But Woman is the glory of Man…


My son is getting married this week. And my mind keeps going to 1Corinthians 11:7:


“…but woman is the glory of man.”


Those striking words form the second half of the apostle Paul’s first great asymmetry of gender, the first of his three reasons for head coverings (three “γὰρ οὐ(κ)” phrases) in 1Corinthians 11:7-10. The Roman wife should, and the Roman husband should not, wear a head covering in public worship since:


…he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. (v7)


When I teach this passage, I take pains to point out that Paul deliberately truncates his phrasing in moving from the first clause (“image and glory”) to the second (just “glory”), to underscore how women are not the image of man. Women share the image of God, likewise with men, an avowal of equality. But there is still the glory-being part, which Paul does want to distinguish by reason of gender. What does it mean to be another’s glory? How is a woman uniquely a man’s glory and not the other way around?


The standard NT Greek lexicon, short-named BAGD, gives three definitions for the Greek word, δόξα (glory):

  1. The condition of be being bright or shining
  2. The state of being magnificent
  3. honor as enhancement or recognition of status or performance.

So, objectively, to shine, to be great, or, in the last case, subjectively, to have honorable status according to someone else.


#1 seems to be the meaning Paul intends later in the chapter, when he says:


13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature (φύσις) itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory (δόξα)? For her hair is given to her for a covering. (vv13-15)


I would paraphrase Paul here as saying:


“Look around you in your culture. Isn’t it the nature of things in Roman cities, the lay of the land (a way φύσις or ‘nature’ is used), for men to have short hair and women to have long? In the case of Roman culture, long hair is a woman’s distinctive shining. It makes Roman women bright. In other words, your setting gives her long hair as her magnificence.”


But this use of δόξα is different than the one in verse 7. Here it is not being the something of someone else. It is her own δόξα. So brightness/shining is probably the gloss. Verse 7, on the other hand, talks about the woman being the δόξα of another person. It demands the third meaning: The wife gives the husband status.


As Haley Goranson Jacob points out, the #3 meaning is how the LXX (BC Greek translation of the Old Testament and often Paul’s preferred version) uses δόξα:


Every other occurrence of humans possessing glory…in the LXX [besides Exodus 34] clearly refers to humans being given a status of honor or power or authority—a status which is frequently paired with a position of rule or governance of some kind (Exploring the Glory of God, P31).


Paul is making this very point in the passage. I have to say, it is the way that my wife is my glory. She could be seen as my shining or magnificence. But, more clearly, she grants me authority in relationship. She elevates my status in the home. She promotes me to lead. I think that the jury is still out as to whether I deserve that status or not, but it is a glorious thing. And it is genderly distinctive in that it goes in one-direction.


Before, when I was not married, I did not have this status, this glory. If she were to die, I would immediately lose that status, because her presence gives it to me. She makes me something more than I am alone.


When I look at my son and his fiancée, I see this. She is similarly his glory. She is strong and strongly so.


I am so happy for him.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *