Let Her Be Shorn: 1 Corinthians 11 and Female Head Shaving in Antiquity

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In 1 Corinthians 11:3-15, Paul writes that if a woman is to be so immodest as to wear her hair uncovered while praying or prophesying in a Christian assembly she might as well shave her head. Paul instructs the Corinthians that it is “one and the same” for a woman to have her head shaved and for her to unveil her hair. There is a large body of works cataloging the modesty standards in Hellenistic Greece but Paul’s reference to head-shaving remains obscure. This thesis looks to find the best explanation of Paul’s instructions. Research in this topic began as ... continued below

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iv, 67 pages : illustrations

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Montier, Curtis E. December 2015.

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This thesis is part of the collection entitled: UNT Theses and Dissertations and was provided by UNT Libraries to Digital Library, a digital repository hosted by the UNT Libraries. It has been viewed 430 times , with 68 in the last month . More information about this thesis can be viewed below.

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  • Montier, Curtis E.

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In 1 Corinthians 11:3-15, Paul writes that if a woman is to be so immodest as to wear her hair uncovered while praying or prophesying in a Christian assembly she might as well shave her head. Paul instructs the Corinthians that it is “one and the same” for a woman to have her head shaved and for her to unveil her hair. There is a large body of works cataloging the modesty standards in Hellenistic Greece but Paul’s reference to head-shaving remains obscure. This thesis looks to find the best explanation of Paul’s instructions. Research in this topic began as an investigation of a popular modern view. It can be found in conversation or a simple Google search, that women in Ancient Greece with their head shaved were prostitutes. Beyond being prostitutes, they were probably temple prostitutes. The evidence does not bear this out as there is no artwork depicting prostitutes, or indeed any women, with their heads shaved. Instead prostitutes are shown in Greek erotic art with both long and short hair, some with and some without head coverings. Literary sources do offer several different examples of women who had their hair cut off. There are examples of women shaving their hair off in Lucian’s The Syrian Goddess, Tacitus’ Germania, Plutarch’s Lycurgus and Roman Questions, several Talmudic sources, and On Fortune II, formerly attributed to Dio Chrysostom. By examining these sources in tandem with 1 Corinthians 11, the most probable impetus behind Paul’s writing relates to punishments for adultery.

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iv, 67 pages : illustrations

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UNT Theses and Dissertations

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  • December 2015

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • March 20, 2016, 10:34 a.m.

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  • May 24, 2017, 12:41 p.m.

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Citations, Rights, Re-Use

Montier, Curtis E. Let Her Be Shorn: 1 Corinthians 11 and Female Head Shaving in Antiquity, thesis, December 2015; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc822830/: accessed September 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .