Context of Writings Silencing Women (notes)

Text of youtube of same title

There are just 2 passages in the entire Bible that silence women. They’re not found in the 4,000 years of history covered by the Old Testament – nor in the teachings of Jesus – They are only found among Paul’s writings.

In fact they seem like a new teaching. A section from the  first passage says  –

And the second passage says

They are puzzling passages that seem to contradict other scripture. Jesus showed us never to take passages in isolation but to consider the context and  what is ‘also written’.

Lets begin with the context of the Corinthians passage

Chapter  7 sets the scene – Paul said ‘now for the matters you wrote about’.   Throughout the letter Paul quotes the matters sent to him by the church , then gives his reply.  We are not just reading the words of Paul, but the words from the church that he’s referring to –

Let’s put  together a picture of what was going on at Corinth. Chapter 16 tells us that Paul was writing from Ephesus, and that 3 friends had come from Corinth to visit him – “I am glad of the coming of Stephanas  and Fortunatus and Achaicus”

They were messengers from the church, Paul said; “they have supplied what was lacking from you”. Also, keep in mind that messenger is the same word as angel.

Chapter 1 tell us that it was ‘Those of Chloe’ –  who had declared to him the divisions within the church – meaning  face to face rather than written

So it’s logical they were the ones who took the letter to Paul, and were in fact the 3 friends whose names are revealed at the end.

Paul is dealing with a whole lot of issues both verbal and written. Throughout 1st Corinthians there are 3 lots of voices

-The church writers

– Paul’s response to what was written

– And Paul’s response to the verbal concerns of the “Messengers” – (probably those of Chloe who delivered the letter)

No wonder many sections of 1st Corinthians are about as clear as mud, until you understand who is saying what!

Many sections appear in contradiction until you realise what was going on, that there are several voices and view points mixed together, they are not all the words of Paul. Sometimes he’s quoting or referring to the issues within the church.

Lets look at an example  – are tongues are a sign  for believers or unbelievers? – A confusing passage in the notorious chapter that silences women- let’s separate it so that it makes sense.

First we read “In the Law it is written: ‘With other tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people’. So, tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers”.   This is clearly saying tongues are FOR UNBELIEVERS.

The next verse we read totally contradicts this–

V23 “But if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and if unbelievers come in, won’t they say you’re out of your mind?”  

This  is saying that if unbelievers hear you speaking in tongues they’ll think you’re crazy – so therefore its saying that tongues are FOR BELIEVERS.


Obviously its the church saying that tongues are for unbelievers – Paul says they are for believers. This is a typical example of how 1st Corinthians is written- Paul quoting the matters they wrote about and then responding.

Some translators have started adding quotation marks in 1st Corinthians, and it dramatically changes the meaning –

Quotation marks make it clear that the red section is a church opinion to which Paul is replying.  Without quotation marks it sounds  as if its Paul is saying it is good for men not to have sexual relations with women, when in fact it was the opinion of the church.

This makes a dramatic difference when we try to untangle Paul’s difficult passages. The contradictions disappear when we realise that not all the opinions belong to Paul, even some translators realise this but haven’t gone far enough in making the distinctions. So this is an attempt to discern which parts we are to follow, and which parts we are to reject as the wrong traditions of the church.

In chapter 14 the church is trying to silence women who were prophesying it’s a continuation of the speaking in tongues problem

If quotation marks are added in the correct places

– Then 1st Cor would be transformed from a jumbled mess  -to clearly showing 2 sides of an argument. And this section would be the church view

They weren’t referring to The Law of Moses here – it didn’t put women in submission to men by silencing them. Roman law silenced women and made man the Head of the house.

Paul said that those led by the spirit are not under the law –

It’s also ridiculous to think that husbands at home can answer all wives spiritual questions – in fact Jesus said that he is the one we are to follow.  Women are to go to Christ for their spirituality, not their husbands who might be as foolish as Nabal, or as dishonest as Ananias. Eve’s mistake was in turning to Adam instead of God when tempted by the serpent.

When taken at  face value this passage contradicts the teachings of Christ – it’s obviously the church saying that its shameful for a woman to speak and to ask questions of their husbands, lets see Paul’s  response –

Paul reminds the church that the word of God did not originate with men – it came to both men and women. He reminds them to compare his teachings with those of Jesus (green).

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.”  Speaking in tongues is part of the controversy of this chapter. The NIV correctly translates adelphoi as applying to brothers and sisters from the context of the chapter where Paul is addressing both men and women.  Now let’s look more closely at the reference to the Lord’s command.

Paul refers to the “Lord’s command”.  He’s not endorsing his own new teaching but one already given by Jesus.

It was the great commission that all should prophesy.  Acts makes it clear that Jesus’ message was to women as well as men.  One of the signs is that believers would speak in tongues – how utterly ridiculous to suppose that Paul would try to silence women with the gift of the spirit. A teaching that doesn’t make sense.

Sadly, in one of the biggest blunders possible – the church largely followed the wrong views of the Corinthians who Paul was correcting– silencing women is a tradition of men – not of God.

Paul’s recommendation to the church is the one that wasn’t followed. Paul encouraged all  (brothers and sisters) to prophesy in church –

1st Corinthians 11 is another chapter that  requires quotation marks to make sense. It’s the chapter that says women should cover their heads because man is the head of woman – on the surface, more new teachings!

Let’s apply the context that we are reading different voices. The writers from Corinth thought that the origin of a person mattered. Paul praises the church for holding the traditions he’s delivered to them but he needs to set them straight in what they are doing regarding hierarchy.

Man was first so the church thought he must be more important, Lets add quotation marks and separate the messages –

Eve might have come from Adam, but every man after that was born of woman. And it would seem that the first converts in Achaia were of a woman – of Chloe, which would make sense of the strange statement that a woman should have authority over her own head because of the angels.

If Chloe was the origin of the church in Achaica -the one who had taught the angels or messengers, then by their own logic she was more important and could decide for herself what she chose to do with her hair and her head.

This church had a real problem with worship of origins- going back to chapter 1 –

It doesn’t take much insight to see that those of Chloe were at the bottom of the pecking order among the big names like Apollos.

Paul ends the letter with this worship of origin in mind when he says  – “You know that Stephanas and his household were the first converts in Achaia,”

Surely this is making the point that if first matters, then remember that Stephanas and his household were the first converts – and its logical from the context that their origin was Chloe-a woman. This would make sense of their complaint about the quarrels over the big names.  And in a beautiful reminder of what really matters – the things God cares about, Paul says and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. Now I urge you, brothers, to submit to such as these, and to every fellow worker and labourer”

So now we can make clear sense of the statement that a woman should have authority over her head because of the angels, the messengers who were taught the gospel by Chloe –

“For this reason” –meaning the logic they just put forward-that origin of people matters.

Paul is saying – ‘if your logic is true then a woman is the origin of the messengers- those of Chloe- so she can do whatever she likes with her own head because she is the head of the messengers’

And then he adds –    “In the Lord, however, woman is not separate from man, nor is man separate from woman”.  The church were trying to separate men and women. In the Lord they are not separate, nor do they have separate roles which is the wonderful equalising power of the gospel.  So this is the context of the difficult passage in 1 Corinthians- Paul going back and forth with the logic of their reasoning and correcting it with the sword of the spirit which is the word of God.


Now for the passage in Timothy that silences women, it’s a different Greek word for silence. It means to be in quietness and the context is completely different.   We read of the context in 1 Tim 1:3

The reference here to genealogies shows that origin was also a problem in the church at Ephesus.

Paul’s purpose of writing was specific – stop wrong teachings from spreading –  TO COMMAND CERTAIN PEOPLE NOT TO TEACH.

This wasn’t an isolated event. Paul silenced anyone with wrong teaching. Let’s look at Titus

The circumcision party mentioned here definitely included men. Paul said they must have their mouths stopped – a similar situation to the silencing of women in 1 Timothy.

Paul silenced anyone with wrong teaching.

Lets consider the passage silencing women in 1st Timothy 2 –

The traditional interpretation of this is that Adam was formed first therefore more important. The same thinking  that we saw at Corinth. But is that really the point of this passage with its strange reference to being saved in childbearing?

Let’s keep in mind Timothy’s purpose of staying in Ephesus to correct wrong teaching  and view these statements from that perspective –

We can deduce what the woman was saying from the statements Paul makes in correction of her wrong teachings.

The woman was saying that Eve was formed first, she wasn’t in the transgression and having children hinders salvation – doctrines that  line up with Gnostic teachings.

Modern scholars largely agree Gnostics had views from Judaism and  Christianity, with Hellenistic and Egyptian origins – and were flourishing in the first century.

A Gnostic text from around the 3rd century shows the belief that Eve gave life to Adam and was considered superior –

The Gnostics  also believed that having children was evil – it created more vile flesh and women who gave birth would be hindered from entering Gnostic heaven. So here we have a logical explanation to Paul’s strange comments.

IN SUMMARY – Paul wasn’t giving new teachings that women should be silent or cover their hair. Those were the traditions the church wanted to impose – hair raising stuff for women who had the spirit and were prophesying.

Paul endorsed the things God wants –

Paul followed the teachings of Christ, he said ‘follow me in as much as I follow Jesus’

Paul’s teaching’s must line up with the son of God who is the one who truly revealed God to us.

The Old Testament did not silence women, God used women also to give his words to the people, even the High Priest via Huldah –


Part 2 – Roles of Men and Women in Christ










About alsowritten

Another voice in the wilderness
This entry was posted in Context of Writings Silencing Women, Headcoverings for Women, Silencing of Women, Women -What are the rules ? and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Context of Writings Silencing Women (notes)

  1. Pingback: Silencing Women 1 Tim. 2 | alsowritten – Robin's Blog

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  3. Pingback: Roles of Men and Women in Christ | alsowritten – Robin's Blog

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  5. Pingback: Paul’s Confusing Letter – Examining the 1st Letter to Corinth | alsowritten – Robin Jones' Blog

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