Today I am gonna start a new section on my blog covering 1 Corinthians 11. It occurred to me last night working on a blog post that I have yet to really get deep into 1 Corinthians. I have covered this issue in regards to an article from “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.” However, I am gonna spend some time on the chapter, showing what Paul meant when he wrote this chapter. It is pivotal to the discussion on women in ministry because this chapter is also used to argue AGAINST women in ministry.
Just so you, the reader, can follow along with me in the analysis of the text, I will print the passage here:
2Now I commend you(B) because you remember me in everything and(C) maintain the traditions(D) even as I delivered them to you. 3But I want you to understand that(E) the head of every man is Christ,(F) the head of a wife[a] is her husband, and(G) the head of Christ is God. 4Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5but every wife[b] who prays or(H) prophesies(I) with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same(J) as if her head were shaven. 6For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7For a man ought not to cover his head, since(K) he is the image and glory of God, but(L) woman is the glory of man. 8For(M) man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9Neither was man created for woman, but(N) woman for man. 10That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.[c] 11Nevertheless,(O) in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And(P) all things are from God. 13Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16(Q) If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do(R) the churches of God.
Initially, Paul says that he is proud of the Corinthians because “you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.” Paul applauds the church for how they have carried out the practices he set in place.
Next, Paul then contrasts what they have done with a new tradition, using the word “de” (but). He then states that “the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” Here we can see a hierarchy: God-Christ-husband-wife-(children). Although children are not included here, they are included in Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 6.
This is the point where Paul then goes into why the man should not cover his head, but the woman should. In verse 7, Paul states that “a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.” The man was created in the Garden for God’s glory (Genesis 1), so he should not cover his head when prophesying or praying. The woman, however, while made in the image of God, is the GLORY OF MAN; for this reason, she should cover her head when doing such activities.
What is another reason Paul gives for why women should cover their heads? Because the man was not made from the woman, but the woman from the man. Because the man is the human origin of human life (Christ being the divine), he does not have to wear a covering. In addition, the woman was also made to help man (not the other way around).
But what does Paul do in 11:11-12? He goes into a new part of his argument, using the Greek word “plen,” meaning “however.” Paul takes the previous statements and provides an argument for the opposing view: “11Nevertheless,(O) in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And(P) all things are from God” (1 Corinthians 11:11-12, ESV).
In the Greek, the word for “independent” here is “co-ris,” meaning “apart from” or “without.” In verse 12, Paul tells us that there has been a REVERSAL OF THE CREATED ORDER: “for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman…” Today, women come first in the created order (they give birth to sons), whereas Adam was the first human and from his side came Eve.
I want us to look at the wording in this passage. At the beginning, Paul tells us the traditional thought regarding women wearing head coverings-- but then presents another view. Then, in verse 13, Paul tells the church to "judge for yourselves." I don't know about you, but it didn't hit me as to why Paul gave two opposing arguments until tonight-- because, chances are, the church at Corinth was in deep discussion regarding this "new" tradition that some were for and others were against. This had to be a new issue discussed to Paul that hadn't been instituted before, because first, Paul discusses the traditions he handed down and THEN writes on this issue; and secondly, because just four chapters prior (1 Corinthians 7), Paul starts his words with "Now concerning the matters about which you wrote." The church wrote Paul on this issue because they didn't know what to do; and, since he had given them all their traditions while he was with them, they wanted to know whether or not they should institute this "new" tradition into the church. Paul eventually tells them that it is a decision that the church must make-- but there was no custom that would MANDATE women having to have their heads covered.
Most people like to use the phrase “reversal of fortunes”; but here, Paul discusses a REVERSAL OF ORDERS—the created order of Genesis 1 and 2 has been supplanted with an entirely different creation order. This, then, becomes the dilemma of the complementarian—for the only way they can hold on to their view of 1 Timothy 2 regarding created order is to abandon proper exegesis of this passage. It seems then, for the complementarian, they will continue to hang on to the last piece of the exegetical Titanic—even if it means dying in the process…