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I Corinthians 14 – Women should remain silent…

Bible Question Answered


I Corinthians 14:34-35

34 Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says. 35 If they have any questions, they should ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings.

Well, it seems pretty clear here that Paul didn’t allow women to speak in church meetings so this must mean that there is no way that a woman can preach, right?

Let’s take a look and see what is happening here.

If you go back to I Corinthians 11:5, the text reads a follows.

“But a woman dishonors her head if she prays or prophesies without a covering on her head, for this is the same as shaving her head.” 

It seems odd that Paul would say earlier in this letter that a woman should have her head covered when she prays and prophesies. Matter of fact, in this passage in chapter 11, Paul is giving instructions on public worship.


Women prayed and prophesied in public gatherings. The equivalent to our worship services today in the modern church. So what is Paul talking about just 3 chapters later.

In Chapter 14, Paul is dealing with the misuse of the spiritual gift of tongues in the public worship services. So we should read the chapter to be in relation to this subject unless Paul changes the subject and at vs. 34 he has not do that, he is still speaking about speaking in tongues and then interpretation.

Paul makes a reference to women asking their husbands at home if they have questions. Many interpret this to mean that Paul was only speaking to married women and all unmarried women were free to speak up. (It is a valid point)

It would appear to me the issue is that a woman is not to speak up in the meetings at Corinth when it concerns speaking in tongues or the interpretation of them. I can honestly say that at the moment I am unclear as to why. However, I am clear that a woman is allow to speak in church gatherings in general in the New Testament as well as being able to lead in the church.

Let’s look at some examples.

I Corinthians 11, Paul explains that a woman is to cover her head when in the public assembly and she has the role of either praying or prophesying. To prophesy is to preach, among other public speaking opportunities in the public assembly.

  • Miriam – prophet; played major role in Exodus; led worship singing and dancing.
  • Deborah – prophet; judge; led Israeli troops into battle with Barak
  • Hulda – prophet
  • Anna – prophet who pronounced Jesus to be the redemption of Israel
  • Lydia – business woman who became a central leader in the Philippian Church
  • Priscilla – helped Paul establish churches at Corinth and Ephesus; corrected Apollo’s preaching
  • Junias – an Apostle
  • Phoebe – deacon; commended by Paul for her service to the church

God does not violate His own design and it is God who places women and men in leadership throughout the Bible.

Jesus in His ministry elevated the role of women from the cultural norm of that day being property to people worthy of respect and fair treatment. In the case of Mary, Lazarus’ and Martha’s sister, Jesus not only allows but commends Mary specifically for choosing to learn about God over domestically and culturally defined roles. Women were among the disciples following Jesus, learning from Him, serving Him, and supporting Him. Women of course were at the cross and at the tomb. Women were the first to see and speak to the Christ after His resurrection from the dead, and the first to proclaim His resurrection. Paul also elevated the role of women from the cultural norm. As Saul, he persecuted them equally with men; and as an evangelist he preached to them as he did to the men. He worked along side two particular women, Lydia and Priscilla commending their ministries and leadership.

In the context of the cultural norms of the New Testament time period. Women were seen and treated as secondary to men. Men ruled the day and in the culture they were not allowed to have any kind of authority over men. If we will read the New Testament with this understand we will find that Jesus and Paul as well as other writers included women in worship settings, they encouraged them to learn, they commended them for their ministries and their leadership. In these instances where women are told to be silent it seems to me they were doing all they could to be all things to all people without offense.

Remember, in your freedom, don’t cause others to stumble.

Jesus nor Paul taught that it was wrong for women to be in leadership but they certainly had to deal with the cultural realities of their day. We still deal with some such issues today, however when it comes to women in leadership, women lead in every way as men do.

We must have an understanding of God based on the entirety of scripture and never, ever, take scriptures at random to build a case for who God is and how He behaves. Years and years of cultural bias as well as ignorance of not knowing the history and background of the scriptures have caused a lot of confusion. It wasn’t chosen ignorance, it was the fact that information wasn’t as readily available as it is in the information technological world in which we live today.

I hope this helps.

Pastor Ronnie


October 23, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment