The Religious A priori
Women And Christianity
Let The Women Speak in The Chruches!
I Corinthians 14:34-38
|14:34(RSV) the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says.
If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?
If any one thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord.
If any one does not recognize this, he is not recognized.
Most mainline Protestant denominations ordain women as ministers. The UMC does it, the Presbyterians, the majority of Lutherns, and many others. That doesn't prove they are right of course, but it does mean that quoting commentaries on that verse is fairly useless since the "liberals" can muster several seminaries full of scholars to defend their views. Major denominational structures don't undertake major policy changes without vast study, many committee reports form tons of theologians and scholars and so forth. All of that exists in those churches on this issue.
My own view is influenced by that of Gilbert Bilezikian, in his work, Beyond The Sex Roles. Before examining that position, however, I will examine another view, that of interpolation.
In any case there is a large body of scholarship now which supports the idea that this passage is an interpolation and doesn't even belong in scripture. The major textual support for that is that in some of the earliest copies of MS the passage is placed after v 40.So my view is actually a concession to a more conservative view, because there is a case to be made for the idea that the passage doesn't even belong there; my view treats it with more respect as the word of God, but merely tries to interpret it differently than most have done.
Is There textual evidence for the Interpolation view?
Robert Nguyen Cramer writes,
Bibletext on line Bbile commentary,"Metzger and others acknowledge that there are some ancient manuscripts (as early as 5th Century) where verses 34-35 are found after verse 40. This is evidence that those verses were at least moved around in some Greek versions. The obvious awkwardness of their placement between verse 33a and verse 37 encouraged such movement. It is my current honestly held conclusion that those verse likely were added/moved INTO the letter sometime around 115 AD. Many scholars share this conclusion."
The other view besides interpolation, the one that I lean to, is re-interpritation. This is based upon understanding the Greek.The answer has been there all along, but shcolars have been laoth to point it out.
Bruce A. Robinson
Onterio Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Website:What the Bible says about women's ordination
"Others point out that Paul would hardly cite the Torah (the Law) as justification for restricting roles of women; his entire ministry involved the exact opposite: he preached liberation from the Law. Some Biblical scholars say that Paul is here describing divisive practices being promoted by the Jewish Christians in Corinth - those who believed in Jesus as Lord while still following the Torah. They were generating discord by teaching that "As in the synagogues, women should remain silent.....as the Torah says." That is, they wanted to translate synagogue practice, as defined by the Torah, into the Christian assemblies. Women were not allowed to speak in synagogues, so they should not be allowed to speak in Christian assemblies. Paul follows up this passage with verse 15 which severely criticizes the Jewish Christians for this position by asking "Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?" From this interpretation, restriction on women, as taught by the Torah, should rejected; men and women should be treated equally with respect to their behavior and roles in church."
"Still others point out that the purpose of 1 Corinthians was to answer a number of questions raised by the Church at Corinth. Paul's style was to write a brief quotation supplied by a Corinthian Christian, and then respond to it. Verses 3:1, 5:1, 6:1, 7:1, 8:1 are some examples.
Following this same pattern, Verse 14:33b to 14:35 is not a comment by Paul. Rather it may be a question raised by a Corinthian who objected to women speaking in church. The church member may have asked: "As in all of the synagogues of the holy ones, women should remain silent in the synagogues. They are not allowed to speak but must be in submission, as the Torah 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 synagogue.
Paul would then have responded with an attack in Verses 36 - 38, and concludes the chapter with Verse 39, an instruction from the Lord to his "brothers and sisters" to be eager to prophesy, but in a fitting and orderly way. All that is required to come up with this translation is to rearrange the original Greek slightly. Ancient Greek was written without punctuation marks, divisions into sentences or spaces between words. This leads to a single passage having many different interpretations"
For one thing, the Greek custom of public address was to address only the men. In fact if a speaker spoke to a group of 4000 women and one man, that speaker was still customarily required to address the audience as "brothers." So the fact that he does not say "and sisters" does not exclude the women from desiring the gifts.
The vast majority of scholars today regard this passage as situational and specific to the time of Paul. There are many views, but most locate the command outside of the context of our day, they do not feel that restraining women form speaking in the church in this day and age is really what this passage as to say to our culture.
"The overwhelming consensus of the vast literature on these texts since 1970 suggests that are meant to be understood situationally, contextually, and not normatively." — Gomes, The Good Book, 1996, p. 141
Paul Attacks the Silencers
Still another version of re-interpirating the passage, and the appraoch that I defend, is that of Gilbert Bilezikian who argues that sign posts in the Greek enable us to understand in light of grammatical matters, that Paul was actually quoting a woman-silencing faction and then refutting them!
Gilbert Bilezikian, Th.D. Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says About a Woman's Place in Church and Family. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985. ISBN: 0-8010-0885-9.
On page 248, Bilezikian writes, "It is worth noting that in 1 Corinthians more than in any of his other Epistles, Paul uses the é particle to introduce rebuttals to statements preceding it. As a conjunction, é appears in Paul's Epistles in a variety of uses. But the list below points to a predilection for a particular use of é which is characteristic mainly of 1 Corinthians."The verses he listed I also list below, in the order they appear, with a notation indicating the appearance of the é particle, in each case translating it as "Nonsense!" as Bilezikian did to indicate its flavor:1 Cor. 6:1-2--"If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? (é Nonsense!) Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?"
The e of which he speaks is the Greek letter "eta," which looks like h
This device is called the "rhetorical eta," many of my Greek professors confirmed its use. Paul uses this device many times in 1 Corinthians. It's importance here is that it clealry marks a refutation of the previous passage. That is what the rhetorical ate is for, it indicates that what preceeds it immediately is being refutted. Since the Greeks did not have quoation marks, this deivce serves as qutation marks and shows the injunction agianst women speaking was actually the statment of the Corinthians to Paul. Apparently some faction in the chruch, pherhaps Judaizers, or some group the Corinthians has beeen in contact with, had said this to them.
We can see this clealry in English, if we know what to look for. The verse states: (35)"If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church."
(36) What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?"
Clearly that sounds like a reversal of what has been said. One can get a sense of the refutation of the previous remark, after all, those who want to allow women to speak are not demanding that mean be silent. Why would they seem to come across as thinking that they were the only one's to hear from God? That idea makes much more sense if they wanted to silence someone. It makes more sense in spaking to the silencers, because they are acting like they are the only ones to recieve the word of God.
Those skybue italicized words, "what" and "or" represent where the h comes. There are two of them, grammatically two of them should make it say "what,or" but they can also function as rehortical and that fits the sense of the passage much better. Otherwise it sounds like nonese, whith Paul railing against those he supports! So the ates are here:
h "did the word of God come only to you? h are you the only one's it has reached?" This signals the refutation of the previous idea, the silencing of women.
Examples: Rhetorical ate
1 Cor. 6:7-9--"The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers. (é Nonsense!) Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
1 Cor. 6:15-20--"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? (é Nonsense!) Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, 'The two will become one flesh.' But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from fornication.
'All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.' (é Nonsense!) Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."
1 Cor. 9:5-10--"Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas? (é Nonsense!) Is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?
Do I say this merely from a human point of view? (é Nonsense!) Doesn't the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: 'Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.'
Is it about oxen that God is concerned? (é Nonsense!) Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest."
1 Cor. 10:21-22--"You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. (é Nonsense!) Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?"
1 Cor. 11:13-14--"Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? (é Nonsense!) Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering."
1 Cor. 14:34-38--"'As in all the congregations of the saints, let the women remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law also says. If they want to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.' (é Nonsense!) Did the word of God originate with you?
(é Nonsense!) Has it reached only you? If anybody thinks he is a 'prophet' or 'spiritual,' let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored."
Bilezikian notes that in each of the cases above, there is the same pattern. First Paul cites a declarative statement containing some element of incongruity or asks a rhetorical question, then introduces his counterstatement in the form of a question introduced by the particle é, expressing his disapproval of the prior statement (250).For scholarship regarding the rhetorical usage of é, Bilezikian also refers readers to Daniel W. Odell-Scott, "Let the Women Speak in Church: An Egalitarian Interpretation of 1 Cor. 14:33b-36," Biblical Theology Bulletin 13 (July 1983): 90-93.
There is an even more simple Trnslation technique that will get the point acorss without changing a single word:
1Cr 14:34 "the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says.
1Cr 14:35 If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church."
1Cr 14:36 What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?
(The use of Quotation marks is all it takes).
This makes far more sense than the traditional, woman-silencing view. After all, the context of the passage is about order in worship. We tend to think of these "women passages" as the place where the Bible puts women in their place. This is a habit of mind, it is also a prejudice. Why must there be such a place? It is only if we assume that this must be the case to begin with does it appear necessarily that way. If we understand that the context is not about putting anyone in his/her palce, but about orderly worship and desring the gifts, it makes no sense that Paul would disrupt the flow to exclude women from the gifts and the use of the gifts. He's telling the Corinthians that he egarly desires them to use the gifts, except for the women? Read the passage with more a more complete context. It appears that the final rebuke is agisnt the silencers:
1Cr 14:26 What then, brethren? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
1Cr 14:27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret.
1Cr 14:28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silence in church and speak to himself and to God.
1Cr 14:29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.
1Cr 14:30 If a revelation is made to another sitting by, let the first be silent.
1Cr 14:31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged;
1Cr 14:32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.
1Cr 14:33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,
1Cr 14:34 the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says.
1Cr 14:35 If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
1Cr 14:36 What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?
1Cr 14:37 If any one thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord.
1Cr 14:38 If any one does not recognize this, he is not recognized.
1Cr 14:39 So, my brethren, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues;
1Cr 14:40 but all things should be done decently and in order.
The Religious A priori