Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.

  • 1 Corinthians 14:34

What law? Please provide a reference.


6 Answers 6


In Leviticus there is no law requesting that women should be quiet. In Jewish literature there are also no laws requiring women to be silent in a synagogue, probably because women were usually separated from the men in some capacity (Sukkah, Talmud). Women in Jewish synagogues often led a separate prayer for the women in the synagogue.

1 Corinthians 14:34 has no relation to the Talmud or Torah in any shape or form and is entirely a Christian discourse, Paul also uses the word ekklesiais, which usually referred to the new Christian churches. What Paul is talking about is a woman's need to be submissive (hypotassesthōsan), which is mentioned in Genesis 3:16 "To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you shall deliver children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” He is saying submissiveness to men is required by the Old Testament.


Paul does not say that the Law command women to be silent. The argument Paul uses from the Law is that women are to be insubmission as the Law also says. Remaining silent in the assembly is simply a way of demonstrating that submission.


The cited verse does not say that there is a law that women aren't allowed to speak.

The logic of the argument is as follows:

Women shouldn't be permitted to speak because, as the law says, they should be submissive.

The idea that women should be submissive to men is throughout scripture. But even the prohibition on speaking is taken out of context, which is an extended discussion of people interrupting the service of the church by speaking in tongues spontaneously and disruptively prophesying.

Apparrently, there was a problem in Corinth of the women interrupting the speaker by speaking in tongues, and Paul was in effect forbidding them to speak and reminding them that they should be be quiet and submit to their husbands. If they had a question, they were to ask their husbands after the service. Possibly the husbands in that church were not the ones interrupting the service, and therefore they were not the ones commanded to be silent.

One of the issues with reading these letters to the churches is that you are listening to one statement in a conversation, as the churches wrote to Paul for guidance or may have asked Paul for advice on the normal issues of church administration, and we are seeing just one message in this back and forth.

There is just no substitute for spending time reading the context and really trying to understand what these things are about, rather than just grabbing a couple of clauses, stringing them together, and then demanding an explanation.


Did you know there is a symbol within this statement, that women should be silent, that is the equivalent of a quotation mark? There was no punctuation in greek but there was a symbol that looks like an n with the later leg hanging low. This greek symbol when used with a quote means "ridiculous!" or "What!" Some theologians ascertain that Paul was not the one saying that woman should be silent, they should not be permitted to speak, as he was just teaching about how men and women are to speak in all of the congregations. That would be contradicting himself. There is also no "law" that is referred to here in the Jewish text, which means the person demanding that the women not speak (not preach, speak)is not very familiar with Jewish law, so that is another reason why it is most likely not Paul. After this supposed quote, Paul states "do you think the gospel came for you and me only? Again I say... and he encourages men and women to speak. Granted he is using the word prophecy, but what is prophecy? Speaking out the heart of God. Dare I say, what is happening when one preaches? You can find the references to this in the book that has hundreds of references that are excellent. Very well done on the research end. It is called "Why Not Women?" by Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton. The leaders of Youth With A mission. The largest short-term missions agency in the world that has sent millions of men and women to preach the gospel worldwide. If it is true and Paul is correcting a letter that came to him regarding this, then we have been making up doctrine to keep 1/2 the population from preaching the gospel for thousands of years. Sounds like a plot of satan not of God to have the gospel muzzled. Especially as Jesus picked a woman to preach to men as for the first time the gospel was every told in the upper room. Jesus rebuked the men in one of the gospels for not listening to the women. Pricilla and Aquila were pastors affirmed by Paul. A female pastor. Phoebe was sent by Paul to speak in all of the churches in Rome. We have to look at all of scripture. It is amazing how one quotation mark changes the entire reading of these verses. Look for the symbol. It is still in most King James Versions and all greek versions.

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The statement "as the law says" in the OT should be understood as describing women's submission to their husbands, not to keeping silent. The rule against speaking in church was based on the Paul's own authority. This is supported by 1 Timothy 2:12: "I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent." He there is no reference to legal authority but a simple declaration of a rule instituted by the apostle. (See footnote for arguments against the author of either quote being Paul.)

Female submission to one's husband, as noted in other answers, was thought to be instituted by God as part of His curse to Eve:

your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you (Gen. 4:16)

It is further demonstrated by the OT divorce law, which permitted a man to divorce his wife but not the other way around. The commandment, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house, you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male slave, his female slave, his ox, his donkey or anything which belongs to your neighbor" (Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21), is not a prohibition about sexual desire, it is a law against contriving to take property belonging to one's neighbor. A woman belonged to her father prior to marriage and to her husband afterward.

Conclusion: the law in question was the law requiring a wife's submission to her husband. There was no Jewish law against a woman speaking in the synagogue.

Note: Biblical critics hold that 1 Timothy was not written by Paul, and some also think that the quote in the OP is an interpolation. Elsewhere in the same letter Paul gives a guideline for for women prophesying: "any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head." (11:5) Prophecy was done in church meetings, not in private. Textual critics point out the rule in the OP appears in different places in various manuscripts, leading the the idea that it was not in the original letter. See this Christianity Today article for details.


Jewish law alone, since Paul wouldn't be bothered about pagan dirty laws of Rome. The Greeks and Romans had women priests, & goddesses, prostitutes and temple prostitution, women who did not cover themselves in submission, but acted equal as men. Even if you don't find an apparent reference intended by Paul, you should assume the main text which he referenced elsewhere:

[1Tim 2:12-15 NHEB] But I do not permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. Adam was not deceived, but the woman, being deceived, has fallen into disobedience; but she will be delivered through the childbirth, if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with good judgment.

The midrashic sense for her need to learn passively, due to her .... nature. We also know that a woman's testimony was considered half of a man's. For details, you must look into the Jewish roots of scripture, the midrash, Talmud etc for a better understanding of Christianity, since Christians know very little about the scriptures. David Stern, a Jewish roots Christian commentator writes on this verse:

As the Torah also says. See v. 21N, Ro 3:19N and Mt 5:17&N. If Sha'ul means the Five Books of Moses, he may be thinking of Genesis 3:16 (compare Ep 5:22, 1 Ti 2:8-15). If he is thinking of the Tanakh as a whole, there are a number of places where a subordinate role for women is assumed or prescribed, although other places envision an equal or superior role; see the article on "Woman" in the Encyclopedia Judaica for references. The Talmud reports that Rabbi El'azar ben-'Azaryah (early 2nd century) gave a homily on the verse, "Assemble the people, the men and the women and the little ones" (Deuteronomy 31:10), in which he said, "If the men came to learn, the women came to hear" (Chagigah 3a). To "learn" in Judaism is to study by discussing and thus to understand fully, because one's questions get answered; whereas to "hear" is to listen to the interchange but not participate in it. 

I couldn't find the Encyclopedia Judaica, but here is a quote from myjewishlearning, women in rabbinic literature site:

Negative Traits Ascribed to Women

Woman’s otherness and less desirable status are assumed throughout the rabbinic literature. While women are credited with more compassion and concern for the unfortunate than men, perhaps as a result of their nurturing roles, they also are linked with witchcraft (Mishnah 2:7; Jerusalem Talmud Kiddushin 4, 66b), foolishness (BT Shabbat 33b), dishonesty (Genesis Rabbah 18:2), and licentiousness (Mishnah Sotah 3:4, and BT Ketubot 65a), among a number of other inherent negative qualities (Genesis Rabbah 45:5).

Sometimes the secondary and inferior creation of women is cited as explaining their disagreeable traits (Genesis Rabbah 18:2); elsewhere Eve’s culpability in introducing death into the world accounts for women’s disabilities in comparison to male advantages (Genesis Rabbah 17:8). Aggadic [narrative] exegeses of independent biblical women tend to criticize their pride and presumption. Thus, the biblical judge Deborah is likened to a wasp, and the prophetess Huldah to a weasel (BT Megillah 14b); other biblical heroines are similarly disparaged, and women who display unusual sagacity often meet early deaths (BT Ketubot 23a).

Women do utter words of wisdom in rabbinic stories, but generally such stories either confirm a rabbinic belief about women’s character, such as women’s higher degree of compassion for others (BT Avodah Zarah 18a; BT Ketubot 104a), or deliver a rebuke to a man in need of chastisement (BT Eruvin 53b; BT Sanhedrin 39a).

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