@Alistair, thanks for your thoughtful critique (http://thunkerboy.simplesite.com/443355854).
Having considered your argument, I think you make some mistakes that ultimately render it self-contradictory. However, I also think you make some points that complement and refine my own argument! Let me work through your remarks:
5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.
If a woman’s hair is glorious in itself, uncovering a woman’s head would display that glory. But how can we say displaying glory is the same as cutting it off? The argument just doesn’t make sense. If her hair is a covering, however, refusing to wear something on her head is to refuse her womanly hiddenness – it is the same as rejecting her natural covering with the clippers.
On the surface your point about womanly hiddenness makes good sense, but I believe that’s because it expresses a truth we all agree on rather than because it actually meshes with Paul’s reasoning at this point. In other words, I think there’s some accidental eisegesis going on here.
The simplest reason for saying this is that glory doesn’t work the way you suggest. Glory is something revealed rather than something hidden. To say that a woman’s glory is her hiddenness, therefore, is at best very awkward. While it is certainly an honor to a woman to have this kind of hiddenness (1 Peter 3:4), glory is more than honor: glory is honor on display. The terms are related, but not synonymous. For instance, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in 1 Cor. 11, Paul consistently uses doxa (glory), while in the next chapter he consistently uses time (honor) to speak of how we bestow greater value on our weaker and less presentable parts, switching to doxazo only at the end to speak of that honor being publicly recognized by others (1 Cor. 12:22-26). I take honor to be, as it were, passive, while glory is active. Honor inheres; glory “shines.”
However, your critique isn’t entirely nonsensical either—and here it backs us into a significant biblical-theological thread that I had overlooked. The concept of glory and covering appears in the Old Testament, in a way that meshes seamlessly with 1 Corinthians 11. In Ex. 24:16; 40:34; Num. 16:42 we see glory used as a covering—and this covering is a cloud which is in turn associated with the Spirit of God (cf. Gen. 1:2; Num. 9:15-16; Ps. 105:39; Hab. 2:14). Michael Foster and myself, following Alastair Roberts and others, have made the point that women reflect God differently to men: man seems to broadly image the Son, while woman seems to broadly image the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 11:7; see also our podcast on The Doxological Purpose of Sex).
In this vein, there is something really interesting about the glory-cloud. What is the relationship between the glory and the cloud? There is no doubt that the cloud itself is glorious (Num. 9:15; 1 Ki 8:10-11). Yet there is also no doubt that the cloud is distinct from the glory, and indeed covers the glory (cf. Isa 4:5). What I pointed out in my original article, how the glory of Yahweh is a man in Ezekiel 1:26–28 (cf. Ezek. 3:23; 8:4; 9:3; 10:18; 11:23; 43:2), is by no means unique to Ezekiel; it originates in Exodus. This is clear if you compare how various passages describe the cloud as surrounding the theophanic angel—the cloud covers the angel, who is the glory of Yahweh (see also my article Overt Christology in the Old Testament: the angel of Yahweh):
And Yahweh went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. (Exodus 13:21)
Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them … And in the morning watch, Yahweh in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw them into a panic. (Exodus 14:19, 24)
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank … The glory of Yahweh dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he [the glory] called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. (Exodus 24:9–11, 16)
They have heard that you, O Yahweh, are in the midst of this people. For you, O Yahweh, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them, and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. (Numbers 14:14; cf. Ex. 33:9-11; Lev. 16:2)
By the same token, Exodus 16:10 tells us that “the glory of Yahweh appeared in the cloud”—i.e., the cloud was distinct from, and concealed, the glory. Revelation helpfully explains that the relationship between the cloud and the glory is that the cloud is from the glory of God and from his power (Revelation 15:8). It proceeds from God, which is quite suggestive given our confession about the Holy Spirit, and what I’ve mentioned about how women image God.
With this in mind, let me circle around to how Paul connects glory and heads in 1 Corinthians 11. He says that a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God (v. 7). The way that he interchanges physical and symbolic headship in the larger passage makes it certain that he takes the head to be naturally connected with rulership. Paul understands that creation is symbolic, and that the head—obviously enough—is symbolic of headship. And given his cryptic comment about the angels in verse 10, it is hard to doubt that he at least has in mind Psalm 8:
O Yahweh, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens…
Yet you have made [man] a little lower than the angels (LXX)
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet…
O Yahweh, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Let me try to connect these various pieces.
Psalm 8 shows us that the glory with which God has crowned man is the same glory which he himself has in all the earth: the majesty of his dominion. The glory of God on earth is man, because man is his representative ruler. Man is majesty: the manifest greatness of God’s rulership. Moreover, since man’s head is a structural symbol for rulership, and rulership is the glory of man; and since the head is where the crown is placed, and the crown itself symbolizes glory; it is natural that man’s head is associated with glory/majesty.
Moreover, I think we can argue that he sees a natural connection between the glory-cloud, representing the Spirit of God, and woman, who images the Spirit of God.
Here’s where this takes us—at least as far as Paul is applying this conceptual nexus (consnexus?) He sees glory/majesty as passing through God -> Man -> Woman, and he sees both head and hair as integral symbols communicating these creational truths:
Majesty is the glory of God.
Man is God’s glory/majesty on earth (he is made for God, to represent him).
Woman is man’s glory/majesty on earth (she is made for man, to represent him).
Therefore, since all glory/majesty is from God, God’s glory/majesty in woman is concealed or mediated through man.
The head is the symbol of glory/majesty.
The hair (like the glory-cloud) grows out from the glory/majesty, and so serves as a barrier and concealment or mediator of it.
Therefore, man should have short hair, so as not to conceal/mediate his symbol of glory/majesty, since he himself is the (exposed) glory/majesty of God.
Therefore, woman should have long hair, so as to conceal/mediate her symbol of glory/majesty, since she herself is a concealed/mediated glory/majesty.
Woman is man’s glory, and so directly represents his majesty rather than God’s.
By merit of her hair’s function (like the glory-cloud), it too has a glory of its own.
The only glory/majesty that should be revealed in worship is God’s.
Therefore, in worship she should have a covering over her head (the symbol of man’s glory/majesty), and over her glorious hair.
By converse logic, man should have his head (the symbol of God’s glory/majesty) uncovered.
This all ensures the creation order is maintained as we enter the presence of the angels, who are naturally superior to us.
This makes better sense of Paul’s reasoning than your own argument:
Part of the answer is that long hair is a covering for the body (hence the emphasis on ‘long’) not primarily for the head. And, as we know, Paul is interested in the head.
Surely this is a stretch. Even the longest hair covers only the back; most hair covers little more than the shoulders and upper torso. If the connection between a woman’s hair and the glory-cloud is sound (and the literary-theological threads certainly pull that way), then that helps us to understand what the hair is intended to cover. The cloud may fill the temple, and cover the mountain (presumably meaning the top), yet it is nonetheless not a covering for the temple nor the mountain, but for the glory (i.e., God). In the same way, the hair may cover part of the body, yet it is nonetheless not a covering for the body, but for the head. (Clothing covers the body—and I’m sure Paul would agree that both men and women should be modestly clothed in worship.) This alone makes sense of Paul’s concern: a woman has a natural symbol, her hair, to show that her head (her majesty), is not her own, but belongs to another (her husband), and which mediates and conceals that glory that otherwise is direct from God. But this natural symbol is itself glorious, as we know from straightforward experience—it is simply an embodied fact that long hair is a glory, in the same way it is an embodied fact that a pillar of cloud and fire is pretty darned majestical. Moreover, her head itself is glorious on account of being man’s majesty. Therefore, both hair and head must be covered by a symbol of authority, to conceal them and mark their proper place in worship.
Paul begins the chapter talking about who is head of who, and moves seamlessly to the covering and uncovering of physical heads. In the context of mankind standing before God, an exposed head is symbolic of being the head, a covered head is symbolic of not being the head, and the covering is symbolic of the authority the person is under (v10).
I agree, but this actually refutes your interpretation—because if a woman’s hair just is her covering, further covering is redundant. Your interpretation explains why Paul says that a woman should not be shaved; but it fails to connect that with covering her hair, since her hair is the covering. I think my interpretation, fleshed out now above, remedies this. A woman’s hair is glorious in itself. Therefore, uncovering her hair displays that glory. In worship, this is the same as cutting it off, because to cut it off would be to play the man. A woman displaying her glory in worship is playing the man because men are supposed to be the ones displaying (God’s) glory in worship. And a woman with shaved hair in worship is playing the man because short hair is manly.
I tend to assume that really long posts like this are overcompensating for something—but in this case it has just been a case of finding a lot more to say than I had previously realized was there. Thoughts?