Paul wrote: 1Co 14:34 Let your women keep silence in the churches:
If we remove this verse from it’s context and take it literally it
would mean that women cannot utter a word while in a church service.
Some extremists try to do just that and even use this verse to teach
that women are inferior creatures.
To understand the phrase “..keep silence in the churches” in
relation to women all we have to do is look at how Paul used the same
phrase in relation to men in the same context.
1. Concerning men Paul said:
1Co 14:27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or
at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.
But if there be no interpreter, LET HIM KEEP SILENCE IN THE CHURCH;
2. Concerning women Paul said:
1Co 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.
The entire 14th chapter of Corinthians concerned order in the
church. In both statements about “silence” Paul was talking about
the use of spiritual gifts in the church gathering – not a command for
women to keep absolute silence. The women were not to speak in
tongues or prophesy in a gathering of the church because they would be
speaking with spiritual authority and that would be out of order.
According to the Paul the role of women in the church must reflect
the Biblical teaching that women are to be in subjection to male
leaders both in the home and church.
For example the Scriptures say:
1Ti 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I
suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but
to be in silence.
1Co 11:3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is
Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ
1Co 11:8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
Gen 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow
and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy
desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
The woman is not inferior or incapable – rather through submission
she is fulfilling God’s plan. I think of the relationship between
men and women as being like the right hand and the left. Both are
capable but much more can be accomplished if they work together.
In order for there to be unity and order in the home and church
someone must have authority and make decisions – otherwise there would
be constant arguing and little peace.
1Co 14:35 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.
Again Paul is speaking about Biblical order. In the church
gathering the women should not question what is being taught as that
is not their proper role. Women are perceptive and may discern an
error or something out of order – but rather than causing disorder by
disrupting the meeting they should talk to their husband about it at
home and let him deal with any problem.
Barnes Commentary: 1 Cor 14:34
Let your women keep silence ... - This rule is positive, explicit, and
universal. There is no ambiguity in the expressions; and there can be
no difference of opinion, one would suppose, in regard to their
meaning. The sense evidently is, that in all those things which he had
specified, the women were to keep silence; they were to take no part.
He had discoursed of speaking foreign languages, and of prophecy; and
the evident sense is, that in regard to all these they were to keep
silence, or were not to engage in them. These pertained solely to the
male portion of the congregation. These things constituted the
business of the public teaching; and in this the female part of the
congregation were to be silent. “They were not to teach the people,
nor were they to interrupt those who were speaking” - Rosenmuller. It
is probable that, on pretence of being inspired, the women had assumed
the office of public teachers.