Paul in 1 Cor 14:1-33a speaks of tongues and prophesies, which one is better, how each one is used, the reason for each and how they must be used in an orderly fashion in church. In verses 34-35, he speaks directly to women in church and in verses 36-40, he defends his staments that he made from verse 1-35. Our concentration in the context of our series on women, will be on verse 34-35. Some manuscripts actually puts verse 34-35 after verse 40 which means that these verses actually become verse 39-40. Wether they are in verse 34-35 or 39-40, the meaning stays the same.
There has been arguments regarding the authenticity of these verses some saying that these verses contradict 1 Cor 11:5 where Paul says that women can prophesy and pray in church whereas, these verses 34-35, are saying women must not speak in church. Others say that Paul was just quoting something that the Corinthians or some of them were saying and he is rebuking it in verse 36. The debate surrounding these verses continues. Let’s look at these verses:
1 Corinthians 14:33-35 (ESVST)
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
I have choses to include verse 33 as verse 33b is actually where verse 34 starts. Verse 34 starts with these words “As in all the churches of the saints“, which are found in verse 33. Paul is saying that what he is about to say, applies in all the churches of the saints and not only Corinthian church. This already discards the notion that Paul was only specifically addressing the church at Corinth. Paul says, what I am about to say is happening in all other churches of the saints meaning believers or Christians.
Then Paul said “the women should keep silent in the churches“. The word silent here means to keep quiet. The Greek word is “sigao” meaning to be silent or still. The word is in a PRESENT IMPERATIVE. The present imperative occurs only in the active and middle voices in the New Testament. In the active voice, which this one is used in, it may indicate a command to do something in the future which involves continuous or repeated action or, when it is negated, a command to stop doing something. The imperative mood is used to give a command. Now, knowing all this Greek grammar, one can see that this statement “the women should keep silent in the churches” is a command that women should always keep silent in churches. It is not a request or a suggestion but rather, a command.
Pau says that the reason for this is that “For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says“. Paul says the reason is that the law says so. To get more understanding on what Paul refers to when he says the law, we need to look at verse 21
1 Corinthians 14:21 (ESVST)
In the Law it is written, “ By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”
As you can see, Paul here is also referring to the law and actually quotes from the law. In this verse he quoted Isaiah 28:11-12. So therefore when Paul refers to the law, he refers to the Old Testament. Therefore in verse 34, when he refers to the law, he is also referring to the Old Testament.
Paul continues to say that if the women wants to ask anything, they must ask their husbands at home. Paul continues to give another to reason why women must not speak in church and he says “For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church”. So, women must not speak in church for two reasons, the law says so and it is shameful.
This raises two questions:
1- If women are to be silent, then how can they prophesy and pray as Paul indicated in 1 Cor 11:5?
The way to reconcile these verse is to acknowledge that the silent that Paul is referring to, is not complete silence. Now, if so, what kind of silence is Paul referring to? I beleive we can find the answer in 1 Tim 2:11-12.
1 Timothy 2:11-12 (ESVST)
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
The word used for quiet in Greek is “hesychia” which also means silence or quietness. Here Paul clearly explains the type of silence that he expects from women. Paul says this silence means that they are not permitted to teach or exercise authority over a man. This is the silence he is talking about. Paul again gives the basis of his statement on the order of creation and adds as well that, it was the woman who was deceived and not the man.
1 Timothy 2:13-14 (ESVST)
For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
I don’t see how people can simply ignore the reasons Paul gives for his statements and say that Paul was saying this because of culture. This has nothing to do with culture but creation. Paul is very consistent about this. Paul is again using the order of creation as the reason
Now we know that this silence in verse 34, does not mean complete silence but rather that women are not to teach or exercise authority over men in church.
2- What about unmarried women, who are they going ask at home when they have a question?
The answer is found in Titus:
Titus 2:3-5 (ESVST)
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self- controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
As you can see, they get taught by older women.
Now that we have answered the two questions, what now? Paul referred to the law as one of the reasons why women must be silent. What part of the law is Paul referring to? Since we know that by the law, Paul is referring to the Old Testament and since we know that the type of silence that Paul is referring to is about women not teaching or exercising authority, the only part of the Old Testament that Paul could be referring to is Gen 3:16 which gives a husband authority over his wife. Paul is taking that and applying it to the church. Again here Paul is once more using creation as the basis of his reasoning. This has been very consistent throughout where Paul mentioned authority of a man over a woman.
I beleive that we have finally answered the question on whether the punishment in Gen 3:16 applies outside the marriage and it applies in the church. The answer is clearly yes, from all the scriptures that we have studied. We have also showed that the reasons why Paul makes his argument are not based on some culture but on the creation and the order of creation itself.
B) Outside the marriage and the Church.
There is no evidence in the bible that women are to be submissive to men even outside marriage and the church. Example in the workplace, etc. the authority of a man seems to be limited to the marriage and the church. However, it would be strange for a man to have authority over his wife in the marriage and in church and to report to the same wife at work. As it is, the bible says nothing about authority outside God’s created institutions like marriage and church.