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1 Corinthians 14:34 NASB

34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.

Which law was Paul referring to in the above text?

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  • 1
    The Authorised Version has a marginal note to Genesis 3:16 thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 8 '19 at 11:32
  • Chrysostom's commentary can be found here.
    – Lucian
    Jul 9 '19 at 0:10
  • @Ruminator How can a very specific and important question regarding the intriguing phrase "just as the Law also says" be regarded as a duplicate of a general question about the meaning of the entire passage? Dec 28 '19 at 16:47
  • No worries; I didn't move to close as a duplicate, just noted the similarity.
    – Ruminator
    Dec 29 '19 at 17:07
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In his commentary on 1 Timothy 2:12 Adam Clarke writes:

Nor to usurp authority - A woman should attempt nothing, either in public or private, that belongs to man as his peculiar function. This was prohibited by the Roman laws: In multis juris nostri articulis deterior est conditio foeminarum quam masculorun,; l. 9, Pap. Lib. 31, Quaest. Foeminoe ab omnibus officiis civilibus vel publicis remotae sunt; et ideo nec judicis esse possunt, nec magistratum gerere, nec postulare, nec pro alio invenire, nec procuratores existere; l. 2, de Reg. Juris. Ulp. Lib. i. Ad Sab. - Vid. Poth. Pand. Justin., vol. i. p. 13.

“In our laws the condition of women is, in many respects, worse than that of men. Women are precluded from all public offices; therefore they cannot be judges, nor execute the function of magistrates; they cannot sue, plead, nor act in any case, as proxies.” They were under many other disabilities, which may be seen in different places of the Pandects. But to be in silence - It was lawful for men in public assemblies to ask questions, or even interrupt the speaker when there was any matter in his speech which they did not understand; but this liberty was not granted to women. See the note on 1Co_14:34, 1Co_14:35 (note).

Paul was evidently referring to Roman law, not to Jewish law.

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  1. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.

The first thing to note is that in Greek, there are not two different words for either man and husband, or woman and wife. As it pertains here, "Let your women..." can just as easily, and perhaps more accurately, be translated as "Let your wives...". You can see this at the following link:

https://biblehub.com/greek/1135.htm

The context must be the determining factor, as since, in the very next verse, it speaks of asking husbands at home.

So, wives must "keep silence". Now, what does this mean? If you look at this link:

https://biblehub.com/greek/4601.htm

you can see a range of meanings, more than just being silent. It also means to "hold one's peace" and to be "kept secret".

I submit that holding one's peace is the right way to understand the passage. Holding one's peace means to not lose control over one's tongue, to know when to refrain from speaking, so that peaceful relations can be maintained (think James 3:8). Remember the context. In 1 Corinthians 14, right before this verse, Paul gave a pretty thorough summary of how certain gifts of the Holy Spirit should operate, particularly prophecy and diverse kinds of tongues with interpretation. The adjoining verses previous to 34 speak of the following:

1.) Allowing two to three prophets in the meeting speak.

2.) Letting others then judge what they have said.

3.) If something prophetic is revealed to someone else, the prophet who is speaking is to "hold his peace" so that the other person may interject their revelation. This holding of the prophet's peace is from the same Greek word as keeping silent in verse 34. So, even men, prophets no less, are enjoined to "keep silence", same as the women/wives of the church.

4.) Allowing all that are present an opportunity to prophesy one by one so that everyone may learn and be comforted. All that are present includes women, since 1 Corinthians 11:5 grants women the right to pray and prophesy in the church, provided they are properly "covered" or "veiled", as it were.

5.) The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, meaning even prophets or those prophesying can control themselves, hold their peace, choose when to speak, and when to refrain, not speak over someone, vie for attention, shout someone down, and etc.

6.) God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (that is, if properly obeyed, God can and will help everyone correctly hold their peace, and not lose control of themselves, men and women both, in every church everywhere).

It is into that context that Paul writes about women/wives holding their peace. When he writes stating they are not permitted to speak, it's in this sense. If a woman or wife is going to lose control of herself, endanger the peace, add confusion, or etc., by not being in submission/subjection to her husband, then she must, to put it bluntly, shut up. Particularly when a prophet is speaking, particularly when she doesn't understand what has been said by that prophet.

It doesn't mean she can't even say "hi" or "Praise the Lord" in worship, or pray when the saints pray. Rather, she can and should pray, and she can and should prophesy, as the Spirit allows, in the decency and order God ordains. Remember what prophesying is: it edifies, exhorts, and comforts. It doesn't teach or indoctrinate (1 Corinthians 14:3). If a woman/wife is going to attempt to do that, it must only be under her husband's permission, and only among other women and with children, lest 1 Timothy 2:11 be violated.

Going further, remember that Corinth began as a synagogue, among Jews. The law of the synagogue regarding the mechitzah requires that men and women be separated.

See here: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/mehitzah-separate-seating-in-the-synagogue/

It is likely this is what Paul meant when he referred to "law" in verse 34. There is no actual law in all of the Torah that states a woman or wife cannot speak, that is, that not talking during religious rituals is the means whereby a woman or wife proves she is under obedience to her husband.

So, imagine a scenario in which a wife, who is separated from her husband by a mechitzah, who is tending to the children, while a prophet is speaking to the church, suddenly interrupts to call over to her husband because she doesn't understand something and wants her husband to explain it to her.

That would be out of order. She needs to hold her peace and ask her husband at home. If a woman/wife has missed something important, likely because she was tending their children, or helping with the meal, or for any other reason, that would otherwise bless, edify, exhort, or comfort her, it is the husband's job, at home, to share what was said, what was missed, or not understood, and explain it to the woman/wife, and thus, she gets fed what the Spirit was saying through the prophet, just at a later time, that is, at home, away from the meeting.

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In the bible it says to obey the one who has the rule over you. The original, hebraic understanding of "ruler" would mean, the one whom God has chosen to give you the word of God. The one who adds to or provides more understanding. The God head: God head of Jesus, Jesus head of man, man head of woman. The biblical understanding of the word, "head" can mean the one who "came first," not "head," as in "head of state," or some other hierarchical position. Man was to "rule" over the woman, giving her the word, instruction, wisdom. Since he was to give her the word she was instructed to keep silent and ask her own husband at home, not disrupting a church meeting.

The Church was to keep order. That is the law to keep order. Moses gave the law, but where does it say that a woman must keep silent in the congregation? The Old Testament teaches us that there were women of God such as prophetesses etc... The Bible also says "all are called but few are chosen." All includes women. Most scholars overlook this wording and choose the one that says, MANY are called and few are chosen. The word also tells us God is not a "respecter of persons," (Acts 10:34 KJV) but deals with whomever is willing.

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As Stirling March wrote, Paul explicitly speaks of women in light of their respective social/cultural position under the authority of man as a whole. The woman is the weaker version of man according to 1 Peter 3:7, and Paul makes clear to note in 1 Corinthians 11 that Man is the head of the woman as Christ is the head of man and God is the head of Christ. Moreover, Peter states that women should consider their Husbands as Lord. Biblical context means comparing the Bible to The Bible. There was, in fact, not a single recorded Biblical instance of a woman addressing a religious congregation in any way. It simply was not done. Also, when Paul refers to The Law in the entirety of 1 Corinthians, he quoted the old testament exclusively. It makes no sense (except to satisfy one’s biases) to assume that Paul would be referring to any other law except the one he exclusively referred to earlier on in 1 Corinthians without making a point to differentiate the two. The question then comes down to, is Scripture God-Breathed or not? Did God not choose the words that Paul wrote? Does verse 38 in 1 Corinthians 14 not state that the preceding instructions were The Lord’s Commandment?

It seems many here want to avoid explicit teaching in order to satisfy their seemingly secular desire to get along with contemporary culture. The word “Speak”, which is used more than several times in 1 Corinthians 14 alludes to all kinds of speech. It is a term that is used as a general descriptor throughout all of the New Testament. Paul could have easily used any other word to specify the kind of speech women were to not engage in, but he didn’t. The general descriptor for all forms of audible expression were used. He also stated this in the plural when it came to who received this instruction in verse 34; as in all churches, not only the one. That means the Greek and the Roman churches both received the same instructions.

It is presumptuous at best to conclude that women were praying or prophesying in the midst of religious congregation. The context of 1 Corinthians 11 when speaking of head coverings is abstract and not specified when it comes to environment. Everyone who reads their Bible know that women pray and prophesy. However, there is no instance of a woman audibly doing so within the setting of religious congregation found in the entirety of Scripture.

To conclude this simply and bluntly, The Bible says what it says. God Says what He says. 1 Corinthians 14:33-38 says what it says. Arguing against it is not going to change what it says. Women are not allowed to speak in Church, period. It is disgraceful for women to speak in church, period. Women are to be subject to men, period; for women are not the dominant form of mankind, only man is. Men and women are not equal. God can speak through males and females, but in Worship of The Lord, we worship Him in order. That means: God First, Christ Second, Man third, Woman last. Women have nothing to say but to receive. They can Pray and Prophesy in their own hearts to themselves.

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  • Largely, I agree. But what about Priscilla and Aquila ? (Sometimes she is first, sometimes it is he. And they both instructed Apollos, but, yes indeed, she only in Aquila's presence.) And Deborah ? (Yes, in concert with Barak.) And the prophetess Huldah ? Up-voted +1, but with slight reservations. Women may prophesy (among themselves, covered) and even to men, in seemly fashion, covered. And in a day of weak men, they might outshine the males. Welcome to BH. Please see the Tour and Help (below, bottom left),
    – Nigel J
    Mar 25 at 22:48
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As best I can work out, there is no quotation from the Torah here. There may be an allusion to Gen 3:16 (according to UBS5 appendix and most commentaries) about women being obedient to husbands, but it is a strained allusion. In any case, such an injunction should be read in conjunction with Eph 5:21 as applying to all people, not just women.

Further, the same instruction of silence was also applied to all other church attendees in the previous few verses, unless an individual had something significant to say. The same must also apply in v34 too.

As to the source such laws - It does not come from the Torah but Paul's divine revelation such as Paul's own summary of this teaching in 1 Cor 14:39, 40: do not forbid anyone speaking but let it all be done decently and in order; that is, remain silent until after others have spoken. See 2 Peter 3:16, where Peter refers to Paul's writings as authoritative scripture.

There is a similar phenomenon of Paul using his own writings as authoritative in 1 Cor 7:12

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Anyone who said that this is a roman law is clearly not reading scripture properly, firstly let me state that it is clear what this is a law of God because firstly he said both to Ephesis women by Tim for them trying to gain power in the church and he said not only that they can not teach which THEY WERE DOING in ephesis as pagan churchs allowed it see - https://margmowczko.com/the-prominence-of-women-in-the-cultic-life-of-ephesus/ - it is clear that there is an order because in 1 CORINTHAINS 14:34 the same thing is said about not speaking but it says for it DISHONORS A HUSBAND for them to speak in the congregation what does this have to do regarding ROMAN law how does going against Romans law dishonor a husband if GOD ALLOWS womens teachers because wouldn't they say its HONORABLE BUT ROMANS WONT LET IT? Or maybe it is dishonorable because the MAN IS THE HEAD OF THE WOMAN the MAN is supposed to be seen as the head not having women teaching as if they are the head for the Woman is subject to her Husbands law while she lives.

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  • This is extremely hard to understand.
    – user39728
    Mar 4 at 19:34
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The law concerning this commandment was given in the book of Genesis. When God declared "Let us make man in our image and likeness and let them have dominion over the earth"he was referring to the Male man. Proof of this is in the fact that immediately after making Adam,God set him about his purpose to dominate(cultivate) the earth even before he made the woman. Then he made the woman! He then gave them a command not to eat from the tree of Good and Evil.Eve deceived by Satan made a decision to disobey God.Adam did not. 1 Tim.2:14 Adam was not deceived but it was Eve who was deceived and was of the transgression. Adam's mistake was to listen to his wife. God told him"Because you have listened to your wife,the ground is now cursed". That was the law! That a man of God is never to receive counsel from his wife seeing as there is nothing in her that did not come out of him but in him is the original essence of God that does not exist in her. Everything in a man is not in a woman but everything in her comes from him!God never went back to the earth after making man and never breathed himself into another human being! Not because of the sin or transgression was the ground cursed but because he received counsel from his wife which was out of order seeing she came out of him and dominion was given to him not her.

Further evidence of this is when God declared to the woman that her husband would have authority(dominion-same word used) and rule over her. From that point on we see much evidence of man's authority over the woman and that she is commanded to serve under man's authority. Furthermore in no divine ceremony or ritual in the bible is a woman allowed to participate verbally period!From Leviticus on. Now it may be said that this pertains to marriage. God intended for all men to be married unless they give themselves to God himself in ministry! His wisdom tells us man should not be alone! In order for the command to be fruitful and multiply given to all mankind to be fulfilled,they must be married! Therefore woman may possess gifts of the Spirit but may not address a congregation of men(and women)to provide counsel from God but are to receive from him at home!

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  • Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your contribution. Please remember to take the tour (link below) to better understand how this site works. This answer could use some references to support the assertions.
    – Dottard
    Mar 5 at 8:46
  • As a new contributor, I just offer these comments in a spirit of helpfulness. A trivial detail is that you used exclamation marks 8 times in this short answer, which renders their use virtually ineffective. A serious point is that when you make adamant statements such as, "in him is the original essence of God that does not exist in her" you need to back such claims up with biblical/hermeneutic sources. You cannot expect people to just take your word for that (and other startling statements). I hope you find that helpful.
    – Anne
    Mar 5 at 17:04
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The answer is Deuteronomy 27:9,10:

"Then Moses and the Levitical priests spoke to all Israel:

“Be silent, O Israel, and listen!

This day you have become the people of YHWH your God. You shall therefore obey the voice of YHWH your God and follow His commandments and statutes I am giving you today.” — Deut 27:9,10:

Also of note is that the law was given to the entire congregation, regardless of gender.

"...But they would not listen…" Isa 28:11-12

This section of Paul's letter should be read to include from...

"In the Law it is written... I will speak to this people. They won’t even hear me that way, says the Lord...” (v21)

... through ...

"...as the law also says" (v34)

...to the end of the chapter—including his conclusion (v37-40) which is for the whole section regarding silence, and order, for all, in congregation worship. — 1 Cor 14

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  • 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
    Aug 10 at 3:14
  • Angela - how does this answer the question? What connection is there between the OT texts you quote and 1 Cor 14:34? Does Paul refer to the 10 commandment law, or the Levitical law, or the Noahide law, or the Abrahamic law, or the Royal Davidic law?? Or perhaps some other law?
    – Dottard
    Aug 10 at 7:54
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I believe there is a key factor missing in many discussions regarding 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

It is a proven fact that the above verses were not written in the original text that Apostle Paul wrote. Those verses were actually found written in the margin on the side of a manuscript and no scholar can authenticate that Apostle Paul actually wrote them. That is why in some manuscripts of 1 Corinthians 14, the verses about women remaining silent come after verse 40 rather than verses 34 and 35. There are many articles from reputable sources over the internet validating this fact.

Here are some interesting observations. If you look at the text of the original manuscript in context of the surrounding scriptures to these verses, it is about the prophets speaking in order (verses 29-33), then these verses 34 and 35 are mentioned about women remaining silent, and immediately in verse 36, Apostle Paul resumes writing about the prophets again. It doesn’t flow and is obvious it was some sort of an afterthought, but from whom? That may be why some translations of the Bible list the verses at the end after verse 40.

In addition, if we want to stay within the letter of the law, this verse is not addressing unmarried women. They specifically state these women should ask their husbands at home. What about the unmarried ones?

A most interesting question to pose is, why would Apostle Paul reference “the law” in verse 34 as validation about women remaining silent when he preached in his other Epistles we are no longer under the law, but under grace and there is no gender in God's eyes (Galatians 3:28)? Which law is he referring to? There isn't one within the 613 Mosaic laws or the Ten Commandments, and Apostle Paul did not teach Judaism practices (i.e. Tanakh, Gemara or Talmud). Plus, the Corinthian converts were mostly Gentiles and not Jews. Therefore, if it were a country/city law, that doesn't appear to fit either, because during Paul's time, Corinthia worshipped a female god (Aphrodite) and had many women leaders as did many of the other Gentile cities He evangelized in. It makes no sense for them to restrict women in that way as a law.

More questions to ask oneself is - Do you believe Apostle Paul actually wrote those verses and do they concur with his other writings? Yes, he did write in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 that women should learn in quietness and submission, but that is between a husband and wife. All women are not to be submitted to every man, and cannot a woman ever graduate from the student (the learner)?

Most importantly, does 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 represent the heart of God and the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross? Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor. 3:17).

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  • Interesting points. Thanks for sharing them. Dec 6 '20 at 15:58

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