The Law?

Gen. James Green

T HIS VERSE—1 Cor. 14:34—was a Jewish ordinance (of man, not God); women were NOT PERMITTED to teach in the assemblies, or even to ask questions. The rabbis 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) reads 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. The prophecy of Joel (2:28, 29) came to pass: “…that 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.” 1 Cor. 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 law (quoted in vv. 34, 35, which he points back to chapter 7:1, “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me, ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman.’” From here, Paul touches on several questions (or matter-of-facts!) the zealots had written to him for answers. Go thru those chapters and pick out the subject matter (questions/matter-of facts), and see how Paul answers them…one-by-one. Here in 1 Cor. 14:34, 35 he quotes the Jews “matter-of-fact,” “Let your women keep silence in the churches.”

In the Interlinear Greek/English Bible, we find the stand alone 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: ἢ ἀφ̓ ὑμν ὁ λόγος το θεο ἐξλθεν, ἢ εἰς ὑμς μόνους κατήντησεν

We know that the original Greek text had no markings, so the translation of ἤ must be made by translators based on other facts than the markings of the Greek letter. Paul was resisting the Corinthian Jews zealous for the Law. The NAS uses the “or.”

With this said, here is what our texts read using the proper translation of ἤ:

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the ekklesia 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 (not what the Jews zealous for the Law are teaching) are the Lord’s commandment.”

Let us also remember that the original texts had no punctuation, nor chapters etc.; therefore, we don’t know when a sentence/paragraph/chapter began or ended. Some are totally confused over our 1 Cor. 14:34-36 texts. Many are confused over 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 cpt. 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 believe and teach contrary to Scripture, regulating women to spiritual imprisonment and fruitfulness.

For sure 1 Cor. cpt. 11 and ctp. 14 do not chime ἤ together. But, if we know that Paul was addressing certain Jewish zealots (for the law), 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; the same goes for Ahab men.

Paul asks in v. 36: “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 public assembly?” Paul puts forth this sharp rebuke (vv. 36-37).