I Cor. 14:34-35

"34 women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church."

Today I spoke on I Corinthians 14 and SOOOOO wanted to talk about vv 34-35, but decided to keep my sermon short and focus on Paul's overall message to BUILD UP INSTEAD OF TEAR DOWN.

So, I thought I'd blog about it. Let me get right into it...There are some churches who use these two verses as proof that women are to remain silent and not participate in leading during the worship gathering. They argue that women are valued and gifted, but should be limited in how they use their God-given gifts. Paul's command to be silent is interpreted to be a universal command for all women, for all time.

Other churches argue that these verses speak specifically to the Corinthian women who were disruptive in public worship. They, like the Free Methodist Church and Westlight, allow women to lead and use their gifts, including speaking, in public worship.

There are many amazing theologians who convincingly argue both sides. I am not a theologian, but I Corinthians is Paul's letter to the church addressing their issues and answering the questions the church posed to him. In this letter, Paul didn't have a problem with women prophesying and leading in public worship, because he gave them instruction in I Cor. 11:5. One would not instruct someone on how to use their gift if they didn't believe it was okay to use their gift.

Also, at the end of I Cor. 14, Paul provided practical instruction on how the Corinthians are to use their spiritual gifts in public worship. There were three groups of people he instructed to be silent under certain circumstances: those who spoke in tongues (I Cor. 14:27-28), those who prophesied (I Cor. 14: 29-30) and women (I Cor. 14:34-35). Paul wanted the women to be silent in public worship, but encouraged them to learn and instructed them to direct their questions to their husbands at home. This attitude of Paul's would've been viewed as progressive at the time.

If only Paul could write another letter, send an email or tweet an explanation and tell us what he really meant. Ah, but that would rob us of the opportunity to sit down and listen, understand, and value perspectives that are different from our own. As a woman and pastor, it is a challenge for me to imagine Paul's command for women to be silent as universal. Especially when Jesus and Paul worked to deconstruct the racial, gender, socio-economic and religious labels and hierarchy.

This is a difficult passage...what do you think?

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Lori Tamura

Lori Tamura