Women should be silent?

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:11
How are we to understand the Bible verse that says women should keep silent in church? It is important to look at time and context when understanding the Bible. Certainly there are many important women in the Bible prophetesses for example who had important things to say. The church in Corinth evidently had unique challenges to face.
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Announcer: It's time now for Bible Talk. Join our Host Gary Gibbs and John Bradshaw, speakers for the Amazing Facts Ministry, as they now open the Bible and discuss themes that affect your life today. Stay tuned, because the next 15 minutes will deepen your understanding of God's Word.

John Bradshaw: Hi friend and welcome again to Bible Talk where we talk about the Bible and the Bible as it affects you today. I'm John Bradshaw and with me is Gary Gibbs.

Gary Gibbs: Hi, John! Today we are going to talk about what the Bible says about some difficult texts that some people have misunderstood in their reading of it.

John: Yeah, we're going to go right at the 1 Corinthians and I'll be right up front with you and tell you that there are some things that Paul wrote that I wished he'd written with a little more clarity sometimes for the benefit of people everywhere.

Gary: Wasn't it Peter who also felt the same way?

John: That's true.

Gary: He said that Paul wrote some things difficult to be understood that some wrestle with or wrest to their own destruction.

John: That's exactly right, and perhaps we're got to look at some of those passages today. And by the grace of God, we won't wrest until our own destruction. With His help, maybe clarify some things in the minds of many people listening today to Bible Talk.

Gary: Well which text are we going to turn to John?

John: I'll be honest with you, sometimes depending on who's reading the Bible, it seems like women get a bit of a hard time in the Bible. How about those passages in the Bible, ladies are you listening? How about those passages in the Bible that say, "The women should keep quiet in church?" How do you like that?

Gary: Well, the Bible does say that, John. But like you said...

John: Oh! All right then so for all the male chauvinists listening, thank you for joining us today on Bible...

Gary: No, hopefully they stay tuned because this text has a context.

John: OK, now the Bible talks about women keeping quiet in Church. If you've read the Bible, you've read this and if you've read the Bible, you've said, "What is that about? Why does the Bible say that?" Gary, do you want to read it for us in 1 Corinthians 14?

Gary: I'm going to read that to you, and I'll read another one for you in 1 Timothy 2.

John: All right.

Gary: There are two texts actually, 1 Corinthians 14:34 says, "Let your women keep silence." Now a lot of guys would stop right there, but know what it says, "Let your women keep silence in the churches for it's not permitted unto them to speak, but they're commanded to be under obedience as also set the law." The way that's interpreted quite frankly is whether or not to speak in church. They would be completely quiet in church.

John: Can you imagine what that would be like? No clever answers please but it hardly seems as though that would be plan A that half of the church population remains quiet at all times. Is there more? I'm looking at the same passage, verse 35, says what they ought to do if they want to learn something.

Gary: Let me read one other text, just get them all on the table in case anybody's thinking about this other one.

John: All right.

Gary: First Timothy 2:11, "Let the women learn in silence with all subjection." There you go, there are your two major texts on this topic.

John: Learn in silence and keep quiet. Keep silence in the church.

Gary: That's it, so what do you say about that?

John: Well let's try to flesh this out, and look at this from a very Biblical perspective. You're dealing with an early Christian church. There's no doubt about it. There were some things going on. There were some violations of certain principles. Propriety and decency was being messed with, because we read in this passage where the Bible says, "God is not the author of confusion but of peace." Now the in early Christian Church, with these passages, you've got to look at context, time and place. What was the Church like back then?

That's my understanding that in many of those early churches, you have men sitting on one side of the church. Women sitting on the other side of the church, now this is where this other verse in First Corinthians 14 comes in, "Let the women keep silence."

Or verse 35, "If they want to learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home." It gets better, "For it is a shame for women to speak in the church." Now, really, what's happening here?

Let's try to transport ourselves to that place in time, the church with men on one side, women on the other. You can just imagine the woman hearing something perhaps you've never heard of before.

Didn't understand what the preacher was saying, and maybe there was confusion and disorder as the wife would call out to the husband across the church and lean across the aisle. Holler from one side of the room to the other. I don't know, but certainly there was something like that going on and Paul is saying "Hey, there is confusion resulting. Don't let this take place. Let it stop and let it stop quickly."

Gary: And that's really clear from the context not only talking about the women being silent, 1 Corinthians 14 is really a text about order and decency in the whole church service. Because it talks about tongues and it says in tongues. In this context is different languages. Corinth was a melting pot of people from all different cultures.

John: That's right.

Gary: Here they were attending the same churches together and there they were speaking in their different languages. Paul says, "If you're speaking these different languages, speak in order with interpretation."

John: Always.

Gary: He's saying, "Speak one language and then the next one interprets it. And they interpret it into another language. That's in that context he says. "Now, what about the women?" We can put in parentheses that cultural understanding you've given us. The women who are also talking up and speaking out saying, "What did he say? I didn't understand his language." And calling to their husband who calls the aisle who might be more educated most likely in that day who might know more languages and know more about the Hebrew scriptures. Paul's saying, "Listen, this is another issue we've got in the church is the people calling across the aisles."

John: Is it fair to say that there were certain cultural sensitivities that had to be observed back there in that day? It's fair to say that. In First Timothy two where it says "Let the woman learn in silence without subjection." Paul goes on to say "I suffered not, nor I allow not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man but to be in silence." What if it's true that God has setup a certain order and we don't need to be sexist about this but God has given to the man the role of headship in the home and leadership.

These are values that needed to be respected then, in order to be understood even in this day we live in. Also back then, and this is another one, God said, "OK, we've dealt with this idea. Keep silence. Don't make a distraction, don't cause mayhem."

But didn't it say in the Bible to speaking to a same Corinthians, tell the women not to cut their hair. If they cut their hair, it's terrible and we just don't want that happening at all.

Gary: In fact, there are people who don't cut their hair at all because of this very text. You'll find it in 1 Corinthians 11:15 there. Let me read it to you. It says, "If a woman has long hair, it's a glory to her for her hair is given her for covering." It goes on and actually says in the verse before us as to not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it's a shame to him. If a man has long hair, it's a shame to him. If a woman has short hair, it's a shame to her and so people say this is a teaching that women should not cut their hair.

John: What's the deal? Is there a cultural framework that we can look at this through? I think there is. You look back to that time of the early Corinthian church. What did you have going on? A lot of converts coming from heathenism. Back in that day, what was going on in terms of immorality in the society was just awful. What we understand is the temple prostitutes where women would shave their head. And there was no way the early Christian believers wanted in anyway to be mistaken for those immoral...

Oh, man! I can hardly think of an adjective to describe the baseness of their behavior.

Didn't want to be described or confused with those immoral temple prostitutes so don't even give the impression that you're imitating the customs. And therefore, practicing their practices.

Gary: That's right and therefore there needs to be a cultural distinction between Christians and non-Christians even today. John, this opens Pandora's Box. A lot of Christians dress just like the world. A lot of the fashions today a lot people wear and even Christians, they come right out of the brothels.

John: Absolutely right and Christians today, many of them are at the place where they don't see the difference or even see the need to see the difference between dressing perhaps in an appropriate fashion. And dressing just like the models on the catwalks.

Gary: Or the prostitutes on the street corner. Recently, I was in another country on the other side of the planet and the women dress modestly. But the women on the street corners dressed like a lot of the young ladies do in the malls in the United States of America.

John: That will tell you something right there.

Gary: It told me a lot.

John: Some of those fashions that are designed. Let's be honest now. Designed just to stimulate and arouse certain desires, certain unholy desires outside of marriage...

Gary: Now John, you've said several things now that are going to upset a lot of women. They are going to be writing you. I hope they don't write me. But here's what we do have, we have the same problem with men doing the same thing today.

John: No question about it.

Gary: It goes both ways doesn't it?

John: Sure it does and people ought to respect propriety, decency and modesty. Be you man or a woman and there are many ways to be immodest. Some people are immodest by the way they flaunt their wealth.

Gary: Or the way they bat their eyelids.

John: Yeah sure.

Gary: They dress modestly. And the other things you do, your body language is immodest. Back to this issue though, we're talking about first Corinthians. Paul's deal with cultural issues is what you're saying.

John: Yes he is.

Gary: Why can't we make those doctrinal issues? Why can't we just say they are cultural?

John: Well, OK. Let's talk about the idea of women keeping silence in the church. Go looking through all of the Bibles. OK two places where Paul is writing to a brand new Christian church. He speaks about the whole thing. Women keep quiet. Don't teach. Don't usurp authority. I'm just reading in my devotional time yesterday in a book of Acts. You've got many significant female figures in early Christianity.

Gary: They do.

John: Obviously did a lot of teaching. You have Priscilla and Aquila. Priscilla was not a male. She was a female yet she was one of the instructors of the very powerful Bible worker Apollos. She wasn't sitting around like a shrinking violet. This was somebody that was instructing and teaching according to God's word.

Gary: You have Philip the Evangelist in Acts 21, he had four daughters who prophesied. They were prophets.

John: You had Deborah who was a judge in Israel. There were many women who occupied many positions of importance and authority.

Gary: Obviously they were teaching. They weren't just silent in church and silent all the other time. They were teaching. John, you and I have been blessed by women who had insights that a man's never going to have, because they are wired differently. There are women who see things. They are more in tune with how people feel. They are more in tune often with the heart of God Himself. We can be blessed! And boy! If they never talk, we're all going to get in a lot of trouble. Women can save us from a lot of trouble. And women, if you are listening, God's blessed you with those insights.

John: No question about that at all. It's important though to embrace, to take a look at. And confront these texts that many people wrest to their destruction. And wrest, actually to the demeaning of women and to put them down. I was just talking counseling really with a couple yesterday and the husband, not all husbands thank God are like this. Would use the Bible and his perceived spiritual superiority to put his wife down.

Gary: And that's a shame because, there are a lot of women today who turn against God and against the Bible because they perceive the Bible as anti-women.

John: What she had found out was that this husband of hers is professing to be all high and mighty. Treating her like a piece of dirt. She said to me that, "I've come to the conclusion that if it's not working in his life, why should I waste my time trying to make it work in mine?"

Gary: What a shame.

John: I took him to Ephesians and showed him where the Bible says that husbands ought to love their wives enough to lay down and die for them. Love your wife as Christ loved the church, He died for the church. So when we look at these passages in the Bible, we've got to understand that Christ isn't trying to subjugate or demean or lessen. Or diminish the role, the dignity, the value of anyone at all.

Gary: That is certainly true because God gives dignity to women. [music plays]

John: Yes. He does. Oh, look! We're out of time again, the fastest few minutes in radio. Thank you for joining us this time. See you more next time, Bible Talk.

John: If you'd like more information on what we've been studying today, we have a comprehensive Bible study guide we'd love to share with you that's absolutely free. This study includes many of the texts we've just discussed. And expands on the subject including information you want to know. To receive this free, informative, Bible study guide, simply call, write or email and ask for BT 103: "Is There Anything Left You Can Trust?" The toll free number is 866-Biblesays. That's 866-2425372. You can write to us at Bible Talk, PO Box 1058, Roseville, California 95678 or email us at bibletalk@amazingfacts.org. Bible Talk has been produced in association with Amazing Facts in the studios of LifeTalk Radio.

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