“As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 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.”
Ok. So it’s possible that “it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church” is actually structured to mean the very opposite of what we take it. A possibility? Yes. (See previous post).
But what about this verse? What about “not allowed to speak”? Isn’t that clear? How do we deal with this?
Why We Have This Discussion
Why not just take this verse at face value, obey what appears to be clear, say nothing in church and ask the husbands at home? Why even look at interpretation? Isn’t it because you just don’t like it? And it makes us uncomfortable so we just need to “interpret” it?
The reason we look at this text more closely is because of the context. If this verse meant that women are never to speak in church at all, in any church, at all times, it creates significant issues throughout the rest of this letter and in other places. If it means women never speak in all churches at all times, then we would need to re-write Scripture and in some places even grab our scissors and cut Scriptures out. Here would be our “To-Do List.”
The To-Do List of Our Scissors and Pens
First, we would need to change the wording in this immediate context in 14:26 that “everyone” has something to offer as far as a hymn, word of instruction, a revelation, etc… And we would need to change it in v. 27 too that “anyone” who speaks in a tongue or prophesies and change it to “man only” verbiage. Paul at times used “man” verbiage to clarify something (1 Tim 2:8) but not here. But if we take v. 34 to mean all women all time don’t speak we would need to change that to the man verbiage.
Second, we need to clarify in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians that the gifts that Paul gives are only for the men. Or that if it is a gift that involves speaking in the church such as the gift of “the message of wisdom,” “the message of knowledge,” “prophecy”, “speaking in different kinds of tongues” (1 Cor 12:7-11), that those gifts are for men only.
Third and very telling, we need to cut out 1 Cor 11:2-16) where women are actually told that when they pray and prophesy their head needs covered. If they spoke in the church then this whole section would be irrelevant and need cut out. Kind of a relief actually as it was a hard text anyway. But clearly this whole section is pointless if a Cor 14:34 is that all woman at all time are not allowed to speak in the church.
There’s more. We would also need to go outside of 1 Corinthians and deal with some problems.
First we would have to have a hard discussion with the Holy Spirit about his actions. It would cause a problem when he gave the ability to prophesy to “both men and women” (Acts 2: 17-18). If you give a gift that no one could use then…?
Second we will need to tell Philip that he needs to silence his prophesying daughters (Acts 21:9) because their gift is wrong.
Third we need to tell Paul that Priscilla can’t be involved in the discussion with Apollos (18:26). He is a man and she is a woman.
Fourth, we need to make sure that when Lydia comes to the Lord and opens her house up for a church, that she is only allowed to ask her pagan husband at home questions about the faith, because she can’t speak in the gatherings of the believers (Acts 16:11-15).
I’m not trying to be facetious (Ok, maybe a little) but I want to make a point. If we don’t apply sound interpretation to this verse, we have more problems than we can manage. If we don’t look at this verse contextually, it does massive violence to the rest of Scriptures, even in 1 Corinthians!
That’s why we are going to look at even this verse more closely. More to come.