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Hidden Voices Biblical Women and Our Christian Heritage
Hidden Voices: Biblical Women and Our Christian Heritage
Hidden Voices offers a fresh, inspiring look at the stories of women in the Bible, how Jesus treated women, and the difficult passages concerning the role of women.
Since the beginning of time, women have lived with single motherhood, domestic violence, and abandonment. There also have been women who have defied the status quo by teaching, leading, and working with men. This Bible study discussion book, for women and men, lends support to women in these roles and provides models for issues affecting contemporary women.
The traditional interpretation of 1 Cor. 11:3 has serious problems.
1. If this verse is reciting a chain of command, then why is God’s authority mentioned after man’s authority?
2. It says that God is the authority over Christ. This would give one a chain of command within the Godhead, making the three members of the Trinity unequal. This idea of a chain of command, known as subordinationist theology (Christ is subordinate to the Creator God) was declared a heresy during the fourth century.11
3. Paul uses the singular form for man and woman. If Paul were saying all men were the authorities over all women, then he would not have used the singular form.
4. Christ did not come to set up hierarchies and chains of command. Rather, Christ came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. For Paul to establish a chain of command that places half the human race in a subordinate position to the other half is to miss one of the main points of the Gospel.
To understand this passage, we have to understand what the Greek word kephale, translated “head,” meant at the time Paul wrote his letter.
During the first century kephale was rarely, if ever, used to indicate authority. It was not until the influence of Latin many years later that the new meaning of authority was added to the word kephale. The word kephale meant “source” long before Aristotle (384-322 B.C.).
Cyril of Alexandria defined kephale as source. Commenting on 1 Cor. 11:3, this Greek Church father wrote that Christ is the kephale of man because man was made and brought to birth through Christ. He then said man is the kephale of women because he was her source when she was taken from his flesh. Finally, Cyril wrote that God is the source of Christ.
If we translate kephale to mean source, then the verse is not hierarchical but cyclical: Christ is the source of every man; the man is the source of a woman; and God is the source of Christ. Here is how it makes sense: Christ is the source of man because Christ was God’s agent in creation (John 1:3), and therefore participated in the creation of Adam. Man is the source for woman, as in Gen. 2:21-23, where God took the rib, or side, from the earth being and fashioned a female.
If we drop the heretical and traditional interpretation of this verse, then the image of God is one of three equal, loving persons, and the image of humans should reflect that equality and that love. The members of the Godhead are equal, and God made male and female in the image of the Divine, so they also are made to be equal. The emphasis of this verse is on unity, not hierarchy.