A few years ago, I was teaching a class on hermeneutics while I was struggling through my antiviral therapy for Hepatitis C. In that class, we would spend part of the class going through the hermeneutical rules we had learned and attempt to apply them to difficult texts. It was a very enjoyable exercise for most, and one of the difficult texts we tackled was 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. I’ve recently been asked about 1 Corinthians 11 and the issue of head covering, and that question comes up regularly for me. Knowing that convictions on an issue come through personally working through the Scripture instead of having someone spoon-feed you an answer, I wanted to provide my bible study on 1 Corinthians 11 for the benefit of a few readers.
I’ve modified it a slight to incorporate a little more interpretive helps, seeing that I’m not there personally with you to help answer questions. Also, you may want to refresh yourself on the basic rules of Bible study here. Also, here’s some basic rules that are part of every Bible study I write:
- The text upon which the study is based is ESV.
- No flippies. Scripture interprets Scripture, sure, but the main focus of the way I study the Bible is to draw meaning from the text at hand. That means no flipping to other chapters, unless you’re told otherwise. Most Christians love to toss out the “Scripture interprets Scripture” line, but in practice it becomes an excuse for what I call “concordant exegesis”: using a concordance to interpret the text rather than the nouns and verbs in their various ascending circles of context (sentence, paragraph, pericope, logical argument, book, testament, theology, history, geography). One should never use one verse to “interpret” another just because they share a common term in an English translation. Dragging the meaning of terms from one passage, in an entirely different context, into another, is a guaranteed way to misunderstand whatever text is currently in front of your eyes. It’s a horrible interpretive habit that has become sanctified simply because it’s common.
- Dig here. Most of the questions are actually as simple as they seem. In my Bible studies, I try to “go deep”, which means I go deep into what the author wrote in this text. That means getting the surface reading right: the terms, the grammar, and the argument/example/principle being put forward. If you miss that but find a whole bunch of cool speculative intertextual or typological connections, you’ve ultimately missed the meaning of the text. When that happens, your Bible Study becomes the exegetical equivalent of all icing and no cake. It might sound great at first, but around 4 pounds into a 9 pound pail of chocolate buttercreme icing, you’ll have an involuntary change of heart (and stomach).
Believe me, I’ve tried…and painfully lost a bet in the process.
- Harder questions are marked. An asterisk (*) question is a “think a little more about this” question. That’s my indication that the question is not a surface level question.
With that small foundation laid, let’s dig through it! Continue reading