Women Keeping Silence: What I Believe

There is little doubt the idea of women keeping silence in the church is one of the most debated, controversial topics in all of the Bible in general, and of Paul’s writings in particular. Views and interpretations range far and wide. Minds are rarely changed, but it does happen. In this post, I am not so much looking to change anyone’s mind (although, hey, if I succeed, that’s great!); rather, what I hope to do is to communicate, in written form, what I personally believe about the subject. And as far as what I “believe” means, I mean what I communicate with my family, that is, my wife, and our children, especially our daughter.

Therefore, without further ado, if you are at all interested in reading, I present below what I believe to be a fair, balanced, and accurate understanding of just what Paul was after in regards to the Corinthians when he penned so many centuries ago, that women must remain “silent“.

Peace and God bless,

The Votive Soul

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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.

The first thing to note is that in Greek, there are not two different words for either man and husband, or woman and wife. As it pertains here, “Let your women…” can just as easily, and perhaps more accurately, be translated as “Let your wives…”. You can see this at the following link:

https://biblehub.com/greek/1135.htm

The context must be the determining factor, as since, in the very next verse, it speaks of asking husbands at home.

So, wives must “keep silence“. Now, what does this mean? If you look at this link:

https://biblehub.com/greek/4601.htm

you can see a range of meanings, more than just being silent. It also means to “hold one’s peace” and to be “kept secret“.

I submit that holding one’s peace is the right way to understand the passage. Holding one’s peace means to not lose control over one’s tongue, to know when to refrain from speaking, so that peaceful relations can be maintained (think James 3:8). Remember the context. In 1 Corinthians 14, right before this verse, Paul gave a pretty thorough summary of how certain gifts of the Holy Spirit should operate, particularly prophecy and diverse kinds of tongues with interpretation. The adjoining verses previous to 34 speak of the following:

1.) Allowing two to three prophets in the meeting speak.

2.) Letting others then judge what they have said.

3.) If something prophetic is revealed to someone else, the prophet who is speaking is to “hold his peace” so that the other person may interject their revelation. This holding of the prophet’s peace is from the same Greek word as keeping silent in verse 34. So, even men, prophets no less, are enjoined to “keep silence“, as it were, the same as the women/wives of the church.

4.) Allowing all that are present an opportunity to prophesy one by one so that everyone may learn and be comforted. All that are present includes women, since 1 Corinthians 11:5 grants women the right to pray and prophesy in the church, provided they are properly “covered” or “veiled“, as it were.

5.) The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, meaning even prophets or those prophesying can control themselves, hold their peace, choose when to speak, and when to refrain, not speak over someone, vie for attention, shout someone down, and etc.

6.) God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (that is, if properly obeyed, God can and will help everyone correctly hold their peace, and not lose control of themselves, men and women both, in every church everywhere).

It is into that context that Paul writes about women/wives holding their peace. When he writes stating they are not permitted to speak, it’s in this sense. If a woman or wife is going to lose control of herself, endanger the peace, add confusion, or etc., by not being in submission/subjection to her husband, then she must, to put it bluntly, shut up. Particularly when a prophet is speaking, particularly when she doesn’t understand what has been said by that prophet.

It doesn’t mean she can’t even say “hi” or “Praise the Lord” in worship, or pray when the saints pray. Rather, she can and should pray, and she can and should prophesy, as the Spirit allows, in the decency and order God ordains. Remember what prophesying is: it edifies, exhorts, and comforts. It doesn’t teach or indoctrinate (1 Corinthians 14:3). If a woman/wife is going to attempt to do that, it must only be under her husband’s permission, and only among other women and with children, lest 1 Timothy 2:11 be violated.

Going further, remember that Corinth began as a synagogue, among Jews. The law of the synagogue regarding the mechitzah requires that men and women be separated.*

See here: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/art…the-synagogue/

It is likely this is what Paul meant when he referred to “law” in verse 34. There is no actual law in all of the Torah that states a woman or wife cannot speak, that is, that not talking during religious rituals is the means whereby a woman or wife proves she is under obedience to her husband.

So, imagine a scenario in which a wife, who is separated from her husband by a mechitzah, who is tending to the children, while a prophet is speaking to the church, suddenly interrupts to call over to her husband because she doesn’t understand something and wants her husband to explain it to her.

That would be out of order. She needs to hold her peace and ask her husband at home. If a woman/wife has missed something important, likely because she was tending their children, or helping with the meal, or for any other reason, that would otherwise bless, edify, exhort, or comfort her, it is the husband’s job, at home, to share what was said, what was missed, or not understood, and explain it to the woman/wife, and thus, she gets fed what the Spirit was saying through the prophet, just at a later time, that is, at home, away from the meeting, through her head, that is, her husband.

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* An important historical factor is also at play here. Even though the Temple of God at Jerusalem was still standing when Paul wrote this letter, by the time of the 1st century, local, municipal synagogues more so than the Temple, were the main hubs and centers of Jewish spirituality. Nonetheless, various laws and regulations that governed the Temple were also implemented into local, municipal synagogues. For example, the Temple had four different courts, the first was the Court of the Priests, the second the Court of Israel, the third the Court of Women, and the fourth the Court of Gentiles.

See: http://templemountlocation.com/herodTempleCourts2.html

In a similar pattern, local, municipal synagogues followed suit, in that men were separated from women, and Gentiles, while permitted, were separated from everyone else. In this way, during a meeting, men gathered near the center, the leaders of the synagogue, like priests in the temple, usually held center stage, while women sat behind and apart from the men, often behind a mechitzah, and Gentiles at the far edges of the auditorium, just like at the Temple. In these meetings, only men were allowed to read, speak, discuss, dissent, and ask questions. Women all learned in silence and did not participate. It is clear then, that Paul is not offering anything new, but rather is enforcing the “law” of the synagogue, such as he and all of Judea and the Diaspora of Israel knew it.

~ by votivesoul on 09/29/2019.

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