In the last post we discussed that the man is the image and glory of God and Christ is his head. Why does Paul emphasize that the man is the image and glory of God but he says nothing about the woman having God’s glory? It is because Paul is working on a contrast that will blow the lid off a faulty tradition.
In Corinthians 11:3 Paul had just taught the Corinthians that Christ is the head of man. In verse 4 he relates that the one who is the head is not to be dishonored. How is it that a man can shame Christ? The head covering was used historically to show reverence for God and unworthiness to come into God’s presence because of the shame of one’s own sin (see this previous post for the discussion on the historical meaning of the head covering). When a Christian wears something that symbolizes the shame of his sin and his unworthiness to come into the presence of God, Christ is shamed and dishonored for it was Christ himself who died to take away our shame and to be the door of righteousness that takes us into the presence of God. By wearing a reminder of the shame of his sin, the man dishonors Christ. Instead of focusing on his sin, the man is to bring honor to Christ because Christ died to take away the shame of sin, and the penalty that it caused. The man is to respond by bringing honor and glory to Christ, his head. So when a man comes publicly before God through prayer and prophesying, he is to reflect the glory of God.
Now let’s skip down to 1 Cor. 11:7 to see the connection between Christ and the man, and the man and woman.
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.
Paul is saying that just as the man is the glory of God, so the woman is the glory of man. Now remember, Paul isn’t saying here that the woman is not the glory of God, but he is going to draw a specific comparison for a specific purpose. The woman is the glory of man, Paul says. This means that what she does brings him glory. She was created to be his glory. He is not to be intimidated by her nor should he consider her to be his competitor because she is his glory. Verse 8 says:
For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;
Woman originated from the man and because of that she is to be his glory. Verse 9 says:
for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.
The man had a need and the woman was created to meet his need. Woman is man’s glory. The word glory means reputation, praise, and source of honor and glory.
Paul was saying something that was totally counter-cultural. The culture of that day did not believe that the woman was the glory of the man. They believed that it was a shame for her to be in public. They also believed that for her to be unveiled in public brought great shame to her husband. They did not believe that she was his glory. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul dismantles this false tradition.
Paul teaches that glory is meant to be shown not hidden. Glory is meant to be revealed and to be proud of because it brings honor. Just as the man is not to hide the glory of God, but to fully reveal God’s glory so also the woman is not meant to be hidden by a veil because she is the man’s glory.
But why then does Paul allow a woman to be veiled, if she really is the man’s glory? The answer is all about cultural shame. More in the next post.