1 Corinthians 11:9 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

1 Corinthians 11:9, NIV: neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

1 Corinthians 11:9, ESV: Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

1 Corinthians 11:9, KJV: Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

1 Corinthians 11:9, NASB: for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.

1 Corinthians 11:9, NLT: And man was not made for woman, but woman was made for man.

1 Corinthians 11:9, CSB: Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man.

What does 1 Corinthians 11:9 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Paul is highlighting a subtle difference in the creation of men and women. He is using these differences to support the cultural norm of his era, which interpreted head coverings differently for males and females. In keeping with those understandings, Paul has forbidden men from covering their heads during prayer and prophesying in the church, while requiring women to cover their heads when doing the same thing.

In broad and general terms, man is the glory of God. This is because God formed Adam in His own image as the pinnacle of creation. For that reason, in coordination with Corinthian culture, men must not cover their heads in order to bring honor to their spiritual head, and their creator, who is Christ.

Woman, though, is said to be the glory of man because the first woman was formed from one of Adam's ribs. She was made out of him. Now Paul adds that woman was made for man, as well. Man, generally speaking, was not made for woman. For this reason, the Corinthian women should cover their heads, their glory, to honor their metaphorical head, their husbands, fathers, or other male head of household. To uncover their glory in public would bring dishonor on him.

Obviously, this raises many questions for the modern reader. First among those is whether all Christian women today must cover their heads when participating in church services. Almost all Bible scholars say no: Paul's command in this passage is specific to how a woman's "glory" was represented according to the norms of his own era. In simple language, head coverings do not carry the same symbolism in most modern cultures today; in such instances, this specific command wouldn't apply.

At the same time, and for exactly the same reasons, these verses reveal a principle which is universal and binding on all believers for all times and cultures. Despite their own personal opinions, believers should not display themselves in a way the culture deems overtly sexual, especially at a "Christian" gathering; this was the implication of a woman having her head uncovered in Paul's day.