Paul didn’t silence women

Paul had his faults, but silencing women was not one of them. [The May editorial asked what Paul might say today, in light of 1 Corinthians 14:35, which says women should “ask their husbands at home” if they have a question.] Paul concludes his letter to churches in Rome by greeting 26 leaders, about a third of them women. In 1 Corinthians 11:4, he assumes both women and men are free to pray and prophesy during worship. In 1 Corinthians 14:26, he says, “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.”  

Given the flow of chapters 12 to 14, 14:34-35 comes as a surprise: “Women should be silent in the churches.” Quotation marks and footnotes had not yet been invented, so there was no easy way for Paul, or a later copyist, to signal that he was quoting someone, not stating his own position. Given the abrupt introduction of a new topic after 14:33 and the dismissive tone of 14:36, it is highly likely that 14:35-36 is a quotation — a dictum with which Paul adamantly disagrees. A paraphrased version of Paul’s response in 14:36 would be, “Listen, guys! Did God’s word originate with you? Are you the only ones it has reached?” Clearly, Paul is getting his dismay at patriarchal exclusion off his chest. 

Both men and women need to yield in silence and humble submission when the Spirit inspires a sister or brother to speak.      

Jacob Elias, Goshen, Ind.

Anabaptist World

Anabaptist World Inc. (AW) is an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement. We seek to inform, inspire and Read More

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!