Tag Archive: silence


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Q – Doesn’t the Bible say that women are to ‘keep silent’ in church?

A – No. In fact it says just the opposite.

Brief explanation:

Paul was clearly exasperated that such an idea was proposed and responded with ‘What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?’ (See 1 Cor 14:34-36).

Also, Paul would be contradicting himself if he taught that women were to keep silent. Consider that he says in 1 Cor 14:26, ‘…when ye come together, EVERY ONE of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation…’ This would have been impossible for women if they had been commanded to ‘keep silent’ in church.

In the context of 1 Tim 2:12, where it says ‘…she (a woman/wife) is to remain quiet/silent’, the term ‘silent’ is better translated ‘in quietness/quietly’, which suggests refraining from bustle and chatter.

For further explanation:

‘Let your women keep silence in the churches.’ Really?

Let Women Teach and with Authority

God’s Plan for Gender Equality in the Home, Church and all of Society

Other questions:

Women in the Church – Common Questions

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Did Paul, or for that matter God, teach “”Let your women keep silence in the churches”?

In writing to the Corinthian church, Paul writes, “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. 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” (1 Cor 14:34-35).

That seems plain as day, right? Yes, if these verses are looked at in isolation, it does seem very plain that Paul was restricting women from speaking in church meetings. However, let’s consider the text, in its context.

Immediate Context:

Firstly, consider that the very next verse says, “What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?” (1 Cor 14:36), which, if read immediately after verses 34-35, shows Paul to be reacting to the idea of restricting women and not advocating it.

Extra Biblical Context:

Now, someone may rightly ask, surely Paul would not advocate following God’s law only to immediately refuse the idea. But, was it God’s “law” that Paul was referring to that says women ought to keep silent? No! A careful search will reveal no such law in the Bible.

So what “law” was Paul referring to then? Paul was quoting the Jewish oral law (Talmud) in vs 34-35 that some in the church apparently still wanted to embrace. And, in vs 36, we see Paul reasoning against this restriction on women. Firstly, he is clearly flabbergasted by such a notion. Then, through rhetorical questions, he refutes their logic to keep such a custom.

Paul points out that the word did not come from men, but, by implication, that it is from God. And, that it also did not only go to men, but, by implication women too. The logic being that there was no reason to restrict women from speaking because they “learn” just fine directly from God and His word and don’t need to be instructed by their husbands at home in order to learn. This explains the grammar and obvious tone in verse 36.

TALMUDIC QUOTES:

Only men could speak in public (Beraktoth 4,36; Mishnah Aboth 1,5)

No woman could give a testimony or conduct business. (Mishnah Shabbath 4,1).

For a glimpse into the prevailing mindsets around that era, here is Adam Clarkes comment on Verse 34:

“Let your women keep silence in the churches] This was a Jewish ordinance; women were not permitted to teach in the assemblies, or even to ask questions. The rabbins taught that “a woman should know nothing but the use of her distaff.” And the sayings of Rabbi Eliezer, as delivered, Bammidbar Rabba, sec. 9, fol. 204, are both worthy of remark and of execration; they are ….”Let the words of the law be burned, rather than that they should be delivered to women.” Adam Clarke

Further Context:

Paul would be contradicting himself in the very same letter if he taught that women were to keep silent. Consider that he says 1 Cor 14:26, “…when ye come together, EVERY ONE of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation…” This would be impossible for women if they were to keep silent.

Furthermore, Paul clearly knew, taught and practiced the New Covenant where no restriction on women exists. In Galatians 3:28, Paul captures the equality that is found in Christ. It reads, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Paul Was Rejecting Male Patriarchy and Not Women Speaking

So, contrary to the teachings and traditions of Judaism (and a whole lot of Christianity today), PAUL WAS OPPOSING THOSE WHO WOULD SILENCE WOMEN. He was correcting those who were wanting to bring certain wrong teachings and traditions from Judaism into the church. Clearly, if we are to isolate verses to capture Paul’s thinking then surely his view is seen in vs. 36 and not vs. 34-35.

He then refutes opposition to this by saying, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant” (1 Cor 14:37-38).

Recommended Reading:

For an excellent and more complete explanation of these verses, I would like to suggest another’s post: 1 Corinthians 14:34-35: Should Women be Silent in Church?

Here is another interesting article too: Paul’s Missing “Double Bunk” in 1 Corinthians 14:36

Perhaps you are asking, “What of:

1 Tim 2:11-15

1 Cor 11:3

1 Tim 3:1

Eph 5:22?

Rob Morley

 Silence of the Lambs

Churches and denominations have created an impasse for true unity, by holding on to different beliefs and practices that members are expected to adhere to. Any discussions outside the boundaries that are allowed in churches are generally muted by the immediate leaders who are often in no position to effect any real changes anyway. Should members believe otherwise, they are generally expected to keep it to themselves or leave quietly.

Around these issues, church leaders have simply become enforcers of the views that they have been brain washed into believing. (Sorry to be so harsh.) Why is it that, say for example, Methodist ministers think as they do as opposed to Pentecostal ministers? There’s no guessing as to what the flock ends up believing! Those who claim to be teaching God’s word, but are not accountable to it, or worse still, are given authority by their church’s established sets of beliefs, not only implement the divisions, but are protected in doing this too.

Now, each of these churches claims to be Christ’s church when they meet, but their differences only serve to prove that they often teach, outside of Christ’s authority, simply passing down what their founders had interpreted and passed on to them. Which church can claim to be right in every area? None! If so, we need to agree that unity based on doctrine has been a chasing after the wind, a futile exercise. In fact, it is a large contributor for ongoing schisms.

The Bible is God’s authority over all spheres of society and issues in life. Absurd as it may seem, but those in the church sphere need reminding of this too. Church history shows many small and large failures by the church to represent God properly. They are all as a result of not living in the light of God’s word. Drastic discrepancies between the Word of God and how the church conducts itself can develop and become engrained over time.

Appearing first as seeds of truth, incorrect interpretations or assumptions easily take root where the ground of our lives is barren of the Lord’s presence and the Word of God. Then, astonishingly, the lie can grow undetected for years among our plants of truth, even for decades or centuries. The unrecognized lie becomes so a part of life that thinking contrary to it seems wrong.

However, should someone venture upon the truth in God’s word that exposes the lie, he may feel compelled to take steps to uproot it, just as at the Reformation, and at other times, when the church needed to correct its ways. Sadly, in this process, we have often made our corrections at the expense of our unity. As a result, one of the worst weeds of all came about – the approval of division among ourselves to accommodate our differences.

This lie has become so entwined in our belief system that we can hardly imagine that it’s a weed at all. It seems so necessary and useful. But, when looking at God’s word, we see that a lot was tolerated in the early churches and things were very messy, yet dividing wasn’t an option. In contrast, today we have sterile environments where, like me, many members have kept silent on their views to keep the bond of peace. But this too is wrong if it’s only to maintain a false unity and keep a false peace around questionable doctrine and not around Jesus. There is a difference. In my next post I’ll share more on the mindset needed to once again embrace the unity that we have lost and begin to uproot the lie of division.

Rob

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