Dia Touto: Listening to Paul’s own Reasons
The topic of head covering causes many modern readers to scratch their heads. “Why would Paul want women to cover their heads? And why does he forbid men from doing the same? Surely there has to be a reason.” Thinking that there is no explanation for this practice in the Scriptures, many believers turn to cultural studies to fill in the presumed gaps. When this is done, some form of cultural significance is usually attached to the passage and seen as the key to interpreting it correctly. This then obscures the actual reasoning that the Apostle himself gives. Let’s now turn our attention to the two Greek words that let us know that there is a biblical reason for head covering.
The Greek phrase “Dia Touto” found in 1 Cor 11:10 is a conjunction that translates into English as “for this reason”.1) This is the rendering of the NKJV. Other English versions use different but similar words such as ”that is why’ (ESV) or ‘therefore’ (NASB) Gregory S. MaGee (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) who wrote his Masters thesis on “The Relationship of DIO and DIA TOUTO to the Surrounding Context” teaches us a few things about this conjunction. He says:
“In expositional or persuasive texts, the conjunctions [dio and dia touto] strengthen cohesion by tracking more clearly the logic behind an author’s thinking.” 2) Gregory S. MaGee – The Relationship of DIO and DIA TOUTO to the Surrounding Context (page 5) – Accessible on TREN.com for a fee. ID # 001-1012
So dia touto points us to the author’s logic and reasoning behind what he’s trying to persuade us of (which, in Paul’s case, is the proper use of head coverings.) MaGee also says:
“…we are faced with the conclusion that in New Testament passages, dio and dia touto always retain a retrospective force.” 3) Ibid – Page 58
What he is saying is when we see dia touto we will always find the author’s reasoning in what was said previously. Sometimes the reason is expanded upon or made more explicit in what follows, but there’s always a retrospective connection. He gives us an example to help illustrate this:
“Suppose that I am discussing current events with my friends and I suddenly announce, “Therefore, I am going to bed.” My friends would be puzzled, because the use of the conjunction is priming them to understand my statement in light of the content just discussed.” 4) Ibid – Page 7 (footnote #19)
In the same way when Paul says “For this reason (dia touto) the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head” (1 Cor 11:10), he’s telling us to look back on what was just said to understand the need for head covering. When we accept a different, cultural reason for Paul’s command, we end up treating his words as if he never started his sentence with dia touto.
The Apostle Paul uses the phrase dia touto a total of three times in 1 Corinthians. Let’s take a look at one of the other uses to help make this clearer. Here’s what Paul says:
For this reason (dia touto) many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. (1 Cor 11:30 NKJV)
Here Paul is speaking about the Lord’s Supper and he says that many people are sick, weak and have died. Why’s that? In order to know “the why” we must look at what he has just finished saying.
For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason (dia touto) many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. (1 Corinthians 11:29-30 NKJV)
So the reason for the judgment is people are not properly discerning the Lord’s body, but taking it in an unworthy manner.
Are you with me thus far? Can you agree that if Paul says “for this reason” we should look to the context to see what his reason is? If so, let’s head back to 1st Corinthians chapter 11 where Paul is speaking about head coverings. Here’s what he says:
For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason (dia touto) the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. (1 Corinthians 11:7-10 NKJV)
In this section of Scripture Paul is explaining the differences between men and women in how they were created. Man reflects the glory of God whereas woman reflects the glory of man. Woman was originally created out of man, and was made for him to be his helper. It is because of these truths about the order and purpose of creation that Paul wants women to have a symbol of authority on their heads. So we’re not left in the dark, wondering why Paul wants women to cover their heads. He gives us one of his reasons here along with many others in the rest of this section.
If you ever hear an argument for or against head covering, listen to the reasons that the person gives. If he or she doesn’t give the same reasons that Paul does then they’re not making clear what Paul said (exegesis) but bringing their own thoughts into the passage (eisegesis). Whenever you hear “prostitutes in Corinth”, “modesty reasons”, “in that culture”, “in that time” as the basis for Paul’s command, just remember “dia touto”.