Double Standards and Eisegesis
By Stephen Mann
1. OVERVIEW OF THE TEACHING OF HAIR LENGTH
The doctrine of uncut hair is thought of by many in the United Pentecostal Church International as being 'revealed' to them by God and is seen as one of the pillars for identifying people as the 'true Apostolics' or 'Pentecostals'. In following this teaching many extra-Biblical rules and guidelines have been developed which are as complex as any of the many 'hand-washing' ordinances invented by zealous Jewish believers of Christ's day. These modern extra-Biblical rules regarding 1 Corinthians 11 I will address in depth.
This teaching, followed to an extreme, results in a heavy burden of guilt to ladies under it especially since some even teach that a lady not ever trimming or cutting her hair prevents evil, deception and rebellion from entering her home or father and mother's home and so if adultery and sin enters a home some will blame the lady for cutting her hair. It can also be used as the reason any tragedy, sickness or calamity has come on individuals.
2. EXEGESIS OR EISEGESIS OF 1 CORINTHIANS 11
The reality is that this so-called 'exegesis' (bringing out the meaning) of 1 Corinthians 11, as meaning 'no cutting', is really 'eisegesis' (reading a meaning into the text). The 'no cutting' doctrine just isn't there. That's why, instead of studying, many are merely encouraged to pray for a revelation of this teaching and stay within the organisational 'fences'. This illustrates what happens (mostly through ignorance) once one starts departing from and adding to the Scriptures even in what may be considered good ways.
Over a period of several years as a licenced minister with the UPC, I looked more deeply at the no trimming teaching comparing it with the Bible passage. It became more and more obvious to me that the UPC teaching was very complex in its 'interpretation' of what is cultural (not for us today) and what is universal (for all people everywhere) in that passage. It wasn't until after I was led by God to leave however, that I was able to clearly see how 'no cutting' ignores the real teaching of the passage (Paul teaching wearing a physical veil, saying that if the woman isn't covered she may as well shear her hair, and comparing long hair on men and long hair on women to encourage veiling). This is more than likely because while in the UPC it is very difficult to look without bias at the passage and just be open to what the Bible teaches. It is so clear now to me that anything beyond the Bible's clear commands, by implication, must be omitted by God for a reason. If He wanted to make uncut hair important (as He did with many other issues) He would have made it clear in the Bible. I personally have no problem with any lady choosing freely to not cut her hair or any organization making it their distinctive but I believe it is Pharisaical and legalistic to put the traditions and desires of men on the same level of authority as the teaching and Word of God.
3. DOUBLE STANDARDS IN TEACHING FROM 1 CORINTHIANS 11
This non-Biblical teaching of 'no cutting' has developed a lot more than splitting hairs (pardon the pun) and has led to more and more complex rules and double standards to try to cover up the glaring omission of 'no cutting' from the text (basically teaching it is hidden inside the passage). Here are some of the double standards that I now see in their view of 1Corinthians 11 that I ignored for years thinking there was some other explanation for them:
If the word 'long' in 1 Corinthians 11 really means hair without any cutting at all (to let grow),
It follows that...
If a woman has hair to her waist but trims her ends, her head is uncovered and her hair is not long. BUT if a man has hair to his waist but trims his ends his hair is long!
Many teachers of this doctrine would consider men like the men in Megadeath, or even the Beatles, as having long hair, and if converted to their church, would teach them from the same passage in 1 Corinthians 11 that they should cut their hair 'short' (measured to above the collar) out of the same verse saying it's a shame to have long hair. (I wonder how it is that Samson's long hair pleased God?)
In other words, for these teachers, trimmed is not long enough for women but it's too long for men. This is clearly a double standard.
4. NON-LITERAL AND LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE
The two different meanings and applications are taught from the one same word in the Bible, and in context clearly refer to the one thing...long hair. If this were another Greek word such as is used for baptism (baptiso) the same teachers would be acting very differently. Such teachers, on topics such as baptism, often make it very clear that to them there is only one way to translate, interpret and apply Scripture (literally) yet here they overlook the omission of clear apostolic teaching on the matter and overlook historical Biblical practice. They have a double standard and so must take the word in both a literal and a non-literal double meaning.
If the same Greek word 'komao' (only used in these two verses of the whole Greek New Testament) can be translated into two vastly different meanings (as hair 'let grow-ness' for women and in the same passage as hair 'shortness' for men) without anything in the passage to justify or confirm it, then it's little wonder that 'no braids' is interpreted to not really mean no braids but 'no jewelry' in the same Bible passage is interpreted to really mean no jewelry! (1 Timothy 2:9-19; 1 Peter 3:3)
It's also little wonder that when the Bible clearly says we are saved 'not by works of righteousness' this kind of adding to the Bible is used to say that it really doesn't mean 'not by works'...in their Bible eisegesis it is explained to mean not JUST by works, because if you don't have works then you will be lost.
What's even more amazing to me is the teaching not only implies Biblical good works are salvational, but also that extra-Biblical works such as not trimming dead ends, not wearing pants, and not wearing jewelry at all, are 'good works' and without which show one doesn't have faith (unless one is a new believer -then it's mysteriously overlooked)! This sounds like the Pharisees with their extra rules and exemptions for washing hands, Sabbath prohibitions and 'separation' from sinners and Samaritans!
With this complexity and confusion (continually reinforced by three to four services per week, books, cassettes, videos and conferences), these kind of teachers keep souls from grasping the simplicity that is really in Jesus: Salvation is a gift and not a result of our keeping standards (even Biblical ones which we are, by the way, encouraged to keep and which we will grow to do as a result of being saved and filled with God and not the means by which to be saved or earn more of God).
The Pharisees of Jesus' day were double standards experts and had filled books with complex rules, commentary, etc. on what was allowed and what wasn't, what the passage really means and what it doesn't.
5. NON-ABSOLUTE ABSOLUTES?
These modern teachers explain the word 'long' in 1 Corinthians 11 to mean that any woman who ever trims her hair even once by definition doesn't have long hair since it is not 'let to grow' and she has an uncovered head. This is absolutely and clearly what the word 'long' in the Bible means to them.
These absolutes are further 'explained' to mean that ladies and girls can never trim dead ends since that is not letting the hair grow as 'taught in the Bible'.
Yet the interesting double take and complexity fog index is applied when these teachers supersede their previous absolute interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11 and allow cut hair to be considered 'long' (since the majority of women today have cut their hair) and mysteriously recognise what was once an uncovered head as having been transformed mystically through their faith somehow into a covered head (where there is no Scripture indicating any thing of that nature or any loop-holes in the previous absolutes).
They do this through many complex maneuvers where the Bible passages supposedly clear teaching of 'long' as always meaning 'to let their hair grow' is superseded in certain circumstances.
(In other words they turn a blind eye to this absolute 'no cutting' rule sometimes.)
6. CONTRADICTIONS AND DISPENSATIONS
Dispensation for a woman NOT having 'long' cut hair (or an uncovered covered head) is granted only in the following MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES:
a) hair cutting before conversion
b) hair cutting in preparation for surgery
c) hair cutting in an emergency rescue or life threatening situation
d) hair cutting if another attacked the person and perpetrated it
e) hair cutting if you were backslidden but have since repented (although one cannot cut and repent too often or too frequently or when one's hair is too tangled since that is an unforgivable sin)
f) having an uncovered head if you were accused of adultery in the Old Covenant (Numbers 5:18)
g) hair shaving if you were a captured enemy female about to marry an Israelite (God commanded it in Deuteronomy 21:12)
h) hair cutting, shaving and plucking if it's hair that's on your legs, eyebrows or under your arms
i) if you were a female and took the Nazarite vow (Numbers 6:18)
So in summary; to the double standard teachers, 'long' means 'to let grow', EXCEPT if one is unconverted, backslidden, sick, attacked, in the OLD TESTAMENT as a captive wife-to-be or in mortal danger and can only be saved by cutting the hair.
Only in these certain cases is the non-'long' cut hair 'long'.
BUT THEN DOUBLING BACK AGAIN SAY
However 'long' can NOT be interpreted to mean it's allowable to trim it from an inability to care for it (example: disability etc.), or when elderly and unable to maintain it, or to ever make the hair healthy and get rid of split ends since that is clearly not in the Bible and the Church has clearly ruled that it is sinful, rebellious, worldly and virtually unforgivable.
7. CHURCH LEADERS LEGISLATING ON EQUAL AUTHORITY WITH SCRIPTURE
The church leaders take on an authority to rule in their member's lives beyond that which the Bible gives them. The hair cuttee ONLY receives the 'imprimatur' by the Church in said circumstances which have been ruled on. Mysteriously in those circumstances the non-'long' hair is transubstantiated into 'long' hair and the head deemed 'covered' by the powers-that-be.
To the modern (double) standards teachers, such cases mysteriously don't mean the Church has equal authority with the Bible or that they apply the Bible one way for one person/situation/time and another way for another person/situation/time. In their view they are simply 'rightly dividing the Word'.
In fact many teachers teach both contrary teachings of 'long' and think that both contradicting positions are taught at the same time in the same passage without ever seeing the contradiction. The Organisation brainwashes members to think that it's the other teachers (who to some are not even considered Christian) that are soft and have itching ears and don't understand the truth that the UPC has (known as 'the revelation'). These Organisational leaders, as kinds of vicars for Christ on earth, have an infallibility and unquestionable authority equal with Scripture and alone can interpret such mysterious contradictions of literal and non-literal interpretations of the same passage.
Saying people need to believe it while it seems contradictory and arbitrary, solely because the church leaders say it is Biblical and is not contradictory, reminds me of the White Queen saying to Alice in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland -- "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
8. THE SIN OF PRIDE
Many tend to think, like I did, that since they are (supposedly) the only ones who really understand, teach and obey God's revelation in the Bible, that they must therefore be spiritually superior to other Christians who don't understand or obey it, or even the only 'true Christians'. Although humility is emphasized, many proudly believe that because 'their ladies' are more 'feminine' and more 'modest', that it is proof very few outside of the denomination will be saved and also is proof that they alone are God's elite whom God will use to lead other Christians to the truth they have.
Jesus compared the prayers of the proud Pharisee who relied on his works and left in his sins with those of the humble sinner who humbly relied on God's mercy and left justified. Friend what importance do you think God really places on their hair length? If the one crying for mercy were a female with cut hair would God have refused to justify her because she cut her hair? I think not. How would the story go if the Pharisee of Jesus day were a modern UPC woman praying, "I thank you for the revelation of 1 Corinthians 11. I thank You that I have never cut my hair, not like this other sinful lady"?
For about ten years I proudly believed that I taught (what I thought was) Biblical doctrine in Australia and overseas; that 1 Corinthians 11 teaches ladies not to ever cut or trim their hair. I now see I was wrong and apologise to any of you that have carried, or still carry this extra-Biblical yoke through my teaching or influence. I am sorry for misrepresenting the Word and character of God and I humbly thank Him for His grace to help me see my pride and errors. Please study and pray about this teaching.
I appeal to you my brother and sister, even if at this point you still disagree with me on what 1 Corinthians 11 teaches, that you agree with me that it is by no means related to the gift of Salvation, and that you agree God can and does and will forgive His prodigals whatever their hair length.
He accepts us all unconditionally as His children through our believing that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross was substitutional and that His blood paid in FULL our sins, not in ANY way through our works of 'obedience', and especially not through any 'obedience' to something not clearly taught in the Bible or practiced in Jewish or Christian history.
Your brother in His Kingdom,
CONTACT / HOW DO I
OLD FEEDBACK /
UPC MEMBERS SPEAK
LOIS' WRITINGS /
August 23, 1997
Page Added March 15, 2002
Copyright © 1997-2007 by Lois E. Gibson
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