One passage of Scripture appears to say that it is a shame for women to speak at church. However, we should not take this out of its place in the passage.
When applying the Word of God to our lives, we must understand the context of what we read. If, for example, you just opened the Bible and read from Leviticus, you might think you have to kill an animal in order to worship God. We know these scriptures do not apply to us literally because Jesus is the perfect sacrifice.
While teaching on the importance of prophecy in the church, we read a passage that we must understand in context. What does I Corinthians 14:34-35 seem to teach?
However, in 11:5 who should pray and prophesy?
In Acts 2:17, who would speak out words by the power of the Spirit?
Obviously, the Word of God does not muzzle women. As you read I Corinthians 14:34-35, you notice that it seems totally out of place from the discussion at hand: the usefulness of prophecy in the church. Here, Paul apparently quotes from the letter Corinth had sent him (1:11).
From the middle of I Corinthians to near the end, the apostle devotes his writing to answer their questions on a few matters such as marriage (7:1), virginity (7:25), idolatry (8:1), his apostleship (9:1-3), teachings (11:2), communion (11:17), spiritual gifts (12:1), and the best gifts (14:1).
Closing the discussion of prophecy in the church meeting, Paul interjects this quote from these people as he had done on numerous occasions (6:12; 10:23; 12:31). Here he must be quoting part of the letter from Corinth.
How does Paul respond to this extreme view against women, in I Corinthians 14:36?
What? Paul responds quite energetically as in a knee-jerk reaction. What part of verses 34-35 are offensive to you?
First, to exclude women from participating in the body would cut the church in half! While some Jewish men may have wanted to continue the synagogue tradition of keeping women silent in their meetings, this was not the plan of Christ. Paul found it horrifying.
Second, the law of Moses does not say women have to stay silent and not speak. When Paul quotes the law to prove his point, he always gives the quote. Here, the enemies of women in Corinth were quoting the Talmud, not the law of Moses. The Talmud was a collections of Jewish teachings published long after Moses, but held by some Jews as part of the law (it was a type of commentary on the law). Here’s some of what the Talmud says on women:
“A woman’s voice is prohibited because it is sexually provocative.”
“It is a shame for a women to let her voice be heard among men.”
“The voice of a woman is filthy nakedness.”
To which you respond by saying, “What?”
Third, where did these men get off thinking they were more spiritual than women? Asking, “Do you think God only speaks through you?” Paul uses words which direct his statement only to the men. Perhaps one man in particular was stirring up this “subjugation of women” doctrine. Neither Jesus, nor Paul, nor any other apostle ever taught that it was shameful for women to speak in the church.
How does he settle the issue, in I Corinthians 14:37?
Even if the law gave women an inferior role, it is not our role model for Christianity. God is not calling us to follow Moses and Elijah but His only begotten Son, in whom He is pleased to dwell (Matthew 17:2-5). However, even the Old Testament gives a high view of women as proclaimers of God’s victory (Psalm 68:11, 25). Women also were the first to announce the Lord’s resurrection.
What have you learned so far to reshape your understanding of it being a shame for women to speak the in church?
This brief video clip examines verses 34-35.
Keep following this study for more on how God involves women in His kingdom.
Get a thorough review on the discussion of women in ministry by Daniel Koren.