Before I get started I would like to make it clear that I am not speaking for any group nor anyone else for that matter but am simply attempting to put forth what I believe the Lord has revealed to me and hopefully continuing to reveal to me. Please do as scripture exhorts and prove, try and test all things but I implore you that these be kept strictly with what scripture says and not according to what other men say or have said or any tradition. Please see Acts 17:10-12, 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and 1 John 4:1.

“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. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”

So, what are these two verses saying? In this study I hope to dive into these verses head first and show what they are saying to the group in Corinth and to us today.

Taking these two verses by themselves, this is what I have heard others proclaim that they say.

“During a church service, bible study or any mixed company (both men and women) gathering of believers, women are not allowed to speak. They are not allowed to ask any questions of any sort.” What I get from these comments is that women are in essence to be mute during the service or gathering. They are to be seen but not heard in any fashion.

Let me add a couple more things to this that a lot of those that hold to this view above seem to neglect. And again, this is EXTREMELY important! let me reiterate that I am solely looking at these two verses by themselves (as if there are no other verses around them or as if Paul for no reason just blurted this out) and taking them at first glance. The very beginning of verse 34 says “Let your women keep silence in the churches:” The Greek word for “keep silence” means just that “to keep silent, hold your peace, shut up). That is a very bold statement and to me includes worship. The women are not only forbidden to speak in the church they also cannot worship with the men. They cannot lift up their voices in worship and praise. Since women are not permitted to speak then, to me, by default that also includes whispering or hand gestures (many people speak with their hands). Women also cannot “learn” anything during these services because verse 35 says “If they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home...”

Let me start of by saying that I disagree with the few things that I have posted above and I hope to be enabled to prove why I disagree with them from Scripture in this writing.

There is an old saying and it goes like this: “Context is everything!” A very dear friend and pastor, who is now deceased, said many times to us “when people take verses out of context they can pretty much make them mean anything they want – even down to the birth of Christ being in a garage in Detroit Michigan.” Thus, context is of utmost importance!

So, what is the context of these two verses? Paul starts this chapter off with these three little words “Follow after charity,...”, midway through he says this: “Let all things be done unto edifying” and ends it with “Let all things be done decently and in order.” Everything in between those three statements have to do with “charity”, “edification” and “order”. He first goes into comparing the gift of tongues and prophecy. Both are important but differed in what the importance of them are. Tongues is a language (not gibberish!!!) that is meant to be between the person and God. Thus, to those that have the gift, it is an important aspect in their personal worship but it is not for corporate worship setting UNLESS there is an interpreter present. On the other hand to those that have the gift of prophecy, Paul stresses that it is done unto the edifying of the assembly. Paul goes into a whole lot of detail of the differences and if you are given an opportunity please check it out for it is a valuable part of Scripture.

In verse 26 Paul was given to write these words: “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.”

Paul starts off with asking a pertinent question; “How is then, brethren?” Another way, to me, of saying this is: “Because of what I just declared unto you, Why is it, brethren, that I have heard these things?”

Don’t miss the next phrase right after the question. Paul says “when ye come together, every one of you,...” This was not a “where two or three ar gathered, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20) scenario. This was not a group of believers fellowshipping together scenario. This was a specific gathering (church service) where the whole body of believers would congregate together to be in the limelight for a moment (or better yet show off their gift) and sing psalms, preach doctrine, give a revelation, and speak in tongues.

ALL those who had the gift of singing wanted a turn to sing a psalm or spiritual song.

“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; (Ephesians 5:19)”

– Singing and making melody to the Lord is extremely important but it is not to be a “see me, see me” thing, or “see how good I can sing!” thing.

ALL those who had the gift of speaking and teaching wanted a turn to proclaim doctrine (1 Cor. 12:10; 14:6).

“Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? (I Corinthians 14:6)”

“Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (I Timothy 4:13-16)”

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (II Timothy 3:16-17)”

– Doctrine is EXTREMELY important and beneficial to the edification of the saints. But, again it is not to be a “see me, see me” thing. “Look at what I know, aren’t I special!”

ALL those who had the gift of tongues wanted a turn to speak in their majestic language.

“To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: (I Corinthians 12:10)”

“I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. (I Corinthians 14:5)”

– Paul makes it very clear what tongues were for in verse 2: “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.” and in the first part of verse 4 he says this: “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself;...” The words “unknown” are not in the original therefore it is simply a tongue that is spoken here. Tongues CANNOT be learned! It is a gift that is imparted to some and is a language for personal edification between them and God!

ALL those who had the gift of interpreting wanted a turn to interpret the message that those that spoke in tongues proclaimed.

“To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: (I Corinthians 12:10)”

– The gift of interpreting is a very important gift. Because the message they interpret is for the edification of the saints! In the past I have been in churches where someone gets up and starts speaking in tongues (which was just gibberish and repeated themselves over and over). The so-called interpreter gets up to give the interpretation and lo and behold there is no repetition in the interpretation. This is deceit and a working of the devil!

ALL those who had the gift of revelation wanted a turn to proclaim what had been revealed to them.

“For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; (I Corinthians 12:8)”

“Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? (I Corinthians 14:6)”

– The gift of revelation is also a very important gift and, if proper, is to the edifying of the saints. The word for revelation means “disclosure, appearing, coming, manifestation, be revealed” which to me has a certain aspect of prophecy in it.

I have to be honest that when I read this scenario I don’t see order in it. I see chaos. There was no charity in their gatherings. Thing were not being done to edifying of the saints. And the meetings were not being done decently and in order, they were in huge disarray.

Knowing our flesh I can only imagine that Paul was very frustrated with the Corinthian brethren for this. And I believe that the rest of the chapter is a rebuke to the brethren there. In the following verses he goes on to plainly expound on what the order of this specific gathering should be. And by order I do not mean the order of 1, 2, 3, etc. But a proper way of doing things. It is not negating any gift or classifying them as more or less important. Paul gives specific guidelines for how these gifts were to be used or utilized. Verses 27 and 28 deal with the gift of tongues and those who have that gift. He limits the use of the gift of tongues to two or at the most three believers to speak in tongues but ONLY if there is an interpreter. If there is no interpreter they are to remain quiet. Verses 29 through 32 deal with those who have the gift of prophecy. The word “prophet” means “one who speaks for Yahweh, one who foretells events, an inspired speaker”. Again, Paul limits the amount of prophets that can speak at a time to two or three. Notice though that he does not use the words “at the most” when referring to the prophets and in fact in verse 31 he says “For ye all may prophesy one by one...” So, ALL those that have the gift of prophecy were given freedom to speak the truth. Yet, keep in mind that Paul makes it abundantly clear that whatever is spoken is to be judged: “...and let the other judge. (29)”.

The reason Paul expounds upon these truths is given in verse 33 which says: “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” Please notice the italicized words “the author”. They are not in the original transcript and were added by the translators, yet they are not needed and in fact I believe they detract from the meaning of this verse. Without them this verse says: “For God is not of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” There is no confusion in God or what He does. There is to be NO confusion in any church service.

While on the topic of church order, Paul continues with our verses. “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (I Corinthians 14:34-35) [italicized words removed - Tom]”

What are these two verses saying? In context they are referring to the same assembling of believers that Paul was making mention to above. The main emphasis of these two verses is the word “speak”. The Greek word for it means “utter words – preach, say, speak, talk, tell”. So, when Paul says that the women are not “permitted...to speak” and that “it is a shame for women to speak in the church”, is that referring to all kinds of speaking like idle chit-chat, asking brethren how they are doing, saying hello to the brethren, etc., etc.? Or is it more specific like preaching? I believe it is very specific and that when Paul says that he does not permit women to speak in the churches it is referring to tongues, interpreting, and prophesying.

Why would Paul feel the need to write this? There were female prophets in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

“And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. (Exodus 15:20-21)”

“And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. (Judges 4:4)”

If you are given to read this section of Scripture, it is very interesting what God did. Not only was Deborah a prophetess but she was also a judge of Israel.

“So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her. And she said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me, (II Kings 22:14-15)”

Here is another prophetess that was married just like Deborah and yet she spoke the words of the Lord to the men that inquired and communed with her.

“And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)”

“And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto C├Žsarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. (Acts 21:8-9)”

“But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. (I Corinthians 11:5)”

This verse does not have the word “prophetess” in it but it makes reference to a woman who prophesieth.

The top three are examples from the Old Testament and the bottom three are from the New Testament. Women had the gift of prophecy just like men did. One can only assume and I know it is simply an assumption that what Paul’s comments about their meetings was about was that they were allowing the women to participate in the activities of doctrine, tongues, revelation, interpreting. I say this because Paul’s words were “every one of you...” There is no exclusion mentioned but he was including ALL of them in this statement.

Paul is not contradicting himself here from what he said before this but simply clarifying. Above when he limits the speaking of tongues to two or at the most three he doesn’t clarify gender of the speaker. Here he does and is saying that those that speak in tongues or interpret a tongue MUST be of the male gender IN CHURCH. Above when he says that “ye all may prophesy one by one...” he again does not clarify the gender of the speaker where here is clarifying that those that prophesy MUST be of the male gender IN CHURCH.

In our modern vernacular Paul is simply stating that there are to be no women pastors or preachers. There are no “ifs”, “ands” or “buts” about it! Paul is very clear that “it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” This is pointing to the woman “speaking” as a preacher or pastor and with that authority. Paul reiterates this very truth to Timothy in his first letter.

“But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. (I Timothy 2:12)”

“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; (I Timothy 3:2) [bold emphasis added – Tom]”

– I include this verse to show that a bishop (elder, pastor) MUST be the “husband” of one wife and be “apt to teach”. Despite what social media wants to proclaim, a woman cannot be the “husband” of anything!

The act of women preaching in church is strictly forbidden by Scripture. I hope that I made that clear above! But, we see several incidents of women exhorting and praying with men outside of the church. A good example of this is Aquila and Priscilla.

“And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. (Acts 18:2)”

This is the verse where they are introduced and it shows that Priscilla was a female and was the wife of Aquila.

“And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. (Acts 18:26)”

The setting for this verse starts back at verse 24 which introduces a Jew named Apollos. He was mighty in the scriptures, instructed in the way of the Lord, fervent in the spirit and he taught diligently the things of the Lord. So, he was not a “babe” in Christ but was given, by God, much knowledge and wisdom. But, he only knew the baptism of John. Because of that, both Aquila and Priscilla took him aside and expounded (taught) unto him the way of God more perfectly. This verse does NOT say that it was just Aquila expounding but it specifies both of them.

Paul obviously did not have an issue with either of them and he mentions them in a very positive light in several of his letters.

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: (Romans 16:3)”

“The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. (I Corinthians 16:19)”

“Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. (II Timothy 4:19)”

Women do not have any lesser value than men. To whom did Jesus first appear after His resurrection? It was to Mary Magdelene. “And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. (John 20:14-16)” There is so much here but let me just focus on a few things. Mary was at the sepulchre and was weeping because she thought someone had stolen the body of Jesus. She looked directly at Him and yet did not recognize Him. He even asked her a question and she still did not know who it was. It was ONLY when He called her by name that she realized who it was! She obviously came towards Him to embrace Him because He then says to her: “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her. (John 20:17-18)” This meeting between Mary and Jesus was not perchance or by accident! It was ordained from before the foundation of the world to occur. It could have been any of the disciples but it was ordained for Mary, a woman, to be the one to see Him first and to go and proclaim the truth of how He had risen from the grave to the rest of the disciples.

Getting back to our verses let’s look at the beginning of verse 35: “And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home:...”

Because of how the meetings were going, they were in disarray and there was no order, I take this verse to mean that the women were disrupting the meeting by asking their husbands or fathers questions during the service. That is why Paul proclaims this. Paul says essentially the same thing to Timothy in his first letter: “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. (I Timothy 2:11)” There is nothing new here and is in complete agreement with the rest of the chapter. Paul makes it clear that those with the gift of tongues to “keep silence” (same Greek word as used for the women) if there was no interpreter present. All of this is in keeping with the meetings being filled with “charity”, all things being done unto “edifying” and being done “decently and in order”.

There are those out there who see nothing wrong with women being pastors and preachers. And there are those out there who stifle women and refuse to give them a voice outside of a “church” setting. Both of these extremes are equally as wrong. Women are NOT to be preachers, pastors or elders but they do have a voice and a lot of wisdom to share if given the opportunity.

Tom Adams
January 2023