In our verse by verse through 1 Corinthians 11, we now come to verse 11:
1 Corinthians 11:11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
Paul once again breaks with tradition. Paul gives the woman the right to make her own decision in verse 10 about what she will or won’t wear on her head when he says the woman ought to have “authority” (exousia) on her head. Although the cultural tradition gave a woman no authority to make her own decisions, Paul dismisses that tradition as a non-Christian tradition. However Paul quickly follows the woman’s authority to make a decision (exousia) with the qualifier “however”. However, Paul says, “in the Lord”, woman is not independent of the man. She has the right to make her own decision but she is not independent of the man. In what way is she not independent of the man? She is not independent of the man in the exact same way that the man is not independent of the woman.
Paul gives the reason for the interdependence in 1 Corinthians 11:12 –
For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.
Paul makes use of the Greek word “gar” (for) which is a primary particle; properly assigning a reason for his argument. The woman is not independent of the man Paul says, because the man is the original source of the woman and she wouldn’t exist without him. Paul also says that the man is not independent of the woman because the woman is the original source of all men since her creation. No man would have his existence now without her. Adam’s position of primacy as the first one created and his being the source of the woman is balanced out and equaled with the woman’s primacy as the source of all men.
Paul sums it all up by saying that the woman is dependent on the man and the man is dependent on the woman but the ultimate source is not man and it is not woman either. The ultimate source is God.
So how does this all play out regarding decision making? The woman has the right to make her own decision, but since she is also joined in a one-flesh union with the man, she must consider her husband and his conscience with the issue of the head covering because what she decides to do may bring his weak conscience deep shame. The cultural tradition of the head covering which brought shame to a man whose wife was uncovered in public needed the time to be exposed and accepted as a faulty tradition. Instead of bringing the man shame, Paul said that the woman is his glory. The decision is now in the hands of the woman with her full knowing that she is not completely independent of the man. As a Christian wife she is to respect her husband and to consider his conscience in her decision.
The woman is the only one given a choice regarding what she will do regarding the head covering. The man is never told that he can choose to wear the head covering or not. For him, the decision has already been made because there is only one who is shamed when he wears the head covering. The cultural tradition that brought shame to Christ is to be abandoned.
Next post we will get into the “hairy” issue of the length of one’s hair in 1 Corinthians 11:13-16.