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Are women supposed to be silent in church?

First Corinthians 14:33-35 teaches, "As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church." Does this mean women are to remain silent in churches today? Why or why not?

At first glance, this appears to command against women speaking at all during church gatherings. However, elsewhere in 1 Corinthians Paul spoke about women praying and prophesying in church gatherings (1 Corinthians 11:5). The context of this passage must refer to women not speaking during particular times or aspects of church gatherings.

Because the immediate verses prior to 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 address the main gathering time of the church, it appears Paul's instructions apply to the main gathering. Evidently the Corinthian worship meetings were generally disorderly. Paul gave limits to the number of people speaking in tongues and told them to be silent if no one could interpret (1 Corinthians 14:26–28). Paul instructed that two or three should give prophecy, and the others should weigh what was said. If revelation was made to someone seated while another was still talking, that first one should be silent (1 Corinthians 14:29–32).

Paul's third "be silent" is given to women, or perhaps more specifically to wives. They were not to interrupt the learning times of the gatherings. This could be related to the issue of demonstrating disrespect to their husbands, similar to the head covering command in 1 Corinthians 11. It could also be that such a woman would be seen as attempting to overtake the authority of the male leaders who were present. In short, as others were to be silent in certain situations so as to promote good order in the church worship time, so were women in this instance.

Further, Paul expanded the command by stating this was the practice in "all the churches of the saints" (v. 33). In other words, Paul wanted to make it clear the women were not to interrupt this time of learning in other locations either. He was not trying to make special rules for the Corinthian women but wanted them to follow the practices of other Christian house churches of the time.

While 1 Corinthians 14 addresses the issue of women not speaking out during the main teaching time during a worship gathering, there is much this passage does not address. Other biblical passages must also be studied regarding women in church leadership (such as 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1). Also clear is that men and women are both called to follow Christ and are one in Him (Galatians 3:28).


Related Truth:

Is God/the Bible sexist?

Women pastors - what does the Bible say?

Are women allowed to be deacons?

What was God's purpose in establishing the church?

Should we accept the writings of the Apostle Paul as inspired (see 1 Corinthians 7:12)?


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