Should Women be Silent in the Church? A Biblical Study of 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35

Let me say from the outset of this article that it is not in any way my intention to cause doubt about the text of the Bible in the minds of believers. Most textual scholars will attest to the fact that the Greek text of the New Testament is amazingly close to what was written in the original letters by Paul, Peter, Matthew, John, and others. [1] The “Big Lie” that the New Testament text has been copied so many times that it is not reliable is just that: a big lie. However, occasionally a scribal change to the Greek text became generally accepted, and one of those scribal changes is the subject of this article.

For many centuries women have not been allowed to lead or to teach in churches based in part upon what God supposedly stated in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35.

1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35 (NASB)
(34) Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says.
(35) And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

There is good evidence that these two verses were not part of Paul’s original writing, but were added to the text by scribes or copyists. It is never desirable to change Christian practice by omitting a verse of the Bible. Nevertheless, it is honest to recognize that occasionally the biblical text was changed, and in this case there are a number of pieces of evidence that certainly seem to warrant removing these verses that say women should be silent in the church. Before we examine those, however, it must be admitted that if these verses are an addition to the Greek text, it would have been an early addition, because the verses appear in the Greek manuscripts of 1 Corinthians.

Copying the Bible
There are about 5,700 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in existence today. Only a few of them are referred to as “complete,” meaning they contain every book of the New Testament. All the other manuscripts are only parts of the New Testament, and many of those are small, with some being much less than a page of Scripture. No two New Testament manuscripts are identical. While at first that might make any believer nervous, there are good explanations for it. Copying manuscripts was usually done by professional scribes, who sat in scriptoriums (rooms especially designated for copying manuscripts). Since it was their “job” to copy, they copied day after day, if they were hot or cold, if they were sick or well, if they were tired or wide awake. The scriptoriums were generally not well lit, and often the copyists wrote as someone in the front of the room dictated to a group of them. As we can imagine, this practice led to errors created by “mishearing,” and to spelling errors. These are easy to catch and correct, just as spelling errors are easy to catch in English. Sometimes someone will say, “No two Greek manuscripts are alike” as if it was a huge revelation that cast doubt on the whole New Testament. While it is true that spelling and grammatical errors do make manuscripts different, those errors do not usually cause a problem in reconstructing the original text.

However, there were times that scribes either wrote the wrong thing, or skipped a phrase or a line. What did they do then? They did not have erasers, so they wrote the correct reading in the margin of their manuscript. That way, when the manuscript was copied again, the correction could be added back into the text. However, in the early days of the church as well as today, people wrote notes and commentary in the margin of their Bibles. Occasionally one of those notes would be copied into the text by the next scribe. That is almost certainly what happened with the text about women in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35, and we will now examine why we think those verses were an addition to the text.

Additions to the Text Appear in Different Places
When today’s scholars encounter a word or sentence that is in some manuscripts but not in others, they have certain tests they apply to see whether the phrase was added or omitted. However, even the scholars do not always agree on a conclusion. One piece of evidence scholars look at to determine whether a phrase has been added to the text or omitted from it is its placement in the text. If a phrase is in the original text, then obviously, when it is omitted, it is always omitted from the same place. However, if a phrase is not in the original text, when a scribe adds it, another scribe may add it in a different place, or, thinking it does not fit, move it somewhere else.

1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35 do not appear in the same place in every manuscript of 1 Corinthians. Although it is still possible that the verses are original and some scribe simply moved them, that does not happen very often, and shows that in any case, the scribes were uncomfortable with the verses being where they were. In this case, however, given the weight of other evidence that indicates the verses were not part of the original text, the fact that these verses appear in different places in a few manuscripts of 1 Corinthians has helped some scholars conclude they were added to the text by a copyist. Alan Johnson writes, “A growing number of modern scholars believe that verses 34-35 (36?) are a later interpolation (gloss) added at an early stage in the manuscript transmission. [2] Richard Hays writes, “All things considered, this passage is best explained as a gloss [addition] introduced into the text by the second- or third-generation Pauline interpreters who compiled the pastoral epistles.” [3]

Additions to the Text Often Break the Context
Scholars have long noticed that 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35 break the flow of the passage, which makes perfect sense without them.

1 Corinthians 14:29-37 (NASB; without verses 34 and 35) [4]
(29) And let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.
(30) But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, let the first keep silent.
(31) For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;
(32) and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets;
(33) for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
(36) Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?
(37) If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment.

As we can see from reading the above verses, verse 36 makes perfect sense after verse 33, because the prophets who spoke had a revelation (v. 30), but they still must listen to other prophets. The word of the Lord had not come “to you only,” i.e., only to those prophets. However, if we add verses 34 and 35, we create contradictions in the text, and we will examine some of them in the pages that follow.

Has the Word Come to You Women Only?
One of the contradictions created by the addition of these verses is that there is no evidence any women thought the Word of God came to them only, as verse 36 asserts.

1 Corinthians 14:34-36 (NASB)
(34) Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says.
(35) And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.
(36) Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?

Any woman who might have been speaking in the church certainly knew her place in society, since in both Jewish and Greco-Roman society women’s roles were quite tightly defined. The evidence is that Jesus Christ himself began to liberate women to minister more freely, and by the time Paul wrote Corinthians he had already written Galatians, affirming that there is neither male nor female in Christ (Gal. 3:28). However, there is nothing in Greco-Roman or Jewish culture, or in the context of these verses, that leads us to think that the women in Corinth asserted that the Word of God came only to them, or only out from them. The fact that the women of Corinth wore head coverings as a sign of the authority over them (1 Cor. 11:5) is evidence that they were not being rebellious or acting as if God was speaking only to them.

Worth pointing out is that Paul’s comment in verse 36 seems especially inappropriate if addressed to the women because it is harsher than a simple statement, it is biting irony, or as Robertson and Plummer point out, actually sarcasm. [5] Being sarcastic to the women seems very inappropriate and out of place. There is no evidence it was warranted. On the other hand, writing the phrase about the Word of God coming to “you only” would make perfect sense if it were written to one of the prophets. A prophet who got a revelation from God, as is indicated in verse 30, might have felt so strongly about his revelation that he might try to persuade the entire congregation of his point of view no matter how other prophets saw the situation. History is replete with examples of people who think they hear from God and are so convinced about it that no one can persuade them otherwise, no matter how ridiculous their “revelation” seems. Since it can take a real jolt to convince a prophet to let go of his idea, if the sarcastic sentences in verse 36, and the phrase, “has it come to you only” is applied to the prophets in verses 29 and 30, they fit perfectly. Thus, the fact that verse 36 applies to the prophets of verse 30 and not to the women of verses 34 and 35, is good evidence that the verses about the women being silent were added.

Ask Your Husbands?
The phrase about the women “asking their husbands” at home is another indication that these verses were added to the text. Although the meaning of the Greek word translated “husbands” has a broader application in Greek than in English, the wording of the Greek text most naturally refers to husbands. Would God be so insensitive as to tell the women not to speak, adding that if they had any questions they could ask their husbands at home? Remember, it was only seven chapters earlier that he had specifically singled out the “widows” and said, “But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I [Paul]” (1 Cor. 7:8 NASB). How “good” would it be to remain as a widow if it meant that you could not express yourself in the church and also had no husband at home to ask questions? It seems quite insensitive and disingenuous for God to say in chapter seven that it would be good for a woman to remain single and then in chapter 14 to say she cannot express her opinions in church, and to ask her “husband.”

Another problem with limiting women to asking their husbands is that not every husband could answer the questions of their wives. Some husbands were uneducated, some did not care, and some were not even Christian, a point that was made in 1 Corinthians 7:13. Calvin admits this and tries to solve the problem. He says, “When he [Paul] says husbands, he does not prohibit them from consulting the Prophets themselves, if necessary. For not all husbands are competent to give an answer…” [6] However, Lange points out, “‘Their own (idious) is emphatic, confining them to their own husbands to the exclusion of other men.” [7] Thus, the wording of the text would leave the women who had no husbands, or whose husbands could not answer their questions, with no clear instruction about what God wanted them to do. It certainly seems that our loving God would not put the women in that precarious situation, but would have said something to clarify the situation.

Another problem with the phrase about “asking the husbands at home” is it unrealistically limits the reasons that women speak in meetings. Note that in the context, women are not supposed to speak because, “if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands” (v. 35). God knows that women speak in the church for a lot more reasons than just to ask questions so they will “learn.” Surely we will all acknowledge that women have good ideas, important opinions, and profound insights. It certainly seems that if these verses were genuinely from God who gave the holy spirit to both men and women, He would have said more than the women could “ask” at home.

If these verses really were to guide the Church concerning women, it certainly seems God would have mentioned that the women could influence the congregation by talking with their husbands, or other men if their husbands were not interested, who could then bring their valuable insights back to the congregation. It also seems He would have added some guidance as to how the widows were to get their opinions and insights to the congregation. Of course, all that “extra explanation” is unnecessary if verses 34 and 35 are not in the original text because the women could speak up.

Women were Publicly Prophesying in the Congregation
Another clear contradiction caused by 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35 can be easily seen by reading the rest of the New Testament and realizing that the women were in fact speaking in the Church. The immediate context mentions prophecy, so that is a good place to start examining the subject of women speaking in the congregation.

1 Corinthians 14:31-35 (NASB)
(31) For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;
(32) and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets;
(33) for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
(34) The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.
(35) If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

The verses about women not speaking come right after the verses about everyone giving a prophetic message. Even scholars who believe that women should not lead or teach admit that God allows women to prophesy in the congregation. Even the Jewish religion of the Old Testament, which strictly excluded women from public ministry in the Tabernacle and Temple, recognized that women could prophesy or lead if they had the spirit of God upon them. Influential prophetesses in the Old Testament include Miriam, Moses’ sister (Ex. 15:20); Deborah, who was one of the Judges of Israel (Judg. 4 and 5); and Huldah, who advised the great King Josiah (2 Chron. 34:22). There were also recognized prophetesses around the time of Christ. For example, Anna prophesied in the Temple about the newborn Christ (Luke 2:36-38). Other women, perhaps not even recognized as prophets, spoke prophetic words that have come down to us in the Word of God. Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother, is an example (Luke 1:41-45).

The Christians, as well as the Jews, recognized women could prophesy in public. At the very start of the Church, on the Day of Pentecost when the gift of holy spirit was poured out, Peter made it clear that both men and women would receive holy spirit, and both would prophesy. Joel had foretold that they would (Joel 2:28, 29), and Peter confirmed what Joel said. While quoting Joel, Peter said the Lord would, “…pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…Even upon My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit And they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18). Thus the expectation was set from the first day of the Christian Church that women would prophesy. Where would that generally occur? The same place the men would prophesy; in the meetings of the Church.

Philip the Evangelist had four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9) and the context of their prophecy makes it clear that they prophesied to Paul about his situation. By the time Corinthians was written, somewhere around 25 years after the crucifixion of Christ, women and men were actively engaging in prophecy, and that certainly was the case in Corinth, where sometimes everyone in the church had a prophetic word (1 Cor. 14:24). However, as we saw above, women were told to prophesy and pray in public with their heads covered as a sign of the authority over them (1 Cor. 11:5).

Since it is quite clear even from Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians that women could prophesy and pray openly in the church (1 Cor. 11:5), it makes no sense that Paul would immediately follow a verse about them prophesying with a verse saying they had to be “silent” and not speak. The contradiction between 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35 and Paul’s other writings has been commonly seen. For example, Richard Hays writes,

One of the strongest reasons for regarding these verses as an interpolation [addition] is that their demand for women to remain silent in the assembly stands in glaring contradiction to 11:2-16…Furthermore, all the other available evidence indicates that women played an active role in preaching, teaching, and prophesying in the early Pauline communities…” [8]

It seems quite clear that if Paul were going to say women should be silent, he would have to explain it more fully so that the people of Corinth would not be confused. However, although it makes no sense that Paul would seemingly contradict himself here, it makes perfect sense that a copyist who had strong feelings about women not speaking up would make a marginal note to that effect; a note which got copied into the later manuscripts.

The scribes or copyists were professionals, and the task was one that required an advanced education, so they almost always came from what we today would refer to as the “upper middle class,” and perhaps even had family roots in either the Jewish or Greco-Romans temple system, which limited the participation of women. Among the Jews, both the Jewish culture and the fact that synagogues were built so that the women were separated from the men kept the women from speaking in the Synagogue, so this note could have come from a person with a Jewish background, especially because of his comment about the Law. [9] On the other hand, it was specifically part of Greek culture that the more educated Greek men teach their less educated wives, so the comment about asking the husbands at home fits equally well in Greek society. [10] We can easily imagine such a copyist reading the text in verse 30 about everyone, women and men, prophesying in the congregation and making a marginal note, or perhaps even a textual addition, expressing his feelings that women could prophesy in the congregation, but that was all they could do, and beyond that they should be silent and ask their husbands.

Speaking Up in the Congregation
One of the clear pieces of evidence in the Word of God that God did not command women in the Church to be silent is that it is quite clear that they were regularly speaking up besides just giving prophecy. One verse that gives evidence for that is 1 Corinthians 14:26.

1 Corinthians 14:26 (NASB)
What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification”

When the congregation gathered at Corinth, everyone participated. Of course, someone might argue that the word “brethren” makes the verse refer only to the men. However, the word “brothers” is often used to refer to both men and women (Matt. 25:40, Rom. 8:29, Eph. 6:23, Rev. 12:10). In this case both the context of the verse and its contents make it clear that everyone, not just the men, were speaking.

Taking a close look at the list of things that Paul mentioned in verse 26 as being done out of order, the women were apparently participating in all of them. This solidly confirms that the women were speaking up in the congregation. The women could speak up if they got a “revelation,” because by definition when a person had a revelation and spoke it, that was prophecy, and the women could prophesy in the church (1 Cor. 11:5; 14:24). Also, the women were both allowed and encouraged to speak in tongues (vv. 5, 23). Furthermore, interpretation followed naturally after tongues, so women who spoke in tongues would have been encouraged to interpret (v. 5). Also, since the women were praying in the congregation (11:5), it makes sense that they would occasionally be praying a psalm or reciting a psalm of praise, so the word “psalm” would also sometimes include congregational participation by women. That leaves only “teaching” out of the list, but arguing from silence, i.e., asserting that women did not teach because Scripture never says they did, is a weak argument. The fact that the early Church Fathers spent time condemning teaching by women seems to be a good ancillary argument that they did occasionally teach, something confirmed in 1 Tim. 2:12. [11] Furthermore, in the book of Revelation, the prophetess Jezebel is castigated because “she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (Rev. 2:20 NASB). It is important to note that she is not reproved for teaching in and of itself, but for teaching error. The context makes that abundantly clear, because the next verse says that she was given time to repent, but the thing she needed to repent of was her sexual sin, not the fact that she was teaching. [12]

What Does the Law Say?
Another piece of evidence that 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35 were added to the text is the phrase, “as the Law also says.” Scholars have long had a problem with this phrase, because the Law does not clearly say that. Gordon Fee, after pointing out that nowhere else does Paul use the Law to dictate Christian practice, writes: “More difficult yet is the fact that the Law does not say any such thing” (emphasis his). [13] Commentators wanting to support Paul have tried very hard to justify Paul’s supposed statement by coming up with verses from the Law which would support the idea that women should be silent. Many say that Paul was likely referring to Genesis 3:16, that men would rule over women, but that is not what Genesis 3:16 is saying. Genesis 2:20-24 has been cited, and Job 29:21, but like Genesis 3:16, these verses do not say women should be silent. [14] The fact is that although the general tenet of the Mosaic Law was that women had a subordinate role to men in society and worship, there is nothing in the Law about them being “silent.” [15]

1 Timothy 2:12
One of the verses that is often quoted to show God’s disapproval of women teaching is in 1 Timothy.

1 Timothy 2:12 (NASB)
But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.

This verse, when properly translated and understood, confirms that women can teach in the Church. [16] But for the sake of argument, let’s say it was well translated and properly understood to say that a woman could not teach or lead men in the Church. If that were the case, it would be actually more lenient than the verses in Corinthians that teach women should not speak in the congregation. Timothy is a leadership epistle, and it was written a decade or so after Corinthians was written.

It is a general tenet of the epistles of Timothy and Titus, which are written to leaders, that the directions within them are more specific and more stringent than the directions within the epistles written to the Church in general. For example, the qualifications of the leaders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are quite stringent and much more specific than what is mentioned in the other Church Epistles. Also, the directions about what to wear, what kinds of conversations or people to avoid, how to fight for the faith, and how to raise up others in the congregation are more specific than what is in the general epistles. Therefore, if 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35, which say women should not speak, are actually in the original text, then why would Paul say women should not teach men in Timothy? They should not be speaking at all, much less teaching the men!

Could it really be that Corinthians, written to every believer, says women should not speak, but Timothy, written years later for leaders, just points out that they should not teach or lead men? Imagine being a leader in the first century church and running very disciplined home meetings where women were not allowed to speak, but then getting the epistle to Timothy saying they could not teach or lead men. That would only result in confusion. Would Paul’s new letter mean that women could now voice their opinions as long as they did not teach? Does Timothy override Corinthians? Actually, no such confusion likely ever occurred. First, because the book of Corinthians that the believers were reading when the epistle to Timothy arrived did not have 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35 in it. Second, because they would have properly understood and applied Timothy, realizing that women were indeed to teach and lead, but like the men had to watch their doctrine closely.

The Common Practice of the Church
One thing that Christians can be thankful for is that when something is wrong with Christian doctrine, the spirit of God usually moves powerfully in people to overcome the problem. That certainly is the case when it comes to 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35 and women being silent in the congregation. Perhaps no supposed command of God is as regularly ignored as this one. In churches and fellowship halls around the world, in denomination after denomination, women speak up. Even in many denominations that do not allow women to teach the congregation, they are allowed to contribute before or after the sermon.

Their speaking up is even more apparent in the many house churches and cell groups that are being run all over the globe. In those small settings, women often openly share the Word of God, their testimonies, ideas, and opinions. This is important, because when Corinthians was penned by the Apostle Paul, around the middle of the first century, house churches were the only “churches” there were. Were first-century house church meetings so different from ours today? Could it be that a spirit of rebellion is running rampant in today’s Christian women who speak up in spite of the command not to, and Christian men either cannot seem to hear the spirit of God or are too spineless to force the women to be silent? That is not likely. It is much more likely that God did not tell the women to be silent in church, but rather that was the opinion of a copyist or scribe that years later became copied into the Bible.

Additional Evidence the Verses Were Added
Another piece of evidence that Paul did not write 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35 is that those verses contain some vocabulary that is not characteristic of Paul. This is something that has been pointed out by a number of Greeks scholars, and in and of itself would be a weak argument that the verses were not written by Paul. However, given the other weighty evidence that the verses were a scribal addition, the unPauline vocabulary is more evidence that leads us to the conclusion that the verses were not part of what Paul originally wrote. [17]

Explaining the Verses
Due to the fact that the verses appear in the Greek manuscripts, many scholars feel that they must be original, even though they are “difficult.” This has led to a large number of ways, some of them quite imaginative, that these verses have been explained. It is important to mention some of these explanations, but before we do, we should notice that they fall into two general categories. The first is that the verses are literal and women should not speak at all, and the second is that women can speak, but there are limitations as to who and when.

Commentators who fall into the first category, saying that women are to be silent in public worship, must explain the verses that say they can speak. John Calvin is such a commentator, and he argues that the verses that say women must be silent are clear and literal, while the verses in 1 Corinthians 11 about women praying or prophesy as long as their heads are covered, do not really mean what they seem to be saying. His note on 1 Corinthians 11:5, which says it is a shame for a woman to pray or prophesy with her head uncovered, says:

It may seem superfluous for Paul to forbid women to prophecy with her head uncovered, while elsewhere he wholly prohibits women from speaking in the Church. It would not, therefore, be allowable for them to prophesy even with a covering upon their head, and hence it follows that it is to no purpose that he argues here as to a covering. It may be replied, that the Apostle, by here condemning the one, does not commend the other. For when he reproves them for prophesying with the head uncovered, he at the same time does not give them permission to prophesy in some other way, but rather delays his condemnation of that vice to another passage, namely in chapter 14. [18]

What Calvin just said in very elevated vocabulary is that even though God says women are to cover their heads when they pray or prophesy, actually that is not permission to do so, and they are really not to speak in public at all, which he refers to as a “vice.” Most modern commentators reject this kind of thinking.

The second way scholars deal with the command in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35 for women to be silent and not speak is to say that it cannot be God’s true intention to have all women be silent and never speak, so therefore the verses must mean something other than what they literally say. Some commentators say that Paul only meant for these difficult verses to apply to Corinth, but the language Paul uses does not lead to that conclusion. Some say that these verses apply only to married women, but again, the verses do not say that, and besides, married women such as Prisca (or Priscilla in some versions) did lead in some ways and are commended by Paul. Other commentators say that these two verses were not Paul’s position at all, but that of people opposing him and that he was actually refuting that position. However, again, a straightforward reading of the verses does not show that. It has also been set forward that the Greek word translated “speak,” lale?, refers to “chatter,” speaking that is not pertinent to the meeting. However, a study of lale? even in just the 34 times it is used in the epistle of 1 Corinthians shows that it has a wide range of meaning, so saying it means “chatter” in this verse is arbitrary; an explanation without actual support. No wonder that Gordon Fee and other commentators point out if these verses are part of the original text, no explanation of them “is free of difficulties.” [19]

If Verses 34 and 35 Were Original
In spite of much evidence that 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35 were added to the text, we must still admit to the possibility that they were original. If they are original, then they need to be understood and acted upon like the other verses that are in the original text but are specifically applicable to the culture of the time when Paul wrote. What they say must be understood in a limited sense that would apply to the church at Corinth due to the customs and culture of the time. In that sense, they would be similar to other verses such as those that say women should wear a head covering when they pray or prophesy, or those that direct women not to cut their hair but leave it long. These are understood to have applied to the church at Corinth but are not generally applicable today.

In the first century, in both the Roman and Judean cultures, women were generally uneducated and thus were not prepared to always understand the theological issues being discussed by the men in the church. In contrast, the husbands were usually more educated, which was why the women could ask their husbands at home. If God wrote these verses due to the specific circumstances of the first century, then it should be obvious that today, when women are as educated and equipped as men to minister in the church, they should be allowed to do so, especially since it is clear that there is neither male nor female in Christ. Thankfully, women are leading and teaching in the Church today, and the evidence from congregations around the globe is that they are as spiritually able to minister as the men.

Conclusion
The weight of evidence leads to the conclusion that 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35, which say women should be silent and not speak in the church, was not part of the original God-breathed Word, but was written by a copyist who had strong feelings about women’s participation in Christian meetings. However, if the verses are original, then as we have seen above, it seems very clear that they were written to deal with the specific constraints of the first-century culture, and were not God’s intention for women for all time. The Bible makes it clear that every Christian, every man and woman in the Church, has an important place in the Body of Christ and a calling of God to do something for Him. Our Adversary, the Devil has worked overtime to keep Christians from fulfilling their God-given calling. Let’s not allow the Devil, or people who have been tricked by him, to limit the effectiveness of half of the Body of Christ by some mistranslations and misunderstood verses. Women, you have a place in the Body of Christ and a calling on your life. Find out what it is and get about acting on it.

May God bless your efforts!

Endnotes

[1] Many scholars say 99% or better. Cp., John W. Schoenheit, The Bible: You Can Believe It. The most current redaction of the Greek text of the New Testament is Nessle-Aland 27 and the fourth edition of the Greek New Testament published by the United Bible Society.
[2] Alan F. Johnson, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series; 1 Corinthians (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2004), p. 271. Some commentaries give the names of scholars who believe 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35 were added. Cp. Raymond F. Collins, First Corinthians (A Michael Glazier Book; The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1999), p. 515; Simon Kistemaker, 1 Corinthians (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI, 1993), p. 511; Richard Horsley, The Abingdon New Testament Commentaries (Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN, 1998), p. 188; Anthony Thiselton, The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Epistle to the First Corinthians (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 2000), p.1150.
[3] Richard Hays, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: 1 Corinthians (John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 1997), p. 247.
[4] We use the NASB in this article because it starts a new sentence in verse 34. Scholars differ as to whether or not the last phrase in 14:33 is meant to be the close of 33, as in the KJV and NASB, or is the first part of the sentence in verse 34, as in the NIV and ESV. While we recognize that the last phrase in verse 33 may be part of the first sentence in verse 34, and if so would be part of what a copyist added to the text, we nevertheless use the NASB in this article to keep verse 33 separate in its own sentence for ease of consideration.
[5] Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (T&T Clark, Edinburgh), p. 326.
[6] John Pringle, translator, Calvin’s Commentaries: First Corinthians (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, reprinted 2005), Vol. 20, p. 469.
[7] Philip Schaff, ed., Commentary on the Holy Scriptures; Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical by John Peter Lange: Romans and Corinthians (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, reprinted 1980), Vol. 10, p. 297.
[8] Richard Hays, First Corinthians: Interpretation, A Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 1997), p. 246.
[9] C. K. Barrett, Black’s New Testament Commentary: The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 1968), p.331.
[10] Raymond F. Collins, First Corinthians (A Michael Glazier Book; The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1999), p. 522. The Greek writer Plutarch said that a woman should feel shame at being heard in public just as if she was being stripped (reference in C. K. Barrett, Black’s New Testament Commentary: The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 1968), p.331). See also, Leon Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries; 1 Corinthians (William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., Grand Rapids, MI, reprinted 1995), p. 197. While not all Greeks would agree with Plutarch, his statement does show that some Greeks were very conservative when it came to women speaking in public.
[11] Although this verse has been mistranslated and misunderstood, and taught to mean that women cannot teach, it actually says quite the opposite, and actually just addresses something they cannot teach. See, The Role of Women in the Church, and Richard and Catherine Clark Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1992).
[12] Some versions say simply, “immorality,” but the Greek word porneia is sexual sin, as versions such as the ESV, KJV, and NRSV make clear.
[13] Gordon Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First Epistle to the Corinthians (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1987), p. 707.
[14] Alan F. Johnson, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series; 1 Corinthians (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2004), p 272.
[15] One of the obvious reasons for the woman’s subordinate role in worship was that, by virtue of their menstruation, which made them “unclean” both during their period and for seven days afterward, and since priests and Levites served from age 20 to 50, they were Levitically “unclean” about half of their lives and therefore would have been unable to serve.
[16] Catherine Clark Kroeger and Richard Clark Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1992) pp. 79-113.
[17] See Gordon Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First Epistle to the Corinthians (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1987), p. 702. Roger Gryson, The Ministry of Women in the Early Church (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1980), p. 7.
[18] John Pringle, translator, Calvin’s Commentaries: First Corinthians (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, reprinted 2005), Vol. 20, p. 356.
[19] Gordon Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First Epistle to the Corinthians (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1987), p. 702.

11 comments

  1. How would I print this lesson out? I have some young novice (Brothern) who are stirring up problems. They won’t consider the fact that 1 the Pastor is and has been a Preachers kid for over 59 yrs., 2 that his particular degree is in religious history, where he graduated with honors. 3 that they are still young, as God stated “He callef the young because they are dtrong but He called the old because they know the way. I ask this not being heady, but exactly as a help, praying that God opens their understanding. Please reply to my request. Rev. Curtis, I I I

    1. Right in the first part of the article you will see a blue statement that says “Printer friendly version.” Click that and then it will give you a format that you can easily print.

    2. I realise this is a comment from a long time ago on “TruthorTradition” website. about a problem with a brethern stirring up problems but i want to tell you that if that’s your attitude you won’t get very far as a guy brought up brethern we have tremendous bible knowledge from hours of studying and seeking to find fault scripturally with what people are saying in their teachings.
      The only way you can talk and reason with brethern is in love showing kindness and meekness.
      You’ve put down his youth as a problem but the bible says quite clearly “Let no man despise your youth but be thou an example to the believers.” Please show love not anger and God can work through you to do great things.

      In Love

      A brother in Christ.

  2. If you’re suggesting that the finest resolution to this is that verse 34,35 are not part of the original text and added by the copyist. Tell me how could I tell which other verses are added/interpolated later and not part of God’s word? Hence.. how could I trust my bible?

  3. This gives much clarification. Thanks!

  4. This is awesome thank you !

  5. Good onya love this…with ya all the way…studying this whole issue “Women teaching”…thankyou

  6. WOW THANKS I LOVE THIS,
    FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME I UNDERSTAND THESE TEXT BECAUSE FOR SO LONG AS I COULD REMEMBER, MEN SAID THAT WE AS WOMAN SHOULD NOT SPEAK OR TEACH??. AND MY QUESTIONS WAS: WHY WAS THE WOMAN LEADERS, PROPHETS, JUDGES AND TEACHERS IN THE OLD TEST AND NOW THEY SHOULD NOT SPEAK THE WORD OF ELOHIM, IN THE NEW TEST. ALTHOUGH WOMAN WERE SPEAKING LIKE ANNAM KURIA….. AND SO MANY OTHERS.
    THANKS
    BLESSINGS
    Elisheva Bothma

  7. wow- it is amazing how the modern scholars are clearing up all the misnomers that Christianity has held as truths since the first century- women keep silent- is actually women do it all- l am so glad we are not being influenced by our post-modern feminist culture.

  8. who is the author of this article?

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