Questions From Readers
● In what way does “nature itself teach” that it is a glory for women to have long hair but a dishonor for men to have long hair, as the apostle Paul wrote at 1 Corinthians 11:14, 15?—G. N., Canada.
The comments made by Paul to support what he was writing concerning the position of women in the Christian congregation were very meaningful to the Corinthians. He wrote: “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him; but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her?” (1 Cor. 11:14, 15) Under certain circumstances a Christian woman should wear a head covering as a sign of her recognition of theocratic headship. (1 Cor. 11:5) And this should have been suggested by what occurred naturally among those to whom Paul wrote, and by the customs with which they were familiar.
The Corinthian congregation was probably composed largely of Greeks and Jews, and among such people it is natural for women to have longer hair than men. This is not necessarily true among all peoples. Scientists usually recognize three characteristic types of hair: the long straight hair of Orientals and Indians, the short wooly hair of Negroes and Melanesians and the wavy hair of Europeans and Semites. Of the first two types, “the difference of length in man and woman is scarcely noticeable” if allowed to grow uncut. But not so with the third type. In general, among men “the length rarely exceeds 12 to 16 in. [30 to 40 centimeters], while with women the mean length is between 25 and 30 in. [63 and 76 centimeters] and in some cases has been known to reach 6 ft. [1.8 meters] or more.”—The Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th Ed., Vol. 12, p. 823.
Additionally, those Christians were aware that it was the general custom for men to clip their hair to a moderate length. This was common with Jewish men, the long uncut hair of Nazirites marking them as men not following the general custom. (Num. 6:5) In contrast, Jewish women usually had their hair of considerable length. (Luke 7:38; John 11:2) Even the Greeks reading Paul’s comments would have appreciated his remarks concerning women having longer hair than men. This would have been emphasized to them by the fact that, in Corinth, shaving a woman’s head, or clipping her hair very short, was a sign of her being a slave girl or of being in disgrace for having been caught in fornication or adultery.—1 Cor. 11:6.
So Paul could draw on these normal differences to illustrate that there was a distinction between the sexes. The difference should have served as a reminder to those in the congregation.
What about the length of one’s hair today? Just as the natural length of hair differs among races, so do customs and personal tastes. The short style of men’s hair in the Western world is patterned after the Roman custom, and it is considerably shorter than the style common for Jewish men in Jesus’ time. Similarly, women today quite often cut their hair shorter than was usual among ancient women. Yet, there is still a marked difference between the sexes. So, while personal taste and local custom have a definite bearing on how long a Christian man wears his hair, he does want it to reflect his masculinity. Similarly, Christian women style their hair modestly and with evident femininity, so it will be a glory for them.—1 Pet. 3:3; 1 Tim. 2:9; 1 Cor. 11:15.
In either case, though, mature Christians, men or women, take into consideration how their personal appearance will affect others. This is so that “in no way are we giving any cause for stumbling, that our ministry might not be found fault with; but in every way we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers.”—2 Cor. 6:3, 4.
● Did Jesus partake of the bread and wine when he instituted the Lord’s evening meal?—M. C., U.S.A.
No, the record of how Christ instituted the memorial of his death, or the Lord’s evening meal, does not state that he himself ate of the loaf of unleavened bread and drank of the cup of wine. Nor is there a Scriptural basis for thinking that he would have.
The account presented in Mark reads: “As they continued eating, he took a loaf, said a blessing, broke it and gave it to them, and said: ‘Take it, this means my body.’ And taking a cup, he offered thanks and gave it to them, and they all drank out of it. And he said to them: ‘This means my “blood of the covenant,” which is to be poured out in behalf of many. Truly I say to you, I shall by no means drink any more of the product of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’”—Mark 14:22-25; Matt. 26:26-29.
Some feel that because Jesus said, “I shall by no means drink any more of the product of the vine,” he must have partaken of the Memorial emblems. But, remember, they had just finished celebrating the annual Jewish Passover. As part of the celebration, Jesus drank wine and ate unleavened bread. Referring back to that, Christ said that he would not again share with them in such joy, as symbolized by the fruit of the vine, until he was ruling as king and had exercised his kingly power to awaken his anointed followers out of death. (Ps. 104:15; Rev. 11:17, 18) Jesus had partaken of the passover wine, but there is no reason to believe that he partook of the Memorial emblems.
Please note that the account says that Jesus gave the emblems to “them,” and that “they” drank of the emblematic wine. As symbols during the Memorial celebration, the unleavened bread stood for Jesus’ body, and the wine stood for his blood.
The Lord Jesus did not have to accept or partake of the benefits of the sacrifice of his own body and blood. He gave his “flesh in behalf of the life of the world.” (John 6:51) He sacrificed his blood and flesh to cover the sins of repentant but sinful humans. (Heb. 9:12-14; 10:10) As a perfect human he did not need the ransom benefits of that sacrifice, so he could say to his followers that the sacrifice was made “in your behalf,” not in my behalf. (Luke 22:20) Christ could sacrifice humanity, and blood in which the life of humanity is found, because he would not need these things himself when resurrected as a spirit with heavenly life in view.—1 Cor. 15:45, 50.
But, even though he did not need the benefits of what was symbolized by the emblems, would he have partaken as an example for the apostles? No, they knew how to eat unleavened bread and drink wine. As Jews they had just done so in the Passover celebration. All that was necessary for Jesus to do was to set up this Lord’s evening meal, and then command his followers to observe it in remembrance of him.