Some churches ban women from speaking during church services and prohibit them from ever teaching a man, especially instructing him from the scriptures. Below is an anonymous quotation from an email I received at The Bible Answer Stand Ministry website recently.
I was wondering, what your take on the 1 Corinthians 14:34 about women being "silent" in the church. I have heard many studies on this, and I have one I like but I am not sure how accurate it is! I am not in the business of manipulating the Word to fit my needs! And neither are you, so I will be very interested to hear your study. What do you think about this?
1 Corinthians 14:34 As in all the congregations of the saints, 34 women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. 36 Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. 38 If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored. New International Version
How often did Paul speak of the ‘law’? Is it possible that verses 34 and 35 are verses about something that he was quoting from a previous letter, which the Corinthians’ had written to him, inquiring about these issues? It is as if they wrote Paul a letter, and then Paul was replying to their inquiry with his response, using the words, “Did the word of God originate with you?”
I realize the women were interrupting, and talking, and asking questions and I am sure the men were irritated with that, but isn't Paul responding to a letter from them to him about their concerns and issues of the church? Isn't that what 1 Corinthians Chapter 14 is discussing,(i.e. - a response to their questions)? So, if this is the case, then why could he not be re-stating their question, as his response? Paul was not a big ‘law’ guy anyway, was he? He said the law was nailed to the cross, right (Colossians 2:13-15) ? So, for him to say "as the Law says" was not a common statement for him? Or was it?
Thanks for your help, Dianna
Dianna makes some really good points about the apostle Paul’s teaching and views, particularly her point about the applicability of the old covenant “Law’ in 1 Corinthians 14:37. Are women forbidden from ever teaching men in a Christian church? One might expect such disrespectful treatment of women in pagan Muslim nations or in male dominated Asian cultures and societies, because these are places where women are given about as much respect as dogs and doormats.
In 1 Corinthians 14:34, the Greek word for, “keep silence” in the King James Version is ‘sigaoo’ and literally, sigaoo means, “to hold one's peace (to refrain from continued speaking further).” This Greek word sigaoo originates from a root word sizo meaning, “to hush.” The essence of what Paul instructs in his letter to the church at Corinth equivalent to telling someone that is noisy (e.g. – as in a public library) to be silent using, “Shhhhhhh.” It means to, “hush.”
1 Corinthians 14:30-40
30-33 Take your turn, no one person taking over. 31 Then each speaker gets a chance to say something special from God, and you all learn from each other. 32 If you choose to speak, you’re also responsible for how and when you speak. 33 When we worship the right way, God doesn’t stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony. This goes for all the churches—no exceptions.”
34-35 Wives must not disrupt worship, talking when they should be listening, 35 asking questions that could more appropriately be asked of their husbands at home. God’s Book of the law guides our manners and customs here. Wives have no license to use the time of worship for unwarranted speaking.”
“36-38 Do you, both women and men, imagine that you’re a sacred oracle, determining what’s right and wrong? Do you think everything revolves around you? 37 If any one of you thinks God has something for you to say or has inspired you to do something, pay close attention to what I have written. This is the way the Master wants it. 38 If you won’t play by these rules, God can’t use you. Sorry.
39-40 Three things, then, to sum this up: When you speak forth God’s truth, speak your heart out. Don’t tell people how they should or shouldn’t pray when they’re praying in tongues that you don’t understand. 40 Be courteous and considerate in everything.”
(The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson 2002)
As you can see, the context does not forbid women from speaking in church, but does say they should be courteous, and not disruptive. This context mentions both women and men, and both were obviously speaking (as sacred oracle) and teaching in the church, but they were not being courteous and respectful in their customary rules, which rules were societal, and governed guidelines for etiquette. Therefore, this chapter actually proves that women should be speaking in church, but just like men who are careless at times, must work to be polite and courteous, that’s all. The entire context of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is a constant theme of the marriage relationship, viewing and correcting as it pertains to different aspects of life.
Those who misinterpret 1 Corinthians 14:34, “Let your women keep silence in the churches,” are using poor Bible hermeneutics and faulty logic as the only rationale for their rule governing church protocol. They allege that women “keeping silence” in the churches is a commandment of God’s ‘law’ and they corroborate their misinterpretation by saying the proof is in the phrase, “saith the law,” at the end of 1 Corinthians 14:34 (see below).
1 Corinthians 14:34 As for the women, in the assemblies, let them be silent, for it is not permitted them to be speaking; but let them be in submission, —even as, the law, saith.
Let’s imagine for just a moment, that the ‘Law’ really does specify that women are to be “keeping silence” in the church. On this basis, which Old Testament book, chapter, and verses in the Law specify that women are forbidden to speak, “in the church?” Hmmm? Jesus defined the parameters of ‘the Law’ in Matthew 7:12, saying, “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law.”
Again, in the context of Matthew 22:36-40, when asked, ‘Which is the greatest commandment in the Law,’ Jesus responded with the greatest command (quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5), “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” Then Jesus continued and he quoted from Leviticus 19:18, “And the second commandment is like the first, ‘Love your neighbor as you do yourself.’” He continued by saying, “All the Law and the Prophets is summarize and depends upon these two commandments.”
Every commandment in the Law is founded upon Yahweh’s commands to love Him, and love each other as we love ourselves. This being the bedrock and foundation for our interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:34-37, the men who forbid women from speaking or teaching in the church are violating the Law, because they are refusing to treat these dear sisters as they treat their own selves. Are the men who set these rules in place and enforce them loving their ‘women’ neighbor as they also love themselves? If the shoe fits, wear it or repent men.
1 Timothy 1:5-7 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. New American Standard Bible - Updated Edition
Metaphorically however, the ‘law,’ also has application to cultural and societal rules as the norm, and/or standard of judging or acting, as used in Romans 3:27; 7:23,25; 8:2,7; 9:31. The Greek term for ‘law’ also carries with it the sense of a rule of life, discipline, as it is used in Philippians 3:5.1 Reading a different version of In 1 Corinthians 14:34, The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson reads as follows:
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Wives must not disrupt worship, talking when they should be listening, 35 asking questions that could more appropriately be asked of their husbands at home. God’s Book of the law guides our manners and customs here. Wives have no license to use the time of worship for unwarranted speaking.” The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson 2002
This version hits it squarely on the nail head, and makes much more sense, because it is translated in a way that gives reasonable consideration to the context of chapter 14 of first Corinthians.
Manmade doctrinal traditions easily deceive people if they do not search the scriptures daily, seeking the truth with an unbiased mind and heart, and with the intent to obey what God says, regardless of what price it may cost you. In part, spiritual blindness rests upon those in church leadership that push the issue of subjugating women in subservience to men on the basis of their gender identity.
Below are several scripture passages that clearly illustrate the important and integral role that Christian women had in the early churches. The only reason these passages are not heeded and considered by those in control is due to motive, not mere ignorance.
Colossians 4:15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. NASU
1 Timothy 5:9-10 Let no one be put on the roll of widows who are to receive church support who is under sixty years of age or who has been the wife of more than one man; 10 and she must have a reputation for good deeds, as one who has brought up children, who has practiced hospitality to strangers of the brotherhood, washed the feet of the saints, helped to relieve the distressed, and devoted herself diligently to doing good in every way. Amplified Bible
Nympha was a Christian woman, whose house was the apparent meeting place for one of the house churches that was located in Laodicea. No doubt she was an older woman, although this is speculation, not clearly defined from the text. Paul’s letter of instructions to Timothy however, gives us insight about the way women functioned, and were even financially supported by the church because of their reputation for ministry! These women did, “good deeds,” and each one, “devoted herself diligently to doing good in every way.”
You don’t have to be a Greek scholar to see the connection to the passage about women ministering to men and women alike if you read your Bible regularly. In the context of Paul’s epistle to the Roman church (Read Romans 12:1-17), he exhorts everyone in the church to, “…to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship…” and to, “…prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect,” (Romans 12:1a, 2b). This statement is not limited to men, and further into the context, he gives a command to everyone, men included, saying they ought, “…not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith,” (See Romans 12:5-9 with Hebrews 13:1, 7-8).
If women were only ‘keeping silent’ as falsely alleged by church leaders today, how do they explain the fact that, “men and women,” in the church were persecuted, imprisoned and scattered, and therefore, as a result, those men and women who escaped, scattered abroad, and went about ‘preaching the word?’
Acts 8:3-4 But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. 4 Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. New American Standard Bible - Updated Edition
If you read Acts 12:1-17, which is the account of Peter’s arrest & imprisonment by king Herod, after the king had James, the brother of John put to death by the sword. God heard the prayers of the church however, and an angel was sent to deliver Peter from his chains. When Peter came to his senses, and realized he’d been set free, where do you suppose he went? To the local church eldership of men? To his local male pastor? Not hardly, read this portion of the passage from Acts 12 below:
Acts 12:11-14 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod…” 12 And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. New American Standard Bible - Updated Edition
There are literally dozens of scripture that testify of the equality of women and men believers. In Paul’s closing remarks, written by his scribe in chapter 16 of the Roman epistle, he mentions by name several women who worked as he did for the gospel, even laboring side by side with him, which meant these women were also teaching!
Romans 16:1-6 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; 2 that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well. 3 Greet Prisca (*NOTE: Prisca is also the name of Priscilla) and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; 5 also greet the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. New American Standard Bible - Updated Edition
1 Corinthians 16:19 Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. New American Standard Bible - Updated Edition
1 Corinthians 1:10-13 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ." 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? New American Standard Bible - Updated Edition
Philemon 1-31:1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved brother and fellow worker, 2 and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. New American Standard Bible - Updated Edition
1 Peter 2: 17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. New American Standard Bible - Updated Edition
1 Peter 5:12-13 With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. 13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. New International Version
2 John 1, 4 –5, 8, 12-13 The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth… 4 I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. 5 Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another… 8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward… 12 Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full. 13 The children of your chosen sister greet you. New American Standard Bible - Updated Edition
The entire epistle of 2 John is written to the woman addressed to the, “lady,” which is a mistranslation; in reality, Cyria was a Christian woman, who was a shepherd/elder of the church. Strong's defines “lady” as follows:
L “lady” = Kuria; NT:2959; Kuria (koo-ree'-ah); feminine of NT:2962; Cyria, a Christian woman: KJV - lady.2
I want to brag on my own sweet wife a bit here; please allow me to digress, as you will find what is said compelling and convicting; I ought to know, I live with her! In 1992, though she had been a Christian for many years at the time, my wife Pam decided to deepen her relationship with God thru daily reading of the Bible. an enthusiastic reader of Christian books, magazines, etc, Pam now devoted herself to reading thru the One-Year Bible every day, as it is planned in the protocol arranged by Zondervan publishers, which includes a daily personal reading of:
One scripture passage from one of the Old Testament books
One scripture passage from one of the New Testament books
A short reading from Psalms & short reading from Proverbs
For over twelve years now, my wife has read the Bible cover to cover! Her memory retention is incredible, and quite often, as I do my studies in scripture, if I need to know where a Bible verse reference is, she almost always knows the book of the Bible, chapter and range of the verse I am looking for!
Furthermore, my shy, reserved, not-people-oriented personality-type wife willingly and ably stepped into my place as the shepherd of a house church we started several years ago. She took over this responsibility, when I became physically disabled due to a series of surgeries and other chronic conditions, which rendered me incapable of speaking without causing excruciating pain and serious headaches. She also took over our biweekly ministry to a blessed sister and her seven children, who at the time, lived in Tacoma’s hilltop area. I’d met Deneen one afternoon while doing some one-on-one street outreach evangelism; she was a newly saved, deeply committed Christian woman, from an African-American ethnicity, and was with her son Akeem and she was also evangelizing the ‘Hilltop,’ as locals call it.
The Hilltop was Deneen’s neighborhood, and every day she need only look out her front door to see the violence and illegal activities, for which Tacoma-hilltop area gained notoriety because of its troublesome gang warfare, drug trafficking, drive-by shootings, and all manner of criminal activity. It was in this environment, where sin was at its utmost, that the grace and mercy of God for salvation became manifest even bigger! But with seven children, Deneen needed support and some Christian friends that would be there, in hard times, and all times, and would go the long haul for her family. She had been disappointed many other times by Christian men, who said they wanted to help, but did not follow thru.
My wife and I would make regular trips to see them, and help them out with groceries, and celebrate birthdays, and try to help them experience some kind of ‘normal’ life in this tough inner-city area, when I was unable, they feared not seeing either of us. When I became ill, it devastated Deneen, and Keemo, one of her seven children, (4 children were her offspring and 4 children she adopted, out of her huge heart of love, because they had no parents to care for them, or who wasn’t incarcerated with a lengthy prison term sentence). Pam not only continued this sacrifice of love, but she also got John and Dianne, an awesome Christian married couple, who have for years hosted our house church fellowship. The three of them, Pam, John and Dianne have been making the 120 mile round trip trek to see Deneen and her children for the past several years!
Now we all Christian men like to consider ourselves knowledgeable in the Word of God, and some of us have even made New Year’s resolutions to read the entire Bible this year. We make the same proposition year after year. How many of us born-again Christians have actually read the entire Bible, from Genesis thru Revelation, even once, let alone every year? How many have ventured into the inner city to do much needed gospel outreach and touch the lives of the hurting and help the poor and needy?
Any husband who is married to the kind of Christian woman that my own wife is like, will attest to the fact her spirituality exceeds his own, and she has working knowledge of the scripture, and she comprehends spiritual things equal to and greater than myself. This being true worldwide, how can any reasonable church elder, or shepherd forbid women from making a contribution to what is spoken in church? On this note, consider how integral women were in the early church, hosting churches in their homes, teaching, and doing all manner of hospitality as servants of Christ the Lord!
My hope is that this series of studies will start adding its contribution of truth to that of others, and thru prayer and repentance, and obedience to the truth, God will set Christian women free from the bondage of a male gender caste system in the churches. SELAH
Links to the Entire "Women and Men ARE Equals in Jesus Christ” Series: