Woman Be Silent

In the church today there are views to one extreme or another regarding women’s role in the assembly. Women are either completely silenced in the congregation or are put behind the pulpit or any number of situations can occur. But what does scripture have to say? Does the original language convey the same meaning as what the English translations convey? The first verse we should look at is I Corinthians 14:34; “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but they are to be submissive as the law says”. This verse seems absolute, but let’s first take a closer look at the context of what was going on with the Corinthians. Then we’ll look at the Greek words used along with the meaning they covey.

When we read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we get an idea that there were some real problems in the assembly. They were arguing about which apostle they were following or in what name they were baptised. He chastised them regarding sexual immorality. And gave instructions regarding who we are in Christ and how to live our lives, among other things. He also gave instruction as to orderly behavior in the assembly. He does this from Chapter 11 through 14 in I Corinthians.

Giving instructions for an orderly assembly is the setting from I COR. 14:26 –33. Paul is giving instructions in regard to speaking in tongues or giving prophecy in a way so that the whole body could be edified. In verse 33 he sums up the idea by saying “for God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints”. Paul continues the theme of keeping order in verse 34: “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but they are to be submissive as the law says”.

Let’s look at the original Greek for two key words here to see what idea Paul is conveying. The Greek word for keep silent is the word sigao. Strong’s dictionary explanation says “Hold Peace”. Vines Expository Dictionary agrees with this meaning of holding peace. Let’s also look at the Greek word for speak. This word is laleo. It conveys the idea of “an extended or random harangue or a lengthy, loud or vehement speech, tirade”. Vine’s Dictionary states that it is an injunction against chattering. Now bringing in verse 35, which says “and if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.” This word speak is the same as above, laleo. I believe what Paul is saying is that there is no place for women to be chattering, gossiping, causing any kind of disturbance in the assembly. If they want to be disruptive, let them stay home and learn something where they can’t be disruptive. Let it also be noted that it’s not women, but wives. Because they are to ask their own husbands rather than cause a disruption in the assembly. Remember in I Corinthians, Paul is hammering home the idea of order and peace and a place for the leading of the Spirit. Now let’s read on to see if we can build on this.

Reading from I Timothy 2:11-12; it says “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to learn in silence”. Focusing on the word silence in both verses, the Greek word is hesuchia. It is described as stillness, ie. desistance from bustle or language. Vine’s Expository  further explains the word as meaning “a tranquility arising from within, causing no disturbance to others.” I believe Paul is again instructing that women, still yet being allowed in the assembly, need to have a peaceful, tranquil spirit about them when something is being taught. Paul reiterates this thought in verse 12 in saying that women aren’t allowed to teach, but to remain in a peaceful spirit in the assembly causing no disruption. I don’t think this disallows a woman from speaking at all. What if the Holy Spirit wants to communicate with the assembly by prophecy and chooses a woman as the vessel? God through the prophet Joel said women could prophecy.

28 “ And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:28

It should also be noted that in the verses under study in both I Corithians and I Timothy, the Greek words being translated for woman or wife is gyne and the word for man or husband is aner. Context can be key. The verses in I Corinthians seems to lend its context to husbands and wives whereas I Timothy’s context seems more generalized.

If this idea of the Corinthian women being disruptive is true; and Paul is giving Timothy instructions that women should learn in a peaceful tranquil way; does that preclude one to ask questions or make comments on what is taught? How is one to learn if they do not ask questions in a learning process? I think it would be foolishness to think otherwise. I think it yet important to mention what Paul also taught the Corinthians, that the head of every man is Christ, the head of wives is their husband and the head of Christ is God. (ICor. 11:3)In stating this, the assembly is still led of the Holy Spirit through men and women as He wills and not as man wills, but Paul is showing forth the example of order. For we are all filled with the same Spirit but serve different functions according to the order set by God Himself. If we are all of the same Spirit then what would keep a woman completely silent if questions and comments are spoken with respect to and for those teaching.

In Conclusion Paul is teaching that all women, as long as they are willing to remain tranquil, peaceful, undisruptive, may be present in the assembly and able to speak at appropriate times in an appropriate manner fitting of the assembly led by Christ. This would then lead one to study and seek the Lord’s guidance on what roles are allowed for women in the assembly. And I don’t think it’s watching the kids or setting up for the monthly potluck.

8 Responses to Woman Be Silent

  1. Colin Saxton says:

    Much thought have I put into this…I do believe that women are to share in the assembly but they are not to teach the men or have authority over the men. One of the qualifications for elders is “husband of one wife” – which takes out the position of elders for the women. But the women are to teach the children and the younger women.

    Also if women are to pray or give prophesy then they are to have their heads covered – “Is this long hair or is it a covering??” – that is something that has to be studied and put into practice.

    Whenever this comes up it mostly always ends up with the *excuse* that we need to be graceful in these matters – in other words…lets ignore this teaching.

    I think that a faithful gathering of the people of God would do good to nail this and come to a conclusion and put that into practice. Lets look at the conclusion to head coverings as an example…Paul finishes with –

    (NLT) But if anyone wants to argue about this, I simply say that we have no other custom than this, and neither do God’s other churches.

    The last words in that verse need to come home into every believer in the church – “The assemblies of God’s people have no other practice but to have head coverings”. That is something that was put into place by the apostles and was given by God to the apostles. We need to put this into practice – not ignore it.

    The same goes for women having authority over the men…it is not to happen…I agree about the chattering while teaching and prophecy is being held (keeping order) but I also think that Paul is saying that no women elders over the congregation. Jesus never chose a female apostle, neither did the apostles ordain any female elders. I think that scripture is quite clear on this as well

    Again we see in 1 corinthian 14:37 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.

    Again these are commandments. I think that today many people don’t see this speech as “graceful” – but it was a commandment of the Lord. Women can prophesy and share in the assembly – that is obvious from comparing scripture with scripture – but women elders and teachers over the men – no…that is clear from scripture.

    The problem remains – and always has been the problem regarding these issues the last century – the women just want to ignore this teaching and men have become weak in up holding it. That is why the current denominations in such a mess today.

    It lead from one to the other – the anglican church in England ordained women priests to teach the men – the practice of homosexual priests ordination was brought in on the back through women priests and elders voting for this…and now we have a case in England where they are trying to bring in women overseers for entire areas. The baptist church just brought that in anyway without any consultation at all – Dianne Tidball is the east midlands regional minister who is “responsible” (oversight and authority over) for around 150 churches. The last church I went to in Ilkeston was a baptist church where this women came and gave a sermon – in this sermon she slated people meeting up with each other (like we do) and lifted up the roman catholic church as a “true church” – Also it was a women who was the pastor at this same church and in her last sermon she said – “lets have a cup of tea – that is real fellowship isn’t it – a cup of tea?” – That was her words…

    No I am not saying that all women are like this in the congregation but what I am saying is that they “are not to lead or have authority over the men” and this needs to be understood by the women. Women who can’t agree with these teachings will only bring in all kinds of heresy and prideful thoughts..

    The church I was baptized at had women leaders (mixed men and women) and the women brought in “barn dancing” into the fellowship nights…the men elders allowed it all…what a shambles it was. One of the women was also very big on women aglow movement…which is extremely charismatic in behavior (falling down in the spirit and jigging about) and I later found out that one of the women moved away from the church I was baptized in because she was a lesbian but was still leading these women aglow meetings where the other women leaders were still attending from the church. At the time the lesbian lady was teaching sunday school to the children…only one of the men leaders, who found this out, stood up and said it was wrong at the time…an elderly couple denounced it and said that she has to be put out of the church. The pastor didn’t do anything at the time…eventually she left because she felt “uncomfortable”…

    What I am saying is that we have to take a stand on these issues – I have been in congregations where women elders and leaders have been left to just get on with it and it brings rack and ruin to those congregations. We have to move back to biblical principles here.

    This is one of the key areas that the devil is attacking the people of all nations with. It is breaking down the family unit and removing the Godly order of 1 Corinthians 11 which is then leading into the ecclesia family order (which should mimic that of the family – 1tim3:5).

    I am going on what I have genuinely experienced in the congregations – in these last days its causing devastation to the flock and scattering them all over the place. Where you have women elders (and men of God have tried to bring back order but failed) the believers move away from that gathering because they want to stand on the word of God…it causes all kinds of problems…Where I live, langley mill, cotmanhay, ilkeston elim church, kirkhallam church, awsworth anglican and methodist, Trowel, Trent Vinyard nottingham…everywhere in all the towns and villages they are being lead by women elders and deacons and the men of these churches see no problem with it…

    Even now – the reformed baptist church that I have/had been attending is starting to fall into this…the women have been witnessing to the muslim women in the area but they have been inviting them round to their houses and praying with them…fellowshipping with them even though they haven’t yet turned to Christ and are still in Islam (Chrislam…horrid word!)…They have made a stand and won’t allow women elders/leaders but they go to the other extreme – they believe that some of the gifts of the Spirit have ended (cessationism!?) it goes from one error to another…

    These are all things I have witnessed first hand and it is coming in through women ministry because they are being taught this in the seminars of the main denominations – I think that only the reformed camp are holding out on the majority of the doctrine but as a say again – other doctrines (like the gifts) have already been thrown out – as an overreaction against charismania coming into the churches. I have yet to find an assembly of believers (whether in home churches or denominational) that fully stands on 1 corinthians 11 through 14…Most of the areas that they fall down under is in women leadership and ignoring Godly order…and in just about every circumstance they have had problems based on the women not agreeing with a teaching…One of the home groups I was going to went from peaceful to madness just by standing on the word of God. One of the women was bringing in teachings from a “women prophet” which I tested using the word of God – this women prophet had said things before and everything that she had said in the past had never happened…this women kept giving specific dates and, obviously, it didn’t happen on those dates so I brought up the teaching that says “if a prophet says that something is going to happen and it does not then you can ignore that prophet” – Well, this “women prophet” was a pet friend of this other women and she defended her prophecies like no other…it was just unbelievable – I said to her – “I am only quoting from scripture which is what we should be building each other up with”…it got that bad that if I ever said anything at all after that this women just whispered to the others and slandered me…it was awful.

    Because of the problems it caused I brought flowers for the women and the apologised to all for offending any if I had…I was just trying to keep the peace…but it still didn’t go down well at all…And again – this women advocating pilgrimage sights of Mary (all this in a baptist church and none of the elders said a thing…)

    a little leaven leavens the whole lump – If you move away from the apostles doctrine – at some point – you will (absolutely guaranteed…without fail) have problems unless people repent and ask for forgiveness and get back on track….yes we can still sin but the doctrine is there to keep order and gives a foundation (that is built upon Christ) for the people of God to follow.

    I hope I don’t seem like I am ranting…in conclusion

    I agree that women can and should share prophesy, testimonies, pray and the like in the meetings (with their heads covered according to scripture – long hair or head covering…whatever the meeting agrees to) but I don’t agree that women can have authority over the men and they should not hold positions of elder in the meetings. None of this is practiced today (no matter what gather of Gods people you go to…we have all fallen short in this area – everyone of us…and if you stand up for the doctrine given in scripture you will find that people like to shift the word of obedience to the word of grace so that they can move away from this teaching – because they do not like to say that it is basically – a command of the LORD.

  2. Just out of curiosity, do you also think that women should not have authority over men when it comes to our government or other institutions? I realize that here you are mainly discussing women’s role in the church. I was just curious if you believe it goes even further than that.

    • Al Nelson says:

      Hi Deistami, thanks for stopping by. Since the government and other secular institutions are not the church, they will do what they do apart from Christ. In fact the trend here in the US is to empower women above men in order to destroy the family. Where the career becomes more important than family. Each person in the world is responsible for their actions before Christ whether they believe or not. But for the disciple of Christ we are responsible for carrying out the commands of Christ within the Body of Christ in worship and our daily lives so far as we are able. Does that help?

      • I understand that other institutions are not the church and may or may not be secular in nature depending on the institution. However Christians, Believers in Christ, Disciples of Christ however you wish to name them are still a part or play an active role in many of these institutions. Do you believe it is the role Christians to uphold their commandments when taking part in these institutions is my question. Or do you interpret the text as only referring to it when it comes to church and preaching that women should not be placed in authoritative positions over men. Not trying to stir up a political debate or turn it into a you guys are sexist kind of thing, just curious. Others I have talked to believe that as Christians it is their role and duty to uphold this text in all aspects and it includes how they vote in different institutions. They would never vote to put a women in a position where she would be the head of any man, rather only as a supporting role. Just wanting to know the views of others on your blog and their interpretation of it all.

        • Colin Saxton says:

          I wouldn’t vote to have a women in power over men because it goes against the teaching of 1cor11 which is the word of God. This does not mean I ignore women…if a women doctor told me something for my own good then it would be foolish to ignore her…I think Am a initial response to your question was humble and precise. I believe in the family of one women and one man who love each other marry and have children. A women brings a more gentle spirit to the family why a man brings a more authoritative spirit….when my children have been in danger they come running to me and when they have hurt themselves they run to their mum…it’s just naturally in built for children to be like this.

          On a more serious note, when soldiers came to the point of death it was not uncommon for them to cry out for their mum. This close bond with the mother and the child is never gone and I believe it is something that is infused in the womb of the mother who carries her child for nine months. The bond of a mother is amazingly strong which is why I think it right that in the early years of a child that the mother should be with them and the Father should be the bread winner, work hard and cherish his wife and children.

          This is nothing to do with rights of men and women but more to do with building loving stable families. God bless you

        • Al Nelson says:

          Here’s what I would say. We all have to answer to Christ either now or on the Day of the Lord. So as individuals before Him we are responsible for our walk before Him. Whether we initiate putting a woman in a position of authority or not is something you would have to bring before the Lord in that situation. It may be well that the Lord would want that woman in that position to serve His purpose and you are that person to help His will be fulfilled. I’m thinking of Debra who was raised up as a judge after the days of Joshua but before the days of kings. She is said to be a prophetess and had a husband. Esther became queen by the Lord’s hand as well. While the queen was answerable to the king Artaxerxes, she still had command over some others including men didn’t she? I’m just reasoning through some things here. Now there are many other situations to consider. What about the woman who comes to the Lord while she is still in a position of power, say within a corporation. Should she resign or remain as she is? I seem to remember there were tax collectors and Roman soldiers who had similar questions. They were told to remain as they were, but to treat people fairly.

          From my own life I have had many female managers over me. Most I would say were unbelievers and were not fair in their dealings with me. One from years ago was. When I was hired on as a supervisor she asked me “Are you ready to serve?” I didn’t quite know what to think of that at the time because I was an infant in Christ, but as Christians we are to serve aren’t we? Even women. So my answer is simple. Seek the Lord and walk as He called you. In the assembly, and my wife agrees, the men are to teach. But the women still have a rich and purposeful destiny to participate and share the things the Lord has put on their heart and not to remain completely silent. Order is key through love and respect for one another with room for correction as we each need it.

          • Al Nelson says:

            So also when my wife bore my first son, she knew in her heart that it was right for her to stay home with the child. She gave up a career that at the time made more money than me. Yes she struggled with her sense of worth because the world looks down at a stay at home mom. But she knows she is laying up treasure in Heaven. We gave up on things of this world to sow into our children the richness of Christ.

  3. Colin Saxton says:

    What is it that the bible teaches in 1corinthians11? That is the word of God and it doesn’t matter what myself or yourself think regarding this. Do we follow this today – no – because we are all prideful.

    Man was made headship over the household – that is God given. But men today take that as a God given right to rule with a rod – completely wrong. Leadership is by example and Paul said that the man is to “love his wife as Christ loves the church and gave His life for her” Eph 5:25)

    The same goes the other way round – women see obedience to their husbands as some sort lower than low position yet God looks upon the women who honors her husband as a “Gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in the sight of Him” (1 Peter 3:4)

    My brother above has given a good reply.

    All this said – I have come to the conclusion that what is happening today will happen and will continue until Jesus returns and instead of me ranting about what is right and wrong I am going to preach Christ crucified and lift up His name and I am going to humble myself before men and women no matter what position they are in either in the church or in the world and I am going to preach Jesus. We all have the bible and we can all read and I think that it is better to be wronged even if what we quote is from the bible. People will make up their own minds at the end of the day and if what is happening today is happening it is only because God allows it to happen – it could be the great falling away spoken of in scripture (2Thes2:1-3) and if that is the case then ranting about who is right or wrong isn’t going to change anything.

    What has to happen is that we as individuals need to read the bible and follow it – we all have to stand before God and my way from now until I meet him is going to be for me to get lower than low and be a servant for all – I will still speak and teach from the bible and I will do it with love and honor towards other brothers and sisters. We are all accountable toward God for what *we do* and not what others have done, are doing or are going to do – that is between them and God.

    What is missing today is Spirit and truth which is true love for one another. If I read from the bible to anyone and seek to teach from the bible it is not for me to prove a point or to get one over them – it is the word of God that has final authority – and I think that it is better to sit under the word and be wronged even when we are right than to sit over the word and sound like we are right – even though we are wrong. if the King of Kings can humble himself and become a servant then so can I no matter who is right or wrong – God will be the judge of that.

    Have a look at my last post http://ccsaxton.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/proverbs-1310-only-by-pride-comes-contention-but/

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