Gnostic Doctrine

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Reflections On 1 Corinthians 14:34-40

Let Your Women Be Silent In Church 
Reflections On 1 Corinthians 14:34-40 

From the King James Version: “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 (nomos). And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? … Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.” 

It's always profitable to examine verses more closely than we may have previously. To gain a proper understanding in this case it's vital. Following are thoughts on various phrases from the passage above. The Greek word 'ecclesia' (a body of called out ones) will replace "church" in this file. “What? Came The Word Of God Out From You?” Paul is asking if the Corinthians thought their ecclesia was the "mother” ecclesia. Was it established first? Was it the only ecclesia sending forth the Word of God? He may have said, “You've adopted some very unusual customs. You allow women to speak in a manner unknown in other ecclesias. 

You also allow irregularity and confusion unknown in all the others. You allow many to speak at the same time, and you tolerate confusion and disorder. Do you have a right to be different from others? Do you have authority to dictate to them and teach them to allow these disorders that are strictly opposed to their standard practice? Shouldn't you conform instead and observe rules that are older than yours?” Paul's main point here is that the ecclesia at Corinth wasn't established first. Really, it was one of the last ecclesias. Therefore, it had no right to differ from others or dictate to them. “Came (The Word Of God) Unto You Only?” Paul is reminding them they weren't the first to believe, nor were they the only ones to receive the Word. He likely added, “God has sent the same Gospel to others and it's traveling all over the world. 

Therefore, others have the same right as you to originate customs and special practices, but since this would create confusion and disorder you should all follow the same rules. Customs that aren't allowed in other ecclesias shouldn't be allowed in yours.” “Let Your Women Keep Silence In The Churches.” This was a Jewish ordinance. Women weren't allowed to teach in their assemblies, or even ask questions. Rabbis taught that “a woman should know nothing but the use of her spindle.” And the following saying of Rabbi Eliezer is worthy of nothing but disgust: “Let the words of the law be burned rather than be given to women.” This was the standard until the time of the Gospel when, according to the prediction of Joel, the Spirit of God would be poured out on women as well as men so they could both prophesy and teach.

 This is obvious from what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:5 when laying down rules to regulate this part of their conduct while ministering in the church. Some might wonder if this doesn't contradict what he said in Chapter 14. Or should one of these passages be understood differently? It's clearly stated in Chapter 14 that women should remain silent while in the ecclesia since there was a rule against them speaking. Yet there's no contradiction if both places are carefully examined. It's clear from the context that Paul is referring to asking questions and what might be called attempting to exercise dominion during meetings. Men were allowed to ask questions, object, argue, and attempt to rebut in the synagogues, but women weren't afforded the privilege. Paul confirms the same regarding Christian ecclesias when he orders sisters to remain silent, stating if they wanted to learn something they should ask their husbands at home because it was improper for them to contend with men on points of doctrine and matters of conscience in public. However, this certainly couldn't mean when a woman received an influence from God enabling her to teach she shouldn't obey it. On the contrary, she was encouraged to obey it, and (as stated above) Paul gave instructions in Chapter 11 regulating her personal appearance while doing it. The only thing he opposes here is questioning, fault-finding, and arguing during ecclesial meetings. He felt this would appear as an attempt to usurp authority over men by pitting their judgment against them. He also claimed allowing it would lead to acts of disobedience and arrogance, something no woman under the influence of God's Spirit would be guilty of. “Your Women Are Commanded To Be Under Obedience, As Also Saith The Law (nomos).” This could be a reference to Genesis 3:16. “I will increase your trouble during pregnancy and your pain while giving birth. In spite of this, you will still desire your husband but will be subject to him." If so, Paul must have been comparing the disorderly and disobedient women of his day with Eve. He sure wasn't talking about sisters on whom God had poured his Spirit. As for the Greek word 'nomos,' a reliable Dictionary will define it as: “That which is assigned, a practice, or a law.” It's used of law: in the NT of law in general; of a force or influence impelling one to action; of the Mosaic law or the Old Testament Scriptures in general; a custom or practice. There's no place in the Law of Moses commanding wives to be subject to their husbands. Yes, there are several examples of wives throughout the Bible doing just that, but the Law itself doesn't say it. However, as seen above, Jewish customs and practices did say it. Thus, it's best to translate the phrase in 1 Corinthians 14:34 as “Your wives are commanded to be obedient (in submission) according to Jewish custom.” Below are two verses often used to support barring sisters from public preaching and teaching, but see how they read when translated closer to the Greek and further from the thinking prevalent in the Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth centuries … 1 Tim 2:12 - “I won't allow a wife ('gune' - “a woman, specifically a wife”_Strong) to teach or assume authority over her husband ('aner' – a man, husband). Instead, she must remain quiet.” 1 Cor 13:34-40 - “Wives ('gune') should remain silent in the ecclesias. They aren't allowed to speak, but must be submissive as custom says. If they want to ask about something, they should ask their husbands at home, for it's disgraceful for a woman to speak in the ecclesia. Did God's Word originate with you? Are you the only ones it's reached? … If anyone ignores what I've said, they'll be ignored. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy and don't forbid speaking in tongues, just make sure everything is done in a fitting and orderly way.” No comment is required when it's seen how little the verses support the view of barring sisters from prophesying or teaching when rendered this way. The verse below deals with a couple seemingly involved in a joint preaching and teaching effort. It's been translated to reflect two different mindsets. Which do you suppose correctly represents what happened? Acts 18:26 Enlightened Version: “Apollos began speaking boldly in the synagogue. When Aquilla and Priscilla heard, they invited him to their home and explained God's Way more accurately.” Traditional Version: “Apollos began speaking boldly in the synagogue. When Aquilla heard, he invited him to his home and explained God's Way more accurately, while Priscilla served the cocoa and cookies she'd picked up shopping while Aquilla attended worship service.” There's no indication in the Greek that Priscilla wasn't involved in teaching Apollos the Truth. Nor does it seem likely she spent her time in the kitchen or fluttering about the house dusting shelves and straightening nick-knacks. Actually, it's unlikely Luke would even include her in the manuscript if she hadn't taken an equal part in the effort. Paul appears to feel the same way judging by the fact he calls Priscilla and Aquila “my co-workers in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 16:3) Before mentioning the pair, he spoke of a sister named Phoebe from Cenchrea, said to have been the port city serving the Corinth area. After praising Phoebe, he informs the Romans she's a deaconess ('diakonos') in her ecclesia. She must have been high on Paul's trust list since the context of the passage clearly states he trusted her enough to deliver the letter to the Romans. As you surely know, Paul's letter to believers in Rome was quite lengthy and must have made a fairly large parcel. If Phoebe traveled from the Corinth area to Rome, she'd have logged 617 miles overland (or 536 nautical miles) before reaching her destination. Of course, one can always accept the interpretation that Phoebe was a mere servant girl like Rhoda over in Jerusalem. (Acts 12:13) In that case, one wonders what kind of help Paul urged the Romans to render to Phobe when he said “Assist her in whatever business she needs your help.” Could it be carrying trays of food to and from tables? Cleaning up after Ecclesial functions? Probably neither. It's more likely he's urging them to help her complete her mission and return home safely after she has. As for the word 'diakonos,' Mr Strong claims it signifies: “An attendant, that is, (generally) a waiter (at table or in other menial duties); or specifically a Christian teacher and pastor, technically a deacon or deaconess.” A decent Lexicon will provide information on 'diakonos' similar to the following: “One who executes the commands of another, especially of a master; a servant, attendant, or minister; the servant of a king; a deacon, one who by virtue of the office assigned to him or her by the church, cares for the poor and is charged with collecting and distributing money for their use; a waiter, one who serves food and drink.” It's obvious translators choose English words that fit their view of the status and role of sisters in the early ecclesias. Many versions translate 'diakonos' with “servant.

” Only a few dare render Romans 16:1 thus: “With this letter I'm introducing Phoebe to you. She's our sister in the Christian faith and a deacon of the church in the city of Cenchrea.” In Verse 2 Paul urges the Romans to “Receive her in the Lord's name, as God's people should, and provide any help she may need, for she herself has been a good friend to many, including me.” It seems from the evidence examined here that the ban on sisters taking part in public preaching and teaching is based on a misinterpretation of verses commonly thought to support it. Of course, there may be other verses that do support it. I'd be pleased if anyone knowing of such verses would reveal them in the Comments section below. If there are no other verses, it would be to the advantage of ecclesias in general and sisters specifically to reexamine the issue, for until we do we're all missing out on the unique viewpoint of half the body of Christ.

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