How do Christian Evolutionists interpret 1 Corinthians 11:8-9?

1 Corinthians 11:8-9 says:

“For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.”

If humans evolved and therefore, there was no one male human out of whom Eve was taken, how are we to interpret this passage? These verses seem to imply that Paul thought the first woman coming from man in Creation was in some way theologically important. How does theistic evolution account for this?

Just as a side note, I’m not here to debate egalitarianism/complementarianism, or the other issues that can be discussed with this passage. I’m only asking about the issue of the Creation story and the woman coming from man part.

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Depends a lot on who is asked. My answer would essentially be “I’m not sure, we don’t seem to have a lot of details”.


I think Paul was using the creation story to make his theological point. Just read it in context to see what it is Paul is discussing. So TE, YEC, or OEC really wouldn’t make a difference in how to interpret this passage.


Paul had too far to go in transcending his cultural limitations.


The idea that “the order of creation in Genesis” should have any relevance to the length of a person’s hair or their authority in a group seems very strange to me.


1 Corinthians 11:14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him

Hold on! Didn’t Jesus have long hair?lol

I appreciate that, but at the same time this seems to be the message of this passage, supposed order of creation is only mentioned to reinforce that point, so I guess from evolutionist’s point of view I would treat it the same as Genesis.


No He didn’t. Why would He?

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So in what way was this theologically important to Paul? And is it an important detail in both creation accounts?

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A lot of these topics tend to boil down to what it means to be inspired by God, versus questions of what God intended to reveal or teach to people over time.

All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, but then what does that mean when we reach a point where we start reading about a solid dome in the sky?

And whether the concept in question is observed in the old testament or the new testament, the challenge there generally remains the same. Was it God’s intent to teach certain scientific concepts in inspiring His prophets? Or was it the intent of prophets to speak on concepts of science that might challenge a 21st century biologist?

I would say that one of the easiest ways to work with these kinds of passages is to simply understand that scripture was written for us but not necessarily to us, and we shouldn’t really expect some things to make sense when perceived or interpreted through a modern or concordist 21st century scientific perspective.

When Genesis 1 describes 7 days of creation with mankind created on day 6 and other life created in earlier days, but then Genesis 2 puts us in a spin describing Adam being lonely and God forming animals out of the ground and bringing them to Adam to name to find a suitable helper, all as having occurred in a single day (Genesis 2:4-18), we might find ourselves confused about Adam and Eve was even created before or after animals. Or we might be challenged about whether creation happened in one day or 7, or how a human could be made from the side of another human etc. Etc.

When Genesis describes windows in the raqia that open and close to let water through, or when Job describes the sky as being like brass or molten metal etc.

Some things really only make sense when perceived in an ancient near east perspective. While to modern 21st century people of a material scientific perspective, these ideas aren’t going to make much sense to us. Hence why we continually are stumbling while reading Genesis and any NT versus on these types of topics.

And so, The easiest way to process these questions is to simply know upfront that people of the ancient near East had a different perspective on a lot of these topics, and if they don’t make sense, that’s okay. Because from our modern day scientific perspective, we shouldn’t really expect it to make much sense. And it’s only when we re orient our perspective that we can begin making sense of ANE cosmology and the origins of mankind.

And with that said, in an effort to answer the question more directly, some biblical scholars such as John Walton, have proposed that Adam is an archetype representative of mankind. It’s a theological truth described by Paul. But Paul wasn’t really using ancient near east texts to try to understand scientific concepts, that wasn’t really his goal, and so it doesn’t make much sense to try to hold his words in that kind of light, as if he was teaching us science.

I’d recommend John Walton’s the lost world series for more details.


Good answers precede me, but would add that to read it as a biology text is anachronistic. One might say that Eve could be created from a rib by extracting the Y Chromosome from Adam’s cells and them duplicating the X chromosome, thus giving a female complement of chromosomes, but that would be quite a stretch, especially as God said earlier in Chapter 1 that he created them Male and Female. Therefore, both the subsequent story of Adam and Eve must be theological, not physical, and Paul’s comment on it much later must also be theological.
Personally, I think Paul puts a lot of his own personal opinions in his letters, and at times those views even changed, so has to be read with that in context. While inspired, his writings are not dictated from God. So I am left with not really knowing what he meant there.


I agree, which is also why I’m egalitarian. I wasn’t really asking the question in the context of the discussed issue (hair length), just wondering why Paul used that statement which for evolution can’t really be true if woman did not come from man

I believe Paul was correcting certain gnostic ideas of Creation and reinforcing the idea that one should respect the other gender (woman should respect their origin, man). And vice versa, since all men now come from women, men also need to respect women. I don’t really know. As an egalitarian I don’t think Paul is preaching a hierarchy but using Creation to point out mutuality between the sexes. But the metaphor kind of falls apart if woman did not literally come from man, no?

What would you say is his theological point though?

Yeah I guess so. I mean, as an OEC my original interpretation was that either Paul was correcting other people’s gnostic views on Creation (I believe some pagan creation myths were disrupting the church) or that it’s a quotation of the church’s letter (which Paul then challenges by saying that all men come from women now etc.). But assuming Paul is here talking about Creation what does this mean for evolutionists? as an egalitarian I believe head is better translated as origin which refers to creation history and not hierarchal theology. I’m wondering if this falls apart if taking a evolutionist perspective

Do you think men have one less rib than women? If they don’t then how does that agree with your interpretation of 1 Cor 11 and Genesis? What connection does your interpretation of these passages have with reality – is there any connection?

I certainly do not believe God is a necromancer making golems out of dust or bone, and certainly do not believe human kind began as golems made by necromancy. Certainly none of the evidence supports this idea. Neither do I believe in talking animals or magical fruit which gives either knowledge or eternal life. Eternal life comes from a relationship with God, and knowledge comes from experience and the information God sends to us in many different ways (which do not include magical fruit).

What do I think really happened? God created mankind out of the stuff of the earth according to the laws of nature by which this stuff exists, then God spoke to Adam sharing the ideas and inspiration which gave birth to the human mind. Then God brought to him a woman from all the other people which filled the earth (Genesis 4&6) so that Adam could share these ideas and inspiration with her and thus the inheritance by which we are the children of God first came to Adam, then to Eve through him, and then to all mankind through them. The connection to reality is that this is the way God has always worked with mankind – sharing ideas with one person so that these ideas would come to the rest of mankind through that person. God does not speak to all mankind with a loud voice shouting down from the sky.

It is true that the Bible taken literally can be used for the making of a comic book or Walt Disney movie with talking animals and magic. But it can also be taken symbolically to impart an understanding of reality including the human condition.

I think rib is interpreted better as “side”. Some OEC interpret it to mean that God took a part of Adam and made Eve, whatever that means. Some speculate Adam was un-gendered and the female was taken out of him. I don’t know what to believe to be honest. I was just confused why Paul is using it to declare some Creation history. Also, if through Adam, the woman learned about God etc. then does that mean God never directly spoke to Eve/womankind? I feel like that might have a bring with it some misogynistic connotations in my honest opinion.

Also Sampson was known for having long hair as part of his covenant with Yahweh.

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Whenever someone is hyperlinking back to the earlier source it does not change the nature of that source. A example I use is that “ blah blah is as strong as Hercules” . When I’m say that my point is the strength of the person, not the historicity Hercules.

So Paul is making a point by hyperlinking back to a earlier story. Genesis 1-2 lets us know that earlier story is fictional.

What gnostic ideas was he correcting?

Indeed, but the metaphor falls apart long before evolutionary theory came on the scene. Actually, it falls apart in Genesis 1:27:

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

Notice that male and female are created at the same time. Creating a female from Adam comes a bit later in the Bible, in Genesis 2.


One book regarding some of these issues you may find interesting The Bible and Ancient Science:

In it, Denis Lamoureux discusses how ancient ideas of science were faulty, and how God used those ideas without correction to reveal his message. We call that accomodation. In this case, it was commonly thought that all humanity came from seeds the man planted and essentially ignored woman’s genetic contribution.
From Wikipedia
Nicolas Hartsoeker postulated the existence of animalcules in the semen of humans and other animals. This was the beginning of spermists’ theory, which held that the sperm was in fact a “little man” that was placed inside a woman for growth into a child, a neat explanation for many of the mysteries of conception. It was later pointed out that if the sperm was a homunculus, identical in all but size to an adult, then the homunculus may have sperm of its own. This led to a reductio ad absurdum with a chain of homunculi “all the way down”. This was not necessarily considered by spermists a fatal objection, however, as it neatly explained how it was that “in Adam” all had sinned: the whole of humanity was already contained in his loins.


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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