Women should not speak in church!

I've been struggling with this issue for a few weeks now. I'm seriously trying to read everything I can on it from early christian scholars to recent exegetical interpretations. At this point I'm stumped.

What are your views on these verses:

1 Corinthians 14:34b-35

1 Timothy 2:11-15

Here's a good article in the affirmative. I'm not saying I agree with it, just that it's well written. I've yet to make up my mind and I can't say with any amount of confidence that I have an opinion either way.

What say you HG?


I want to start by declaring that this article in no way mitigates the worth of women; smart, capable, and extremely valuable are they in their roles in ministry within the Church and within the home. An orthodox view of the Trinity necessitates viewing Christ as wholly equal with God. The Bible states that God the Son considered Himself equal to God the Father in John 5:18b "[Jesus] was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God."

Any view of the Trinity that makes God the Son an iota less than God the Father breaks the Divinity of our Savor and therefore destroys the work of the cross. But what does the Trinity have to do with any supposed "Law of Submissiveness" between a wife and her husband?

Consider these verses spoken by Jesus:
John 12:49-50 "For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment--what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me."

John 14:31a "[...] I do as the Father has commanded me [...]"

Matthew 26:42b "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."

Luke 22:28-29 "You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom [...]"

John 5:19 "[...] Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise."

God the Son and God the Father are fully, totally, utterly, absolutely, wholly and completely equal and yet God the Son is fully, totally, utterly, absolutely, wholly and completely in submission to God the Father. God the Son is no less capable, intelligent, powerful, wise, or glorious than God the Father but still God the Son is in utter obedience and submission to God the Father. Therefore the husband's position of headship over his wife is not of necessity a disclosure regarding the superiority of men.

The Verses in Question

First Timothy 2:11-15 "Women should listen and learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it was the woman, not Adam, who was deceived by Satan, and sin was the result."

First Corinthians 14:34-35 "Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says. If they have any questions to ask, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings."


The Law of Submissiveness
It is of paramount importance that it be seen that the submissiveness Paul has in view in these verses is not the woman's submission to any kind of supposed innate inability. When Paul calls the wife to learn in all submission it is a submission to her husband that is in view. It is a call to submit to the structure of authority in the household and not a charge of inability innate to women. That is why the call to silence is grounded in the fall when the issue of the silence of women in the Church is addressed in First Timothy 2:11. The fall of man was begun in abandonment when Adam abdicated his responsibility of authority and allowed the woman to be the head. The verse reminds us that Adam was not deceived he was absent and deficient in his appointed position. To the utter ruination of us all Adam was AWL he was 'Absent Without Leave.' It is crucial to observe that our sin is not reckoned through Eve for, though she eats first, she was not our head. Adam sinned first by abdication and the proof of his headship is that our sin is reckoned with him in his eating. Let us not abdicate the role of men as teacher and as head in the home to our present ruination is Paul's point. He is reminding us that we are all under an authority, men and women alike, and God wants us to submit to that authority; even in Church.

Paul states in First Corinthians 14:34 that women are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law says. The law is for the women to submit, not for the woman to be silent. Paul states "[women] should be submissive, just as the law says." The women's silence in this context then is her being submissive to her husband and it is by this submissiveness that she fulfills the law. She is to be silent because to be silent is to be in submission to her God ordained head. The breaking of this call to silence lends to this day's desire to make a fool out of husbands, the God-appointed heads. It serves to demean the structure of authority ordained by God and to demean the men themselves. Form the mental picture of an administrative assistant standing up in a corporate meeting and asking questions of the CEO regarding the company's policy. See the boss sitting, mouth agape, wanting to pop out of existence. That is something they should have discussed earlier, or later, but definitely in private. To do otherwise is to vitiate the role of the husband and father to the detriment of the whole house. Additionally, the desire to question directly is a declaration of a perceived inability and a public pronouncement of a vote of no confidence for one's head.

Also, and to a lesser extent, Paul is guarding against women openly asking questions regarding a teaching without giving her spiritual head an opportunity to address the matter. Paul is here reminding us that husbands are the ones held responsible for the instruction of their household in matters of spirituality. This is an oft shirked responsibility. It is in the best interest of the household to do all that is conducive to the full acceptance of this office by the head of the house. The wife, or child for that matter, should talk with their head about it in private rather than representing the head of the family as incompetent in an open forum.

When this law of submissiveness, as Paul calls it, is invoked regarding the call to silence it is invoked for our collective joy. It prevents us from unmindfully accommodating mans yearning to shirk his God mandated responsibility as teacher of his household and from demeaning that oft attacked office of head.


Common Objections

"But, so-and-so preaches so well! It feels so good how can it be wrong?"

The issue has never been one of ability. I am sure that when Deborah ruled as judge she did a fantastic job. I am an excellent liar but unfortunately ability does not equal permission. The question is not 'are they good at it?' The question is 'is it permitted?'

"But, what about Priscilla?"

Being present while Apollos was corrected (or even if she was the one doing the correcting, a women correcting a man, one-on-one, as a mother would an adult son, is of no concern), going with Paul on a mission trip, being greeted by Paul, even often, and playing an active role in the early Church (perhaps among women) is what I meant by saying that women are smart, capable, and extremely valuable in their roles in ministry within the Church and within the home. None of that changes what Paul is commanding. "Women should listen and learn quietly and submissively. [...] Let them listen quietly." And, "Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says. If they have any questions to ask, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings."

"But isn't this just a cultural mandate?"

Paul excludes any cultural context for his command because he states what his command is based in when he says "For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it was the woman, not Adam, who was deceived by Satan, and sin was the result." The 'For' is the key. For is a conjunction used to indicate the purpose of an action; a synonym would be, 'Since' or 'Because'. For is used in introducing the reason for something and here the reason for the command is God's created order. The action in this case is the command that women should not speak in church. And, again, the purpose for this command is grounded in the order of creation. The purpose is not grounded in any kind of cultural consideration.

The reason that Paul gives for commanding silence of women in church meetings is the order of creation. He says it has to do with submissiveness to their husbands (which has as it foundation the order of creation). He says nothing about a cultural mandate. Paul is explicitly stating why he commands silence of women in church meetings. We have no need of anything else to show what Paul places as the reason for this command. He places it on the order of creation. Something that is just as valid for today as it was then.


"But, what about 1 Corinthians 11:5?"

(Regrettably this objection comes from some of my most recommended theologians and so I will address it in more detail. Also, I can only say that none of us will escape blind spots and of all the places to be blind I would actually like very much to be blind in this instance. Oh, how much easer it would be for me if it where so!)

What is said in 1 Corinthians 11:5 is that every woman praying or prophesying unveiled dishonors her husband. It seems fair to infer that if she prays or prophesies veiled she does not dishonor her husband. And that she may properly pray or prophesy if only she does it veiled. But, we cannot infer that it would be proper for her to pray or prophesy in church if only she were veiled. There is nothing said about church in the passage or in the context. The word "church" does not occur until the 16th verse, and then not as ruling the reference of the passage, but only as supplying support for the injunction of the passage. There is no reason whatever for believing that "praying and prophesying" in church is meant.

Some have committed the formal Fallacy of the False Dilemma and have misused the "or" operator in regarding the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:5. They do so by restricting the number of possible options in interpreting 1 Corinthians 11:5 to two, while in reality there is, at least, one other option left for our consideration. They say that the praying and prophesying to be done in these verses can only be done in the assembly (in church) or in private. Since the covering of ones head in private affords no benefit Paul has in mind the praying and prophesying to be done in the assembly. But they have neglected, as was said, a third option. Praying and prophesying in public but not in the assembly. That there were, actually and historically, occasions of prayer and prophecy other than in the regular church service, and that therefore the present interpretation does not depend on unsupported assumptions, is clear, if not from Acts 11:28, at least from Acts 21:9-11. For, what Agabus did, hardly fits into a worship service; and exegesis cannot deny that Philip's daughters prophesied, like Agabus, when no church service was in progress. And having stated it in the positive I will also state it in the negative: There is never, in any passage of the Bible, the notion that praying or prophesying is to be done in the church only.

But my main issue with the use of this verse to mitigate the clarity of the commands of Paul is that they are brought up only because the people that invoke them see a contradiction between 1 Corinthians 11:5 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. And their solution to resolve this supposed contradiction is to bolster the less clear passage to the destruction of the more clear passage.

Is it not possible, and much easier, to use another method? On this point it may be said that the prayers of women that Paul permits may have taken place in informal prayer meetings, as D. A. Carson himself acknowledges, in his article titled "Silent in the Churches" (p145 in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood). But he believes the text to mean in the church. My contention is that the text does not say "in the church." Therefore these words should not be inserted. And when another text says explicitly, "Let women keep silence in the church", it follows that 1 Corinthian 11 cannot mean "in the church." It must refer to some informal gatherings. Carson acknowledges that this solves the problem of alleged contradiction. But he rejects the solution because "This interpretation does not seem very likely," (p145). Unlikely?


The clarity of chapter 14 and the absence from chapter 11 of the words "in the church" seem to be exegetically sufficient to make it the most likely interpretation ipso facto! Furthermore, the immediate point is the solution of an apparent contradiction, and even Carson agrees that the interpretation given here is satisfactory. On the other hand, Carson's interpretation cannot be sustained exegetically and is therefore the interpretation that does not seem very likely. How can one extract from the verse the words that are not there? Yet Carson should provide exegetical certainty because he bears the burden of proof but instead of doing so he lists a string of maybes that amount to nothing more than speculation.

I will address them one by one:

a.)"Paul thinks of prophecy primarily as revelation from God delivered through believers in the context of the church, where the prophecy may be evaluated (14:23-29)." The key word is "primarily", for to say that something is primarily meant one way it, by default, necessitates for it to be, at the very least, meant one other way.

b.)"Distinctions between 'smaller house groups' and 'church' may not have been all that intelligible to the first Christians, who commonly met in private homes. When the 'church' in a city was large enough (as certainly in Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, and possibly Corinth) to overflow the largest private accommodation, it must have been rather difficult, once opposition was established, to find a public venue large enough to accommodate all the believers of that city; i.e., the house groups in such instances constituted the assembly of the church." The key word is "may" and so again this 'objection' does not rise to the level of certainty necessary for the addition of the words "in the church". But either way Carson's instances that the only two places for us to choose from ('smaller house groups' or 'church') is again an instance of a False Dilemma! Agabus was in neither place and yet he was in public prophesying.

c.)"The language of 11:16 ('If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice-nor do the churches of God.') seems to suggest a church concern, not merely the concern of private or small-group piety. The 'we'/'church of God' parallel either means that Paul has never allowed the practice, and the churches have followed his lead; or that Paul and the church in Ephesus (from which he is writing) constitute the 'we' that have not followed the practice, and again the other churches have adopted the same stance. Either way, when Paul adopts the same tone elsewhere (see especially 14:33b, 36), he is talking about conduct in an assembly." It very well is a church concern. As is a child's obedience to his parents or having sex with one of your father's concubines or the lust of money are all church concerns! But I certainly hope that Carson is not suggesting that as long as these things don't happen in the assembly they are somehow no longer a concern of the church!

d.)"The immediately succeeding verses (11:17-34) are certainly devoted to an ordinance designed for the assembly." Yes they are. But notice that Paul changes the venue buy saying "when you come together as a church" and so Paul in this way is saying that what follows is stated in regards to the assembly.


e.)"If someone points out that 11:2-16, unlike 14:33b-36, does not include the phrase 'in the church,' it must also be observed that 11:2-16 does not restrict the venue to the private home or small group." No the verse does not restrict the venue to the private home or small group this much is very clear, but verses 14:33b-36 do! And so the most important question to be asked at this time is "why are we allowing the unclear verse rule the meaning of the clear verse?" Chapter 14 explicitly forbids a woman from speaking in the church, chapter 11 does not say where its restriction is intended; on this we all agree. But how it is that the uncertainty of chapter 11 trumps the certainty of chapter 14? This is the mystery.

f.)"Whether the restriction in 11:2-16 requires some kind of hat or a distinctive coiffure, it becomes faintly ridiculous in proportion to the degree of privateness envisaged. If the restriction pertains to every venue except the church assembly, does this mean the Christian wife must postpone her private prayer until she has hurried to her chambers and donned her headpiece? The restriction is coherent only in a public setting." See our discussion of the formal Fallacy of the False Dilemma above.

g.)"Above all, the universality of the promise of Joel, cited at Pentecost, that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on men and women such that both would prophesy as constituent members of the community of the new covenant, seems somehow less than 138 transparent if the women may display their inheritance only outside the gathered messianic community." Again, see our discussion of the formal Fallacy of the False Dilemma above. And note that it makes no difference to our question at all what Joel recorded regarding the promise of women prophesying for the issue is not whether or not women will prophesy but are they permitted to do so in church.

And, once again, I remind us that Carson needs to provide exegetical certainty because he bears the burden of proof for the addition of the words "in the church".


As to Carson's "[...] Interpretation Constrained by the Context." (p151) where he says:

"Paul has just been requiring that the church in Corinth carefully weigh the prophecies presented to it. Women, of course, may participate in such prophesying; that was established in chapter 11 [Where!? How!?]. Paul's point here, however, is that they may not participate in the oral weighing of such prophecies. That is not permitted in any of the churches. In that connection, they are not allowed to speak-'as the law says.'"

If what was at issue was the oral weighing of prophecies then why does Paul go on to say "[...] If they have any questions to ask, let them ask their husbands at home [...]"? Paul makes a specifying statement regarding questions. The asking of questions has no bearing on the oral weighing of prophecies. Furthermore, what is to be done with the command of 1 Timothy 2:11-15?

First Timothy 2:11-15 "Women should listen and learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it was the woman, not Adam, who was deceived by Satan, and sin was the result."

The command is for women to listen and learn quietly not teaching men. It is even said twice. "Let them listen quietly." Is this not clear? While teaching is going on (i.e. in the church) a women is to absorb it quietly. In fact some translations have it "she must be silent". The interesting thing is that Carson does not allow women to teach or hold authority over men because of this verse but for some unexplained reason he only applies two of the three restrictions contained there in. Not only are they not to teach or hold authority they are also to remain silent at church. (And as an aside note again that this mandate is not a cultural one for it is grounded in the very order of creation.)

Another thing regarding the use of chapter 11 in trumping chapter 14: As a rule one is to use the clear texts to rule the interpretation of the vague texts. This is sound hermeneutics. This verse is perhaps one of the vaguer texts of the Bible. To use this text to somehow trump the very clear and very direct commands for women not to speak in church violates a principal rule of exegeses. In the face of the two absolutely plain and ardent passages, what is said in 1 Corinthians 11:5 cannot be appealed to in mitigation or modification.


In summery, the objections that have as there bases 1 Corinthians 11:5 are all needless if we, for the sake of argument, remove 1 Corinthians 11:5 from the Bible. First Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15 would never have been in doubt as to there scope and meaning. Now, bringing 1 Corinthians 11:5 back into the equation, the only reason that it is considered is because of a supposed incongruity. In this case what is wanted is the solution of an apparent contradiction and the solutions that are offered are (as I see them):

a)Add the words "in the church" to the verses in chapter 11 by introducing a False Dilemma, ignore the specifying statement regarding questions in chapter 14, disregard 1 Timothy 2:11-15 altogether and force a re-interpretation of the otherwise clear texts using a vague text


b)Allow for the Biblically and Logically supported third option of informal (but public) gatherings in chapter 11 and let the clear texts rule the interpretation of the vague one

And I remind us that even Carson agrees that the use of interpretation b is satisfactory, just unlikely (in his estimation). But, I submit, that option a is not only more unlikely but is also un-satisfactory in that Carson's interpretation of the verses in chapter 11 cannot be sustained exegetically for it is based on the addition of words not found in the passage (either actually or contextually).


A Concession

Having said all of that I do want to say that, though women cannot preach or hold office, they probably should be allowed to ask for prayer and to pray at the assembly. I saw the denial of this concession to be an obstacle to the gospel and saw it, as Paul sometimes did, as being "Jews to the Jews and as gentiles to the gentiles". Also guest speakers who are women should be welcomed to speak to the women of a congregation and men can, if they so desire, attend.


Do I like it? No, of course not! Does it mean that women are somehow unfit for speaking in church meetings? No, of course not! Does it mean that men are better? Only if God the Father is better than God the Son (which I have shown He is not)! So, again, no of course not!

But I feel constrained by the clear command of God through Paul. And I fear the warning of verse 38 "[] if you do not recognize this, you will not be recognized."

-Tom Bombadil

What about First Timothy 2:11-15 "Women should listen and learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it was the woman, not Adam, who was deceived by Satan, and sin was the result."?

Some miscreant snuck that one in too huh? Snip, snip, cut, cut the Swedish chef approach to Bible reading is fun!

Ok, fine, 1 Corinthians 16:3 and Galatians 3:28 aren't real either! Weeeeeeeee!

-Tom Bombadil

Tom, do you really think that God doesn't want women to speak in church?


it sounds as though you perfer that christianity were a giant conspiracy so your notions of a more gnostic based christianity can come to fruitition. The more I read your posts, the more I think I understand that. The greek texts you can say were mistranslated, but bible scholars have been consistantly working for the last century on using greek texts to retranslate the new testament into the most accurate translation they can possibly make. We have numerous documents showing us what the gospels say, in original greek.

These earliest christian writings, while giving you a hint into the tempermant and belief of particular people, are by no means sacred scripture. They have no authority within the church, nor should they.

It would be like me trying to include CS Lewis in my canon. As great and inspiration as a writer as he was, he wrote no scripture at all...nothing he wrote should be considered a sacred work.

If you can get something positive out of the apochyrpa, thats fine, but its not scripture, and treating it as such while discounting the teachings of those given the responsibility of passing the gospel to the world is going to lead you not to Jesus, but to some false Jesus that is really no christ at all. What i Fear about people studyhing these texts who do not have a solid foundation in the scripture, is that it gives them a false gospel that relys on human knowledge, not on the power of God, or of the risen christ, but of fallible human intellect and reasoning, not divine inspiration and motivation to write scripture.


Due to the title you scaped my rear naked choke for milimeters.

Tom can consider himself choked and armbarred without having time to tap.


Paul was a misoginist, no doubt.

"Ahhh. I see. So you simply pose that the difficult scriptures, or the one's that don't agree with your position, are mere forgeries, additions, etc. Well, that's an easy way to get around the issue, I agree, but I'd rather take into account the whole of the Bible. Harmonizing where I need to and studying it in it's completeness. So you also believe that Paul didn't write certain books, though practically all major Bible scholars disagree. You also scour through the multitude of bible translations to find one that translates particular passages in a way that is not harmful to your own opinion and accept that one as being the only correct one.

If this is not what you believe, you'll need to find a new link.


The canon was aroudn before the council of Nicea, and as I understand it has remained the same for quite some time before nicea. Nicea was more of a debate about the nature of Christ.

I cannot say anything in regard to the salvation of anyone 2000 years ago, that is up to God, and I do not pretend to have unlimited knowledge.

The apostles and thier immediate predessors were given BY CHRIST the authority to establish his church, and thereby the authority to establish the canon. Thomas does not belong in the bible, plain and simple. IT is a group of unrelated sayings that are very short and say nothing new, thats why its not there. IMHO of course. I know what the apochyrphon says, Ive read over most of the books more than once, and I feel as though the scriptures harmonize, the apochoryon do not, and therefore do not belong, neither does the liberal interpertation.

What facts show that the church has to eat its words? The scripture never calls Mary a prostitute. I am not a catholic, which is where the doctrine came from, and I cannot be held responsible for a dogma that is 1700 years old, nor would I allow you to hold me responsible for such a thing.

You assume that Mary wrote this gospel, I say that it fits so closely the other gnostic materials from the period of 180AD that its most likely from ther,e and has NOTHING to do with anything mary may or may not have said.

As to biblical interpertation, I have stated that I understand some things do not come out exactly as wished. Murder, kill, whatever, its still pretty damn close, and the hebrew bible can clear it up for us if need be. Your concordance can clear ALL of these things up, as you are so apt to point out to me.

I pretty much agree with Roosters sentiment in regard to this.

"Paul was a misoginist, no doubt. "

If you (not you specifically Donna of course, I know you don´t believe like that) can let go of the tyrannic idea that the Bible is the exact word of God, you can look at it like perhaps Paul wrote those passages in a time when that particular oppressing view was held. and even if he perhaps didn´t share that view himself, he didn´t want to write something that deviated too much from the norms of that time, in order for the rest of the "messages" from the bible to get accepted.


Even Jesus was careful when he said that he could not teach everything at his time, and later he would send the consolator to put things on their proper places.

More than that, Jesus didn´t write a single word, that could become a rigid stone that would not change with time and progress.

Poor Paul, who had to use the missives as the way to communicate with the early churchs, but instead are now, almost 2000 years after, being used as discriminatory rules.

Due to the title you scaped my rear naked choke for milimeters.

Donna, I'm a married man! When choked by you, I expect you to be fully clothed! ;-)


Umm, I meant to put a disclaimer on the thread, but since I didn't, could you please quiet down? This is a man's thread!






I'm kidding! Please don't fully chothe choke me... :-)


Great response to my questions. Well thought out and explained. Although I am still questioning some of it, and when I get around to explaining what I'm thinking, I'll post it for you to look at.


Language fails us as much as translations. Word meanings change every 50 years or so. We need to continually update our understanding of things like "figures of speech", definitions, colloquialisms etc. The translators of the King James did a great job. It's not perfect, but there are VERY few mistranslated words. The word kill for murder isn't exactly true, the word kill means kill but the implication, context, and usage was murder. Should it have said "murder" instead of kill? Maybe, maybe not. I think the translators wanted to stick with the exact language. I personally think that it is not God's intention for anyone to "kill", only He should determine life and death. However, I think He allows capital punishments within a judicial system, but it's not His original plan. No "killing" is good, but it IS necessary at times. Therefore, both murder and kill would be correct.