Head Coverings in Corinth: Conclusions

This is the final post in our series on Head Coverings in Corinth.
Ancient Corinth
Ancient Corinth

In this series we have examined interpretations of First Corinthians 11.2-16 by three notable New Testament scholars, Richard B. Hays, Richard A. Horsley, and Dale B. Martin. To briefly summarize their respective interpretations and understandings of Paul’s views of the human body, we characterized Hays’ position as that of the socially gendered body, Horsley’s view as the ordered body, and Martin’s perspective as the polluted body. After reviewing each scholars contextual considerations for their perspective, their commentary and interpretation of First Corinthians 11.2-16, and the general shape of their understanding of the construction of the human body found in that passage, we turned to an extended consideration of the conception of the human body that can be drawn from this noteworthy passage in Paul’s first letter to Corinth. Here we argued that each perspective relies heavily upon social scientific reconstructions of the Corinthian context that directly impact conceptions of the human body. We noted that each scholar conceived of the Paul’s understanding of the body within the communal framework of the entire Corinthian Christian body. Additionally, we examined Hays, Horsley, Martin, Osiek and Pouya’s interpretations on the impact of Greco-Roman hierarchical norms on Paul’s conception of the human body. Finally, we explicated the various ways in which these scholars understood Paul’s emphasis on bodily difference in Corinth, arguing that the conception of bodily difference was the unifying feature of these three interpretations of First Corinthians.

Interpretations of Paul’s writings, especially those with potentially profound implications for understanding the human body and its relation to other bodies and persons, will undoubtedly continue for years to come. And while this study has only examined three perspectives on Paul’s conception of the human body taken from a short (though notable) passage of one of his letters, the unifying feature of these interpretations concerning Paul’s understanding of Corinthian Christian male and female bodies as different within the Greco-Roman social context, it may be that this unifying conception of body may very well point to a wider field of interpretive discussion and Pauline thought to be found in later studies of the body. As has been the case with the interpretation (and application) of First Corinthians 11.2-16, only time will tell.

Works Cited

English Standard Version: Study Bible. Crossway Publishers: Wheaton, 2008. Print. 2206-7.

Hays, Richard B. First Corinthians. Series Editor James Luther Mays. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. John Knox Press: Louisville, 1997. Print.

Horsley, Richard A. I Corinthians. General Editor Victor Paul Furnish. Abingdon New Testament Commentaries. Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1998. Print.

Martin, Dale B. The Corinthian Body. Yale University Press: New Haven, 1995. Print.

Osiek, Carolyn and Jennifer Pouya. “Constructions of Gender in the Roman Imperial World.” Edited by Dietmar Neufeld and Richard E. DeMaris. Understanding the Social World of the New Testament. Routledge: New York, 2010. Print. 44-56.


Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

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