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Sunday, January 22 2012
Both 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2: 12-15 are difficult passages, for reasons that have nothing to do with women speaking or teaching men. In the 1 Corinthians passage, Paul says “as the law says.” This is a strange comment, especially from Paul. What “law” is he referring to? In the 1Timothy passage, Paul says that women will “be saved” “through childbearing” (check the Greek term if your translation says otherwise.) What happened to “saved through faith”? These statements do not fit with the theology that Paul teaches anywhere else in his letters. I have researched these things and this is the second of a series of blogs discussing what I have found (see Women In Ministry 1). This blog will deal with the interpretation of the 1 Corinthians passage, and only briefly mention the topic of women teaching men (the 1 Timothy passage).

Complementarians believe that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 forbids women to speak in “official” gatherings. If you believe, as I do, that Scripture does not contradict Scripture, this creates a problem, since in 1 Corinthians 11 Paul tells the Corinthian women that they should respect the local cultural views of modesty (by covering their hair) when they pray or prophesy in their gatherings. There are numerous reasonable interpretations of the chapter 14 passage that have been proposed by egalitarians that do not require Scripture to contradict Scripture. This blog presents the one that seems the most convincing to me. Other’s will be discussed later.

In Greco-Roman culture (a strongly male dominated culture – see The Social Status of First Century Women) of the first century there were laws that regulated the rights and duties of wives, grown daughters, children and slaves. One of those civil laws required the wives, grown daughters, children, and slaves of a household to follow the religion and religious customs of the male head of the household (the reason why Timothy was not circumcised even though his mother was Jewish.) But Christians allowed women and slaves to be full participants in the faith all by themselves (which was quite subversive). Because of this, many of the women who worshipped in Christian gatherings would not have had Christian husbands at home to ask questions of. However, there was a group of women who absolutely would have had husbands to ask. Those were the pagan wives who were merely tagging along because their civil law required them to subject themselves to their husband’s faith. In ignorant disrespect, they disrupted the meetings with questions that they should have held until they got home.

The Greek word gynaikes that is translated here as “women” could also have been translated as “wives”, and probably should have been, since they are told to ask “their own husbands” (andras, or men). It is interesting that the first word, which can mean women or wives is translated “women” and the next gender term that can mean men or husbands is translated “husbands”. Standard translation guidelines would dictate a parallel translation. So the meaning of this passage would then be that the pagan wives should remain silent and save their questions for when they got home, showing respect in their observance of their civil law.

These noisy women were not preaching, or praying, or speaking words of wisdom, they were asking questions. That should help guide the interpretation. Furthermore, Paul is addressing, at most, only married women with Christian husbands, since the other women did not have husbands to ask. So, it was only the married women with Christian husbands who were being told to be silent. Why would Paul do that?

And, now, a brief thought regarding the complementarian view that women should not teach men (and conversely that men should not learn from women). There is a lot of Scripture that men who hold a complementarian view need to get rid of. Starting with Genesis, they must go through their Bibles and mark out all the words of women that they might learn from. Strike out everything said by Sarah. No song of Miriam, no Ruth or Naomi, no Deborah, Hannah, Huldah, or Elizabeth, no Magnificat, no announcement of the resurrection from Mary Magdelene, no discussion between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, no . . . , well you get the point.
Posted by: Michelle AT 10:03 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, January 20 2012

I have spent a great deal of time studying Christian views regarding women in ministry. There are two main views, "egalitarian" and "complementarian." The defenders of both views support their ideas with Scripture. Each side believes that the other is misinterpreting various passages. I have looked at the arguments, and have approached the topic using the interpretation guidelines I was taught.

  1. When reading a passage, consider the context. Who? What? When? Where? and Why? Who wrote the passage? To whom was it written? What was the author dealing with? When was the passage written? Where were the author and recipients when the passage was written? What was their cultural situation? Why was the passage written? (to deal with a problem? to encourage the readers?) As a first look at the social setting for women in the New Testament, read my paper, The Social Status of First Century Women.
  2. Unless there is a reason to do otherwise, the plain and normal meaning of the words should be assumed.
  3. Passages should be understood within the context of the overall topic under discussion, not pulled out of context.
  4. When the meaning of a particular term is uncertain, it is often helpful to look at the word in the original language. Bible translators also have guidelines they follow. However, sometimes there are other words that COULD have been used as the translation of the Hebrew or Greek term. It is sometimes helpful to consider what the passage would mean if one of the alternative terms had been used in the translation.
  5. Although each of us is individually responsible to God, it is often helpful to carefully study the interpretations of others. If a belief is controversial, it is important to understand the various views and to personally search the Scriptures to discern the truth.
  6. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we need to let Scripture interpret Scripture. In other words, ask yourself, "What interpretation is consistent with the overall message of the gospel?"

I am going to write a series of blogs on this topic, examining the arguments that have been made on both sides.

Posted by: AT 11:26 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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