In 1 Cor 11:2–16 Paul says that a wife should wear a head covering when praying or prophesying when the church gathers to worship, and in 1 Tim 2:9–15 he says that a woman should not teach or exercise authority over a man.
Most complementarians today do not insist that women in all cultures must wear head coverings, but they do argue that women should not teach or exercise authority over a man. Yet in both passages Paul argues from creation:
- 1 Cor 11:8–10 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
- 1 Tim 2:13–14 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
Do complementarians consistently apply how Paul argues from creation in 1 Cor 11:8–10 and 1 Tim 2:13–14? I was planning to propose to present a paper on that topic at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society this November, but I decided not to because someone else already nailed it—almost a decade ago:
Benjamin L. Merkle. “Paul’s Arguments from Creation in 1 Corinthians 11:8–9 and 1 Timothy 2:13–14: An Apparent Inconsistency Answered.” JETS 49 (2006): 527–48.
This article will analyze Paul’s arguments from creation in the above mentioned texts and seek to demonstrate that it is not inconsistent to reject the need for women to wear head coverings while still affirming that women are not to teach or have authority over men. The reason for this distinction is that in 1 Corinthians 11 Paul only indirectly uses the argument from creation to affirm head coverings for women. The direct application of his reasoning is to show that creation affirms gender and role distinctions between men and women—and in the Corinthian context that distinction needed to be upheld through head coverings. Therefore, Paul’s argument from creation to show that men and women are distinct cannot be culturally relegated. The application of that principle (i.e. head coverings), however, can change with culture. In contrast, the argument from creation in 1 Timothy 2 applies directly to Paul’s prohibition and therefore is transcultural. (p. 528)
Update on 8/26/2015: Ben Merkle condensed his JETS article for TGC’s blog: Should Women Wear Head Coverings?
- Winter, Bruce W. “Veiled Men and Wives and Christian Contentiousness (1 Corinthians 11:2–16).” Pages 121–41 in After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001.
- Winter, Bruce W. “The Appearance of Unveiled Wives in 1 Corinthians 11:2–16.” Pages 77–96 in Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communities. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003.
- Grudem, Wayne. “Egalitarian Claim 9.2: Head Coverings.” Pages 332–39 in Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: An Analysis of More Than One Hundred Disputed Questions. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004.
- Schreiner, Thomas R. “Head Coverings, Prophecies, and the Trinity: 1 Corinthians 11:2–16.” Pages 124–39, 485–87 in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. Edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1991.
- Schreiner, Thomas R. “‘Praying and Prophesying in the Assemblies: I Corinthians 11:2–16’ (Ch 8) by Gordon D. Fee.” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 10, no. 1 (2005): 17–21.