A Series on Examining the Controversy
of Women and Head Coverings
1. Study 1 Corinthians 11:2 in light of 11:3-16.
How is it related?
1 Cor 11:2 serves as a complimentary introduction before Paul's criticism of specific
Corinthian church practices regarding women (11:3-16), the Lord’s Supper (11:17-34), and spiritual gifts
2. Study 1 Corinthians 11:3. What is the meaning of "head"?
There has been considerable debate about what Paul meant by the Greek term "kephalē".
The traditional view has held "head" as designating "authority over". Non-traditional views believe that
"head" refers to "source" as exemplified by the expression "head of a river", which Paul used to indicate
that women are made of the same substance as men. Which view is correct?
The textual evidence indicates substantially that "authority" is the best definition for
Paul’s Greek term "kephalē".
All the major lexicons that specialize in the New Testament period give the meaning
"authority"; none give the meaning "source".
Commentators who ascribe to the meaning of "source" can only base their interpretation
on two examples of "kephalē" in ancient literature, and these two ancient manuscripts were written
more than four hundred years before the time of the New Testament.
One of the texts, Herodotus 4.91, shows that "kephalē" refers to the "end
points" of a river, which includes both the beginning and end of a river. The evidence is not persuasive
for the meaning "source".
The other text, Orphic Fragments 21a, does not provide enough context for one
to conclusively define "kephalē" as "source."
Examining this article by Wayne Grudem
provides an insight into the textual criticism that forms the basis of both traditional and non-traditional
Because most recent studies of every use of "kephalē" in extant literature demonstrate
that it was never used to indicate "source" until 500 AD, the forthcoming Lidell-Scott will change their
The Septuagint, which the apostle Paul used as an important source for the Old Testament
and his theology, never once alludes to the meaning of "source".
Within the context of his Epistles on the subject of men and women, the apostle Paul’s
never used "kephalē" to mean "source"; he used it to refer to "authority".
Eph 5:23 is a prime example of this.
When verse 23 is read within context of the verses preceding and following it, "kephalē" is undeniably
meant as "authority".
Eph 1:22 is another example where
"head" refers to "authority" and not "source". This differentiation is seen as the preceding verses provide
the context to this understanding in affirming the supremacy of Christ over everything and over all time.
In a similar fashion as Eph 1:22, Col 2:10
uses the term "head" in the context of "authority". In this example Paul is describing Jesus’ sovereignty
over demonic power. Jesus has authority over them; He definitely is not the source of them!
Thus in 1 Cor 11:3, Paul is saying
that Christ is the authority over man, man is the authority over woman, and God is the authority over Christ.
3. Study 1 Corinthians 11:3 further. Non-traditional
views believe that God did not originally create man to have authority over woman. They insist that male
authority was the result of the Fall and cultural influences. What is the apostle Paul saying when he
refers to the relationship between God and Jesus Christ?
In establishing the headship and authority of God, Paul may be mistakenly understood
to infer that there is a hierarchy within the Triune God and a subordination of Jesus Christ. However,
Paul is making a reference to the function and role of each personality within the Triune God; he is not
saying that there is a hierarchy in the nature and essence of each personality. While Jesus Christ willingly
submits Himself to the authority of God the Father, God is one Divine Being who has three distinguishable
personal distinctions that serve each other in selfless love and working dependently and cooperatively
The Father sent the Son whose purpose was to reveal the Father. The Son sent the Spirit
whose purpose was to reveal the Son.
Each personality of the Triune God created the world.
Each personality of the Triune God created man.
The power of God, ministered through the Holy Spirit, resulted in the birth of Jesus
When Jesus Christ was baptized, the Spirit descended on Him and God the Father attested
to His Son.
Each personality of the Triune God was involved with the death of Jesus Christ.
Each personality of the Triune God was involved with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Each personality of the Triune God is brought together in providing for man's eternal
salvation. God the Father chose us for salvation, Jesus Christ the Son was the offering to God the Father
through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit set us apart.
Both Jesus and God the Father dwell within Believers through the person of the Holy
The name of each distinct personality of the Triune God is invoked at baptism; but note
that they are declared in one name.
For more information, see
"The Trinity… equal or hierarchal?"
The sequence of Paul’s argument is worth noting. Paul says: 1) Christ is the head of
every man, 2) man is the head of a woman, and 3) God is the head of Christ.
The relationship of God and Christ, placed after the relationship of man and
woman, provides a context to the headship (authority) of man. Man’s authority is functional and not a sign
of superiority; woman’s submission is functional and not a sign of inferiority. If it were otherwise, Paul
would have listed the sequence as God over Christ, Christ over man, and man over woman.
The relationship between male and female is patterned after the ontological equality
yet functional differences that exist among the persons of our Triune God as these verses exemplify:
Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works
that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. "But you do not believe because you are not of My
sheep. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them,
and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. "My Father, who has given them
to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. "I and the Father
are one." (John 10:25-30)
"You heard that I said to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.'
If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.
Paul’s statement clearly shows that male authority was not the result of the Fall or
of cultural influences; male authority was part of God’s
created order, and women were not created to be inferior. Like the Triune God, different in function
but of equal worth, men and women were created for different roles but of equal worth.