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.
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.
11:12For 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.
1:11However, 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.