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What does it mean that woman is the glory of man (1 Corinthians 11:7)?

woman is the glory of man

The Corinthian church was grappling with a problem of disorder in their public gatherings. In 1 Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul reminds the church of God’s design in the pattern of relationships within the Christian community. As part of his teaching, Paul provides guidance on wearing head coverings during public worship (verses 2–16). He states: “A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man” (verses 7–8).

Paul’s instruction on head coverings can only be properly understood within the context of the cultural norms at the time and respect for God’s order in the body of Christ. His teaching stresses that Christian worship is intended to bring glory to God. Unfortunately, in Corinth, some women were taking their newfound Christian freedom to extremes. Believers were being distracted in worship, and God was not being glorified.

In the Greco-Roman society of Paul’s time, women wore long hair and covered their heads with a shawl in public. This covering symbolized a woman’s purity and submission to her husband’s authority. In contrast, male head coverings dishonored God in the context of Christian worship. A pagan worship custom in the Roman Empire involved men covering their heads with their togas. If a Christian man covered his head in worship like the pagans, he would not bring glory to God.

When a Christian woman covered her head in worship, she showed honor and respect to her husband. The word translated as “glory” in 1 Corinthians 11:7 means “radiant beauty” in the original language. A woman can radiate beauty, like a crown of jewels on her husband’s head (see Proverbs 12:4). In this way, she brings him honor and respect. A woman who went without a head covering in worship was likely to be a sexual distraction to men in church. Such a thing would bring dishonor to her husband and God. Therefore, Paul taught women not to be a stumbling block and to reflect God’s glory by covering her head in worship.

Within this cultural context, the idea that the woman is the glory of the man further reflects God’s divine order of authority in the church. Paul supports his practical teaching about head coverings with the spiritual basis for it in God’s Word. He summarizes in 1 Corinthians 11:3: “The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (NLT). God the Father is the head over Jesus Christ, His Son. Christ is the head of the man (or the husband), and the man is the head of the woman, his wife.

God’s divine design is for men to exercise spiritual headship in the home and the local church body under the authority of Jesus Christ. This headship does not mean that men are superior to women in the family or the church. Both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27; see also Genesis 2:20–24; 5:2) and are equal in God’s eyes (Galatians 3:28). However, they have different roles to fulfill and distinct places in God’s order (Ephesians 5:22–25; 1 Peter 3:1, 5). Jesus Himself is subject or submissive to the Father’s authority even though He is still equal to His Father (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 10:30; 12:50; 14:28). God the Father and God the Son are equal but have unique roles and positions of authority. Just as Jesus Christ is not inferior to God, a woman is not inferior to a man, nor is a wife inferior to her husband. But as the Son submits Himself to the Father, the wife should submit herself to her husband. In the biblical context, submission does not imply inferiority or subjugation but rather a willing alignment with God's divine order. In yielding to God’s order, a woman makes herself the glory of the man.

The biblical principle Paul provides for the woman being the glory of man is that God created Adam first and then made Eve from Adam’s flesh and bones (1 Corinthians 11:8; see also 1 Timothy 2:13). Woman was made from man and for man to be his helpmate (Genesis 2:18–25). God made Eve so Adam could fulfill the task for which God had created him. Only with God’s unique gift of Eve could Adam become not merely a lone male of his species but a legitimate model of the human race. Together, they are all God has made humanity to be, in His image, fully reflecting God’s glory.

The responsibility of every person in the community of faith is to make sure that God alone receives all the glory when the church comes together to worship. As a woman honors her husband by submitting to his headship, she honors God and reflects His glory—a picture that mirrors the church's response to Christ (see Ephesians 5:24). This relationship is an interdependent partnership of equals (1 Corinthians 11:11–12), like that of God the Father and His Son. Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God.” Everyone in God’s family fulfills a role in His design, and each belongs to the other. As believers cooperate to fulfill their divinely appointed purposes in God’s plan, they radiate His glory to the world.

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What does it mean that woman is the glory of man (1 Corinthians 11:7)?
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This page last updated: May 13, 2024