The Don Martin - Jeff Smelser - Mark J. Ward Discussion on
I Corinthians 14:34,35
The following is brother Don Martin's first in the exchange after the preliminary posts (see background and introductory link)
Subject: Re: I Corinthians 14: 34, 35
Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2003 23:00:38 -0700
From: "Don Martin" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Don Martin to Mark Ward, Jeff Smelser, and the list (post one of two):
In our exchange on I Corinthians 14: 34, 35 it has been suggested that we
each submit an exegesis of the passage. It is my understanding that Jeff
Smelser will now present his and then Mark Ward. After these submissions,
we each will ask probative questions of the others that will be designed
to challenge and make known our different understanding and application
of the passage. I have as concisely as possible approached the
"I Corinthians 14: 34, 34, An Exposition"
I suppose that relative to every truth, there are extremes. Extremes are
not seen on God's part, but they enter in as a result of man. Man's
failures to correctly understand and teach God's word are the product of
many things. Some having a preconceived idea only use the Bible in an effort
to support their belief, some approach the scriptures with attendant bad
study practices, and some set out to deliberately distort the word of God
(Matt. 13: 15; 2 Tim. 2: 15; 2 Pet. 2: 1). In addition to these cases, some
verses are admittedly difficult and require extra care in effecting a
correct exegesis (cp. 2 Pet. 3: 16). One passage that has certainly had its
share of abuse is I Corinthians 14: 34, 35. The passage reads as follows:
"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.
35: 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" (I Cor. 14).
On one end of the spectrum, we have the teaching today that women may serve
as preachers and elders in the Lord's church (cp. I Tim. 2: 12; I Tim. 3:
1ff.). The antithetical position is women are not even allowed to speak in
the assembly. We are told that I Corinthians 14 verses 34, 35 preclude even
speech on the part of godly women in the assembly. Some present I
Corinthians 14: 34, 35 in a way that manifestly contradicts what Paul taught
in I Corinthians 11: 4-16 regarding the prophetesses and how they were to
"pray or prophesy." One view is that after telling the prophetesses how to
do what they were doing in public places in chapter eleven, Paul now decides
to change his teaching and tell the prophetesses to be silent in the
assembly. Some have introduced these two texts as an example of ambivalence
and indecision. Others, based on I Corinthians 14: 34, 35 have concluded
that public places such as the assembly were not included in the text of I
Corinthians 11: 3-16. If this be the case, how could there have been the
doing of the same thing and in the same circumstance that occasioned the
need for the head covering enjoined by Paul in the case of the prophetesses
(I Cor. 11: 4-16)? Could it be that I Corinthians 11: 4-16 and I
Corinthians 14: 34, 35 are addressing entirely different people and
circumstances? We shall attempt by careful exegesis to ascertain exactly
what Paul is and is not teaching when he penned I Corinthians 14: 34, 35.
"Let your women keep silence in the churches.." The original is, "Let the
women in the churches be silent" (sigatosan ai gunaikes en tais ekklesiais).
The King James translators infer "your" from the idea of the Corinthian
women being addressed. However, it is evident that the women being
addressed are not limited to Corinth. I say this based on the plural
"churches" (ekklesiais, see also vs. 36). By "churches," the local church
is meant. More precisely, "in a church" (en ekklesia, vs. 35) refers to the
assembly as opposed to "at home" (en oiko).
Chapter fourteen of I Corinthians is a chapter in which we find regulation
that especially pertained to the assembly. The use of spiritual gifts,
especially tongues and prophesy, had a special utility and function,
therefore, Paul is stressing how these miraculous gifts were to be
exercised. As a consequence, we read such language as, "in church" (en
ekklesia, vs. 19; 28). Paul speaks of "the whole church be come together
in one place" (he hole ekklesia sunelthe epi to, vs. 23).
Please see post two.
(from MARS-List Digest 4004, March 17, 2003)
Subject: Re: I Corintians 14: 34, 35
Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2003 23:01:29 -0700
From: "Don Martin" <email@example.com>
Don Martin to Mark Ward, Jeff Smelser, and the list (post two of two):
Such spiritual gifts as prophesy were designed for the edification of the
church and were used in the assembly to edify the saints (vs. 3, 5, 22).
Hence, we read of, "But if all prophesy, and there come in." (vs. 24). To
"come in" (eiselthe) means to enter the assembly where prophesy was being
done. Paul delineates the protocol and order for the exercise of spiritual
gifts in the assembly (vs. 26-32). It, therefore, was in the assembly that
these women were told to "be silent." "Silent" is from the Greek sigao and
means, "To be silent" and "to keep silence, hold one's peace" (Vine's
Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words and Thayer's Greek-English
Lexicon of the New Testament, respectively). Sigao is used nine times in
the Greek New Testament and always with the idea of silence as opposed to
sound (see Lk. 9: 36, "kept it close," KJV, is from sigao). In fact, sigao
is used twice in the context of I Corinthians 14: 34, 35. Paul wrote, "But
if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church." and, "If
any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his
peace" (vs. 28, 30). "Keep silence" (vs. 28) and "hold his peace" (vs. 30)
is translated from sigao.
".for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be
under obedience, as also saith the law." Paul with this explanatory
injection states the reason why these women were to keep silent in the
church. The applicable teaching to which Paul alludes probably looks to
Genesis 3: 16 as its inception. There was something that these women were
doing that was in violation of this general law of submission.
"And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home.."
All were to learn and be edified, but there was a circumstance in which Paul
tells these particular women that they should ask their husbands at home.
The original is literally, ".let them question at home their own husbands"
(eperotatosan en oiko tous idious andras). Hence, these were women at
Corinth who had "their own men" and they had, therefore, the opportunity to
question their own men at home (they lived together as husband and wife).
".for it is a shame for women to speak in the church." Paul ends this with
another statement of explanation as suggested by the introductory word,
"for" (Greek, gar). The question remains, who were these women and what
were they doing that constituted a violation of submission and resulted in
shame? The answer, ".they were speaking" is simplistic.
It is obvious that I Corinthians 14: 34, 35 demands qualification and
stipulation. In the first place, to take this passage and simply say women
are not allowed to speak in the assembly negates the general command to,
"speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." (Eph. 5:
19). Hence, qualification is necessarily inferred. As mentioned, to insist
that women, all women and in all circumstances, be without sound in the
assembly is to make Paul contradict himself (his teaching relative to the
prophetess, I Corinthians 11: 4-16). Consider the statement found in the
Pulpit Commentary regarding the prophetess being the obvious "exception:"
".At the same time, it is fair to interpret it as a rule made with special
reference to time and circumstances, and obviously admitting of exception in
both dispensations.." Reference is then made to different prophetesses,
"Judg. 4: 4; 2 Kings 22: 14; Nehe. 6: 14; Luke 2: 36." (The Pulpit
Commentary, Vol. 19, pg. 460, exposition of I Corinthians 14: 34, 35).
We have engaged in an exegesis of the passage and now let us look to the
context for additional meaning.
I Corinthians chapter 14 is replete with instructions as to how to conduct
themselves to avoid and obviate confusion (vs. 5, 6, 9, 16, 19, 23, 26-31).
Paul plainly and cogently informed them that they were to be in control of
themselves, even those who possessed spiritual gifts (vs. 32). I
Corinthians 14: 34, 35 is sandwiched between verses that forbid confusion
and disorder (vs. 33, 40). I, therefore, submit that what these women were
doing was asking questions (the specific speaking) in the assembly of their
husbands in such a way that both precipitated confusion and also resulted in
lack of subjection to their husbands. These "women" were not all the women
at Corinth, but they were married women. It is also implied that their
husbands of whom they were to inquire at home and not in the assembly were
in a position to provide the answers to their questions. Moreover, it is
highly likely that their husbands were the prophets concerning whom the
immediately preceding verses pertain. Hence, these women were to remain
silent or without sound (as opposed to speech) IN THE MATTER contextually
being discussed, confusion and lack of submission to their husbands. As to
other regulating teaching that is broader in its scope, we must look to such
texts as I Timothy 2: 12-15.
While I Corinthians 14: 34, 35 is characterized by specificity, women today
can also create confusion in the assembly and be guilty of not being in
subjection to their husbands by speaking out in such a way to similarly
cause confusion. This is the paramount lesson found in I Corinthians 14:
34, 35. However, to simplistically arbitrarily left verses 34, 35 out of
their context and contend that there is contained in these verses a blanket
requirement of the silence of women in the assembly is to defeat and ignore
Paul's original application of I Corinthians 14: 34, 35 and make the passage
collide with a number of other matters.
Don Martin firstname.lastname@example.org
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(from MARS-List Digest 4004, March 17, 2003)
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[Editors Note: This is one of the most in-depth, comprehensive studies between brethren on the issue of whether the women in the "b" part of verse 35 of I Corinthians 14:34,35 is "all women", including women today, or whether those women were only the "prophets wives". We hope all readers will continue to study all Bible topics with open minds, willing to conform to God's Truth. Thanks for reading! - Mark J. Ward email@example.com]
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