Saturday, October 23, 2010

Women Should be Silent in Church? - 1 Corinthians 14

Should women be silent in Church?

What was Paul thinking when he wrote to the Corinthian church? Have a read of 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 - Does it clearly make a case that women should not preach in the church?

1 Corinthians 14: 33-35 'As in all the congregations of the saints, 34women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.'

This is a verse used by some to discredit the authority women have to preach in the church today. What is Paul saying in this Scripture? Is this a blanket statement that holds true in today's church? I argue that this verse is laden with cultural underpinnings, that need to be explored.

N.T. Wright discusses 1 Cor 14, where Paul urges the Corinthian women to be silent in Church, and while he admits it may well be an interpolation [that is a verse that was added later] from outside of Paul, he also offers another suggestion.

Back in the 1st Century Middle East, men and women would sit separately in Church, and the service would be spoken in classical Arabic, a language in which the men understood and the women did not. During the sermon, as you could imagine, the women begin chatting to themselves, slowly increasing their volume, until the point where the minister must tell the women to keep the noise down. Therefore Paul’s call for women to be silent in church was more of a practical request, so that at least the men could hear the message. To read more on N.T.Wright's article on Women in Ministry, click here.

Galatians 3:28 is known to hold the key to Paul's view on women in ministry, and while a verse plucked out by itself is not always helpful, this verse is foundational to understand Paul's view on the topic. Galatians 3:28 says, 'There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.' Paul's understanding of equality between women and men, was one that developed following his conversion to Christ, and one that goes against the grain of the male-dominated Jewish culture of his day. Taking Galatians 3:28 and feeding that into 1 Corinthians 14, says to me, that men and women are equal, and while Paul may have given a practical request to the Corinthian church, both women and men have the authority and God-given power to preach the gospel of Jesus today.

Should women be silent in the church? No.
Are women and men equal in ministry? Yes.
Are women and men equal in the eyes of God? Of course. (God shows no favourtism)

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