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In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul says that women must be silent in churches and ask questions to their husbands when they get home:

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35, NIV)

This is completely ignored in many churches today, with many women being leaders and singers on stage, and many women in the congregation not keeping silent.

This also seems to contradict the passages which say that we are made in the image of God and are equals.

How is this explained, and why do people seemingly pick and choose parts of the Bible to follow?

Was this just Paul's opinion rather than the word of God?

Also, what would unmarried women do?

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Where does the bible say that men and women are equals? –  Benjamin Lindley Sep 5 '11 at 17:20
It is implied and not explicitly stated. –  Jonathan. Sep 5 '11 at 23:18
Aren't you reading into it something that's not there? If man and woman both being created in the same image implies that they are equals, would that not also imply that man and god are equals, since that image is also shared with him? –  Benjamin Lindley Sep 6 '11 at 0:23
@benjamin, no we are only images, but from the same image. –  Jonathan. Sep 6 '11 at 7:25
@benjaminLindley Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" –  aceinthehole Dec 20 '12 at 22:06

3 Answers 3

I have heard two explanations for this. I tend to think the second one is much more sound in the context given but I will offer them both for reference.

First of all, the passage in question is 1 Corinthians 14:34.

The first explanation I've heard is that at the time, most women were poorly educated and had a difficult time participating in the discussions at the church and were holding the men back from delving into the teachings because of the amount of background that constantly had to be given and unrelated questions that had to be fielded. Paul was trying to encourage getting as much teaching out to the men as possible leaving the men to help communicate and teach all the needed background to their wives. I suppose there is some legitimacy to the idea. I've certainly been involved in meetings where some subset of the audience wasn't fully with the program and having to stop for off topic questions all the times really puts a damper on things. My historical knowledge is not good enough to know if this was an issue in the early church but I don't think this is what was going on in the passage.

The second explanation takes into account some other aspects of Scripture including the larger context of the passage at hand.

The immediate context is about orderly worship, but the larger scope of the passage in chapter 14 is talking about prophecy in the church. When someone in the church had a teaching or message to give to the church it was a word of prophecy. Any time some such message was given it had to be tested and evaluated against Scripture to make sure that it was valid. When it was validated it would be considered authoritative and in a sense binding to those who heard it.

The Bible explains in several places are marriages are to work in loving submission to each-other, but with the husband having the responsibility of headship. While a husband may consult his wife and reach a decision together, ultimately he has the burden of being responsible for the final choices made (see Why is Adam considered the original sinner?).

In the context of this church, this means that men have the responsibility of evaluating, approving and delivering teaching to the whole body. Since women do not bear the burden of responsibility in such matters, they are asked not to be the ones voicing concerns or pronouncing judgement when such matters came up.

One must also note that Paul did not restrict women from praying or even prophesying themselves. (See 3 chapters earlier in 1 Corinthians 11:5 and Acts 2:17) This is purely an issue of headship and authority, which the Law also spoke to rather than an edict against speaking in a church building and participating in other ways.

Unmarried women are still expected to have some sort of structure around them. This would primarily be the father who is responsible for daughters until they are given over to a husband, but a brother or other family relation could play a similar role.

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I cannot resist again pointing out the number of Christians who 'contextualize' this scripture and view it as a command for the time, based on the poor education and circumstances of women, but claim that the command in the same sentence that women should not have authority is binding for all time. Sorry. Rant over. –  DJClayworth Sep 5 '11 at 22:45
@DJClayworth: Ya same rant here. It's pretty shaking exegesis but it happens all the time. I should probably have made more note of the trouble with that here. –  Caleb Sep 5 '11 at 22:47
So, some biblical commandment, from Paul, which is neither a prophet or God, is eternal too? –  Sharen Eayrs Nov 21 '13 at 1:22
@SharenEayrs I'm not sure what you're getting at but it sounds like you might not understand the role of apostles in Christianity. Paul was not a prophet or (of course) God, but h e and several other men were apostles, men who's duty it was to faithfully pass on the teachings they received from Christ himself. You might also look into the various meanings of "inspiration" to understand in what sense Christians understand Paul's writings to be divinely inspired and authoritative for teaching in all matters. –  Caleb Nov 21 '13 at 15:00
Paul pass on Christs' teaching? He barely ever met Jesus. He met Jesus like once, in a vision. That doesn't even count. Most of his teaching comes from his pharisee background. –  Sharen Eayrs Nov 22 '13 at 2:18

Order, Authority and Peace

Would you ever dare to mention that the Holy Spirit is subject to the authority and/or control of a Man? If you cannot fathom that the Holy Spirit would ever be subjected to man then you do not understand order and peace.

1 Corinthians 14:32-33 NIV

32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

You see, to be subject to something does not mean that you are worth less, it does not mean that you are not equal, it does not mean that you are dishonored. God is a God of Peace, He is a God of Order.

Woman were created for men, to be their glory!

1 Corinthians 11:7-9 (NIV)

7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

You see, women are the glory of man. Yes, woman were created for man. You will never see a man preaching to God, because this is not the order of it's creation. Jesus Christ was first, and from Christ came everything else after Him. This is the nature of God.

This is why no woman should have authority over man

This idea is not only in corinthians, it is spread throughout the gospel.

1 Timothy 2:12

I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

1 Corinthians 11:3

But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

Ephesians 5:22

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

1 Peter 3:5

For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands,

Understand that woman were created to be mans, "helper", to be his companion, that a man may rely on his woman for support. This is not a dishonoring role for a woman.

Why is this a source of contention for women?

So now we ask the question, why is this even an area of debate? Why do women refuse to be the glory and support of a man, but instead wish to rule over men?

Genesis 1:6

6 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

God made it clear from the beginning that a men will rule over women, but the women will desire the mans position of authority.

I feel that mans job is more difficult

God commands that women should submit to their husbands, but then turns around and tells the men that they need to love their wives like Christ loves the Church.

To love my wife as Christ loves the church is the most difficult command that I have ever received. I must be strong in my position as husband to retain the respect of my wife and of this household, but I should also be gentle, peaceful, understanding and always loving to my wife. Which is not the easiest thing to do.

Remember one thing girls, if a man did not stand firm in their position of authority, EVEN YOU would look on them with disrespect.

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The one point in your answer that sincerely got to the root of the contention, and we understand as servants of Christ that is we do not remove the root of anything about ourselves that is disharmonious with God's purpose, the problem will return and return again; but I loved your response, 'WHY' is this a source of contention, most especially for women of God? Sometimes, the thing that bothers us most about ourselves is the thing we are so adamantly opposed to. Paul did not write in riddles. –  user4132 Mar 12 '13 at 13:52
+1 for a truthful answer. As demeaning this is for women, it exactly represents their biblical role. It's disheartening that so many people still want to use the bible as a foundation for morality. –  kaques Jan 14 at 18:58

These are tough scriptures to get around if we don't take all of scripture into account; and also I submit that difference times and eras can bring new interpretation, such as Paul also talked about slaves being in subjection. However, in today's culture, we would not allow slavery. However in Paul's times it seems it was acceptable. We do not stone people, or do we marry multiple wives as they did in scripture. We would never allow a leader to commit adultery, murder the husband, and not go to jail. Where was the justice. There are hundreds of custom written the Bible that we do not practice today.

I have to ask this question, are these scriptures written to the Corinthian church for all cultures and for all time? It's an interesting concept, which I am sure would be very controversial. However, it's something to think about.

Certainly it is not under debate whether a woman can sing a hymn or prophesy in the church; is that the only woman's role in the Church? I can also testify and confirm through the whiteness of the Holy Spirit that that are many anointed woman in the body of Christ who teach other woman, teach children, council and proclaim the Gospel privately and in public. Debra, a profit in the the New Testament is a great example of a woman's role in the Bible, and Phoebe role in Romans seems to at least be under the authority and blessings of Paul. There are many women worship leaders that bring the presence of the Holy Spirit to he whole congregation. I believe if a woman is under the authority of her pastor or church leaders, she can teach to the whole congregation. In the book of Acts, Pricilla and Aquila had a home church and Paul lived in their home. In Acts 18:26, they are both credited of explaining to Apollos the way of God in a more excellent way. Paul certainly gives his approval collectively to this couple? I don't believe the 120 at the day of Pentecost were all men. Culturally is was difficult for woman to have a stronger role as they were mere positions in those days. Thank God we don't accept that awful state of citizenship in today's culture and church.

Biblical evidence demonstrate women can and should have strong role in the church and in congregational meeting; and evidence in the early church has many believers in a home church setting. I certainly don't believe Pricilla was silent in the the home church. If a woman writes a Christian book and the whole church at large reads it, what do we make of that? Should we not read it. The church is living stones and not buildings. My wife teaches me something everyday. My women friends council my family and most who pray for me are women.

Finally, I want all of to honor God's word in Corinthians 14. However, there are many passages in the Bible that can be difficult to interpret or for us to completely accept. I pray that we examine ourselves and ask the Holy Spirit to give us His perfect truth.

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protected by David Stratton Dec 29 '13 at 16:55

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