What Does 1 Corinthians 14:33–35 Say And Why?

This regulation from the word of God in 1 Corinthians 14:33–35 concerning women has enraged many in the church. Over the past 100 years or so, these few verses have been at the center of numerous church divisions and untold strife. In fact, so upsetting are these verses that many evangelical scholars have just erased them from Scripture, claiming they are a latter scribal addition in an attempt to make Paul orthodox. They think Paul could never write something that seems so bigoted and sexist. These critics claim to know better than Paul himself what Paul could or could not write.

The apostle is addressing authoritative speaking in worship to represent God’s voice.

Therefore, it is wise for us to consider what Paul is saying here, for there are few verses less popular in our day and age. First of all, when Paul says it is not permitted for a woman to speak in church, this speaking is limited by the context. All the speaking Paul has been dealing with in this chapter to this point is tongue speaking and prophecy; it is the authoritative speaking in worship to represent God’s voice.

In short, it is not permitted for a woman to participate in the official teaching and preaching of God’s word in corporate worship. Thus, Paul’s order for women to be silent doesn’t refer to congregational singing. It does not include the corporate voice of all the saints to respond to God; women can sing, confess their faith, and join together in corporate prayers.

The truth of the Old Testament supports Paul’s regulation.

Secondly, Paul grounds his command by saying, “as the Law also says.” The truth of the Old Testament supports Paul’s regulation. Yet, Paul does not refer here to any one specific Old Testament text; rather, this “Law says” reflects a general principle or truth found through the Old Testament. And what is this? Well, it refers to the fact that women were forbidden from the priesthood.

Women could not be God’s anointed king. And with the exception of a few prophetesses, all the main prophets of Israel were men. All the special offices of the Old Testament were limited to men. Thus, Paul says the New Testament church is consistent with this Old Testament reality. And Paul explained back in 1 Corinthians 11 why this is the case. Read more»

BCL | “What Is the Bible Saying Regarding Women Being Silent in Church?” | Beautiful Christian Life | October 4, 2021

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7 comments

  1. Scott,

    I’m curious on this one. This interpretation makes sense, except for the verse about “if they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home.”

    It seems to me that there is some underlying context around women making an inquiry of some sort (wanting to “learn” something), and not just wanting to “teach” something.

    Any thoughts?

    • Jonathan,

      The hypothesis I have read is that females were perhaps speaking out in church. It is hard to reconstruct the exact situation that are behind this comment and others like it.

  2. Hello!

    I read this from the article:

    “This regulation does not apply outside church; it does not in any way prohibit women from being bosses, senators, or presidents.”

    With a head chock full of historical trivia, this came to mind:

    “The First Blast to awake Women degenerate.
    THE DECLAMATION.
    The Proposition. To promote a Woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion or empire above any realm, nation or city is
    A. Repugnant to nature.
    B. Contumely to GOD.
    C. The subversion of good order, of all equity and justice.”

    From “The First Blast of the Trumpet against the monstrous regiment of Women,” — John Knox, 1558.

    No wonder old Knox is so out of favor in our day and age. Do even the Presbyterians claim him anymore?

    • Jim,

      They do but even some during his life, e.g., Calvin and Beza, regarded his First Blast as extreme. His was never the normative view of the Reformed. It’s certainly not my view. Mary was a monster not because of her sex because of her bloodthirsty hatred of the Protestants. Who would say that Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, or Elizabeth II were incapable of ruling? Not I. A lot of folk would trade Joe Biden for Maggie Thatcher in a heartbeat.

    • I lived in England during almost all of the Thatcher administration. She and Reagan proved that there was indeed a special relationship between the US and the UK. She left more than one leader of the opposition in tatters on the floor of the Commons during Prime Minister’s Question Time. I’d agree with you on Thatcher for sure. I miss her and I’d be willing to do that trade. And I’ve watched enough of Queen Elizabeth II’s Christmas speeches to see she honors the gospel.

  3. The writer mentions 1 Cor 11:7 to make her case about the man, but nothing is said about 11:5 which seems to indicate wives prophesying. How does this affect authoritative speaking in the church?

    • After repairing to Calvin and Hodge, the answer is clear. Just removing some encrusted Biblicism.

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