Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ancient Roman Statues

Ben Witherington posts on his blogspot about ancient art and inscriptions with "relevance to NT studies which are found in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum." Of notice to those interested in those headcoverings, he observes:
The Romans tended to prefer more realistic portraiture, the Greeks more idealistic portraiture, with the result that we have a bit clearer picture of what ancient Romans looked like than ancient Greeks. At the top eschelons of society one finds many busts of women, almost as many as that of men. Here above is a nice example of a bust of a patrician woman, with prominent Roman nose. One of the things you learn a great deal about from such statues is women's hairstyles of the period, which is of direct relevance to the discussion of a text like 1 Tim. 2.8-15 where Paul critiques women who wear their hair piled up on their head with jewels woven into it. One can well imagine the effect of such a hairdo, if not covered by a head-covering, in a small room at night full of lamps. The woman's coiffure would have been a constant distraction, having the effect of an ancient disco-ball glinting in the lights. This is why Paul insists on women, especially high status women keeping their heads covered, as only God's glory, not human glory was supposed to show up in Christian worship, and a woman's hair was viewed then (and often now) as her own, or if married her husband's glory.
The photo above is copied from this personal website without permission by me; please link to the title above to view the entire article on Graeco-Roman statuary and inscription, with many more photos: Memori Mento-- Please Remember Me; Part One

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Of note: what the author here refers to is 1 Timothy 2:8-15, specifically verses 8-10:
I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
The detail of the hair dressing the author mentions is not here specifically, but the application this author makes of its distracting quality is worth considering. The apostle Peter writes similarly of women's adornment in 1 Peter 3, particularly verses 3-4: "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." The idea of humble modesty and piety, in the aspect of not showing off materially before others or giving undue over-consideration to ones physical self, applies.
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