What’s Christ got to do
Got to do with it?
How does Christ
Set this thing in motion?
Tina Turner (Lyrics approximate only).
Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head, but every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a woman to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.
(1 Corinthians 11:2-16 ESV)
What’s Christ got to do with head covering?
Everything, as it turns out. And yet Christ is only mentioned four times in three places in the whole passage.
First place: Verse 3.
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God.
We’re going to be coming back to verse 3 again a little later, but for now I’m just going to point out a couple of things.
- Paul writes this sentence in a bizarre order, or so it seems until we realise that he’s talking about the tradition of headcovering/uncovering, and he’s starting where the tradition itself starts: with men and their head, Christ.
- Christ is mentioned at the beginning and at the end of the sentence. At the beginning it is how Christ relates to men; at the end we see (implicitly) one of the ways Christ relates to women.
Second place: Verse 4.
Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head, but every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.
In the beginning of verse 4, dishonouring Christ (man’s head) is the reason men should not wear anything on his head while praying and prophesying.
Third place: Verse 11-12.
Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.
And in these verses, the interdependence of man and woman is “in the Lord”. Christ again.
Okay, let’s work through this together.
Verse three is usually seen as a hierarchy, where each position is higher than the other. But look a little closer.
Each phrase describes members of a particular group or category and one from within that category who is the head. So,
– Christ and men are man (male), and Christ is the head male.
– Men and women are man (human), and “the man” (i.e. men) is the head human.
– God (the Father) and Christ are God (two of the Godhead), and God (the Father) is the head of the Godhead.
Interesting, you say. And…how does that help?
Well, think of it this way. Verse three is describing two families – the human family and the “family” of the Godhead. Notice how far God has created the human family in the image of his “family”:
- a) both families have a head;
- b) the Bible calls both families by the name of the head of that family, i.e. God is the head of God, and man is the head of Man;
- c) the Bible teaches that the Son/Christ and the woman are the glory of their respective heads (Hebrews 1:3, 2 Corinthians 4:6 and 1 Corinthians 11:7);
- d) the Bible teaches that the Son/Christ and the woman are from their heads (John 1:14, 7:29, 8:42, 16:28, 1 Corinthians 11:8)
- e) the Bible teaches that the Son/Christ and the woman exist for their heads (John 5:36, 10:24-29, 17:4, 1 Corinthians 11:9)
- f) the Bible also teaches that while the Son/Christ and woman are not head in their “families”, they are interdependent with their heads (John 10:30, 17:4-5, 1 Corinthians 11:11-12). In fact, if you believe that women are less than man, you also believe Christ is less than God, which is not true.
Now, don’t push those similarities too far. Do that, and you won’t only misunderstand this passage, you will venture off into heresy. But those similarities are there, and they show us just how closely God intended Man to reflect him.
But we messed it up.
Look again at verse three. What do you see? Two families who are meant to be joined, separated except for one factor, one person – Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one who is a member of both families, and being a member of both families, he brought them together.
But that’s not enough…
The Head of Man.
It is the Christmas season at the time of writing and one of the themes we celebrate is the virgin birth of Jesus. But a good question to ask is: Why was Jesus born of a virgin?
So by having God as his father he would be both God and man? Yes.
So he would have the divine nature to live sinlessly like Adam failed to do? Yes.
And so he would not have any human father who could claim to be his head.
Headship in the Bible is not limited to this passage, and for those who have followed the debates at the end of the 20th Century, it’s not limited to the Greek word, kephale. God built headship into the human race so that through Christ’s life, death and resurrection, he would become head of a new humanity (Colossians 1:18), tasting death for all (Hebrews 2:9).
Jesus Christ is the head of Man.
The Head Man.
And he is also the head man, which means he shares the same purposes and descriptions spoken of about “man” in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
We’ve already gone through some of the similarities between the Son/Christ and women. They both are the glory of their heads, come from their heads, and exist for their heads. Following through on the comparisons, you’d think Paul would highlight things about men that show the similarities between men with God the Father. And as far as both men and God the Father both being heads of their families, there is similarity.
However, in verse 7 Paul doesn’t go that direction. Instead, he talks about characteristics that are shared with the Son/Christ:
- a) The Son/Christ and men are both the image of God (Hebrews 1:3, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15, 1 Corinthians 11:7).
- b) The Son/Christ and men are both the glory of God (Hebrews 1:3, 2 Corinthians 4:6 and 1 Corinthians 11:7).
In these ways (and of course many others), Christ is the same as all men, and can truly be the head man of all men.
(We’ll look later at why only men are said to be the image and glory of God in 1 Corinthians 11:7).
The Missing Middle.
Now, we want to keep as close to the text as possible, but when we are trying to work out the thinking behind Paul’s writing, we do have to arrange the information we find in a certain order so we can figure out how and why Christ’s coming led to this tradition. Deduction. Detective work. And like Sherlock Holmes noted in one of his detective stories, sometimes it’s what is not there that is worth looking at.
The Fall and the Law are both conspicuously absent from this passage. Paul starts the passage with Christ and then jumps right back to the creation of man and woman – before the Fall. Christ, it would seem, has allowed Paul to apply pre-Fall logic to the tradition of headcovering/uncovering, i.e. man should not wear a covering on his head while praying and prophesying because he is the image and glory of God (v7).
We can tell this is pre-Fall logic because after the Fall, God requires male priests to wear a headcovering all the time, including during religious duties . However, let’s say it again, Christ has taken away the priestly and sacrificial system of the Law (including priestly head coverings), and has brought his people to a state where pre-Fall logic works once more.
Piecing pieces together.
So what have we got here?
Paul roots the head covering/uncovering tradition in Christ.
Paul uses logic from the creation of man and woman from before the Fall for men uncovering their heads and women covering their heads. Man is the image and glory of God; woman is the glory of man.
Priestly head coverings required in the Law imply that Creation logic no longer applied after the Fall. It would seem the image and glory of God in man was fallen and so covering the heads of man’s priestly representatives was required.
Christ, as the Son and as a man, was the unfallen, perfect image and glory of God, the perfect glory of his head. As the head of man, he represents, covers and imputes that unfallen, uncorrupted image and glory of God to all who are in him, and enables man to return to his position, and woman to hers through his glory.
Therefore, all men are once again the image and glory of God they were originally created to be as heads in the human family, and women are the glory of man, (and, ultimately, the glory of the man, Jesus Christ).
As such, men should not dishonour Christ by covering their heads (v4), as if Christ’s work had not restored them, but instead pray and prophesy with heads uncovered, displaying the restored image and glory of God as heads in the human family. Women should cover in order to point to the glory of God represented by their head, and ultimately in Christ.
Not the end…
That goes some way to clearing up what Christ has to do with this tradition, and how he set the whole thing in motion. But all through this post I’ve also left huge areas unexplored: Why are there only four places where Christ is mentioned? Why are men said to be the image and glory of God and woman not? Why does Paul only talk about praying and prophesying? Is Paul saying women have to approach Christ through men? How do verses 11-12 fit in?
And how does this “creation logic” work?
I’m not going to be able to answer all those questions here, but that last one about creation logic… we’ll try to carry on down that road in the next post.