14 August, 2006

Presubuteras: Silencing the Daughters of God - 1 Cor 14:34 & 35

(There's something wrong with this post, so I will be messing with it. There are no substantive changes.)

For your review, 1 Cor 14.

Let me start by fisking a little of John Gill. I did not pick him because he is exceptional in his opinions on this subject, nor is he harsh, and I actually like some of his stuff. I picked him because he's the best commentator on the standard interpretation of these verses on Crosswalk, and he's just verbose enough for me. :-) Mr. Gill is in italics, and phrases he quotes are in bold.

Let your women keep silence in the churches…
This is a restriction of, and an exception to one of the above rules, that all might prophesy; in which he would be understood of men only, and not of women; and is directed against a practice which seems to have prevailed in this church at Corinth, allowing women to preach and teach in it; and this being a disorderly practice, and what was not used in other churches, the apostle forbids and condemns, and not without reason:

Strong words, and completely unjustified by the text. Paul says it is "against the law" for women to preach, but he never says it is disorderly for them to do so. Paul also gives no example of harm done by women teaching, so why does Mr. Gill say that Paul's command is "not without reason?" (Mr. Gill's comment that women teaching was not allowed in the churches of Christ is a falacy of assuming the conclusion. For shame.)

for it is not permitted unto them to speak;
that is, in public assemblies, in the church of God, they might not speak with tongues, nor prophesy, or preach, or teach the word. All speaking is not prohibited; they might speak their experiences to the church, or give an account of the work of God upon their souls; they might speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; or speak as an evidence in any case at a church meeting; but not in such sort, as carried in it direction, instruction, government, and authority.

And now Mr. Gill invents distinctions that suit his fancy, rather than the text. He permits some speaking, simply because Paul's bald statement is obviously non-sensical, but not because anything in the text makes such an allowance. He is actually quite gracious in allowing a woman to testify in matters of law or to give their own spiritual history before the church, but is he textually consistent? I don't see it. If you believe Paul meant anything, there is no textual reason to believe he didn't mean everything.

It was not allowed by God that they should speak in any authoritative manner in the church; nor was it suffered in the churches of Christ; nor was it admitted of in the Jewish synagogue; there, we are told, the men came to teach, and the women (ewmvl) , "to hear": and one of their canons runs thus;

a woman may not read (that is, in the law), (rwbub) , "in the congregation", or church, because of the honour of the congregation;

for they thought it a dishonourable thing to a public assembly for a woman to read, though they even allowed a child to do it that was capable of it.

Ah. Mr. Gill strikes to the heart here, and just glosses it over. There is no law which requires a woman to be silent anywhere from Genesis 1 to Malachi 4. But there is a strong Jewish Oral Law which does exactly that. This Jewish law would allow a male child to read the law, but would shun a congregation as fouled if a mature woman read the same glorious truths to them with better understanding. (Again, Mr. Gill's comment that women teaching was not allowed in the churches of Christ is the falacy of assuming the conclusion.)

But they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
In (Genesis 3:16) , "thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee". By this the apostle would signify, that the reason why women are not to speak in the church, or to preach and teach publicly, or be concerned in the ministerial function, is, because this is an act of power, and authority; of rule and government, and so contrary to that subjection which God in his law requires of women unto men.

Mr. Gill knows that there is no command in the law that requires a woman to be silent, so he begins fishing. He throws his baited hook into 39 books worth of law, history, poets and prophets and pulls up the curse spoken by God against Eve.


Anyway. Gen 3:16 says nothing about women being silent anywhere, at any time. Mr. Gill is going to assert that Paul is merely implementing God's law on the basis of Gen 3:16? Ludicrous. He has to build a tie between speaking and authority that is arbitrary and foolish. Are there not men who are under authority? When those men speak, are they in rebellion against that authority? No.

He resorts to this over-worked, hackneyed argument because none other is available to him. And why is no other available to him? Well, first because it is not there. But second it is because he does not see the very clue that he pointed out just a paragraph ago.

The extraordinary instances of Deborah, Huldah, and Anna, must not be drawn into a rule or example in such cases.
OK. Now this is just a chuckle. He wants to just ignore God's record because those cases are special. It puts me in mind of an old joke about physicists, odd numbers and primes. I will settle for quoting two punch lines:

Various theorists offer various proofs that every odd number is prime:
Mathematician: "3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime. The result follows by induction."
Physicist: "3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is experimental error, 11 is prime, 13 is prime ..."

Golly, but life would be nice if you could just say, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," every time there was a difficult question in life.


Mr. Gill has attempted to defend a losing position for the noble reason that it is in scripture, and scripture is always right. "Paul was just wrong here," is not a defensible position, so Mr. Gill nobly soldiers off in defence of the indefensible. But, is there a possible way that the scripture is right, Paul is right, and that verse is just plain wrong? Of course there is. :-)

Let me drop back to 1 Cor 7:1 for a second.

1 Corinthians 7:1
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

Someone from Corinth has written to Paul and said that men had best give up on sex - and, evidently, any other touching of women - if they are going to serve the Lord well. (Yet another area in which the sexes get unequal treatment, but let's not rabbit-trail on this one.) Paul is caught in a quandry by this one. He has a foot in both camps. He ends up talking clearly but guardedly as he makes it plain that it's all good, but maybe even better with abstinence.

The point is that when Paul makes this statement out of the blue about it being good not to touch a woman, it's not just out of the blue. Paul is answering a direct question from someone, and that someone was a Jewish member of the church in Corinth. This happens several times in the latter half of the book.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.....

1 Cor 14:34 & 35 were written for Paul (by three stenos, apparently) but they were not spoken by Paul. He is quoting these same Judaizers from way back in Chapter 7. It is these Jews who reference the Oral Law as if it were divinely ordained, not Paul. Again, with this little, and contextually supported, observation the entire passage becomes clear.

Verse by Verse

For ye may all prophesy one by one *, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
All may learn and all may be comforted, and one must assume that "all" includes women. We have already examined and seen that women were told by Paul that they need never veil while prophecying (though they could if they wished.) So, it is a small step to realize that the "all" who may prophecy includes women.

And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
So prophets must be fallible in New Testament times? Hmmm. But that's a huge rabbit trail.

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
Paul is here confronting the abuse of gifts in Corinth, and he is saying that you don't need to silence anyone. You merely need to bring order to their offerings. The prophets should subject themselves to each other, and when the Spirit is working this work, He will work peace.

Note the word, "For." "For God is not the Author ..." Paul is now done with his argument. He even brings up his final point in every argument, "... as in the all the churches of the saints." That is a clean end to a subject.

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
Note now, the lack of an "and." Paul in no way joins this thought to the one before it. This makes perfect sense if he is starting a new subject with yet another quote from the Judaizing letter. It is peripherally related in that the Jews bring it up to stop women from prophecying, but it is a whole new tack on the subject.

Paul probably finished writing 1 Cor 11 about 20 minutes ago, give or take. Paul had three amatuer stenos trading seats so they could stay fresh and keep up with him, so he is moving fast. 20 minutes ago Paul told women that they could speak unveiled. The odds that 20 minutes later he is telling them never to speak again are just about nil. The odds that Paul is quoting a non-existent law as if were known to everyone are just about nil. The standard interpretation just does not fit.

And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
This sentence needs to be relinquished to the dustbin of history forever. It was the cancerous cawing of a man who loved the law more than God. The man who wrote this to Paul wished to bring circumcision back, but knew he'd lost that battle for all time. The Judaizers could not win the battle of circumcision, because Paul had successfully upped the ante by equating circumcision to an offense against the death and resurrection of our Lord. They could still hold out in the backwoods and caves of misogyny, though, and they obviously did.

Find me a verse that says women should ask their husbands at home, or that it would be a shame for a woman to speak in the assembly of the redeemed. Caveat - that verse has to exist at the time of this writing. 1 Tim 2:11 was not written for several more years. In writing this verse, Paul either claimed Jewish tradition as fact, or he was quoting someone who did.

What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
And here is the icing to the proof cake. Paul immediately and sternly rebukes the men who had the audacity to write those words. It is an act of pure sophistry to interpret this rebuke as somehow supporting the silencing of women. Paul says, in the clearest possible terms, that the word of God did not come out of, nor unto those men who were putting out their oral traditions as binding upon the daughters of the Lord.

If any
man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
Let that Judaizer acknowledge that ALL are allowed to prophecy as Paul has already said. Let him acknowledge that women need never veil the beauty of the Lord's work by silencing the praise welling up from their spirits, nor by veiling. Let him acknowledge that Paul's words are divinely inspired, and that the oral traditions to which they are binding their sisters are dung and refuse.

How many centuries?! How many centuries must we bind our women under these Jewish traditions built to break the heart?

But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
Paul's tone here is entirely insulting, and I praise the Lord for it.

Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
And Paul circles back. He reminds them that they are brethren. Adelphos is the freer of the Greek words for mankind, and it definitely includes sisters in its scope. Let every member of the church covet to prophecy, and forbid no member to speak with tongues.

Let all things be done decently and in order.

There's no magic in these interpretations. I'm not pulling up bizarre imaginations about how culture back then demanded that Corinthian women act differently than Ephesian women. I'm just bringing back to mind the story of the New Testament.

Judaizers plagued all the churches. If I seem to come down hard on the Judaizers, I yet don't believe all Jews were Judaizers. Those who placed their law before Christ, though, richly earned Paul's rebuke because they place unbearable burdens on the people of God.

Of the saints in Corinth, we can only guess how many were Jews who deeply loved the Lord. We can be sure, though, that there was a vocal minority who wrote a letter to Paul. These few criticized the children of the Lord for marrying, for eating, for allowing men not to wear the tallith, for allowing women to try to wear it, and for being ignorant of the law. They criticized Paul for working with Priscilla, for not accepting financial support for his ministry, and for being weak among other things. That they also criticized the church for letting women speak is the most natural interpretation of the passage in light of the historical situation.

Of course, I have not quite proven yet that women can speak freely in the church, because there is still 1 Tim 2:11 out there waiting to be properly understood. We'll get there.

Next I would like to look at the qualifications of elders and deacons.


Maeghan said...

Excellent post! Though I only skimmed through it for now. And looking fwd for your proof ;)

Milly said...

Read it. I’m a speechless CoC gal. I remember my sister pointing out the verse in the Bible while in a Christian church when we were young, she had a look as if she hated the idea of being silent.

Milly silent, not exactly. I have always felt as if it were wrong. I attend a church where women are able to make announcements and are in charge of ministries. We are a bit different. ;-}

Thank you. I need to take in what I have just read.

Peter Kirk said...

Thanks for this. You make a good case for these verses being quotes from the Corinthians, as are several other verses in the letter (scholars list (sometimes parts of) 6:12,13,18, 7:1,26, 8:1, 4-6,8, 10:23, 11:2 as probable or possible quotes).

One point you miss by quoting KJV: there is no word for "man" in the original of v.37 or v.38, the Greek is gender generic: "if anyone..." So no one could take v.37 as teaching that only men could think they were prophets.

codepoke said...

Thanks, Maeghan, and wow - to have rendered Milly speechless ....

Andreia said...


codepoke said...

Thank you, Peter, for the list of other quotes and for the correction on vss 37 & 38. I need to go back and look at my thoughts on 1 cor 11:2 as well, in light of your identification of that as a possible quote.

Milly said...

I talked with my son while I ate lunch about women of the Bible. We talked about the lack of teaching about the women. They get the men growing up and he has had leadership training. No doubt they talk about Mary. They leave out important women. Why? I believe that the men are very important, in no way am saying they aren’t. My son thinks “It’s crazy talk” not to listen to women in church, not to have women as leaders. He will need to find a church like the one we attend now when he grows up.

(Yes we ate a separate times because left to our on devices we’d die, as he pointed out. While I rushed to remove his lunch from the oven before it burned)

DugALug said...


Interesting, indeed. I am glad that the churches I have attended have never adhered to the women of silence rule.

I think you have read a little too much into Gill's comments on the subject, but I must agree that the argument he is using here is incomplete.

I don't know Gill's personal background, but I am believing that he is coming from a main-line traditional background, that has mixed some jewish tradition with their theology.

The fact that jewish men pray daily a prayer that says thank you God that I am a Jew and thank you that I am not a woman says all you need to know about the Judaic position on women.

Now let's separate the Torrah from the Talmut. A lot of this comes down to tradition and scriptural extrapolation.

Still, there are more than enough scriptures to argue there is a difference in a womans place in a church and a man's. I don't believe you will be able to wrangle out of them so easy.

Cut the guy some slack, for the most part, his commentaries are pretty great.

God Bless

Karen said...

Found you through Kansas Bob.
Thank you for tackling this subject. Your writing is very insightful.
Good for you...and even better for the Body! :-)

codepoke said...


I have to sympathize with you about talking to your son on this subject. It's tough to know exactly what those little minds call normal. I have heard my kids call some things crazy that I use to define sanity.

I'm not surprised that he thinks silencing women is crazy talk. He is far too young to remember a day when Hilary Clinton and Condaleeza Rice would have been openly condemned for being uppity.

codepoke said...


Now let's separate the Torrah from the Talmut.

Of course, that's exactly what I'm trying to do. We're on the same page here.

Still, there are more than enough scriptures to argue there is a difference in a womans place in a church and a man's.

I'm eating my elephant one bite a time. :-)

Cut the guy some slack, for the most part, his commentaries are pretty great.

Who's that, Gill? Absolutely. I chose Gill because I like him. I agree with him on gobs of things, but he can be a tad harsh as I recall.

codepoke said...

Thanks, Karen.

I found your blog a while back through KB and Patchouli too. I was amazed by your story, and am glad you stopped by. Thank you.

Milly said...

You brought up Hillary! You are so brave.

It was funny I was in a book store right afer her book hit the shelves a woman picked up her book then made a rude comment about her. What did she do exactly? She stood by her cheating husband the same as Jackie O.

She made the big mistake of being a strong woman and speaking out about it. She was unhappy with our health care system and wanted changes. I’m thankful she got some of them and continues to fight for us.

Or was she to just summon the staff and pick the china?

Why is America behind other countries when it comes to women leading?

Milly steps off the soap box.

DugALug said...


Oh Milly :(

You touched a nerve with me: not good!

Hilary Clinton:

Personally shredded thousands of documents based on inside information that she was about to be subpeona'd and her office searched. The documents would have incriminated her and her husband.

Threatened to harm, and deport workers in her house if they didn't comply with her demands.

Considers Donald Rumsfeld a larger enemy than Al Quaida.

Believes that it is society's responsibility to raise your children.

Believes that abortion is birth control. In addition to abortion all the way to full term pregnancy. Also that her health care reform would mean that I have to pay for those abortions.

Believed that it was a vast radical right-wing conspiracy that made up the fact that her husband was a no-good letch, when in reality, her husband was a philandering whore-monger who redefined what 'sex' is to an entire genration of young-folk. She never apologized or backed away from her ludicrous statements.

Considers groups like Focus on the Family, and Campus Crusade for Christ, enemies of the family.

Has no problem with flag-burning or urinating on the American flag. She sees it as a form of 'free speech'.

She promotes woman's rights yet walks hand in hand with womonizers like Ted Kennedy and her husband.

America is behind the rest of the world? Hardly! If a woman with the above questionable moral virtues can become a senator then we are right par with most of it and it is repulsive.

Also, I am convinced that Hilary would have left Bill if she didn't see her own path to the Whitehouse by 'standing by her man'. She is a godless-snake and should be recognized as such.

Please don't tell me that you think this woman should be a role-model of anything other than using her husband for her own political and personal gains.

God Bless

Milly said...

I so refuse to talk politics. Let's just say there is way too much junk on both sides. I will say this she is for doing something about women’s heath issues. I can’t argue with that one. I go under the knife next month. As for cheating husbands they are on all sides. Dishing the dirt would be a huge undertaking with no grand outcome.

DugALug said...


I so refuse to talk politics

But you just 'so' did. I merely walked through the door.

God Bless

Milly said...


Nope still won't do it. My brother is a politician, my father worked in the social work field, and the husband is a blue collar worker
( I’m loaded for bear) The discussions at our family gathering are more than enough for me. I just stated that she is for doing something about women’s health issues. I'm glad for that.

Milly said...

We still love each other right? ;-}

DugALug said...


We still love each other right? ;-}


God Bless