Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

body ministry 1 Corinthians 12

Tradução em português aqui.

It’s troubling when people misuse scripture to subordinate and repress women, and, conversely, to elevate men. The misunderstanding and misuse of 1 Corinthians 11:9 in this regard especially concerns me.

“… neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” (1 Cor. 11:9).

One-sided Service?

Some Christians believe that this verse teaches that women were made solely to serve men, and that men do not have a reciprocal responsibility or obligation to help women. They hold to this belief despite the fact that Jesus taught about sacrificial service and demonstrated this to his followers (Mark 10:45). They hold to this belief despite the fact that Paul specifically told husbands they should act with loving care towards their wives (Eph. 5:25, 28-29; cf. Eph. 5:1-2).

The Context of Origin

The context of 1 Corinthians 11:9 is creation and origin. In particular, this verse alludes to the Genesis 2 creation account where we read that the first woman was made from a part that was taken out of the first (hu)man’s body (Gen. 2:21-22). Echoing this creation story, verse 9 is prefaced with:

“For man did not come from woman, but woman from man . . .” (1 Cor. 11:8).

Aloneness vs Companionship and Mutuality

Genesis 2 does indeed tell us that the first woman was created for the sake of the first man—to rescue him from being alone (Gen. 2:18).[1] This is what Paul refers to 1 Corinthians 11:9. He goes on, however, to provide more comprehensive statements about the relationship between men and women, in particular, those who are “in the Lord”.[2]

“Nevertheless (or, except that), in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God” (1 Cor. 11:11-12, italics added).

Paul points out that, even though the first woman came from the first man (cf. Gen. 2:21-23), every other man has been born of a woman (cf. Gen 4:1). Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 negate the notion that a gender hierarchy or priority is implicit in the created order. In no way does he acknowledge that there is any significance in being made first (cf. Mark 10:31).

Furthermore, even though the first woman was made to solve the problem of the first (hu)man’s aloneness, since then, men and women have been dependent on each other, especially for us who are “in the Lord.”

“In the Lord”

1 Corinthians 11:8-9 must not be read as an isolated text. It must be read and understood within its context, which includes the verses that follow it, and it must be interpreted with an appreciation of what it means to be in the Lord.

In Galatians, Paul wrote that in the Lord, or, more precisely, in Christ, there is neither male and female (Gal. 3:28).[3] When we are in Christ, we have a new identity; gender distinctions remain but they lose their significance. In Second Corinthians, Paul wrote that we are not to regard each other primarily “according to the flesh” because we are now in Christ and part of the New Creation (2 Cor. 5:16-17). Rather than regarding our brothers and sisters “according to the flesh,” we should regard them as in the Lord and we should “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21).

“One Another”

Service and submission is not the sole responsibility of women. All of us, women and men, are to serve one another (Gal. 5:13-14), submit to one another, and rescue one another from being alone. Mutuality, not hierarchy, is the New Creation paradigm.

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God …” (2 Cor. 5:16-18a ESV).


[1] I’m not game to word it quite like this, but respected scholar Kenneth Bailey did when commenting on 1 Corinthians 11:9: “It was not Eve who was lonely, unable to manage and needed help. Instead, it was Adam who could not manage alone …”
Kenneth Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 310.

[2] The overall context of the entire passage of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is about origins and appropriate behaviour in corporate worship. It is not about marriage. More on this passage here.

[3] “Neither male and female” is an allusion to Genesis 1:27c.

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More articles in the
In a Nutshell Series

In a Nutshell Series

21 thoughts on “Woman Created for Man (1 Cor. 11:9), in a Nutshell

  1. The fact that God created the first man as needing the help of a woman should cause men to be humble and respect women more. It is just the nature of sin that tells people that if they need help they can demean the one who helps them. We so quickly forget that God is the greatest HELP for humans that there is.

    1. Adam being created first with his suitable helper following is no reason to require men to be humble and respect women more, though men of course should respect women and women men. Adam being created before Eve spiritually illustrates for us Christ’s headship over His spiritual wife, the church. First there was Christ and out of Him came the church, just as Eve came out of Adam.

      Here are scriptures which tell us Christ came first and out of Him came His Body, the church, who is spiritually called His wife.

      Col 1:15 [Christ] Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
      Col 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
      Col 1:17 And HE IS BEFORE ALL THINGS, and by him all things consist.
      Col 1:18 And HE IS THE HEAD OF THE BODY, THE CHURCH: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; THAT IN ALL THINGS HE MAY HAVE PREEMINENCE.

      Eph 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.

      Surely you would not suggest that Christ is in need of the help of the church and should be humble and respect the church more? Does the scripture not clearly say “He is the head of the body, the church”?

      Why are you reasoning about who is most important? As you yourself say here, “God is the greatest help for humans that there is”, or as Jesus said:

      Mar 10:44 And whoever of you desires to become first, he shall be servant of all.
      Mar 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

      1. No one disputes that Jesus Christ came before the church, and that he is the source or origin of the church.

        And no one disputes that the first human Adam was the source or origin of the first woman Eve.

        And yet Jesus and the church, even though they are not equal, work in a partnership. Husband and wife, who are equal, also should work together in an equal partnership.

        I think TL’s comment is perfectly fine and makes good sense.

        Ursula, you have no idea of the motives of the people who comment here. I do not allow judgemental comments and have removed your ungracious and judgemental remark.

  2. Thankfully we have the whole Bible! Women today, with all the resources at their disposal, have only themselves to blame if they do not challenge ALL teachings of the past about women that claim to be from the Bible!

    God is just…it is humans that are unjust…just like God says in Ezekiel 18:25 and 29. “Is not my way equal…is not YOUR WAY UNEQUAL?” Yes, when left to himself mankind insists on inequality for others, but this is not the way of God.

    So how do I interpret ‘woman WAS made for man’?

    1….In the beginning it WAS so and then God IMMEDIATELY reversed the process. Why did God give women the task of bearing children instead of men, especially after woman was made from Adam? A male birthing had already taken place once. Why change? This is a very important consideration and implies the active consideration of God and even perhaps His expectation of greater general strength of character from women…as many of us can attest…after all it was Adam who blamed God for his sin…not Eve. Just because Paul doesn’t bring this up doesn’t make it less so! Eve correctly put the blame on Satan…and most men will admit that their own moral compasses waver a lot, especially in their youth…

    2….woman was made to rescue man for she was made an EZER (Hebrew)…like God she was sent to save/help. As King David said in Psalm 144:12…”that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace”. Here Pastor Barton Bouchier, born in the 18th century says “(God) meant the nations of the earth to know and understand how much of their happiness, their strength, and their security was dependent on the female children of a family.” (Treasury of David)

    Bouchier SAW that women DID IN FACT act as CONDUITS for the hand of God…OUR HELP…bringing stability to the world as helpers in a similar way to God being our help. Therefore the analogy of “cornerstone” is not far-fetched. Women was made “for” the good of man to bring peace, not for mats to be trod upon or for targets for out of control male emotionalism and impaired humour. Yet women have indeed taken the worst some evil men have to offer and remained like cornerstones of all the cultures of the world…strong, dependable and courageous, often unflinching in the face of great danger…fierce mothers, and perhaps in this sense especially they were made to protect against great odds. Much of humanity owes its survival to broken but forward looking women who would not be defeated.

    We need to recognize the multitude of nameless, spiritually great women of history, little, unknown women who live/d in the shadows, who silently took, and still take, the worst that male culture can throw at them and yet survive as Godly creatures with more determination to overcome all that is evil. Perhaps women were made so particularly strong in order to survive the onslaught, so man would finally come to the end of himself and recognize the depth of evil inherent in his heart when his belief in his own entitlement is taken to its greatest heights. If so, this is a lesson for us, as women, to take to heart, lest we think ourselves to be any better at handling power than men have been.

  3. “Thankfully we have the whole Bible! Women today, with all the resources at their disposal, have only themselves to blame if they do not challenge ALL teachings of the past about women that claim to be from the Bible!”

    While I agree there are many resources available to women today that were not available in the past, there are literally multitudes of women across the world who are still in bondage to traditional complementarian teachings.

    There are millions of Christian women in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere who do not have adequate access to education or if they can read cannot afford these kinds of resources. They also do not always have access to the internet, or cannot afford to access it.

    While Christianity is dwindling in western nations, it is rising in Africa, China and other places. Unfortunately the version of Christianity that has too often been taught in these places is one that limits women.

    Let’s not blame women everywhere for not challenging traditional and limited teachings about themselves, wherever they live. There are all kinds of reasons why women can’t always access resources to help them with that, both in western nations and non-western nations.

    Let’s focus on trying to spread the message of biblical equality to them rather than blaming them for not knowing about it. In my view there has already been enough blame put on women – historically and currently.

    1. Cheryl, I completely agree that we cannot blame women. I’ve always observed that casting blame is counter productive, and I don’t want to add blame to my sisters, and brothers, who are in bondage

      Even western women, who have access to so many resources at their fingertips, are still likely to read patriarchy into New Testament Scriptures if patriarchy is all they see demonstrated and taught in their church community.

      1. Yes Marg, it’s so much more about demonstration and teaching than resources. Resources are helpful and we are increasingly blessed to have more and more scriptural resources becoming available to us, but living out biblical equality in our Christian communities is what’s going to ultimately turn the tide.

    2. Actually I was not blaming “them”…I am blaming those who HAVE the information and yet continue to support Complementarianism and its errors. I know a number of such women who will not budge and remain in head coverings,baggy clothes and superficial submission while inside they are a roiling mess of confusion and guilt, fear and anger. We who have the information need to STAND on it, WALK in it, and SPEAK it, pressing on until they see that they need to choose, finally, which side GOD supports.

      There are simply way too many women with access to the information who still CHOOSE to remain silent and ‘submissive’ to their husbands’ and churchs’IDEAS of what women are supposed to be…continuing to feed the lie that men must be dominant. There is only one reason men must be dominant, and that is because THEY WANT TO BE…not because God wants them to be.They remain dominant because they have the physical power, sense of entitlement, cultural assistance, and will to dominate. It is fear, often, that keeps women in their camp…just as the women who SAY they choose to wear niqab’s and burka’s…they choose out of fear, not from reason whether they ‘know’ it or not. Like a fear-biting dog, raised in a barn away from people, they are fearful of letting people ‘see’ them and become full of unreasonable fears…this is a tragedy.

      Perhaps women need to provide more EVIDENT means for dispelling the fear of these women. Shelters are only part of the answer. What about the woman whose husband never uses force but uses insults, intimidation and ridicule, not to mention ‘religion’? These women remain belittled and demeaned while knowing, in their conscience, that God doesn’t want this. They have the knowledge but not the fortitude or means to stand up…as a woman of old said he is “standing on her neck”.

      These women need to ask themselves if they believe God’s will is that men must always get their own way and that women must never have a say. Of course they will say no…but to will and to do something about it requires stepping into dangerous waters, psychologically, for them.

      No wonder the progress is so slow!

  4. As I just said, it is more than resources and information…

    There is a psychological hurdle for too many women who are trained from birth to fear the dominance of men and the problem is how to overcome this deeply ingrained fear that paralyzes so many women who remain in Complementarianism because they have nowhere else to go as long as they are, literally, married to the ideology.

    They are not to blame either, but what is the CURE? Divorce is not an option. What can they do besides feed the lie? Faith alone is really the answer for them, but how can ‘faith’ in God support abandoning such a marriage?

    Therefore, I believe it is SO important to catch YOUNG women before they find themselves held captive in such situations. Even such women can teach their daughters in the faith not to do as they have done. Perhaps that will be their legacy of hope.

  5. My thoughts, 1 Cor 11:2-16 is the teaching unit/pericope. As you know, it is a chiasm, but since some aspects are so unclear, I propose working from the center out, rather than top down.

    The center is 1 Cor 11:10 which is the main conclusion. As I see it, the puzzle challenge is that 1 Cor 11:10 gives freedom to a woman to decide whether to do the “head thing” where a man is not to do the “head thing” per 1 Cor 11:7a. In other words, there is a fundamental asymmetry between men and women for Paul in 1 Cor 11 in terms of their options in acting in faith.

    Here was my insight from last night. Put all the asymmetries in one column and all the symmetries in another. The idea is that the asymmetries are there in order to explain the asymmetry in the conclusion. One of those asymmetries are the verses 1 Cor 11:8-9, which includes 1 Cor 11:9 which is what your original post is about. So my thoughts are that this is part of Paul’s rationale for his asymmetric conclusion that a woman can do something that he does not want a man to do in 1st century Corinth.

    1. Thanks Don.

      I like your conclusion of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16: that women have the freedom (or authority) to choose about their head, whereas a man may not cover his head. But I don’t think 1 Cor 11:9 is asymmetrical. I think it is balanced by verse 11: “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.” Perhaps I’m not understanding what you mean by asymmetries.

    2. I see 1 Cor 11:11-12 as symmetrical and does pair up with 1 Cor 11:7-9 in the chiasm. I see 1 Cor 11:8-9 as parenthetical expressions which contain asymmetries explaining the asymmetry between 1 Cor 11:7 and 1 Cor 11:10.

      Another way of putting it is that I think Paul would prefer everyone to not do the “head thing”. However, there is a clash of meanings for the “head thing” for a woman that does not happen for a man. Since the clash of meanings depends on the circumstances, Paul punts the resolution to the individual woman to decide which action is preferred.

      1. Yeah, the change, or clash, of meanings of “head” may have been clever but it complicates the reading. I wonder if the Corinthians struggled as much as we do in understanding the passage. 😉

        1. I think there are many reasons to think those at Corinth could figure it out better than we can.

          1) They knew the contents of the letter and oral communication from Chloe to Paul that resulted in what we call 1 Cor.
          2) They would know his oral teaching.
          3) They would know 0 Cor, the letter before 1 Cor which is now lost but is referred to in 1 Cor.
          4) They were a mixed congregation of Jews and gentiles, many congregations are not.
          5) They lived in the 1st century at Corinth, we do not and have to bridge that gap as best we can.
          6) 1st Peter said that Paul wrote some things which are hard to understand, if that was true then, how much more today.
          7) The letter carrier typically would be charged with speaking the letter to the congregation and explaining it if there were any questions.

          1. Hi Don,

            My comment was slightly tongue-in-cheek, hence the winking emoticon (which may have been difficult to see)

            The advantage the Corinthians had was that, if they didn’t understand anything Paul wrote, they could ask him about it in a return letter. But all we can do is prayerfully scratch our heads and think hard, and try to work it out as best we can.

          2. Marg and Don,

            Despite not knowing Greek, it seems to me that since Paul wrote both the following ideas, that ONE thing Paul did not mean by head is authority…because, as I have said over and over on various sites:

            Jesus considered it not robbery to be equal with God (who is His Head) and therefore women should not consider it robbery to be equal with their husbands who are their head, not should their husbands think their wives are unequal to them…NO?

  6. Ty for this article! I disagree the male came first–we came together. Gen. 5:2 “Male and Female created He them; and blessed them and called Their name Adam.” Dr. Garr teaches that Eve did not come from a rib, the body was divided in half. My husband found the Hebrew word for chamber in scripture as well he believed Adam had a woom initially, and Dr. Garr believed they were totally one body too. Isn’t that awesome!

    1. Hi Christa,

      Yes, the Hebrew word tselah doesn’t usually mean rib but part or side, or even chamber. I write about the possibility of the first human in Genesis 2 being divided into a man (ish) and woman (ishshah) here: https://margmowczko.com/human-man-woman-genesis-2/

  7. First, Thank You for your wonderful work! It has truly changed my life. I grew up in a misogynistic comp church that tried its best to make me feel inferior and unwanted. But in my search for the truth, God led me to your blog and I’ve been passionate about hermeneutics ever since!

    As I’m new to Koine Greek, I wanted to ask you about 1 Cor 11:9’s use of the word διὰ. Why in 11:9 is it translated “for (the sake of)” when it can mean “through, of, out of”? Would the following translation be accurate?

    “Namely (? καὶ), man was not created through / of / out of woman, but woman through / of / out of man.”

    If you have the time to respond, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    And thank you again! 🙂

    1. Hi Jenna,

      I have a footnote about dia in 1 Corinthians 11:9 in this article: https://margmowczko.com/the-chiasm-in-1-corinthians-11_2-16/

      1. Thank you for the link, that’s exactly what I was looking for 🙂

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