St Paul, while referring to the need for a women to cover her head during worship says in 1 Cor 11:7 (NSRVCE):

For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man.

But then, we read in Gen 1: 27:

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

One can hardly interpret the terms ‘humankind’ and ‘them’ as comprising only Adam and his male progeny . In fact they comprise both Adam, Eve and their progeny of both sexes. But then, why does St Paul give a different type of interpretation of Gen 1: 27 , putting a limit to the concept of creation in God's image ? Is he only referring to the physical appearance of man and woman for the purpose of supporting his teaching that woman should cover her head during worship ? In fact, he goes on to state in Verses 14 & 15 :

Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.

My question therefore is: According to Catholic scholars, is St Paul referring to physical appearance of man and woman when he tells of creation in God's image , in 1 Cor 11: 7 ?

2 Answers 2


St. Paul is referring to "the Divinely constituted order: God, Christ, man, woman (v. 3 ['the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.')" (MacRory, Epistles of St. Paul to the Corinthians: With Introductions and Commentary, p. 162).

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his commentary on 1 Cor. 11:7, distinguishes between image (εἰκών, imago) and glory (δόξα, gloria):

  1. […] [In 1 Cor. 11:7, St. Paul] said of man (vir) that he is the image and glory of God; but he did not say of the woman that she is the image and glory of man, but only that she is the glory of the man. This gives us to understand that it is common to man and woman to be the image of God; but it is immediately characteristic of man (viri) to be the glory of God.

God's glory (man) must be revealed, but human's glory—for the man, woman (v. 7: "the woman is the glory of the man"); for the woman, her hair (v. 15: "it is a glory to her")—is to be concealed:

608. We must consider why man should not veil his head, but the woman. […]

  1. because a veil put on the head designates the power of another over the head of a person existing in the order of nature. […]

  2. to show that the glory of God should not be concealed but revealed; but [hu]man’s (hominis) glory is to be concealed. Hence it says in Ps. 113:9: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to thy name give the glory.”

St. Ambrose (De Virginitate cap. 15: "anima enim sexum non habet") and St. Thomas Aquinas (Super Sent. lib. 4 d. 25 q. 2 a. 1 qc. 1 arg. 3: "Sed sexus non est in anima.") teach that sex is not in the soul; the body is what distinguishes a man from a woman.

So, woman's being man's glory refers to her bodily difference, but man's and woman's being images of God refers to their intellectual similarity.

Allo, O.P., Saint Paul: Première épître aux Corinthiens p. 259, emphasizes the bodily aspect of this:

B. 7. Man, who was made directly in the image of God according to the Genesis account, must take pride in not hiding a face that in some way reflects the royal authority of his Creator (cf. II Cor. iii, 18). The woman, on the other hand, represents God less immediately, for her body was made (Gen. ii, 18, 23) on the model of the man's. Thus, at least in terms of power and authority, she reflects God only through the intermediary of man; in this respect, she does not resemble her creator so closely, even though their souls are equal. Paul concludes that this hierarchical order in the corporeal world must be expressed by their respective dress (v. 10).
     But he does state that the woman is the "glory" of the man, as the man is the glory of God. "Glory" says more than simple "reflection"; if it is only a "reflection" of the man, it is a reflection that glorifies the man.

B. 7. L'homme, qui a été fait directement à l'image de Dieu d'après le récit de la Genèse, doit tenir à honneur de ne pas cacher un visage qui reflète d'une certaine façon l'autorité royale de son Créateur (cfr. II Cor. iii, 18). La femme, elle, représente Dieu moins immédiatement, car son corps a été fait (Gen. ii, 18, 23) sur le modèle de celui de l'homme. Ainsi, au moins sous le rapport de la puissance et de l'autorité, ne reflète-t-elle Dieu que par l'intermédiaire de l'homme ; de ce chef, elle ne ressemble pas de si près à son créateur, quoique leurs âmes soient égales. Paul conclura que cet ordre hiérarchique dans le monde corporel doit être exprimé parleur tenue respective (v. 10).
     Mais il affirmé bien que la femme est la « gloire » de l'homme, comme l’homme est celle de Dieu. « Gloire » dit plus que simple « reflet » ; si elle n'est qu'un « reflet » de l'homme, c'est un reflet qui glorifie l'homme.


Okay, let's get some bible study done first. When, in Genesis, the account of God creating "man" in his own image, he is referring to mankind (IE, both male and female). Indeed both male and female have been created in God's image, but since God is a spirit, He has no body in the ordinary sense. Therefore when Catholics speak of "imago dei", created in the image of God, we mean our physical bodies but more primarily our souls. St Paul was interested in fostering discipline in the Church and it is likely that his focus was primarily on the physical. Blessings

  • Welcome to Christianity SE and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Jun 9, 2022 at 13:09

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .