Though it has a couple different meanings, most often ἐκκλησία is translated as "church" in the NT. I'm wondering, though, whether its use in 1 Corinthians 14:34 might be distinguished from its use in the end of 14:33. The ESV reads:

As in all the churches of the saints, 34the women should keep silent in the churches.

The word "churches" seems redundant here. Some have therefore concluded that the phrase "as in all the churches of the saints" belongs with the previous sentence, so that it would read: "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints." This seems like a fairly trite thing to add and almost would seem to imply that God is a God of peace only in the churches, but elsewhere he is a God of confusion. I would almost rather assume Paul is redundant.

Is there any warrant, though, to think that in the span of a few words, Paul is using ἐκκλησίαις in two different ways so that he wouldn't be redundant? Do principles of translation permit such an approach?

  • for all the heat this question has generated, i'm just glad that nobody committed the etymological fallacy of digging too far into calling them "called out ones."
    – swasheck
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 15:04
  • Women have a tendency to chat. Men tend to be brief and to the point.
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 5:05

5 Answers 5


This repetition seems to me to be more about being specific and emphatic than anything else - (I'm not making any statement about a modern application here!!).

e.g. as in all churches, ... so in your Corinthian churches.

  • I agree with you until the example. I agree that it's either for clarity or emphasis, but nothing suggests that Paul is choosing to focus on the specific Corinthian church(es).
    – swasheck
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 2:18

It seems more likely that this is a separate thought. God not being the God of confusion fits more naturally with what has preceded the statement, namely that the spirits of the prophets are subject to other prophets.

The next set of thoughts begins "As in all the churches of the saints, the women must be silent." The present imperative can carry inceptive force so it could also be "... must start being silent."

There's nothing in the grammar itself that would differentiate it from the first usage. Therefore, I'd say that it is either for clarity or emphasis. Emphasis seems more likely given the context of the Corinthian correspondence - and I would specifically note that this is probably an emphasis on church order. It is only within the realm of these meetings that this command has jurisdiction. This isn't a command to be silent and uninvolved in all of life, but rather that for the sake of church order and the witness of the chirch, the women were to start being silent.


The NASB renders the context as follows:

and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

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. -1 Corinthians 14:32-34

It seems we would first need to determine whether the ESV is even presenting an accurate translation by placing the two occurrences in the same sentence.

Regarding the "triteness" of this translation, consider that the Corinthian church was being rebuked for their elitism, and Paul is attempting to address a problem specific to their church. It seems perfectly appropriate for him to remind them that they are not the only church on the planet, and that they ought to behave in a more orderly manner, in accordance with the ministry of the Spirit in every other church on the planet. Just a few verses later he wraps up his rebuke to the Corinthian church on church order by asking a rhetorical question:

Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? -1 Corinthians 14:36

The obvious "no" to this question needed to be emphasized to this church.


Your instinct is spot on, that this word normally translated "as in all the churches" is mistranslated. It is actually referring to "Roman public assemblies" because what he's concerned with is that the Corinthians are violating Roman law by not keeping their women in subjection.

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).

This seems to be what is meant by "as the law also says" rather than the Torah:

NASB 1 Cor 14: 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.

Westcott and Hort / [NA27 variants] Αἱ γυναῖκες ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις σιγάτωσαν, οὐ γὰρ ἐπιτρέπεται αὐταῖς λαλεῖν· ἀλλὰ ὑποτασσέσθωσαν, καθὼς καὶ ὁ νόμος λέγει.

So I would translate "as in all [Roman] public assemblies".


This seems to be an accurate observation to me. I would then assume and suggest the following relevance:

It is necessary for the apostle to say it this way in order not to be mistaken. By using the word twice he makes clear that it is not a general manner of conduct with the disciples in all churches (en ekklesiais tôn hierôn) all the time but is a specifical requirement during their time of coming together as a congregation for worship. Privately of course they speak and teach truth (We think of Priscilla in connection with Aquila, Paul, and Apollos) but publicly in the face of the assembly they remain silent (in order not to use authority over husbands of other wives in audience. For related reason men in speaking to the church do not directly address women as they are the wives of other husbands.)

So there may really be this double meaning intended: ekklesia as a term for a community of people (disciples) and, secondly, ekklesia as the term for the actual meeting.


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