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- General James Green -
THIS VERSE—1 Cor. 14:34—quotes a Jewish ordinance (i.e., a Tradition of man, not God) which taught that women were NOT PERMITTED to teach in their assemblies, or even to ask questions. The rabbis further taught that “a woman should know nothing but the use of her distaff.” As delivered by Rabbi Eliezar in Bammidbar Rabba (see 9, fol. 204), we read thus: “Let the words of the law be burned, rather than that they should be delivered to women.”
This was the prevailing condition till Jesus came, died, rose from the dead, and ascended back into heaven. Then the prophecy of Joel (2:28, 29) came to pass: “…I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh (Jew/Gentile); and your sons AND YOUR DAUGHTERS shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon THE HANDMAIDS in those days will I POUR OUT MY SPIRIT.” The word “prophesy” also means “TEACH.” First Corinthians 11:5 is proof of this: “But every woman that prayeth OR PROPHESIETH…”
In the Jewish synagogues it was permitted FOR MEN to ask questions, to object, altercate, refute, etc.; but this liberty was not permitted for women.
We know that Paul refutes the Jewish Rabbinical (Traditional) law quoted in 14:34-35, following in line with his “train of thought” from chapter 7, verse 1 — “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me, ‘It is good for a man not to touch a woman.’” From 7:1, Paul touches on several questions (or matter- of-facts!) that the zealots had written to him. Go thru those chapters (7-14) and pick out the subject matter (questions/matter-of-facts), and see how Paul answers them…one-by-one. In 1 Cor. 14:34, 35, he quotes the Jews’ “matter-of-fact” “Let your women keep silence in the churches.”
INTERESTING FACT!!: In the Interlinear Greek/English Bible, we find the standalone Greek letter eta (used twice in v. 36). It looks like this ἤ. Greek scholars debate the use of this letter. They claim that ἤ has two possible markings that cause it to be translated with either the English word “or,” or with the English equivalent of what we mean when we make this sound with our mouths: “PFFFFFT!” This means: “That’s ridiculous!” or “Are you kidding me?!” or “NONSENSE!”
According to those of us who understand that
vv. 34, 35 are not Paul’s original words, but those
of Jewish zealots, the latter meaning is correct:
“What? came the Word of God out from you?
or came it unto you only?” (English). Now look
at the Greek:
Paul was resisting the Corinthian Jews who were zealous for the Traditional law; therefore, here is how our texts read using the proper translation of ἤ:
“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the ekklesias of the saints. (Would you like an example?) ‘The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If women desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in the church.’ PFFFFFFT! Such nonsense! Do you Jews who practice this believe the Word of God comes from you only? PFFFFFFFT! Do you believe the Word of God comes to you only? If anyone wishes to think himself a prophet or spiritual, let that person recognize that the things I HAVE WRITTEN TO YOU are the Lord’s commandment (not what the Jews, zealous for the Traditional laws, are teaching).”
Let us also remember that the original texts had no punctuation, no chapters, etc.; so we don’t fully know when every sentence/paragraph/ chapter began or ended.
Many people are totally confused over 1 Cor. 14:34-36, especially the (apparent) contradiction between 1 Cor. 11:2-16 and 1 Cor. 14:34, 35 — the removal of all distinctions between male/female and the “Let your women keep silence in the churches…” Scholars ask: “How is the contradiction between these two chapters to be resolved?”
THERE ARE NO CONTRADICTIONS!
The Bezan Codex (D) and related Western manuscripts have vss. 34, 35 at the close of the chapter—which suggests that they may have originated as a marginal gloss and were inserted into the text at different places. This is the conclusion of many commentators. Others believe that we should not seek to remove the contradictions (?) because chap. 11 refers to small house-gatherings, while Paul is speaking here of the full community gathering. How silly! Still others, like those whose letters I have shared, believe in the ABSOLUTE/DEFINITE subordination of women (citing also Col. 3:18) and are convinced that the emancipation of women from this subjection would be a violation of the divine order. HA! There is NO restriction in the New Testament for women to be silent! But, church history is full of misogynistic leaders who believed and taught contrary to Scripture, regulating women to spiritual imprisonment and fruitlessness.
For sure, 1 Cor. 11 and 14 do not chime together. But, if we know that Paul was addressing certain Jewish zealots, any contradiction disappears. Some feel that Paul changed his mind between 11:5-13 and 14:33-35. It is unlikely that Paul is referring in 11:5 to small groups and in vv. 34, 35 to the whole Ekklesia.
It is clear, very clear, that Paul (and the Holy Spirit) permit women to speak in the Ekklesias, to preach, teach, pray, and prophesy. It is a sad fact that too many Christian men forbid women these privileges. Therefore, men must not abridge the freedom of the Holy Spirit. And I must say that women are not to be Jezebels; and men are not to be Ahabs.
Paul put forth this sharp rebuke (vv. 36-37) that we would do well to ponder: “Did the Word of God, the revelation in the Gospel, originate with you, Corinthians (Jews)? Are you the ones to decide, therefore, whether women should be permitted to speak in church? Are you the only ones that have received the correct interpretation of the place of women in the public assembly?”