Honour and Headship


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Role of Women in the Church


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Honour and Headship:

Honour and Headship Andrew Perry


Themes Headship – is this a purely domestic notion to do with ecclesial or marital relationships, or is it grounded in a theology of creation or new creation in Christ? Shame and Honour – are these social concepts or is Paul deploying a typology from the Old Testament?

The Problem:

The Problem “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Cor 11:3 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal 3:28

The Problem (2):

The Problem (2) “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” 1 Cor 12:13 This common participation in the Spirit is illustrated in 1 Cor 11 where Paul mentions men and women equally prophesying and praying in the spirit . This principle implies the breaking down of the distinctions between men and women in how they were meant to behave in religious settings.

Meaning of Headship:

Meaning of Headship “Headship” in today’s Western culture is not the same as “Headship” in the 1c. Roman Empire a “head” is someone who has “authority over” other(s) a “head” is someone who is “the source of” other(s)

Authority? Prominence?:

Authority? Prominence? Septuagint “You have kept me as the head of the nations. A people I have not known shall serve me.” 2 Sam 22:44


Prominence A person who has a position of prominence or pre-eminence may very well be a leader and have authority over others. But the meaning of “Head” isn’t “one having authority over others”. Some “heads” are figureheads and honorary positions. S/He is our “Head”

The “Head” of a River:

The “Head” of a River The interpretation of a metaphor is sensitive to context; for example, in the head of a river may be its “source” – but this doesn’t mean that in a social context, the head of a person is the source of that person’s life.

Dictionary Definitions:

Dictionary Definitions (1) the physical top or extremity of an object, such as a mountain or river or pillar…; (2) more abstractly, that which is first, extreme, either in temporal or spatial terms; (3) that which is prominent or outstanding; and (4) that which is determinative or representative by virtue of its prominence


Definition a head is the one who is prominent in respect to another or group of others

Two Types of Dis-Honour:

Two Types of Dis-Honour Paul states that a “covered” head dis-honours Christ on the part of the man (v4), and an “uncovered” head dishonours the man on the part of the woman (v5).


Honour Honour is a social construct; it can be ascribed to a person or it can be acquired by a person. The ascription of honour in Mediterranean society would derive from that person’s social standing in a family, i.e. membership of a family (the basic unit of society was not the individual). In contrast, the honour that can be acquired by a person would derive from his having achieved certain things in his life, typically, this would be honour regarded as moral virtue.

Family Honour:

Family Honour The membership of a family or household would convey a certain honour and this honour would pre-eminently be represented by the head of the household. Accordingly, as a member of the household, a person would dis-honour the head if they behaved in-appropriately – in this way they represent the head of the household.

Having a “Head”:

Having a “Head” Christ has a “head” because he was the son of God (1 Cor 1:9); likewise, every man has a “head” because he is a “servant” owned by Christ and takes from Christ the example for his behaviour (1 Cor 3:11, 23, 7:22, 11:1) it is less clear how woman has the man as a “head” in the ecclesia

Marital Reading:

Marital Reading “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Cor 11:3 (R.S.V.) BUT “every woman” and “every man” married or not comes under Paul’s rubric


Typology Paul is setting up a typology whereby men in an ecclesial meeting represent Christ. The men in the ecclesia represent their head – Christ – and can dis-honour Christ. However, when he says that “the head of woman is the man” he is not setting up a typology between men and women, as if to say that the head of any woman in the ecclesia is any man.

Christ “the Man”:

Christ “the Man” He is deploying the singular term “the man” to refer to Christ as the second man and last Adam (1 Cor 15:45-47). In this typology the women of the ecclesia should consider themselves collectively as “the woman” (Eve) corresponding to “the man” of the new creation

Dis-Honouring Christ:

Dis-Honouring Christ In this arrangement, they can dis-honour Christ if they do not adorn their head in an appropriate manner. Paul is using typology to model and order the behaviour of men and women in the ecclesia.

Whither Male Authority?:

Whither Male Authority? This reading removes the difficulties that have been put forward concerning this passage and the issue of male and female equality in Christ. It removes the men in the ecclesia from a direct relationship of authority over the women and places Paul’s point into a typological framework. Paul’s point is about adorning the head and dishonoring “the Head”. As such it dovetails with the theme of Christ’s lordship which is central to Paul’s thought in 1 Corinthians (cf. 1 Cor 11:1).

The Creation Argument:

The Creation Argument “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman indepen-dent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.” 1 Cor 11:7-12

A Foundation:

A Foundation The argument isn’t being deployed as a premise in support of Paul’s points about honour and shame; these are consequences of either covering or not covering the head. Rather, Paul’s argument here is a theological foundation for a practise relating to head-coverings.

The Glory of the Man:

The Glory of the Man A typology is suggested in Ephesians, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church , not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” Eph 5:25-27

The Glory of the Man (2):

The Glory of the Man (2) The point here is that the ecclesia is a “woman” and the recipient of attention by Christ (“the man”) whose aim is to obtain a “glorious” ecclesia. It follows from this that the ecclesia has glory from her Lord and as such is his glory – the glory of the man . This is an Adamic typology whereby the ecclesia represents a new Eve who has her source of life in a Last Adam (cf. 1 Cor 11:8-9). The women of the ecclesia represent the glory of a new creation. The symbology of the head-covering represents the fact that the woman is the glory of the man.


Types Types “the head of woman is the man” (v3) “the man” = Adam = Christ “the woman is the glory of man” (v7) “the woman” = Eve = the ecclesia

Head-Coverings and Honour:

Head-Coverings and Honour For a woman to discard a head-covering would dis-honour Christ: the head-covering represents her created status in Christ and she represents the ecclesia. The symbolic role of the men in the ecclesia complements this role on the part of women. They are representative of their head – Christ – the image and glory of God.

Christ and Men (1):

Christ and Men (1) It is important to separate Christ as “the image and glory of God” from the teaching that men are “the image and glory of God”. It might be thought that because Christ is the “image and glory of God”, the men in an ecclesia represent Christ as an “image and glory of God”. However, this isn’t how Paul summarises his point (v10): he compares men to angels and not Christ. He is drawing on teaching in Genesis about men and not on any teaching about Christ. Paul’s point seems to be that the order of the old creation (man then woman) has validity in the New Creation.

Christ and Men (2):

Christ and Men (2) When Paul speaks of brethren as the image and glory of God, we should not think of them collectively as “the man” of the New Creation and look round for a corresponding collective entity to be “the woman”, i.e. the sisters in an ecclesia. However, when Paul speaks of Christ as the image and glory of God, we can legitimately look around for a corresponding collective “woman”, i.e. the church.

Christ and Men (3):

Christ and Men (3) Christ is the image and glory of God - Yahweh (2 Cor 4:4), the last Adam and the second man (1 Cor 15:45-47). The Son is the ‘image of the invisible God’, and the ‘firstborn of every creature’ (Col 1:15), and as such, the one through whom thrones, dominions, principalities and powers consist. It is in this exercise of power and authority that Christ images God. The old creation is a type of this new order, with Christ being like Adam and the church being like Eve.

Christ and Men (4):

Christ and Men (4) The concept of “image of God” is applied to Christ, rather than the bride or woman. Instead, the image that we (as the bride) aspire to be is the image of Christ (Rms 8:29, 1 Cor 15:49, 2 Cor 3:18), who is a man. In short, for us (as the bride), our being an image of God is implied by our being “of Christ” and particularly by our reflection of him (2 Cor 4:6).

Derived Imaging:

Derived Imaging



Finding Male Authority:

Finding Male Authority The purpose behind individual brethren being the image and glory of God is to reflect an order set up at creation whereby men exercise dominion. This role is not anti-typical of Adam, nor is it typical of Christ, who is the true image and glory of God in the New Creation.

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