1 Corinthians 14 appeals to ‘the law’ to silence women and keep them subordinate –
“As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is a shame for women to speak in church”. 1 Cor. 14:34-35
But is it Paul referring to ‘the law’ or is it the church at Corinth (7:1 “Now for the matters you wrote about ) ? If Paul is referring to an Old Testament law, it would appear to be the only time he does so without clarify what he’s referring to – See
As no such law (that silences women) is to be found in the Law of Moses, some have suggested it must be a reference to ‘the law’ of Genesis 3:16
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labour you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
Was it really Paul making such an appeal ? Why would he appeal to ‘the law’ but also say we are no longer under it ?
“If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:18
Let’s look at Gen. 3:16 more closely –
The word used for ‘painful labour’ is also used to describe the toil of Adam –
‘In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life’
And the ‘toil’ of Noah in Gen. 5:29
He called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands because of the ground which the Lord cursed.
Eve was told she would have pain or toil having children – the consequence of delivering a baby as John 16:21 says –
A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. John 16:21
It seems a good thing that a woman can forget the anguish of childbirth, it turns to joy. This doesn’t seem to fit with a curse to keep women subordinate to men.
SHOULD WOMAN TURN TO MAN OR GOD?
Eve was also told that her desire or turning was to her husband and he would rule over her-
“And to your husband your desire (turning) and he will rule over you”
This is used by some to justify men ruling over women as if endorsed by God – but was it prescriptive (had to happen), or descriptive (stating what would happen)?
Was it something God wanted, or was it like the thorns and thistles – a bad thing that was a consequence of sin? Even the thorns and thistles would have melted into a blessing of prosperity if the Jews had obeyed God –
The LORD your God will make you abound in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your land for good. Deut. 30:9
God actually wanted the land to produce plentiful crops, not thorns and thistles.
Or was it a warning from God to Eve not to turn to her husband and make the same mistake again? Eve’s desire for her husband meant that he ruled her heart and mind more than God did, and that’s who she turned to, as Paul warned can happen in 1 Cor 7:35
The married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 1 Cor. 7:35
It would seem that Paul had Eve’s situation in mind when he penned the words of Col. 3:15
“Over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ RULE in your hearts, for to this you were called as members of one body.”
It is Christ who should rule our hearts. The ‘one body’ is an echo of Adam and Eve’s ‘one flesh’. The perfect unity is not a husband ruling a woman’s heart, but Christ. This is a unity that any woman can have, whether married or not.
Paul also turns the pain of childbirth into a metaphor for the church –
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you. Gal. 4:19
The Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel (Rabbi and disciple of Hillel)
“And to your husband shall be your desire, and he will have rule over you unto righteousness or unto sin.”
This interpretation is interesting as it recognises that it can be a bad thing for a husband to rule over his wife – they can lead them to sin.
EVE’S FATAL MISTAKE
Eve had been deceived by the serpent and turned to her husband instead of turning to God – that was her fatal mistake.
In contrast to this Mary (Jesus’ mother) got it right, her desire was for God even when she was engaged to Joseph. She said “I am the handmaid of the Lord”– it was God that Mary turned to.
Women have a choice – to be ruled by desire for a husband or desire for God. In fact, Paul said it’s better not to marry because such a partnership can make us put God in second place.
The so-called curse on Eve was a description of how her life would turn out, not a prescription of how it must turn out. God was saying what would happen, not what had to happen.
NOT TO RULE OTHERS
The Greek word in the Septuagint for ‘rule over’ in Gen. 3:16 is used by Jesus to show that we are not to dominate or rule over one another –
‘The kings of the Gentiles ‘lord it over them’; and they that have power over them, are called beneficent. But you not so: but he that is the greater among you, let him become as the younger; and he that is the leader, as he that serves.’ Luke 22:25-6
Why would Paul endorse a command that contradicts the teachings of Jesus ?
How could there be a command for men to rule over silent women when Deborah the prophetess judged Israel for 40 years and Huldah delivered the word of God to the High Priest?
Hilkiah (the High Priest) and those the king had sent with him went to speak to Huldah the prophetess…Huldah said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 2 Chron. 34:22
THE PERFECT BOND OF UNITY
Genesis 3 is not a prescription for husbands to rule over their wives as a type of hierarchy. It is Christ who should have rule over a woman, and indeed over a man. It is the second Adam (Jesus) and the second Eve (the church/bride) who understand the perfect bond of unity. Women should not turn to their husband to replace Jesus as their head, nor fall into Eve’s mistake of turning to Adam instead of God.
Nor is it men who can be trusted for perfect advice. They can lead women astray as Ananias led Saphira astray, as David tried to lead Abigail astray. They could be a fool like Nabal, or even frustratingly slow to catch on to equality like Peter concerning the gentiles. Jesus is the one to follow –
‘Do not call anyone on earth your father, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant.’ Matt. 23:9-11
There is no justification for imposing a meaning on Genesis 3:16 that was never intended, and that contradicts the teachings of Christ – there’s a much more logical explanation – See: Context of Writings Silencing Women