The Don Martin - Jeff Smelser - Mark J. Ward Discussion on

I Corinthians 14:34,35

Smelser's 2nd

The following is brother Jeff Smelser's next in the exchange on the true meaning and application of I Corinthians 14:34,35 today.

Re: I Corintians 14: 34, 35
Fri, 21 Mar 2003 01:45:35 -0500
"Jeff Smelser" <>

Jeff Smelser here with my "round two" post,

Don, I'll address my remarks to you because as it turns out, I think Mark
and I are pretty much on the same page after all, at least as far as 1 Cor.
14:34-35 is concerned.

I think you have fairly accurately characterized our points of agreement and
disagreement. After reading your remarks, I think you are interpreting the
verses at issue based on the view that the theme running throughout chapter
14 is the elimination of confusion and disorder in the assembly. You are
seeing that same theme as accounting for Paul's remarks in verses 34-35.

You see the women of verses 34-35 as wives who were questioning their
husbands in the assembly in such a way as to create confusion. I see them as
being women in general who are not to speak in the assembly, and the
admonition for them to be silent occasioned in this particular context
because some of them had the gift of prophecy, a subject that was under

The root cause of our difference may be twofold:

(1) You see verses 34-36 as being one more admonition in keeping with the
overall theme, preventing confusion. I see the same verses as almost an
aside to the main theme. I say "almost" because I don't want to trivialize
the verses. Perhaps I would do better to say I see them as only tangentially

(2) You see the theme as avoiding confusion; I see the theme as using the
gifts in a way that results in understanding. That may seem like two sides
of the same coin, but I think there is a real difference there that may in
part account for our difference in understanding vss. 34-35. And if I'm
right about the theme, then your interpretation of verses 34-35 makes them
as much an aside as does mine.

You are right about the fact that Paul warns against confusion. But note
that it is not a discussion about all sorts of things that might cause
confusion. Rather it is about the proper use of spiritual gifts in a manner
that results in understanding. Confusion is the alternative result if gifts
are misused. This is significant because you are trying to interpret vss.
34-35 in a way that keeps the theme intact, and yet your interpretation
supposes that Paul takes time to discuss a sort of confusion that might or
might not be connected with spiritual gifts, and if connected, only
tangentially connected.

That you see the theme as avoiding confusion and that you see vss 34-35 as
integral to that theme are evidenced in the following remarks, or so it
seems to me:

> 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,


> I Corinthians 14: 34, 35 is sandwiched between verses that forbid
> confusion and disorder (vs. 33, 40).

But in fact, I think you only keep the theme intact if you do indeed suppose
the theme is various sources of confusion rather than specifically confusion
that results from misuse of spiritual gifts. And to maintain even an
indirect connection to the subject of spiritual gifts, you must do some
speculating. You write:

> it is highly likely that their husbands were the
> prophets concerning whom the immediately
> preceding verses pertain.

Even if we grant that the husbands were the prophets, the admonition in vss.
34-35 would not be called for as a result of some abuse of the gift on their
part. Those verses would be called for because of misbehavior on the part of
their wives. And thus again I say it seems to me your interpretation has the
verses departing from the theme of rightly and rationally using the gifts.
Given your interpretation of vss 34-35, they can only be viewed as wholly
integral to the overall theme if indeed the overall theme is taken to be

Concerning the most apt characterization of the theme, the reason confusion
was undesirable is that the objective was understanding, and confusion
worked against understanding. In other words, Paul is not just talking about
all sorts of causes of confusion. He is talking about confusion that results
when the gifts are used in a way that prevents understanding. This is, after
all, still part of the section that began with the words, "now concerning
spiritual gifts..." (12:1).

Let me call attention to the theme of understanding, or what we might
describe as "the rational use" of the spiritual gifts in the assembly:

The problem with tongues in the assembly is "no man understandeth" (vs. 2)

The advantage of prophecy is "edification, and exhortation, and
consolation." (vs. 3)

Tongues were valuable in the assembly only if one might "interpret, that
the church may receive edifying" (vs. 5)

Paul rhetorically asks, "What shall I profit you, unless I speak to you
either by way of revelation, or of knowledge, or of prophesying, or of
teaching." (vs. 6)

Paul illustrates the importance of ~meaning~ in communication of any kind in
vss. 7-8.

Note vs. 9: "So also ye, unless ye utter by the tongue speech easy to
understood, how shall it be known what is spoken."

And I could go on.

Paul only brings the subject of confusion in as the undesirable result
of misusing the gifts. But the theme is the importance of using
the gifts in such a way that there is edification, or we could say,
the ~rational use~ of the gifts..

To discuss women questioning their husbands is not integral to that theme.
You maintain only a tenuous connection to the subject of spiritual gifts by
supposing the husbands of the women are the prophets in view, and then only
as a matter of speculation, although you think it "highly likely."

Granted, I also have vss 34-35 only tangentially connected to the theme. I
have Paul turning aside to remind the women that although some of them have
the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 11, Acts 21:9) they were not to use it in the
assembly. I see that as a natural aside inasmuch as he had just given some
very specific details about how to use the gifts. In view of the degree to
which Paul went into detail on the subject, to omit a reminder that women
are not to speak in the assembly might have left the impression that silence
was permission. After all, if Paul saw fit to explain the number of tongue
speakers to be limited to two or three, and the procedure for a prophet to
follow if another sitting by received a revelation as he was speaking, some
might have supposed surely he would have mentioned that only men were to use
the gifts in the assembly if that were the case. And so he did.

If you will agree with me that the theme is rational use of the spiritual
gifts and therefore agree that we both view vss. 34-35 as only tangentially
connected, I think you will still see an advantage to your interpretation
for two reasons:

(1) You see my interpretation as putting chapter 14 in conflict with 11:1-16

(2) You see my interpretation as being contradicted by the fact that women
did prophesy in public.

To the first, I would simply say there is no contradiction if we understand
that 1 Cor. 11:1-16 is not limited to the assembly. (And I gather a
difference of understanding on that very point is what gave rise to the
present discussion?)

To the second, I would simply note that the issue is not women prophesying
in public. I will readily grant that women may have prophesied in public. I
have no problem with your comments about Anna. But the issue is women
prophesying in the ~assembly~, not women prophesying in public. Regardless
of how publicly they may have prophesied, they were not to use that gift in
the assembly for they were not to speak at all in the assembly. To
underscore the difference in the two settings and the consistency of my
interpretation relative to that point, I see no prohibition against a woman
speaking in public, but there was a prohibition against her speaking in the

Jeff Smelser

(from MARS-List Digest 4019, March 21, 2003)

Re: I Corintians 14: 34, 35
Fri, 21 Mar 2003 10:15:39 -0500
"Jeff Smelser" <>

Jeff Smelser here,

Just a note to say Don and Mark have been saying such nice things about each
other in their discussion that I feel I ought to follow suit. But in trying
to keep my post brief, I didn't want to use too many kilobytes saying nice
things. Reading back over my last post, I see a lot of repetition. If I had
waited till this morning to send it when I was more alert, I could have
pared it down and had room for the niceties.

Anyway, I do genuinely appreciate the precedent established by both Don and
Mark, and believe the sort of discussion they have been having to be an
example of mars-list at its best.


(from MARS-List Digest 4019, March 21, 2003)



[Editor’s 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]

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