(1 Cor. 11:7-9) Are women made in God’s image or man’s?

CLAIM: Paul writes that men are the “image and glory of God,” but women are the “glory of man.” What does he mean by this?

RESPONSE: Several observations can be made:

First, Paul does not write that women are in the “image” of men. Biblically, both men and women are made in the “image of God” (Gen. 1:27; c.f. Jas. 3:9).

Second, Paul also does not claim that men are greater than women. Instead, he affirms the equality and interdependence of men and women later in the passage: “In the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God” (1 Cor. 11:11-12).

Third, by saying that women are the “glory of man,” Paul is elevating women—not suppressing women. Catherine Kroeger writes, “That woman is called ‘the glory of man’ is not a diminution of her glory, for she is equally made in the image of God (Gen 1:27; 5:2-3). Glory augments the reputation, wealth or status of another (cf. 2 Cor 3:7-11, 18). Paul declares that the Thessalonians were his ‘glory and joy’ (1 Thess 2:20, surely not a pejorative term). They are the fulfillment of his aspirations, and his pride and happiness in them know no bounds. Thus it is that Paul sets forth the interdependence of man and woman and their need for one another.”[1] Likewise, Craig Blomberg writes, “In verses 14-15 ‘glory’ is the opposite of ‘disgrace,’ so in both places it probably carries the sense of ‘honor.’”[2]

Fourth, by writing that women were made “for man’s sake,” this is not denigrating women. Catherine Kroeger writes, “The term dia is often used to designate an objective of ministry (1 Cor 4:10; 9:10 [twice], 23; 2 Cor 2:10; 4:11, 15). Christ was made poor for our sakes (2 Cor 8:9; see also Jn 12:30); Paul proclaimed himself a slave ‘for Jesus sake’ (2 Cor 4:5). Woman was given to complete and fulfill man, to minister to his aloneness (Gen 2:18).”[3] For further reading, see comments on Genesis 2:18.

For further reading, see our earlier article “Christianity and Women.”

[1] Catherine Clark Kroeger, The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 661.

[2] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 179.

[3] Catherine Clark Kroeger, The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 660.