Do Males “Image” God More Than Females?

Do male humans “image” God more than female humans image God?

Both male and female were created in the image of God. Recall Genesis 1: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make adam in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule . . . God created adam in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (vv. 26–27).

The image of God is male and female. One sex does not “image” God more than the other. And, in fact, male and female are interdependent. I once had a student who wept with joy when she learned this. She was single and thought she could image God only through association with a husband.

We need each other. God made male and female to rule together, to multiply together, to use our gifts together, to build up the body of Christ together. How can we do a better job of building partnerships, celebrating his image in male and female?

Why does 1 Corinthians 11 say a man is the glory of God, and a wife is the glory of man? Why is the wife not also the glory of God?  

Let’s look at the verse: “A man [or husband] ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but [a] woman [or wife] is the glory of man [or of a husband]” (v. 7).

First, note that is it only the “glory of God” here that is in question, not the “image of God.”

Second, it’s important to see that the words “man” and “woman” here could just as easily be translated “husband” and “wife.” The Greek does not have such specific words to differentiate as does English, so only context tells which way to go.

Translations differ here. But I suspect Paul intended man/wife. Here’s why….

Based on what we know about hair being used as a covering (v. 15) in the first century, it’s likely that some wives were inadvertently shaming their husbands by wearing their hair down in public, probably as an expression of spiritual freedom. Perhaps this is the origin of the expression “let your hair down.” Wearing hair down for a woman, to the best of our knowledge, communicated that she was single. 

Similarly, some men (not just husbands) were probably shaming Christ by wearing their hair long and in a certain way—in girly looking ringlets—as an expression of freedom. Again, they were probably letting their hair down as an expression of freedom.

Now, it was not a shame for a man to have any long hair per se. Think of Samson. Or John the Baptist. Or anyone keeping a Nazarite vow. But a certain kind of long hair was considered “unnatural” or shameful.

Thus, one action (hers) suggested she was unmarried and available—like taking off a wedding ring; the other action (his) suggested he was trolling for boys.

In what they were communicating with their heads, one shamed her head (her husband) while the other shamed his head (Christ).

The result of the wife’s behavior, then, was that she was bringing un-glory to her husband. So she was bringing shame on the very person she was “made for.” And the man was bringing un-glory to Christ, when the glory of a man is supposed to be not a boy but a woman—the sex through which he came into the world.

Assuming this is the case—and there is good evidence to understand Paul in this way—the apostle tells the wives in question that they ought to have authority on their own heads…not that they are to wear signs of authority (head coverings were not signs of authority), nor that they are to have signs of submission (head coverings were not signs of submission), but that the females ought to have or possess authority (in every other NT usage, this is what the construction “have authority” means) when it comes to what they are doing with their heads.

And then immediately, lest these wives get a wrong attitude with all this authority, the apostle reminds them, “Nevertheless [contrastive], in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God” (vv. 11–12). Nice balancing act. There it is again: we need each other. 

All this to say, God made woman in his image. In this context Paul is talking about glory and shame. Some men were shaming Christ; some wives were shaming their husbands. And both should have been bringing glory to the very ones they were shaming. Thus, the play on words with “head.”

Certainly females, like males, were made to glorify God and reflect the glory of God. Paul is simply doing plays on words by highlighting whom the wives and men are shaming in first-century Corinth.  

Is ruling for men only?  

God created both male and female to rule (Gen. 1:26). He also made both to multiply. The idea that ruling is for men and multiplying is for women goes against what the text says. Male and female image God. We rule. We fill the earth. Together.

Elsewhere, in 1 Timothy 5:14, wives are told to rule their households. Here is how some translations render the word:

NAS: keep house

KJV: guide the house

ASV: rule the household

INT:  manage the house 

Warren Wiersbe reminds readers in his Ephesians through Revelation commentary that the word sometimes translated here as “keep,” or “guide” or “manage,” literally means “rule.” In fact, in the Greek, “oikodespotin” has the word “despot” in it.  Elsewhere “despotis” is translated as "authority," "master," and "owner." It is translated “master” of slaves in Titus 2:9, 1 Timothy 6:1, and 1 Peter 2:18. And the word is translated “lord” in Luke 2:29, Acts 4:24, and Revelation 6:10. One commentator notes, “It is interesting that the NASB translates the male context of the word as ‘head of the house,’ but the female context as ‘housekeeper.’” We all bring biases to the text, and translators are no exception.  

All rule of a home does not fall on the husband/father. Nor to the woman/wife. Women and men are co-rulers under God.

Is submission only a “wife” word?

All creatures—male and female—are called to live in submission to our Creator. In this sense, we were all “made” for submission. Not only are we to submit to God, but all believers are to submit ourselves to each other (Eph. 5:21), following the example of Christ, who came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45; Phil 2:7). Submission is not a solely “woman” word. Or a “wife” word. Submission is for humans. 

Sandra Glahn, who holds a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and a PhD in The Humanities—Aesthetic Studies from the University of Texas/Dallas, is a professor at DTS. This creator of the Coffee Cup Bible Series (AMG) based on the NET Bible is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books. She's the wife of one husband, mother of one daughter, and owner of two cats. Chocolate and travel make her smile. You can follow her on Twitter @sandraglahn ; on FB /Aspire2 ; and find her at her web site: aspire2.com.


  • Joel

    1). 1 Corinthians 11:1 says, “I praise you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I passed them on to you.” Was the headcovering a Jewish tradition Paul passed on to the churches? Would it make sense to say that a man who takes off his wedding ring dishonors God, but a woman dishonors the man?

    2). Doesn’t submitting to each other mean wives are supposed to submit to their husbands, children to parents, citizens to goverment, etc.?

    It wouldn’t make sense to say parents should submit to their children, would it?

    Thank You.

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