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Question and Answer

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 troubles me. I cannot see how women can be silent and still be part of the church. Please resolve a debate in our church.

In the year 2005, this is still one of the most controversial passages in the New Testament. Believe me, nothing I can say about it will settle the dispute in your church. But I may be able to settle your mind a bit.

We know from other passages in Paul’s letters and the New Testament that these verses cannot mean that women are never to utter a sound in church. For instance, note that Priscilla was praised as one of the teachers of Apollos (Acts. 18:26; Rom. 16:1–5; 1 Cor. 16:19). Additionally, in the same letter to the church in Corinth Paul notes that women are praying and prophesying and does not condemn the practice (1 Cor. 11:5, 11).

Clearly in this letter Paul has to address several notions that were incorrect; for example, some of the saints boasted, “Everything is permissible for me!” (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23). That was a slogan based on a half-truth. Paul countered with several basic principles of Christian living, such as, “not everything is beneficial,” and “I will not be mastered by anything.” One possible interpretation of the passage you mention is that the idea that women should be mute is one of these incorrect notions.

Another reason why I think this was a false teaching that Paul sought to correct is that those who propounded it appealed to “the Law,” but nowhere in the Old Testament are women told to keep quiet. 1 Corinthians 14:36 has to be considered in context here; this is Paul’s rebuke to those who would silence women: “Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?”

BY C. Donald Cole

C. DONALD COLE hosted Moody Radio’s Open Line for 26 years before retiring in 2008. Before joining the team at the Moody Bible Institute in 1971, Pastor Cole and his wife, Naomi, served the Lord as missionaries in Angola from 1948 until 1966. Pastor Cole then served as a faculty member of Emmaus Bible College of Dubuque and as editor of Interest magazine.

Pastor Cole authored several books, and was married to his wife Naomi for 65 years before he went home to the Lord in 2012.

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