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Did Paul Really Command Women To Be Silent In the Churches?
1 Corinthians 14:34-35
34 Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
First of all, this verse would seem to contradict what Paul has said in earlier parts of this letter. For example, in his discussion of head coverings in chpt. 11, it is obvious that he recognizes women praying and prophesying in the church. Also in chpt. 14 vs. 23, he speaks of the potential of the whole church coming together and all speaking with tongues. Then in vss. 24 & 31, he speaks of the potential for all to prophesy. In vs. 31 he says that all may prophesy that all may learn and all be encouraged.
All Can Pray and Prophesy
In no way does Paul imply that all does not mean both men and women in these verses. If he had wanted to exclude women he could have done so, but he doesn’t. Vs. 21 has Paul saying, In the Law it written, with men of other tongues and other lips will I speak to this people . . .. However, men is not in the Greek; it was added by the translators. In a similar way, vs. 27 in the KJV has Paul saying, If any man speak in an unknown tongue . . .. Again, the KJV translators have taken a lot of freedom, for the Greek word translated “man” is tis and actually means “anyone.” In this whole discussion about prophecy and tongues in the church, Paul is obviously careful not to exclude anyone from participating because of their gender.
Some Think This Verse is an Early Gloss
Vss. 34-35 are so out of character with the rest of the chapter and, indeed, the rest of the letter that it has led some prominent, evangelical scholars to conclude that Paul did not write these verses. This is the view of Dr. Gordon D. Fee, professor of New Testament at Regent College, who believes that an early scribe/copyist (remember they didn’t have photo copiers) added these words and they found their way into the text. Such an addition by a scribe is known as a “gloss.”
Paul is Actually Repeating a Statement of the Corinthians
The more likely option is that Paul is repeating something that the Corinthians have written to him in a previous letter. It is obvious that, in this letter, Paul answers questions that have been posed to him by the Corinthians. He introduces their questions with the phrase now concerning. For example, he says in 7:1, Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is not good for a man to touch a woman. That part of the phrase, it is not good for a man to touch a woman, is most likely a statement made by the Corinthians in a previous letter to Paul. He repeats it here as a means of introducing the topic for discussion. In 12:1 he says, Now concerning Spiritual gifts an indication that he is now addressing questions they had posed to him about Spiritual gifts. Not only in 7:1, but in other sections of the letter Paul quotes things the Corinthians themselves have said, such as in 1:12 and 3:4: And there is strong evidence that in 14:34, Paul is quoting something the Corinthians said in a previous letter.
You’ve Got to Be Kidding!!
That Paul is here quoting something written to him by the Corinthians is indicated by his use of a tiny Greek word at the beginning of vs. 36. It is the word η which it is often used in Greek as an “expletive of disassociation,” such as the English, “No way!,” or You’ve got to be kidding!,” or “Nonsense!,” or “Get out of here!”
In other words, Paul quotes what they have said about women being silent and then replies, “Nonsense,” “You’ve got to be kidding, “No way!” Did the word of God come originally from you?