I can think of is to translate physis as “custom” rather than as “nature” as I have, in fact, seen done. How valid linguistically, hermeneutically, contextually, theologically would this be? Can we even maintain the translation of “nature” and not exclude people? Even if we go for this solution, however, we’re still left with the problem ofPaul excluding the validity of a group of people from this discussion. Weren’t there any early Christians of African descent – men and women – at the time? At the very least, is Paul not here guilty of an oversight? But, again, if the text is inspired/inerrant, it is my understanding that this cannot be!