One of the answers to the question about what 1st Corinthians 14:34-35 means suggests that the passage is a later interpolation. From the quote by J.W. Wartick, included in the answer, there are several external clues to suggest we should omit the passage:

  • It "moves" depending on which scribal branch a manuscript belongs to (i.e., Western manuscripts have the passage after verse 40).
  • Some manuscripts include distigmai marking that the scribe was uncertain about the passage in some way.
  • One important manuscript has been corrected to omit the passage altogether.
  • Clement does not quote this passage.

How persuasive is this evidence? Should we conclude that someone inserted this passage after the letter was written (or dictated) by Paul? Is there other evidence that we should consider?


6 Answers 6


I am going to attempt to walk through the major literature in this discussion, which will be a lot of back and forth. I have linked to all the major works referenced, however not all of the articles and books are freely available online (some must be purchased).

Both Gordon D. Fee and Philip B. Payne are notable scholars who believe that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is an interpolation. Other scholars who hold this position include Straatman, Fitzer, Barrett, and Ruef. In his article entitled Fuldensis, Sigla For Variants in Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34–5, Payne points out that

"...scribes in that period simply did not take the liberty to rearrange the argument of Scripture in this manner. We do not have even a single parallel example of a scribe rearranging the sequence of an original text of any of the NT letters to make it more logical. Furthermore, even if Bishop Victor felt he had the authority to rearrange the sequence of the text, there is no adequate reason why the text would make more sense reinserted at the end of the chapter."

In his article MS. 88 as Evidence for a Text Without 1 Cor 14.34–5, Payne claims that

"The evidence that ms. 88 was copied from a text of 1 Corinthians 14 without vv. 34–5 provides additional external support for the thesis that vv. 34–5 were not in the original text of 1 Corinthians 14."

Curt Niccum wrote an article entitled The Voice of the Manuscripts on the Silence of Women: The External Evidence for 1 Cor 14.34–5 that claimed the bar-umlauts themselves were added to the text at a later date and are thus not indicative of an interpolation, but rather of a paragraphos (marginal note).

Payne co-authored an article with Paul Canart entitled The Originality of Text-Critical Symbols in Codex Vaticanus where they argue their point based on new findings concerning the ink used in the Codex; from the introduction to the paper:

"The discovery that the ink of text-critical symbols in Codex Vaticanus matches the original ink of the codex breaks new ground for textual criticism. A scribe in the Middle Ages, apparently concerned with fading, traced over the original ink of every letter or word of Vaticanus unless it appeared to be incorrect. Thus, unreinforced letters and symbols reveal the original ink of the codex. The most obvious examples of the original ink are the few places its scribe inadvertently duplicated a word, phrase or clause. In these cases the reinforcer traced over only one of the duplicates, so the other reveals the original ink."

Payne and Canart make the case that this finding further proves that the original manuscript omitted 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

Payne based some of his beliefs about these texts being an interpolation on the work of J. Edward Miller who had posited that various umlauts (distigmai) might have been an indication of scribal uncertainty concerning the authenticity of these passages. However, after Payne cited Miller's work, Miller wrote an article entitled Some Observations on the Text-Critical Function of the Umlauts in Vaticanus, with Special Attention to 1 Corinthians 14.34-35 to refute Payne's position, arguing that Payne misinterpreted his findings. Payne wrote a followup article in response to this entitled The Text-Critical Function of the Umlauts in Vaticanus, with Special Attention to 1 Corinthians 14.34-35: A Response to J. Edward Miller, where he makes the case that the bar-umlaut does indeed have a special meaning.

Further work was published in 2007 studying umlauts in Codex Vaticanus, although it is not specifically related to the text in question (but sheds light on it). Unfortunately the work was published in French (and I am not aware of an English translation).

In 2009, Payne published his book Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul's Letters which contains his most current thoughts and most compelling arguments for 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 to be considered an interpolation, along with his views on all of the other passages dealing with gender roles in the Paul's letters. The book is very scholarly and does a great job considering multiple viewpoints, employing both historical-grammatical interpretation and textual criticism to make his points.

Despite Payne and others scholars' findings concerning distigmai in the text, conservative scholars still insist that this is insufficient evidence that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is an interpolation. Daniel B. Wallace summarizes this perspective in an article entitled The Textual Problem of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, where he argues that despite the variance in where verses 34-35 are placed in the text, they must have been a part of the original text because they exist in all of the early manuscripts. Wallace makes the case that the Apostle Paul himself added the paragraphos.

In summary, there has been significant research conducted on both sides of this issue. Future work remains to be done concerning the meaning and dating of distigmai in manuscripts.

  • Excellent summary, Dan! Also worth noting is that there are a few other interpolations to the New Testament text. I wish that various versions would note these in all cases. This is just basic honesty and transparency. From history, we know that various people tried to change the New Testament. There's a margin note by an Abbott that severely reprimanded a monk who was trying to edit Hebrews 1:3,4 to fit his own ideas. Infuriating, but true!
    – Dieter
    Aug 18 at 1:37
  • 1
    The edifice of Payne's conclusions has taken a serious hit. In the most recent session of SBL the following paper was presented which seriously calls into question Payne's conclusions: x.com/nelson_hsieh7/status/1727109074230378686?s=20
    – Epimanes
    Nov 22 at 8:38
  • Thanks for sharing!
    – Dan
    Nov 22 at 16:33


Using the principle that a text is innocent until shown guilty, the text in question was part of Paul's original letter to the Corinthians.

Since there are two strands of textual tradition on this passage, there are only a few possibilities:

  1. The verses belong between 33 and 36. (The traditional view.)
  2. The Western texts are correct and the verses belong after 40.
  3. The verses are a late addition and do not belong in either place or anywhere else among Paul's letters.
  4. The verses were added shortly after the letter (or at least that portion) was finished or once it was received in Corinth.

I don't think anyone argues for #2 since #1 is the harder reading. Part of the problem here is that the instructions on women speaking in church are parenthetical to Paul's main argument: that the exercise of spiritual gifts should be done in careful order. Ironically, the instructions to women that they ought not to interrupt, themselves interrupt Paul's thoughts. It appears that after the letter was written, somebody went back and added this footnote to the text.

Where would they do that? The simplest solution (and it seems common enough among scribes) was to add the admonition to the margin. And it's possible that the start of the marginalia was around verse 33 and the end was around 40. If so, scribes could reasonably add the text to either location when making a copy. They might also add some sort of mark to signify special handling. We don't have the original autograph, so we can only speculate. Note, however, that omitting the text is also a form of guessing about the original letter.

Who wrote the verses? We can't know. If they were part of the original document, it strains credulity to imagine that Paul did not approve of them. This isn't the place to argue whether Paul authored the Pastorals, but even if he didn't, the early church would not find these verses foreign to the man:

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.—1st Timothy 2:11-12 (ESV)

One interesting difference between the instructions to Timothy and to Corinth is that the later does not use the first person pronoun. If verse 37 were part of the movable text, it would be harder to suggest that Paul did not know or approve of the command:

If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.—1st Corinthians 14:37 ESV)

Therefore there is an outside chance that the text was added without Paul's knowledge either before the letter was sent or after it arrived in Corinth. It's even possible that someone remembered Paul saying something like this at another time and put the verse in the margin as a note. Possible, but it seems to me unlikely without further evidence.

At any rate, since these words are universally included in all known copies of the letter (though not all place it after verse 33), we can be confident that the instruction was first incorporated very early in the history of the text. In fact, at the latest the verses would need to be part of the earliest copy circulated outside of Corinth.

I strongly recommend reading the article by Dr. Wallace (Senior NT Editor of the NET Bible) which was included nearly in full in the NET Bible footnote on these verses. This was my main source of information for this answer.

  • It looks like the NET commentary contains the entire Wallace article I quoted, lol. See bible.org/article/textual-problem-1-corinthians-1434-35
    – Dan
    Feb 15, 2012 at 17:47
  • @digitaloday: I should have guessed. Dr. Wallace is the Senior NT Editor of the NET Bible. Goes to show I didn't track down every link in your answer. :-( Thanks for catching this. Feb 15, 2012 at 18:05
  • 1
    Not a problem @JonEricson. Posting the content of Wallace's article is helpful to the discussion. My response was concerned with summarizing a lot of different authors' perspectives over time (and some of the banter back and forth in academia), so I didn't quote as much. It was just funny because as I was reading your response I was thinking, "This commentary sounds a lot like the article I read by Wallace." Then I realized it was lol. I am surprised they copied and pasted his entire article into the NET translation note rather than quote part of it with a reference to the rest of it.
    – Dan
    Feb 15, 2012 at 18:11
  • @digitaloday: I edited the second half of the answer out. I like to copy these footnotes in full to fix the formatting problems, but I'll have to look out for copies of the text properly formatted as articles to link to in the future. Feb 15, 2012 at 18:14
  • 2
    I can think of another possibility: 5. The verses were added, without Paul's knowledge, shortly after the letter was written. For example, maybe someone in the Corinth church added them to the margin of the original copy. Or maybe someone added them into the margin of the first copy made from the original letter, then the second copy was circulated while the church held onto the original. Feb 15, 2012 at 18:32

Here is the textual critical data from UBS5 on 1 Cor 14:34, 35 -

The following MSS include these verses in their common place between V33 & V36 (with minor variants):

  • P46, א, A, B, Psi,0150, 0243, 6, 33, 81, 104, 256, 365, 424, 436, 459, 1175, 1241, 1319, 1573, 1739, 1852, 1881, 1912, 1962, 2127, 2200, 2464, K, L, Lect, it(o), vg, syr(p)(h)(pal), cop(sa)(bo)(fay), arm, eth, geo, slav, Origen, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Pelagius

The following MSS include these verse after V40:

  • 14, 40, D, F, G, it(ar)(b)(d)(f)(g), vg(ms), Ambrosiaster, Sedulius-Scottus

UNS5 gives a probability that this is the correct text in thgis instance of {B} = almost certain

In Brice Metzger's "Textual Commentary of the GNT", he records this material on 1 Cor 14:34, 35:

Several witnesses, chiefly Western, transpose verse 34, 35 to follow ver. 40 (D F G 88* it(d)(g) Ambrosiaster, Sedulius Scotus [sic]). Such scribal alterations represent attempts to find a more appropriate location in the context for Paul's directive about women.

The evidence of the sixth-century Codex Fuldensis is ambiguous. The Latin text of 1 Cor 14 run onward throughout the chapter to ver. 40. Following ver. 33 is a scribal siglum that directs the reader to a note in the lower margin of the page. This note provides the text of verses 36 though 40. Does the scribe, without actually deleting verses 34-35 from the text, intend the liturgist to omit them when reading the lesson?

The following edited editions of the GNT have V34, V35, in their common location, between V33 and V36:

  • W&H, UBS4/5, NA27/28, NA4, Souter, NIVGNT, THGNT, Majority Text (Farstad et al), R&P Byzantine text (2005), GNT-F35 Pickering, Greek Orthodox Text = Apostolic Text 1904 & 1912, Textus Receptus.

For completeness, I also note that Jerome's Latin vulgate text of 400 also has the same verse ordering.

I am unaware of any edited Greek text that changes the usual verse ordering in 1 Cor 14.

  • Unless I misunderstood this answer of yours, should it be included as Paul’s writing or no? (Likelihood type case).
    – Cork88
    Jun 19, 2022 at 15:50
  • 2
    There is zero evidence that this was NOT part of Paul's autograph, ie, it appears to just as original as any other part of 1 Cor. No MSS that has 1 Cor 14 omits these verses.
    – Dottard
    Jun 19, 2022 at 21:03
  • then what about those who say it may be a scribal gloss? They’re not going on full evidence?
    – Cork88
    Jun 19, 2022 at 21:52
  • 1
    @Cork88 - they will need to muster some evidence for this assertion. The reason that it is described as a scribal gloss is its APPARENT inconvenient truth about women (which is much misunderstood) but that is another question.
    – Dottard
    Jun 19, 2022 at 21:55
  • 1
    @Cork88 - for the sake of completeness, I do not believe that 1 Cor 14:34, 35 means that women cannot teach, etc, but that is another question.
    – Dottard
    Jun 19, 2022 at 21:59

I was very sceptical of the idea that the verses were not authentic to Paul until I researched it for my book (Men and Women in Christ: Fresh Light from the Biblical Texts, IVP, 2019). I ended up concluding that they were an addition by someone else. I can’t reproduce 45 pages of discussion here but the following brief comments may be of help.

  1. If they were part of Paul’s original text, there is no probable explanation for the variations of position.
  2. The hypothesis that they were added as a marginal comment when Paul’s letters were collected for copying and circulation fits all the evidence that we have. As the church became more publicly visible, someone thought it would be a good idea to avoid offence to outsiders by complying with cultural norms that women should not speak in assemblies. It would have appeared a price worth paying for removing an obstacle to the hearing of the Christian message. Compare the motivation in 1 Cor 10:32-11:1; 13:1-13; 14:23-25. Scribes thought the words were part of the letter itself and inserted them where they thought best.
  3. The bottom margin of Codex Fuldensis contains a corrected version of the passage (Section 64 of the letter, in the numbering then in use) which omits what we call vv34-35 and makes another correction in what we call v40.
  • Welcome to Bible Hermeneutics SE and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    May 26, 2021 at 12:59

Payne and Fee make the argument that those verses are an interpolation. Payne makes the assertion that the distigmai (umlauts in the margin) are notations of textual variants. Here is Fee:

But the ultimate problem for Pauline authorship lies with the phrase “even as the Law says.” First, when Paul elsewhere appeals to “the Law,” he regularly cites the text (e.g., 9:8; 14:21), usually to support a point he himself is making. Nowhere else in the entire corpus does he appeal to the Law in this general, but absolute, way as binding on Christian behavior. More difficult yet is the fact that the Law does not say any such thing. An early passage in Genesis (3:16) is often appealed to, but that text does not say what is argued by this glossator. If that were the case, then one must admit that Paul is appealing not to the written Torah itself but to an oral understanding of Torah such as is found in rabbinic Judaism. A similar usage is reflected in Josephus, who says, “The woman, says the Law, is in all things inferior to the man. Let her accordingly be submissive.” This usage suggests that the provenance of the glossator was Jewish Christianity. Under any view this is nearly impossible to reconcile with Paul.

<Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Commentary on the New Testament. Revised, Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014), 791.>

There are problems with this. The first is that his argument is not actually from the textual evidence we actually have. Rosner explains it this way:

No witness lacks this text and the arguments in favor of its authenticity are substantial. The fact that the witnesses that transpose these verses to a later place in this chapter reflect a similar (Western) textual tradition has led most scholars to conclude that the transposition reflects an attempt “to find a more appropriate location in the context for Paul’s directive concerning women.”

<Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, Pillar New Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 719.>

The extant manuscripts actually have these verses. Here's the CNTTS database with the list of witnesses:

Those that include the verses:

P46 P123 01 02 03 044 049 1 33 35 69 76 131 209 218 424 489 927 945 999 1243 1244 1245 1249 1315 1319 1448 1505 1563 1573 1628 1646 1720 1735 1739 1768 1874 1876 1877 1881 1900 1962 2400 2495 MT SBL TR

Those that include the verses after 14:40:

06 010 012

Note that there are no witnesses that omit these verses from the manuscript entirely. Fee's argument has undergone severe scrutiny in recent years, due to this lack of actual manuscript evidence.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that the distigmai in Vaticanus are demarcations of variants. Just as likely (if not more), they are notations of pericopes. Just as Fee's conclusions have undergone much scrutiny, so also have Payne's.

Finally, as reading material suggestions, I suggest two to get up to speed (if anyone would really want to do so) on the arguments:

In the second link, you find ample comments and articles from experts in the field. These two links are the place to start (!!)


Is there any other evidence we should consider? Answer:

An interpolation is to insert something of a different nature into something else. If we believe that all scripture is God-Breathed, and accept that God is not dead, but is capable of perfectly preserving his word, we arrive at the conclusion that either there are not any interpolations; or interpolations are God-Breathed. The alternative is to say that it is flawed, and accept the mentality of the Muslims and Mormons; that a new revelation is needed, because the old is flawed and needs an update.

Most discussion regarding interpolation is tantamount to wanting some or part of the Bible is false. If any piece of it is false, we have little security that it is not all false and we come to it with the idea that we must choose what is false and what is true. Therefore, when we faithfully transcribe these texts into English, without trying to modernize them or substantially change them such as making God female or taking very liberal views, we arrive at the most faithful translation, and that is the Word of God. Anything else is twisting the Word of God, and such twists were used by Satan in the wilderness when tempting Christ.

The goal of those scribes who believed in God was not to add or redact to the books, but rather to faithfully preserve them, knowing and believing in the fact that they were transcribing and preserving the very Word of God. So, for example, when we arrive at a place where a priest might have two scrolls, one with a piece of scripture in one place and one with it in another close-by, is it not reasonable to put it in a margin or leave a note about where it should be? I bet I made a typing error here in this very block of text; how will you interpret it? Many arguments were made regarding the Bible in previous generations, a major event that proved most of these were not interpolations and that the Bible had not mutated was the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Therefore, the answer I would give is no, this is not an interpolation, and if it was, it would still be the Word of God. For if I argue regarding even one thing's authenticity, I argue against the authenticity of the whole; for a little dung in bread makes the whole loaf unclean. That doesn't mean that these passages are understood correctly, nor does it mean they are used correctly. If I said I was really cool... you could interpret that as I was cold and might do so without understanding where I was from. And if in the same text, I said was on fire, some might say I had contradicted myself. Eating Ramen in Korea has a metaphorical meaning; as do head coverings and I believe most of what Paul said was written in those metaphors and because of those metaphors. So, arguing that women today should have their head covered or men shouldn't have long hair is ridiculous because that wasn't what Paul was saying; they were metaphors for what was happening in this highly sexualized Greek setting heavily influenced by Aphrodite and Artemis deities. And this scripture was his prescription for those churches. We take and utilize that scripture because it is guidance, but we should not entrap ourselves in rules and regulations like the Pharisees, but rather try to understand the historical, metaphorical, and internal context, veracity, and integrity. If there was something special to do with prayer, I am sure that when Jesus was asked how to pray, He would have given that instruction. So, we know from that alone that Paul is probably speaking metaphorically into a situation that we do not fully understand because we do not have the full historical documentation

  • You will remember that this church is not the only church to have issues... In Acts, we discover the calling of Stephen and others to help with the management of the church. I imagine that as the church was heating up and struggling with Greek Mythology and more people were coming in to argue, to learn, or to gain reputation (because Greeks loved a debate and forum, they didn't have TV, you know) chaos spread, and what we don't have is why Paul wrote this letter, but the only answer would be that news reached him, and was probably even sent to him. He speaks into that chaos to bring order. Aug 17 at 19:35
  • Stop, and picture it for a moment, you are at an amphitheatre or in a large privately owned courtyard around you are easily a thousand people, on the stage is Timothy, people are trying to listen, but no rules have been placed for the newborn religion. To the side are the priestesses of Diana, and they are questioning and subverting arguments. Meanwhile, it is a sexual revolution and you see women and men struggling to outclass each other. Some men are dressed as women and vice versa... some women are there to pick up men; you can get food here, the Christians are known for sharing... Aug 17 at 19:49
  • Nearby a woman chatters about how she is going to be a priestess for this new religion since she can't hold a public office. Someone else laughs that any priestess of Diana or Aphrodite could easily guide this new religion very well. A man nearby sneers that this place is a joke as someone else starts speaking in gibberish. With the above picture in mind, what might that scroll from Paul say as Timothy unfurls it? Aug 17 at 20:00
  • 2000 years later, we begin arguing why Paul wrote what he wrote, saying it must be interpolations or false, all the while not even realizing or picturing what was happening. Sola Fide! is how I approach the Bible... not coming in judgement, but coming to learn and picturing the Bible as the inerrant source of truth, realizing that I may not understand every scenario, but I do understand the Holy Spirit given to me. I won't tear down the Bible's witness as a lawyer would do in a court, but rather build the Bible up as the sole authority. Aug 17 at 20:15

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