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The 4th century church father, Jerome, argues against the Pelagians in his day who evidently allowed for women singing. He writes:

Who does not know that women should sing in the privacy of their own rooms, away from the company of men and the crowded congregation? But you allow what is not lawful, and the consequence is, that, with the support of their master, they make an open show of that which should be done with modesty, and with no eye to witness.

It looks like Jerome was not alone in his view, for Cyril of Jerusalem (4th century) also writes (emphasis added):

Let men be with men, and women with women. For now I need the example of Noah’s ark: in which were Noah and his sons, and his wife and his sons’ wives. For though the ark was one, and the door was shut, yet had things been suitably arranged. If the Church is shut, and you are all inside, yet let there be a separation, men with men, and women with women : lest the pretext of salvation become an occasion of destruction. Even if there be a fair pretext for sitting near each other, let passions be put away. Further, let the men when sitting have a useful book; and let one read, and another listen: and if there be no book, let one pray, and another speak something useful. And again let the party of young women sit together in like manner, either singing or reading quietly, so that their lips speak, but others’ ears catch not the sound: for I suffer not a woman to speak in the Church. And let the married woman also follow the same example, and pray; and let her lips move, but her voice be unheard, that a Samuel may come, and your barren soul give birth to the salvation of God who has heard your prayer; for this is the interpretation of the name Samuel (Protocatechesis, 14, NPNF, s. 2, v.7).

A Wikipedia article writes the following about Orthodox Judaism:

In Orthodox Judaism, men are generally not allowed to hear women sing, a prohibition called kol isha (literally "a woman's voice"). The Talmud classifies this as ervah (literally "nakedness"). The majority view of halakhic authorities is that this prohibition applies at all times, and forbids a man to pray or study Torah in the presence of a woman who is singing, similar to other prohibitions classified as ervah. A minority view holds that the prohibition of praying or studying in the presence of kol isha applies only while reciting the Shema Yisrael prayer.

Is there any evidence that women every sang publicly with men present in Bible history? This is similar to the question of whether women of faith were ever ever allowed to show their ankles in public before men or whether they uncovered the top of their bodies while engaging in mix gender bathing in ancient Roman & Bible times.

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  • Could you turn that round and first say what's the purpose of the Question? Either way, could "in Bible history" be helpful (or meaningful)? Do you see no difference between "in Biblical times" and "in the Bible"? How is either the same as "in Bible history"? If we're not bound by the words of the Bible, how likely could it be that women never sang publicly with men present? Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 22:40
  • @Robbie, clearly a large segment of late Jewish and early Christian tradition restricted women from singing when men were present. How and why that happened, despite it conflicting with Biblical examples (as noted in the various responses), is worthy of another question.
    – Jess
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 0:01
  • Thanks and I don't understand how that could matter. The Question here is "Did women ever…" If you'd like to amend that I, for one, would you support you… Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 20:59
  • @Robbie, If I understand you correctly you are asking for more of a generic cultural question - e.g. "did women in Bible times sing in public?" That question would open the responses to include Egyptian, Persian, Greek, Roman etc. sources. Is that what you are thinking about?
    – Jess
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 22:25
  • I'm thinking of clarity, focus and less room for all kinds of ambiguity… Are singing "publicly" and "with men present" the same? Again, does "in Bible history" mean "in Biblical times" or "in the Bible" or something else? "… allowed for women singing" might mean "allowed women to sing" or not. Which Jerome meant, if either, or whether his words truly fit the Question title, isn't clear. Who thinks I'm being "awkward", please remember how little deviance from doctrine was needed back then to justify stoning or since, burning at the stake. Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 23:24

4 Answers 4

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The answer seems simple. The bible directly speaks of women singing in public.

When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres.
-- 1 Samuel 18:6 NIV

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Exodus 15:19-21 (NIV)

19 When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen[e] went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. 20 Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them:

“Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.”

The other women appear to be the immediate audience, but as this happens immediately after crossing the Red Sea, it seems pretty certain that there would have been men present too.

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Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,

2Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.

Judges 5

And so on for the rest of the chapter.

It is clear from the repetition of 'I' in verse 2 that it is a duet.


I have put the whole of this song into verse (from the KJV) if anyone is interested and it is available (free of charge) as a download from my website in the book entitled 'Songs of the Witnesses'.

Song 10 Deborah’s Duet

1 Praise ye the LORD who did avenge

his people Israel.

When willingly themselves did give,

‘twas then they did prevail.

2 Give ear O kings and princes, hear;

I, I, a song will raise,

unto the LORD. To Isr’el’s God,

the LORD, will I sing praise

And so on . . . . .

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In addition to the specific examples of women singing in public already mentioned, there are several references to singers that pair masculine and feminine Hebrew nouns together:

Jeremiah also uttered a lament for Josiah, and all the singing men and singing women (כָֽל־הַשָּׁרִ֣ים וְ֠הַשָּׁרוֹת) have spoken of Josiah in their laments to this day. (2 Chronicles 35:25, NRSV)

The whole assembly together was forty-two thousand three hundred sixty, besides their male and female servants, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty-seven; and they had two hundred male and female singers (מְשֹׁרְרִ֥ים וּֽמְשֹׁרְר֖וֹת). (Ezra 2:64-65, NRSV)

I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and of the provinces; I got singers, both men and women (שָׁרִ֣ים וְשָׁר֗וֹת), and delights of the flesh, and many concubines. (Ecclesiastes 2:8, NRSV)

Particularly significant to the question of whether women sang with men present is this quote from Barzillai the Gileadite:

Today I am eighty years old; can I discern what is pleasant and what is not? Can your servant taste what he eats or what he drinks? Can I still listen to the voice of singing men and singing women (שָׁרִ֣ים וְשָׁר֑וֹת)? Why then should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king? (2 Samuel 19:35, NRSV)

Barzillai implies that he used to listen to singing men and singing women, but now he is too hard of hearing to be able to enjoy their singing like he used to.

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