Breaking Down Bad Teaching–Men Are The Leaders?

holy spirit mother, woman image of the holy spirit

The book of Genesis describes the control and domination issues between men and women as arising from the fall of both Adam and Eve. After Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God said to her:

“To the woman he [God] said: I shall give you intense pain in childbearing, you will give birth to your children in pain. Your yearning will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.” (The New Jerusalem Bible, Ge 3:16)

Before this scenario, however, men and women–together–walked in “dominion.”

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion….’” (NRSV Gen 1:27-28).

Men and women once ruled together–they had dominion. After the fall…things changed. Men dominated (ruled, led) their wives. But when Jesus came upon the scene, sin was forgiven and woman–supposedly–were no longer “ruled” by their husbands. However, many argue that the new testament teaches that husbands should “lead” their wives because they are considered the “heads.”

“But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ.”(1 Cor 11:3 NRSV)

This is the key verse that many pastors teach “male leadership” from. Men are to be “the heads of their wives.” In fact, in the past, I’ve been called “a neck” numerous times by different pastors during Sunday morning services. This designation of the wife being the neck is supposed to be a funny and gentle reminder that my husband is the true leader and I am one rung below him–I can, therefore, persuade my husband, but I certainly cannot lead him.

But notice in the above scripture that “Christ is the head of man.” What does it mean to “be the head of man”? Does Christ lead men but not women? Obviously not, since Jesus showed us in the Bible that he is willing to teach both men and women.  A husband and wife team simply does not wait for the husband to communicate with Jesus in order to receive direction and teaching–both husband and wife seek God’s Holy Spirit for direction. So if Christ isn’t just the leader of only men, what is this verse really saying? Actually, this verse doesn’t speak about leadership at all–it speaks about “source.”

Being the “head” does not mean being in authority

Let me say that again, Being the “head” does not mean being in authority. After all, in the Bible the phrase “under the feet” means subjugated under authority). Nor does “head” signify the place where decisions are made (in the Bible the “heart” makes all decisions). Rather, the Bible uses the image of head as being “the source of life.”

Being the “head” means you are the “source of life”

In the Bible, when you want someone dead you take their head. OR, if you want to kill a whole army, you take the leader’s head—you go straight to the “source of life.” This action guarantees the death of the whole army. See Dan. 1:10 for another example of “head” referring to “life.” Likewise to “lift up the head” (see Gen. 40:13) means to grant life and to “bow the head” means to give up your life:

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (NRSV Jn 19:30)

Therefore, in reference to our key verse in 1 Cor. 11:3: “I want you to understand that (1) Christ is the head of every man, and (2) the husband is the head of his wife, and (3) God is the head of Christ” we see clearly that (1) Jesus is the “source of life” for every man simply because Jesus was the one who originally created Adam from dirt in the garden of Eden…and (2) the husband is the “source of life” of his wife simply because Eve came directly from the body of Adam… and (3) God is the “source of life” of Jesus because Jesus was the Light that came from God: “[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15).

1 Corinthians 11:3 is not speaking about who should lead. It is describing the process of birth…”For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God” (1 Co 11:12).

God does not operate in hierarchy; He operates in a relationship based on mutual love and respect. And so should we.

For more info on this subject go to: Adam is the “Head” of Eve



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  • This is life-changing! People need to hear this teaching!!! This could have changed the course of my life understanding this properly!

  • This came up last night in home group. It was exasperating to be continually told that mutual submission is perfectly fine as long as the woman submitted to the man as the ultimate leader in the home!
    I’m sure we will remain the only egalitarian couple in our overwhelmingly complementarian church… but a girl can dream.

    • It is exasperating, especially since the true teaching of “head” is not that difficult to figure out. I am with you in Spirit, Ally, as you continue along your journey as a woman stepping into her rightful place of dominion!

  • I had this conversation with a couple at my church the other day. ” Exasperating” doesn’t even begin to cover it. It all started because a young lady who used to preach at our church is going to get ordained. It was the wife to my dissatisfaction that ” had a problem with women as pastors” and well I tried to point out the fact that the Bible says that Adam was with Eve when she was tempted for some odd reason they were under the false impression that if Adam had been there he would have been deceived too. There is nothing within the text that even remotely implies that Eve either had to bring the fruit to Adam or that he came on the scene later it specifically states ” she gave some to her husband with her and he ate and then both of their eyes were opened. The funny thing was that they actually made some of my points for me but we’re still convinced that I was wrong about male domination being part of the curse. I eventually just let it go because I have to rely on them for rides and don’t want to keep beating a dead horse but I prayed about it after getting home and God plainly told me ” Those who don’t think women can be pastors don’t believe in the five fold ministry, I never sked my daughter’s to mutilate themselves by cutting off one of their fingers” He then took me on a journey of researching what the Hebrew word for helper ‘ Ezer” actually meant and after a lifetime of self doubt I am now fully convinced that God 🙏 does not see women the way the institutional church does. He also told me as for their emphasis on” God’s created order ” to suppose that God favors men do they not remember that Jesus himself said” The first shall be last and the last shall be first?” I am glad and thankful that I am not the oy one receiving these types of revelation.

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