1 Corinthians 11:3-5, 11-12
Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved.
In the Lord, however, 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.
"head" - The significance of the head of a body was not appreciated anatomically in NT times as suggesting control or direction of the body by the mind. They used the word to mean 'origin', as in the source of a river. Headship does not necessarily imply authority.
"woman" - the Greek word gunee means both a 'woman' or a 'wife' (it is translated 'woman' 129 times in the KJV and 'wife' 92 times).
"man" - the word for 'man' is aner, which means both 'man' and 'husband' (it is translated 'man' 156 times in the KJV and 'husband' 50 times).
The verse could therefore read: "The head of the wife is the husband." Note that Paul says "the head of every man is Christ", but does not say "the head of every woman is man". Paul is not encouraging the submission of all women to all men, but speaks only of the headship of husbands to wives.
v. 5 “prays or prophesies" - the context of the passage shows that this is "in the church", not in private (see, for example, v. 18).
• Scripture records several women prophets, including Anna (Luke 2:36) and Philipp's four daughters (Acts 21:9).
•"The prophets were really the equivalent of our modern preachers. It was they who brought the message of God to the congregation." (Barclay).
• "Commentators in recent years have been at pains to point out that prophets were forth-tellers rather than foretellers, and this is supported by the fact that their characteristic function seems to have been exhortation (see Acts 15:32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.)" (Leon Morris).
• John Thomas used Paul's comments in 1 Corinthians 4 regarding "prophesying" as a basis for instructions regarding "exhortations" in the first known Constitution of a Christadelphian ecclesia:
"Ye may all prophesy, one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted". (1 Cor 14:31) "He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation and comfort". (1 Cor 14:3) "Exhortation is, therefore, a part of prophesying, and, in being attempted, must be done without debate "to the edifying of the Church", or not at all." He said that in listening to an exhortation we "suffer prophesying from uninspired men of ordinary talents and information".
The early Christadelphians obviously thought of the exhortation as the modern counterpart to prophesying.
Paul's reference to women praying and prophesying obviously means that he was allowing women to speak "in the church" and his later instruction that women are to keep silence must be interpreted against this background (see notes on 1 Corinthians 14 to follow). Paul's instructions to Timothy about women keeping silence also occur in the context of a specific instruction about how they are to pray in church. There is clearly no contradiction between the two and "keeping silence" is not a prohibition on praying and prophesying/ exhorting.
Vv. 11-12 - Paul reminds his readers that not only is the husband the origin (head) of the wife, as in the Genesis 2 account of creation, but that every subsequent man has his origin (head) in a woman. In Christ there is a mutual dependence on each other and a common recognition that both sexes are equally dependent on God.