Thursday, May 06, 2010

Paul pilpul

As we found yesterday with regard to I Corinthians 11, it's less easy to "follow" Paul, to read him, than it first might seem. 

Two footnotes: Paul's word for "follow" is the greek mimetai, the root of mimesis - to imitate, copy - the same word the Greeks used to speak of art, as when Aristotle says a plot is the "imitation of an action."

Paul's word for "glory" is doxa - this word seems to have undergone a curious transformation when the Bible was translated into Greek (the Septuagint, in Alexandria in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC). For Aristotle and Plato, the word carried the sense of "opinion" in contrast with "knowledge," scientific certitude. The translators of the Old Testament used doxa to render the Hebrew kavod, "glory," according to this note. New Testament writers seem to have employed that acceptation.

Here's a modern English translation of Paul's passage, from the World English Bible.

The passage in question, I Corinthians 11 1-13, is sufficiently intractable as to have permitted radically incompatible readings, according to this note in Wikipedia:

Bushnell view

A minority translate the passage as commanding women to uncover their heads. This idea was pioneered by John Lightfoot and expanded by Katharine Bushnell. In their view, Paul commanded women to uncover because they were made in the image of GodEve was created for Adam's incapacity to exist alone, all men are born from women, because of her angels, nature does not teach otherwise, and the churches have no such custom. The passage is not actually a repression of women but a herald for equality. However, no printed Bibles have accepted this translation.

Pilpul indeed!

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