16 But if anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.
He thus brings the matter to a conclusion. In addition to the theological and moral reasons for the headcovering, there is also the fact that if the Corinthians were to allow their women to remove the headcovering, this new practice or custom (ףץםήטויבם) would go against the established custom of Paul and his fellow-workers, the custom which was observed in all the other churches, and which he has delivered to them as one of the נבסבהόףויע "traditional practices" of the faith (verse 2). A similar appeal to the church-wide נבסבהόףויע may be seen in 14:33, "As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent," and the argument there is also ended with a brusque, "if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized." (14:38). Those who continue to challenge the נבסבהόףויע regarding women after these explanations have been made are to be regarded as obstinate trouble-makers, who deserve no further answer.
Some have strangely interpreted this verse to mean, "But if anyone strongly disagrees with what I have said, rather than make a habit of argument over such unimportant matters let us just say it is a matter of indifference," etc. But this interpretation fails to take the whole passage seriously as the Word of God. And besides that (which should be enough), it makes no sense either rhetorically or semantically. Paul has devoted some time to this subject because it is important to him, not a matter of indifference; and it makes little sense to speak of a custom of being contentious (ציכόםויךןע, lit. "loving strife"), because contentiousness is an attitude or temper, not a custom. There is a good parallel to Paul's usage of the word ציכόםויךןע in Josephus' work Against Apion. Josephus concludes a series of arguments with the sentence, "I suppose that what I have already said may be sufficient to such as are not very contentious (ציכόםויךןע)," (18) and then he continues with even stronger arguments for those who are very contentious. In the same way, Paul reserves the clinching argument for the end. It is an argument from authority. The headcovering practice is a matter of apostolic authority and tradition, and not open to debate. His concluding rebuke of the contentious people in Corinth is meant to cut off debate and settle the issue, not to leave it open. It is quite wrong to say of this last argument of Paul's that "in the end he admits" that he was merely "rationalizing the customs in which he believes," (19) as if Paul himself put little store by custom. Rather, Paul considers this to be his strongest point. At the end he harks back to the words with which he opened the subject ("maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you" in verse 2), and the whole section is thus framed between explicit invocations of tradition.
by Michael Marlowe