Is A Woman Commanded to Keep Silent in the Church?

We struggle with many left over concepts that the Protestant Reformation brought along with them out of the Catholic church.  Martin Luther’s education within the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) still carried the lessons he had been taught from their priests.   One of these lessons is the misunderstanding about 1 Cor. 14:26-30:

26How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.  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.  28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.  31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.  32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

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. 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.

36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?

37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.  38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.

39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.” (Young’s Literal Translation [YLT])

First, I think both men and women have a tendency to make application where an idea appeals to them, or provides them a happy reason to exert force and control over someone else. And, just perhaps men are extremely eager to take advantage of one instance where they see support in telling a woman to shut up.

This appeal to the individual ego… see God told me I could right here…. overrides all logic and the rest of what the Bible says.  The Bible has to be taken as a whole, and one scripture cannot be used to support a position or belief when other scriptures show differently.

Second, the pagan societies held women as second class citizens, and at times the RCC did the same, even going so far as some priests teaching during the dark ages that women were last in God’s eyes.

Tertullian said that women were the devil’s gateway.  In the 3rd century, Origen stated, “What is seen with the eyes of the creator is masculine, and not feminine, for God does not stoop to look upon what is feminine and of the flesh.”   And, in the 4th century, Epiphanius stated, “The devil seeks to vomit out his disorder through women.”

“The male sex is more noble than the female, and for this reason he [Jesus] took human nature in the male sex.” (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae III: 31:4 ad 1)

“As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power of the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of a woman comes from defect in the active power…” (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Q92, art. 1, Reply Obj. 1)

The Greco-Roman pagan, misogynist world thinking was taking over the teachings of the Christ and the Apostles, and still is with us today.

The Rabbinical teachings of the Jews coming out of Babylonian captivity rebounded with harsh strictures against women in both assembly and home life, as though by strictly controlling the women, they might avoid any further sins.  I guess they thought the women were the main reason for their sins of idolatry against God.

The rabbis ruled that women had to sit on separate sides of the assembly, that they could not speak in the assembly, that all singing must be solemn chanting, they were not allowed to study the scriptures, and more.  Women were not allowed to speak to men in public, as is still the case in many nations today.

But, Christianity offered women the equality of being co-heirs of the promise, and many women in the early years of the first century held prominent positions and did much for work of the conversions to Christ’s church.

Acts 2:17-18, “And it shall be in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;  18 and also upon My men-servants, and upon My maid-servants, in those days, I will pour out of My Spirit, and they shall prophesy;”

The pouring forth of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost at the establishment of Christ’s church in approximately 31-33 AD fell upon both men and women, as had been prophesied from Joel 2:28, in a very male dominated society.

1 Cor. 14:36, “36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?

Rom. 16:1-2, “And I commend you to Phebe our sister — being a ministrant of the assembly that [is] in Cenchreathat ye may receive her in the Lord, as doth become saints, and may assist her in whatever matter she may have need of you — for she also became a leader of many, and of myself. (YLT)

Acts 21:8-9, “and on the morrow Paul and his company having gone forth, we came to Cesarea, and having entered into the house of Philip the evangelist — who is of the seven — we remained with him,  and this one had four daughters, virgins, prophesying. (YLT)

Phil. 4:2-3,  Euodia I exhort, and Syntyche I exhort, to be of the same mind in the Lord;  and I ask also thee, genuine yoke-fellow, be assisting those women who in the good news did strive along with me, with Clement also, and the others, my fellow-workers, whose names [are] in the book of life.  (YLT)

These women worked alongside Paul, spreading and teaching the good news to others.

Gal. 3:28-29,  there is not here Jew or Greek, there is not here servant nor freeman, there is not here male and female, for all ye are one in Christ Jesus;  29 and if ye [are] of Christ then of Abraham ye are seed, and according to promise — heirs.”  (YLT)

Men and women are “sons of God.”  Gal. 3:26.  Both men and women in Christ are of the seed of Abraham, and co-heirs of the promise!

1 Cor. 11:5,  and every woman praying or prophesying with the head uncovered, doth dishonour her own head, for it is one and the same thing with her being shaven,”

The women were praying and prophesying in public, and the issue here was that they were to cover their heads when doing so as the sign of subjection to both their husbands and to Christ.

In fact, a close examination 1 Cor. chap. 11 shows the subject is the conduct and manner of dress IN THE ASSEMBLIES.  So, the women held a role of praying and prophesying in the first century A.D. in the assemblies as a part of those who received the gifts of the Holy Spirit in that day and time!

You must consider the time period, and that these newly converted Hebrews had suddenly been given new spiritual gifts with which they were learning to contend. They weren’t born with these gifts; they had to learn how to handle them.

If everyone spoke / prophesied at the same time, then there was disorder. If one prophet spoke, the one sitting next to him was to keep still. If those with gifts of tongues (foreign languages) spoke when there was no foreigner attending the assembly, then what use would that be.  If there was no interpreter of that foreign language to tell those in the assembly what the tongue-speaker was saying, then no one would benefit.

Likewise the prophet’s wives were not to interrupt their husbands while speaking in the assembly.  But, moreover, 1 Cor. 14:36 is admonishing the men for their tendency to belittle the women as their male dominated society had been taught to do by their Rabbis.  And, that is why the comment about “as also saith the law” is key.

Why would Paul be putting women under the commandment of the law, while preaching throughout his ministry that all of us have been liberated from the law?  (Rom. 3:28. 6:14, 7:16, 8:2; Gal. 3:11, 13. 4:15, 5:18; etc)  Paul did not quote any scripture in 1 Cor. 14:34-35.  Whenever he quoted scripture he typically provided the reference, or said it is written.  If Paul actually made these statements in 1 Cor. 14:34-35, and there is some question about the authenticity of them, then Paul was quoting back to the men their Rabbinical laws, not God’s law.  (See here for more discussion.)

1 Cor. 14:36, “36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?

The word of God did not come from men, nor did it come to them only!  Paul could not have been teaching that women should remain silent in church when he had previously discussed the dress and conduct while praying and prophesying in chapter 11.  If these verses are not an addition by the RCC, then Paul was chastising the men for their disparity of women.

The problem in 1 Cor. chap. 14 was the orderly conduct in the assemblies with the misuse of the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to the first century believers.  The whole issue was simply that the wives of the prophets were not to interrupt their husbands during assembly and worship service.

How are we to take this today?  Well, as the gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased, as we have the written word of God with us today, it doesn’t really apply to us.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit were for those two generations as Peter told them on the day of Pentecost.

Acts. 2:39, for to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all those afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call.’

The gifts of the Holy Spirit were for a time period to aid in the call of the gospel before the writings / record of that word was circulated to the churches.  The gifts were for that generation, they and their children and the gentiles that would be called during that first century A.D.

We have that record today.  We have the teachings of the Apostles and disciples in the New Testament.  We have the Spirit through the word.  They had the Spirit poured out by the laying on of the hands of the apostles after they were baptized.

That gift of the Holy Spirit taught them the word of God.  They were just having some trouble knowing how best to utilize a new talent God gave them.

Then we have Paul’s instructions to a young Timothy in his first letter to Timothy, written approximately 57 A.D. most probably from Macedonia, as Timothy stayed in Ephesus.  1 Tim. 2: 8-12:

 I wish, therefore, that men pray in every place, lifting up kind hands, apart from anger and reasoning;  in like manner also the women, in becoming apparel, with modesty and sobriety to adorn themselves, not in braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or garments of great price, 10 but — which becometh women professing godly piety — through good works.  11 Let a woman in quietness learn in all subjection, 12 and a woman I do not suffer to teach, nor to rule a husband, but to be in quietness,”

On the one hand, Paul is instructing that women should pray continually as the men, but in modesty and sobriety, just as the men are to pray continually apart from anger.  But, then he adds that they are not to teach, nor rule a husband, but to be quiet.  Paul was instructing Timothy on the conduct and manner of the assembly.  The admonition was against women teaching and assuming authority over men in the assembly.

If a woman was never to teach, then how would this verse comport with Aquilas and Priscilla teaching Apollos more exactly?  (Acts 18:26)   They took him aside after the synagogue / assembly.

I do not believe that 1 Cor. 14: 34-35 is meant to teach that women are to be absolutely silent in church!  On the other hand, I do not believe the scriptures allow a woman to teach in the assembly, nor to exert authority in the assembly over men.

However, I do believe the scriptures show that women were deacons, ministrants to the assembly, and workers along with men to teach others outside of the assembly.  I believe that women who know and study the word should participate in bible study, in private correction after the assembly, in ministering to others, and in teaching the gospel of Christ to those we come in contact with in our daily lives.

Further reading: Manhood, Womanhood and the Freedom to Minister

6 thoughts on “Is A Woman Commanded to Keep Silent in the Church?

  1. Adam Irving

    I really enjoy your teachings. I would just say one must be careful about saying the gifts of the Spirit are not for today. Please explain were it says in the Bible that these gifts ceased to exist. Why would the Lord take away gifts of miracles and gifts of healing from the body of Christ or gift of prophesy? If the Bible was mainly for those individuals during that time as you have mentioned many times wouldn’t one need the Holy Spirit to be guided today into everything God would have them do? If the Holy Spirit is the guide today then why would the gifts He provides cease when we all can agree they are just a needed today in a darkened world than they were then.


    1. Adam, I wish to be careful in using the phrase “gifts of the Holy Spirit” as too many people are expanding the definition of the gifts to every day, common meanings of normal activity, such as insight into His word, or organizational abilities, or speaking / preaching skills, etc. Some people equate the ability to speak well as a “gift” of the Spirit. The ability to speak well before a crowd, or the ability to draft a well written research report from the scriptures, or the ability to handle finances of the church are not “gifts” of the Holy Spirit as was used in the NT books. The gifts of the Spirit that were poured out on that 1st century audience / believers were miraculous gifts so they could perform miracles such as healing the sick, curing deafness or blindness, speaking in a foreign language (tongue), or prophesying were given in order that the people could believe in what they were hearing.

      Today, as we have His written word recorded we have all we need to be able to come to a knowledge of Him, and to know how to be reconciled to the Father through Jesus Christ. The records of the miraculous things the apostles and disciples did in the 1st century AD are written for our edification, so that we can know assuredly that the very written word we have today was confirmed by those miracles to be from our heavenly Father. (Acts 2:22).

      As the word / scriptures have already been confirmed by those miracles, then why do they still need to be confirmed by other miracles today? I know from personal experience that God answers our prayers. I know that He has answered many of my prayers, one of which in recent years was for healing a particular condition I had. However, the answers He gives to my personal needs is only subjective, and cannot be used as “proof” or “confirmation” of His word in the Bible.

      The miracles performed in the 1st century AD by the apostles were witnessed by the crowds, by multitudes of people, and were very quickly told to all they knew. First hand accounts of publicly witnessed events that were verifiable by many. Those miracles faded away, which Paul told them would happen (1 Cor. 13:10). When the perfect, that means completed record of the word was done, then the need for the miracles that confirmed an oral testimony by the speaking and preaching of the apostles would no longer be necessary.

      We still have His providence and He still answers our prayers on a daily basis, on an individual level. But, I cannot call those the same “gifts of the Spirit” that resulted in the public miracles of the 1st century A.D.


    1. We keep working on it, maybe we will have an impact. The church at Rome fell away from the truth along time ago, and I am still discovering traditions I have to question as I study God’s word.


  2. Teya

    Who are you?. These teachings are so in depth, clear and bring everything together to help understand why the world is the way it is. Please keep up your studies and staying in the Word of God.


    1. Thank you, Teya. I don’t put any info about who I am on the site, as I am trying to keep the focus on the word of God. As the word is what all Christians should have in common, then an analysis of the word to come to a like mind in Christ is the core essence… isn’t it? We are to be one in Him as He is in the Father, and that only happens with a better understanding of His word.

      But, to answer your question I am a mature woman, a wife of one husband, a mother of three, a small business owner, with a background in contract administration, contract negotiation, accounting, inside sales, and any other task that needs to be done. But most of all.. I am a child of God, and a sister of the Messiah.


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