And we rely on each other, ah-ha,
From one human to another, ah-ha.

Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb and Maurice Gibb

Sung by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (Lyrics approximate only).

So, this is what Paul has said so far (paraphrased of course):

Women should wear a head covering.

Women should wear a head covering.

Women should wear a head covering.

Women should wear a head covering.

And then we come to verses 11-12.

In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

And the streamers and party balloons come out and everyone rejoices! We can ignore everything Paul has said before because here – here! – Paul is finally getting with the program and wiping out all of this gender discrimination nonsense he’s been harking on about up until now.

But no. That’s not the case. Paul has been building a beautiful picture of gender that both pictures something of the “family” of God (the Trinity) and at the same time reflects differing aspects of the Son of God. He is not cancelling that out. (Especially since he returns to gender differences in verses 13-16!) Instead, he is providing a fuller picture of what this all means. Man being the head of woman, woman being the glory of God, none of this means a domineering male and a snivelling female. Man cannot do without woman and woman cannot do without man. They depend on each other, (ah-ha).

There are couple of things to notice here, though.

Is He Out of Order?

First, have you noticed that the order of the phrases in verse 11 is a little odd? What I mean is this: If you have being saying, “Women should wear a head covering because they are the glory of man, are from man and for man”, and then you throw in a “however”, surely you would say:

Women should wear a head covering because they are the glory of man, are from man and for man. However, man is not independent of woman, nor is woman independent of man.

In other words, wouldn’t you contrast what you have said already immediately after the “however”? But what we have here (in the NIV, but also in the ESV, the NET Bible and the 4th edition Aland Greek New Testament) is almost a repeat of what has been said before the “however”. Here it is again:

Women should wear a head covering because they are the glory of man, are from man and for man. However, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.

So, are we missing something here?

I don’t think so. As we carry on reading, it’s clear that Paul is trying to contrast what he has said up to this point, and there are two ways to resolve we can smooth out this awkwardness.

We read it with an emphasis on the second phrase and provide the contrast that way:

However, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.

Or, if we want to be particularly rebellious, we note that there are Greek manuscripts that do have those particular phrases the other way around and there are older English Bibles that translate verse 11 that way. Check out the King James Version (though it’s not a generally accepted way of translating v11 these days):

Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

Whatever the best way to resolve it, the general meaning is clear – despite (and because) of their differences, men and women are dependent on each other for their very selves, and ultimately dependent on God.

But that’s not the only puzzle about this verse.

In the Lord???

Paul says: In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

Why does he say, “In the Lord”? It doesn’t matter if you are a Christian or not, woman came from man, and man is always born of woman (perhaps test-tube babies excluded, but the stuff of women is still needed in those cases). So, how is this interdependence a specifically Christian thing?

Back in the day, a Christian theologian called Thomas Aquinas argued that each angel was created separately and distinct from every other angel, while humans are all connected being part of one family. And if you think about it, it makes sense. As far as we know, God created one angel, and when he had finished, he moved on and created another angel. Not so with humans. God created Adam as the original human being. Eve was then created from Adam. Then every other human being came from both of them. In other words, every human being is connected to Adam, and to each other.

And then sin entered the picture and what happened?

When Satan and his angels fell, he did not take all the angels with him, because each angel was independent of each other. However, when Adam ate the forbidden fruit, every single human being fell with him, because we are all connected to those who came before us.

This is important, because not only did this connection bring Adam’s sin down on every human, this connection is also the way Christ’s humanity saves us.

What?

Christ came as a man, and so was able to represent all men as one of them. Have you ever wondered why he didn’t have to come as a woman as well to represent all women? Perhaps if man and woman were created side-by-side out of the ground, neither being the head of the other, Christ would have had to come twice, once as a man and once as a woman! But Christ was able to represent women as well because the man is the head of woman.

But that is not enough. It would be enough if all God wanted to do was save Adam and Eve, but he wanted to save the whole human family. And he was able to do so because each man is connected to another through a woman – their mother.

So when Paul says…

In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman.

…he is emphasising that each gender relies on each other not just for their existence, but their salvation! None of which is reason to boast because…

…everything comes from God.

What does Paul not say?

What a huge amount of doors these two verses open!

– We could chase the whole notion of the headship of Adam and the headship of Christ in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15.

– We could also follow up the connection between humanity and the creation – why did the creation fall when man fell, and how will creation be redeemed by the redemption of man?

– We could also ask, if we are saved through the family connection of humanity, why isn’t every human saved?

– We could look into how humanity is raised with Christ above the angels to sit on his throne through this family connection.

But Paul does not walk through any of these doors here. He is merely providing a corrective to any man tempted to lord it over a woman, or any woman tempted to see Paul encouraging men to do that. Who we are and what we are created to be is not something to boast about in either direction.

God has designed us to reflect the image of his “family”, and so as creatures we rely on each other.

Ah-ha.

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