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Women In The Church

1 Corinthians 14:34
34 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.

See I Corinthians and other Pastoral Epistles. Paul states that a woman is to keep silent in the Church (I Corinthians 14:34). In 1 Corinthians 11:5, a woman is praying in the assembly. Examine closely the context of 1 Corinthians 14 and determine if Paul meant for the woman to keep silent only in regard to the tongue issue. Did he apply this only to the Corinthian Church or the culture of the Middle East? Scripturally, can a woman pray, sing, or give a testimony in a church service? Can she teach men? Research, discuss, and come to a conclusion.

Many will argue the teachings relate to specific types of situations – notably the issue of tongues, interpretations of tongues, and prophecy. Certainly major portions of Corinthians 12 deals with the spiritual gifts while chapter 14 focuses mostly (but not entirely) on tongues and their interpretation. However, it is to noticed that much of 1 Corinthians 14 also deals with the issue of prophecy. Either way, many scholars attempt to limit the force of 14:34 to one (or both) of these two areas. 

This would seem to be an incorrect application of the command. The setting of chapter 14 is public worship. Indeed, at 14:22 Paul distinguishes between tongues as a gift for non-believers and prophecy as a gift directed toward believers. The normal setting where the church expects to encounter non-believers is the worship service. At 14:23 Paul speaks of the “the whole church be come together into one place.” Paul’s command is pointing to this form of service. Paul’s command to women to remain silent aims at the public worship service.

“As also saith the law” has reference to the woman’s being submissive to the man (Eph 5:22, 24). This concept of submission may relate back to such Old Testament verses as Genesis 3:16b: “. . . and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Viewing “the law” in this fashion relates to other similar teachings of Paul with regard to women and the church ministry. For example, consider 1 Timothy 2:11-12:

11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

The teaching of this verse is very similar to that of 1 Corinthian 14:34. Women are not to teach men nor to usurp or exercise authority over them. The women are to be in silence. The place such could occur is within the public worship service. Women are to be silent during this time period and not exercise authority. 

Paul builds his teaching in 1 Timothy on two points. First, “Adam was first formed, then Eve” (1 Tim 2:13. This position comes right from the Genesis account. Then, second, Paul states that “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression (1 Tim 2:14). So, both the basis for Paul’s teaching in 1 Timothy looks “to the law,” viewing the law as the entire writings of Moses. This is in line with his comments in 1 Corinthians. In both instances, Paul looks back to the book of beginnings as the foundation for his teachings on women in the church.


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