Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

interpretations of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35

Introduction

… the women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but are to submit [or control] themselves, as the law also says. If they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home, since it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 CSB

A few New Testament passages are regarded as critical in the discussion on the roles of women in the church. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is one of these passages.[2] Throughout church history, many explanations have been offered by biblical scholars as to how these verses should be interpreted and applied. The purpose of this article is to present brief summaries of interpretations by a few well-known classical and contemporary scholars. This information may help us to determine what 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 means and how these verses can be applied in contemporary church life.

Women must be Completely Silent during Church Meetings

At first glance, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 seems clear: women are not permitted to talk in congregational meetings and must be silent. This is the stance many have taken throughout much of the church’s history.

From Tertullian[3] to Thomas Aquinas[4], commentators concluded that women could not even sing or pray audibly among men. Although the Reformers relaxed some of these restrictions, as late as the 1890s certain Presbyterians still forbade women’s singing in the context of church worship. (Grenz 1995:121)

Silence is called for three times in 1 Corinthians 14: in verses 28, 30 and 34.[5] In 1 Corinthians 14:28 and 30, silence is called for in specific situations to regulate congregational contributions to church meetings. (The “silence” in verses 28 and 30 is not gender-specific.) It is likely the silence called for in verse 34 is also addressing a specific situation and is not meant to be a blanket statement to silence all women for all time in all church worship services.

In fact, Paul’s intention could not have been to silence women at all times during church meetings; in 1 Corinthians 11:5, Paul acknowledges that women prophesied and prayed aloud in church, and he doesn’t silence them.

Paul not only approved of praying and prophesying by women in the assembly but he encouraged it! Reading 1 Corinthians 11:10 with the literal, active voice (“has authority”) instead of the presumed, passive voice (“sign of authority”), Paul states that a woman has authority[6] (has the right!) to pray and prophesy . . .  (Hicks 1990)

If Paul condones verbal ministry from women in chapter 11, it is unlikely that he censures it in chapter 14. It is more likely Paul was prohibiting a certain form of speech from the women in 14:34-35. Several theologians have tried to identify the type of speech Paul was disallowing.

Women must not Engage in Idle Chatter in Church Meetings

John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople between the years 398 and 405, refers to 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in his 9th homily on First Timothy. His view was that some women were treating congregational meetings as an opportunity for socialising and recreation. He mentions that women chatted more during church gatherings than they did in the marketplace or at the public bath. Chrysostom wrote that it is this idle conversation that brings confusion into church meetings.[7]

Chrysostom, among others, believed the instructions in verses 34-35 were designed to prohibit nuisance chatter from the women. To support this understanding, some people have interpreted the Greek word laleō, used in both verses 34 and 35, to mean “chatter” or “babbling.” Laleō, however, is a common word in the New Testament and simply means “speak.” Moreover, in the immediate context of verses 34-35, Paul used the word laleō three times to refer to the speaking ministries of tongues and prophecy, and not to chatter (1 Cor. 14:27-29).

If, however, the intent of verses 34-35 was to silence women who were disrupting congregational meetings with inconsiderate chatter, these verses cannot be used to silence women who have a valid speaking ministry.[8]

Women must not Disrupt Church Meetings with Basic Questions

1 Corinthians 14:35 begins with, “But if they [the women] wish to learn (Greek: mathein) something …” Craig Keener takes into consideration the culture of learning in the first century and proposes that the problem being addressed in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 was women who were interrupting the flow of congregational meetings by asking too many rudimentary questions. He writes, “Throughout the first-century Mediterranean world, novices were expected to learn quietly, but more advanced students were expected to interrupt all kinds of public lectures with questions.” (Keener 2001:50) Keener suggests the Corinthian women may not have realised that interrupting the meetings with their basic questions was culturally inappropriate, even shameful.

Furthermore, students in the ancient world, whether novices or advanced, were typically male. Even though we know some women in Corinth were praying, prophesying and ministering in other ways in gatherings of the church, for wives to ask questions, especially basic equations, may have shamed their husbands as it was against cultural expectations of broader society.[9]

According to Keener’s explanation, 14:34-35 was intended to silence ignorant questions posed by uneducated women. But today, in most churches in the western world, spontaneous questions from the congregation are dissuaded, and women are mostly well-educated, so if Keener’s explanation is correct, 14:34-35 has little application in contemporary church life.

It is difficult, however, to see how verses 36-37 follow on from the idea of ignorant, nuisance questions, unless the women were monopolising the meetings with their questions and were also behaving arrogantly. Verse 38, on the other hand, fits well with the idea of ignorant people with ignorant questions: “But if anyone ignores this [or, is ignorant][10], they themselves will be ignored” (1 Cor. 14:38 NIV 2011) Keener’s interpretation is plausible, especially as the idea of ignorance is emphasised in verse 38.

A popular view, somewhat similar to Keener’s explanation, is that men and women were segregated in the Corinthian church which met in a synagogue, and that women were calling out questions to their husbands seated some distance away, thus disturbing the meeting. However, there is no historical or archaeological evidence that supports the idea that men and women were segregated in church or synagogue meetings at that time. Moreover, while the Corinthian church started in a synagogue (Acts 18:4), at the time of Paul’s letter, the church probably met in homes (cf. Acts 18:7). (Keener 2004:161)

Women must not Evaluate Prophecy Audibly

1 Corinthians chapter 14 is largely advice concerned with the regulation of prophetic speech in church meetings. In 14:29 Paul wrote, “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.” With this context in mind, Wayne Grudem proposes that Paul’s intent in 14:34-35 is to silence women from evaluating prophecy.

On this view, Paul would be saying, “Let the others [that is the rest of the congregation] weigh what is said [by the prophets . . . but] the women should keep silence in the churches.” In other words, women could not give spoken criticisms of the prophecies … (Grudem 1988:220-221) (His use of square brackets)

Grudem goes on to say that women may evaluate prophecy silently in their own minds, but cannot voice these evaluations audibly as this requires spiritual authority. He acknowledges that Paul allows women to pray, speak in tongues, and prophesy aloud in church meetings, yet Grudem maintains that women may not minister in any way that can be construed as exercising spiritual authority.[11]

Prophecy is arguably an influential ministry that can carry a great deal of spiritual authority. Paul lists prophets and prophecy before teachers and teaching in his lists of ministers and ministries in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 (cf. Eph. 2:20a; 3:5b). Wayne Grudem is well-known for espousing a hierarchical complementarian ideology regarding so-called gender roles.[12] He believes women are forbidden from ministering with spiritual authority. It seems he has manufactured the idea that the ministry of prophecy lacks spiritual authority simply because the scriptures show that prophecy is a ministry open to women.[13]

Grudem claims his interpretation of verses 34-35—that women cannot evaluate prophecy audibly—is consistent with the context of Chapter 14, but it is difficult to see how verse 36 fits (“did the word of God [first or originally] go forth from you …?”). The subject shifts suddenly from instructions about women (in verses 34-35) to a reprimand to a group which, according to Greek grammar, includes men or consists only of men (in verse 36). (More on this below.) Grudem’s view is not as neat as he claims it to be.

Women must not ask Personal Questions of the Prophets

Ben Witherington takes into account the broader Corinthian culture in trying to determine the meaning of 14:34-35. Witherington believes it is likely the Christians in Corinth, especially those with pagan backgrounds, had incorporated inappropriate pagan worship practices into Christian worship. (Witherington 1995:274; cf. Keener 1992:78; Kroeger 1978)

Since the sixth century BC, Greece was famous for the oracle at Delphi. In the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, a prophetess called the Pythia[14] would respond to questions asked from inquirers.[15] In ancient times, people travelled great distances to ask the Pythia questions.[16] With this in mind, Ben Witherington (1995:287) suggests the following context for 14:34-35.

It is very believable that these women [in the Corinthian church] assumed that Christian prophets or prophetesses functioned much like the oracle at Delphi, who only prophesied in response to questions, including questions about purely personal matters. Paul argues that Christian prophecy is different: Prophets and prophetesses speak in response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, without any human priming of the pump. Paul then limits such questions to another location, namely home.

If Witherington’s suggestion is correct, the women were mistaking the true function of prophets and were hampering the ministry of Christian prophecy by asking questions about personal, and possibly domestic and mundane, concerns that would not have been edifying for others.[17] If Paul is silencing the women from asking personal questions of the prophets then, again, 14:34-35 cannot be used to silence gifted women with a valid speaking ministry.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is a Quotation

Most of the scholars mentioned so far have tried to determine the meaning of 14:34-35 by exploring the broader social context of the first-century Corinthian church, but others have focussed solely on the text of 14:34-35 in trying to determine how to interpret and apply these verses.

First Corinthians was written in response to a verbal report from Chloe’s people (1 Cor. 1:11) and in response to a letter Paul had received from the Corinthians asking his advice (1 Cor. 7:1).[18] At times it is evident in his letter that Paul is quoting from the Corinthian’s letter as he deals with its contents. Some of these quotations include, “It is not good for a man to touch a woman” (1 Cor. 7:1), “We all possess knowledge” (1 Cor. 8:1), “There is no resurrection” and “Christ has not been raised” (1 Cor. 15:12, 14). Some scholars believe 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 may also be a quotation. This would account for the way it does not seem to fit with what Paul is saying in the surrounding verses.

1 Corinthians 1:10ff tells us that there were competing factions in the Corinthian church (cf. 1 Cor. 11:18-19). It is possible one of these factions was trying to silence women in church meetings. This would have been a real concern for women like Chloe. Perhaps Paul quotes the faction’s injunction for women to be silent in 14:34-35, but then reprimands the faction, which includes men, with, “What!” Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only ones it has reached?” (cf. 1 Cor. 14:36 KJV and 1 Cor. 14:36 NRSV).[19] The Greek adjective monous, which occurs in verse 36 and is translated as “only ones” in the NRSV, is grammatically masculine. According to Greek grammar, this adjective cannot refer only to women. The masculine gender of “only ones” in verse 36 does not seem to follow logically after 14:34-35 and its instructions to women unless verse 36 is a reprimand to a group of men that wants to silence women.

The view that 14:34-35 is Paul quoting the Corinthians is one of the few that offers a plausible explanation for the change of tone which verses 34-35 bring into the text, as well as the subsequent change of topic, tone, and gender in verse 36. If this explanation is the correct one, then Paul is not silencing women in 14:34-35. Rather, Paul quotes and then rebukes the people who are trying to silence the women.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is an Interpolation

As noted, verses 34-35 sit uncomfortably within 1 Corinthians 14, both grammatically and hermeneutically. In fact, if you skip over verses 33b-35, and go straight from verse 33a to verse 36, the passage flows and makes good sense. Furthermore, because of the existence of textual variations involving verses 34-35 in several early manuscripts of 1 Corinthians, some scholars, notably Gordon D. Fee and Philip B. Payne, suggest verses 34-35 may have been inserted into the text of Paul’s letter by an unknown scribe at a very early date.[20]

In several early (mostly Western) texts of 1 Corinthians 14, verses 34-35 are located after verse 40. Metzger (1994:499) offers an explanation for the different location of these verses: “Such scribal alterations represent attempts to find a more appropriate location in the context for Paul’s directive concerning women.”

The sixth-century Codex Fuldensis is especially ambiguous in its treatment of verses 34-35.

The Latin text of 1 Corinthians 14 runs onward throughout the chapter to ver. 40. [But] following ver. 33 is a scribal siglum that directs the reader to a note standing in the margin of the page. This note provides the text of verses 36 through 40. [But omits verses 34-35.] Does the scribe, without actually deleting verses 34-35 from the [main] text, intend the liturgist to omit them when reading the lesson? (Metzger 1994:499) [My square brackets add for clarity.]

These textual variations, plus others,[21] suggest verses 34-35 may not be original. If 14:34-35 is a non-Pauline interpolation, then the scriptural authority of this verse is dubious and its use to silence women is questionable.

“Women are to subject themselves, just as ‘the law’ also says.”

Apart from the uncertainty as to what sort of speech is being prohibited, another significant problem with understanding the intent of 14:34-35 is knowing what is meant by “the law” (ho nomos) mentioned in verse 34. Nowhere in the Hebrew Bible, often referred to in the New Testament as “the Law” (ho nomos), does it command or instruct women to be silent or to be in submission. Yet Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and many other theologians took nomos in 14:34-35 to refer to the Old Testament and, specifically, to Genesis 3:16. (Krizo 2009:33)

Grudem, however, is careful to distance himself from linking the complementarian concept of male authority with Genesis 3:16 and the Fall. Grudem claims that “the Law” probably refers to the Old Testament in general and Genesis 2 in particular “where Adam is the ‘firstborn.’” (Grudem 1988:223) Hierarchical complementarians use the created order of Adam first, Eve second, to support their view that God has ordained men to have authority over women. [I have written about “the Created Order” here.]

Other theologians suggest Paul is referring to a Rabbinic Law. Still others suggest Paul is referring to a Roman Law. There were many Roman laws that governed various religious observances in the Roman world. Richard and Catherine Kroeger (1978:9) believe Paul is referring to laws passed by the Roman Senate that were designed to curb women from engaging in wild, orgiastic Bacchanal worship. The Kroegers believe the Christian women in Corinth may have imitated Bacchanalian worship styles in church meetings, and so Paul instructs them in 14:34-35 to be silent, control themselves, and stop acting disgracefully.[21] However, Grudem (1988:223) notes, “in the 119 occurrences of the word ‘law’ (nomos) in Paul’s letters it never unambiguously refers to either Rabbinic law or Roman Law.” Cynthia Long Westfall (2016:237, fn85), on the other hand, states that nomos is used here with “its most common meaning ‘rule, principle, norm.'” According to this understanding, talkative women were to be quiet and behave according to the cultural norms of the day.

As already noted, the Hebrew Bible contains no instructions, or even encouragements, for women to be silent or submissive.[23] Jim Reiher (2006:83), who takes 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 as a quotation from the Corinthians suggests that since the Greek Christians in Corinth would not have known the Jewish law as well as the Jewish Christians, it is possible the Corinthians may have simply been mistaken on this issue of “the Law.” Or perhaps the people who were trying to silence women in the Corinthian church mentioned “the Law” speciously to support their view.

The ambiguous reference to “the law” is a hindrance to understanding the real meaning of 14:34-35. The verb “be subject” (or “be submissive”) is less ambiguous.[24] Nevertheless, some people assume the submission called for in verse 34 is the submission of wives to husbands. Some apply it even more widely and believe Paul was directing women, as a group, to be submissive to men, not just to husbands. Importantly, however, the same verb is also used two verses earlier, in verse 32, where it says, “The spirits of prophets are subject to the prophets.” The Kroegers (1978), and others, believe Paul is using the word “subject” to mean “control,” and that Paul is instructing the prophets to control their spiritual gift of prophecy and not get carried away like some pagan prophets. The NIV conveys this meaning in its translation of verse 32: “The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of the prophets.” (My italics.) Similarly, the use of the word “subject/submit” in verse 34 may be an injunction to the women to exercise control, restraint, in the manner in which they speak and not get carried away.

Chloe of Corinth

One woman who may have ministered in the church at Corinth was Chloe. In the opening chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul writes that he had received a report from some people who had come from Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11).[25] These people somehow belonged to Chloe. They were most likely members of her household and may also have been members of a church that met in her home.[26]

Chloe may have sent these people to Paul. Sending a delegation is clearly something only a person functioning as a leader can do. Considering the purpose of the delegation, and assuming Chloe is a Jesus’ follower, it seems she was a church leader.[27] Perhaps Chloe’s people did not just bring a verbal report to Paul about the problems in the Corinthian church, perhaps they had also brought the letter that Paul responds to in 1 Corinthians.[28] Could Chloe, as a concerned church leader in Corinth, have written this letter?

In New Testament times, most Christian congregations met in homes, and some house churches were hosted, cared for, and led by women. Nympha was the host of a house church (Col. 4:15), and so was Priscilla, with her husband Aquila (1 Cor. 16:19).[29] Phoebe was a minister (diakonos) in the church at Cenchrea, a port of Corinth (Rom. 16:1 NIV). As patron (prostatis), she may have hosted meetings in her home (Rom. 16:2). It is highly unlikely Paul restricted prominent Christian women from speaking in their own homes, especially as the New Testament provides ample evidence that he valued the ministry of his female colleagues and encouraged participation in ministry as long as it was done in an orderly and edifying manner (1 Cor. 14:26; Col. 3:16).

Conclusion

The summaries presented in this article are a sample of some of the better-known interpretations of 14:34-35. Still more interpretations have been proposed by respected scholars. Because of this variety of interpretations, it is difficult to know precisely how to understand these verses and apply them in the context of contemporary church life. One thing is certain, however, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 cannot be used to completely silence women from speaking in church meetings, as Paul condoned the verbal ministries of prayer and prophecy from Corinthian women (1 Cor. 11:5).

Taking into account that Paul did not silence women who prophesy, it is difficult to see how 14:34-35 can be used to exclude women from other equally influential and authoritative speaking ministries in the church.[30] The meaning, intent, and even the authorship, of 14:34-35 is uncertain. Because of this uncertainty, we need to be wary about using and applying these verses definitively.

Footnotes

The bibliography for this article is here.

[1] The Greek word gunē can mean “woman” or “wife.” The precise meaning is usually determined by context.

[2] Some believe the passage being discussed in this essay should begin half-way through verse 33. However, “. . . to begin a new paragraph at 33b would produce an awkward redundancy: ‘As in all the churches of the saints, let the women be silent in the churches’ . . .”  Moreover, “‘Let the women . . .’ is a typical Pauline start to a new paragraph (see Eph. 5:22 and Col. 3:18). ” (Belleville 2001:117)

[3] For example, “It is not permitted to a woman to speak in the church; neither (is it permitted for her) to teach, nor to baptize, nor to offer, nor to claim to herself a lot in any manly function, not to speak (in any) sacerdotal office.” Tertullian, On the Veiling of Virgins, Chapter 9.

[4] For example, “Speech may be employed in two ways: in one way privately, to one or a few, in familiar conversation, and in this respect the grace of the word may be becoming to women. In another way, publicly, addressing oneself to the whole church, and this is not permitted to women.” Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, Question 177, Article 2.

[5] The Greek word used for “keep silent” in 1 Corinthians 14:28, 30 & 34 is the verb sigaō. The NASB and NRSV have translated sigaō consistently as “keep silent” and “be silent” respectively in 1 Corinthians 14. The NIV 2011 has been inconsistent in its translation of sigaō with the result that it is not clear that Paul asks for silence from three different groups of people in the Corinthians church and not just disruptive women.

[6] The Greek word exousia, usually translated as “authority” in 1 Corinthians 11:10, is a common word in the New Testament and can mean authority, right, freedom, licence, etc. According to Paul, women have the freedom, or the right, to pray and prophecy aloud in church meetings with their own authority (exousia) upon their own heads (1 Cor. 11:10 NIV).

[7] While Chrysostom believed 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 was intended to silence idle chatter, he maintained that these verses are also prohibited women from speaking about spiritual things. However, Chrysostom also acknowledged that some women in the New Testament were ministers and even church leaders. (I’ve written about Chrysostom’s praises of Priscilla, Phoebe, Euodia, Syntyche, Junia, and Mary of Rome here.)

[8] Contra the explanation that 14:34-35 was designed to silence chatter from disorderly women, and similar views, Stephen B. Clark (1980) states, “All these views miss an important point: Paul instructs the women to be silent because they are women, not because they are disorderly.”

[9] In Economics 7.5, the author Xenophon uses the genre of Socratic dialogue and has a man named Isomachus briefly describe the upbringing of his 14-year-old bride: “she previously lived under many restrictions (literally: “attentions”), so that she might see as little, hear as little, and ask as few questions as possible.” (My translation from the Greek.) Learning beyond the domestic skills of spinning and weaving, and asking probing or intelligent questions, was not part of this young woman’s experience. There may have been many wives in Corinth who had a similar upbringing, and so when they did want to learn and ask questions they did it in a clumsy and disorderly manner that brought disgrace.

[10] The Greek word agnoeō can mean “to be ignorant, not to understand; sin through ignorance.” (Perchbacher 1990:4)

[11] In accordance with his complementarian ideology, Grudem (1988:224) believes that in 14:34-35 “Paul is arguing from a larger conviction about an abiding distinction between the roles appropriate to males and those appropriate females in the Christian Church.” To assist churches (which hold complementarian views) work out what ministries are “inappropriate” for women, Grudem (1995) has painstakingly listed 83 church ministries in, what he considers to be, decreasing order of spiritual authority. (These 83 ministries are categorised in three lists.) The idea is that a line is drawn somewhere in the lists and that women are excluded from the ministries higher up in the lists. Where exactly the line is to be drawn is arbitrary. (My article entitled Wayne Grudem on What Women Should Do in Church looks at these lists, here.)

[12] Hierarchical complementarians believe God has ordained only men to be leaders and have spiritual authority, and conversely, that all women have been designed to be submissive and responsive to male-only leadership and authority. They prohibit women from leading and teaching groups that include men. It is beyond the scope of this essay to discuss the validity or veracity of complementarian beliefs. Other complementarians, including D.A. Carson, hold to similar interpretations of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 as Grudem.

[13] According to the Megillah (one of the tractates of the Talmud), seven prophetesses prophesied to Israel: SarahMiriamDeborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther. (See Megillah 14a and 14b.) Anna and Philip’s four daughters are acknowledged as respected prophetesses in the New Testament. (My article on every prophetess in the Bible is here.)

[14] In Acts 16:16, the fortune-telling slave girl in Philippi is referred to, in the Greek, as having a “pythian spirit” (pneuma pythōna).

[15] It is widely believed that the female Pythia sat on a three-legged stool that was positioned over noxious vapours which escaped through a fissure in the earth. The noxious vapours caused the Pythia to become delirious and speak gibberish. The gibberish was then interpreted by a male priest-prophet. Ben Witherington, however, relies on the scholarship of Joseph Fontenrose (1978:197) who claims “the Pythia experienced no frenzy that caused her to shout wild and unintelligible words; she spoke quite clearly and directly to the consultant without the need of the prophet’s mediation.”

[16] By New Testament times, interest in the Delphic Oracle was declining.

[17] Legendary sources and ancient papyri provide information about what sort of questions were posed to the oracle. These included questions about domestic concerns such as marriage, childbearing, separation, and the death of a spouse. (Witherington 1995:279)

[18] First Corinthians may be a compilation of several letters that Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians. L. L. Welborn proposes that there are three letters contained in First Corinthians. Letter A (1 Cor. 10:1-22; 6:12-20; 10:23-11:34) covers issues related to associating with immoral and idolatrous people. Letter B (1 Cor. 7-9, 12-16) was written in response to a letter from the Corinthians. Welborn refers to Letter C (1 Cor. 1:1-6:11) as “Counsel of Concord”. L.L. Welborn, “The Corinthian Correspondence” (forthcoming).

[19] 1 Corinthians 14:36 begins with the tiny Greek word η which is the Greek letter eta. This one-letter word occurs twice in 1 Corinthians 14:36. The KJV translates the first η as “what” but the second η as “or.” Most English versions have “or” twice. A few leave the first η untranslated (e.g., NASB, NET). Different translations of 1 Corinthians 14:36 can be compared here.

[20] Interpolations are later additions inserted into the Scriptures by unknown authors. Grudem seems disingenuous when he criticises those who dismiss some Bible verses as interpolations. Interpolations are not rare in the New Testament. Several interpolations, such as the Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7-8) and the ending(s) of Mark’s Gospel (Mark 16:9-20), are widely acknowledged as such. Verses 34-35 may have started out as someone’s margin notes in a very early text, which a copyist then later incorporated into the body of Paul’s letter when making new copies of 1 Corinthians.

[21] Some manuscripts include humōn (“your”) after the Greek word for women/wives. This is probably a scribal addition as many older texts do not have humōn. See endnote 24 for other textual variations.

[22] Ancient Corinth was a centre for the worship of Bacchus, also known as Dionysus.

[23] Nomos (the Law): Jesus ben Sirach, whose book is included in the Septuagint (the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament), wrote, “a silent wife is a gift from the Lord” (Sirach 26:14). Is this where the idea of womanly silence and submission and “the law” came from? Sirach’s work is not part of the Hebrew Bible and is not included in Protestant Bibles.

In Against Appion 2.25 §201, Josephus, a Jewish author, comments on what the law says about marriage and then makes the comment, “Scripture says, ‘A woman is inferior to her husband in all things.'” But there is no scripture in the Bible that says anything like this. Josephus was an educated Jewish man who knew the scriptures well but he was mistaken on this. Likewise, if 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is a quotation from the Corinthians, they were mistaken about a biblical law that says wives should be submissive.

Xenophon, a secular author writing at the end of the classical period, uses the word nomos (“law, custom”) three times in the context of marriage, but (frustratingly) does not convey what the law or custom actually was. It seems to involve both partnership and indoors-outdoors division of labour.

“… we must endeavour, each of us, to do the duties allotted to us as well as possible.  The law, moreover, approves of them, for it joins together man and woman. And as God has made them partners in their children, so the law appoints them partners in the home. And besides, the law declares those tasks to be honourable for each of them wherein God has made the one to excel the other. Thus, to be woman it is more honourable to stay indoors than to abide in the fields, but to the man it is unseemly rather to stay indoors than to attend to the work outside.” Xenophon Economics 7.29-30.

[24] The Textus Receptus has the present middle-passive infinitive form of hupotassō, in 1 Corinthians 14:34. Other, more reliable, texts use the present middle-passive imperative verb (3rd person plural). Hupotassō has a broader range of meanings other than just “submit” and “subordinate.” (All my articles on submission are here.)

[25] The NIV 2011 translates 1 Corinthians 1:11 as: “My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.” The word “household” has been added; it is not in the Greek text. Another possible translation might be: “… some [people] from Chloe have informed me …” (I’ve written more on Chloe here.)

[26] Lydia (Acts 16:15, 40) and Mary the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12) appear to have been in charge of their own households and used their homes to host church meetings.

[27] Chloe was obviously known to the Corinthian church; otherwise, Paul would not have mentioned her by name in his letter to them. Catherine Clark Kroeger (2002:646) writes, “‘Chloe’s people’ probably indicates a worshipping community with a female leader.” [More on Chloe here.]

[28] About one-quarter of 1 Corinthians deals with information Paul received through Chloe’s report. (Wilson 1991:172)

[29] Other New Testament women who were possibly house church leaders include Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3) and the Chosen Lady (2 John 1, 5). Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9), Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2), Junia (Rom 16:7), and some of the other women mentioned in Romans 16 were possibly church leaders also. (I have written more about New Testament Women Church Leaders here.)

[30] 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is also used by some churches to prohibit women from ministries that include speaking, teaching and leading. (I have written about 1 Timothy 2:12 here.)

© 8th of July 2011, revised 11th of January 2012, Margaret Mowczko

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Related Articles

All my articles on 1 Timothy 2:12 are here.
1 Timothy 2:12 in Context
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in a Nutshell
The Chiasm in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
Partnering Together: Paul’s Female Coworkers
New Testament Women Church Leaders
Who was Chloe of Corinth?
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority

artigos em portugues sobre igualdade entre homens e mulheres no lar e na igreja

68 thoughts on “Interpretations and Applications of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35

  1. Love your articles 🙂
    One arguement I hear a lot is that 1 Corinthians 11 is not talking about the context of church meetings. Seems strange to me, but do you have any thoughts or responses to that?

  2. Thanks Paige. 🙂

    1 Corinthians 11 is about appropriate behaviour during worship in church meetings. 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, in particular, is about the appearance of men and women who pray and prophecy in church meetings. I have several articles on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 here: https://margmowczko.com/category/equality-and-gender-issues/1-corinthians-11-2-16/

    Here are some other useful links: http://www.pbpayne.com/?p=386 which is about whether 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 refers to church meetings, and http://www.pbpayne.com/?p=450 which is about hairstyles.

    1. The most valuable insight from Marg’s article was that Saint John Chrysostom didn’t use the passage to restrict women from preaching but associated primarily with chatterbox women who were disrupting the church immediately.
      The quotation theory would fix our problem but it just doesn’t work. All of Paul’s other quotes in 1 Corinthians are much shorter in first Corinthians usually only five or six English words. Moreover, if a subgroup had unfairly made up slogan it would not have begun with an easily disproving false claim “As in all the churches…”. That is to say whoever is speaking in the passage assumes that everyone knows a certain practice is common in all the churches. Furthermore, Paul would never rebuke the Corinthians so harshly without expressly telling them what to do instead during the liturgy.

      1. I have some responses to your arguments.
        1: Just because Paul’s other quotation’s are short doesn’t mean he must always keep them short. There is no law of nature or spirit that says a writer must use only long or short quotations.
        2: long distance communication in the roman era was incredibly difficult, expensive, and dangerous. Saying”well all the other churches do it this way” would be very difficult to prove, as it would require a journey of at least a few days, bare minimum. Additionally, I would think that the events of the past few years (Trumpisim, Flat earthers, anti-maskers, etc ) have proved that even in the face of overwhelming evidence, some people prefer to believe in thier own delusions – especially if they are familiar or beneficial.
        3: paul absolutely tells the church what to do in the following passage, 1 COR 14: 39:
        “Therefore, brothers and sisters, be eagar to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”
        Not only that, but in verses 36 to 38 paul is directly reprimanding the subject of the segment. It makes no sense for that subject to be women speaking in church in any way, as earlier on in the letter (as outlined in this article) he talks as if women speaking in church is an ordinary Christian practice. Why on earth would Paul suddenly contradict himself so spectacularly?

        I pray that the lord will send down a spirit of truth, that the correct answer may be revealed and we can all accept it for what it is with humility. Much love from a brother in Christ.

  3. Very thorough job with the truth, thank you!

    1. I love your first paragraph. It breaks this down well. Thank you for sharing.

  4. I read 1 Cor 14:34-35 as a quote from Corinth that is repudiated in v.36. In this case, the “law says” is a clue that law refers to the so-called Oral Torah of the Pharisees. The reason is the Torah is written and therefore read.

  5. Hello. I must commend you for all the time and work that you’ve put into studying these things to help clear up the misunderstandings about these and similar scriptures. Great work!! I think Genesis 3:16 is a ridiculous-sounding scripture. I know that God loves His daughters so it cannot mean what is initially interpreted by most, but I don’t think I fully understand it either…..got any thoughts on that? Thanks…..

  6. I don’t think I fully understand Genesis 3:16 either.

    Here are a few of my thoughts which I’ve previously jotted down on my Every Old Testament Woman facebook page, plus some others. I think I will rework this into an upcoming post.

    Genesis 3:16a And [God] said to the woman, “I will greatly multiply your sorrows/pains and your sighs/groans . . .” (Translation from the LXX (Greek Old Testament) of Gen 3:17a. The numbering of verses in the LXX is slightly different.)

    The BDAG lexicon defines sorrow (lupē) as “pain of mind or spirit”; and distress (stenagmos) as “an involuntary expression of great concern or stress”.
    In the Septuagint (LXX) this first phrase of Genesis 3:16, and the phrase of “sorrows” and “sighs”, is not necessarily linked to giving birth.

    Eve’s first son was a murderer; her second son was murdered. Her ‘sorrows’ and ‘sighs’ were indeed multiplied (Gen 4:8 cf Gen.3:16a). However, almost all interpreters and commentators believe Gen 3:16a refers to pain and effort in labour rather than just sorrow over one’s children.

    The next phrase clearly refers to childbirth: “in pains (from lupē) you will give birth to children”. (Genesis 3:16b) Painful labour may be just one cause of a woman’s sorrows and sighs. The Bible typically refers to childbirth as a difficult, painful and precarious experience.

    I didn’t have any pain in my first labour, and both labours – I have two sons – were shortish (6 1/2 and 4 hours) with no ill effects at all. Most women who have had good labours, like me, don’t talk about it because of some women’s horror stories. All I want to say is that not all women have painful, arduous labours.

    Genesis 3:16c “Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule you.”

    I suggest that this means that most women still want (desire) to marry, despite the loss of harmony, affinity and equality between the sexes, despite the fact that a consequence of the Fall is that men will rule their wives. Most of the world’s cultures have been steeped in patriarchy (male-rule) for millennia. Thankfully patriarchy is losing its power and being replaced by equality in a few societies today.

    Apostrophē used in Gen 3:16c in the LXX may also be translated as “a turning away from”. “There will be a turning away of you towards (pros) your husband.” Perhaps this means that Eve will turn towards her husband (and away from God?) but be ruled by him. Heartbreaking! Pros may mean “with” (friendly) or “against” (hostile) here (like it does in the four occurrences of this word Ephesians 6:12.) So it’s difficult to know exactly how to interpret this “turning away” in Genesis 3:16.

    Apostrophē is used in Acts 3:26; Romans 11:26; 2 Tim 4:4 where it simply means “a turning away from”. (See also Matt 5:42; 26:25; Luke 23:14; 2 Tim 1:15; Tit 1:14; Heb 12:25.)

    In Genesis 3:16a God does say “I will multiply . . .” (I must admit I have trouble taking this at face value.) It is not clear, however, whether the things in parts b and c of Genesis 3:16 are directly caused by God, or whether God’s statements reveal some consequences of sin.

    Also, in Genesis 3:16 God is speaking to one woman. All the grammar, the ‘you’ and ‘your’ and the verbs, is singular. There are no less than five occurrences of “sou” (singular “you/r”) in Gen 3:16! While this verse is prophetically applied to every woman who ever lived, it is important to note that the punishment for Eve’s sin is given to Eve only. God does not add a clause that says that this punishment applies to all women. Yet we see that women do suffer with sorrows and sighs in painful childbirth and because of men who rule them.

    However, Jesus came to deal with sin and the consequences of the Fall. We can turn back to God and be reconciled with him (Acts 3:26). We can be Jesus’ agents and alleviate some of the Fall’s consequences by promoting peace, harmony and equality between the sexes, and pain relief in childbirth.

  7. It is quite clear that this verse intends for women not to speak in church. Obviously women would like to creep at the edges of the bible to weasel their way into the heirachy, and this is exactly why He has told us that they are unfit for the purpose.

    1. Women are given roles in leadership and praised for their ministry of the Gospel in many other places in Scripture. Attempting to reconcile this passage with the rest of Scripter is not “creeping at the edges of the Bible” it is loving and attempting to understand the whole of Scripture in context. The only hierarchy in Scripture was established by sinful men that Jesus later turned upside down in his gracious and respectful treatment of women, something many men today would do good to imitate.

  8. Hi Dave,

    The intent and meaning of 1 Cor. 14:34-35 may seem clear to you, but Craig Keener, Ben Witherington, Gordon D. Fee, Philip Payne, Bruce Metzger, Richard Kroeger, Jim Reiher – men I have quoted in this article – would disagree with your interpretation. I do not regard these men as creeping at the edges of the Bible; the opposite is the case.

    These verses do not have anything to do with a hierarchy. Moreover, elsewhere in the New Testament, women, as well as men, are encouraged to minister and speak in meetings. (The house church setting of the early church is very different from the setting of most churches today.)

    It’s sad that you paint women in a negative light and with a broad brush. Thankfully the Scriptures say wonderful things about women.
    https://margmowczko.com/equality-and-gender-issues/portrayal-of-women-and-biblical-inspiration/

  9. Thanks for the article, Marg. I really appreciate how carefully you have done your research and how clearly you have presented your information. If you haven’t done so already, I think you should earn your Ph.D. and teach at a college or seminary.

    Dan

    1. Hi Dan, PhDs take a lot of work, and a lot of sitting still. I am unable to sit still for a long time without getting unwell. This effectively rules out a PhD for me. But I appreciate your lovely complement.

  10. Thank you for the publication!
    It was the first article I found that gave me courage!
    I have seen many women, because of 1 Corinthians 14 : 34-36, burying their talents and living a sad life due to a wrong understanding.
    Thanks for contributing !
    Continue this work.
    Sorry for my bad English language.
    God bless you!

    1. Indeed Carolina, Marg does some great work! Kudos Marg! Keep up the great work! Carolina, if you do some research you would see that people are slowly beginning to come to the understanding that none of these conveniently misinterpreted lies about women were ever true. These myths exist only within the corrupted minds of those who choose to believe lies instead of truth.

      I too, have seen many women just passively sitting back and accepting “2nd place” or settling for “2nd best” and using it as justification for being obedient to God’s will. (This is what the men wanted. This is not what God wanted.) Those people don’t understand, if that was God’s will for women, it was His will for men also since people, (but not God) are a respecter of gender.

      I think any woman who has a deep personal relationship with God Himself in her own spiritual life would look to God Himself for answers about these things and not priests or even the Pope (with all due respect.) They would understand that just because these men are human, means that they are subject to being incorrect about many things and that means the one and only place 100% truth can be found is in God Himself. But they are such respecters of position, and many of them prefer to look to their pastors and priests instead of God Himself for answers and end up falling for nonsense because there are still many priests and pastors who are still wrong about this area. If they go to God Himself, they would be given truthful revelations and shown how much of what they were misled into believing was never true in the first place. I can testify, people are the ones who wanted women to bury their talents and just settle for less than best, God never wanted that! And they think that is what God wanted because that is the way they see it, but God does not see things the way a human man does, that’s why He said “My ways above yours, My words above yours, My thoughts above yours.”

      1. Rie Monique, It is tragic that many men and women expect Christian women to bury their talents because of a faulty understanding of God’s will and Gods’ ways.

        I believe that they do not have a true appreciation of the magnitude of what it means to be “in Christ”.

    2. I’m am so grateful when I hear comments like yours, Caroline. God wants his daughters empowered and not discouraged. Bless you!

  11. This is really intriguing stuff, thank you all for challenging my thinking. Obviously we all want to pursue, know and meditate on Gods word and follow his ways as in psalm 119 so It’s good to see the zeal in trying to understand this passage. I will throw in my 2 cents and say Grudem’s position is the most accurate, what isn’t mentioned in the article and that he states in his systematic theology book which is a great read btw, is that
    “While Paul allows women to speak and give prophesies in the church meeting, he does not allow them to speak up and give evaluations or critiques of the prophesies that have been given, for this would be a ruling or governing function with respect to the whole church. This understanding of the passage depends on our view of the gift of prophesy in the New testament age, namely, that prophesy involves not authoritative bible teaching, and not speaking words of God which are equal to Scripture, but rather reporting something which God spontaneously brings to mind. In this way, Paul’s teachings are quite consistent in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2: in both cases he is concerned to preserve male leadership in the teaching and governing of the church.” (Chapter 47, page 939).
    I would say that verse 36 (1 Cor 14:36) is directed at Women meaning if women are the only Christians in the area, aka all the men do not fear God, a woman should definitely pastor a church. As we see with Deborah and Abigail in the old testament, both of whom had husbands who didn’t know God… and notice how they despised their husbands for having to take their roles. 1 Sam 25:25. But in the case where Godly men are around a man should always pastor and be an elder at a church as per Jesus who told a divorced samaritan prostitute in the middle of the day that he was God, the clearest point in the whole bible in which he does so, not caring about social customs when a moral principle is at stake, (John 4:26) chooses 12 male disciples (as opposed to 6 of each) to lead his church telling them that they will sit on the 12 thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Therefore, Gods design in eternity as well as presently is for male leadership in the highest governing roles of the church. So basically for a women there are thousands of incredible ministries for you, but (ideally) not church leadership as men and women both have their strengths and weaknesses and God has designed men to fill this role. Why? Only God knows fully but we can trust him.

    1. Hi Patrick,

      Deborah and Lappidoth

      Wondering where the scriptures indicate that Lappidoth didn’t know God, or that Deborah despised him. This sounds like pure conjecture. Furthermore, some commentaries suggest “woman of Lappidoth” in Judges 4:4 means that Deborah was from a town called Lappidoth. Others suggest that “woman of lappidoth” should be understood as “woman of splendors“. Lappidoth is the feminine plural of lappid which is usually translated as “torches” elsewhere in Judges and the OT (e.g. Judg. 7:16, 20; 15:4-5). Lappid can also refer to lightning flashes. More on Deborah here and here.

      Abigail and Nabal

      Abigail went against her foolish husband’s wishes and was commended for it. She also prophesied to David, and he accepted her words. Nowhere does it say that she despised her husband because she had to take his “role.” This idea is entirely absent in the biblical text. If Abigail did despise her husband it was because he was a brutish headstrong fool, as the text and his name Nabal indicates (1 Sam. 25:3, 25). More on Abigail here.

      The Samaritan Woman

      To say that the Samaritan woman was a “divorced prostitute” is a stretch. Like your other ideas, it has no basis whatsoever in the biblical text. Lynn Cohick (professor of New Testament at Wheaton College) discusses her marital situation here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/october/was-samaritan-woman-really-adulteress.html

      Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman, which is rich in theology, is the longest conversation recorded in the New Testament. (Interestingly, Abigail’s words to David constitute the longest speech of a woman recorded in the Old Testament, and her words have become Holy Writ.) More on Jesus and the Samaritan Woman here.

      I disagree with most of your other ideas. For example, your statement here seems impractical: “if women are the only Christians in the area, aka all the men do not fear God, a woman should definitely pastor a church.” So what happens when a few men are converted? Does a newly converted man become the pastor even though the woman is much more experienced and capable? I sure hope not.

      I also disagree with Grudem’s interpretation of 1 Cor. 14:34ff as I’ve discussed in my article.

  12. Thanks for this post, Marg. I’m ticking the box to get follow up comments.

  13. “Perhaps Paul quotes the faction’s injunction for silence from women in 14:34-35, and then he reprimands the faction (which includes men) with, “Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only ones [masculine gender] it has reached?” (1 Cor 14:36, NRSV, my italics and square brackets). The masculine gender in verse 36 does not follow logically after 14:34-35 and its instructions to women. ”
    I’m a little confused about the “masculine gender” part in verse 36. How do we know he was talking to the masculine gender?
    I’m all for women teaching but if I were to look at this (on the surface, maybe I missed something) from a “women can’t teach” viewpoint I might say that Paul was talking to the women who were not suppose to be teaching.

    1. Hi Anna,

      The Greek adjective monous, which occurs in verse 36 and means “only” or “alone”, is grammatically masculine. (It is an accusative masculine plural adjective.) According to Greek grammar this adjective cannot refer only to women. I’ll edit my sentence in the article to make it clearer that I’m referring to Greek grammar.

      There is nothing in this passage which hints that Paul is silencing women from teaching. I believe he was silencing nuisance questions from ignorant women, who are then told to ask their husbands if they want to learn anything. The context of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is about women learning, not women teaching.

      1. Thank you, this is very helpful.

  14. Good work especially Marg and John
    God richly bless you

  15. God is shaking his head at Paul. What were you thinking!

    1. I think Paul is weeping at how he’s been misunderstood. We can presume that at least the Corinthians understood his letter.

  16. Thanks a lot for this! It was extremely useful, I love how in-depth you go in these sorts of discussions.

    1. Glad it was useful, Will.

  17. Great article – this verse came up with a vising speaker who suggested it was a scribal note and should be removed altogether! I found your article researching it afterwards to try and restore biblical authority!! I believe the quotation/refutation approach is the most sound and has the least supposition – here’s a great breakdown if you haven’t seen it yet: https://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/priscilla-papers/1-corinthians-1433b-38-pauline-quotation-refutation-device

    1. Thanks, Roly. I have seen it. But I’m glad you’ve put the link here so others may find the article.

      I like this statement from the author Kirk MacGregor: “Payne’s defense of the interpolation hypothesis is, in the end, based on speculation—albeit carefully considered speculation. We have seen that the evidence for the existence of hypothetical manuscripts lacking 1 Cor 14:34–35 is weak. Moreover, Payne’s date for the proposed interpolation strains credulity.”

  18. Thank-you, whoever wrote these books. For breaking my heart over and over and over again.
    I was a Muslim. Until I read about Mohammad’s life, and the way he treated people around him. Sure, there was good, but there was also a lot of evil, hate, hurt. I couldn’t possibly be a muslim and pretend to find reverence in someone I couldn’t believe in.
    And now, after reading about the way the Church treats women, the way it talks about God’s “wrath”, the way everyone here tries to desperately hang on to their faith, trying to justify the things that can’t be justified, trying to find ways around verses in the Bible, just as muslims tried to find ways around verses in the Quran, all that talk of hatred, violence, belittling women, the torment of hell, all of it, it’s so, so horrible.
    I’ve lost all my faith in “religion”. i really tried to understand it, but i can’t grasp at straws like the rest of you here. Or become those that really do take the messages in the Bible and Qu’ran to heart, and justify their hatred, because well, its says right there. Hate, hate, hate. And then love. And then hate again. Why all the contradictions? Whats wrong with just love?

    The only person ever, that I’ve found complete peace, respect, and rest in is Jesus. I don’t know if he was the son of God, I don’t know anything really. But I believe in his goodness, because he was about the only figure that portrayed true love, human compassion, kindness. I adore you Jesus. And I’m so, so, so sorry that I can’t believe in what it says in the Qu’ran and the Bible. I can’t believe in a god that lets others suffer in eternal torment, I can’t believe in religions that so obviously hurt women and cast aside people who disbelieve. I can’t do it. But I do believe in you, so please I beg you, help me and guide me. Please give me peace. Please love and soothe, and give peace to those I love, and all those suffering, whether they turn to you or not, help them Jesus, help them God. Please be true, true love.

    Amen.

    1. Hi Zain,

      For what it’s worth, myself and many other scholars do not believe that Bible teaches eternal torment. The repeated message of the New Testament is that life and death are the two destinies of humanity (e.g., John 3:16; Rom. 6:23). I’ve written about this here: https://margmowczko.com/paul-james-jesus-hell-gehenna/
      And here: https://margmowczko.com/eternal-torment-or-death/

      And even though the church has ignorantly oppressed women, this is not what Jesus or Paul taught or wanted. Both Jesus and Paul loved, valued and respected women. They treated them as intelligent and resourceful human beings. Here is a short article about Paul and women: https://margmowczko.com/paul-and-women-in-a-nutshell/

      1. Hi Dana, while this website is accessible to the public, it is not a public forum where people can say whatever they want. Comments need to be in response to the article, though I do allow a few exceptions.

        Also, it is considered against commenting etiquette to post several links to other websites especially if they’re off-topic. And as soon as someone posts two or more links, comments are automatically flagged as spam.

        There’s more information on commenting etiquette here.

    2. Thank you, Marg, for your compilation of these commentaries, and your personal interpretation.

      Galatians 3: 28 “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
      These words are also a part of the Christian canon, and are attributed to Paul as well. I wonder why we do not quote them more.

      It is wonderful that Zain, coming out of a Muslim background, seems to know Jesus the best of all. Surely the Holy Spirit is still at work, illuminating, correcting and loving those who search. But many of us hold on the the scriptures for dear life, and are too busy to hear Jesus knocking on our door.

  19. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Modern English Version (MEV)
    34 Let your women remain silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak. They are commanded to be under obedience, as the law also says. 35 If they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

    The verse does not say it is a shame for women to speak in church IF x or IF y. It simply states that it is a “shame” for them to speak at all. This forces anyone who is willing to defend this verse to either accept that a) women should not, in fact, be allowed to speak in church, or b) a divinely inspired text fails to adequately qualify the verse. Additionally, I find it difficult to rationalize the idea explicit order that women must rely on their husband’s explanation at home “if they will learn anything.” This hardly seems like a message that an omniscient being would want to put in the sacred text. While the Bible does go on to say “wonderful” things about women in other places, I would tend to view this not as a rationalization for this verse, but a contradiction. For example, Genesis 3:16 states explicitly that men will rule over their wives. Not to mention the calls for the death of non-virgin women (Deuteronomy 22:20-21) and host of other verses that hold similar sentiments. These medieval claims, taken for what they are, are indefensible without strained efforts at rationalization. Of course, one can make the claim “the Scriptures say wonderful things about women.” As I said before though this simply shows a contradiction, not a justification. The Bible is broad enough that one can explain away any potentially problematic verse with a deluge of further verses. This is how Pope Gregory XVI and Pope Pius IV (not to mention a slew of Bishops and anti-abolition politicians such as John C. Calhoun and Alexander Stephens) rationalized slavery with their own seemingly racist bible verses. Certain books of the Bible, appear to be simply written by men whose views were reflective of an imperfect time. Consequently, I am unconvinced that these verses were handcrafted by an infallible being.

    1. Hi Will,

      You’re correct when you say, “The verse does not say it is a shame for women to speak in church IF x or IF y.” But you are not correct when you say, “It simply states that it is a ‘shame’ for them to speak at all.” There are no words in verse 35 that mean “at all.” This is your interpretation (contra 1 Cor. 11:5). However, there is a word that means “if” in verse 35. More on this “if” (and the three groups who Paul silences in 1 Corinthians 14) here: https://margmowczko.com/1-corinthians-1434-35-in-a-nutshell/

      Paul did not silence godly and orderly speech from men or from women.

      Also, it is not uncommon in ancient Greek to refer to a subgroup (e.g., rowdy women in a church gathering) within another group (e.g., women in a church meeting) without including a word that means “some.” For example, there is no Greek word for “some” in Matthew 28:17c. Nevertheless, most English translations include the word “some”: “but some doubted.”

      I was not aware that some people claim the Bible was handcrafted by an infallible being. I am not one of these people. I believe the books of the Bible were inspired by God, but was written down (“handcrafted”) by people.

  20. Thanks for the summary of the many interpretations of these verses! It is very helpful. However, I was wondering if you have any insights on an argument I heard recently. I was looking into other interpretations of these verses and ran across someone who believes “the law” in 1 Corinthians 14: 34 may refer to Numbers 30, as well as the creation order. In Numbers 30, a husband or father can annul a daughter’s or wife’s vow. When I looked more deeply at Numbers 30, I found several people who believe that this passage shows that men have leadership of women, and a daughter and wife are under male authority. Numbers 30:16 was also used to show that this is God’s design. I was wondering if you know of anyone who has written about this passage, or if you have any thoughts about it yourself?

    1. Hi Taylor,

      Neither Numbers 30 or Genesis 2 (the created order) says anything at all about a woman speaking in a meeting, which is Paul’s concern in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. As you’ve stated, Numbers 30 is all about vows. Numbers 30 does not say “women are not permitted to speak” or “women are to subject themselves” as it does in 1 Corinthians 14:34. Numbers 30 doesn’t even say that women should not to make vows. It allows women to make vows.

      Numbers 30:3-16 tells us that a father or husband could annul a vow made by his daughter or wife, but only if he acted quickly. These verses show that men had authority over the women in his household. Other passages of scripture in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) also show that men had more authority than women. The culture of ancient Israel was patriarchal. This shouldn’t surprise us. In Genesis 3:16, God told Eve that her husband would rule her. Male-rule is a consequence of the fall, and many regulations in the Hebrew Bible were concessions to the fallen culture.

      The society of the ancient Israelites was frequently threatened by violence and hardships. (More consequences of the fall). In that setting, personal vows sometimes had to be overturned and personal wishes denied. The greater good was paramount.

      At a time when physical strength was necessary for survival, men had more power and authority, and they might be more aware of events (good or bad) happening outside of the home than his wife whose primary role was to have children and care for them. A man might be in a better position to see that his daughter’s or wife’s vow might be detrimental, perhaps even dangerous, to the woman or to the family as a whole. However, women were usually free to make their own vows (cf. Hannah in 1 Samuel 1:10-11) and even become Nazarites (Numb. 6:2). Widows and divorced women could make vows without any man vetoing it. (More on Numbers 30 here.)

      But back to Corinth and the New Testament:
      Paul tells us a bit about what was problematic with women speaking in Corinthian assemblies. He indicates that the women wanted, literally, “to learn.” I suggest some women were asking too many basic, nuisance questions. So Paul tells them to keep their questions for home where they can ask their more educated husbands (1 Cor. 14:35).

      Paul was addressing a certain type of speech in 1 Cor. 14:34-35. He was not silencing women who were praying or prophesying (1 Cor. 11:5). And he does not exclude women from his teaching in 1 Cor. 12:28 or 1 Cor. 14:26.

      Importantly, Paul does not just tell the Corinthian women to be silent in 1 Corinthians 14. Paul tells two other groups to be silent too. (More on this here.) And none of this has to do with vows or with the created order.

      Perhaps this article may be useful: https://margmowczko.com/gender-roles-gendered-activities-in-the-old-testament/

      I looked up commentaries that mention 1 Corinthians 14:34 and Numbers 30 together and found this gem in The Pulpit Commentary:
      “Christianity emancipated women, but did not place them on an equality with men. As also saith the Law (Genesis 3:16; Numbers 30:3-12).”

      This commentary mentions Christianity, but cites Hebrew scripture rather than the New Testament as support! Hmm. At least the author is honest and openly states he does not believe women are equal with men. In my opinion, this is to be preferred to Christians who insist men and women are equal, but also insist women have a subordinate role. This does not sound honest or logical to me.

      Interestingly, the same author also admits “it is fair to interpret it [1 Cor. 14:34 and even 1 Tim 2:12] as a rule made with special reference to time and circumstances, and obviously admitting of exceptions in both dispensations (Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; Nehemiah 6:14; Luke 2:36; Acts 2:17; Acts 21:9).”
      He admits the Bible shows there are exceptions to the idea that women need to be silent, etc. I disagree with him, however, that female silence is a general rule.

      Many commentaries state or suggest that the “law” in 1 Corinthians 14:34 refers to the Hebrew Bible in general or Genesis 3:16 in particular. Thankfully, very few suggest that Numbers 30 has anything to do with it. It doesn’t.

      Furthermore, the Hebrew Bible never tells women to be silent or subject. And apart from God’s pronouncement regarding male-rule, it is only Xerxes’ decree that blatantly states “every man should be the ruler/master in his own house” (Esth. 1:22). I do not believe we should be taking our cues for living from the consequences of the fall or from the decree of a pagan king.

      I hope this helps.

      1. Thank you; your response is very helpful. I find The Pulpit Commentary’s comments very intestering, especially the one admitting that 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34 may have been about a specific time and circumstance. Also, thank you for the insights about why husbands and fathers were allowed to annul vows during the Old Testament time period.

  21. Hi Marg!
    My name isn’t Lizzie, it’s Grace
    Sorry about that I’m just not a very technical girl, and don’t know what personal information ends up out there out there, and I can’t get back. I guess they wouldn’t have it as an option if it wasn’t safe, but still, better safe than sorry!!!
    Anyway, I’m only 13, and haven’t done much study on this, at least not nearly as much as it looks like you have, but I am a devoted Christian and do want the Bible to be interpreted the correct way. I do believe girls are very powerful, but I also believe that there’s a reason God created Man before woman, and even more so created woman OUT of Man. There also must be a reason God is depicted in male terms, a reason God tells wives to submit to their husbands (and not vice versa) and so on and so forth. I believe that if women are given the gift of preaching, they should definitely use it, but only to a certain extent. I myself do plan on becoming a missionary, but I believe Paul wanted women to keep silent, as you can guess, for a reason. Obama stated once that boys without male role models are 5 times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, 9 times more likely to drop out of school, and 20 times more likely to spend time in jail. That may sound random, bu

    1. Hi Grace,

      I also believe there is reason, an important reason, we are told the first woman was made from, literally, a side (Hebrew: tsela; Greek: pluera) taken out of the first (hu)man. The first human was altered, with a side removed, or a chunk missing, after the operation (Gen 2:21-22 NRSV). (This “side” is traditionally called a “rib” but the Hebrew and Greek does not usually mean “rib.”)

      The Genesis 2 story is remarkable, and the message of that story is that the first couple were compatible and equal. When the man sees the woman for the first time, he comments on their similarities (Gen. 2:23). There is no mention of a gender hierarchy in Genesis 2.

      There is also no mention of a gender hierarchy in Genesis 1. Rather, Genesis 1:26-28 tells us that humanity, male and female, have the same status, the same authorisation (or authority), and the same purpose. This is very different from the creation stories of other nations and people groups. If you’re interested, I write more about this here: https://margmowczko.com/gender-hierarchy-creation-narrative-genesis-2/

      I also believe Paul tells the women in the Corinthian church to be silent for a reason. Paul tells three groups of people to be silent in 1 Corinthians 14:28ff and the reason was that their speech was unruly and was causing meetings to become disorderly. But Paul did not tell the Corinthian women who were prophesying and praying to be silent (1 Cor. 11:5). I write more about this in a short post here. https://margmowczko.com/1-corinthians-1434-35-in-a-nutshell/

      There are reasons for all the things you mention, and it’s important we understand these reasons otherwise we will miss the intention of the biblical authors and the Holy Spirit. But let me add that God isn’t just spoken of in masculine terms in the Bible. https://margmowczko.com/is-god-male-or-masculine/

      I agree that boys need male role models. Likewise, girls need role models of women doing excellent things.

      I wish you well in your ministry pursuits. <3

      1. Wow!!! I didn’t think that would work! Thank you so much! I do agree with you on lots that you just mentioned! Thank you for replying! I appreciate that you spent the time to go over that! I’ll check out the other sights

        -Grace

    2. t, if one of the Bible’s goals, ( aside from getting as many people as possible to know and love Christ ) is making the world a better place, specifically a world with less sin and violence, then we need to tame young boys so they might grow up to be good men. ( Obama’s quote was confirmed by an expirement led by Dr. Alvin Pouassaint )The reason behind boys being the center of attention in the sense of which gender needs more attention because of wild impulses is, out of all crimes committed in the entire world, an overwhelming amount are committed by males. Therefore to make the world a better place, a place without sin, boys, the main culprits of worldwide crimes, need to be controled, and in order for them to be controlled, they must have male role models. I know you’re probably thinking about how I haven’t nessesafily linked my past comments with 1Corinthians 14:34, but I’m getting there! Don’t worry! The reason God isn’t depicted ( I say depicted, and probably shouldn’t be putting this in parenthesis because it’s so important, GOD IS GENDERLESS. He can not be an it. We can not love an it. God cannot be a girl for the reasons I’m in the middle of explaining. He is only DEPICTED as male.) as a woman, is because if boys were taught virtues like, mercy, peace, and kindness, by a female, they would determine that those traits were feminine, and do not apply to them. Girls on the other hand, do need female role models, but not to prevent them from committing crimes. They do also, need male rulegivers to keep them from becoming reckless livers. Now here’s where I tie it all together. If boys and girls alike need male role models in their lives to help them become good men and women, then it only makes sense that God should be depicted in male terms. I’m not saying you don’t agree with the more common gender depiction of Christ, I’m simply saying that if, and sense, it makes sense to explain God in male terms, wouldn’t it also make sense to have male role models in the church? Again, there is a certain extent in which this line can be drawn. I do think women should be able to voice their opinion and make announcements, and praise, and pray and all that good stuff, but I think when a woman has the responsibility of preaching
      ( if preaching was your target, if it wasn’t, I still think all the major players in the church should be male, but again, there’s a fine line. Things women are better at in the church, such as children’s ministry things, should definitely be directed by women) should be a man’s. If a pastor is trying to get a message through to his, (or her) congregation, a congregation made up of families, men, women, girls , and boys, will all be better able to relate to a male pastor. The message will simply be better accepted and better understood , ( not to say girls wouldn’t be able to relay a message well enough for it to be understood, but it would feel more as if the message applyed to the audience ) if the preacher is male. To put it in the words of Dennis Preager, “Any uncomfortability you feel from God being masculine, will be incomparable to the pain we will all feel if little boys are not grown into good men.”
      Most of the things I’ve said have been quoted from Dennis Preager. Preager University is a great website! You guys should check it out. I don’t know how to post links, again, not a very technical girl. I do believe that if God has given the gift of preaching to a girl, then he intended her to use that gift, just not in that way. If you’re still reading this, congratulations!!! You just put up with a heck of a lot of my babbling, and thank you for reading this

      -Gracie

      1. Hi Gracie,

        Jesus is the role model for all people regardless of their gender, and yes, Jesus is male. There is no doubt about that. And yet, in the whole Greek New Testament Jesus is referred to as an anēr (an adult male human) only twice; he is most commonly referred to as anthrōpos (a human being). But anthrōpos is usually translated in English Bible as “man” because it sounds a bit weird to translate it as “human.”

        Here’s an example from 1 Timothy 2:5 where anthrōpos, which occurs twice, is translated as “human/humanity” compared with “man/men.”
        ~ For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the human Christ Jesus …
        ~ For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus … (King James Bible)

        Here’s another verse, Philippians 2:7f where anthrōpos occurs twice:
        ~ Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a human he humbled himself by becoming obedient …
        ~ But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient … (King James Bible)

        I could give numerous more examples because, as I said, Jesus is typically referred to as an anthrōpos and not as an anēr.

        Jesus became our saviour and mediator, and role model, primarily because he became human, not because he became a male human. Jesus is not just the mediator between God and male humans, he is the mediator of women and girls too.

        Genuine question: What parts of Jesus’ character or behaviour do you identify as especially masculine? I see nothing in his character or behaviour that isn’t relevant to me because I’m female.

        Apart from Jesus, God (the first person of the Trinity) and the Holy Spirit are not referred to in only masculine terms. In fact, God uses feminine metaphors to describe his character, and Jesus uses feminine examples to explain God’s actions. I mention some feminine metaphors recorded in the Bible in this article: https://margmowczko.com/is-god-male-or-masculine/

        It’s simply incorrect to say that God is masculine. And it has nothing to do with feelings. It has to do with the biblical text. Apart from Jesus, God is not male.

        I’m glad you’re concerned for men. That’s a good thing. But I don’t think it’s wise to bend theology in order to make men feel better about themselves. Both men and women are God’s image-bearers. Both men and women are children of God; we are brothers and sisters with Jesus as our older brother. Jesus is my role model, and I’m female.

  22. Also, sorry that didn’t have.an absolute finish. My second half got deleted. I don’t know how, again, not a. very technical girl!

    1. Gracie, you are precious! God designed you with so much love and care, as He does all his children. I too was taught along the lines of “men’s needs come first because they bear more responsibility…”. I cannot stress enough how much harm this has caused in the world, my personal life, and the lives of so many women I know. The way this teaching subtly or overtly harms women is by making them feel less important, loved, needed, God’s image bearers, and worthy. It destroys their ability to walk in power with the Holy Spirit.
      I love the examples of Lois and Eunice teaching Timothy, Deborah leading Israel, the Samaritan woman leading her village to meet Jesus. I hope you will read their stories here on Marg’s site and be encouraged. God bless and guide you to His truth about you and His love for all people.

  23. I just have to say that I have the upmost respect for what you and many other egalitarians do. I couldn’t imagine how many nasty comments you get on a daily basis. I get so many rude/negative comments after publishing a book about this topic. It’s ridiculous. Thanks for what you do. We need more people like this who are willing to put themselves out there despite the ridicule.

    1. Thanks, Bleaux.

      I think most of the negative comments are given by people who don’t actually understand what egalitarians believe, and they don’t realise that Christian egalitarianism, or mutuality, has a sound biblical basis.

  24. Hi Marg… Back again… I read regularly as you post with the new month. I selected “INTERPRETATIONS AND APPLICATIONS OF 1 CORINTHIANS 14:34-35” for a quick browse to see what may have been added over time. Rereading your opening “purpose” paragraph I decided to review the your catalog of interpretations of this balky passage. I am still preferential to “1 CORINTHIANS 14:34-35 IS A QUOTATION.” for the reasons given in the paragraph on the grammar… This seems to me to be a matter of Paul being Paul… A bit of rhetoric… He has reached his boiling point with this fractious bunch and goes off on them… His emotional temperature has been rising as he has been writing… This is the climax… “If anyone is ignorant (concerning this matter) he must be ignorant…!!!” Works for me… God Bless You, Russ Newell

    1. Thanks, Russ. I love Paul’s line about ignoring the ignorant.

  25. FINDING YOUR ARTICLES HELPFUL AS MY THESIS IS ON WHY WOMEN PREACHING IS AN ISSUE IN ZAMBIA IN THE SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH, KINDLY SHARE IF YOU HAVE BOOK THAT CAN BE HELFUL TO ME. PASTOR HILLARY MOONGA ZAMBIA

    1. Hello Pastor Hillary,

      I’m glad my work has been helpful to you. I am currently working on a book but it will not be ready for publication for a long time.

  26. I found your article very helpful in understanding its context and being able to come to terms that God thinks highly of women even in difficult passages like these when my first reaction to reading them is the opposite. Even with the uncertainty in the passage like you have pointed out, I find it helpful for instruction regardless.

    I am reminded of passages like:

    Nehemiah 13: 26 “Wasn’t this exactly what led King Solomon of Israel into sin?” I demanded. “There was no king from any nation who could compare to him, and God loved him and made him king over all Israel. But even he was led into sin by his foreign wives.

    1 Peter 3:1-2 Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

    I love that God understands that women have such great power, influence, and wisdom even when they are seen as inferior culturally. In Proverbs, wisdom is even portrayed as a woman! “Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, SHE raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech…” (Proverbs 1: 20-21)

    In its application, I would like to add that I believe this passage is also perhaps referring back to previous instructions in the same letter, particularly in Paul’s instructions for the use of freedom in Christ to be a servant in order to influence others. By refraining from asking questions within the church and instead prompting husbands first, it allows women to build up their husbands in their faith and leadership role of their family. If a woman, asks a basic question that her husband SHOULD have obviously been able to answer, then she opens him up to ridicule by other church members. If she asks her husband a question and he doesn’t know, she gives him subject matter to discuss at the next church meeting and helps him be an active member instead of passive. By instructing women to ask their husbands first, they are living out 1 Corinthians 13. They are “always protecting” by protecting their husbands honor and reputation. They are “always trusting” that their husbands will model Christ’s example and love them as he did the church. And as Paul writes in chapter 14, we are to speak to edify the church and not ourselves and use our gifts to build up the church.

    I hope others who find your article would be encouraged that God views men and women of equal importance but understands that we contribute in different ways (just like the gifts of the Spirit). I know for myself, it has encouraged me to dig deeper into understanding those tough passages, so I may be prepared to help to enlighten others. I’m glad to have stumbled across your blog and look forward catching up on your other articles!

    1. Hi Joli. Thanks for your comments.

      Yes, women can be influential. Not all women were culturally inferior, however,. In the Greco-Roman world, a high-status woman had more power and clout than a man from the lowest classes. And she was definitely considered superior to male slaves. Sadly, that’s how society worked back then. Social status, plus gender, affected a person’s status. More here.

      Women asking basic questions could embarrass their husbands in a number of ways. I’m not sure the unruly women in the Corithian Church were directing their questions to their husbands, I imagine they were directing their questions to the prophets or perhaps the teachers. But if a wife did ask her husband a question during a meeting and he didn’t know the answer, that would be super awkward. The wife would bring shame to her husband.

  27. Sorry but there is no Nympha in Col 4:15 it said Nymphas and the church which is in HIS house. Not hers!

    1. Hi Frederica, I’ve written about Nympha(s) and her ministry, as well as the different renderings of the pronoun (her/his/their) in Greek texts and in English translations of Col. 4:15, here:
      https://margmowczko.com/nympha-house-church-colossians-415/

  28. There is no contradiction between 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. Paul is addressing two different issues: inappropriate hairstyles or head-covering on men and women who pray and prophecy in 1 Cor. 11:2-16, and unruly and unedifying speech in 1 Cor. 14:26-40 CSB. But I am repeating myself.

    Yes, “shame” (aischros) language is strong language and it is typically attached to women. (In honour-shame societies, such as in Roman Corinth, honour was especially the province of men, and a woman’s behaviour could negatively affect his honour and bring disgrace.)

    Danker observes that aischros is “a term especially significant in honor-shame oriented society” and it generally refers “to that which fails to meet expected moral and cultural standards.”
    Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition, (BDAG) revised and edited by F.W Danker, s.v. αἰσχρός, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 29.

    The unedifying speech of the wives who wanted to learn but who should have kept their questions for home was bringing disgrace to their husbands. The first and last verses in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 CSB explain that context of this passage is disorderly and unedifying speech.

    The social dynamic of honour-shame which was pervasive in the ancient world is also a theme in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. I discuss this here: https://margmowczko.com/man-woman-image-glory-god-1-corinthians-11-7/

  29. I was reading through this thread, and I was wondering if maybe Paul could be correct about 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 not requiring a church context. Since the custom of the churches could refer to the customs of believers, this may apply to all situations with believers, without it being church. 1 Corinthians 14:18 indicates that one could speak in tongues outside of church while still being around people, so it may be possible that one could prophesy out of church while still being around people as well. This also shows there were not rules about speaking in tongues without interpretation outside of church even if others are around, showing that the requirements of 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 are more limited in scope. Additionally, the fact the Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos to their home to explain baptism could maybe mean that a woman could prophesy in her home to a specific person if she had a message for them, and there would still be concern for how she looks while doing it since she would be with another person. Also, Agabus in Acts 21:10-12 did not prophesy in church, but to Paul. Paul’s travelling companions and people of Philip’s house were there, but it was not church. Lastly, the fact that the command is repeated shows it is important. Chrysostom believed that 1 Corinthians 14:36-38 applied to 14:34-35 only, showing that it was an important command, and that women must in submission. While I do understand why 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 could refer to church meetings, the examples of Priscilla, Agabus, and 1 Corinthians 14:18 may mean it was not church meetings specifically.

    1. Hi Elisabeth,

      The thing is, churches (that is, gatherings of Christians) usually met in homes. Whenever believers got together for fellowship, for communion, for worship, for teaching, for mission strategising, or to listen to an apostle or their representative when they were in town, it was church.

      There were no church buildings for the first 200 years of the new Christian movement. People were not usually speaking in tongues or prophesying on their own, outside of the context of church. According to Paul, prophecy was for believers, for the church (1 Cor. 14:22).

      Agabus prophesied among believers. He prophesied to the church (Acts 21:8-14).

      There is no difference theologically between “in” a church and “to” a church (a gathering of believers) in the first century. And why would Philip’s house not be a church? John Mark’s mother’s house, Lydia’s house, Nympha’s house, Aquila and Priscilla’s house, and probably Stephanus’s and Phoebe’s houses, etc, were the home bases of house churches.

      Here’s what Chrysostom said about Priscilla and Aquila and their home:

      “For [Priscilla] had been so estimable as even to make their house a Church, both by making all in it believers, and because they opened it to all strangers. For [Paul] was not in the habit of calling any houses Churches, save where there was much piety, and much fear of God deeply rooted in them. And on this ground he said to the Corinthians also, Salute Aquila and Priscilla, with the Church that is in their house.” Chrysostom, Homily 30 on Romans.

      I’ve written about Priscilla and Aquila’s house church here.

      I have no argument with submission. Submission, like humility and meekness, is an essential character trait of Christians. Submission is also mentioned earlier in 1 Corinthians 14, in 1 Corinthians 14:31-32: The spirits of the prophets are to be in submission to the prophets. The prophets, like the tongues-speakers and the women, were to behave themselves and not be unruly, uncontrolled, or rebellious which is the opposite of being submissive.

      Anyway, when it’s all said and done, why would Paul with concerned with the appearance of the heads or hair of men and women if they were supposedly praying and prophesying outside of a gathering of believers (cf. 1 Cor. 11:5)? Who is affected if there are no believers around to see?

  30. I believe that Paul will not contradict himself anywhere in scripture. Should we see something that looks like a contradiction, we have to decide one of two things: 1) If Paul is contradicting himself, then we cannot believe ANYTHING that Paul says, or; b) perhaps it is our understanding or interpretation that is wrong on a certain scripture. Although many have taken this scripture as a universal ban on women speaking or holding any office within the church, Paul also did say to the Galatians in Gal 3:28 “There is now no more Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, MALE NOR FEMALE, for we are ALL ONE IN Christ”. Surely it’s not just the Galatian Christians that are free and all are one in Christ and the rest of the world still has to distinguish between male and female, slave and free and Jew and Gentile. Therefore Gal 3:28 either contradicts his statement in Corinthians, or we do not have the full picture and assuming it’s a blanket statement banning all women all over the world from speaking or holding any offices. However, when read Paul’s statement in 2 Cor 5:16, he says “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh.”……that means that we should not know people after the flesh, what we see, but after the spirit, since we are born again and are now one spirit with Jesus (1 Cor 6:17). Therefore, we should not be looking at a person as being a male or a female, Jew or a Gentile, slave or free, for we are all ONE in Christ (Gal 3:28) and one in spirit (1 Cor 6:17). 2 Cor 5:16 confirms Gal 3:28 and Gal 3:28 confirms 1 Cor 6:17, and our main scripture goes against all 3, therefore it makes more sense that our scripture is either not Paul’s original work, or we lack background information as to why he would’ve said it in this particular church, but clearly it doesn’t fall within his general suggestions that we are now all equal. This leaves very little room to believe that Paul made a blanket statement for all women in the entire church to be silent.

    1. Hi Belinda, I agree that Paul doesn’t contradict himself. What he does do, however, is speak about different things to different congregations who were experiencing different issues. For example, the problem in the church at Galatia (divisions between Jewish and Gentile Christians, etc) was different from the various problems in the church at Corinth.

      Paul does give a bit of context, or background, for his words in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40, which includes verses 34-35. He wanted the Corinthian Christians, both men and women, to minister in an edifying and orderly manner, and he silences three groups who were speaking in unedifying and unruly ways. I’ve written more about this here: https://margmowczko.com/1-corinthians-1434-35-in-a-nutshell/

      Paul’s intention was not that wholesome, edifying words should be silenced.

  31. Great insight may God bless you

    1. Thank you, Munya. And thanks for your other kind message.

      God Bless you.

  32. Hi, Marg. Read many of above comments and your replies . Sounding well. Christ has ordained Paul to be minister to gentiles to preach, but the Holy Spirit being the main interpreter of word of god.
    Few places Paul also said that Adam not sinned but Eve, and also I 1corin 14:43 and some more occasions Paul says women to be absolute silent in the meetings. Now it is common to ordain them to be pastors and reverends etc. who does equal to men in preaching so on.
    In the plan of god for salvation no difference all are sinned and came short of gods glory and should repent and born again. Word of god is for all so, my understanding is that what ever the spirit leading be let it done. These meetings and gatherings in public places speaking let them say what inspires them to say in spirit. But no way to judge others even women preachers. After all God took rib from the side of the chest, almost midway head to toe to be equal with man, not to go front are to fellow behind.
    I wonder Christ should had few women as his disciples, there is greatest honor God have to women like Mary mother of Jesus and to Mary Magdalene and so on.

    1. Hi Charles, You’ve made several points. Some are a bit difficult to follow and I’m not exactly sure of what you believe about women speaking in church meetings. Nevertheless, I’ll do my best to respond.

      ~ Paul says that Adam and Eve sinned (which is also what Genesis 3 says). Paul uses the same Greek word for Eve’s transgression (parabasis) in 1 Timothy 2:14 as for Adam’s transgression (parabasis) in Romans 5:14. (More on Paul’s use of Adam and his sin as a type in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 here.)

      ~ Paul tells three groups of unruly speakers to be silent in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 not just wives who are told to ask their questions to their husbands at home. Paul uses the same Greek verb (sigaō) three times in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. I write about these three groups here. However, while he addresses and corrects unruly speech from the Corinthians, he encourages edifying speech from both men and women.

      ~ Paul previously acknowledged that women prayed and prophesied in Corinthian assemblies and did not silence them (1 Cor. 11:5). He addresses the hairstyles (or head coverings) of the men and women who were praying and prophesying, but he does not tell them to stop speaking. Paul encouraged vocal participation in ministry from suitably gifted, well-behaved men and women (1 Cor. 14:26; Col. 3:16).

      ~ Paul gives no hint whatsoever that judging, that is evaluating, ministry is out of bounds for qualified women. The understanding that women cannot evaluate prophecy has no valid biblical basis. Female prophets such as Huldah and Anna, and gifted women such as Prisca, would have been well able to evaluate the ministry of others. Indeed, Prisca and her husband saw that Apollos’s teaching was inadequate even though he was a highly educated man, and they corrected him. Apollos accepted their correction.

      ~ 1 Corinthians 14:34 is the only verse where Paul tells women (plural) are told to be silent. 1 Timothy 2:12 uses a different word (hēsychia) in 1 Timothy 2:12 that means “quietness” with the sense of “to settle, or calm, down.” He previously used it in 2 Thessalonians 3:12. Paul uses the related adjective in 1 Timothy 2:2 where Paul asks the Ephesians to pray so that they will have quiet lives. Paul does not tell an Ephesian woman (who needed to learn and not teach) to be silent in 1 Timothy 2:11-12.

      ~ Jesus had many dedicated female followers–many, not a few. I write about these many female disciples here. However, there were a few things the women couldn’t do, and so Jesus chose twelve men to be his primary witnesses, etc. Most of these men did not become local church leaders, but missionaries, and one was a traitor. Jesus never says or hints that the Twelve are some kind of model for local church leadership. I give several reasons for why Jesus chose a group of twelve male disciples here.

      ~ Actually, God took a side (Hebrew: tsela; Greek: pleura) out of the human in Genesis 2 and formed that side into a woman The Hebrew (and ancient Greek translation) does not say God took a rib.

  33. Women were clearly prophets, Junia was clearly an apostle, and on ‘the law’s’ prohibition on being noisy in a meeting, I know the Romans had all sorts of crazy laws, including at one stage, the amount of jewellery that could be worn. I’d put nothing past them, and particularly as there is no OT law that could apply.

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