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

I Corinthians 14:34,35

Smelser's 3rd

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

Subject: Re: I Corinthians 14: 34, 35
Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2003 00:56:05 -0500
From: "Jeff Smelser" <>
To: <>

Jeff Smelser to Mark Ward and Don Martin, answering Don's question.

> My question one asked of both Jeff (first) and Mark:>
> In view of the language, "Let your women keep silence in the churches" is
> Paul including the prophetess and precluding her from any public prophesying
> in the assembly (prophesying as did the prophets)?


The only qualification I would offer is to submit that the "your" is not original. In fact, I noticed that the Greek text you quoted did not have "your." (I also noticed your quotation of the Greek text had the verb at the front of the clause, which is not what I see in any of my Greek texts. Just a curiosity.)

Following the Received Text, the KJV translates "Let your women keep silence..." while the ASV (and similarly, the Douay, RSV, NASB, and NIV), following older manuscripts, has "Let the women keep silence..."

Where we find the word wife in the New Testament, it is simply a translation of the same Greek word that is everywhere used for woman. When it is translated wife, it is because something in the context indicates that "wife" is meant. A possessive pronoun (his woman), certain verbs (take a woman, have a woman, marry a woman, put away a woman) or correlation with a man (as in Eph. 5:22) are the kinds of things that indicate that we are to understand wife rather than simply a woman. The reading, "your women," could mean wives, and because the last men mentioned are prophets (vs. 32), some suppose that the prophets' wives are the ones who must be silent.

Consider, however, that even if the "your" is authentic, it is not necessary to assume Paul only addresses the prophets. Paul is giving instructions to the church at Corinth, not merely to the prophets. Furthermore, regardless of who it is that Paul instructs to keep silent in verse 34, as a reason for this instruction, Paul says in verse 35, "for it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church." He doesn't say, "your women." He says, "a woman." Now if one supposes Paul still has in mind wives, it cannot be only the prophets wives, but rather any wife. But what possible reason could there be for requiring the married women to keep silence while allowing the unmarried women to speak? We are left with the conclusion that Paul does not mean wife in verse 35. Rather, as translated in the KJV, ASV, NASB, NKJB, NIV, and NRSV, it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church.

But the authenticity of the "your" in the text is doubtful. The United Bible Societies Greek New Testament (3rd ed.) cites many variant readings, but not all. Those mentioned are "for the most part...readings significant for translators or necessary for the establishing of the text." The variant reading, "your women" failed this test in the eyes of the committee responsible for the GNT (3rd ed.). The same thing can be said of the more recent 4th edition.

The text without "your" appears to be supported by P46 (A.D. 200), and is supported by the earliest Greek Uncials, as well as by Old Latin, Syriac (Peshitta and Harclean), Latin Vulgate, Coptic (Sahidic, Bahairic, and Fayyumic) Armenian, and Ethiopic mss.

The support for "your women" comes primarily from uncials D (Claromontanus), F (Augiensis), G (Boernerianus), all of which have the text of verses 34-35 removed from its customary position and found instead following verse 40. Also supporting "your women" are 9th or 10th century mss, K (Mosquensis) and L (Angelicus). And finally "your women" is supported by many minuscules, all of late origin.

When all has been said, the reading "your women" is supported by no Greek manuscript of earlier origin than the sixth century, and by only one Greek manuscript originating prior to the ninth century. The 6th century manuscript which supports the reading, "your women," as well as two of the ninth century witnesses, have the verses containing these words in the wrong place. From the ninth century forward, the evidence is mixed.

Jeff Smelser

(from MARS-List Digest 4030, March 24, 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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