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.