It’s obvious there are 2 points of view in this chapter. Verse 8 says that
‘man is not of woman’
but verse 12 says the opposite –
‘man is of woman’
Verses 7 says that woman is the glory of man but man is the glory of God. This contradicts the teaching of Genesis and Isaiah where we are told that women were also created in the image of God and for His glory –
Genesis 5:2 also establishes that women were made in the image of God and blessed by God -Here ‘Adam’ refers to mankind – male and female in the day they were created (referring to the chapter one record – not the 2nd creation account of chapter 2 )
“Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.” Gen. 5:2 (See the 2 creation stories at this link)
Paul works his way through the rest of 1st Corinthians in a similar manner – by quoting the matters that bother the church and giving his response.
And so we come to the contentious passage in chapter 14 where the context is appropriate worship –
SUMMARY of 1st Corinthians
Paul was not introducing new teachings, he was quoting the church problems and telling them that women should be able to decide for themselves concerning head coverings. He said that the word of God did not originate with men but came to men and women alike and encouraged all to prophesy.
JESUS IS OUR LEADER
Jesus said that in Him there are no separate roles by birth – we are born again
You are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one leader, and you are all brethren. Mark 23:8
The greatest among you will be your servant. Matt. 23:11
To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of blood, nor of the desire or will of man, but born of God. John 1:12-13
Paul endorsed the teachings of Jesus
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:26
Yet Paul spoke of man as the head of the wife in Ephesians. But he was not endorsing this as a teaching of Christ, but a fact of life in the Roman world. Roman law said
‘Man is the Head of the Wife’
‘Father is the Head of the Daughter’
SITUATIONS OF THE FLESH
Ephesians 5 and 6 describe three groups of people bound to others by non-spiritual circumstances.
Those in a marriage relationship – “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.” Eph. 5:31
Slaves bound to masters – “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh”. Eph. 6:5
Children and parents – Eph. 6:1
In all these situations people are bound to other people – Paul is saying – while you are in those situations to which you are bound – make the best of them – submit to the ones who rule over you.
All these situations are “according to the flesh” – There is no suggestion that men should be the spiritual heads or leaders of women. The fact is, according to the flesh – men have ruled over women and husbands have ruled over their wives. In Ephesus at the time of Paul’s writing, the husband was the head of the wife under the Roman Law – Patria Potestas – The power of a Father and the power of a Husband. Paul is saying – you are bound by this – make the best of it – submit as to the Lord.
Paul uses these situations “of the flesh” and turns them into parables of Christ and the Church, and says to “submit because of Christ”.
Those in a marriage relationship – “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” Eph. 5:25.
Slaves bound to masters – “As bondservants of Christ” Eph. 6:6.
Children and parents – Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right.” Eph. 6:1.
The theme of wives submitting to husbands continues throughout the New Testament – but nowhere does it say that man is the spiritual head of woman.
The theme of slaves submitting to masters continues throughout the New Testament, but nowhere does it say that masters are the spiritual heads of slaves.
Not only are wives to submit to husbands, servants to slaves and children to parents but Paul says to “submit to one another” meaning everyone submits – Eph. 5:21.
SUBMISSION TO NON-SPIRITUAL HEADS
1 Peter 3:1 tells wives to submit to their unbelieving partners or “heads” as the husband is referred to in the Ephesians passage.
“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives”.
Submitting to ones husband does not mean or imply he is the spiritual head – it is an action to please Christ and even non believing husbands should be submitted to.
A BAD HUSBAND
Clearly Ananias didn’t give Saphira good spiritual advice, and they were both struck dead. Logic says that Paul can’t be saying that our spiritual advice must come from our husbands when the husband gives bad advice.
Acts 5:1-3 “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?”
The message of Jesus that continued through Paul was liberating in a culture of suppression, yet the wrong voices have been listened to – the ones Paul was correcting. As a result, the spirit of prophesy that burns in some women has been largely quenched to the detriment of both women and the entire church. To discern what is right and wrong amongst the confusing voices of first Corinthians and 1 Timothy, the passages need to be aligned with the teachings of Christ. Alarm bells should ring when passages elevate men as teachers when it is also written –
There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:28
“Don’t be called leader, one is your leader, the Christ”. Matt. 23:10
Perhaps it is best summed up by the woman in the Song of Solomon
“I encountered the watchmen on their rounds of the city. They beat me and bruised me; they took away my cloak, those guardians of the walls.” Song of Solomon 5:7 See Song of Solomon – The Ultimate love Song
In the spirit of the Bereans, I hope Paul’s passages will be rethought and a reformation begins which again excites people with the original and liberating message of the Gospel.
An expanded version of this article is available as a youtube at this link: Context of Writings Silencing Women