The woman was created for the man: Is she inferior?
One question that was posed to me last week was on 1 Corinthians 11:9 regarding the creation of woman for the man. Does this mean that the woman is somehow inferior to the man because she was created for him? Let’s have a close look at the passage starting with verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 11:7:
7. For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.
8. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;
9. for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.
10. This is why a woman should have authority over her own head: because of the angels. (International Standard Version)
11. However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
12. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.
Origins and glory
In this passage Paul is talking about origins and the glory that goes with these origins. Paul highlights the origin of mankind in such a way that it ultimately brings us back to God as the ultimate first cause even though there is a mediator of sorts that is used in the creation of the woman. Let’s see how Paul does this and how this ties in with the point that Paul is making about the creation of the woman for the man.
In verse 7 Paul writes that the woman is the glory of man. The Greek word used here for glory primarily means thought or opinion, especially favorable human opinion, and thus in a secondary sense reputation, praise, honor. Woman is the reputation, the praise and the honor of man. He can glory in her because her very nature brings him honor. The true value of a woman to a man is the recognition that she is of equal worth and equal value and the glory that she shines forth reflects the man that she was created for. He is not in competition with her, instead she is someone to be proud of because she reflects the very best in him.
Glory brings honor
Because woman is the glory of man and because her very being brings him honor, Paul says in verse 10 that she is to have authority over her own head. The Holy Spirit has inspired the Greek word for authority that means permission, authority, right, liberty, power to do something. This word for authority always means that the person themselves has the power or authority to do something. Paul is saying that because the woman is the man’s glory and because she was created for him, she has the power to carry out her mandate by growing with the man in the maturity of Christ. As a mature Christian she is to make her own decision over her own head. Why does Paul say that she has this authority? She has this authority because she too will be judging the angels in the next life (1 Corinthians 6:3; 1 Corinthians 11:10). In this life men and women are to grow up and be mature so that we can all make wise decisions in this life (1 Corinthians 6:2) and in the next life our maturity is required to make wise decisions regarding judging the world and the angels (1 Cor. 6:2, 3) For more information on the issue of authority on the head and angels see my post at https://mmoutreach.org/wim/2007/05/02/1-corinthians-11-and-paul/
Since maturity in the image of Christ is of utmost importance to Paul, as we are all to reflect the glory of Christ with unveiled faces (2 Corinthians 3:18) please note that Paul nowhere says that the woman was created to be the man’s servant or that she was created for the man to rule over her. She is not a burden to him as a child would be who needs someone to supervise them and monitor their every move. Paul says that she is his glory and she together with the man will rule the world and will judge the angels.
Glory and the church
Man’s tendency since the time of Adam’s sin has been to try to subjugate the woman and push her beneath him as he rules over her. In contrast, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 that the woman was not created in this way. She was created to be the glory of the man and as she shines with her gifts and with her abilities, the man is to be proud of her and to see her as shining forth the praise and the honor of man. When men finally understand this, there will no longer be a book of lists outlining all that a woman is forbidden to do. No longer will she be forbidden to lead in prayer or forbidden to be an usher or forbidden to preach the good news. The glory of the church must be a united glory with all of us shining forth the glory of our Savior. All of us were created in God’s image and all of us are to once again shine forth his glory as we are knit together into one body. Understanding this will certainly help to keep us from competition and jealousy because when one member is honored in the body we should all rejoice (1 Corinthians 12:26). The purpose is that there should be no division in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:25).
The next post will deal with some of Kerryn’s questions on the 1 Corinthians 11 passage.