The Image of the Androgyne in Gen 1-3 as Interpreted in the Earliest Reception of 1 Corinthians

Numerous early Christian texts describe Christ as an androgyne, that is, both male and female. In accordance with this reception, many early Christian artists depicted Christ as beardless, with longer hair than the men around him, and sometimes even with breasts. Christ’s long “womanly” hair was such a common trope in art that it has persisted until today. The origin of this androgynous imagery may have been the divine image, both male and female, in the Genesis creation myth of the first human. Additionally, in Hebrew the feminine gender of Holy Spirit, whom some Christian authors called “Mother,” supported the reception of the divine as both male and female. Some rabbis described the first man, Adam, as both male and female. In Ancient Greece, a culture where Plato’s creation myth of the androgyne was well-known, Christians hearing Galatians 3:28 -- where Rabbi Paul depicts the second Adam, Christ, as both male and female -- would likely have been comfortable with his imagery. When the Corinthians, thus, heard their first letter from Paul, they understood at 11:14 that Christ had long hair, and that this was an indicting rhetorical question. When Christ has long hair, of course long hair on a man is not shameful! When Christ has long hair, 1 Cor 11:3–16, the sole remaining misogynist language in Paul’s genuine voice, is heard as part of a classical dialectic. Here Paul presents his opponent’s patriarchal argument first (3-10), and then rebuts it with his own egalitarian argument on behalf of the right of women to prophesy (11-16). This reading is consistent with Paul writing his letter for the supporters of a woman leader, Chloe. It is also consistent with the earliest reception of Paul, whose genuine letters contain the most egalitarian language in the Christian Testament.