Many, seeking to obey the letter of the Torah, fail to keep the spirit of Torah and thus become breakers of Torah.
The famous phrase, “Good Samaritan,” is born of the mashal (parable) of Messiah Yeshua recorded in the Gospel According to Luke 10:25-37.
The parable of the Samaritan teaches that “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev. 19:18) means to have compassion on those who willingly live at peace within your land and community, regardless of your relationship to them. It further teaches that right action is evidence of godly faith.
Both the ancient Samaritans and their modern descendants are of mixed ethnicity, having an ancestral connection to the Jewish people and a pseudo-Jewish religious worldview. Therefore, the Samaritan of Yeshua’s mashal (parable) [1st Century C.E.] is not the enemy that many commentators presume him to be.
Correctly Interpreting the mashal (Parable) of the “Good Shomroniy (Samaritan)” is of great importance today, particularly due to the “woke social justice” modern misinterpretation of it, which is employed by numerous anti semitic and (so called) “Christian” organizations like the World Council of Churches and their associated NGO the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), who actively harass Jews living in their ancestral homeland of Shomron (Samaria) and Y’hudah (Judea). With the support of the WCC, the EAPPI practice their harassment of Jews in the Name of “Jesus”, the Jew they (EAPPI) claim to worship. This kind of hypocrisy relies on the misrepresentation of Scripture in order to propagate a satanic agenda.
On occasion I have had the displeasure of reading well-meaning (and satanic) Christian rewrites of the parable of the good Samaritan, often titled, "The Good Palestinian".
Before I begin, let me be clear, there are of course many good people living under the Palestinian Authority and in Gaza under the terrorist organization Hamas. This is a fact that should not be denied. I love my Arab cousins living under these wicked regimes and pray for their freedom in Messiah and in daily life.
However, a Christian who recasts the parable of the good Samaritan as the parable of “The Good Palestinian” shows a tragic lack of understanding, not only of the parable of Scripture but also of the historical relationships it addresses.
The modern people miscalled Palestinian are for the most part Arab immigrants to the land of Israel from various parts of the Arab world (in relationship to modern history, this immigration predominantly occurring on mass during the Ottoman period). The term Palestinian has no correlation to the ethnic religious people called Shomroniym (Samaritans), none whatsoever.
The Shomroniym (Samaritans) are a mixed blood ethnicity who have Jewish (Israelite) bloodlines among others (this cannot be said of the so called Palestinian people). As a result there is an effort today by some Israeli rabbis to include the Shomroniym as a sect of Judaism, an idea that seems reasonable given the acceptance of Beta Yisrael (Ethiopian Jews) and other ethnically diverse Jews from around the world.
With regard to the first century Shomroniym (Samaritans), while there was clearly some animosity between them and the Judeans (both religious and ethnic), they were none the less understood to have a connection to the people of Israel. Therefore, they were not remotely similar to the modern (so called) Palestinian people. (Those who know modern history know that Jews held Palestinian ID's under the illegitimate British Mandate over "Palestine" [A title of occupation]. Therefore, manufacturing a Palestinian people while excluding Jews from their numbers is a logical fallacy at best and at worst anti semitic nonsense).
Suffice to say, to recast the parable of the good Samaritan as a modern anti-Israel propaganda piece titled “The Good Palestinian” is to misinform the modern reader, and misrepresent both the plan meaning of the parable of Yeshua and its spiritual message.
The parable of the good Samaritan intends to ignite reconciliation between Jews and their mixed blood brothers and sisters the Samaritans. It does not as many incorrectly presume, teach a general principle of love for one's enemies (Matt. 5:43-48). That principle is clearly taught elsewhere by the King Messiah and should be applied to our walk as His followers, but it is applied with the understanding that those being loved are "enemies" (Palestinians) and not "blood related estranged Israelites" (Samaritans).
The tragic irony here is that the misrepresentation of the parable makes it harder for many Jews to identify Yeshua as our King Messiah because the misappropriation of Yeshua’s parable is promoted by some of those who claim to know Jesus (certain Gentile Christians). People who clearly have little understanding of Yeshua's ethnic religious worldview and therefore present Him as some misshapen universal anti-Zionist hero rather than Who He is, the Messiah and reconciler of Israel (ethnic, religious, chosen), the Zionist, and Saviour to all people who have and will receive Him.
The parable of the good Samaritan is a story of the restoration of the fullness of Israel. The Torah commandment it relates to concerns loving the ones who live among the people of Israel regardless of their bloodlines but the key is "neighbour" not "enemy". An enemy is not a "neighbour". In the context of the Torah command (Lev. 19:18), a neighbour was a fellow Israeli, a mixed blood Israeli, or a foreigner who lived and kept the peace within the wider community of Israel. The Biblical Hebrew word for neighbour being “rea”.
Therefore, “neighbour” cannot and does not apply to those who shout genocidal slogans like "From the river (Jordan) to the sea (Mediterranean) all Palestine will be free", and intentionally and actively seek to kill, maim, defile and destroy the people of Israel (ethnic, chosen, religious, empirical). We have another commandment for relating to those who want us dead. That is, "Love your enemies... pray for those who persecute you..." (Matt. 5:43-48).
To those who propagate the misrepresentation of the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus) I firmly warn, cease misrepresenting the teaching of Yeshua. It only serves to prove that you have little knowledge of Who He truly is. Repent and receive the true Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus) the Jew, Israeli, and God with us.
That said, let’s approach our interpretation of the parable with the help of God’s Spirit and a contextual reading of the text submitted to the greatest of rabbis, the King Messiah.
The p’shat (plain meaning) of the parable is of great value to all who believe, and inspires a halakhah (practice) of chesed (practical love, grace, mercy). There is great depth of meaning to be plumbed in the surrounding culture, sociology and theology of this essential teaching. Therefore it’s good for us to take a deeper look at the hearers of the mashal and the characters described.
The Samaritan: Luke 10:25-37:
25 And an expert in the Torah (Instruction/Books of Moses) stood up and sought to prove Yeshua, saying, “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life (Olam habah)?”
In translating this section of Scripture, far too many English versions give room for anti semitic bias. The questioner here is often labelled as one who seeks to entrap Yeshua, the KJV for example mistranslates “a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him”, however the Greek text allows for a more natural reading.
It is in the nature and style of the Judaism of the first century, just as it is today, for an impromptu yeshivah (study/debate) to be initiated among learned people. This is the case here. The questioner is unsure as to Yeshua’s credentials and knowledge of the Torah and thus, he rightly reserves judgement by calling Him, “teacher (didaskalos),” rather than, “Rabbi (rabiy)”.
The expert in the Torah (most likely a Pharisee because for the Sadducee there is no discussion of halakhah [codified and applied contemporary action based on Torah] due to the fact that the Torah is the only inspired text and it’s literal meaning is the halakhah. On the other hand, “Torah expert” could denote a Sadducee, reliant only on the Torah and with no regard for the inspiration of the Prophets and Writings [TaNaKh]), is not trying to trap or disprove Yeshua, rather he is simply seeking to prove Him.
26 And Yeshua said to him, “What is written in the Torah? How do you read (understand) it?”
The dialogue continues in a respectful rabbinic manner as Yeshua returns question for question and gives the Torah expert an opportunity to prove his own knowledge.
27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength (Devarim/Deut 6:5), and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself (Vaiyekra/Leviticus 19:18).”
In fine rabbinic form the Torah expert answers using two primary texts from the Torah, that, while separated into different sections of the books of Moses, are nonetheless the product of the same Spirit. This is an insightful observation, one that commends him to Yeshua.
28 And Yeshua said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live”. (Bereishit/Genesis 42:17-19; Devarim/ Deut 32:46-48)
Yeshua answers succinctly, combining two key Scriptures into a single phrase “do this and you will live”. This He does in agreement with what the Torah expert has proposed.
The phrase, “Do this and you will live,” (Gen. 42:18) or, “By doing this you will prolong your life,” (Deut. 32:47), is found in two very important places in the Torah. Note that Yeshua, Who is fond of quoting the prophets and in particular Isaiah, chooses to answer in the vernacular of His questioner, speaking to him from within his own subject of expertise, the Torah.
The two passages from Torah that share the promise of life as fruit of obedience to God’s instruction are as follows:
17 So he put them all together in prison for three days. 18 Now Yoseph said to them on the third day, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God:19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in your prison; but as for the rest of you, go, carry grain for the famine which is upon your households, -Genesis 42:17-19
Joseph’s statement in Genesis 42:18 follows an allegorical period of three days matching the death and resurrection of Messiah and offers an avenue of repentant life to the house of Israel (his brothers).
The second passage Yeshua is inferring is:
46 he said to them, “Take to your heart (core being) all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this Torah. 47 For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.” -Deuteronomy 32:46-48
The instructions (the two primary commandments [Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18]) themselves are life (in God and toward one’s neighbour) and extend life (For all who live in the peace of God as a result of obedience to His Word). Thus, “Olam Haba (eternal life)”. In other words, Yeshua is saying:
“You know that the Torah says, ‘these are not just words, you must walk in them in order to walk in their life’, therefore, acting on these commands leads to eternal life.”
This answers the Torah expert’s question with a challenge. It’s not enough to have knowledge, he must also produce halakhah (action) that lives in that knowledge. This is consistent with Biblical Judaism, which sees no separation between faith and action. As I have stated many times, prior to the Hellenization of the known world there was no Hebrew word for theology (philosophising about God), because to the Biblical Hebrew belief devoid of action was unbelief. Yaakov the brother of Yeshua sums this up beautifully when he writes to the dispersed tribes of Israel saying:
“22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;
24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
25 But he who looks into the perfect Torah of freedom and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” -Yaakov (James) 1:22-25
The Torah expert, most likely of the P’rushim (Pharisaic sect) understands that halakhah (faith practiced) is an intrinsic part of Biblical Judaism. Yeshua is speaking to him in terms he can relate to. Alternatively, if as some suggest the title “Torah expert” refers to a Sadducee, then Yeshua is offering him an opportunity to develop a relevant halakhah that reflects his knowledge of Torah. Regardless of sect, all involved are Jews, the Samaritan albeit a mixed blood brother to the Pharisees and Sadducees.
29 But wishing to show himself righteous, he said to Yeshua, “And who is my neighbour?” (not shachein[H] but the Biblical Hebrew rea[H] which shares its meaning with the Greek plesion[G]: friend, fellow Israelite, person living in close proximity)
We shouldn’t be quick to pass judgement on the Torah expert, he is in fact asking a valid question for the time and his motivation is not unlike the motivation of any child trying to impress a father.
It’s worth considering that having heard the depth of wisdom in Yeshua’s voice the Torah expert wanted to show himself worthy of conversation with one Who he perceived to be a greater expert than himself.
The Hebrew language was going through a transitional period at this time in history and the Biblical Hebrew word, rea (neighbour) had a number of variant meanings, such as: friend, fellow Israelite, countryman, or a person living in close proximity. This is consistent with the Greek plesion. Neither word describes an enemy, nor does Yeshua imply such a meaning in this mashal (parable).
Yeshua now takes the impromptu yeshivah into the realm of the mashal (parable, teaching story). Yeshua’s story is crafted for the purpose of teaching, it may also be an account of an actual event. The Creator of the universe is able to invent a story and have it be literally true, all in the same breath. In fact, that is how creation is described in the book of Genesis. We are a story of the Creator.
30 Yeshua replied saying, “A man was going down from Jerusalem (raining/flooding peace[H]) to Jericho (fragrant mouth[G], moon[H]), and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. 31 And a priest happened (sugkuria[G] random, by chance) to be going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
Notice that Yeshua calls the victim “a man”. While the victim could be any man, which is an important part of the principle being conveyed, he is nonetheless most likely to be a fellow Levite, given that this parable takes place on the road to Jericho (approx. 30 km north-east of Jerusalem, a journey of descent), a first century Levitical town*.
Both the priest and the Levite are bound by the Torah instructions concerning ritual uncleanness through association with the dead (Lev. 21:1-17). It is quite possible, given that the man was badly beaten and left for dead, that they thought the man to be dead, slain by the sword of a bandit? (Num. 19:16). While this is not an excuse for failing to check on him and help him, it is nonetheless a reasonable supposition.
They are going down from Jerusalem, meaning that they had finished their temple service and were probably returning home. It is also important to understand that the majority of the priests and Levites of the time were Sadusiym (Sadducees), they didn’t acknowledge the validity of the Oral Torah (Mishnah), which rightly places the sanctity of life above all but the instruction to love and worship God alone. It is always the case in Torah that the greater commandment supersedes the lesser. In this case, to help a wounded or dying person supersedes the command for ritual purity.
Many, seeking to obey the letter of the Torah, fail to keep the spirit of Torah and thus become breakers of Torah.
*The Talmud Bavliy notes Jericho as a centre for half (12 of 24) the priestly divisions of the first century:
"the former prophets appointed twenty and four courses; and for every course there was a station at Jerusalem, of priests, and of Levites, and of Israelites; and when the time of the course came to go up, the priests and Levites went up to Jerusalem. The Rabbonim teach, that there were twenty four courses in the land of Israel, and there were twelve at Jericho.'' - Talmud Bavliy Taanit, fol. 27. 1.
33 But a Shomroniy (Samaritan: hedge about with protection, guardians, keepers), who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion,
The Samaritan, like the Sadusiym, accepted only the books of Moses as inspired and also observed ritual purity laws, yet he was obviously reminded of the greater meaning of the Biblical Hebrew word rea[H] (neighbour, friend, countryman). The compassion or chesed
(practical love, grace) he felt toward his neighbour, regardless of ethno-religious identity, was inspired by the Spirit Who inspired the Torah and is therefore an indictment against those who, having the Torah, had failed to live by the greater commandment to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).
34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own donkey, and brought him to a place of lodging and took care of him.
Some read symbolism into the oil and wine. If the hearers understood symbolism here (which is unlikely) they may have understand oil as a symbol of priestly anointing and the wine as a symbol of prosperity. However, the parable does not seek to convey allegorical symbolism but a practical application of loving kindness toward one’s neighbour. The oil and wine were valuable commodities and the use of them shows the generous spirit behind the Shomroniy’s actions.
The plain meaning in modern terms would be, “he cleansed the wounds with antiseptic (alcohol/wine) and sealed them with ointment/antibiotic salve (oil) and covered them (bandages) so that they wouldn’t get infected. Turns out the Shomroniy was prepared for injuries obtained while journeying in the ancient Levant. He had his first aid certification.
The place of lodging may well have been located in the nearby first century Levitical town of Jericho (Samaritans rarely travelled to Jerusalem because Mt Gerizim was the centre of their cult of worship) where the priest and the Levite had been heading. Thus, the Shomroniy entered a town where there was at least some animosity toward him, given that Shomroniym were considered to some degree part of a cult, apostate. What’s more he remained with the victim until he was sure that he would live.
35 On the next day he took out two denarii (two days’ wages) and gave them to the proprietor and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’
This Shomroniy (Samaritan) not only helps the injured man in the short term, he also invests in his complete healing at great cost to himself. This is perhaps one of the minor aspects of the mashal that we often overlook. How great is our love for our neighbour? How far will we go? Are we prepared to sacrifice wages in order to pay for a hospital stay or other essential services?
Consider that the Shomroniy acts out the meaning of his ethnic title in the most godly sense. Shomron being from the root Shomer[H] (guard, keep, observe). He illuminates what it truly means to be a “guardian”. A guardian of godly faith in practice.
36 Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbour, friend, countryman to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” 37 And the Torah expert said, “The one who showed mercy (chesed: practical love, grace) toward him.” Then Yeshua said to him, “Go and do the same.”
Notice the different emphasis in the question Yeshua asks. Formerly the Torah expert had asked, “Who is my neighbour,” meaning, “Who is a neighbour to me?” Now Yeshua places the emphasis on the subject, saying, “Which of these three showed himself to be a neighbour?” In other words, “You’re asking the wrong question, it’s not a case of who is a neighbour to you but how are you being a neighbour to others?” Add to this the fact that while the Torah expert is asking for a definition of the Hebrew rea (neighbour) that conveys one of its three possible contemporary meanings, Yeshua, being a good Jewish Rebbe
Himself, poses a fourth possibility, “Anybody who is not your enemy, is your neighbour.”
The Torah expert answers correctly again, however he fails to name the Samaritan. Perhaps this is why Yeshua, rather than saying, “You have answered correctly.” As He had previously (v.28) instead says, “Go and do likewise.” In fact, Yeshua is repeating His former statement, “Do this and you will live,” or, “In these words you will find life.” In other words, “Do what the Torah requires, practice what you preach” and, “Start by naming the Shomroniy, your half-brother”.
I’m certain that the next time this Torah expert met Yeshua, he called Him Rabbi—My Great One.
“22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect Torah of freedom and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” -Yaakov (James) 1:22-25
© 2021 Yaakov Brown
Being grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel (Rom. 11; Eph. 2) does not make a Gentile person ethnically or spiritually Jewish any more than being a part of the Commonwealth of Great Britain makes an indigenous Cree person (Canadian native) a Briton (tribal, ethnic, of Britain).
Being grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel (Rom. 11; Eph. 2) does not make a Gentile person ethnically or spiritually Jewish any more than being a part of the Commonwealth of Great Britain makes an indigenous Cree person (Canadian native) a Briton (tribal, ethnic, of Britain). When using an ethnic noun to describe a person's spiritual being we must by definition be speaking of a person of that specific ethnicity. A spiritual Jew is also an ethnic Jew, no matter how hard he tries he cannot become a spiritual Briton, or Cree, or Navajo, and vice versa. In the context of Scripture the phrase "Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16) refers to ethnic Jews who have received the King Messiah Yeshua. It does not refer to Gentiles, not in any way.
To put it in plan terms, if I as a Jew were to call myself a "Spiritual Navajo", I would be guilty of denying God's creative purpose for me and my God given ethnic identity, while at the same time appropriating (stealing) the creative purpose and ethnic identity of my Navajo brother. Spiritual redemption in Messiah does not equate to spiritual ethnicity. In fact, to some degree the phrase "spiritual ethnicity" is an oxymoron that uses false equivalence to promote a myth.
Those grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel feed from the faith root of the natural olive tree (ethnic Jews/Israelites) but do not fruit the same variety of fruit as the natural tree.
As a manager of a garden centre for a number of years (prior to becoming a Spiritual Leader) I noted that the multi-graft olive trees we sold fruited the fruit of their original (wild) plants where they had been grafted to the natural (base stock) plant. In short, a burgundy-brown coloured (Kalamata) olive from a wild tree grafted to the green olive (Castelvetrano) of the natural tree, nonetheless fruited burgundy-brown year after year, likewise a black olive (Bella di Cerignola) from another wild olive tree, and so on (we sold trees of up to four grafts of wild olives attached to the root stock of the base plant). After all, what is the point of a multi-graft olive tree that bears only the fruit of the natural tree?
With regard to the teaching of Romans 11/Ephesians 2, spiritually and ethnically speaking, being grafted in by faith through Yeshua the King Messiah to the root source (that which feeds the tree) does not mean a loss of ethnicity (culture, uniqueness, identity, flavour, colour), nor does it mean appropriation of the mother tree’s ethnicity (culture, uniqueness, identity, flavour, colour). It simply means that we feed from the same source (YHVH) via the tree root (Avraham, Isaac & Jacob) and are reliant on the continued existence of the natural tree (Israel).
Learn this lesson well Gentile brothers and sisters: God did not make a mistake when He made you of a different ethnicity to that of Israel (Jewish people). Nor does He require you to become Jews. Freedom is in Messiah alone, all else is idolatrous nonsense. Be the Messiah essential you, expressing all that is godly within your own ethnic cultural identity in Yeshua.
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
The point here is to distinguish between the two sexes in the corporate worship environment, not in order to denigrate either sex, but rather with a view to honouring both, and in turn giving glory to God.
A Modern English Translation
2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. 3 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. 7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.” -1 Corinthians 11:2-16 NIV
These are some of the most abused lines of New Covenant Scripture. There are many reasons for that; the male desire for supremacy (a desire to resist the female counter-desire to overthrow male authority [Gen. 3:16]), an inability to understand Jewish and Greco-Roman contextual social constructs, a misinterpretation of the Greek text, and of course the agendas of interpreters.
I have witnessed first-hand the manipulative folly of the male superiority espoused by certain faith community leaders, often based on this text, and in turn the overreaction of female members of the body of believers. In addition and due to the resurgence of Messianic Judaism, a number of Christian and Hebrew Roots leaders criticize the wearing of kippot (plural of the Hebrew kippah, a Jewish head covering for males a.k.a yarmulke [Yiddish]) due to their misunderstanding of the Greek text and the Hebrew parallelism utilized by Rav Shaul Hashaliach (Paul the Apostle [Sent one]), a self-confessed Pharisee (Acts 23:6; Philippians 3:5), and tallit (prayer shawl) wearer. A custom developed long before the first century C.E. I say this because there is a great deal of evidence supporting the first century Jewish practice of head covering in both public and private worship, and it continued to be the practice of Messiah following Jews in the years pursuant to their transformation in Yeshua. Head coverings have also been adopted into ancient branches of Gentile Christianity, giving clear historical evidence of the fact that early believers did not understand Rav Shaul’s (Paul’s) words (1 Cor. 11:2-16) to be an admonishment against male Jewish worshippers wearing head coverings.
This said, here is my translation of the same Greek text of Rav Shaul’s letter to the believers in Corinth. I have relied more heavily on dynamic equivalence in this case because formal equivalence lacks the ability to properly convey the idiomatic concepts present in the text.
Author’s Translation of Greek Text
“2 Now I commend you brothers and sisters, because you have remembered everything, both individually and collectively, which I taught you and you keep the traditions according to the way I gifted them to you. 3 But I want you to see that the origin of humanity is the Messiah, and the origin of woman is man, and the origin of the Messiah is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies having something (hair ref. v.14-15) hanging down over his head brings shame to his head, 5 but every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered, hair pulled up, brings shame to her head — there is no difference between her and a woman who has had her head shaved. 6 For if a woman is not covered, has her hair pulled up, let her also have her hair cut short; but if it is shameful for a woman to wear her hair cut short or to have her head shaved, then let her be covered, her hair hanging down. 7 For a man indeed should not have his head covered, hair hanging down, because he is the image and glory of God, and the woman is the glory of humanity. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man;9 and indeed man was not created for the woman but woman for the man. 10 For this reason a woman should exhibit privilege, power, authority upon herself, her head, because of the angels, divine messengers.11 Nevertheless, a man is not independent, separated from a woman nor is a woman independent of a man; 12 for as the woman was made from the man, so also the man is now born because of the woman. But everything is from God. 13 Decide for yourselves: is it appropriate for a woman to pray to God when she is uncovered, hair pulled up? 14 Doesn’t the way things grow (the nature of things) teach you that a man who wears his hair long (in an effeminate way) shames himself? 15 But a woman who wears her hair long brings glory upon herself, because her hair has been given to her as a covering. 16 However, if strife exists because of this, the fact remains that we have no such custom, nor do those called out who are of the God.” -1 Corinthians 11:2-16 (Author’s Translation)
I will begin by stating my conclusion. Then I’ll proceed by giving a concise interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.
I believe this passage is best summed up by the scholar Kenneth E. Bailey when He writes, “It is clear that the issue is gender distinctions, not gender subordination.” This of course only solves one of the two misunderstandings I’ve already mentioned.
The issue regarding “head covering,” is best explained as a misinterpretation of the Greek word katakaluptō, which is from the root kata literally meaning, “having down” or “hanging down”, and in the context of this Scripture passage, refers to hair, as shown by verses.14 & 15 of 1 Corinthians 11. It does not refer to hats or other types of independent head coverings.
This of course makes sense, given that Shaul (Paul), a tallit donning Jew of the first century C.E. was not known for blatant hypocrisy. Like most first century Jews Paul donned a tallit in prayer. Add to this the fact that God required the priests of Israel to cover their heads with a turban (Shemot/Exodus 28:4, 39; 39:28; Vayikra/Leviticus 16:4) and we have substantial evidence for refuting a contrary interpretation. After all, spiritually speaking, in Messiah every believer is welcomed as a priest under the High Priesthood of Yeshua:
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you might declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful, glorious, all existing light. “ -1 Peter 2:9 (Author’s translation)
Now that I have given you part of the finished jigsaw puzzle, let’s look at the pieces.
A Concise Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
2 Now I commend you brothers and sisters, because you have remembered everything, both individually and collectively, which I taught you and you keep the traditions according to the way I gifted them to you.
When Shaul says that the Corinthian body of believers (church) has kept, “the traditions just as I gifted them to you,” he is drawing on a principle of Torah, the idea of passing on sound doctrine and religious practices to others. He is also emulating (or, more likely given the time of his writing these words, the rabbis are emulating him) a similar practice within rabbinic Judaism where the Mishnaic and Talmudic traditions are intended to pass on a halakhah (the way we walk), a best practice in faith, a relevant cultural interpretation of Biblical text with a theologically practiced result. The importance of this as a foundation to what follows cannot be overstated. Shaul is about to present a halakhic precedent, one that his disciples in Corinth (be they Jew or Gentile) are expected to honour and pass on, that is, they are to practice these things in their particular social cultural context. This context of course applies to all the churches of the region as attested to by verse 16. However, we must not confuse first century Greco-Roman context with the cultural context of the present. The Biblical principles apply but the contextual halakhah (faith practice) may not.
3 But I want you to see that the origin of humanity is the Messiah, and the origin of woman is man, and the origin of the Messiah is God.
The Greek kephalē translated as “head” in this verse, can also be translated as “Origin, beginning, source,” and is essentially equivalent to the Hebrew Rosh, as in Rosh Hashanah (the beginning or origin of the year). In addition, the Greek words pas “every” and anēr “man” can together be translated as “mankind” or “humanity” as in the Hebrew adam. In light of this I prefer the following translation:
“But I want you to understand that the origin of mankind is Messiah, and the origin of woman is man, and the origin of Messiah is God.”
Having been directed to the creation story as a foundation from which we glean greater context, we understand that this means mankind originates from God through Messiah and woman originates from man in the order of the creative process. This does not denote subjugation, it is simply ordinal (the order of things). The last created is not least. In fact Shaul goes on to say in verse 7, that the “woman” is “the glory of humanity.”
If the superiority of the first things created were being addressed Shaul (Paul) would say (according to the creation narrative order of events), “The animals are the head of man and man is the head of woman.” (The Genesis 1 account shows clearly that animals were created prior to human beings) This is clearly not what is intended. He is simply showing that there is order to creation and that unlike the animals with whom we are not intrinsically related, men and women are not only ordered one after the other but also together after God. This is the foundation for what Shaul is about to say concerning public worship.
4 Every man who prays or prophesies having something (hair ref. v. 14-15) hanging down over his head brings shame to his head,
As I stated in the introduction, the Greek word katakaluptō, which is from the root kata literally meaning “having down” or “hanging down”, in the context of this Scripture passage, refers to hair, as shown by verses 14 & 15 of 1 Corinthians 11. It does not refer to hats or other types of head coverings. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the TaNaKh [OT]) uses the same Greek term (akatakaluptos) in the negative sense to show the retraction of hair, when translating the Hebrew parua (Lev. 13:45). Where katakalupto means “hang down” akatakaluptos means “pull up”.
Shaul also uses Hebraic parallelism throughout this teaching. This is a rabbinical style of teaching that in some of its elements mirrors Hebrew poetry with the repetition of ideas using different or similar terms in order to emphasis a singular idea or concept. One of the examples of this can be seen by comparing verses 4 and 14. In light of these facts I prefer the following translation of verse 4.
“Every man who prays or prophesies with long hair hanging down from his head, dishonours his head.”
It is believed that long hair worn in an effeminate way among Greco-Romans of Corinth at this time in history (obviously this does not apply to the Nazarite vow for Jews ref. Num. 6:5-7) was an indication of a homosexual lifestyle associated with various forms of pagan temple prostitution. Therefore, in order to convey the contextual cultural idiom we may read the text to mean:
“Every man who dishonors his gender publicly while praying or prophesying, also dishonours Messiah.”
This text does not, as some have said, rebuke Jewish men for wearing kippot or tallitot in worship. As stated previously, if that had been Shaul’s meaning it would have been a gross hypocrisy on Shaul’s part. Given that both tallitot and kippot were worn by Jewish believers of the first century C.E. Paul included.
The claim by some Messianic, Hebrew Roots, and Christian theologians that kippot were not customary prior to the writing of the Shulchan Arukh in the 16th century, is easily refuted by older texts citing first century instances of head covering among Jewish worshippers.
Speaking of a grieving Jew of the first century C.E. Nakdimon Ben Gurion (Nicodemus Ben Gorion) is quoted as saying, "that he went into the shul grieved, and, ‘veiled/covered himself’, and stood in prayer… he went into the sanctuary and "veiled" himself, and stood and prayed;''*
-Nakdimon Ben Gurion (Nicodemus ben Gorion) [the Nicodemus of John’s Gospel 3:1-9, 7:50, 19:39] as quoted in the Talmud Babvliy, Taanit, fol. 20. 1.
*This having been said long after the death resurrection and ascension of the King Messiah Yeshua. In other words, the Jewish practise of wearing tallitot continued to be part of the practise of Messianic Jews following the ascension of Messiah.
Jewish worship tradition in the first century required male worshippers to have their heads covered. Shaul (Paul) continued to practice a form of Pharisaic Judaism submitted to and illuminated by the King Messiah Yeshua. Paul says, “I am a Pharisee”, and not “I was a Pharisee” (Acts 23:6).
"a man might not stand and pray, neither with his girdle on, nor with his head uncovered; nor with his feet uncovered.'' -Maimon. Hilch. Tephilla, c. 5. sect. 5.
The TaNaKh (OT) itself is clearly the inspiration for the Jewish worship practice of head covering and the donning of tallitot, especially in grief:
“And David went up by the ascent of the mount of Olives, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.” -2 Samuel 15:30 KJV*
*See also 2 Samuel 19:4
It is worth noting further that even if the text of 1 Corinthians 11 refers to some sort of head covering, it does not refer to the head coverings of Jews, which were God honouring (Shemot/Exodus 28:4, 39; 39:28; Vayikra/Leviticus 16:4; 2 Sam. 15:30; 19:4), but to the specific head coverings used by pagan worshippers in honour of Greek and Roman deities ref. Macrob Saturnal. l. 3. c. 6. Alex. ab. Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 14. & 19. & 22. However, this is unlikely and is simply a polemic against the misinterpretation that sees the present text as referring to independent head coverings, it does not.
5 but every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered, hair pulled up, brings shame to her head — there is no difference between her and a woman who has had her head shaved.
This verse is the juxtaposition to the previous one. The Greek akatakaluptos is the counter point to the Greek katakaluptō. If katakalupto means “having down” or “Hanging down” then akatakaluptos the counter term should be rendered “having up,” or “Held up” rather than “uncovered”, which is an unnatural translation at best.
Therefore, where the long hair of a man “hanging down” makes him look like a woman and thus despises his true identity, the long hair of a woman having been “pulled up” or “held up” causes a woman to look like a man and therefore covers her God given glory—that is her long hair (v. 15), a sign of her femaleness, which gives honour to her gender. Thus, the statement “there is no difference between her and a woman who has had her head shaved.” Because with her hair pulled up she appears to be male, just as a woman with a shaved head appears to be male. Appearance is what is being alluded to here from the beginning. Paul has stated clearly in verse 3 “I want you to see”. The Greek eido concerning understanding gleaned from sight.
Again, we observe this retrospectively using the cultural context of the time to understand what the first readers would have gleaned from the text. Obviously, neither long hair on men or short hair on women are considered to be inappropriate in our current western cultural style and context. The point here is to distinguish between the two sexes in the corporate worship environment, not in order to denigrate either sex, but rather with a view to honouring both, and in turn giving glory to God.
In our time this carries an implicit admonishment against the enabling of gender dysphoria, now mislabelled “gender identity” by those who promote the subjective morality of modern western society.
Based on the present Scripture (and numerous others) believers are not to enable or encourage members of either sex to entertain the false idea that their gender identity is premised on how they feel or think about themselves. Gender is clearly defined in Scripture as being confined to two categories, male and female (Gen. 1:27). Even where there are exceptions with regard to hermaphroditism, or where men have been castrated etc. The acceptance of the hermaphrodite or eunuch is an exception and not the rule (Matt. 19:12). Modern science agrees that gender is clearly defined in terms of XX chromosomes, female and XY chromosomes, male (https://www.livescience.com/27248-chromosomes.html).
6 For if a woman is not covered, has her hair pulled up, let her also have her hair cut short; but if it is shameful for a woman to wear her hair cut short or to have her head shaved, then let her be covered, her hair hanging down.
This verse affirms and strengthens the message of verse 5. A shaved head was a sign of shame in both the Jewish and Greek social, cultural and religious contexts of the time. (Some scholars also cite the possibility that certain female temple prostitutes were recognized by their shaved heads). In addition it gives a woman the appearance of maleness in that cultural setting. Thus, in the first century cultural context as it applies to the believers at Corinth, the text “if a woman is not covered, has her hair pulled up,” means, if she looks like a man, she might as well shave her head.
7 For a man indeed should not have his head covered, hair hanging down, because he is the image and glory of God, and the woman is the glory of humanity.
“Men should not wear their hair in an effeminate way when prophesying, because it makes men look like women and causes people to think they're practising a sexually immoral lifestyle. This takes everybody’s eyes off God, thus defiling the worship gathering. Which is sad, because as a community you’re supposed to represent the glory of God’s creation and give glory back to Him. On the other hand (a Jewish mode of speech), women should show that they’re the glory of humanity, (which is what I was getting at with my earlier reference to the creative order of the Genesis account), by letting their hair hang down, as a sign, and the glory of their femaleness.”
8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man;
“For man didn’t originate from woman, but woman originated from man (because man was lonely and needed some help, a nezer, Hebrew, meaning a powerful helper.)”
9 and indeed man was not created for the woman but woman for the man.
The Greek dia, translated “for” here, can also be rendered as “because of.” This changes the reading of verse 9 somewhat:
“Neither was man created because of woman, but woman because of man (because he was lonely).”
10 For this reason a woman should exhibit privilege, power, authority upon herself, her head, because of the angels, divine messengers.
“For this reason a woman should have authority over her head, because of the angels.”
What is that authority? It is the sign of her glory in the created order as previously alluded to by Shaul (v.7). The sign of that authority hangs over her head, it is her hair.
The reference to angels is another reference to creation, which after all, is Shaul’s founding premise for this halakhic teaching. The angels are thought to have been created prior to human beings, this being inferred in the Bereshit/Genesis text by the compound plurality of the Hebrew Elohim.
A Rabbinic tradition (Yalkut Shimoni) claims that the angels witnessed the creation of the world. Thus the angels witnessed humanity’s crowning glory and the clear distinction between genders. Humanity’s worship of God as a relational response to Him was witnessed by angels in the beginning and continues to be witnessed by angels, l’olam va’ed—perpetually forever.
Even the angelic beings “cover” themselves in worship of God.
“Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he did fly.” -Isaiah 6:2 (Author’s translation)
11 Nevertheless, a man is not independent, separated from a woman nor is a woman independent of a man;
Put simply, we need each other.
Rabbi Simlai “said to (his students), 'At first Adam was created from dust and Chavah (Eve) from Adam; but from now on it will be "in our image, after our likeness" (Bereishit [Gen.] 1:26); not man without woman, and not woman without man, and neither of them without the Sh'khinah (the feminine light presence).' "
-Genesis Rabbah 8:9.
12 for as the woman was made from the man, so also the man is now born because of the woman. But everything is from God.
We rely on each other to act in the gender roles we’ve been given and all this brings Glory to God and reminds us that He is the Creator and Originator of all things.
13 Decide for yourselves: is it appropriate for a woman to pray to God when she is uncovered, hair pulled up? 14 Doesn’t the way things grow (the nature of things) teach you that a man who wears his hair long (in an effeminate way) shames himself? 15 But a woman who wears her hair long brings glory upon herself, because her hair has been given to her as a covering.
These verses draw together all the previous strands (pun intended), giving definition to the covering terms of the former verses. Here Shaul sums up by saying:
“We all know that it’s degrading for a woman of Corinth to have her head shaved, and it’s taken for granted that a Corinthian man with long hair is defiling his male identity. From a Biblical perspective, a woman’s long hair reminds us that she is the glory of humanity because God gave it to her to accentuate her gender when He created her. Additionally, God created her due to man’s loneliness.”
16 However, if strife exists because of this, the fact remains that we have no such custom, nor do those called out who are of the God.
From the beginning of this portion of Scripture Rav Shaul has been speaking regarding Messianic Jewish traditions passed on to the community of believers in Corinth. He begins by saying, “Now I commend you brothers and sisters, because you have remembered everything, both individually and collectively, which I taught you and you keep the traditions according to the way I gifted them to you.” (v.2).
To paraphrase, Paul is saying, “If you’re going to argue with this it will fall on deaf ears, because as a community of faith (ecclesia) we just won’t accept the misrepresentation of the genders in corporate worship.”
To sum up, we are to honour one another in our unique gender identities and roles, realising that we are reliant on one another. We are to refrain from manipulating our appearance in a way that contradicts or misrepresents our God established gender. We are to practise our faith in corporate worship in such a way as to protect other members of the faith community from being distracted by us, when the primary objective of our worship gatherings is to focus on God in Messiah, in familial connection with each other. We have as our example, the created order itself which came into being through the Davar[H]/Logos[G] Word, Essence, Substance of God Himself, Who is Yeshua the King Messiah, Imanu-El[H] God with us, a Jewish man.
© 2021 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.