The Woman Is The Glory Of Man – 1 Corinthians 11:2-16


This is certainly a very controversial topic in light of the feminist movement in our culture. We see a woman running for President of the most powerful country in the world. We see churches attacked as outdated and chauvinistic if they limit the church office of elder and the role of preaching to men. We see much gender confusion with women pushing for a type of “Equality of the Sexes” that amounts to denying any role differentiations between men and women. So you have women serving in the military and holding the most powerful leadership positions in the business world.

The Apostle Paul had been dealing with issues related to a Christian’s liberties. Apparently some women in the church had taken the concept of liberality too far and were removing their cloth head-coverings that symbolized their submission to the headship (authority) of men. Paul felt this was an important error to address since the God-ordained creation order and differing roles of man and woman were a fundamental fabric both of society itself and of godly behavior in the church.



  1. (:2) Introductory Word of Commendation
    1. Positive Approach of Prefacing Correction with Praise: "Now I praise you"
      1. Surprising, because Paul did not have a lot of areas in which he was praising the church at Corinth; very gracious, diplomatic approach to dealing with a delicate topic
    2. Two Reasons for the Commendation
      1. Loyal to the Personal Example of the Apostle Paul – Personal Connection: "because you remember me in everything"
        1. Whom are we imitating in our church practices?
      2. Loyal to the Doctrinal Teachings of the Apostle Paul – Doctrinal Connection: "and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you."
        1. "traditions" can be either positive or negative – here viewed as the positive apostolic instruction in doctrine and practice that was essential in these transitional times before the full development of the Canon of Scripture
  2. (:3) Reinforcement of the Fundamental Role Differentiations Involving Headship
    1. Headship of Christ Over Man: "But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man"

Leake: head of every man, not just the church; Heb. 2:8

    1. Headship of Man Over Woman: "and the man is the head of a woman"
      1. Not restricting the context to the marital relationship of husband and wife
    2. Headship of God the Father Over Christ: "and God is the head of Christ."
      1. Certainly no concept of inferiority involved

Leake: Christ submitted to the will of the Father; John 6:38; Jesus did not send the Father but the other way around (1 Cor. 15:28

  1. Concept of Headship had to involve primarily Authority… some people today want to limit it to some reference to "Source" alone
  2. What does this picture of headship communicate?
    1. (:4-7) Explanation of the Need for a Head Covering for the Woman
      1. (:4-5a) The Issue Involves Respecting vs Disgracing Your Head
        1. How does a Man Disgrace His Head? – "Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying, disgraces his head."
        2. (:5a) How does a Woman Disgrace Her Head? – "But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying, disgraces her head;"
      2. (:5b-6) Argument from the Lesser to the Greater — Same Category as Shaving a Woman’s Head – just more extreme: "for she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head."
      3. (:7) Distinction of God-Appointed Roles Must be Maintained
        1. Man is the Image and Glory of God: "For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God"
        2. Woman is the Glory of Man: "but the woman is the glory of man."


  1. (:8-10) Three Reasons Why it Makes Sense for Women to Wear the Cloth Head Covering
    1. (:8) Woman Originates from Man: "For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man"
    2. (:9) Woman Was Created For Man: "for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake."
    3. (:10) Submission of Woman to Man Matters to Angels: "Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels."
      1. This is a powerful argument in favor of the symbol still being valid today and essential. Angels cannot see into the heart of a woman to determine if she has the proper attitude of submission. They must see the visible symbol. Yes, there can still be hypocrisy, but that is a separate issue.
  2. (:11-12) Balancing Perspective (to mitigate against abuse)
    1. Mutual Dependence: "However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman"
    2. Primacy of God: "and all things originate from God"


  1. (:13) Argument From Propriety: "Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with head uncovered?"
  2. (:14-15) Argument From Nature: "Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering."
  3. (:16) Argument From Universal Church Practice: "But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God."


The difficulty in this passage is all about application. Apart from the easy-to-answer objections of the feminists to the clearly defined role differentiations, we are left to wrestle with the thorny issue of whether God really expects women today in our culture to still wear head coverings in some context of Christian gatherings. This is an issue which the modern church does not have much appetite to investigate. Where is the perceived benefit to try to re-introduce a practice that most people would find to be bizarre at best? On the other hand, the issue is always about what is pleasing to the Lord and consistent with His revealed will.

There are two main approaches for the biblical scholar who cares about practicing what he believes to be the truth:

1) The majority will argue that the principle of submission is the focal point of the passage and the area of obedience of concern to God. The practice of wearing the head covering was cultural and not obligatory for today. The fact that the head covering has lost its symbolism in today’s culture would make it unnecessary and even overly restrictive to try to re-introduce the symbol and re-educate people as to its significance. A strong argument from silence would be to note that the OT never claims that Eve was commanded to wear any type of head covering from the beginning. It would seem that she was naked in the garden originally; and after the Fall the garments which the Lord made for them did not include a head covering for Eve (Gen. 3:21).

However, the difficulty is that the arguments used in the passage seem to extend beyond cultural lines of reasoning and have a more universal application. Perhaps Paul is more concerned with the statement made by women removing the head covering rather than by the necessity of wearing the head covering itself. But again, the nature of the arguments do not point in that direction.

2) Some will dare to argue and practice that we need to take the Scriptures at face value in this text as everywhere else. And as strange as it seems to us, we need to make an issue of women needing to wear the required head covering. (The point would not be to coerce women against their conscience to adopt such behavior; that would be legalistic. Rather there would be teaching to re-establish the symbolism intended by God and women taking up this practice as a matter of personal conviction.) However, that puts us in very strange company in today’s world. One would not want to create unnecessary obstacles to people embracing a church community. But the determining factor still must be: How clear is the Lord’s revelation on this subject and what application does He desire for us?

If the practice needs to be re-instituted, one must address a wide range of questions that are problematic:

  • Who is required to wear the head covering? The instruction goes beyond application just to married women. At what age would it become appropriate?
  • What is the context in today’s spiritual experience where "praying and prophecying" take place? Many people who have adopted the practice have limited its expression to the main public worship service. But the passage seems to go beyond that since women were not allowed to take a vocal leadership role in that context. Is the head covering something that you would put on and take off repeatedly? Should it have application in private prayer (probably not)? How about prayer within the context of the home, but not public prayer?
  • What type of covering should be worn? Must it be opaque and truly cover the head as opposed to just a symbolic little cap?

The temptation is to admit to the complexity and allow others to wrestle with the details! You certainly have to have a very strong level of conviction to move forward in this direction.


  1. How many generations ago did women in America typically wear head coverings in church? Why do you think our cultural practice changed?
  2. Why do we still see men typically remove their hats before any public prayer?
  3. What types of things most capture the interest of angels and why do you think this is the case?
  4. What type of a distinction should we see in our culture in terms of hair length and hair styles for men and women? How can we encourage this without being legalistic?


Pastor Thomas Leake: Can Women Be Both Submissive & Liberated?

6 Truths About the Principle of Submission

Introduction: Very tough passage; There is a proper way for both men and women to behave in worship and in their distinctive roles. Much misleading teaching has grown up around Gal. 3:28. This text deals with salvation privileges in general – especially the future inheritance; everybody (man and woman, slave and master) gets the same glorious inheritance. However, that does not mean that these distinctions in society have been wiped out and no longer apply.

What today is sexism and what is not? Is it wrong for a woman to want a man to act like a man and vice versa? Should there be no distinctions in roles??
– man: lead, provide for, and protect
– woman: affirm, receive, and nurture

1) (:2-3) The Principle of Submission Declared
Concept of Headship involves Authority; Paul uses the word in contrast to the body (Eph. 5:22-30); Submission is involved = being obedient to authority over you; Titus 2:3-8; What kind of body doesn’t obey its head? Head does not need another head but a body to uphold it and support it; The image is simple and clear. God did not design woman to lead man

2) (:4-6) The Cultural Practice of Submission
Takes the position that the wearing of the actual head covering cloth had a cultural symbolic meaning that no longer exists today; so it would not be appropriate to wear the head covering today. (quote from Wayne Grudem)

What exactly was the head covering? Lit., something hung down from the head
– Right view: some type of lengthy veil or shawl hanging down (Esther 6:12); Gen. 24:65; 38:14
– referring to a woman’s long hair itself – but that leads to absurdities when you talk about covering and uncovering
– a woman’s hair pinned up into a bun at the top rather than flowing down; Num. 5:18; but this does not work in terms of the contrast with man
– Style of the head covering was not Paul’s main concern… but it was some type of cloth covering separate from her hair

Problem of the context mentioned here for "praying and prophesying"

The context of "praying and prophesying" does not refer here to the entire church gathered together for public worship because it is clear from 1 Cor. 14 that women were not allowed even to speak in such a context. Also it would seem that vs. 17 talks about when they come together in the worship assembly in contrast to preceding verses [But others argue from the parallel expressions "I praise" vs 1… "I do not praise" vs. 17 that these must be the same contexts in view]; How do you harmonize the two passages that seem to allow for women prophecying and then seem to restrict that in the assembly?? Take chap 11:4-5 as a less formal setting than the full worship service

How can women today show their submission? (if the symbol no longer has validity)
– by their behavior
– by their propriety and modesty in how they dress
– by how they speak when around men
– by affirming male leadership

3) (:7-10) The Defense of the Principle of Submission
"glory" = that which flows out from a declared greatness of the original

"liberation" is an affront to God; a shame to woman; and robs man of his due

4) (:11-12) The Principle of Submission Balanced by Interdependence
Wrong for man to use headship in selfish ways; Christianity elevated the role of women in society

5) (:13-15) The Appeal to Common Sense About Submission
What is long hair today? "dropping to shoulders" — There must be a distinction in length and style between man and woman

6) (:16) The Universal Practice of Submission
Sermons can be listened to at

"Let Her Be Veiled" — Edited by Tom Shank:

Survey a host of Bible commentaries on 1 Corinthians 11 and you will find that generally only since the beginning of this century has the practice of wearing the veiling been interpreted away by liberal scholars, and the church has followed their lead. . .

It is Important to keep in mind that in writing this epistle to the Corinthian Christians, Paul was speaking not only to them, but also to "all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord…" (ch. 1:2). With prophetic foresight, Paul was perhaps seeing that his letters, as statements of apostolic doctrine, were going to be widely circulated. All of his epistles had universally applicable messages even though he was also speaking to local needs and problems. With this in mind, we realize that his teaching concerning the veiling of women was not to a specific socio-cultural situation, but to all the churches everywhere, as 1 Cor. 11: 16 also clearly points out. . .

Man’s headship over woman is a relationship for this age, and has Its origin in the creation account itself. Man’s headship is not just a result of the fall, but was established in the Garden of Eden in that she was created out of man and was a "helper comparable to him’ (Gen.2: 18). Eve’s sin in the Garden was in one sense her breaking this headship principle by disobeying God and enticing Adam, She thereby overstepped her place as helpmeet, and thus nullified her authority and influence Man’s headship over woman is not abolished in the church, because it is an aspect of God’s government in this world for the effectual achieving of His purposes. . .

We serve a God who for various reasons has put great emphasis upon symbols and their meaning. The O.T. Is full of types and symbols which point to and prepare for the fuller revelation and reality of the new covenant. Circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham; baptism corresponds to It. The head veiling serves to remind us that even though we are in a new covenant and have entered into the boundless freedom of Christ, yet God’s governmental distinctions which were established in the Garden are yet in force while this creation lasts. . .

Quoting from Watchman Nee:

The meaning of head covering is: I submit myself to God’s government: I accept God’s appointed position: I dare not nullify His government by the grace I have received; I do not even dare to think about it; on the contrary, I accept God’s government. As Christ accepts God as His head, so should every man accept Christ as his head. Likewise, woman should representatively accept man as her head. In covering the head, the woman signifies that she is not head, that she is as if she has no head – for it is covered….

God calls upon the sisters to show this arrangement. It is through the sisters that God’s governmental system is to be displayed. It is the sisters who are responsible to have the sign of obedience on their heads. God specifically requires women to have their head covered when praying or prophesying. Why? Because they ought to know God’s government when they come before Him. In going before God to pray for people or in going before people to prophesy for God, whether In praying or in prophesying, whether in that which goes to God or in that which comes from God, in whatever is related to God, head covering is demanded. The purpose Is to manifest the government of God….

If one thinks that her hair is the only covering implied in this chapter, they need only replace the word ‘covering’ in verses 4, 5, 6, 7, and 13 with the word ‘hair’, and they will quickly see how absurd such a notion is.

The final blow to this argument is found in verse 6, where Paul says "If a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn". The word ‘also’ (kai) can’t but be implying an artificial covering besides the hair. To paraphrase this verse with this assumption in mind, it would read, "If her head is not covered with hair, then let her hair be cut." How can you cut something that isn’t there?!

Thomas Schreiner: Head Coverings, Prophecies and the Trinity

The Son has a different function or role from the Father, not an inferior being or essence.

This point is often missed by evangelical feminists. They conclude that a difference in function necessarily involves a difference in essence; i.e., if men are in authority over women, then women must be inferior. The relationship between Christ and the Father shows us that this reasoning is flawed. One can possess a different function and still be equal in essence and worth. Women are equal to men in essence and in being; there is no ontological distinction, and yet they have a different function or role in church and home. Such differences do not logically imply inequality or inferiority, just as Christ’s subjection to the Father does not imply His inferiority.

David Silversides: Is Headcovering Biblical? – in Puritanism Today

Our feminist culture certainly does expose the church to the temptation to abandon the Scriptural sign of acceptance of male and female distinctiveness. . .

The idea that we must find ‘culturally relevant’ ways of expressing male headship becomes obviously absurd in a culture like ours where every trace of male leadership is being eradicated. .

The Danger of the Cultural Argument

The random imposition on a passage of Scripture of cultural considerations has serious repercussions for Biblical interpretation generally. As an example of this approach applied to other passages relating to gender issues, let us see how it works with 1 Tim 2:11-14.

a) The concession – the principle of male leadership is based on the creation order and is permanent.
b) The assumption – in the culture of the 1st century AD, the woman’s acceptance of male leadership was expressed by her being silent in public assemblies (probably more easily provable than the use of headcovering).
c) The conclusion – female silence wasn’t the real issue, but the principle of male headship which may find different expression according to time and place. Therefore, women may now, in our culture, preach and teach in the church.

Again, the repercussions of the random appeal to culture approach on other aspects of worship should be kept in mind. Immediately after the headcovering passage, we have the section relating to the Lord’s Supper. Let us see how the random cultural approach applies in 1 Corinthians 11 v23-27.

a) The concession – the principle that an ordinance commemorating the death of Christ in a meal is to be observed is permanent.
b) The assumption – bread and wine were the normal elements of food and drink in the 1st Century AD (undoubtedly true) and can be assumed were only used in the Lord’s supper for cultural reasons.
c) The conclusion – We are to remember Christ’s death by communal partaking of food and drink, but the precise elements will depend on the culture of time and place (tea and biscuits or coke and crisps etc.). . .

John Bunyan 1628-1688: "For this cause ought the woman to have power", that is a covering, "on her head, because of the angels" 1 Cor.11:10… Methinks, holy and beloved sisters, you should be content to wear this power or badge… "

Ligonier Ministries (1996): "Our actions must conform to the principles that God has established… Do you disregard the exterior aspects of religion, saying the heart is all that matters? If so, confess your pride before God today.

Whenever we have a lesson from both the Scriptures and from nature, we are doubly bound to obey. We also must recognize that it is a rule rooted in nature, not custom. If it is shameful for a woman to have her head shaved, then she must realize that it is just as shameful for her to enter public worship with her head uncovered. We must not confuse Paul’s use of hair as ‘nature’s covering’ and the covering he is exhorting women to wear in public worship.

Nowhere does (Paul) give cultural reasons for his teaching, i.e. abusive practices of a pagan society that placed prostitutes with shorn heads in the temple. Paul points back to God’s established order in nature. Whenever a teaching in Scripture refers to ‘creation ordinances’, that teaching is binding for all cultures in all ages… The ‘rules of decorum’… regarding the worship of God are established by God Himself not by the whims of culture. It is proper for a woman to have a symbol of authority on her head… The necessity of the symbol remains fixed even as the authority of the man remains fixed." (From ‘Table Talk’ Devotional Guide for June 17-24, 1996, pp.36-43 – quoted by Sanseri op. cit. pp.278f.) . . .

Female head-covering was the norm in the majority of churches for centuries. The comparatively recent change of this state of affairs is, we suspect, not due to greater exegetical insight or true scholarly advance, but concession to the spirit of the age in which we live.

Matthew Henry: Note, The sexes should not affect to change places. The order in which divine wisdom has placed persons and things is best and fittest: to endeavour to amend it is to destroy all order, and introduce confusion. The woman should keep to the rank God has chosen for her, and not dishonour her head; for this, in the result, is to dishonour God. If she was made out of the man, and for the man, and made to be the glory of the man, she should do nothing, especially in public, that looks like a wish of having this order inverted.

Miles Stanford: History of the Plymouth Brethren Assemblies

Experience of Dr. Ironsides: Dr. Ironside certainly knew whereof he spoke. During his illustrious and fruitful lifetime, he moved from the Salvation Army to the open Brethren to the closed Brethren (Grantites), to an extended ministry as pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, and thence into Glory. He authored a book, titled A Historical Sketch of the Brethren Movement — An Account of Its Inception, Progress, Principles and Failures, and Its Lessons for Present-Day Believers [5]. Sometimes one can judge a book by its cover!

The assemblies have always insisted upon female silence in the meetings, and submission in the home. The possible over-emphasis and overbearing attitude of the men along these lines have in many instances produced a traumatic effect upon the female constituency. Some have claimed that this has brought about a situation whereby the women actually control many present-day assemblies–through their husbands!

Over-emphasis in any realm always has its penalties, no matter how well-intentioned or how biblical. The Brethren still insist that their women wear head coverings as a sign of submission; but a bit of net or cloth doily–or even a full-fledged and flowered bonnet-do not always prove the presence of a submissive spirit, do they?

Mark Copeland:

3. If my understanding is correct, the issue was…
a. Not: "Should women put on the veil to prophesy and pray in church?"
b. But: "Should women take off the veil to prophesy and pray in public?"

4. Paul sought to encourage them to act in harmony with the customs of their day…
a. Customs that were in harmony with the scriptural principles of headship and subjection
b. But he acknowledges that the head covering was not the custom of the apostles or the church

Thus I take his words regarding women and the head covering per se to be limited and temporary in application. But the idea of honoring societal customs that reflect scriptural principles certainly has universal and permanent application for Christians who seek to glorify God in this world.

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod:

However, to speak of head covering as an "apostolic custom" is to say more than Scripture says. There is no place in Scripture that establishes that God has mandated the custom of woman’s head covering for his believers in all times and in all places.

Then why does Paul argue so strongly for it in 1 Corinthians 11? Even the pagan culture of that day recognized to some degree from the law written on the heart the concept of head and helper which God established at creation. It was not an apostolic mandated custom, but the general culture of Paul’s day that had the expectation that women would wear a head covering. Paul urges the women of Corinth to abide by that custom of the day because it was a reflection of a God-given principle. Paul’s whole point is based on the fact that for the women of the Corinthian congregation to flaunt that custom would be to speak against God’s principle of head and helper that Paul clearly restates in verse 3.

You are correct that our own culture also once had a similar custom. And, as you mentioned, you can find remnants of that in some places. And were that custom still in general practice in our day, Christian women would be in danger of giving the same impression of ignoring God’s principle if they ignored that cultural custom that reflected it. However, whether for good or bad reasons, that custom has ceased to be common in our culture. To insist upon reinstating it would be to elevate a custom of men to the level of a principle of God.

Warren Henderson: Glories Seen & Unseen – A Study of the Head Covering. Scroll Publishing, 2007.

Why did God take such care to create the Seraphim with six wings and the Cherubim with four wings? To ensure that all "competing glories" would be hidden and to provide a visible representation of divine order throughout the dominion of Almighty God. . .

What is symbolic truth? Simply stated, it is an act or object that epitomizes a spiritual fact. God knows that we are forgetful creatures, so He surrounds us with constant reminders of Himself, lest we forget his accomplishments. . .

This symbolic practice of covering ensures that only the glory of Almighty God is seen and all other competing glories remain unseen. Proper covering gives the visible evidence of order in the heavenly realms as well as in the assemblies of God’s people on earth. Divine order is fundamental and central to the proper functioning of any local church, and it should thus be expressed symbolically in the church’s public gatherings through the head covering. . .

To summarize [the data from church history], in two generations a Christian practice spanning two millennia was generally lost. Apparently, the head covering practice became unfashionable and lost its spiritual significance. In short, Christianity in the early 20th century still maintained the "what" – the head covering, but had generally lost the "why" – the scriptural principle. It is an important lesson for us to pass down to our children. Whenever we don’t understand "why" we are practicing something, we ultimately lose the practice. "The why" must be declared to keep "the what"!