Objection: 1 Corinthians 11.14-15

Does not even 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? For her hair is given to her for a covering. (NASB)

This is actually one of my most favorite passages in all of Scripture because the entire chapter on head coverings is so confusing and controversial. Interpreters struggle with a way to interpret it in a way that is logical, let alone definitive. For that reason no one should take the verse lightly and especially not out of context. Regardless of which of the several interpretations we use, a transman could simply say the verse does not condemn his hair because he is a man, not a woman and vice versa with transwomen. A genderqueer person could say the verse does not apply because they are both a man and a woman or neither. However, someone could respond that this verse creates a binary and violating that binary with hair is condemned.

There is another way to interpret this that may be more convincing to those bringing it up. Realize that the way mainstream Bibles interpret this is only one way. Translated literally, the Greek says

Not does even nature itself teach . . .

Greek does not construct questions in the same way as English. In English we take a statement and switch the order of words. For example,

I can have a cookie.

Can I have a cookie?

In Greek, as in many languages, you would tell by listening for the speaker to raise their voice at the end. In English, we sometimes construct questions this way too.

I can have a cookie?

In Greek writing, however, there is no voice. There is also no grammatical notation like question marks or periods. Therefore, it is linguistically correct to translate/interpret any of the following.

Does not even nature itself teach . . . ?

Not does even nature itself teach . .  . 

Translating as a statement completely changes the meaning! Instead of condemnation of certain hair, it is a condemnation of those people who condemn that hair. So if both was are possible, how do we know what Paul intended? Context and common sense. The context of this chapter is also disputed, with most interpreters believing it is an order for men not to cover their head in church and for women to cover their head. Meanwhile others believe Paul advocates both sexes uncovering. If the former is correct, it would mean that the hair statement must be a question and a differentiation between the sexes and for women to cover more and men less, whether by clothing or hair. If the chapter conveys gender neutrality, it means the exact opposite for these verses.

Taking on this chapter is highly complicated and something other authors are better suited for than myself. Instead, let's consider what common sense demands. If the verse is a question, it must be rhetorical, implying the answer is obvious and something Paul's audience can answer for themselves without relying on Paul's wisdom. This itself is suspicious! If Paul were needing spend half a chapter to teach the Church in Corinth about gender roles, why would he then assume they already know the obvious answer? Second, if we answer the question, the only possible answer is, "No, nature does not teach that." That females have longer hair has nothing to do with nature but only because we choose to wear it long. Infants are born with or without hair regardless of their sex. If males grew out their hair, it would be just as long as females'. The only difference is that some males bald when older but females do not. Even so, most Christians would say this is because of the Fall, along with Alzheimer's and arthritis so we can hardly look to the Fall for instruction! If we look beyond humans, animals show the opposite. The males have the same or more elaborate hair or feathers while the females tend to be rather plain. Lions, robins, and peacocks are well known examples. Answering No to the rhetoric question as we must, we must conclude the Holy Spirit either goofed or this was never a question at all but an affirmation that Nature does not dictate our gender expression. That sounds like support for transgenderism!

Nature itself does not even teach 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 for her hair is given to her for a covering.

We would translate the entire two verses like this. The re-ordering words has the same meaning in both English and Greek but sounds more natural in English. Notice it is also allowed to translate the verse as a single sentence just as well as two sentences because there is no period in the Greek and the two work grammatically.  In fact, in English, the second sentence is a fragment which is grammatically incorrect. This might be true of the Greek as well, but I cannot say for certain.

See Also

Paul's Real Teaching as to Veiling (continued) - A study of this chapter consistent with mine, including the translation of the above verses.

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