Virtue In Judith Guests Ordinary People
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Ordinary People (Audiobook) by Judith Guest
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The amount and the variety of this pictorial evidence makes it virtually certain that, in cultic contexts at least, Greek women did not always cover their heads in public. It is known that Roman priests covered their heads in religious ceremonies figure Some ancient statues of Caesar Augustus show him with a covered head figure 14 because he was the Pontifex Maximus of Rome, and because he was interested in promoting the "traditional values" of the Romans, for political reasons. Presumably Roman citizens in Corinth would have observed their Roman customs when worshipping Roman gods.
But it seems rather far-fetched to think that Greek Christians in Corinth would have imitated this custom of Roman priests. Even among the Romans, not all gods were worshipped with covered heads. In connection with religion, there is an interesting passage in Tertullian's On the Pallium which indicates that there were a number of different customs of dress associated with different cults. While recommending the old-fashioned pallium to Carthaginians he ridicules the novelties introduced by exotic cults, saying, "for the sake of an all-white dress, and the distinction of a fillet, and the privilege of a helmet, some are initiated into the mysteries of Ceres; while, on account of an opposite hankering after sombre raiment, and a gloomy woollen covering upon the head, others run mad in Bellona's temple; while the attraction of surrounding themselves with a tunic more broadly striped with purple, and casting over their shoulders a cloak of Galatian scarlet, commends Saturn to the affections of others.
The virgin priestesses of Vesta — called Vestal virgins — wore a special headcovering called a suffibulum figure This was a square piece of cloth that covered only the head and perhaps the shoulders. On Roman coins of the first century the civic virtue of pietas , "piety," is personified as a woman with such a headcovering figure 16 , and another headcovering like it may be seen on ancient representations of Christian women carved into the walls of the Roman catacombs figure Another similar headcovering was the bridal veil figure 18 , discussed below.
The suffibulum and bridal veil are thought to be ceremonial relics of the headcovering commonly worn by Roman women in very ancient times, called the ricinium — a shawl which covered only the head and shoulders. It seems that the ricinium fell into disuse when Roman women began to wear the palla. Another personification on Roman coins was pudicitia , "modesty" or "chastity," portrayed as a goddess covering her head with a palla.
However, the other side of the coins often bore portraits of honorable ladies of Caesar's house—with their heads uncovered figure Concerning ordinary Roman women of the first century, Plutarch in one place implies that it was "more usual for women to go forth in public with their heads covered. We do know that in the first century Roman society was undergoing changes, in a direction which can only be called morally dissolute.
Ovid 43 b. His advice to ladies concerning hairstyles and wigs would be pointless if the ladies went out with their heads covered. If Ovid's representation of Roman society is at all accurate, 10 it is hard to believe that there was any strict observance of headcovering customs in daily life. Likewise the Apostle Paul's remark about braided hair in 1 Timothy implies that in his experience women prided themselves on elaborate hairstyles, which is impossible with a headcovering. Regarding the customs observed by the middle class, we note that it is not unusual to see merchant women portrayed without headcoverings in ancient Roman art see figures 28 , 29 , At about a.
Others are to a certain extent covered over the region of the brain with linen coifs of small dimensions So there are a number of independent sources which pretty clearly indicate that Roman women did not always cover their heads in public. The Romans had a special headcovering custom for brides, as we do today. The bridal veil was a piece of cloth called a flammeum lit. Recently some biblical expositors have asserted that in Rome a married woman would always keep her head covered as a sign that she was married, but this assertion is not very well supported by ancient sources. The "veiling of the bride" spoken of in ancient sources pertains only to the wedding ceremony, not to a change of ordinary clothing. There was one garment, however, that did have marital significance among the Romans.
It was a sleeveless robe called a stola , worn over the tunica figure Traditionally, married women were expected to wear this extra layer of clothing in public. But in the first century this custom was apparently losing its force. Married women began to appear in public without the stola , and this gave rise to some complaints from conservative-minded Romans. There was some discussion about it in the Roman Senate, and severe legal steps were taken so as to compel married women to wear the stola , but it does not seem to have had the desired effect.
At the end of the second century Tertullian makes reference to the ineffective decrees in Rome, where women had "abjured the stole," among other things, that they may go about "more openly" On the Pallium , chapter 4. He declares that in Rome he sees "no distinction left in dress between matrons and harlots" Apology for the Christians , chapter 6. So much for Rome and its customs of dress. There is plenty of evidence that it was more usual for women to cover their heads, as Plutarch implies, but the ancient sources give us little reason to think that in the first century a respectable Roman woman would never appear in public with her head uncovered.
The censorious remarks of Tertullian, which are connected with his Christian critique of pagan society, would probably have been dismissed as curmudgeonly by most people in Rome. As indicated above, many of the Jews of the first century were Hellenized, having adopted many of the customs of the Greeks. But for the most part, Jews were interested in maintaining their own ethnic identity wherever they lived. They held to Jewish customs which set them apart from their Gentile neighbors. God had said:. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.
Leviticus The LORD has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests Zephaniah The Lord had given a certain commandment to Moses regarding clothing, with an explanation for its reason:. Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD , to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after.
Numbers See also Deuteronomy , You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself. Therefore in ancient times all Jews wore such tassels on the corners of their upper garments i. As Matthew Henry explains further:. The Jews being a peculiar people, they were thus distinguished from their neighbours in their dress, as well as in their diet, and taught by such little instances of singularity not to be conformed to the way of the heathen in greater things.
Thus likewise they proclaimed themselves Jews wherever they were, as those that were not ashamed of God and his law. Our Saviour, being made under the law, wore these fringes; hence we read of the hem or border, of his garment Matt. Regarding headcoverings, some biblical commentators in the past maintained that the custom observed in medieval times, in which Jewish men wore prayer shawls on their heads figure 22 , prevailed even in the first century, so that Paul's instruction regarding the men is opposed to the Jewish practice of his times.
But this is not likely to be correct. Most scholars believe that the prayer shawl is a later custom which came into general use among Jews during the third century. If Paul's rule regarding men covering their heads differs from Jewish custom, it would be in the direction of prohibiting something which was a matter of indifference among the Jews. As for Jewish women, there is clear evidence that in the first century they covered their heads not only for prayer but whenever they were outside of their own home. It is said that some Jewish women kept themselves covered at all times. In public, they not only covered their heads, but the lower part of their faces as well.
For the women this was a matter of morals, and a religious duty, not merely a matter of style or convenience. Joachim Jeremias describes the Jewish custom. Eastern women take no part in public life. This was true of Judaism in the time of Jesus, in all cases where Jewish families faithfully observed the Law. When the Jewess of Jerusalem left her house, her face was hidden by an arrangement of two head veils, a head-band on the forehead with bands to the chin, and a hairnet with ribbons and knots, so that her features could not be recognized. It was said that once, for example, a chief priest in Jerusalem did not recognize his own mother when he had to carry out against her the prescribed process for a woman suspected of adultery.
Any woman who went out without this headdress, i. There were even women so strict that they did not once uncover their head in the house, women like Qimhit, who, it was said, saw seven sons admitted to the high priesthood, which was regarded as divine reward for her extreme propriety: 'May it [this and that] befall me if the beams of my house have ever seen the hair of my head. Philo of Alexandria who lived from 20 b. Regarding the procedure followed by priests who examined women accused of adultery cf. Numbers he writes, "And the priest shall take the barley and offer it to the woman, and shall take away from her the head-dress on her head, that she may be judged with her head bare, and deprived of the symbol of modesty , which all those women are accustomed to wear who are completely blameless.
It denotes an attitude of humility and a capacity to feel shame, in a good sense, as opposed to shamelessness or impudence. The same word is used by Paul in his instruction concerning women's clothing in 1 Timothy , where it is translated "shamefastness" in the KJV. But it should not be taken for granted that Jews in general attached any such definite symbolical meaning to the headcovering. Probably most Jews did not feel any need for a symbolical interpretation of the custom, and would have given it no more thought than they gave to any other article of dress.
Artistic evidence of the Jewish customs is lacking because the Jews—like the Muslims today—were adverse to the visual arts. Pictures were discouraged because of the commandment against the making of idols. Most notable are the frescos on the walls of an ancient Jewish synagogue in Dura Europos, Syria dating from the middle of the third century , which portray various biblical characters, presumably in the clothing which was familiar to the Jews who used this synagogue. Here, evidently, was a congregation of deeply Hellenized Jews. Some of the men in the frescos are portrayed clean-shaven, and they do not wear tassels on their garments.
But for what it is worth, we may note that the men are bare-headed figures 23 and 24 and the women wear headcoverings figure 25 in these frescos. This is what we would expect to see in Syria at that time, on the basis of the literary evidence. There is no need to suppose that this custom was observed by all peoples of the Middle East from earliest times. One wall-painting in the tomb of an Egyptian ruler, known as the The Beni Hasan painting figure 26 , shows a group of nomadic traders from the region of Syria and Canaan arriving in Egypt with their women and children, around the year b.
In this painting the women are depicted wearing headbands, without headcoverings. We also note that although the tunics of the women are longer than those of the men in the painting, they are rather close-fitting, and on three of the women they leave one shoulder bare. It may be that the clothing of the women in this painting is not entirely realistic, and follows certain artistic conventions; but it may also be taken as an indication that in those days at least some women from the region of Palestine did not ordinarily cover their heads, or observe other customs of feminine dress which seem to have become universal by the beginning of the Christian era. In any case, the usual Eastern customs of modest dress probably originated in urban settings, where standards and distinctions of dress have always tended to be more elaborate.
Perhaps these customs never had much importance outside of the towns. From the discussion of customs given above, it may be seen that interpreting 1 Corinthians in the light of customs of the day is no simple matter. Aside from our uncertainties about Jewish, Greek and Roman customs, in Corinth we have these three cultures coming together in one place, at a time when the Greek and Roman traditions were losing their force. In fact this cultural ferment and dissolution is one of the things that set the stage for Paul's successful mission in Greece. The old gods and the old ways were dying, and the Greek world was wide open to change. It may not even be helpful to ask about a prevailing custom in Corinth.
The question presupposes that there was a prevailing custom. But Corinth was a large and diverse cosmopolitan city, and it is probably more useful to think of multiple customs and fashions rather than a single custom in this context. Corinth was not the kind of social setting in which we would expect the stability and uniformity of a traditional culture. We might compare it to a modern metropolis, such as New York City, in which one might see on the same street a significant variety of people dressed according to ethnic customs or styles of the day.
Probably differences of custom and style were taken in stride, and aroused little notice. And it is entirely possible that the current fashion of some segments of the Corinthian population was to go bareheaded. Corinthian women may have been less inclined to wear a headcovering simply because it was not prescribed by custom in Corinth. One scholar has recently suggested the traditional custom of dress in Corinth was to cover the head in public, but that this Greek custom was breaking down in the first century. Bruce W. Winter has shown that in patrician Roman society, at least, many women of the first century were departing from the traditional roles and customs of wives, and this involved symbolical departures from traditional decorum in dress.
Corinth, as a Roman colony, would likely have been affected by this movement as women there emulated the behavior of the high-class women in Rome. Some scholars think that Paul's insistence upon the headcovering in his Greek churches is really an attempt to introduce or enforce a Jewish custom. But this is very doubtful, because there is nothing in the passage which suggests it, and the use of headcoverings by women in daily life was common enough throughout the ancient world that we would expect Paul to make his meaning clear if he were requiring not only this but also the face-veiling.
It cannot refer to ornamental or token headpieces, or to the headbands ordinarily used by Greek women. Even if it could be established that in Corinth and in other Greek cities of the first century women were expected to cover their heads in public, we need to ask further concerning the customs at worship. As noted above, in some religious contexts Greek women did participate in religious exercises with their heads uncovered. This may have something to do with our passage, because Paul's discussion specifically focuses on attire while praying and prophesying.
Did the Corinthian women want to remove their headcoverings while praying or prophesying because this corresponded to the customs of the pagan mystery cults, in which women uncovered their heads? Perhaps they were tempted to do this. The likelihood of it is increased by the fact that there are many points of contact between the practices of the mystery cults and the issues Paul deals with in his letters to the Corinthians, and charismatic women in particular may have been vulnerable to this influence because of the focus upon emotional exaltation in the mystery cults. Regarding Paul's statement about men covering their heads for prayer, some caution is in order. This statement may have nothing much to do with customs of the time.
It may be, as Lenski says, that Paul talks about a man covering his head "not because some man in Corinth is liable to do such a thing, but in order to bring out the contrast with the woman. A further difficulty with all the "cultural accomodation" explanations for Paul's headcovering rule is that Paul himself offers no explanations for it along those lines. He gives other reasons. It should be noted that Paul gives no indication in any of his Epistles that he would recommend mere conformity to Greek customs as an acceptable principle of conduct for Christians. The case is otherwise with Jewish customs, which he sometimes urges Gentiles to respect, as in — It would seem best to take his explanations at face value rather than theorize about ulterior reasons related to Greek cultural practices.
In verse 16 Paul says that the woman's headcovering is a practice which pertains to the churches of God , and it may be that the use of the headcovering in the churches did not correspond exactly to either the Jewish or Greek customs of the day. That is, Christian women were expected to wear headcoverings at religious gatherings probably also whenever in public without the face-veiling , even in those places like Corinth where the pagan society did not currently require a woman to wear any headcovering.
In any case, "cultural expectations" in Corinth were probably much more complex and fluid than some scholars think they were, and I do not think that the ambiguous information and speculations about Greek customs provide us with any sure basis for a general interpretation of this passage. Stephen B. Cohoon and H. Lamar Crosby. Dionysius of Halicarnassus. Earnest Cary, ed. Louis M. Gordon D. Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, Carter, Thomas A. Montague Philadelphia: Fortress Press, Lenski, The Interpretation of St.
Reprinted from the original edition of Paul's Epistle to the Romans, and the First epistle to the Corinthians. A new edition by the Rev. Robert Gandell. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Originally written in Latin and published at intervals between and Llewellyn-Jones, Aphrodite's Tortoise. Llewellyn-Jones, Women's Dress. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, ed. III, pp. New Updated Edition, edited by David M. Scholer Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, Pritchard, James B.
Pritchard, ed. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament 6 vols. Nashville: Broadman Press, Reprinted in M. Wyke, ed. Tertullian, On the Veiling of Virgins. Thelwall, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers , volume iv, ed. Roberts and J. Donaldson Edinburgh, Tertullian, On the Pallium. Tertullian, Against the Valentinians. Riley, ed. Stanford University, ; Franz Oehler, ed. Weigel, Cynthia L. Thompson, "Hairstyles, Headcoverings, and St. Winter, In the first century, trousers were associated with the Northern barbarians, who doubtless invented them for greater warmth in the cold climate.
Joyce explains that "one of the points about the northern barbarians which struck the ancient Greeks and Romans most forcibly was the fact that they wore trousers. Amongst the most northerly races the latter garb is worn by both sexes alike; farther south by the men, the women retaining the tropical form; farther south still the latter reigns supreme The retention by women in Europe of the tropical garb can be explained by the fact that her sphere has been mainly confined to the house, and her life has been less active than that of man; consequently the adoption of the arctic dress has been in her case less necessary.
The chiton was merely two pieces of linen sewn together in a cylinder, with the top edge of the cylinder stitched or pinned together at the shoulders. A girdle of cloth was then tied around it to hold it close to the body. The length was adjusted by pulling some of the fabric up and over the girdle. There was another garment known as the peplos associated with the Doric Greeks the Spartans were Dorians. The peplos was a single piece of wool wrapped into a cylinder, folded over at the top, and fastened at the shoulders. The overfold called the apoptygma hung down to the waist like a cape. Traditionally the peplos was not sewn together, but left open on the right side.
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