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

I Corinthians 14:34,35

Smelser's 9th

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: Sat, 5 Apr 2003 22:59:25 -0500
From: "Jeff Smelser" <>
To: <>
CC: "Don Martin" <>, <>

Jeff Smelser to Mark Ward and Don Martin,

Don, I understand you are finding your time occupied with difficulties
pertaining to the church's meeting place there and are inclined to wrap up
your part in this discussion. Rather than ask any further questions of you,
perhaps it would be good for me to use my turn to summarize my estimation
of the interpretation you have proposed.

In trying to find a rationale for your insistence that prophetesses were not
restricted by 1 Cor. 14:33bff, at this point it appears to me that your view
results from your interpretation of 1 Cor. 11:1-16 and some felt need
to construe that passage as applicable only in the assembly.

I say that because you have offered no rational explanation for
excluding the prophetesses from 1 Cor. 14:33bff based on the
immediate context. Instead, you have offered only an unfounded
assertion that if a prophetess were required to keep silent in this
one context, it would devalue her gift. Let me underscore the fact
that this assertion is unfounded: To my knowledge, you have not
given any substantiation for the assertion.

When someone fails to make an affirmative, it may seem like overkill to
offer a negative. But let me do so anyway.

Your assertion is contrary to what we know. A prophet was to keep quiet when
another prophet spoke (1 Cor. 14:30). Did this devalue his gift?

James wrote an epistle by inspiration, but he kept silence while Paul and
Silas rehearsed the signs and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles.
Did James devalue his gift? (Acts 15:12)

Paul himself, along with Barnabas, held his peace while James spoke (Acts
15:13). Did Paul not understand what his own gift was about?

And lest you say that in all these cases, the speaker was also one who spoke
by inspiration, let me ask, was it permissible for someone who was not
speaking by inspiration to speak in the assembly? Of course it was. Well
now, while he was speaking, did a prophet have an obligation to listen,
or was he at liberty to prattle on? Of course the prophet was to be silent
while another spoke. Yes, if he received a revelation, even another prophet
already speaking was to yield to him. But consider the circumstance when
he had no immediate revelation. Then he and everyone else was to hold
their peace while even an ungifted man spoke. Was a prophet's gift
belittled every time he dutifully held his peace while another spoke? Of
course not.

Part of the problem seems to be that you suppose prophets and prophetesses
did indeed have open lines to the Holy Spirit. When I argued that a
prophetess would not be functioning in her prophetic capacity when asking
her husband something in order to learn something, you replied, "Jeff,
I kindly say that your understanding of the prophetess and her work is
clearly different from mine." I think that may be true. My understanding
is that prophets and prophetesses received ~discrete~ revelations,
such that not everything they said was prophecy, such that they were
not always functioning in the prophetic capacity.

Apparently, based on a different understanding of the nature of the gift of
prophecy, you suppose a prophet or prophetess would never have
need to listen to anyone else, and certainly should not be asking questions
of anyone else.

You wrote:

> I cannot imagine a prophetess having to ask a religious question of her
> "uninspired husband" who is not even a Christian.

And still more broadly, you wrote:

> I just cannot imagine an inspired prophetess ...being
> not knowing something

But more recently, you wrote,

> I grant that being a prophet or prophetess in the
> first century did not necessarily mean possessing definitive knowledge
> on all subjects,

Well, that looks like an improvement compared to your other statements, but
then immediately thereafter you go on to say,

> but to have a prophetess in a position of having to ask her
> uninspired husband for answers is really untenable.

On this point, I wrote (and don't recall seeing any response from you,
though it's possible I overlooked it):
Paul sometimes spoke of matters whereof he would subsequently get better
information from the Holy Spirit. When on board the ship enroute to Rome,
Paul said, "Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much
loss, not only of the lading and the ship, but also of our lives" (Acts
27:10). But later, by revelation, he said, "there shall be no loss of life
among you but only of the ship" (27:22). Apparently, Paul's access to the
Holy Spirit did not provide that he would always know everything.

Prior to receiving revelation on the matter, might Paul have properly
inquired of the helmsman, or the captain, for information concerning
the potential dangers of the voyage? Or would you imagine such inquiry
would have belittled his apostleship?

Moreover, Nathan, a prophet of God, erroneously told David, "Go do all that
is in your mind, for the LORD is with you," when David intended to build a
temple for the Lord (2 Sam. 7:3 - given the way some today misuse the term
"false teacher," they would have to call Nathan a "false prophet" - but
that's another thread). But then of course, "the word of the LORD came to
Nathan" and told him otherwise. Yes, Don, I think you are correct when you
say, "your understanding of the prophetess and her work is clearly different
from mine." You seem to think that being a prophet or a prophetess
eliminated the possibility of not knowing something. I don't see it that
I would like to add to those remarks these observations: 1 Cor. 14:30 says,
"if a revelation be made to another sitting by..." They weren't getting
constant channeling from God. They didn't know all truth by osmosis. They
received discrete revelations. And if they didn't have a revelation on some
particular topic, they knew no more about it than anyone else could know.

The fact that one was a prophet did not make it unseemly for him to listen
to someone else on occasion. The same is true of a prophetess.

But back to this of yours:

> but to have a prophetess in a position of having to ask her
> uninspired husband for answers is really untenable.

Even if we granted that assertion, your conclusion that the prophetess
was permitted to speak in the assembly still would not follow. Why not?
Watch it....

"As in all the churches of the saints, let the women keep silence in the
Obviously includes prophetesses for the point is made necessary
by the discussion of the use of prophecy in the assembly.

"for it is not permitted unto them to speak"
unto whom? unto "them." antecedent of "them"? antecedent is
"women" What women? Apparently, ~all~ women, but then
necessarily applicable to prophetesses for which reason the
subject gets mentioned here.

"but let them be in subjection, as also saith the law."
The law taught the subjection of the woman, not that a woman
couldn't speak. It is only by God's revelation that we learn
subjection in the assembly is to be manifested by not speaking.
But notice that it is not only prophetesses that are in view when
Paul reminds us of what the law said.

"And if they would learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home:"
Now we are going along with the notion that it would be a
mockery of her gift for a prophetess to ask her husband anything,
and so we ask why Paul would say "ask their own husbands
at home." And the answer would be because Paul has gone
on to talk about ~all women~, and the general rule
that they not speak in the assembly, which he applies even
if a woman be a prophetess. But in speaking of all women,
even if a few women were prophetesses, many of the
women in view were not. So even if we construe the "ask her own
husband" as being inapplicable to the particular case of the
prophetess (because of a novel understanding of the prophetic
gift), it is still true that the general rule applies to all women
including the prophetesses. And that rule is this:

"For it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church."
Why? Not because she doesn't know anything. (There won't
be exceptions made for very knowledgeable women.)
And not because if she has the gift of prophecy, her prophecy
is inferior. (There won't be exceptions made for women whose
prophecies are first rate.) But because God said so.

Jeff Smelser
(from MARS-List Digest 4064, April 5, 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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