Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

equality of men and women, woman is the glory of man

I’m currently writing an article about 1 Corinthians 11:7 that I hope to post in a day or two. I thought it would be useful, however, to first hear what some scholars suggest this verse might mean. In this post, I first quote from past scholars and then from more modern scholars.

Even though the more recent interpretations below are kinder to women than those of past scholars, and are more faithful to scripture, I am not completely convinced that any of these are exactly what Paul meant when he wrote,

“For a man should not have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God. But the woman is the glory of the man” 1 Corinthians 11:7 (NET).

1 Corinthians 11:7 is a baffling verse and there are many ways it is interpreted. We need to be careful, however, that we don’t lose sight of the overall context of 1 Corinthians 11:7 which is the appropriate appearance of men’s and women’s heads, in regards to either hairstyles or head-coverings, as they pray and prophecy in Corinthian assemblies.

Click here to read my understanding of 1 Corinthians 11:7.

Past Scholars

Augustine

Augustine (354-430) was the Bishop of Hippo and was made Doctor of the Church by the Roman Catholic Church, one of its highest honours. He references 1 Corinthians 11:7 in a work called in English, The Literal Meaning of Genesis:

“. . . woman was given to man, woman who was of small intelligence and who perhaps still lives more in accordance with the promptings of the inferior flesh than by superior reason. Is this why the apostle Paul does not attribute the image of God to her?”

De Genesi ad literatum 11.42

In another work entitled On the Trinity, which doesn’t specifically reference our text, Augustine wrote:

“. . . the woman together with her own husband is the image of God, so that the whole substance may be one image; but when she is referred separately to her quality of help-meet, which regards the woman herself alone, then she is not the image of God; but as regards the man alone, he is the image of God as fully and completely as when the woman too is joined with him in one.”

On the Trinity, Book 12 7.10

Chrysostom

John Chrysostom (died 407) was the Archbishop of Constantinople. Writing around the same time as Augustine, he commented on 1 Cor. 11:7 and simply and briefly states, “Therefore the rule of the man is natural.”

Homily 26 on 1 Corinthians

Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas, an Italian priest and influential theologian who lived in the 1200s, wrote,

“Some object that because the image of God in man is regarded with respect to the spirit, in which there is no difference between male and female, as it says in Gal (3:28). Therefore, there is no more reason why man is called the image of God than a woman is. The answer is that man is here called the image of God in a special way, namely, because man is the principle of his entire race, as God is the principle of the entire universe [principle=fundamental source or basis of something] and because from the side of Christ dying on the cross flowed the sacraments of blood and water, from which the Church has been organized. Furthermore, in regard to what is within, man is more especially called the image of God, inasmuch as reason is more vigorous in him. But it is better to say that the Apostle speaks clearly here. For he said of man that he is the image and glory of God; but he did not say of the woman that she is the image and glory of man, but [Paul] only that she is the glory of the man. This gives us to understand that it is common to man and woman to be the image of God; but it is immediately characteristic of man to be the glory of God.”

Commentary on 1 Corinthians, section 607 (Italics added)

Calvin

Calvin wrote in the 1500s and says this about men in his commentary on 1 Corinthians: “God has conferred upon the man, so as to have superiority over the woman. In this superior order of dignity, the glory of God is seen, as it shines forth in every kind of superiority.”

In the same commentary, Calvin says this about women: “Woman is a distinguished ornament of the man; for it is a great honour that God has appointed her to the man as the partner of his life, and a helper to him, and has made her subject to him . . .” (Source)

Wesley

John Wesley in the 1700s had similar views as those before him:

“A man indeed ought not to veil his head, because he is the image of God—in the dominion he [man] bears over the creation, representing the supreme dominion of God, which is his glory. But the woman is only matter of glory to the man, who has a becoming dominion over her. Therefore she ought not to appear, but with her head veiled, as a tacit acknowledgement of it.” (Source)

Recent Scholars

Leon Morris

The reason a man should not cover his head is that he is the image and glory of God. In the creation story we read that God made man [i.e. humanity] in his own image (Gen. 1:26-27). Genesis makes no distinction between the sexes at this point, but Paul understands it particularly of the male. Glory is not mentioned in the Genesis story (though cf. Ps 8:5, and passages where ‘heart’ or soul’ renders the Hebrew for ‘glory’, e.g. Ps. 16:9; 57:8). Man shows forth God’s glory as does nothing else; the expression may also be meant to direct attention to the state of man before the Fall. When people worship, this high dignity must be recognized; the glory of God is not to be obscured in the presence of God (by covering the head of its bearer). The woman is not made in the image of man (it was Seth, not Eve, who was in the image of Adam, Gen. 5:3). Her relation to the man is not the same as that of man to God. She has a place of her own, but it is not the man’s place. She stands in such a relation to the man as does nothing else, and thus she is called the glory of man. And it is precisely the glory of man that should be veiled in the presence of God. In worship God alone must be glorified.”

Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) (Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985), 151. (Italics are original, square brackets are added.)

Craig Keener

“In short, Paul says, because woman was taken from man, she reflects man’s image, and therefore she ought to cover that image in worship lest it distract observers from attention to God’s image.”

Craig S. Keener, Paul, Women and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992), 37.

Gordon D. Fee

“Paul probably means that the existence of the one brings honor and praise to the other. By creating man in his own image God set his glory in man. Man, therefore exists to God’s praise and honor, and is to live in relationship to God so as to be his ‘glory.’ What we are not told here is why being God’s glory means no covering; v. 4 indicates it had to do with not shaming Christ. But that, too, was left unexplained. As in v. 4, however, this word about man is not the point of the argument; it exists to set up Paul’s real concern—to explain why women should be covered when prophesying. But in coming to that concern, he picks up on the word ‘glory,’ saying only that ‘the woman, on the other hand, is man’s glory.’ The implication is that by praying and prophesying in a way that (apparently) disregarded distinctions between the sexes (being already as angels), she brings shame on the man whose glory she is intended to be. Paul does not hereby deny that woman was created in God’s image or that she, too, is God’s glory. His point is singular. She is related to man as his glory, a relationship that somehow appears to be jeopardized by her present actions.”

Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 516.

Cynthia Westfall

Cynthia Westfall sees textual ties between 1 Corinthians 11:7 and 1 Esdras 4:14-17 (the Greek version of Ezra in the Septuagint). She writes, “In 1 Esdras 4:17, the statement that women bring men glory, or rather produce glory for men, may be recast in the singular as ‘woman is the glory of man.’” Because these verses in 1 Esdras may be taken to imply that women have power over men, Westfall states that “Paul qualified his statements with a caveat ‘Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man’ (1 Cor. 11:11).” In summing up her discussion about verse 7, she writes, “. . .  when it comes to external appearance, there is a difference between the glory of men and the glory of women. In common with the culture, Paul believed that God had created women to be more attractive or more glorious, so that she is the glory of man. This becomes a pragmatic problem at the very point when women attempt to manifest the Spirit in prophesying (1 Cor. 11:5; 12:7, 10), or when they lead in prayer in order to worship God.”

Cynthia Long Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016), 66-70. (A short review of Cynthia Westfall’s excellent book is here.)

Derek and Diane Tidball

The Tidball’s believe Paul gets his idea of “glory” from Psalm 8:5. And they write, “In saying that woman is the glory of man (7) he is not denying that she is also born in the image of God. That was a given. Paul’s interest simply lies elsewhere, in the idea of glory rather than image. By saying that woman is the glory of man he may be expressing the simple idea that a woman is man’s ‘pride and joy’, the one in whom the man glories.”

Derek and Diane Tidball, The Message of Women: Creation, Grace and Gender (The Bible Speaks Today) (Nottingham, UK: Inter-Varsity Press, 2012), 216-217. (Their italics.)

Kenneth Bailey

“’Woman is the glory of man’ can mean ‘woman is the glory of humankind.’ She was created as the final climax of the creation story. . . . the [creation] process was on an ascending scale that mentions the creation of man (in passing) and reaches its peak with the creation of a woman who is the glory of man[kind].”

Kenneth Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 306. (His parentheses and his second set of square brackets; the first square brackets are mine.)

Alice Mathew

“. . . Paul at no point speaks about ‘authority.’ His concern is with the woman being the man’s ‘glory,’ the one without whom he is incomplete (1 Corinthians 11:7-9). In Genesis 2, man by himself was incomplete, and when he sees the woman, he ‘glories’ in her, bursting into song (Genesis 2:23). She came from man and was created to complete him.”

Alice Mathews, Gender Roles and the People of God: Rethinking What We Were Taught about Men and Women in the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017) online source.

Philip Payne

Philip Payne’s interpretation is unlike the others. He believes the issue in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 was “men who wear effeminate hairstyles and women who let their hair down to symbolize rejection of Christian marital and sexual morality.” In this context, Payne interprets 1 Corinthians 11:7c (“and woman is the glory of man”) as implying that “woman, not another man, is the glory of man.”

Philip B. Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 175, 179.

Lucy Peppiatt

“Attempts to read this verse as a benign message that men and women are simply different, or that women are creation’s crowning glory, or that both women and men are glorious, just in different ways, are not satisfactory.” Peppiatt believes the statements in verse 7 are not Paul’s, but come from the Corinthian church. (I think she may be right. See my article on the structure of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, here.) Peppiatt writes, “If this is now understood as the voice of the Corinthians, it becomes much clearer why there is a corrupted form of Genesis 1:26–27. [Genesis 2:26f uses the words “image” and “likeness” not “image” and “glory” as in 1 Corinthians 11:7.] The Corinthian prophetic leaders and teachers who claim that they ‘have the word of God’ are teaching that men are the image and glory of God, and that women are merely the image and glory of man—the perfect rationale for the subordination of women and the superiority of men. This theology of glory has superseded any sense of what it means for both men and women to be in Christ. This, and a particular understanding of an angelic presence in worship, underpins their view that the wearing of head coverings for women was honoring for God, men, and the angels. Moreover, this would also serve as the perfect rationale, not just for head coverings, but for keeping women silent before their husbands, as they must necessarily adopt a subordinate role . . .”

Lucy Peppiatt, Women and Worship at Corinth: Paul’s Rhetorical Arguments in 1 Corinthians, (Cambridge, UK: James Clarke & Co, 2015, 2017), 51-52, 100.

Disclaimer

In most cases, the quotations from recent scholars are snippets taken from longer discussions on 1 Corinthians 11:7. I hope I have conveyed the views of the scholars faithfully, and I apologise if these brief quotations do not do justice to their views. In my next post, I present my interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:7.

Click here to read my understanding of 1 Corinthians 11:7.


Related Articles

Man and Woman as the Image and Glory of God (1 Corinthians 11:7)
Women’s Hair in Corinth and in Sydney
The Chiasm In 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
1 Corinthians 11:9, in a Nutshell
More articles on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 can be accessed here.
Articles on Gender in Genesis 1-3 can be accessed here. 
Misogynistic Quotations from Church Fathers and Reformers

artigos em portugues sobre igualdade entre homens e mulheres no lar e na igreja

15 thoughts on “What scholars say about 1 Corinthians 11:7

  1. Thanks again for your conscientious approach to investigating these things, I ambetter informed for ir

    1. Thanks, George.

      I’ve provided these quotations as a resource, but I’m not sure that they tell us what verse 7 means. What they do show is that this verse is very hard to understand since we don’t really know why Paul wrote (or quoted) these words.

  2. Marg,
    Read this scripture this morning, and was baffled by it also. Pleasantly surprised when I received email covering this topic. Reflecting on context of chapter, seems like Paul was writing based on the culture of the time. Looking forward to your thoughts. Interesting topic for sure!

    1. Glad it was timely, Alice.

      I think culture plays a big part in the hairstyle/head-covering and “glory” issue.

  3. Wow, what different points of view in only a passage, yet all of them interesting. I like all the different views. I’ll be reading your next post on this topic.
    Thank you for posting all these resources.

  4. Being a military man, when I read the beginning of chapter 11, I see a clear chain of command being established. Then it picks up in verse 4, paraphrasing, that if a man covers his head he dishonoureth Christ.

    Well I see this as if a man is covering himself, he is clearly trying to disguise himself or not it be known that it is him, the one praying ect. A man should honor God by praying openly (not boastfully) but not ashamed rather.

    Now in verse 5, the women is not treated the same as the man but she is underman (in this chain of command theory). She prays ect (with her head covered) in a more softer approach, not to cause strife between her and her husband.

    The rest of the verses go on to establish though women and man or together complete as one, however they clearly have different roles.

    1. Hi Christian,

      Thanks for explaining your context. Paul, however, was not a military man, and there is no “divine” chain of command (among brothers and sisters in Christ) given anywhere in Paul’s letters or in Jesus’ teaching. (More about Jesus’ teaching on leadership and community here.)

      Furthermore, it’s hard to see how Paul’s arrangement of the three partners in 1 Corinthians 11:3 presents any kind of chain:

      “… the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” 1 Corinthians 11:3.

      Whichever way you see the chain of command moving, either from left to right or from right to left, it doesn’t work. For starters, Christ is second from the right and second from the left. I’m not a military person, but I think it’s fair to say that chains of command are not structured this way.

      Furthermore, the Bible shows that even under the former covenant (in Old Testament times), God frequently bypassed husbands or fathers and spoke to women directly, or he sent an angel to speak to them. There was no chain. (More on this here.) But with the new, better covenant, we all have direct access to God because of Jesus and through the Holy Spirit. Women do not need a middleman, as Jesus is our middleman or mediator.

      “For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the human Christ Jesus” 1 Timothy 2:5.

      We need to be careful that we don’t step in the way of this relationship and this connection.

      1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is about the appearance of the heads, and the hair in particular, of the men and women who were praying and prophesying in Corinthian assemblies. (The word “praying” occurs three times, and the word “prophesying” occurs twice, in the passage.) Paul wanted the women and the men to look respectable according to the standards of the time. (More about this here and here.)

      This passage is also about origins. We all, men and women, ultimately have our origin in God (1 Cor. 11:12; cf. 1 Cor.11:3). (More about the context of origins here.)

      Nothing in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is about passing on commands. Nothing is about a hierarchy, either between women and men or between Christ and God. And there is nothing about men and women having different roles in this passage; both men and women were praying and prophesying aloud in church meetings. There is also no mention of “man” in 1 Corinthians 11:5, there is nothing about being open or soft when praying, and there is nothing about being “complete as one.”

      I don’t want to sound harsh, and I appreciate your sincerity, but your interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 seems to based on several “nothings” and based on your military perspective. It’s not based on Paul’s actual words or on the context of the first-century Corinthian church.

      I hope you will read my article on 1 Corinthians 11:7, which is here:
      https://margmowczko.com/man-woman-image-glory-god-1-corinthians-11-7/

      All my articles on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 are here:
      https://margmowczko.com/category/equality-and-gender-issues/1-corinthians-11-2-16/

    2. Christian,
      Your take away on this seems to be on par with the Biblical narrative of headship = to authority. I’m reminded of Jesus’ own words when he met the warrior (Centurion) who understood (guess ..) the issue authority. Knowing himself to be under authority, he automatically discerned Jesus’ actions and words were of the same spirit. No need to be military for Paul to understand order through authority. The evidence speaks for itself in these passages. Unless you just don’t like it.

      1. I’m not quite following your train of thought, Jake. What Christian has described is nothing like what Paul says about God or Jesus or man being a kephalē (“head”).

        I’m pretty sure Jesus doesn’t want his followers to emulate the kind of authority and hierarchy that was practised in the Roman army or even in the centurion’s household. We are brothers and sisters with the same status in Christ. We are all servants of one another. There is no under or over in the community of Jesus’s followers.

        I agree that there is no need to be military to understand Paul’s view of authority. Our authority (authorisation to act) comes straight from God. It doesn’t trickle down through a hierarchy.

        Here are some things Jesus said about this.

        “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles ‘lord it over’ them, and their high officials ‘exercise authority over’ them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

        “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:8-12

        “Whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:4

        I’ve written about these verses here:
        https://margmowczko.com/jesus-teaching-on-leadership-and-community-in-matthews-gospel/

        The centurion realised that Jesus had authority, but the centurion’s authority and Jesus’ authority (and Jesus’ actions and words) were not of the same spirit. Further, Jesus commended the centurion’s faith, not his authority.

        Jesus says,
        “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” Matthew 8:10

        Here is my understanding of 1 Corinthians 11:7:
        https://margmowczko.com/man-woman-image-glory-god-1-corinthians-11-7/

        1. I would have to respectfully disagree that this principle doesn’t have anything to do with Head as “authority”. There’s plenty on the topic of Kephale in having the denoted meaning of one-in-authority aside from the greek’s typical use of the word – exousia. Case in point, the Centurion, though not using the word Kephale, illustrated this authority- through chain- of- command concept by saying, “I too am under authority”. A Key word being, “under”. Now how else can one read that as only meaning faith in this passage and not faith contingent on authority (as I’ve laid out)? It’s pretty clear that Jesus saw the man’s faith because the man demonstrated a clear understanding that Jesus had authority over sickness and diseases and wouldn’t have had that authority unless it was given to him… just like he (the Centurion) had authority given him from a higher chain of command. I agree however that the New Covenant reality is that no one “lords over” someone else as though they are property. And servitude is indeed lifted as the standard, as you well highlighted. Even the Centurion, who was indeed “over” his servant perfectly illustrated this by taking the nature of a servant himself in carrying first for the real servant’s well-fare. This faith marveled Jesus! However, Jesus didn’t only ignore the chain of command issue but admonished it.
          I feel that in efforts to sidestep the clear message of Christ’ submissive position to His Father’s headship, we also sidestep a wife’s position from being “under Kephale” of her husband. This 1 Corinthian’s 11 passage seems to reaffirm this authority and chain-of-command narrative. Why else would Paul pull in the angels if not?

          1. Hi Jake,

            The centurion doesn’t refer to authority with kephalē words. And Paul never refers specifically to husbands with exousia words. There’s a reason for that. They don’t mean exactly the same thing. (Paul mentions husbands and wives and exousia in 1 Corinthians 7:5 where he asks that they come to a mutual decision, not a tie-breaker decision from the husband.)

            The fact remains that kephalē does not typically mean a person in authority, though it can sometimes refer to a person who does have authority. Jesus is our Lord, our ultimate Lord, and he is our kephalē.

            Paul doesn’t use any of the many usual Greek words for “leader” when referring to husbands. In fact, no New Testament author ever tells husbands they are to lead their wives. There is not one verse where Jesus or Paul or Peter, etc, tells husbands they are lead or be the authority of their wives. None. Zero. Nada.

            The structure of 1 Corinthians 11:3 does not outline a chain of command. But since you believe it does, do you also believe that women are not directly answerable or directly subject to Christ or God?

            Also, the centurion says he is “under authority” (hupo exousian) and that he has soldiers “under” (hupo) him. No biblical writer says that women or wives are “under” (hupo) men or husbands. Again, none. Zero. Nada.

            The hierarchical structure of the Roman army is not the kind of structure Jesus wants for his body, the church, the community of Jesus followers. The authority that Roman officers had is not the kind of authority Jesus wants Christians to have over fellow believers. This kind of hierarchy and authority is the opposite of what Jesus wants.

            About the angels: There are several ideas about why Paul mentions the angels/messengers in 1 Corinthians 11:10 NIV, but none have to do with a hierarchy. Though there may be some sense of hierarchy when, earlier in his letter, Paul mentions that we, both men and women, will judge the angels (1 Cor. 6:3).

  5. Oh Boy.. You and I could dance all day on this issue ( haha..)

    You are right when you say Paul didn’t use exousia words in relation of husbands nor did the Centurion story have Kephale words. The difference is I don’t see that there was an apparent meaning. It still remains that the issue of authority is directly used with the 1 Corinthians 11 passage. Why is this?

    Because kephale was in fact commonly used and understood in these times in accordance with chain of command thinking, alongside it’s few other uses. Same concept as the word “Another” in our language. In Greek it could be Allos or Heteros.. Another as in “all together different” or “more of the same”. You want *another* cup of coffee this morning or do you want *another* (drink) ?

    The context and proper biblical narrative clued Paul’s readers in on which meaning Paul intended in the passage. Head as source doesn’t seem to fit and neither does head as end point. If Paul wanted them to think so then why in the world did he decide to drag these angels into the mix of things??

    That’s because Ancient Orthodox understanding of Scriptures, in particular amongst Jews, more commonly brought the issue of the *watchers* (Angels) into their reading and understanding of Scriptures. Paul being highly trained in Judaism no doubt had this thinking to influence his spiritual renderings. In our modern western culture we’ve lost this emphasis because we don’t often read ancient literature like Enoch and others like the New Testament world was use to and had a grid for.. however, Paul’s readers understood. For was it not from the angels that 1/3 of them fell to temptation to follow Satan usurpation of authority?

    If one recalls the issue with Satan’s contention with God was an issue of authority. It’s what got him kicked out of heaven. It’s what caused the angels of Genesis 6 to leave their heavenly abode:

    Jude 1:6
    And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling…”

    Paul is in essence explaining to the Corinthians that the angels are watching them. And we know that marriage is the topic because marriage reflects the co-partnership and flow of headship between God and Jesus while still preserving the obvious subservient nature the son has to the father. Paul later addresses this in the same exact letter:

    1 Corinthians 15:27
    ” For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”

    The marriage relationship is a reflection of God and Jesus’ partnership. A wife of course has her own relationship with God. She can hear and be directly responsible for her own ability to respond to God aside from her husband. And obviously a woman doesn’t need to be married for this either. But in marriage it appears this dynamic takes on a particular chain of command nature.

    1. Jake, you wrote, “Because kephale was in fact commonly used and understood in these times in accordance with chain of command thinking …” This is simply untrue. There is absolutely no basis whatsoever for your idea.

      I have no intention of dancing all day on this topic and I won’t be approving any further comments from you.

      More about kephalē here.

  6. Regardless of our disagreement over the history and text, I wish you well and have no ill intentions towards a fellow believer.
    Christ’ richest blessings!
    – Jake

    1. Thanks, Jake. I appreciate that.
      Blessings to you too. 🙂
      Grace and peace.

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