In the East to call a man a "bald-head" does not mean he hasn't any hair, it means fool.
As a convert to Christianity from Hinduism, Bishop K.C. Pillai came to the Western world on a singular mission: to teach the Eastern culture of the Bible. Although Christianity is generally considered a western religion, the Bible itself was written and set in the Orient, and it must be viewed through the light of that eastern window. The Bible is filled with passages that perplex the Western mind, and yet they were readily understood by the Easterner. When the reader becomes knowledgeable of the oriental idioms, customs, and traditions of the Biblical setting, these Scriptures become clear. God called Bishop K.C. Pillai to reveal these Biblical truths he called Orientalisms. At the time of the Bishop’s early life, his native India had remained an isolated country for thousands of years. Therefore, the customs and manners of the people were still aligned with the Eastern, Biblical culture. For over twenty years, Bishop Pillai taught these Orientalisms, bringing great enlightenment to the Christian world. His crusade of imparting this light of the Eastern Culture carried him to numerous universities and seminaries, as well as every major denomination throughout the United States, England and Canada. Still today, his teachings remain the foremost authority on the rare gems of Biblical customs and culture. Bishop K.C. Pillai’s conversion to Christianity is a witness of God’s heart, as well as a lesson in one of the most significant Eastern customs found in the Bible. The Bishop was raised as a Hindu. When a Hindu child of the ruling class is born, a little salt is rubbed on the baby who is then wrapped in swaddling cloth. This custom invoked one of the oldest and strongest covenants in the Eastern world, the “salt covenant.” In this particular instance, the child was salted for a lifetime of dedication to the Hindu religion. The “salt covenant” is used in like manner throughout the Bible to seal the deepest commitment. As a result of the salt covenant it is difficult for Hindus to convert to Christianity. When they do, their family actually conducts a funeral service to symbolize that the individual is dead to their family, the community and Hinduism. Their family will carry a portrait of the “deceased” to the cemetery and bury it. Many times Bishop spoke of his “burial day” when he was disinherited by becoming a Christian; the only Hindu willing to break that covenant of salt in his community during that time. K.C. Pillai answered God’s call and served as Bishop of North Madras in the Indian Orthodox Church. Sent on a special mission to the United States, he spent the last twenty years of his life acquainting Christians with the Orientalisms of the Bible. The interest Bishop Pillai generated in the field has led to numerous further studies by other scholars in the field of manners and customs in the Bible, as well. His books and teachings continue to illuminate and inspire students of the Bible throughout the world. A solid understanding of Orientalisms is essential to “rightly dividing” the Word of truth, and Bishop K.C. Pillai’s works remain an indispensable reference.
The twelfth chapter of II Kings describes the translation of Elijah and the beginning of the ministry of Elisha, his successor. Elijah had just been taken up to heaven by a whirlwind. I want to just indicate the true Oriental meaning of verses 23 which has caused the Western people to error much.
II Kings 2:23:
And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head: go up, thou bald head.
Elisha was on his way to Bethel. The word Bethel means "House of God." Elisha was going up to worship God, and while he was on the way "there came forth little children out of the city and mocked him" (verse 23). The words "little children" does not mean children in the sense we in the West interpret it, 6 or 7 years of age. Grown up people in the East are many times referred to affectionately as children, and more especially as "little children" when grown-ups show their stupidity. These were all adults who came out of the city after Elisha and said to him, "Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head" (verse 23). When you understand what had transpired you can't miss the importance and greatness of this happening. Elijah the great prophet of God had just been taken away and here was a "little nobody" called Elisha who was going to try to fill the shoes of that great man of God. How foolish could a man get, a man like Elisha, to think that he could now go to Bethel, the House of God, and take up where Elijah had left off. To them it was conceit and folly on the part of Elisha, therefore, they said "Go up, bald-head, go up, but it won’t do you any good. You are a fool." In the East to call a man a "bald-head" does not mean he hasn't any hair, it means fool. To call a man this is a great insult and more especially so here because Elisha had been called of God to "fill the shoes" of Elijah. These people were mocking Elisha, trying to make a fool of him, but God won't have His called ones mocked. Elisha could have passed on without saying or doing a thing but that again would not be the Oriental way of life. In Eastern society when men or women are acting up, being silly or making foolish remarks, it is an established principle and procedure that the older people or a religious man must correct them because they believe that if they do not correct them that their sin will be upon them for not correcting the parties concerned. So Elisha as a religious man could not let them go uncorrected. The West simply does not understand the Eastern way of society nor idioms or figures of speech. We need to know the truth in order to be set free. This applies to everything in life including the Bible which is The Word of God.
Bishop K.C. Pillai, D.D.