There are 2 texts in the Bible that silence women (1 Cor. 14 & 1 Tim 2). Understanding the context transforms the meaning of each passage.
First Corinthians contains several passages which appear to not only contradict each other, but also principles endorsed by Christ
“Call no man teacher you have one teacher the Christ” Matt. 23:10.
Men were never supposed to be the teachers of women, all are supposed to turn to God and Jesus for instruction. Eve’s mistake was turning to Adam instead of God.
The addition of quotation marks in 1 Cor. clears the confusion – Paul is citing members of the church who are trying to impose traditions of men – silencing women just as the nations around them did.
From chapter 7 onwards, Paul is replying to the matters the church had written about-
Let’s discern the views of the church that Paul is writing about.
Translators are reluctant to add quotation marks, so the task of discerning what parts are the concerns of the church and what parts are the response of Paul, fall to the reader.
Below is a list of some of the most obvious issues Paul is replying to in 1st Corinthians. Church issues, followed by Paul’s response
CHURCH ISSUES & PAUL’S ADVICE
7:1-2 Church – It is good for a man to keep away from a woman – Paul – Because of the danger of sexual immorality let each man have his own wife
7:25: Church – The question of the unmarried – Paul – No command but Paul’s advice is to remain as you are
8:1 Church – The question of food sacrificed to idols – Church says they have knowledge – Paul says that knowledge puffs up, if food will be a snare don’t eat it
10:23 A continuation of the previous question – Church -Everything is permitted Paul – Not everything is helpful or edifying
Chapter 11 – The question of who is the head –Church says woman is the glory of man and must wear a veil Paul says Christ is the head of every person and a woman should have authority over her own head.
14:21-23 The question of speaking in tongues –Church says they are for unbelievers Paul says they are for believers.
14:34-39 The question of women being silent in church. Church says women should be silent as even the law (of the land) says. Paul says he would have all prophesy
16:1 The question of the collection. Paul says to do the same as he directed the congregations in Galatia.
CHAPTER 14 – Example of 2 opposing opinions within 3 verses with quotation marks added –
In the same chapter Paul sets the church straight regarding women speaking. The church says women must be silent as the law says. It can’t be the law of Moses they refer to – it didn’t silence women. Roman law silenced women and said that man was the head of the house
Conclusion: Paul reminded the church at Corinth that the word of God did not originate with men – it came to both men and women. He concludes the chapter by encouraging all to prophesy
“So, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy and do not forbid speaking in tongues.” 1 Cor. 14:39
In chapter 11 Paul addresses the issue of what women wear while they prophesy in church –
The church believed that man was more important because Adam was made first.
Paul wants them to know that the head of man is Christ – not place themselves directly below God and leave Christ out as they had done in verse 7 – “A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man”
Paul tells them that Eve might have been formed ‘from’ man and ‘for’ man – but the ‘man’ (singular) is of the woman and every man since Adam is born of woman. Paul tells them that Christ Himself, the head of every man, also came from woman, and that men and women are not independent in the Lord.
To the Jews order mattered -Who came first. In Christ we are a new creation –
The Jews thought that because man was first, and a greater glory than woman, that women should cover their hair and conform to their traditions
Paul is saying that women should have authority over their own head – The reason for this is because of the angels – What angels ?
BECAUSE OF THE ANGELS
The word angel (Greek noun angelos) is one of several words translators decided not to translate – it simply means “messenger”. Thus in Revelation 1 the stars are the messengers/angels of the churches and the lampstands are the churches. John the baptist was also an angel/messenger and the translators for once translated the Greek word angelos as “messenger” – “I send My messenger before Your face.”
WHO WERE THE MESSENGERS AT CORINTH ?
As well as Paul responding to the “matters they wrote about “, Paul also addresses the issues the messengers (angels) from the church at Corinth had raised. Those of Chloe had travelled all the way to Ephesus to see Paul about contentions within the Church.
“It has been declared (told in person) to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.” 1 Cor 1: 11-14
Throughout 1st Corinthians there are actually 3 lots of voices
In chapter 11 it is apparent that Paul is addressing the message of the messengers (the angels) who went to visit him in person, concerning the insistence by some members that women cover their hair while prophesying. The ones insisting on such a practice said man was first and woman was for his glory so her head should be covered –
Paul reminds them in ch. 16:15 that Stephanas (the messenger) was The firstfruits of the church in Acchai – So if order matters he is right up there. But more importantly he has devoted himself to good works and they are to submit to him.
“I urge you, brethren—you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints— that you also submit to such, and to everyone who works and labours.” 1 Cor. 16:15
It would seem that the matter of head coverings was one of the matters they were to submit to Stephanas about. It would also seem he was connected to Chloe and that she too was one of the firstfruits in Acchai and leader in the church.
In 1 Cor. 1:11-14 we read about Chloe.
It has been declared (told in person) to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?
“Those of Chloe’s household” should read “by those of Chloe” – it is in the context of baptism – the same as “those of Paul or Apollos etc in following verse.
The controversy here seems to be those of Chloe saying they are not not being treated equally -After all they were taught the truth or baptised by a woman – they were “of Chloe”.
Paul concludes the argument of headcoverings by saying
“If a woman has long hair, it is her glory. For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no such practice (as covering hair)—nor do the churches of God.”
The message of Paul and Jesus was liberating in a culture of suppression, yet the wrong voices have largely been listened to – in fact following the very ones Paul was opposing. Alarm bells should have rung when clear passages contradicted the practice of elevating men as teachers – it is also written –
There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:28
“Don’t be called teachers, one is your teacher, the Christ”.