the weblog of Alan Knox

Summary of 1 Corinthians 14 – Part 3

Posted by on May 9, 2007 in edification, gathering, scripture, spirit/holy spirit, spiritual gifts | 13 comments

In this parts 1 and 2 of this series (“Summary of 1 Corinthians 14 – Part 1” and “Summary of 1 Corinthians 14 – Part 2“) I discussed the context of 1 Corinthians 14 and verses 1-25. Paul indicates several times in this chapter that he is discussing how believers should exercise spiritual gifts when the church meets. Because prophecy edifies the church, Paul encourages believers to exercise during the church gathering. However, since uninterpreted tongues only edifies the one speaking in tongues, this gifts should not be exercised without interpretation during the church meeting. In this post, I will discuss the final verses of the chapter (26-40).

Section 5 – vv. 26-40 – Specific instructions for exercising gifts during the church meeting
I am going to divide this section into subsections.

Section 5A – vs. 26 – Introduction and overall goal of the gifts during the church meeting

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. (1 Cor. 14:26 ESV)

The phrase “What then, brothers?” begins the introduction. We might say something like, “So, now, what do we do about this teaching?” First, Paul recognizes that the Corinthian believers are coming together with the intention of exercising their gifts (“each one has” – present tense). This shows that there is some preparation for the meeting of the church, but it appears that each believer is preparing for himself or herself. The phrase “Let all things be done for building up” is an all-encompassing directive. By the way, this phrase parallels 1 Corinthians 14:40 in grammar and syntax: “But all things should be done decently and in order.” Thus, the instructions that Paul gives concerning building up (“edification”) will also result in things being done “decently and in order” – as Paul defines “decently and in order”. These are not contradictory ideas.

Section 5B – vv. 27-28 – Instructions about speaking in tongues during the church meeting

If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. (1 Cor. 14:27-28 ESV)

This is fairly straightforward. Here are a few points: 1) Speaking in tongues is a possibility, but not required (“if”). 2) Speaking in tongues is appropriate between the individual and God, even without an interpreter. However, this is to be done outside of the meeting of the church. 3) The person speaking in tongues can control whether or not he or she speaks in tongues. The Holy Spirit does not force someone to speak in tongues.

Section 5C – vv. 29-37 – Instructions about prophecy during the church meeting

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. (1 Cor. 14:29-37 ESV)

These instructions for prophets are similar to the instructions for speaking in tongues, but they also include instructions for “weighing” prophecy. In this case, Paul commands prophecy and he commands others to weigh the prophecy (no “if”). While before we saw that the believers were preparing for the meeting, in this passage we see that there is also the possibility that someone speaks from a “revelation”, that is, something that was not prepared. It also appears that one method (preparation vs. revelation) is not better than another. The person prophesying can also control whether or not he or she speaks. Once again, the Spirit does not force someone to prophesy.

It seems that the instructions for women are given in the context of “weighing” prophecy. Notice that being silent is not an absolute command in any of these passages. The tongues speaker does not have to be absolutely silent, but he should not speak in tongues without an interpreter. The prophet does not have to be absolutely silent, but he should stop talking if another wants to speak. Similarly, women do not have to be absolutely silent, but they should refrain from weighing prophecy.

Why should prophets allow their prophecy to be weighed? Because God does not speak through only one individual. As Paul says, someone who truly desires to speak words of prophecy will recognize that this command (“weighing prophecy”) is from the Lord.

Section 5D – vv. 38-40 – Summary and conclusion

If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order. (1 Cor. 14:38-40 ESV)

In these last few sentences, Paul concludes his instructions about spiritual gifts. The word translated “recognize” in the ESV is the same word translated “be ignorant” in vs. 12:1. Thus, Paul concludes his instructions where he began. Those who do not wish to be ignorant will heed his words. Those who do not heed his words simply show that they are not following the commands of God, and therefore should be ignored. During the context of the meeting of the church, Paul says we should seek to prophesy (because that edifies the church), but should not forbid speaking in tongues, as long as we follow the guidelines that Paul gave us. By following these guidelines, things will be done to build up (edify) the church (vs. 26), and things will be done decently and in order (vs. 40). Thus, we can follow Paul’s commands in this passage and still maintain decency and order. These commands are complementary, not contradictory. If they appear contradictory, then we are not viewing decency and order the way that Paul viewed them.

In the next part of this series, I’ll post some concluding remarks.

Series on 1 Corinthians 14:
Prologue 1 – What do we do with 1 Corinthians 14?
Prologue 2 – 1 Corinthians 14 and the Leadership
Context & Verses 1-5 – Summary of 1 Corinthians 14 – Part 1
Verses 6-25 – Summary of 1 Corinthians 14 – Part 2
Verses 26-40 – Summary of 1 Corinthians 14 – Part 3
Concluding Remarks – Summary of 1 Corinthians 14 – Part 4


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-9-2007


    I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, but would say that a gathering that has a large crowd all speaking at the same time in a “prayer language” or “speaking in tongues” is contrary to this passage?


  2. 5-9-2007


    I don’t remember you commenting before. If not, welcome to my blog!

    I would think that any number of people (small or large) all speaking at the same time would be contrary to what Paul is teaching.


  3. 5-9-2007


    Well, Chad actually stole my question and my point. But let me address this from the other side.

    I was listening to a recent Q&A session from New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Yes, that’s the church where Ted Haggard was their pastor. Right now they are going through a Sunday night sermon series on the Holy Spirit, and a recent sermon in that series was concerning the gift of tongues. Anyways, after most of their Sunday night sermons, they offer the congregation an opportunity to Q&A with the pastors of the church, esp. about the topics discussed in the Sunday morning and evening services. One lady got up, and she asked a similar question to Chad’s question, which I will paraphrase: What about when the congregation comes together to pray for a need, and many in the congregation are using their “prayer language,” to pray for that need.

    Before I discuss what the response was, I believe this is an important practical issue, because at least in my church, there have been times during a service, where whoever is leading the service will present a prayer need before the congregation, and we will all (ideally) come together in agreement regarding this prayer need. And during this time of prayer, many in the congregation will use their prayer language, although not everybody, and of course the leader of the meeting will be praying in English, so that everyone knows what we’re praying about.

    Basically, the pastors at New Life in Colorado believe this practice is acceptable. In their response, they honed in on the point that the leader with the mic up front needs to be praying in English, but it is quite acceptable for those in the congregation to use their “devotional” prayer language at this time, because the purpose of the meeting has shifted from edification to a prayer time. In other words (and this is my paraphrase to explain it), the service has temporarily adjourned into a prayer meeting format, and will resume an edificational format after the prayer time is finished.

    Alan, what do you think about this? I happen to agree with this view, but I am interested in what you might think, or other thoughts or questions you or others might have.


  4. 5-9-2007


    I’ll stick with Paul on this one. When the church is gathered together, no one should speak in a tongue without interpretation. If there is no interpretation, then the person should be silent, speaking only to God. When people speak it should be one at a time.


  5. 5-9-2007

    hahha, Alan. I have to join in here. I once was part of a church with “charsimatic” giftings going on.

    Paul does say one can speak such between themselves and God. So I think it’s fine to do so silently during a meeting. It’s just another way of praying in the Spirit, I believe, open to all believers in Christ. Though the main point you make here, I’d concur with. The gift for a meeting I view as situational as opposed to constitutional gifts such as pastor-teacher or administration, etc.

    I attended a “Holiness” church prayer meeting as a young Christian. They happened to be anti-pentecostal but their prayer meetings were quite interesting. When it was time to pray everyone starting praying in English at the same time. What would be different were the different expressive ways of praying. It was quite an expressive time.

    I wish there was an openness to the “charismatic” side we find in nearly all of Paul’s letters. Of course all believers in Christ, all who have the Holy Spirit are actually charismatic according to the Greek New Testament.

  6. 5-9-2007


    I think that if we stopped trying to prove our position, and started listening to other believers, we would find that we can all learn from each other. I appreciate what you are writing on your blog. I haven’t commented lately, but it has been very thought-provoking and encouraging.


  7. 5-10-2007


    I don’t think you answered my question. Please provide a more substantive response, if you can. Thanks.


  8. 5-10-2007


    You asked what I thought about a meeting of the church where everyone spoke (some in English, some in tongues) at the same time. I said that I preferred to stick with Paul’s teaching in this matter, that is, when the church is meeting togehter, believers should speak one at a time, and they should only speak in tongues when there is an interpreter. In other words, I think the meeting that you described does not fall under the parameters that Paul sets in 1 Corinthians 14.


  9. 4-30-2009

    Hi Alan, I am working through this passage for Sunday and would like you input.

    You wrote this regarding women and the worship service.

    “Similarly, women do not have to be absolutely silent, but they should refrain from weighing prophecy.”

    Okay, but here is exactly what Paul says…

    1 Cor 14:34-36
    34 The women are to ​a​keep silent in the churches [notice he says churches plural,not church the Corinthian church]; for they are not permitted to speak, but ​b​are to subject themselves, just as ​​the Law also says.
    35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is ​improper for a woman to speak in church.
    36 ​​Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?

    You also mention in other posts that the synagogue as a model for the NT church. MacAurther also makes this connection when it comes to women not speaking. He writes in his commentary.

    “The women who joined in the chaotic sell–expression which Paul has been condemning not only added to the confusion but should not have been speaking in the first place. In God’s order for the church, women should subject themselves, just as the Law also says. The principle was first taught in the Old Testament and is reaffirmed in the New In reflection of that principle, no women were permitted to speak at the Jewish synagogues.”

    So how is it that you interpret Paul’s admonition that “women should not speak in church” to mean “they should refrain from weighing in on prophecy”?

    I really don’t buy MacAutho’s point and lean toward your interpretation, but I want you to help convince me that you are seeing this passage correctly.

    Thank :-)

  10. 4-30-2009

    Joe (JR),

    I was wondering what happened to that comment. :)

    Yes, women speak during our church meeting. I don’t think “be silent” means absolute silence in 1 Cor 14:26-40. The tongues speaker is to “be silent” only in the context of speaking in tongues. The prophet speaking is to “be silent” only in the context of someone else standing to speak. Thus, I think there is a context for the women to “be silent”. What is that context? I tend to follow Fee (I think) and see the context as “judging prophecy”.

    Of course, there are other ways to interpret this passage, and some of the women that meet with us do not speak because of this passage.


  11. 4-30-2009


    I disagree with Fee in his assertion that this passage is not authentic. do you agree with him on this point?

    From my reading, I am leaning toward Wayne Grudem who basicly says that the passage applies to women and restricts them from participating in the evaluation of prophecy. I think that is what I also read from you so, assuming you do not reject the authenticity of the passage itself like Fee, maybe you and I are closer to Grudem?

    The only thing I know for sure is that my brain hurts from reading too many commentators and articles on this passage. :-)

    Thanks for your input though brother in how you do church.

    One other quick question. Have you ever posted on the topic of women and head coverings in the NT church?

  12. 4-30-2009


    Here is another perspective on those difficult passages.

    If its too long, go ahead and delete this.

    Yes, I cut and pasted this from my accumulated notes on this subject.

    Scripture clearly states that men and women are equal before the Lord. The priesthood of all believers, both men and women, clearly demonstrates this truth. Galatians 3:26-29, 1 Peter 2:4-12

    **Neither the Gospel narratives nor the recorded words of Jesus ever put restrictions on the ministry of women.

    **Jesus fully accepted women as his disciples and they accompanied him in his travels with the male disciples (Luke 8:1-3). These women also supported the mission of Jesus with their own resources. These facts may be much more significant that it initially appears. In the first century it was unheard of for a Jewish rabbi to have female followers. Luke reports this rather matter-of-factly, yet this band of women, men and Jesus was hardly kosher to the curious onlookers as they went from city to village.

    **After Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and saw God’s salvation, Anna the prophetess “gave thanks to God and spoke of him [Jesus] to all the ones expecting redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:25-38). Anna did not just proclaim Christ to women, but to “all.”

    **Jesus applauded the evangelistic efforts of the Samaritan woman (John 4:35-38). After experiencing a revelation of Jesus, she left her jar at the well and went to her city telling men, women and children about the Messiah (John 4:28-29). Everyone in Sychar knew about her history of broken relationships, yet she boldly proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah – a Redeemer even for those outside of Judaism!

    **In the context of Jesus’ crucifixion the male disciples fled, yet the women were present and they helped in his burial (Matt.27:55-56,61; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 23:55-56; John 19:25-27).

    **A woman’s testimony was disallowed as evidence in first century courts. Yet the Lord chose females to be the first witnesses and proclaimers of his resurrection (John 20:1-2, 11-18; Luke 24:1-11, 22-24; Mark 16:1-8; Matt.28:1-11).

    **After Christ’s ascension, 120 men and women prayed together and chose a replacement for Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:14-15).

    **The Spirit came upon the 120 disciples and they spoke the wonderful works of God in many foreign languages (Acts 2:1-4).

    **Some thought that what was occurring on the Day of Pentecost was evidence of too much wine, but Peter insisted that it was a fulfillment of what Joel prophesied would come to pass – “your sons and daughters will prophesy….I will pour out my Spirit on my male and female slaves and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18). There is no suggestion that males may prophesy freely, but that females are restricted in some ways.

    **Philip the evangelist had four virgin daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9). We would not be wrong in assuming that there were many other sisters who had this gift, not just Philip’s offspring.

    **Paul entrusted his letter to the Romans to Phoebe, and she delivered it. She was a deacon in the assembly at Cenchrea and Paul has the highest regard for her (Rom.16:1-2). Paul recognized her as a prostatis, which carried with it the idea of leadership (cf. 1 Thess.5:12).

    **Paul designates Priscilla and Aquila as his “co-workers” (Rom.16:3). The same word is used with reference to people like Timothy and Titus.

    **Junia and Andronicus (wife/husband or sister/brother) were greeted by Paul as “outstanding among the apostles” (Rom.16:7). They were his relatives and had been in prison with him. There were people called “apostles” who were not among the Twelve, like Barnabas. Junia was also among such apostolic workers. There is no reason to think that she was the only such female apostle.

    **Among all the people Paul greeted in Romans 16, ten were sisters among whom were “Tryphena and Tryphosa [who may have been twins], women who work hard for the Lord” (Rom.16:12).

    **In line with Acts 2:17-18, Paul encouraged brothers and sisters to prophesy in the gatherings (1 Cor.11:4-5; 14:23-24).

    **The open meeting Paul describes in 1 Cor.14 envisions all the men and women – “the whole assembly” – “each one of you” – “you may all prophesy one by one” – functioning together in an encouraging manner.

    **Gal.3:28 indicates that “in Christ” human distinctions, like male and female, are no longer norms of judgment in the congregation. In the first century, prejudices abounded in folks’ minds when certain people like “Gentile,” “Jew,” “slave,” and “woman” were mentioned. Paul is saying that in the body of Christ this should not be the case.

    **Women were prominent in the assembly at Philippi, beginning with Lydia’s home. In Phil.4:3 Paul asks for two sisters – who must have had no small spiritual influence in the body – to be at peace with one another. He calls Euodia and Syntyche “co-workers” and “co-strugglers” in the gospel.

    **2 John is addressed to “the elect lady and her children.” This probably refers to a respected sister in whose home the saints gathered. She had apparently exerted significant spiritual influence upon a number of people. Women’s homes are mentioned as meeting places for the brethren in Rom.16:5, 1 Cor.1:11, 16:9 and Col.4:15.

    **In Rev.2:20-24 Christ rebuked the Thyatiran congregation for allowing a false prophetess, nicknamed “Jezebel,” to “teach” some of the Lord’s servants to sin grievously. If it was such a crime for a woman to teach the brethren, why didn’t the Lord just condemn the assembly for even allowing a woman to instruct others? This incident in Thyatira implies that the assembly permitted other male and female prophets to teach the truth. Christ’s bone to pick with them wasn’t that a woman taught, but that what this woman set forth was false teaching.

    This survey of New Testament highlights concerning women is important because it reveals the freedom of the sisters to function in the kingdom. In the general flow of the New Testament there are no jitters about “restrictions” upon Christ’s daughters. Such a survey also should also serve as a corrective to those who squelch and intimidate the sisters by using their interpretation of two passages – 1 Cor.14:34-35 and 1 Tim.2:5-15 to cancel out the ministry of sisters unfolded in other Scriptures.

    Are the women to be silent?

    The misinterpreted scriptures

    1 Timothy 2:5-15

    5. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6. who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. 7. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle(I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8. Therefore I want men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. 9. Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold and pearls or costly garments, 10. but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. 11. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

    What becomes obvious when you study the culture, Greek grammar, and corresponding scriptural passages is that Paul was not forbidding women from ministry, but he was addressing at Corinth disruption in the services, women speaking out of order, and at Ephesus, false teaching.

    Let’s take a moment to consider 1 Timothy 2:5-15. There was a fertility cult in Ephesus, and as part of the initiation, men went up to the Temple of Artemis and engaged in sexual relations with women priestesses who were supposed to be the mediators between the gods and man. Women served as the prime movers and mediators who were the conduit for contact with the gods. The cult personnel of the great Temple of Artemis of Ephesus numbered in the thousands, and the women were believed to stand in the intermediary position between the deity and her worshippers. At Ephesus, the cultic religion was a female monopoly that was believed to be the mediators between the gods and mortals.

    In 1 Timothy verse 5, Paul corrects this false teaching (“for there is one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ”). As part of the Gnostic Religion, female mediators were supposed to initiate men into their special knowledge, gnosis, during sexual rites. At Ephesus, there was a prevalent teaching that Eve was created before Adam and received “special knowledge” when she ate the forbidden fruit. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was a massive structure that dominated the area, and as befitted worshippers of a female deity, the priests were all women. They ruled the show and kept men in their places. The women priests were considered to be the teachers of men.

    Paul corrects this false teaching by saying the Adam was formed first and then Eve; that Adam was the source of woman. Paul had earlier warned Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3-5) that people were teaching false doctrines, devoting themselves to myths and endless genealogies. There was a widespread belief among the Ephesians that warrior-women, Amazons, who were superior to men, had founded the city of Ephesus. People were caught up in these myths and pursued genealogies trying to trace their ancestry back to these superior women. Women, who were uneducated and full of these fables, were going house to house teaching these tales and superstitions.

    An early Amazon queen, Lysippe, decreed that women should go forth to battle and govern while the men were to stay at home and do the household work. “Lysippe said to the men they were assigned the spinning of wool and the household tasks of women.” She introduced laws by which she led forth the women to battle, but she hung humiliation and servitude upon the men.

    Artemis was the female goddess that the Ephesians worshipped, and her name, Artemis, means “safe”. She was the one who protected women. Sacrifices and prayers were offered to her throughout the woman’s life. It was Artemis who would safely guide the women through childhood. On a woman’s wedding night, her garment was loosed and given to Artemis as an offering. Women prayed to her for a safe childbirth, to be saved and not harmed throughout the delivery of the child. Beautiful garments, woven by the woman, were given to Artemis as an offering for safe childbirth.

    In verse 15, Paul says, “But, the woman will be saved during childbirth . . .”. In the Greek, Paul seems to be making a play on words, “But she, the woman, will be safe throughout the childbearing.” Implied, God is the protector, not Artemis (safe). The Phillips Bible comes closest with, “The woman will come safely through childbirth.” Paul is saying that the women should not fear harm during childbirth because Artemis has no power to keep one safe or to harm them. It is rather, God, who can keep you safe throughout the whole process of childbirth. In this case, Paul is not saying that childbearing is a curse upon a woman, but rather, that God gives grace.

    In verse 14, Paul says that it was the woman, Eve, who was deceived. Now in verse 15, he says, “Yes, there was a woman who was deceived. But remember, God chose a woman to save the world through childbirth, Mary.” It is obvious that a woman is not saved through childbirth. Only Jesus Christ can save her. This may be an allusion to Mary. It is interesting to note, that it was Ephesus that was the first place to worship Mary and develop a cult of Maryology. William Ramsey insists that it is “no coincidence that the Virgin Mary was first given the official title, Theotokos, ‘bearer of God’ at Ephesus where Artemis herself had earlier borne the same title.”

    These women who were the dispensers of mystic knowledge twisted and perverted Paul’s teaching about women.

    Paul, in his letter to Timothy, who was facing false doctrines and fierce female foes, addresses every evil practice, woman dominance, false doctrine, and sexual impropriety.

    Paul also deals with the problems of men in public prayer. In verse 8, he says, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger and disputing.” Men, you are to lift up your hands in public prayer and pray not just outwardly but inwardly, without harboring hostility over some dispute or hidden anger. This is a problem men still need to handle.

    Now in verse 9, he begins with the Greek word, hosautos, “in like manner or similar”, women are to dress modestly while praying outwardly in public. They, too, lift up holy hands and outstretched arms, which was the practice while blessing God’s people in prayer. There is no getting around the Greek word, hosautos. Just as the men are to pray without inner anger, the women are to lead in public prayer, dressing modestly without drawing public attention to themselves. Thus, the Greek word, “for in like manner” repeats the whole previous sentence in verse 9, except that the warning is different. Men have trouble in overly internalizing anger and disputes while trying to pray effectively in public, whereas women have trouble sometimes not realizing that God meant them to be beautiful and attractive to men but not while praying publicly in the service. According to these two verses, Paul wants women and men to participate together in the public service of the church, in the offering of prayers. There can be no debate over this point unless someone knows how we can get rid of hosautos.

    Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:5, “Every woman who prays or prophesies (in public)”, and in 1 Timothy 2:10 (public prayer). A.J. Gordon wrote, “It is quite incredible on the contrary, that the Apostle should give himself the trouble to prune a custom, which he desired to uproot, or then he should spend his breath condemning a forbidden method of doing a forbidden thing.” Paul was encouraging men and women to participate in the service openly with prayers and prophecies. But the women were to be modest in their dress so that they would not draw attention to themselves. May I remind the reader that prophecy contained teaching as well as direct revelation.

    Some patriarchal pastors interpret these passages as though Paul was saying that women are second class citizens at every level. They are not to be educated, they are not to dress attractively, they are daughters of Eve, the original troublemaker, a deceiver. Women are easily deceived. The best thing for them to do is to get married, have children, behave themselves, keep quiet, and let the men be the spiritual authorities. The Apostle Paul is not in agreement with this myopic viewpoint.

    In verse 11, Paul instructs that women are to be educated. They are to learn in quietness and voluntary willingness to be responsive. The Greek is transparent here. It does not mean that women are to keep their mouths shut and submit to someone of higher rank. Hupotassomai means “a voluntary responsiveness to learn to take a subject in, in an attitude of openness”. It means to be receptive and responsive. Paul told all the members of the church to be subject to (hupotassomai) to one another: wives to husbands, husbands to wives (same Greek word, hupotassomai). Hupotassomai never means a ranking of a person as ruler and ruled. The directives in the New Testament are for Christians to live together linked by love, serving one another, and not lording it over one another.
    Paul was just like Jesus. He wanted the women to be properly educated and instructed so that they could be teachers. In Luke 10:38-41, the story of Mary and Martha, Martha is in the kitchen distracted by all the preparations while Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus. What would be immediately understood in Jesus’ day and in the Middle East today is that Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet within the male part of the house rather than being in the back room where she belonged with the other women. I am sure Martha was bothered by having to do all the work, but the real problem was that Mary had just committed an absolute social “no, no”. A woman was never allowed to go into the men’s part of the house where a male was teaching. Mary had just violated the social mores. In fact, she flaunted them, and Jesus declares that she has a right to do so. She is sitting at his feet. A phrase which doesn’t mean what it would mean today, the adoring student gazing up in admiration at the wonderful teacher. It is clear from classical Greek literature, the customs of the day and the usage of the phrase elsewhere in the New Testament (Paul -Gamaliel), to sit at the teacher’s feet is a way of saying you are being a student, you are his disciple, picking up the teacher’s wisdom and learning, and in a practical world, you would not be doing it for the sake of cramming your mind with information, but you were in training to be a teacher, a Rabbi, yourself. Jesus commends Mary and says, “You have chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from you.”

    Americans miss the point as they many times have an insufficient theological education and interpret the Bible through the lens of Western Culture just don’t get it, no one in Jesus’ day would have missed the scandal at Bethany. Indeed, today in the Middle East and in Central Asia, when this story is told, the men protest, “What, what? Jesus would allow a woman to sit at His feet? Women are not to be teachers.” What they mean by “teachers” would be a Rabbi, Priest or Mullah. Here, Paul is at one with Jesus.

    In 1 Timothy 2:11, “Let the women learn in openness and voluntary responsiveness;” uneducated women were causing problems, so he wanted the women properly educated and prepared to defend and teach the faith. The women are to be well taught in the Word. The rabbinical rabbis taught, “It is better to burn the Torah than let it fall into the hands of a woman.” Paul decrees, “O contraire,” women should learn just as the rabbis. This was a pedestal-smashing blow to the patriarchal legalists. Indeed, the rabbinic scholar himself was required to learn in silence. The people of Israel were told to keep silence before the Lord (Isaiah 41:1, Zech. 2:13), and they were instructed “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Silence was a wall around wisdom. Silence was the duty of the learner. The phrase, “Silence and submission” is a Near Eastern formula implying a willingness to heed and obey instructions from the Word of God.

    In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul says, “I suffer not a woman to teach.” Here, Paul is not voicing a timeless command but a temporary directive application to a specific situation. In the Greek, it is not a command-not in the imperative. Paul uses the Greek form that indicates present action not a command form. “Presently, I am not allowing!” Paul is not setting down a permanent prohibition. The temporary character of the prohibition in Paul’s use of the but ( de) to join the two verses., “Let the women learn . . .but not at this time am I allowing them to teach.” In other words, we have to correct this false teaching, but once it is corrected, the women can teach sound doctrine.

    What are we to make of Paul’s declaration in verse 12? “I do not permit the women to have authority over the men.” The Greek word (authentein) does not mean “authority” in the sense of the English understanding of the word. It meant, in the First Century, to gain domination by claiming special knowledge (gnosis), a knowledge that could be passed on to the men through sexual rites. It was a common problem at Ephesus that women were using deceit, trickery, and underhanded means to trap men into believing that the sexual rites initiated them into the mystical realms of communion with the gods.

    Charles Thrombly argues convincingly, authentein had a sexual meaning. He links the word to temple prostitutes that believed fornication brought believers into contact deity. Authentein, in the First Century Greek world, meant to engage in sexual immorality as in a pagan religious setting. John Chrysostom, an Early Church Father, used authentein to express sexual license. Clement of Alexandria used the same word, authentein, for a group of Christian women who turned Christian love feasts into sexual orgies.

    If we believe the scriptures are truly inspired, and if Paul had meant “authority”, he would have used the normal Greek word that he uses repeatedly in his writings, exousia. Instead, he uses this word authentein, a word loaded with sexual connotations and images of someone dominating as a despot over men. Authentein is a haphax legomenon. It is only used once in the entire New Testament and is a fitting word of a society ripe with women supposedly superior to men: bearers of mystic knowledge and sexual liaisons, serving as mediators between the gods and men. Undoubtedly, Paul applied a specific word for a specific setting.

    Now if you were writing a letter to someone in a small, new religious movement with a base in Ephesus, and wanted to say that because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the old ways of organizing male and female roles from top to bottom were invalid; with one feature, that women were to be encouraged to study and learn and take a leadership role, thus, you might want to avoid giving the wrong impression. People would wonder, is Christianity just another cult like the cult of Artemis where women do the leading and keep the men in line? No, Paul says, in verse 12. Women are not to try to dictate to the men with the overtones of being bossy or seizing control or using female charms to seduce them into a false religion. Paul is saying, like Jesus in Luke 10, that women must have the space to learn, to study in their own way, not in order that they may muscle in and take over the leadership as in the Artemis cult, but that both men and women alike are to develop whatever gifts of learning, teaching, and leadership God is giving to them.

    Men have used 1 Timothy 2:12 to clobber women. After all, some men say, Eve was deceived, and God said in Genesis 3:16 that man is to rule over the woman. If that is your belief, then it is the men who are deceived. For Genesis 3:16 is not a command for man to rule over the woman, but is a curse . . .”man (unfortunately) who walks after his fallen nature, will rule over woman”.

    Genesis 3:16 is not a demand or a command for man to take charge over woman, “to rule over them.” This is not a normative and prescriptive text found in the Mosaic Law and revealed by God, it is a curse passage predicting what will happen when women “turn” towards their husbands instead of turning towards God. This is what can happen if you marry a dictatorial, immature, or childish man. Paul said, “When I became a man I put away childish ways behind me, “ (1 Corinthians 13:11). I repeat, Genesis 3:16 is not a command but a curse. In effect, if God were explaining this today in plain English, God might have phrased it like this, “The truth is, that as a result of the fall, do not be surprised, my good lady, if that guy just plain lords it over you.” The statement in Genesis 3:16 does not have the slightest hint of a command or a mandate for men to assume that they are in charge, nor is it a prescriptive command from God by any means. The Hebrew grammar may not be rendered as, “the man must (shall) rule over you.” Such a misguided notion demands that you would have to translate verse 18 the same way, “the ground must produce thorns and thistles for you.” Farmers (should this be the accurate way to render the text) would need to stop using weed killer or pulling out thorns and thistles for God demands they must be left in place on the farm, for this was meant to be God’s normative order of things. But of course, this is utter nonsense, and so is the same logic in verse 16. Genesis 3:16 is not normative for the scripture lifts up Genesis 1:27 and 2:23-24 as the norm for male/female relationships. Those relationships are not to be lived out in light of the fall but in light of God’s design to create two sexually distinct beings in partnership. In fact, God in Jesus Christ was introducing a new order of relationships. This is clear from Jesus’ corrective that from the beginning God had made them male and female (Matthew 19:4; Mark 10:6). Jesus evokes the mandate that the marriage relationship is a functional (oneness) not a hierarchical “two-ness”. In God’s sight, “They are no longer two but one” (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:8). The Pharisees were incensed that Jesus would make women equal to men. In the Pharisees patriarchal prison women were mere chattel. Daily, the Pharisees proudly prayed, “I thank God I was not created a Gentle, a slave, or a woman.” As F.F. Bruce notes, “The pious expressed such gratitude because the other persons “were disqualified from several religious privileges which were open only to Jewish males.”

    The Bible is not a book of oppression but liberation. Jesus said He came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18-19), and that includes women. Those who attempt to set up a patriarchy are saying in effect, we are to live out male/female relationships under the curse and not from the cross. Patriarchy is fundamentally flawed from the first because it forms an institution of Pharisaism and not of our liberator, Jesus Christ, the High Priest. Paul did not reintroduce Pharisaical beliefs but presented a radical new order of creation. In Galatians 3:28, the Greek reads, “Neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, no, ‘male and female’.” We flatten out the verse, but the rich meaning of it is contained in the Greek. He says, “no male or female” rather than “neither male nor female”, and he is actually quoting Genesis 1. We should see the phrase, “male and female” set off in quotes. Paul was battling the Pharisees and Judaiziers who wanted to enforce Jewish regulations, Jewish ceremonies, and Jewish ethnicity on Christian converts. Remember the synagogue prayer that the Jew prayed thanking God that he was not made a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. When that prayer was prayed, the women in the synagogue were to mentally agree thanking God “that you made me according to your will.” Paul, in Galatians 3:18, is deliberately marking out the family of Abraham as a new order of creation under Jesus Christ as a people who cannot pray that prayer since, in this new family, these distinctions are irrelevant. There is much more embedded in this text, because the raging controversy in Galatians is circumcision. Circumcision was a painful experience for the male, but it was also a matter of pride and privilege. It not only marked out Jews from Gentiles, it marked them out in a way that automatically put them in a privileged class above Gentiles, slaves, and women. By contrast, think of the equality brought about by baptism, the identical rite for Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, male and female. They are in effect equal in the new creation in God’s forever family. Paul is aware that in some ways, the story of Abraham did, of course, privilege the male line of descent (Isaac, Jacob, etc). What is incredible, is that we find Paul, in both Galatians 4 and Romans 9, carefully paying attention to the women in the story, rather like the genealogies of Matthew 1, though from a different angle. He is highlighting the role of the women in the Abrahamic Family. In effect, Paul is saying that those in Christ are the true family of Abraham, which is the whole point of the story, that the manner of this identity, unity, which takes a quantum leap beyond the way in which First Century Judaism construed them, brings male and female together as equals, just as Jews and Gentiles are equals. Paul is kicking the props out from under those Pharisees who are attempting to back up a continuing line of male privilege in the structuring and demarcating of Abraham’s family in Genesis 1, as though someone were saying, “But of course, the male line is what matters, of course male circumcision is what counts, because God made male and female.” No, says Paul, none of that counts when it comes to being in the renewed family of Abraham (no male, no female). Paul is taking a wrecking ball and demolishing those who would enshrine a continuing line of male privilege and patriarchy in the new family of Jesus Christ. The point Paul is making in this passage is that God has one family, not two, and His family consists of all of those who believe in Jesus, that this is the family that God promised to Abraham, and that nothing in the Torah can stand in the way of this unity which is now revealed through the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

    For those who are trying to build a hierarchy, a patriarchy, to distinguish the roles of male and female, place themselves under the curse. You would also have to abide by the Old Testament and would not be able to be a minister because you are a Gentile.

    Paul gave a thundering pronouncement that reverberated throughout Christianity. The dividing wall has been torn down, the barrier obliterated. The wall between Jew and Gentile, slave and free, woman and man, has been destroyed. There was an inscription on the wall outside the temple stating that Gentiles and women could not enter under penalty of death (Ephesians 2:14-16). If you want to believe the dividing wall torn down allows a Gentile man to minister but keeps the women outside the courts beyond the temple of God’s grace-you are still under the curse. No, if you return to the Pharisaical system, you once again place yourself under the curse and the invariable result is you will try to control or rule over women by human means.

    Genesis 2:18 is not a text indicting the subordination of women as if she was to be man’s helper. Several translations interpret the Hebrew word ‘ezer as “helper”. “I shall make a helper fit for him (RSV).” “I will make a fitting helper for him (NJPS).” “I will make a helper compatible to him (NKJV).” The patriarchists proudly point to Genesis 2:18 as proof of gender hierarchy. They translate ‘ezer as “helper” and argue that implicit in the term is the notion of subordination. To be a helper is to offer (submissive assistance) as one who gives help. The fatal flaw of such flimsy, shallow, shoddy, shortsighted, slipshod hermeneutics is the fact that all other occurrences of ‘ezer in the Old Testament have to do with the assistance that one of strength offers to one in need. The ‘ezer is a king, an ally, or an army coming to the aid of one in trouble or need. There is no exception. Moreover, fifteen of the nineteen other references speak of the help that God alone can provide (Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29; Psalms 20:2, 33:20, 70:5, 115:9-11, 121:1-2, 124:8, 146:5; Hosea 13:9). Deuteronomy 33:29, “God, He is your shield and helper (‘ezer—strength).” Psalm 121:1-2, “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, where does my help (‘ezer—strength) come from. My help (‘ezer) comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

    It is quite evident; help is given to one in need. It fits Genesis 2:18-20 very well. Adam’s situation was that of being alone, and God’s evaluation is, “It is not good for man to be alone.” The woman was created to relieve man’s aloneness through “strong partnership.” R. David Freedman, has argued quite convincingly that our Hebrew word ‘ezer is a combination of two older Hebrew/Canaanite roots, ‘-z-r, meaning “to rescue or to save”, and g-z-r, “to be strong”. The difference between the two is the first letter in Hebrew that is today somewhat silent in pronunciation and coming where the letter “o” comes in the English alphabet. The word had a guttural sound pronounced in the back of the throat. The initial ghayyin fell together and somewhat represented by the one sign ‘ayyin’. However, we know that both letters were originally pronounced separately for the sounds are preserved in the “g” sound, still pronounced in English today in such place names as Gaza or Gomorrah, both of which are now spelled in Hebrew with the letter ‘ayyin’. It is a tremendously tedious task to untangle the threads of the original meaning, but Freedman successfully traces the root to around 1500 B.C., where the two signs began to be represented by one in Phoenician. Consequently, the two, “phonemes” merged into one “grapheme”. Irrefutable evidence appears in the Old Testament of the two roots merging as one because ‘ezer in the twenty-one times it is used in the Old Testament, often is in parallelism with words denoting “strength” or “power”. The only salient conclusion is that Genesis 2:18 is best translated as “I will make a power or strength suitable to him.” ‘ezer kenegdo together in 2:18 is suggestive that God was saying “I will make for man a strong power equal to him.” Instead of the woman being an assistant, helper, or subordinate, the text teaches that the woman has been given authority, strength, or power that is equal to man’s.

    This line of reasoning is borne out in Genesis 2:23 where Adam says to Eve, “This is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh, she will be called woman for she is taken out of man.,” hardly something someone would say about a subordinate. The idiomatic expression of Adam points to family propinquity, one’s close relative, in short, “my equal”.

    In a case of scripture twisting, some patriarchists insist that Adam was calling her a subordinate because it is the language of paradox. Furthermore, they resort to saying that God, in offering help (‘ezer) becomes the human subordinate or servant. Divine accommodation, maybe. But, divine subordination, impossible. Of course, if you want to dominate women, you ignore the scriptures that confront your fallen fleshly desire to be the master of women, “to rule them”. We have several scriptures where Judah and Israel were helped by their allies. Are you going to say that the help (‘ezer) came to them in a subordinate capacity? This is not tenable.

    There is no equivocation that ‘ezer kenegdo in Genesis 2:18 does not mean “helpmate”. The Hebrew expression conveys the full meaning of woman as “one who is the same as the other: protects, aids, helps, supports, as a powerful, strong equal partner”. The Hebrew leaves no room to intimate that the woman is an inferior or in a secondary position in a hierarchical male pyramid.

    There are those who cart out the canard that women were not overseers. They are not mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:1-11. The opening statement of Paul in 1 Timothy 3:1-2 says, “This is a true saying, if anyone (ei tis) desires the office of a overseer, he desires a good thing.” First, the original Greek does not say “man” at all but instructs, “If anyone desires the office of a bishop,” (he/she) desires a good work.” If Paul was limiting overseers to males, he would have used the male word (aner) in the text. Paul did not slip up and accidentally use a word that includes both sexes. Yet, translation committees, teaching the traditions of men, in some cases, ignore the Greek and translate it as a man. The question is would Paul have given such instructions to the women at Ephesus serving in leadership roles? A thorough knowledge of the Greek City of Ephesus sheds important light for Greek married women were not prone to multiple marriages or illicit dalliances, while Greek men were. In fact, extramarital affairs were par for Greek males but not tolerated for women (because of the concern for legitimate sons). The divorce rate among Greek men was exceedingly high. So, the fact that Paul includes this qualification, that male deacons “are to be a one woman man, or the man of one woman” and omits them for the female deacons is exactly what one would expect. Anything else would be surprising.

    In 1 Timothy 3:11, Paul does not use the term, diakonos, deacon in reference to women, but gynaikas, and this seems to be a reference to women office holders and probably not to the wives of deacons. The usage of the feminine noun is supportive of a case of the ministerial function for the women. Ample evidence is marshaled for the suggestion that in the midst of Paul’s discussion of the qualifications for deacons, the Apostle suddenly singles out women serving in that capacity. Some patriarchal pastors have screamed, Paul, yes! Women deacons, no! I’m sticking with the King Jimmy. Men, don’t give me your sentiments, give me your sound scholarship. Did not Paul say, “Study to show yourself approved, a workman who need not be ashamed.”

    In Romans 16:2, Paul is not the least ambiguous. For in his lengthy greetings which closes the Epistle to the Romans, Paul commends to them “Phoebe, diakonos, of the Church at Cenchreae”. The King James Version in Romans 16:7 reads, “Salute, Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” There is no mistaking it, Junia was a female apostle. One female apostle destroys every argument against women being in the ministry. I am standing by the words of Paul in Romans 16:7. Someone moved, and it wasn’t Paul. It looks to me like Paul stands with those who stand by Romans 16:7.

    In the Upper Room, in Acts 1:13-14, we are told that women were among those with the disciples, Mary, and other men. “They all joined together constantly in prayer along with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” What! It says in Acts 1:13-14 that women were praying openly in a meeting with men and the disciples! They were waiting for the promise of Joel, Acts 2:17-18, “That both sons and daughters will prophesy. On my handmaidens I will pour out in those days my Spirit and they shall prophesy.” Many traditions agree that on Pentecost, the Spirit poured out and the women went forth prophesying. In John 4:1-42, we read that it was a Samaritan woman who leads a large part of the population of her community to Jesus. She was a triple outcast: Samaritan, despised by the Jews; woman, second class citizen; and, she had had five husbands and was currently living with a man. She was an outcast, but Jesus didn’t cast her out. The disciples were shocked that he was talking with a woman, but she went forth evangelizing her town, speaking, teaching, and preaching to men, women, and children. How else can you evangelize your town? Jesus trusted her. And it says that many came to Him. The patriarchs and the Lord’s Church claim they are doing the Lord’s work the Lord’s way by silencing more than half of the Lord’s workforce.

    In 1 Corinthians 12:7-30, Paul lists gifts of the Spirit. Repeatedly, he uses the Greek words-to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given (verse 7), to one is given the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge, to each one . . .to another . . .(verses 7-11). It’s an airtight case; there is no getting around the Greek. It is to each one male and female. The Spirit sovereignly gives the gifts of teaching, exhortation, words of knowledge, wisdom, not just to men but to the women. God is no respecter of persons. Why would God give gifts to women and not allow them to exercise them? The ministry is not according to gender but according to the gifts given to male and female that Paul says are irrevocable and without repentance.

    Male domination is a personal moral failure not a Biblical doctrine. We are to properly distinguish between male headship and male domination (lordship). Male headship to quote Ortlund is defined as,” In the partnership of two spiritually equal human beings,male and woman, the man bears the primary responsibility to lead the partnership in a God-glorifying direction.” This is not a contradiction but a divine paradox; a God created creative tension for male and female as equal but there is leadership (headship). They are made in the image of God and are spiritually equal. Their sexual identities are not a biological triviality or a mere accident but a divine design and I say,” Viva La Difference.” The man assumes a loving, leading, and servant leadership. That is, God calls the man, with the help and counsel of the woman, to see that the male-female partnership, serves the purposes of God, not the sinful urges of either member of the partners. The man is to lead, you can’t follow a parked car, but he is not to assume the role of a dictator.

    The Patriarchal Model always fails because it institutes a form of lordship and not of headship. When truth is abused in the opposite direction, a rival position takes hold that is a compelling and powerful form of feminism that is both radical and diabolical. The female morphs into a femi-Nazi. The answer is not the Women’s (lib) Movement. The denigration of subordination crushes God’s creatures. Women are not to be treated as sex objects and neither are men to be treated as success objects. We are to be fully male, fully female, fully equal and fully made in Gods image.

    For the Bible to describe a male dominated society is not to prescribe it. The Old Testament scripture portrays women as chattel, as victims of polygamy, of religious sex rituals, of physical abuse, and as depersonalized subjects. Women were portrayed as second class citizens. James Borland points out, “The cultural mores and the historical setting into which God spoke His revelation must be distinguished from the revelation itself.” The Biblical description is not a Biblical prescription. Dwight Pratt says, “Every decline in her (woman’s) status in the Hebrew commonwealth was due to the incursion of foreign influences”. The influences of Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Egypt, and other pagan societies eroded God’s purposes for the male/female relationship. God’s Old Testament revelation explicitly forbids a patriarchal form of society, because patriarchy in the Bible was partly a heathen patriarchy that God didn’t condone but condemned. Modern patriarchy is prescribing what the Bible was describing as forbidden and God condemning.

    1 Corinthians 14:34-35, “Let your women keep silent in the churches: For it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also says the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husband at home: For it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church.”

    How is the letter of 1 Corinthians laid out?

    This is essential to understanding women in ministry. In chapters 1 through 4 the Apostle Paul is mainly writing about his ministry, reproof, his visit, explanations, and Timothy. In chapters 5 thru 6 he writes concerning things he heard were going on in the church at Corinth. But in chapters 7 through 14, Paul was responding to questions and statements that the Corinthians wrote to him. Let’s take a look:

    1 Corinthians 7:1 “Now concerning things whereof YOU WROTE UNTO ME…”
    1 Corinthians 8:1 “Now concerning things offered unto idols…”
    1 Corinthians 12:1 “Now concerning spiritual gifts…”
    Paul steps through the concerns, statements, and questions that they have written to him. In 1 Corinthians 12:1 Paul finally gets to the questions and matters about spiritual gifts and says, “Now concerning spiritual gifts…” and states that the “manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man (every person male and female)” (verse 7). He mentions different types of manifestations including the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, tongues and the interpretation of tongues, etc. Pay particular attention to the words “every man, each man, all members” etc. In these cases, the Greek word for “men or man” means people, humans–not only males, but both genders. The word “all” in the Greek means ALL, not half, not a certain few, not just males, but ALL!

    Before we go any further, certain truths must be revisited

    First, the church is not a building, but God’s people as individuals, two or more meeting together creating “church.” It’s an assembly of believers, collectively the Temple of God (see Colossians 1:24 and 2 Corinthians 6:16).

    Secondly, that “there is neither male nor female (in the church): for you are all one (type of being born of God) in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

    The ironic thing is that the Apostle Paul, who wrote these truths stated above, seems to contradict 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 just a few sentences later. Here is the reason for the contradiction: Those statements (Scriptures) in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 never ORIGINATED with Paul. Paul only REITERATED them as a rebuke to the Corinthian church in the letter we now read as Scripture. The Corinthians originally wrote them TO Paul. Paul told them how absurd it was for them to say that the Law commands women to be silent in the church – THEY ARE THE CHURCH. Paul said that they WERE NOT commands from the Lord but “ignorance” of what they were teaching God’s people. (We will explore this in a moment).

    We have been taught that 1 Corinthians 11 has to do with women and men having their heads covered or uncovered, but it’s not just that. Paul was setting them up to show them just how foolish they were in saying that God wants “the women to keep silent in the church.” Let’s examine this and follow this thought through to its proper end.

    In 1 Corinthians 11:4 notice that Paul jumps right in about the “head covering” and says, “Every man (this case literally means male in the Greek) praying or prophesying having his head covered, dishonors his head.” But in verse 5 he says, “But EVERY WOMAN (FEMALE) that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head…” NOTICE THAT THE WOMEN ARE PRAYING AND PROPHESYING! The whole section of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 is to establish that ladies (in their culture) when they prayed or prophesied in church needed to have their heads covered, NOT that they couldn’t pray or prophesy at all!

    Paul then talks about the spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. Notice that “the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, speaking in tongues and the interpretation” all require SPEAKING speaking in the church, and the speaking is done by ALL, both men and women. “And the Spirit dividing to every man (person, male and female) severally as He will” (v11).

    As soon as Paul finished establishing that the body of Christ is “one” (meaning, nobody is excluded no male or female excluded from the gifts, callings and offices of God) he then said that, “God set some” some who? Some males? No! Some of the members of the body of Christ because there is no “male or female” when it comes to being an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, moving in the gifts of the spirit, miracles, healings, speaking in tongues or anything in Christ (See 1 Corinthians 12:28-31.)
    Then in 1 Corinthians 13 Paul shows the “more excellent way” to move in the anointing of the office and the gifts that God has given us.

    When Paul reaches 1 Corintians14, he focuses on “speaking in tongues” and “speaking in unknown tongues”. In verse 4 he says that, “He that speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself; but he that prophesies EDIFIES THE CHURCH.” Paul wants the whole church to edify the WHOLE church. He then says in verse 23, “If therefore the WHOLE CHURCH (EVERY MALE AND EVERY FEMALE) come together into one place, AND ALL (ALL MALES AND ALL FEMALES) SPEAK WITH TONGUES…” and continues in verse 24-26, “If ALL (MALES AND FEMALES) PROPHESY… let all things be done unto edifying.”

    In 1 Corinthians 14:27-31 Paul sets the ground rules for “speaking in the church:”

    IF ANY MAN (any person, male or female) SPEAK:

    Unless there is NO INTERPRETER (male or female)…
    Let the (male or female) PROPHETS SPEAK…
    If anything be revealed to ANOTHER THAT SITS BY (whether male or female)…
    For you may ALL (male and female) PROPHESY ONE BY ONE, THAT ALL (male and female) MAY LEARN AND ALL (male and female) may be exhorted.

    I pointed out earlier that Paul was responding to the things that the Corinthian church wrote to him? Paul actually used their words in his letter when he addressed some of their concerns and said they were foolish and they weren’t of God. We have come to the place of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

    While Paul wrote his response (1 Corinthians) BACK to the Corinthian church, he previously read their letter that they sent to him – 1 Corinthians 7:1, “Now concerning things whereof YOU WROTE UNTO ME….” In fact, he wrote down parts of their letter back to them and rebuked them for their foolish teachings.

    Paul established through his entire letter and particularly in chapters 11 thru 14 that there is no difference between a male and female being appointed and/or receiving the gifts, callings and offices of Christ. Before he wrote down their “foolish scripture” that they wrote to him, he wrote this preface: “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Then in verses 34-35 he repeated what they first wrote to him: “Let your women keep silent in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also says the Law. 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.”

    Immediately after Paul wrote this, the next word he wrote was, “WHAT?” (v36). In the Greek, the word “what” is a negative disclaimer. We would say, “What, are you nuts?” Paul said, “What? Came the word of God out from you? Or did it come unto you only?” (v36). Meaning, that the previous statement that he wrote from the letter he received from them referring that women are to keep silent in the church was not from God at all. In fact, it was pure silliness. He just finished writing in a few paragraphs before this what we now know as 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, establishing that when women prophesy, teach or speak in the church they are to have their heads covered. “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered….” needs to put on her head covering and then it would be acceptable (1 Corinthians 11:5).

    Paul goes on to say, “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that THE THINGS THAT I WRITE UNTO YOU ARE THE COMMANDS OF THE LORD, (NOT THE THINGS THAT YOU WRITE)” (1 Corinthians 14:37). Paul was saying that he was appointed to write the Scriptures and the Commands of God, not the Corinthian church.

    Paul continues with: “If any man be ignorant (meaning the person who wrote this stupidity) let him be ignorant (if he does not acknowledge that what he wrote is not from the Lord”) (v38).

    Paul then closes the subject and firmly establishes about males and females being in ministry and speaking in the church: “Wherefore, brethren (brethren does not mean male, it means ‘born out of the womb of God, born again’ — males and females), COVET TO PROPHESY AND FORBID NOT TO SPEAK WITH TONGUES” (v39).

  13. 4-30-2009

    Joe (JR),

    I misspoke earlier. That’s what I get for trying to answer your question “off the cuff”. I do not follow Fee’s interpretation of this passage, but Grudem’s interpretation. I also believe that Paul is saying that women should not judge prophecy.

    I have not written about women and head coverings. I know that Arthur Sido, who comments here often, has written extensively on that topic.


    Yes, that’s a long comment. It may take me a while to read it.