Does 1 Corinthians 11:5 Prove That Women Can Be In Spiritual Leadership Roles Over Men?


In 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, the Bible states: “Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. 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. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. 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 man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but 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 independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God. Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.”

Some assume from these verses that women can be in spiritual leadership roles over men. Such is a fallacious assumption for several reasons:

1.First, Scriptures never contradict other Scriptures (John 10:35). Every word of Scripture is harmonious with the other verses. Therefore, it is not God's word that contradicts but the person(s) who does not rightly divide/ascertain God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15). There are even some who would dare claim that Paul contradicted himself here and in 1 Corinthians 14:34,35, having no regard for the flawless, pure nature of God’s inspired word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Clear passages of Scripture make it abundantly clear that men are to be the spiritual leaders in the home and in the church (1 Timothy 2:8-15; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; 14:34,35; etc.).

2.Second, some women in the first century A.D. (as well as men) were equipped with the miraculous gift of prophecy (Acts 2:17). Philip's four virgin daughters were among those (Acts 21:9). Some women were also teachers (Titus 2:3-5) and fellow-workers in the church (Romans 16:1,2; Philippians 4:2,3). The women were authorized to prophesy, teach and work in the kingdom, but they were not permitted to function in spiritual leadership roles over men (1 Timothy 2:11,12; 1 Corinthians 14:34,35). A godly woman must assume her God-given role in order to experience ultimate salvation (1 Timothy 2:11-15, especially verse 15).

3.Third, since the Scriptures do not contradict themselves, then it is obvious from this context that women were miraculously praying and prophesying in a time and place where the men were not present. Due to the cultural context of their society, they were to cover their heads with veils while praying and prophesying (symbolic of submission). For although the men were not present, respect for the principle of submission to the men as well as the presence of angels were to be taken into consideration (verse 10). Not only are women authorized to gather together and teach one another (Titus 2:3-4), but they are also authorized to come together and worship with one another (without the presence of men, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16). They are not, however, authorized to assume authority over men (for instance, in an assembly of men and women, only the “males” can lead prayer according to 1 Timothy 2:8 and only the men can lead in teaching/preaching according to 1 Timothy 2:12; 3:15).

This material is copyrighted by The Gospel of Christ and its authors.  This information is free to use in its entirety without further consent, however, modifications should not be made without contacting for permission.  Any and all images contained herein are believed to be free for all distribution and content.