Archive for September, 2013

Head Coverings – Some Exegetical Analysis of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

September 25, 2013

I’ve applied some chevrons to the text of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, to try to emphasize some of the structure:

> Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
>> But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
>>> Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
>>>> But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
>>>>> For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
>>> For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
>>>> For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
(Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.)
>> Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
>>> Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
>>> But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
> But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

Next, let me provide an outline of Paul’s comments:

Follow the traditions we give you;
A) Headship explained:
i) Christ is the head of man,
ii) the husband is the head of the wife,
iii) God is the head of Christ;
B) Covering’s Relationship to Honor/Glory
i) Male covering dishonors himself;
ii) Female uncovering dishonors herself (reductio from the fact that if she was shaved it would be obviously a disgrace);
iii) Male uncovering displays God’s glory;
iv) Female covering displays the male’s power to the angels;
(But in the Lord, men and women are equal as they create one another and all are created by God.)
C) Nature Illustrates the Principle of Covering
i) It is a shame for men to have long hair;
ii) It is a glory for women to have long hair;
iii) Hair is a natural covering of the head.
But if the argument from nature doesn’t persuade you, suffice that headcovering (for women) and uncovering (for men) is the only custom we have; there is no other custom among the apostles or churches of God

Some general thoughts:

1) Men generally don’t tend to have a big problem with obeying the commands of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. After all, this is one of the nicer aspects of being man – getting to typify the glory of God and the headship of Christ.
2) Men are prone to let this go to their heads. That’s why the parenthetical about equality in the Lord is there: so we can remember that this headship men have is for this earth only and typifies the headship of God.
3) Men also should keep in mind that this headship comes with typing Christ in other words, such as providing for and sacrificing himself for his wife. (Ephesians 5:25; see also, 1 John 3:16 and Romans 16:4)
4) Women, in this age of feminism, have a problem obeying the commands.
5) Some women have a problem with this custom of showing male headship with an artificial covering, because they have a problem with male headship. This class of women should be encouraged by the parenthetical about equality in the Lord, but ought to endure male headship in this present age.
6) Some women have a problem with this custom of showing male headship with an artificial covering, because they think their natural covering is enough. This may arise from a misunderstanding of Paul’s argument from nature. Paul argues that nature itself shows that long hair is bad for men but good for women. Paul is using this to demonstrate that men should not wear artificial coverings and women should. We know this because Paul first argues that if a woman is not covered, she might as well be shorn/shaven. But if he was only referring to natural covering, then his statement makes no sense. “If she does not have long hair, she might as well have short hair” would be a tautology, but Paul is employing a reductio.
7) Some women have a problem with this custom because they believe that the custom is a cultural one. Such a conclusion is not derivable from the text. Paul argues for the custom not based on Corinthian or Graeco-Roman cultural norms, but based on (a) universal apostolic tradition; (b) the principle of headship; (c) the testimony to the angels; and (b) the light of nature. None of these arguments are culturally limited. Moreover, Paul’s admonition is not a general statement about life in the surrounding culture, but a specific statement about life in the church (“praying and prophesying”).
8) Some women have a problem with this custom because they have heard that a shaved head in Corinth suggested that a woman was a prostitute and that long hair in Corinth suggested that a man was a homosexual. Thus, placed in that context Paul was just telling people not to look like prostitutes and homosexuals. The problems with this kind of argument are as follows:
i) The evidence for the premises about hair length and its significance in Corinth is rather tenuous. If someone wanted to debate this point with me, I would want to see what evidence they had found for the ideas that a shaved head in Corinth suggested that a woman was a prostitute and that long hair in Corinth suggested that a man was a homosexual. But let’s assume for the sake of argument that such evidence exists.
ii) The argument from that evidence assumes that all Paul has in mind are natural coverings, not artificial coverings. But Paul has in mind artificial coverings, as explained above.
iii) Given that Paul has in mind artificial coverings, one would expect Paul to say that if a woman is shaven or shorn, she should cover her head artificially – but instead he phrases it the other way around. If she doesn’t cover her head artificially, she might as well shave her head. The idea that this would mark her as a prostitute in Corinth would simply enhance Paul’s reductio.
iv) The reference to praying/prophesying makes little sense if Paul’s point is one about avoiding the appearance of sexual sin. In other words, women should never dress like prostitutes and men should not dress themselves in a way that suggests homosexuality. These are general principles of avoiding the appearance of sin, not anything specific to worship.
v) The discussion of headship seems completely out of place if Paul’s point is about avoiding the appearance of sexual immorality.
vi) Conversely, the artificial covering is specifically described as “power on her head.”
vii) And as hinted at in (iii), evidence that long hair was associated with homosexuality and shaved heads with prostitution would seem to play well into Paul’s argument from the analogy of nature, but Paul does not exclusively rely on that argument, but rather on authoritative tradition.
9) Some women have a problem with this custom because they think it only applies to women in the pulpit, but they are not in the pulpit, so it does not apply to them. But even when there were women prophetesses, women were required to be silent in the church. So, the praying/prophesying is not a short-hand reference to women pastors, but rather broadly to religious worship.
10) Some women are persuaded that the Scriptures say that they should cover their head during public prayer, but are hesitant to do so because they are in the minority in their church. In fact, they might be the only such woman in their church. They fear either ridicule or judgment of their peers. This is a very understandable fear. A head covering does mark out a woman in that context. Still, such women should take encouragement from the fact that the angels observe her as well. By her head covering she is testifying to her submission to her head, and demonstrating to the angels her obedience to Christ our head and to God the the head of Christ. Moreover, she should consider that her testimony may encourage other wives to do the same – perhaps wives who have been reluctant for the same reason. Indeed, this is one visible way in which a woman can fulfill her teaching role as described in Titus 2:5.

In numbers 5-9 above, I’ve referred to women having a problem with the command. Obviously, a lot of their husbands either join with them or don’t object to them. So, there are doubtless men who have a problem with this command as well. Men’s issues with the command are less significant to me, because the command is not directed to them. Still, men are supposed to be the spiritual leaders of their household, and ought properly to instruct their wives on this issue. Husbands also ought to be understanding of the fact that their wives may feel themselves under peer pressure to conform to whatever the majority of other women in the church are doing – that this will not be easy, and that many Protestant women grew up in churches that had abandoned the this ordinance that Paul delivered to the Corinthians. Be patient, but don’t neglect what Paul taught.


Ergun Caner Testimony at "Free CD Tracts"

September 24, 2013

“Free CD Tracts” has posted Ergun Caner’s testimony (here). There are links to audio (here) and video (onetwo).

All times are approximate and refer to the audio file:
“For the average Muslim it takes seven years to come to faith in Jesus – for me, it was any number of years” (0:30)
If only he would stick to this!

“Finally, my senior year in high school” (1:00)
Was it his senior year or his junior year?

“In every debate that I’ve done, in every time I’ve debated Muslims, Sunni, Sufi, Alawite, Shia, every debate I’ve ever done, this question always comes up from the Muslim, ‘what does one man’s death have to do with me.'” (5:00)
I would love to see any evidence that Caner has ever debated Muslims from each of those sects.

“Isa bin Allah – Jesus is the son of God” (6:30)
This does not seem to be grammatically correct Arabic.

“In every debate, in every discussion, I have never met one Muslim – not one! – who believes that the Allah of the Koran and Jehovah intimate Adonai God of the Bible are the same god.” (10:00)
Again, where are these debates? Moreover, the Koran does claim:

And argue not with the People of the Scripture unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender.

Surah 29:46 (Pickthall translation)

What is sad about the videos is that they are clearly professionally done. There is even some nice Arabic or Farsi (someone who reads it better than me should be able to say) sub-titling. Moreover, a lot of what Caner has to say is important and valuable for Muslims to hear. If only the dross could be purged so that the testimony could be heard by those who need to hear it! I’d also like for the testimony to mention more about the need for repentance, but I suppose that Caner has not mentioned that, because he believes Muslims are already aware of that.


From Islam to Christianity – Part 1 – Ergun Caner – 2 November 2009

September 23, 2013

A transcript of a program titled, “From Islam to Christianity – Part 1” by Ergun Caner, dated November 2, 2009, can be found at this link (link). I would love to check the accuracy of the transcript, but it seems to be hard to find original audio of Ergun Caner’s presentations these days. Here are some interesting comments attributed to Caner in the transcript:

And in Acts 16 Paul and Silas and Luke they set out on the second missionary journey. The first place they go is my country, Tyrus is on the western shores of Turkey. I’m an eastern Turk, toward the Kurdish regions.

Now, we know that Caner was born in Sweden and came to America as a young boy. But let’s set this aside for a moment, to look at some other comments.

Somebody stuck around for me. I came here as a missionary to you. I didn’t know Christians. I thought you hated me. Everything I ever learned about American Christianity I learned in the mosque from my imam or from my madrassa, my training center. And so every other place I’d ever lived I lived there as a majority person.
I always lived in a majority Islamic countries. Then I come to America. My father was a muezzin. I’m the oldest of three sons to his wife, this one wife. He had many wives. I came as a faithful and devout Muslim.
Every debate I’ve ever had with a Muslim, “Oh, you do not understand Islam. Oh, you need to understand the Arabic.” What’s next? That was my language before English. English is hard.

Notice the claims he makes:

  • that he came “as a missionary.”
  • that he “always lived in majority Islamic countries.”
  • that his father had “many wives.”
  • that he has had enough debates with Muslims to describe them as “every debate.”
  • that Arabic was his language before English.

Are any of these claims true? Recall that Caner’s “statement” said:

As for the countless other volleys aimed at discrediting the work I do, I am unsure how to respond. If my pronunciation of Arabic phrases is not correct, then I apologize. The language of my lineage is Turkish, not Arabic. Even Arabic dialects differ regionally, such as Jordanian and Egyptian. Indeed, 80% of the Muslim world does not speak Arabic, so I doubt anyone will be fully satisfied at this juncture.


So at the end of your life you’ve got to be 51 percent righteous to make it into paradise. That’s why I had a prayer rug in my locker in high school in Brooklyn, New York and then Columbus, Ohio. I would roll my rug out and five times a day, three times in the high school and then twice other times.

When did Caner go to high school in Brooklyn, NY?

I kept telling him no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Finally he invited me to a revival. And so I walked in to Stelzer Road Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio in full gear with a coat on.

What gear?

They didn’t call me names. They didn’t call me towel head, camel jockey or sand n*gger. See, I got called that other places.

Kids are mean, but why would they call him any of those names, given that he apparently dressed normally and wasn’t an Arab?

I got to do two things as a new believer in Jesus. One, took my keffiyeh off and I told the waitress I was saved. And number two, I ordered every piece of ham – I went home and told my father. I said, “Abi, I am born again. I’m saved.” It was November 4, 1982 and it was the last day I saw my father.

Why was Caner wearing keffiyeh? That’s not typical for Turkish Muslims. Also, “abi” sounds more like Hebrew “Abba,” than like a Turkish word for “father.”

In 1991 my Mama got saved. In the baptistry took off her hijab.

Why would his mother have been wearing a hijab? (see discussion here)

This seems to have been something of a “canned” sermon by Dr. Caner. You can see very similar excerpts here (link), from a sermon with the same topic, but preached a few years earlier.

Ergun Caner with Craig von Buseck

September 16, 2013

Ergun Caner was apparently interviewed some time ago by Craig von Buseck (interview available here).

Caner stated:

I was a Muslim for half my life, until I was almost twenty. The only thing I ever learned about Christianity I learned from my Imam and the scholars in the mosque. Then when I began to be trained in Madras we heard even more about Christians, that they are our enemies. I would guess that the key word that we would call the Americans was the Crusaders. Right after the bombing of 9/11, when the first bin Ladin tape was released, he called us Crusaders. The Fatwa that was signed February 23rd, 1998 referred to us as the Crusaders. This is because from our world mindset — one side of my family is Wahabi, the other side is Sunni Orthodox — this is fundamental to understanding how they view America.

a) Caner elsewhere claims to have come to Christ in 1982, which would have meant he was either 15 or 16.
b) This claim of being Sunni/Wahabi was similarly made here:

But another time it was claimed that Ergun’s mother was Sufi:

But compare what Emir Caner said about his mother saying the Shahada at the time she married his dad, and subsequently becoming a universalist/hippy:

And finally remember that Geisler tried to claim on Caner’s behalf that “Michael” was a name that Caner’s mother “always wished to give him” (see here).
Caner state: “I do debates and in America it’s becoming kind of like the gospel according to Jerry Springer — you know, there’s yelling and screaming.”
Where are these debates?
– TurretinFan

The Period of Grace Makes the Death Penalty Irrelevant?

September 9, 2013

The Bible indicates that the civil government ought to have and enforce laws providing for capital punishment of male homosexual behavior. It is written: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13) It’s not a law that is in force in many places in the world today, and consequently meets with some cultural/traditional resistance from lots of folks.  I should point out that the text applies to the government, not individuals.  We Christians are not called to take the law into our own hands.

Someone recently posed the following question to me: “How would you respond to people who try to refute your views by stating that Christ brought forth the period of grace, making the death penalty of that time irrelevant?”
My responses are as follows:
1) Where does the Bible say that the death penalty is irrelevant?
2) On the contrary, the Bible affirms that the civil magistrate is God’s minister to administer punishment including death: “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” (Romans 13:4) The sword/wrath reference is a reference to putting evil-doers to death.
In response to (1) my friend suggested that the people may appeal to the Pericope Adulterae, the story of Jesus saying that the person without sin should be the first to cast a stone at the woman caught in adultery.  I respond:
a) The person should keep in mind that the story of the woman taken in adultery is one that is not found in the earliest manuscripts of the Scripture.  One should be careful about trying to build one’s argument primarily on a text that is a major variant.
b) Does Jesus, in the story, say that the death penalty is irrelevant?  
– If so, does that mean that the “period of grace” was already in place at that time? That’s not usually what I hear from dispensationals.  If it was already in place, what were Jesus and the disciples doing celebrating Passover?
– If not, why conclude that the death penalty is irrelevant?
c) What is the point of Jesus saying, in the story, that the person without sin should cast the first stone?  Was it to convict them of the fact that this woman supposedly taken in the act was being brought without the man who allegedly was engaged in the act with her?  How is just to prosecute only the adulteress and not also the adulterer?  In other words, was the point that the prosecution was not being handled justly?  There were a lot of irregularities to her trial, if the trial is judged by the standard of 2nd temple Judaism or the Torah itself.
d) How would a point about ending the civil death penalty (either for adultery) fit within the context of John’s gospel, where the story is currently found?  It doesn’t have anything particularly to do with the context.
e) If the conclusion is “no death penalty” because all human judges themselves have sins, why wouldn’t this apply also to crimes like murder, rape, and kidnapping?  Or perhaps these objectors would also say that the death penalty is forbidden in those cases as well.
f) But where is the justification for stopping at the death penalty?  How can such judges impose any penalty at all, if the standard for judgment is that they must be sinless to condemn her?
g) How does Jesus’ own non-condemnation of the woman fit within this rubric?  He was sinless, yet he did not condemn the woman.  Why was it?  The lack of sufficient witnesses?  The lack of proper judicial process?  Or was Jesus’ point instead about God’s mercy to sinful men?
In short, this appeal to the story of the woman caught in adultery is ill-advised.  Not only is there the canonical question, but even assuming its canonicity it does not point at an end to the death penalty either for adultery or in general.  Yet, if it pointed to an end to the death penalty for adultery, its grounds of justification would logically apply to all punishment for any crime, since none of us are sinless.  That conclusion is absurd, demonstrating the absurdity of the underlying position whose logical conclusion it is.

A Couple Quick Comparisons between Dr. White and Dr. Caner

September 9, 2013

Ergun Caner said: “I got my doctorate in Global Apologetics because I’m curious.” (source)

James White actually has earned degrees in apologetics:
  • Th.M. Apologetics, Faraston Seminary, 1995
  • Th.D., Apologetics, Columbia Evangelical Seminary, 1998
  • D.Min, Apologetics, Columbia Evangelical Seminary, 2002
Ergun Caner said that he debated Shabir Ally (source).
James White actually has debated Shabir Ally:
  • Is the New Testament We Possess Today Inspired? May, 2006, vs. Shabir Ally, Biola University
  • Did Jesus Offer Himself on the Cross as a Willing Sacrifice for the Sins of God’s People?, October, 2007, vs. Shabir Ally, Seattle, WA
  • Is Jesus Prophesied in the OT? vs. Shabir Ally, November 17, 2008, London, England
  • Is Muhammad Prophesied in the Bible? vs. Shabir Ally, November 17, 2008, London England

Early Ninth Century Commentaries on the Pauline Epistles

September 9, 2013

Studying the patristic era authors is hard enough.  There is a wealth of writings, which nevertheless only represents a tiny fraction of the actual men of the era, much of which is not particularly accessible in English today.  The medieval period is even more of a challenge.  For example:

From the years 800-860, the Pauline epistles received more exegetical attention than any other scriptural texts. There are eleven extant works of either homiletic selections (2) or comprehensive commentaries (9) on the Pauline epistles. Six authors are responsible for the nine commentaries: Alcuin, Claudius of Turin, Rabanus Maurus, Haimo of Auxerre, four by Florus of Lyons, and the Collectaneum by Sedulius Scottus.

(Michael C. Sloan, The Harmonious Organ of Sedulius Scottus, p. 40)

I’ve previously mentioned the commentary by Claudius of Turin (here), and you may have heard of some of the other writers.  Nevertheless, it is hard to find English translations of these commentaries.  The same problem seems to hold true through to the Reformation, and even into the Reformation, with many Reformation-era Latin works remaining only available in Latin.  This makes the task of historical theology that much more difficult for English-speaking students.  It also effectively cuts off most English speaking Christians from the thoughts of the medieval authors.

The Eaten Verse of the Quran – A Shia Fabrication?

September 8, 2013

I recently had an interesting exchange with a Muslim who insisted that the Quran has been perfectly preserved. I pointed out that according to at least one hadith, one verse of the Quran was eaten. The Muslim responded that I should not believe what he claimed was a Shia fabrication.

The relevant hadith can be found in one of the six major Sunni collections of Hadith:

It was narrated that ‘Aishah said: “The Verse of stoning and of breastfeeding an adult ten times was revealed, and the paper was with me under my pillow. When the Messenger of Allah died, we were preoccupied with his death, and a tame sheep came in and ate it.”

Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 3, Book 9, Hadith 1944 (Arabic reference: Book 9, Hadith 2020). The copy of Ibn Majah I used has designated this as a “good” (Hasan) hadith (see here).

Essentially the same story can also be found cited this way:

[Narrated ‘Aisha] “The verse of the stoning and of suckling an adult ten times were revealed, and they were (written) on a paper and kept under my bed. When the messenger of Allah expired and we were preoccupied with his death, a goat entered and ate away the paper.”
Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal. vol. 6. p. 269; Sunan Ibn Majah, p. 626; Ibn Qutbah, Tawil Mukhtalafi ‘l-Hadith (Cairo: Maktaba al-Kulliyat al-Azhariyya. 1966) p. 310; As-Suyuti, ad-Durru ‘l-Manthur, vol. 2. p. 13

I found it cited that way, interestingly enough, in a web page that appears to be Shi’ite, criticizing the Sunnis for their adherence to ahadith. The page argues:

It needs no great intelligence to see that this theory of abrogation of recital cannot be of any use in such cases. If a surah or verse was recited in the life of the Prophet and then it was lost either because the reciters were killed in a battle, or because a goat devoured it or for any other reason, then the question arises: Who had the right to abrogate a Qur’anic verse after the Prophet’s death? Had any other prophet come after Muhammad (peace be on him and his progeny)? That is why Sayyid al-Khu’i has said, “It is clear that the theory of abrogation of recital (naskhu ‘t-tilawah) is exactly the same as belief in alteration in and omission from the Qur’an.”
Therefore we have to strictly adhere to the well established principle that any hadith going against the Qur’an must be discarded and ‘thrown to the wall’ – if it cannot be reinterpreted in an acceptable way.  


One downside of this particular Shi’ite approach to the hadith material is that the person will never be able to persuaded by the historical evidence that demonstrates that the Qur’an has not been perfectly preserved.

Moreover, the Shi’ite argument cited above presumes that the Qur’an was in a fixed form by the death of Mohammed.  That assumption, however, is open to question.  There are good reasons (such as the very hadith mentioned above) to believe that the Qur’an was not in an assembled form at least until Abu Bak’r recognized the danger arising from the fact that so many reciters of the Qur’an had died in battle during the battle of Yamama.  Moreover, there is reason to believe that the form of the Qur’an created by the first caliph (Abu Bak’r) is not necessarily the same form as that provided by Uthman (the third caliph).


Dispassionately Covering Topics about which We’re Passionate

September 5, 2013

When the government (any branch of it) makes decisions we don’t like, it is natural for us to be impassioned in our response. We ought, however, to remember to try to set aside our emotions when we respond. I recently came across this link (link) to a fox news story, whose headline epitomizes the problem I’m describing. The headline is “the feds” have “forced” churches to get “baptism permits.” Sounds more like 17th century Europe than 21st century USA. Once you dig into the article, though, you discover that all that is being required is that if churches want to use a river in a park to perform baptisms, they need to get permission in advance.

The story goes on to admit:

“As of today, the park’s policy has been clarified to state that no permit will be required for baptisms within the Riverways,” Supt. William Black wrote in a letter to the congressman. “I can assure you the National Park Service has no intention of limiting the number of baptisms performed within the park.”

The problem with such a headline becomes clear when you see the more disturbing news buried beneath that disclaimer:

In Olympia, Wash., a church was denied a permit to hold a baptism at Heritage Park a few weeks ago. Their request was rejected because the attorney general said the religious sacrament was a violation of the state constitution.

That one is far more disturbing, but the reader by now is disappointed to discover that the headline was just hype.

We could say much the same thing about the coverage of the New Mexico decision that says wedding photographers can’t turn down clients simply because the clients are homosexuals. Some of the coverage basically made it sound like the NM state were going to be rounding up wedding photographers and forcing them to take good pictures of homosexuals pretending to marry. In fact, the disappointing decision was far more limited.

"Watchmen on the Wall" 2013 – Ergun Caner

September 3, 2013

Ergun Caner at “Watchmen on the Wall” 2013 has been posted. He is introduced with the story about being disowned by his family, although no one seems to be able to find any evidence that he was ever disowned by anyone except his non-custodial father.

The supposed subject of the talk is “Radical Islam and its influence in America.” Caner does not spend much time on this topic, for which I think we are all thankful. Moreover, his autobiographical comments are very limited. While his brief comments may give a wrong impression, particularly coupled with his various accents, they didn’t include (as far as I could tell) the kinds of statements that led to such intense criticism of Caner when he was in charge at Liberty University. There is a moment of irony around 5:35 in the video when Caner alleges that “our culture is terrified of speaking truth.”

– TurretinFan

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