PLEASE HELP ME DO JUSTICE TO THIS VERSE OF 1COR 14:34 , WHAT DID PAUL MEANT BY SAYING THAT, “WOMEN SHOULD REMAIN SILENT IN THE CHURCHES. THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SPEAK, BUT MUST BE SUBMISSIVE AS THE LAW SAYS.” ? – Uche, Nigeria
I am really glad that this question came in due season when am rounding of my book titled “dedicated to women”. This will be included in the extras page of that book because it has been a problem for a while among believers.
This is one of the most confusing part of Paul’s writing. But we must also weigh every argument to see that it balances with the other parts of the Scripture. Some people are of the view that Paul really meant that women are to forever remain silent in every church meetings and they should never Prophecy, Speak in tongues and talk about the gospel! Let’s see what other portions of the Bible said
“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” Act 2:17
Daughters were included in those who will prophesy! Remember, in the New Testament, Prophecy edifies the Church and not a person. Anyone who Prophecies is speaking to a congregation and not to him or herself. Paul said,
“Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.” 1 Corinthians 14:4
So you see, when Joel saw what would happen in the latter days which is now, he also saw daughters speaking things that builds up the Church! In verse 5 of 1 Corinthians 14, Paul also expressed his desire that they prophesy! He didn’t say it was only the men that he desire to see making prophecy!
Paul also said in verse 31 “All of you may proclaim God’s message, one by one, so that everyone will learn and be encouraged”. It was a peculiar thing applied only to males! If women are not to speak, how then do “everyone” proclaim God’s message?
In Luke 2:38, we see Anna a prophetess who prophesied in the temple! Even according to the law that seem to have disfavoured women, there were female prophets who really prophesied and edified the brethren. We would also go on and talk about the daughters of Philip who prophesied… They actually spoke in the presence of many!
What then was Paul implying?
First, Paul was trying to bring an order to the Church. The structure of the Church then was not as strong as we have today… It was still an early church undergoing challenges of new trends! The gifts were new, prophesies were new, speaking in tongue was new and all that! It wasn’t something they were use to and over looking how it was being done would make them do the right thing the wrong way! If women are not permitted to speak at all, what about the writings of the same Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:5
“Any woman who prays or proclaims God’s message (some translations has “Prophesy”) in public worship with nothing on her head disgraces her husband…”
Understanding this would also lead us to understand what he meant by asking women to wear veil when they prophesy. He was simply commanding them to be under obedience! People often argue that women must cover their head in todays Church but let’s also understand why Paul said that and what he wanted to communicate.
Because of the power of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, women also saw themselves prophesying. It became a problem because some women saw themselves as literally not under the authority of their husbands anymore since they could do what was thought to be man’s speciality. In those days, covering of the head was a sign of submission just as wearing of ring is a sign of faithfulness in marriage today. If wearing of ring was in vogue in that day, I am sure Paul would encourage married couples to wear ring as a sign of faithfulness in marriage.
So, Paul asked that even while the women prophesy, they have to do so in submission to their husbands! In some cultures, especially outside the middle east, head covering isn’t a sign of submission and if Paul was communicating to them, he would have used what means “submission” to them. Remember, what Paul asked the women to do was to wear veil and not cap or head-tie… He was also talking to married women! This simply indicates all right round that he was simply teaching them to manifest the gift of the Spirit in submission to their husbands! Having such a wonderful gift of prophesy doesn’t mean also taking over the position of the husband as the head.
Paul used the same term while writing to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:12
“I do not allow them to teach or to have authority over men; they must keep quiet”
First, from the context of what Paul said here, this was his style. It wasn’t a universal norm or a rule that governs the entire Christendom. He was telling Timothy that he (Paul) personally don’t allow women to teach but we saw why! Because it is not right for women to exercise authority over men! Yet from what we see in 1 Corinthians 11:5, Paul encouraged that women proclaim God’s word in public places but in total submission to their husbands. This is very peculiar to married women!
In our modern Church, we would fear danger if women are allowed to take over the position of their husbands both in the Church and if it has been an ordinary practice for women to be the teachers of the assemblies. But it is not so, if some particular women sometimes spake upon an extraordinary impulse or impression… Even women who are Pastors are to do so under their husbands. That is why it is important that a female Pastor is also married to a Pastor.
The law to which the apostle here refers, has been thought to be, Genesis 3:16, where the woman was commanded to be subject to her husband, and it is said, that he should rule over her; yet that law did neither restrain Miriam from prophesying in Exodus 15:20, nor yet Huldah, to whom Josiah himself sent in 2 Chronicles 34:22, of whom it is also said, that she dwelt in the college. But setting aside that extraordinary case of a special afflatus, it was, doubtless, unlawful for a woman to speak in the church.
What do I mean? Today, we have women Pastors, Prophetess and even Bishops… No matter what title they bear, they are to operate in submission to their husband but we cannot say they are wrong to have attained that height! As long as they were selected, they are rightfully positioned! It is the attitude in that position that is of a concern. Women can prophesy and even teach when appointed and they do that in submission to their husband. In my book “Dedicated to Women”, I explained that it was not God’s intention nor his invention that women be under their husbands as in being a “servant” to them. Women are partners to their husbands… They are co-labourer with their husband because they were separated from the man for that purpose! It is ungodly to literally rule over a woman! By “rule”, I mean depriving them of their rights! However, it is also ungodly for a woman to stand tall over a man! Because she was called to be a man’s helpmate and not a man’s competitor.
When Jesus met the Samaritan woman, she became a preacher! She talked about Jesus in public! When the Marys encountered the risen Jesus, they proclaimed his resurrection! By virtue of who they are, women are not restricted to proclaiming God’s word in public! However, because they are designed to be help mates (not servants), they are to do so in obedience, humility and gentility but not in timidity!