Interdependence in the Lord

Interdependence in the Lord

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.

5 thoughts on “Interdependence in the Lord

  1. Cheryl

    Helpful, clear and succint.

    i think verses 11-12 are important to understanding the preceding 10 verses and connects with the three ‘pairs’ of v 2. (Although many patriarchalists only focuse on verses 2-10 and miss the incredible ‘balancing’ explanation and summary that follows – men and women are designed by God to be interdependent. It is not good for them to be ‘alone’ – but to be in unity together and God is the source of everything.


  2. Cheryl and Kerryn, Cogent thinking both of you. In Wayne Grudem’s book “Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth”, I could not believe the tap-dancing he did when it came to head coverings (p332-339). It’s astonishing how head coverings can be culturally
    relative to first century Greece and yet the mere thought of women teaching the Bible to men will have the CMBW bristling with spears! Bottom line? They will not be persuaded by us, nor we them. I can accept that as a non-essential of the faith. But when they (Moore) insist that my eternal destiny rests upon whether or not I allow a woman to teach me what I don’t know about the Bible, they need to know that they are judging their brothers and sisters in Christ in a way that scripture doesn’t allow.

  3. “H”,

    Your “tap dancing” picture is very accurate. My thoughts are that CBMW makes head coverings to be an important injunction by God from the time of creation, yet we can arbitrarily change it now to something else? Either it is mandated by God from creation or it is not. You just can’t have it both ways. I happen to think that for complementarians to be consistent, they should have all of their women’s heads covered. If it is culture, it can be changed. If it is a mandate by God, unless scripture tells us to change, where do complementarians get the right to get rid of their “sign”? I just haven’t figured that out yet, but a “tap dance” does come to mind.

  4. I see CBMW as being very pragmatic, what they want is no women teachers of men, so the lesser things they can give on, they want to spread their male preference bias as far as they can. But their position is self-repudiating. They want to claim that Scripture is very clear and that it prohibits women from teaching men in church. But then they do not use that same principle of clarity elsewhere. It is like they force fit puzzle pieces together and get a jumble.

    The truth is that not all Scripture IS clear to us, almost 2000 years later. However, they do not want to admit this, because then the “plain reading” argument goes out the window and they know this is one of their strongest cards.

    The headcovering verses can be puzzling to us because covering one’s head today does not mean what it meant back then, and shaving one’s head does not mean the same thing either.

  5. Those who say that the hard passages of scripture are “clear” and have a “plain reading” are at a loss for words when you ask them to exegete that “plain reading” from the context. I have given a standing challenge to complementarians to exegete 1 Timothy 1 & 2 to show how Paul from the context was stopping godly Christian women from teaching correct biblical doctrine to men. The passage is clearly about stopping false teachers who are ignorant about biblical doctrine (chpt 1) and about deception (chpt 2 the deception of Eve). How one can get the stopping of correct biblical doctrine from chapter 2 is beyond me and so far not even one complementarian has attempted to explain their view in the complete context of chapters 1 & 2.

    No, these passages are tough passages to understand. Any “plain” reading of 1 Timothy 2:12 that stops godly women from using their God-given gift of teaching correct doctrine would contradict other clear passages that say that the gifts of the spirit are to be used for the common good.

    Oh and about shaving one’s head – I felt like doing that yesterday. We just moved to this small city of less than 10,000 people and finding a hairdresser is a challenge when you don’t know anyone and there are a lot of weird people on the street with weird hair cuts. So I saw a salon advertised and I made an appointment. Oh, my, I got the worst hair cut in my entire life! My thick hair is now greatly thinned with chunks of hair missing in places and clumps of thick hair in other places. I had a mind to shaving it all off yesterday to get rid of the mess. Now if only we can bring back the head covering then no one will notice! Praise God that hair grows fairly fast and I will be walking my fingers through the yellow pages to find another hair dresser.

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