Friday, October 24, 2008


V. Corinthians 14:34 ??

“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. 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.”

This verse has been the source of a lot of hurt. I know that the Bible is not made to hurt people. I know that God is Love. I want to make sense of this verse, and sense of all the squabble people have made out of it. There are many opinions, some I believe, some I do not. Personally, I am still chewing on this verse. I do know that God has given me a gift of music. I grew up singing in churches. My mother sang in churches. We were not silent. People have been blessed, saved, and set free because of this. I feel like it was not a sin for me to make noise in church. I feel like it is not a sin for me to teach Bible class to the body of Christ at school. So, what about this verse? What can I make of it? The Bible is Truth. I want to know the truth, not just what suits me and makes me the most happy.

A. Context
Remember at this time, that women hardly went out of the house. The fact that there were women at all in church was incredible. Most of the time, if a woman was present at a religious event, it was to engage in prostitution or some kind of immorality. The Christian church probably had to be careful so that people wouldn’t think they did this. I think it’s beautiful that women were in church at all. Women weren’t usually able to participate in religious services unless they were letting people use their bodies.

In Corinthians, Paul was correcting a church that was very disorderly. People were not being respectful. They were talking when other people were talking, perhaps demanding leadership, and not being submissive to each other.

B. Opinions

1. Opinion #1:
The scripture is word-for-word correct. Women should be silent in churches. They are not permitted to speak.

Personally, I can’t really give myself to this opinion. If the scripture is to be taken 100% literally, then women are to be SILENT in church. That means no singing, no playing the organ, no reciting public prayers. To me, this doesn’t sound like the God I know and love. This does not sound like Love. This would mean I have been sinning for a very long time. But singing and speaking in church gives me joy, and fulfillment. I feel like it makes my Father happy. This is my personal opinion. Not fact.

2. Opinion #2:
When looking at this in cultural context, and in the Greek, a little more light can be shed on Paul’s words.
Women had never been able to listen to lectures. They had never sat in school or services. As kids, we’re taught to be respectful and not talk while other people are talking, or during public services. We’re taught to discuss things later at home, not during the service. These women were probably never taught this. Why should they be? They weren’t ever allowed to attend. In this opinion, people say that women were probably coming to church and just talking and that it was, obviously, inappropriate. They needed to be quite. They were socializing.
a. In Greek, the word “silence” in Greek is sigao. It means, “to keep silent (transitively or intransitively):--keep close (secret, silence), hold peace.” In Greek, there are other words that mean silence.

He did not use the Greek word phimoo, which means a forced silence.

He did not say hescuchia, which means quietness and stillness. However, in his letter to Timothy, Paul did tell women to do this while studying.

He said sigao. The same word is used to describe the disciples decision to keep silent about the transfiguration they had just seen. It was also used to describe Jesus’ silence before Pilate. It was used when Jesus said that if the disciples were silent, the very stones would cry out.

To me, this shows that the word sigao is used to mean refraining from saying something. It means to hold something in.

b. The Greek word for “speak” is laleo. Out of 25 words translated “speak” it is the only one that means to simply talk. Other Greek words translated “speak” can mean “preach”, or “teach”, but laleo just means to simply talk.

In this opinion, it is said that due to these translations, women were not prohibited from contributing to the services, or teaching or speaking, they were just being asked not to socialize during the service.

Personally, this opinion makes a lot of sense with me. It makes more sense in context, because in verse 26 Paul says that everyone should come with something to contribute. In the Greek, the word “everyone” means man and woman. Paul prohibiting women from speaking seems very contrary to a lot of the things he teaches. It seems like the heart of his ministry is equality among people; Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, man and woman. To me, this opinion sounds more like Paul, and more like God. This is just my personal thought, not fact.

3. Opinion #4:

This is a fascinating opinion. I don’t know what to think of it, but it’s worth being aware of.

In Greek, there are no quotation marks.


In the New Testament, we hear a lot of cases where people quote scripture, other people, or popular belief. All of the times we see quotations, it is because the translators have assumed them due to context.

In Corinthians, Paul is exposing a lot of wrong beliefs. Perhaps verse 34 is a quotation from a popular belief. It would seem that this would be a Judaic quotation because women were assumed to be married, and it was assumed that the husbands were knowledgeable enough to answer questions about scripture. This wouldn’t denote a Gentile, but a Jew.

People have assumed that, since verse 34 is so unlike what Paul would say, that he is quoting a popular belief.

What makes this a little more probable, is the word he uses following verse 34. In Greek, it looks like and “e” with a line over it. It is translated “what?”. It can also mean “nonsense!” and is used in many places when Paul is refuting beliefs that he disagrees with. He uses this “e” word in 1 Corinthians 6:1-2, 6:9, 6:16, 6:19, 9:6, 9:8-10, 10:22, 11:13.

In this opinion, verse 34 is not a commandment, it is a belief to avoid. Paul goes on to say, perhaps just to the men “What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?”

To me personally, this makes sense, contextually, and theologically. It would follow the way Paul talks, especially in this book. It would follow what Paul teaches, and it would follow the message of Christ. However, it is radical, and I am weary to adopt it as my own belief. I will have to study more about this. I brought it up because it is terribly interesting.

Think about these things, chew on them, ask people about them, find resources and study them. Pray about them. Seek truth. What do you think?