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Month: May 2007

Is there support for universal male headship?

Is there support for universal male headship?

Before we continue with our verse by verse discussion through 1 Corinthians 11, I wanted to add a note about what some consider to be the universal role of male headship. In universal male headship the male is the head over every woman. Recently I got an email from a male apologist named Sandy Simpson who believes this way. He directed me to his online article that in part reads:


This verse is talking specifically about the husband and wife. But in a larger sense the head of the man is Christ, the head of the woman is man. The Bible teaches that Christ is the first head over man, the Christian husband the second head under Christ, with the elders of the church the third authority in the life of every Christian woman.

1 Corinthians 11:3 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

Now I do respect Sandy a lot as he has worked hard to expose the aberrant teaching and false teachers that have crept into the church. Anytime someone has a heart for the body of Christ and wants to protect the sheep from being led astray by the wolves in our midst I can applaud them in their ministry. It is a thankless job and I appreciate Sandy for the hard work that he is doing. I have especially appreciated the DVDs that he has produced through his ministry one in particular called The New Apostolic Reformation which is a multi DVD set documenting the teachings and influence of the International Coalition of Apostles (New Apostolic Reformation) which came out of the Latter Rain movement and has infiltrated into our churches. The clips in the DVDs showing the teaching of the new “Apostles” and “Prophets” of this movement are eye-opening. My only criticism of the series as a DVD editor myself, is that some parts of the commentary are in need of good graphics, a change of scenery would also be helpful to keep it flowing and it needs a more eye-pleasing way to present some of the quotes. The words of the commentary are often scrolled in a single line across the bottom of the picture at a fast pace and it is impossible to read without getting sea-sick.

However, while I appreciate Sandy as a brother in Christ, I strongly disagree with him when he writes on his web site that 1 Corinthians 11:3 teaches that a man is the “head” of every woman. Sandy makes it specific by applying this to the church where the elders of the church are each to be the head of every Christian woman.  Here is how that would come across as a picture:

Womens heads

But scripture doesn’t say that a woman has more than two heads. Jesus is her head as Jesus is the head of every member of the body of Christ and her husband is her head. Does scripture say that an unmarried woman has as her head every male? No it doesn’t. Does scripture say that an elder or leader in the church is the head over every woman? No, not all. To say “yes” would be reading into scripture. The “head” is a very special relationship and to put every male or every Christian male into the special “head” position with a female actually takes away that very special and unique relationship that the husband has with his wife.

One Pastor told me that he is the “covenantal head of the (local) church”. I was floored when I heard that! I asked him to show me from scripture where a Pastor was ever called the “head” of the church let alone the “covenantal head”. The “head” is indeed a covenant relationship but the covenant is with the bridegroom and his bride. Our bridegroom, Jesus Christ is in relationship with his bride as head and no human should ever claim that relationship even in a local church.

I asked this Pastor to show me from scripture where any man other than a husband or Jesus Christ, the husband of the church, is ever called “head”. I am still waiting. I don’t think he will find a scripture because I have never seen it.

Last post we talked about the meaning of “head” from 1 Corinthians 11 and how important it is to understand the meaning from the context. I would like to add that the importance of “head” in association to the “body” is always one of relationship. I sincerely believe that when men try to insert themselves by calling themselves “head” of all women when they are not in relationship as the woman’s husband, they have stepped outside the boundary of scripture.

If scripture wanted to tell us that a man is the head of all women, then Paul certainly would have said that. Instead Paul said “the man” is the head of a singular “woman“. Universal male headship may be a tradition, but we must test all of these traditions by scripture and this tradition is found without scriptural support.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;

1 Corinthians 11:3 and "head"

1 Corinthians 11:3 and "head"

In the last post I summarized the foundational points from chapter 10 that is necessary to the understanding of chapter 11. If you haven’t read it already, it can be read by clicking here. In this post I will continue our verse by verse discussion from 1 Corinthians 11:3. I will be using the New American Standard Version for most of these posts unless otherwise indicated. I Corinthians 11:3 –

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 11:3 Paul commended the Corinthians for holding firm to the traditions that he had delivered to them and now Paul is going to help them to understand some of these traditions. In the fall of 2006 I heard a Pastor give an excellent sermon on the traditions that the Jewish people hold to this day that actually symbolize the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus even though they do not even know what they are doing with their traditions. At Passover they take a piece of unleavened bread and fold it into a white napkin and then they hide it in their house for 3 days. When the 3 days are over, the children look for the napkin and when they find it they bring it out and uncover the bread. They keep the tradition but never understand what the tradition is all about. The tradition of the unleavened bread in the white napkin being revived after 3 days is symbolic of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. In verses 2 and 3, Paul says that the Corinthians were holding to the traditions that he gave them but he wanted them to understand what the traditions meant.

There has been much scholarly debate about the meaning of the word “head” in 1 Corinthians 11:3. Some have given a meaning to “head” as “authority over another person” or simply “boss” as in a hierarchal order. Others say that “head” means source or origin. However the only way that we can know for sure is to read the context surrounding verse 3 as well as to pay close attention to the inspired word order regarding “head”.

In verse 3 Paul sets up the order of the relationships that he lists in a very unusual order if he had meant a hierarchal ordering. If we come to the passage with the presupposition that God has completely inspired it including inspired words, inspired grammar and inspired word order, then we can clearly see a different pattern presented. If Paul had wanted us to believe that he was constructing a hierarchal ordering, then he made a grave error. He should have listed man as head of woman first, then Christ as head of men second and lastly God as head of Christ. The hierarchy would be woman at the bottom with man over her, Christ over all men and God over Christ.

Yet this is not the way that the word was inspired. Instead we have Christ listed first as head of all men, then the man head of woman, then God head of Christ. In this ordering we have God as Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end and an ordered list of origins. In the ordering we have Christ as the origin of all men, the man as origin of woman, and lastly Jesus Christ (as the one born through a woman) having his origin through God.

It isn’t just the order that tells us that “origins” not “hierarchy” is the meaning of the word “head”. The context of the passage also tells us that Paul is referring to our origins.

1 Corinthians 11:8 says:

“For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;”

Here Paul teaches about the origin of woman. Woman originates from the man. This fits perfectly with verse 3 where the man is the “head” of woman.

1 Corinthians 11:9 says:

“for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.”

Here again Paul is referring to origins and the reason for the woman’s origin.

1 Corinthians 11:12 says:

“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 repeats the fact that woman originates from the man (remember that Paul said that repetition is for our safety – Philippians 3:1) and he sums it up by saying that all things originate from God. This is the Alpha and Omega of origins. Christ is the source of all men (He is the Alpha) and God is the source of Christ (the Omega). All things begin and end with God as the ultimate source.

However if we are to interpret “head” as “authority over” or “boss of” in a hierarchal ordering we will find no repetition of this concept in the passage. In this passage Paul is silent regarding any authority that the man has over the woman or any authority that the Father takes over Jesus Christ. Why is that? It is because the interpretation of “head” as “authority” or “boss” is completely out of step with the rest of chapter 11 and it is something completely out of kilter with the subject of the passage.


If we interpreted it this way, we are left scratching our heads wondering what Paul could possibly mean by sticking verse 3 in amongst this passage. We could be left thinking, “What does authority or being boss over someone have to do with this passage? What has this to do with the price of rice in China?” It is completely foreign to the context.

Instead of trying to force the text to mean what we would like it to mean, we must let Paul define his own terms for himself. When we come to the passage with a hierarchal mindset, we miss Paul’s connecting the relationship of man to woman with the importance of origins. There is also more to see about the importance of origins that we will be discussing later on in the chapter.

The next thing that we need to pay attention to is the inspired words of verse 3. Here Paul uses the word for man twice which is “aner”. Let’s look at the second phrase…the man is the head of a woman. Now if we interpret it as “origin” or “source” as Paul repeats in verses 8, 9 and 12, we can understand that Paul is talking about the first man “the man” Adam and the first woman – Eve. Eve literally had her origin from the side of the man. Also wherever man and woman are placed in a relationship to each other in a biblical passage it is a sound practice to interpret this as husband and wife not just any man as head over any woman. That it is the husband that is the head of the wife is repeated by Paul in Ephesians 5:23 so we can know by repetition that this is what Paul is talking about. Paul said:

“For the husband is the head of the wife…”

Now the curious thing about this verse is that the inspired word used in the first relationship is that Christ is the “head” of every “man”. Man here is “aner” meaning a male or a husband and it is not the generic word for mankind. This is the inspired word used and it is not by accident that God has inspired it this way. If “aner” means husband in the second set of relationships, then we can logically give the same meaning to the first set of relationships where the very same term “aner” is used.

Christ then is the “head” of all husbands. Christ is the “source” or “origin” of all husbands. Now Paul is not saying that Christ is “head” only of men or husbands because Christ certainly is “head” of the wives too, but I believe that Paul is emphasizing a special relationship between Christ and the husband. We will talk more about the implications of this later, but for the time being perhaps you would like to give your thoughts on why God inspired the word “aner” to be used twice in verse 3 instead of the generic term for mankind that would normally include women.

Next post we will be discussing the cultural and spiritual “shames” that are brought about by the “head” relationships.

Verse by verse through 1 Corinthians 11

Verse by verse through 1 Corinthians 11

Because I have received several questions posed to me on 1 Corinthians 11, I think it best that we go through the passage verse by verse and that should help deal with each question in context. As we go through each set of verses, please feel free to comment or ask questions on the section that we are covering. This should keep our discussions focused and keep each post and each set of questions separated.

The first thing that we need to note is that 1 Corinthians was not written with the chapter and verse divisions. Instead Paul wrote it as a complete letter to the Corinthians. The chapter and verse divisions were added later by translators for our benefit but these divisions are not inspired. Verse 1 of 1 Corinthians 11 is then a continuation from chapter 10. When Paul says in verse 1:

“Be imitators of me just as I am an imitator of Christ”

he is summing up what he has just told the Corinthians throughout chapter 10. In 1 Corinthians 10:23 Paul said:

“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.”

Paul then gives a principle of behavior in verse 24:

“Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.”

This is an important point to note as this thought will be carried on to chapter 11. Paul is saying that we are “allowed” to do many things, but not everything we are “allowed” to do will be helpful or good for our neighbor. Paul then goes on to give examples such as eating meat. One is allowed to eat meat that has been offered to idols, but will our eating stumble our brother? We are to do things with deliberate thought. We are not just to do things for our own benefit but also for the benefit of our neighbor.

Then in verse 32, Paul gives another statement that is very important to pay attention to because this thought will also be carried forward to chapter 11. Paul says:

“Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God”

There are three types of people mentioned here that have traditions that can be offended. The Jews can be offended, the Greeks or Gentiles can be offended and the church of God can be offended. This is a very key point so keep it in mind as we dive into chapter 11. Next Paul says:

“just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.”

Paul is concerned that men are not offended and he tells the Corinthians that he lives his life in such a way that he is not seeking his own profit but the profit of others (Jews, Greeks, the church of God). The reason that he is seeking their profit is so that there will be no offense brought to the gospel of Christ. Now verse 1 of chapter 11 will make more sense when Paul said:

“Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”

We are going to look at 1 Corinthians 11 with an eye of understanding as to what Paul has already been teaching throughout chapter 10. Paul is talking about not giving an offense to anyone and not doing things for one’s own profit but seeking the benefit of others. With that in mind let’s look at what Paul says next. In verse 2 and the first part of verse 3 Paul says:

“Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand…”

Paul is saying that the Corinthians have been holding fast to the traditions that Paul had given them, but Paul now wants them to do more than just hold fast to these traditions. Paul wants them to understand these traditions.

This is the foundation that chapter 11 is built on. Next post we will continue on with verse 3.

Why was the woman created for the man?

Why was the woman created for the man?

One question that was posed to me last week was on 1 Corinthians 11:9 regarding the creation of woman for the man. Does this mean that the woman is somehow inferior to the man because she was created for him? Let’s have a close look at the passage starting with verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 11:7:

7. 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.

8. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;

9. for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.

10. This is why a woman should have authority over her own head: because of the angels. (International Standard Version)

11. However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.

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.

In this passage Paul is talking about origins and the glory that goes with these origins. Paul highlights the origin of mankind in such a way that it ultimately brings us back to God as the ultimate first cause even though there is a mediator of sorts that is used in the creation of the woman. Let’s see how Paul does this and how this ties in with the point that Paul is making about the creation of the woman for the man.

In verse 7 Paul writes that the woman is the glory of man. The Greek word used here for glory primarily means thought or opinion, especially favorable human opinion, and thus in a secondary sense reputation, praise, honor. Woman is the reputation, the praise and the honor of man. He can glory in her because her very nature brings him honor. The true value of a woman to a man is the recognition that she is of equal worth and equal value and the glory that she shines forth reflects the man that she was created for. He is not in competition with her, instead she is someone to be proud of because she reflects the very best in him.

Because woman is the glory of man and because her very being brings him honor, Paul says in verse 10 that she is to have authority over her own head. The Holy Spirit has inspired the Greek word for authority that means permission, authority, right, liberty, power to do something. This word for authority always means that the person themselves has the power or authority to do something. Paul is saying that because the woman is the man’s glory and because she was created for him, she has the power to carry out her mandate by growing with the man in the maturity of Christ. As a mature Christian she is to make her own decision over her own head. Why does Paul say that she has this authority? She has this authority because she too will be judging the angels in the next life (1 Corinthians 6:3; 1 Corinthians 11:10). In this life men and women are to grow up and be mature so that we can all make wise decisions in this life (1 Corinthians 6:2) and in the next life our maturity is required to make wise decisions regarding judging the world and the angels (1 Cor. 6:2, 3) For more information on the issue of authority on the head and angels see my post at

Since maturity in the image of Christ is of utmost importance to Paul, as we are all to reflect the glory of Christ with unveiled faces (2 Corinthians 3:18) please note that Paul nowhere says that the woman was created to be the man’s servant or that she was created for the man to rule over her. She is not a burden to him as a child would be who needs someone to supervise them and monitor their every move. Paul says that she is his glory and she together with the man will rule the world and will judge the angels.

Man’s tendency since the time of Adam’s sin has been to try to subjugate the woman and push her beneath him as he rules over her. In contrast, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 that the woman was not created in this way. She was created to be the glory of the man and as she shines with her gifts and with her abilities, the man is to be proud of her and to see her as shining forth the praise and the honor of man. When men finally understand this, there will no longer be a book of lists outlining all that a woman is forbidden to do. No longer will she be forbidden to lead in prayer or forbidden to be an usher or forbidden to preach the good news. The glory of the church must be a united glory with all of us shining forth the glory of our Savior. All of us were created in God’s image and all of us are to once again shine forth his glory as we are knit together into one body. Understanding this will certainly help to keep us from competition and jealousy because when one member is honored in the body we should all rejoice (1 Corinthians 12:26). The purpose is that there should be no division in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:25).

The next post will deal with some of Kerryn’s questions on the 1 Corinthians 11 passage.

Paul and the "head" from 1 Corinthians 11

Paul and the "head" from 1 Corinthians 11

1 Corinthians 11 has been a hotly disputed passage regarding the meaning of “head”.

While some have seen a hierarchy of authority in this passage,


others say that Paul is explaining the importance of origins.


Is it possible that those who see male authority in the metaphor of “head” are bringing their own presupposition of male superiority to the text? There is only one way to find out and that is to examine the text carefully to see what evidence Paul gives for his own definition of “head”. Before we discuss this passage, it would be a good thing to lay out the presuppositions that I bring to this text.

The first presupposition I have is that I come to this passage believing that it is fully God breathed. I believe that God inspired its content, word usage, grammar and word order.

The second presupposition of mine is that I believe Paul is consistent in repeating himself and defining his own terms. Paul let us know that repetition is very important to for our safety. Paul said in Philippians 3:1 –

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

Repeating the same things over again in a slightly different way is a safeguard for us because it helps us to understand what is being said. Repetition lessens the problems of miscommunication. Paul said that it was no trouble for him to repeat himself because it was for our benefit. So if Paul thought repetition was a good thing, we can expect that Paul will define his terms by repeating himself in a slightly different way to enable us to understand this important teaching.

Let’s look at the original reference to “head”

1 Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

Now there are three things that we can note from this verse:

1. Christ is the “head” of every man

2. The man is the “head” of a woman

3. God is the “head” of Christ

Where are these things repeated in the passage? It is in verse 12.

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.

Here Paul says the same thing in a slightly different way. Man is the beginning point of origin for the woman because the very first woman, Eve, came through the body of Adam. As the man was the originating point for the woman, the man now has his origin through the woman. Christ himself became human through the woman but his ultimate origin is of God.

What is Paul’s application? Paul tells us in verse 11.

1 Corinthians 1:11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.

There is to be no competition between men and women because God has overridden any advantage that one has over the other. Men and women are interdependent (verse 11) because in the beginning God created man to be the source of the woman but since then woman has been the one to produce the man. However God is the ultimate source not any man or woman because all things originate through Him.

Christ received his humanity through the woman, but his origin was from God and as God he is the origin of all things and of all men.

So where is Paul’s reference to a hierarchical order? Where is the man said to be the authority of the woman in this passage? Where does the passage say anything in reference to Christ being an authority of every man or that God is to be an authority over Christ? Unfortunately for those who come to this passage with a bias already in place towards male superiority, Paul defines the meaning of “head” in verse 12 and this meaning has everything to do with “source” or “origin” and nothing whatsoever to do with authority of one person over another.

The original source is God and men and women are interdependent regarding one another.



An update on our move

An update on our move

1 Corinthians 11 part two on the meaning of “head” is delayed for another week as our timeline for getting our home ready for sale has been pushed up. Today we signed the papers to list our home and we have until Monday to get everything in order as that is the day that the house goes on the market. We still have so much to do by Monday and it is overwhelming to say the least. The final move-out should happen sometime in June so hopefully the stress of the long months of moving our ministry and household to a location twelve hours away will come to an end.

The discussion of “head” from 1 Corinthians 11 should be an enlightening one and I look forward to your comments too!

1 Corinthians 11 and Paul

1 Corinthians 11 and Paul

1 Corinthians 11 has been a difficult passage because of several elements that have been hard to interpret.  Some of the disputed elements are the meaning of “head” in verse 3, whether head coverings are necessary in verse 5, the woman being the glory of the man in verse 7, the reference to angels in verse 10 and long hair for a man being an issue of shame in verse 14.

In this new series of posts, we will be discussing the meanings of the difficult verses and how to understand Paul.

The best way that I know how to explain Paul’s method of teaching doctrine is to reference Paul’s own words in Philippians 3:1

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

Paul had a habit of repeating himself so that when we see a word or concept that seems difficult in a verse, we need to look back in the book to see where Paul either originally explained his meaning, or we need to look forward in the book to see where Paul explains what he means. If we keep this in mind, Paul is much easier to understand.

Take for example the reference to the angels in verse 10 of 1 Corinthians 11. Now there has been much speculation regarding what Paul meant by saying “because of the angels” however we don’t need to speculate because Paul has already told us what he means. When Paul says “because of the angels” we can know that he is repeating what he has already said. Paul said that repetition is for our safety. A phrase thrown out without a reference point is not safe.  Paul is the original “Safety Man” so let’s get started to see how Paul keeps us safe.  Let’s go back into 1 Corinthians to find out the original reference to angels.

When I was first studying 1 Corinthians 11, I decided to work my way back through Paul’s epistle to find out what he meant by referring to the angels.  There was no other reference to angels in chapter 11 so I went back further. There was nothing in chapter 10 or 9 or 8. One thing that we have to remember is that when Paul originally wrote the book of 1 Corinthians it did not have chapters and verses. Paul was writing a letter to the congregation in Corinth and his entire letter was meant to be read at one time. Reading the book this way, it becomes much clearer what Paul meant by the reference to the angels.  If you keep going back and back you will eventually go back to chapter 6.  Here Paul said:

1 Corinthians 6:3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?

Paul had been discussing the problem within the congregation where Christians were taking matters that should have been dealt with among the Christian body and were bringing them into the worldly courts. Paul chides the Christians by telling them that the Christian church should be able to judge matters within their own Christian community. Paul asks if there isn’t one who had some wisdom to make a judgment. Paul then asks them if they are aware that in the next life, they will have the responsibility of judging angels. If they are going to judge angels, Paul says, surely they should be able to judge the matters of this life.

So Paul’s original reference to the angels is about maturity, responsibility and our duty in the next life regarding judging the angels. Now let’s take that original reference and go ahead to where Paul repeats himself in 1 Corinthians 11:10. The International Standard Version renders it this way:

1 Cor. 11:10 This is why a woman should have authority over her own head: because of the angels.

The International Standard version along with the KJV, Literal Translation of the Bible, Modern King James Version, Messianic Renewed Covenant Bible, World English Bible, Webster’s Bible, Darby Bible and Douay-Rheims Bible all translate this verse without the additional words “symbol of” that is not found in the original text.  Let’s follow this verse from the original text without the addition of uninspired words.

Next let’s look at the Greek word for “authority”.  The original word is exousia and means “Permission, authority, right, liberty, power to do something”.  The WordStudy Dictionary says regarding this word,

“As (exousia) denies the presence of a hindrance, it may be used either of the capability or the right to do a certain action.”

The word exousia never means that the person themselves is under someone else’s authority. Instead it always means that the person has the right, permission or capability to make the decision or do the action.

So Paul is saying in verse 10 that the woman should have “the capablility or the right or the liberty” over her own head (regarding whether she wears a veil or doesn’t wear a veil, whether she cuts her hair or she doesn’t cut her hair); because in the next life she will also be judging the angels. Paul is repeating what he has already said in 1 Corinthians 6:3. He is saying that in this life we need to learn to make our own mature decisions. After all, Paul said, we will be making some very important decisions in the next life because we will be judging angels. Since women will also be judging the angels, she should have the right in this life to make the decision about what she does or doesn’t wear on her head.

Unfortunately when translations add words that are not in the text, they can distort what the scripture actually says. Verse 10 does not say that the woman is under someone else’s authority, neither does it say that she must wear a veil. It does say that the decision is hers regarding her head. It says that the decision over her own head is in her own authority and her own right to act and her own liberty because she too will be judging the angels. Does this make sense?

Next time we will be discussing the meaning of “Head”. Once again Paul is repeating himself so that we don’t need to guess what he means. Paul tells us in the passage. Stay tuned for the next blog entry.