Chapter Two ------------------------------Feedback Box:

"Did God Write 'For Men Only' on the Pulpit?"

Paul says half a dozen times, and in half a dozen ways, that "all" should participate in the "preaching". Well, "all", that is, except for women? In today's churches, it is almost a moot issue, since women and men alike are barred from the pulpit, except for just one or two per church. But a church who dares obey 1 Corinthians 14 and "pass the microphone" will have to resolve whether verses 34-36 exclude women from speaking. There is no way you can guess the conclusion reached in this chapter. You will just have to read it.

For this chapter I am indebted to Dr. Bonnie Buchanan, a former Bible college administrator at Kingsway Cathedral in Des Moines and currently a charismatic pastor. Some 30 years ago she gave me a copy of her unpublished book on the ministry. It did not seem to me then that her arguments were tight enough to completely dispose of all Biblical objections to women preaching, but they were tight enough to keep me from being satisfied with the traditional line. Actually this entire chapter consists of arguments I have built upon the foundation she laid for me 30 years ago. I am sorry, for her sake, that it took me so long to be able to validate her foundation, but thrilled that the structure finally appears complete, at least to me, and looking forward to see how it weathers the coming storms and visits from Housing Inspectors.


One problem with taking the phrase "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak...for it is a shame for women to speak in the church" out of the context of the rest of the passage, or the rest of the Bible, is that there were prophetesses in the church: Exodus 15:20, Isaiah 8:3, Luke 2:36, 1 Corinthians 11:5.

34 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. 35 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.

Compare this with 1 Corinthians 11:5:

5 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.

How could Paul tell women not to speak in church, 1 Corinthians 14:34, right after he told them to wear hats when they preach? 1 Corinthians 11:5?

"Let your women..." Huh? Why is the possessive pronoun used to refer to women? Just whose women is Paul talking about here?

This is the only time in the Bible "your" precedes "women". Why here?

There is one other time I found when a possessive pronoun, in this case the third person "their", precedes "women":

Romans 1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

In this case the identity is given of those whose women these are: it is wicked men who know better. Men who "hold" the truth, but are unrighteous anyway. Specifically, sodomites.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

(Uh, what sort of sodomite man could be described as possessing {"their" is a pronoun denoting possession} a sodomite woman? Perhaps Paul is describing a sodomite man who is legally married to a sodomite woman.)

But whose women does Paul refer to in verse 34? Who has any authority over women, towards whom women may in any remote sense be spoken of as "possessions"? The church? Are women subject to pastors and priests? No Scripture says such a thing, that I can think of! They are subject only to husbands. (Minor girls are subject to fathers; but then of course minor boys are too -- but the subjection of children to parents is a different issue, and exists for different reasons, than the subjection of wives to husbands.) Single adult women, and widows, are not subject to men.

True, the Catholic church has nuns, which are subject to the church in the same way wives are subject to husbands. (Which these days is less and less, in either case.) Catholics would no doubt like to think nuns are not their own invention, but were sanctioned by Paul. But Paul says he didn't invent a new relationship. He says, in verse 34, that he was just copying "the law" (Moses' law). So we should be able to learn from Moses' law about the "subjection" to which Paul alludes.

34 ...but [they are commanded] to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

Moses' law describes the subjection of women to husbands, and before marriage, to fathers, but never of subjection to any other man (any more than the everyday subjection of men to various authorities).

Genesis 3:16. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

Is that the reference in Paul's mind when he wrote verse 34? It makes women subject to their husbands. Not to any other man or men, or pastor, or church board.

It is not among the laws given by Moses; it was given long before Moses saw the light of day reflecting off the crocodiles' slanty eyeballs. But it was in one of the five books written by Moses which are together called "The Law".

There is only one other passage in "the law" which speaks of the subjection of women, that my trusty concordance could find. It is part of the laws given by Moses, making it part of "the law" in both senses.

It does not so directly affirm actual subjection, but only states that the husband's decision shall prevail when there is a conflict between a husband's and a wife's decision whether to "sign a contract". Surely it was on Paul's mind when he wrote verse 34, and it may be crucial to our understanding of it.

Numbers 30:1 And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This [is] the thing which the LORD hath commanded. 2 If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth. 3 If a woman also vow a vow unto the LORD, and bind herself by a bond, [being] in her father's house in her youth; 4 And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand. 5 But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the LORD shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her. 6 And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul; 7 And her husband heard [it,] and held his peace at her in the day that he heard [it]: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand. 8 But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard [it]; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and the LORD shall forgive her. 9 But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her. 10 And if she vowed in her husband's house, or bound her soul by a bond with an oath; 11 And her husband heard [it], and held his peace at her, [and] disallowed her not: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she bound her soul shall stand. 12 But if her husband hath utterly made them void on the day he heard [them; then] whatsoever proceeded out of her lips concerning her vows, or concerning the bond of her soul, shall not stand: her husband hath made them void; and the LORD shall forgive her. 13 Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void. 14 But if her husband altogether hold his peace at her from day to day; then he establisheth all her vows, or all her bonds, which [are] upon her: he confirmeth them, because he held his peace at her in the day that he heard [them]. 15 But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard [them]; then he shall bear her iniquity. 16 These [are] the statutes, which the LORD commanded Moses, between a man and his wife, between the father and his daughter, [being yet] in her youth in her father's house.

I am going to offer an interpretation of this passage which may seem strained at first, but it is less strained than traditional interpretations which result in troubling contradictions of Scripture! I will do my best, subsequently, to "tie the loose ends".

First, the KJV again:

34 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. 35 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.

The solution I offer throws in a little Ecclesiastes quote which is so similar to 1 Corinthians 14:34 that part of what Paul was reminding women was no more than Solomon told men and women both. My paraphrase is long because it is an attempt to articulate all the nuances of the Old Testament allusions as they applied to Paul's message.

34 Husbands, remind your wives to be reverent in your fellowship gatherings. Read Ecclesiastes 5:13 to them:

"1 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. 2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter [any] thing before God: for God [is] in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. 3 For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice [is known] by multitude of words."

Don't even allow them to speak, when their speech is breaking the harmony between you, their words articulating positions you cannot support. Remember that Numbers 30 commands that when the decision of a wife differs from that of her husband, the decision of her husband shall prevail. Respect God's Word, and let there be no public arguing between husbands and wives during our meetings, nor let any wife demean her husband by public statements which embarrass him but which he cannot refute without arguing with you!

(I don't mean your wives have to get your prior approval before speaking; Numbers 30 allows wives to articulate their positions before their husbands have to decide whether to endorse them. Likewise your wives should be free to articulate their positions without the restraint of securing your prior approval. But as Numbers 30 provides, so I provide that when a husband indicates to his wife that he cannot accept what she is saying, she must cease.)

35 (I don't mean wives have to forever accept whatever their husbands decide without further discussion. And if you have a really serious problem which you really can't work out at home, there is still the appeals process Jesus provided in Matthew 18:15-17.) But wives, defer to your husbands. If there is something you just can't see eye to eye about, work it out at home; because when you argue with your husband during our fellowship gatherings, it makes everybody feel ashamed and embarrassed.

Could that be Paul's meaning? Sorry, fems, that I couldn't be more helpful, and have your husbands defer to you; or at least have you both free to make fools of yourselves by airing all your dirty laundry in public. There is only so far I can push God's Word to your view. I may have already pushed too hard. I'm afraid God's Word is at least as restrictive towards women as indicated above.

But is even that Paul's meaning? Can Paul say "Let your women keep is not permitted unto them to speak;...for it is a shame for women to speak in the church" and can we translate that women can speak, so long as they have the support of their husbands? Can "speak" be translated as not the use of vocal cords, but as the articulation of positions peculiar to the speaker? Actually that happens to be the 5th listed definition in my Logos lexicon:

"To use words in order to declare one's mind and disclose one's thoughts."

But what about the concept of a person who speaks for another, being described as not, himself, speaking? Has language ever been pressed into that service? Particularly, does the Bible speak this way elsewhere? Here are a few examples of similar usage:

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I LIVE; YET NOT I, BUT CHRIST LIVETH IN ME: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (KJV)

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which [was bestowed] upon me was not in vain; but I LABOURED more abundantly than they all: YET NOT I, BUT THE GRACE OF GOD which was with me. (KJV)

1 Corinthians 7:10 And unto the married I COMMAND, [YET] NOT I, BUT THE LORD, Let not the wife depart from [her] husband: (KJV)

Examples of speaking as a representative of another, without the idiom that it is not the representative speaking:

John 12:50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak. (KJV)

John 8:28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am [he], and [that] I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. (KJV)

But is it a natural use of language for one who is representing another to speak as if it is not himself speaking, but the one he is representing?

One place we do this all the time is in court. In American law, lawyers speak as representatives of their clients. It even enters their language, so that a lawyer will write, even in a legal brief which the defendant only barely comprehends, if he even sees it, "Defendant asserts that...." In American law, lawyers are only permitted to speak so long as their clients authorize them to speak on their behalf. It literally "is not permitted for a lawyer to speak in court", except as a representative of a party to the case. If a lawyer walked into a court during a case not his own, no matter how much he wanted to speak, he would not even consider actually speaking, because he knows he is not permitted to speak in court. Both in the sense that he is physically restrained from speaking in anyone else's case, and in the sense that his own personal ideas are never welcome in any court, except to the extent he can gain for them the support of a client who is a party to a case. (Or if he himself becomes a party to a case.)

In the following I express these principles of the attorney-client relationship in the same order as verses 3435 deal with the husband-wife relationship. Where Paul makes allusion to the Mosaic law, I include a "citation" to a (fictitious) court case which expresses the familiar principle just described.

The Supreme Court concurring: Lawyers in this situation must keep silent in the courts: for it is not permitted unto them even to speak. Our rule has always been that lawyers must serve their clients, which means they must obey their clients in any matter upon which their clients insist, so long as lawyers are willing to serve. As we have said in Doofus v. Nutcake,

"No attorney has any voice of his own in court. He may speak only as a representative of his client. No attorney may proceed with any statement or action which his client cannot tolerate. This is a matter of ethics, and more: clients can and do enforce this rule by terminating their attorney's power to ever speak again in the case."

We conclude that an attorney and client may not argue with each other before the Court. If they cannot agree, they must resolve their disagreements outside the Court. It is an embarrassment to the demeanor of this Court to hear a lawyer speak in court whose representation of his client is under a cloud of uncertainty.

Surely anyone even slightly familiar with the attorney-client relationship will not feel such a description of a lawyer "not being allowed to speak in court" puts the slightest strain on the English language. Therefore it should not be a strain on the Greek language, for anyone familiar with Numbers 30, Ecclesiastes 5, and with Paul's idiom that it is not himself speaking when he speaks for God, to interpret 1 Corinthians 14:34 as allowing the wife to speak so long as she does not lose her husband's support.

Here is the passage again, from the KJV:

34 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. 35 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.

But is it a stretch, when the KJV tells "women" to be "silent", to interpret it as "wives when their husbands are present"? It is not a stretch to so interpret the Greek word for "women", which is the same as the word for "wife". In fact, of the 221 times the word appears in the NT, it is translated "wife" 92 times in the KJV.

Perhaps the strongest evidence that it is no stretch to assume Paul meant to address, not unmarried women or widows, but only wives whose husbands were in church, when he reminded "wives" that they were under subjection, is that Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:32-34 that single adult women who are not subject to their husbands are subject (only) to Christ!

And now, a condensation of my translation, without the lengthy explanations and allusions:

34 (Husbands,) remind your wives to reverently "let their words be few" in church (as Ecc. 5:13 also commands you). They are not permitted to publicly disagree with you (speak autonomously); but they are commanded to obey you (when you tell them they have gone far enough); as we read in Numbers 30.

35 And if they insist on understanding (why you drew the line), let them ask at home. For it is embarrassing to everybody when wives quarrel (that is, when they speak autonomously, out of harmony) with their husbands in church.


Now don't get carried away and take even this modest restriction on women out of the context of the rest of the Bible. Paul is offering a general rule here; he is not giving license to unreasonable husbands to hold the absolute reins of censorship over their God-inspired wives. If there is some really serious issue which a wife cannot resolve with her husband, but which she must, Jesus offers her an appeals process in Matthew 18:15-17.

Of course, in the real world where churches refuse to participate in this process, many wives are only too quick to initiate their own "appeals" process to anyone who will listen, with no real thought of actually resolving the problem, but just grateful for the opportunity to complain about one. The other word for this: gossip. Jesus' appeals process is therefore not totally new, but it is better. It is more effective, and more holy. So even when a church will not officially help, wives who feel they must "appeal" their husband's restrictions will do well to transform their "gossip" as much as possible after Jesus' model.

What makes Jesus' model unattractive is that it subjects the "plaintiff" to the same scrutiny as it does the "defendant". If a wife appeals her husband's decision, she may very well find others agreeing with her husband. Seldom does anyone, with a beef against another, want to face such risk, of submitting their case to an impartial mediator! Much safer to pick a partial, friendly ear! And the best way to get a friendly ear is to spill your case to someone who has no intention of using your information to confront the person you accuse! That's what makes "gossip" so insidious. There is no opportunity for the accused to face his accusers, or to provide testimony in his own defense. He is tried in a court which is held outside his knowledge, which may never even meet him!

That is the sort of "gossip" which the Bible condemns again and again. 2 Thess 3:11, 1 Tim 5:13, Prov 20:19, 1 Pet 4:15, Titus 1:11, James 3:10, Lev 19:16, Prov 11:13, 18:8, 20:19, 26:20-22, Pro 21:9, 25:24.

If the only appeal of a husband's decision is to an impartial mediator, there will not be a flood of appeals! Few human beings, male or female, relish the risk of being scrutinized. That is as it should be. Our friends have enough real problems of their own, without us bothering them with frivolous cases. And yet God in His majesty and love leaves no woman in an impossible situation without hope!

Any translator, faced with two possible translations, one of which makes sense and another which contradicts itself, will give the work the benefit of the doubt and choose the translation which makes sense. Better that than to pick the stupid translation only to have other translators side with the work and against your translation, and remark, "my, that was a stupid translation!" Much more must we give the Bible, which has passed incomparably more scrutiny than any other writing of history, the benefit of the doubt when our feeble attempts to translate it produce one possibility which makes sense, and another which contradicts itself.

Therefore we must assume that when Paul told wives not to "question" their husbands in church, he did not mean to revoke Matthew 18:15-17! But that rather, he was merely speaking generally, and saying that ordinary, everyday, relatively trivial disputes between husbands and wives should not be aired in front of the whole church! Before wives start thinking about Mat 18:15-17, their first step should be to work out as much as they can right at home, with the husbands they love. So that when they appear in public, they will appear in harmony. And at that first step, the "District Court" for working out problems, God gives husbands the decision-making edge over wives when they can't quite agree.

Why the edge to husbands? A few more clues later in this chapter. But the edge is only at the first, "District Court" level. It is not a pit of despair from which a holy wife must suffer at the hand of a stubborn, tyrannical husband with no hope of escape!

In any case, Paul is not talking, in 1 Corinthians 14, about the subjection of all women to all the men of the church. He is not saying women can't contribute to a church service. "The Law" to which Paul referred only speaks of the subjection of wives to husbands; not single women, or widows, to any other man.


You say, "Aw, you're working too hard to explain this away. Paul was probably just talking about the Outer Court of the Temple, from which women were excluded, when he spoke of 'the Law' which was his basis for prohibiting women from speaking in church."

One problem, were this Paul's allusion, is that we have no Scripture relating to us what the confinement of women to the Outer Court has to do with women's subjection to anyone.

But this theory has a greater difficulty: we have no Scripture confining women to any Outer Court!

Here I must petition your help. I have heard all my life that God's law banished women to the Outer Court of the Tabernacle and the Temple. But now I can't find it!

I couldn't find it in God's description of the "court" around the Tabernacle in Exodus 27:9-21 and 38:9-21. I couldn't find it in the description of Solomon's temple in the opening chapters of 2 Chronicles. I couldn't find it in Ezekiel's vision of a wonderful temple, Ezekiel 40:46. The only temple areas I find in Scripture from which anyone is excluded are those reserved for the priests versus everyone else.

In fact, 2 Chronicles 5:13-6:3 indicates the altar was within the view of ALL the "congregation":

2 Chronicles 5:12 ...the Levites...having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets:) 13 It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers [were] as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up [their] voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, [saying], For [he is] good; for his mercy [endureth] for ever: that [then] the house was filled with a cloud, [even] the house of the LORD; 14 So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.... 6:3 And the king turned his face, and blessed the whole congregation of Israel: and all the congregation of Israel stood.

At the very least we must accept that the musicians, around the altar, were within sight of Solomon, who in turn was within sight of the people. As a musician, I further surmise that fine musicians, and especially unamplified musicians, would position themselves where the people could best hear them, and not behind walls. But either way, there is nothing in the text suggesting any separation of men from women, and "whole congregation" certainly suggests the men and women were together.

Verse 12 more strongly suggests all were together, within sight of each other:

12 And he [Solomon] stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of ALL the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands:

I couldn't even find mention of an "outer court" for women in Josephus' description of Solomon's temple. He says:

Solomon made all these things for the honor of God, with great variety, and magnificence, sparing no cost, but using all possible liberality in adorning the temple; and these things he dedicated to the treasures of God. He also placed a partition round about the temple, which in our tongue, we call Gison, but it is called Thrigcos by the Greeks, and he raised it up to the height of three cubits; and it was for the exclusion of the multitude from coming into the temple, and showing that it was a place that was free and open only for the priests.

He also built beyond this court a temple, the figure of which was that of a quadrangle, and erected for it great and broad cloisters; this was entered into by very high gates, each of which had its front exposed to one of the [four] winds, and were shut by golden doors. Into this temple all the people entered that were distinguished from the rest by being pure, and observant of the law. (Antiquities, Book 8, Chapter 3, Paragraph 9. Greek divisions: #95, 96.)

I couldn't find women banished to the "outer court" until I found Josephus' description of the temple built by cruel King Herod!

This was the first enclosure. In the midst of which, and not far from it, was the second, to be gone up to by a few steps; this was encompassed by a stone wall for a partition, with an inscription, which forbade any foreigner to go in, under pain of death. Now this inner enclosure had on its southern and northern quarters three gates [equally] distant from one another, but on the east quarter, towards the sunrising, there was one large gate through which such as were pure came in, together with their wives; but the temple farther inward in that gate was not allowed to the women; but still more inward was there a third [court of] the temple, whereinto it was not lawful for any but the priests alone to enter. The temple itself was within this; and before that temple was the altar, upon which we offer our sacrifices and burnt offerings to God. (Antiquities, Book 15, Chapter 11, paragraph 5. Greek divisions: 417419.)

Have I made a glaring error somewhere? Have I read too fast and missed something? Or can it be that God never segregated women in His temple (other than excluding them from the Levitical priesthood, from which non-Levite men were likewise excluded)?

Can it be that an interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:34 which restricts women, more than men, from participating in worship, is a Biblically unprecedented restriction of women?

By Jesus' time, attitudes towards women and foreigners were so bigoted that the Samaritan woman of John 4 had to ask, in astonishment, how it could be that Jesus would even speak to her -- a male Jew to a female foreigner! Yet Jesus showed for all time what He thought of that bigotry by not only speaking to her, but making her an evangelist! We may surmise that the same bigotry Jesus condemned in Samaria was at work in the cruel King Herod's temple floor plan, which Herod had worked out with the hard-hearted Scribes and Pharisees.


"Let your women keep silence". A synonym study in my Logos computer program says the emphasis of this word is on the reverence, awe, etc which renders one "speechless", rather than the acoustic silence itself.

The passage again:

14:34 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. 35 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.


Well, now, before we can settle this matter, we're going to have to have a look at Timothy.

1 Timothy 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.


It is assumed by preachers I have heard that verse 12 restricts any woman from teaching ANY man.

But if this were talking about church, what kind of sexual cult would Paul be putting forth, wherein if "they" continue in faith, "she shall be saved in childbearing"? This road to salvation definitely rules out single women and widows. At least it better had! And just who might this "they" be, if it is talking about church? With exactly whom, in the church, is this poor woman, on this road to salvation through childbearing, supposed to be "continuing"?!!

Although the KJV translates ANDROS as "the man", "Husband" is at the top of the Greek definitions of ANDROS, the Greek word for "man". And as noted earlier, there are Biblical grounds for the subjection of a woman only to her husband, but not to any other man.

Further supporting the application of this passage to husbands and wives, and not women in church, is the comparison with the relationship of Adam and Eve. "Adam was first formed, then Eve." This bolsters the concept of a husband's authority over his wife. (The husband was first formed, then the wife.) But how can this refer to a church and its women? We can't say the church was first formed, then its women! Eve was formed long before there was any church!

There is nothing in the context of this entire chapter which indicates its concern is rules of behavior in church. (Although the next chapter begins with the selection of a church leader.) In fact, the immediate context is explicitly not just church, but everywhere -- the dress code for women is surely not meant to be limited to how to dress in church but is for everywhere, and Paul explicitly says he is talking about "every where":

8 I will therefore that men [and/or "husbands"] pray EVERY WHERE, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 9 In like manner also, that women [and/or "wives"] adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

Apparently mine is but one more controversial statement, since the Jerusalem Bible thinks verses 9-15 are about "Women in the Assembly", the Phillips translation thinks they are about "My (Paul's) views about Men and Women in the Church", the NIV thinks the whole chapter consists of "Instructions on Worship", the Life Application Bible, (a set of notes adapted to several translations; we have the KJV) says the whole chapter is about "Instructions on Worship", the MacArthur Study Bible says 8-15 are about "Men and Women in the Church", etc, etc.

So I guess you will have to choose your side: the rest of the world, or me. In a vote, I suppose I wouldn't do well. Wouldn't be the first time I've lost at the polls.


But if these passages are talking about husbands and wives, not women in church, did Paul expect wives to be silent at home? To literally never say a word?

"Silence" is the KJV for HAYSUCHIA, which is defined, not as literal acoustical silence, but as the description of someone who minds their own business -- not meddling, not unruly, but attentive. "To keep one's seat", or to know one's place. If the word meant literal, absolute silence, 2 Thessalonians 3:12 would translate "...we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that in absolute silence they work, and eat..."! Paul would be telling both men and women to become mutes on the job and at the dinner table!

But if we select, from the Greek lexicons, the definition of HAYSUCHIA as "minding your own business", that definition helps tie verses 11 and 12 together:

2 Thessalonians 3:11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with QUIETNESS [MINDING THEIR OWN BUSINESS] they work, and eat their own bread.


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

"Silence" is the wifely behavior Paul wanted; "teaching", and "usurping authority", is the behavior Paul didn't want.

"Silence" is the same word which was defined above: not literal acoustical silence, but the emphasis of this word is on the reverence, awe, etc which renders one "speechless", rather than the acoustic silence itself.

Paul used a pretty drastic word to describe how wives shouldn't behave. Much stronger than the KJV "usurping authority". It is much stronger than the Jerusalem Bible's "tell a man what to do"; or the Phillips' "in authority over men"; or the New English "domineer over men"; or the Revised Standard "have authority over men"; or the NIV "have authority over a man". It is closer in its extreme to the Living Bible's "I never let women teach men or lord it over them."

Look at this power packed definition of the Greek AUTHENTEO, which KJV translates "usurp authority":

1. One who with his own hands kills another or himself.

2. One who acts on his own authority, autocratic.

3. An absolute master.

4. To govern, exercise dominion over one.

That definition is from the Logos computer lexicon. I think everybody can agree that if that is what Paul doesn't want women to be towards men, Paul is a reasonable man after all.

But why did Paul say wives couldn't teach their husbands, either?

The Greek definition of DIDASKO is much milder, but it still contains a couple of loaded phrases, when pictured in a husband-wife relationship: "deliver didactic discourses", and "to instill doctrine into one". It is appropriate for a parent to "instill" doctrine into a child. It may even be appropriate for a mature Christian to "instill" doctrine into a new, eager convert. It seems condescending to think of one spouse "instilling" doctrine into the other spouse.

What problem was Paul addressing? We can assume the problems between husbands and wives haven't changed that much in 6,000 years, so we should be able to look at relationships today for problems which merit the strong language Paul used. Is the danger of wives becoming absolute masters of their husbands so common as to deserve so much attention on a list of ways Christians ought to behave?

There is an idiom we use today which describes a problem for which Paul's words are a perfect description. The idiom is used a lot less now, since feminazis took over Hollywood; it was very, very common when I was a boy. But it is still heard today.

It is "henpecked husbands". A wife who "henpecks" her husband delivers long, "didactic discourses" to him. She carries herself as if she were his "absolute master". She probably isn't, really; henpecked husbands still "put their foot down" when they've had enough. But she certainly thinks she is, or at least ought to be. So to call her "absolute master" is a tad sarcastic. But sarcasm is appropriate for such an outrageous, frustrating problem.

In absolute terms, there is no human relationship in which there is a person who never teaches another. Even among teachers, it is an axiom that when they are teaching, they learn more than the kids do; or that they learn more from the kids than the kids learn from them. Paul surely cannot have meant to say that wives must absolutely never teach their husbands; he could not have meant that, because that would be humanly impossible. But when the command for wives not to "teach" their husbands is in the context of the sarcastic command for wives not to be absolute masters, or to kill their husbands with their own hands, then it becomes clear that it is the darkest side of "teaching" which Paul is telling wives not to do. It is the long, paternalistic, condescending, "didactic discourses". It is the cultish drive to "instill doctrine".

Paul was not telling Timothy to never let women speak in church.

Paul was not telling Timothy to never let women teach in church.

Paul was not telling Timothy to never let women hold positions of authority in church.

Paul was not talking to Timothy about church.

Paul told Timothy to put the brakes on gossipping women.

Paul told Timothy to not put up with women henpecking their husbands.


So you fems are saying to yourselves, "whew! That's a load off! Now I can go back to seminary! Leach has figured out how to make us as powerful as men again!"

Actually Paul does go on to point out an inherent weakness in the nature of women which, though not absolutely precluding them from church leadership, should not be forgotten as women climb to power. We have to ask ourselves, "if henpecking is what Paul was talking about, what is there in the nature of women that made Paul pick on women and not men? Is there no such thing as roosterpecking?"

Paul went on to explain,

13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

"Adam was first formed, then Eve." What does this have to do with the subject? What is the significance of this?

God said, in Genesis 2:18, 20, that Eve was a "help meet", or "one who helps", for Adam. A helper is one who takes orders, not one who gives them. When society is working properly, the authority to give orders is associated with the talent to give fair, compassionate, sensible orders. We should presume that if God gives such authority to husbands, He gave, with it, that kind of talent.

Now don't get sidetracked; Paul didn't mean husbands should have the "absolute", unaccountable despotism over the women which he made fun of women for trying to exercise over men! Civil disobedience -- wives obeying God rather than their God-defying husbands -- is provided for in the Bible. That's just not the subject of this chapter. All we are talking about here is a recognition that husbands have a little more ability to govern. Why?

Paul explains why. "Adam was not deceived, but the woman". Are women a little more gullible? Paul said so. Shall we agree? Even our popular culture agrees, portraying men as more rational while women are more emotional. That is another way of saying women are more gullible, more easily deceived.

Does that mean women are inferior? To be looked down upon? Heavens no! Looked at, absolutely! Looked down on, God forbid! What would the world be like without the love which God gave women to share with men?!

God loves all His children. To keep our understanding of each other in perspective, God always takes care, in His Word, to show us the weaknesses of His heroes, and the strengths of His average, ordinary folk. In this case, just one way Scripture balances the gullibility of women is with their superior faithfulness:

Luke 24:10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary [the mother] of James, and other [women that were] with them, which told these things unto the apostles. (KJV)

Matthew 27:55-56 And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: 56 Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children. (KJV)

Did these women, who exceeded the men in faithfulness, partly reverse the pattern of disobedience of Eve? 1 Timothy 2:14 indicates women are more gullible than men. But Matthew 27:55-56 certainly suggests women are also more faithful than men. They are less willing to leave when someone they love is being hurt.


Several female Biblical heroes stand in line to be explained away by those who insist Paul told women to be acoustically silent in church.

Of course, no church literally requires its women to be accoustically silent in church. All churches permit women to socialize with everybody else in the church building, before and after the actual service, and during "Sunday School", and also during the "greeting time" in the middle of the service, and during singing. Women are even appreciated when they sing solos. They also give announcements, prayer requests, and testimonies along with the rest of the congregation. Actually the only thing women are prevented from doing, in churches which say their women should be "silent" in church, is preaching. But this is little more restriction than is upon the men, since 99% of the men are prevented from preaching, too.

In the following familiar passage quoted so often in the very churches oft inclined to censor women, God says women will "prophesy":

WOMEN PROPHETS (Prophetaia: inspired preaching)

Acts 2:16-21 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel [in 2:28-32]; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and ON MY HANDMAIDENS I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and THEY SHALL PROPHESY: (KJV)

Acts 21:9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. (KJV)


Apollos, a church leader, received training from Priscilla, a woman:

Acts 18:24-25 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, [and] mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. 26 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. (KJV)

In other words, Priscilla was a seminary professor. Of course the Bible does not legitimize seven-year seminaries; "elders" were appointed by Paul weeks or months after they were converted, as a later chapter shows. But Priscilla was as close to a seminary professor as the Bible allows.

Priscilla was Aquila's wife, Acts 18:2. As Jews, they were banished from Rome by Claudius Caesar. They were Paul's "helpers", Romans 16:3. They sailed with Paul, Acts 18:18. They had a church in their house, 1 Corinthians 16:19. Normally the ability to get people to congregate at one's house is recognized as a demonstration of leadership of those people. So they were probably pastors.

Aquila and Priscilla were apparently a husband/wife team. Is there less authority or service in a co-teacher or co-pastor than in a sole teacher or pastor?

Even if Priscilla was only a teacher and church hostess on the shirt-tails of her husband, could she have done any teaching and hostessing, if she were not allowed to speak in church?

Women, can you imagine a church filling your kitchen and living room, leaving the door open, scuffing your floor, getting Kool-Aid out of the fridge, and you are not allowed to say anything?


But that's nothing: Paul himself depended on a woman:

Romans 16:2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a SUCCOURER of many, and of myself also. (KJV)

Actually "one who stands in front or before; a leader; a protector, champion, patron; patroness, protectress." (Analytical Greek Lexicon, published Zondervan)

Exactly which of the choices in this definition describe Paul's relationship with this woman? Was she his leader? Did she protect him? Was she his champion -- did she fight for him when he was unable to fight for himself? Was she his patron -- his financial sponsor? "One who stands in front or before" is the literal meaning of this word, so whichever of the metaphorical meanings best describe the emphasis of their relationship, there must have been at least an element of submission to the woman on Paul's part.

Actually, the farther I go in this study, the more numb my brain gets trying to establish whether, in these verses, submission was only on one side of a relationship. What ruler can rule without submitting to what his subjects will tolerate? What husband can rule over his wife without at times being totally helpless to proceed without her? What boss can manage a business without cooperation and even counsel from his employees? What parent can maintain 100% control of his child without sometimes acknowledging he just can't figure out what's wrong, and pleading with his child for help in climbing their way out of their problems?

Of course there was mutual submission between Paul and this woman! Just as there was between Paul and every other brother! That's why Peter wrote, at the end of his list of who should submit to who, that everyone should submit to each other!

1 Peter 2:13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; ...18 Servants, [be] subject to [your] masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. ...3:1 Likewise, ye wives, [be] in subjection to your own husbands; 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all [of you] BE SUBJECT ONE TO ANOTHER, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. (KJV)

Whatever Phebe (v. 1) did for Paul, Paul asks the entire church to receive her, and help her with whatever she wants. How could the whole church do this, if she were not allowed to say anything in church?


The book of Philippians was written to a church founded by, if not pastored by, a woman! Lydia, too, had a church in her home, Acts 16:14, 40. She was a Philippian, v. 12. "A certain woman named Lydia" was Paul's first convert, v. 14, who in turn brought her whole "household" to the Lord, v. 15. When Paul and Silas were released from prison after being flogged, they came to Lydia's "house" to meet the "brethren", that is, the Philippian Fellowship. Paul thanks the Philippians for helping him when he was in need, Phil 4:10, 15-16. In these same verses, Paul identifies them as the church who helped "in the beginning of the Gospel, when I departed from Macedonia". Acts 16:9-12 explains Philippi was the chief city of that part of Macedonia, so his departure from Macedonia must refer to the night he and Silas left after their release from prison, and after one last visit with the church.

It is conceivable, I suppose, that Lydia could found a church, fill it up with converts, and yet not exercise any leadership in it. But it is much more plausible, much more consistent with our experience of how people relate to one another, to presume she held it together, kept it going, kept it organized. Does that make her a defacto pastor? Remember that Paul didn't define pastor as the one who does all the talking.

It is really hard to fathom how a woman could organize a church in her own home, if she had the handicap of not being allowed to talk. In this case Lydia is not a shirt-tail church leader. Her husband, if she has one, is not mentioned.


Romans 16:7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. (KJV)

"Andronicus" means "man of victory". Junia is a woman's name. Paul could have meant they were his "kinsman" by blood relation, or by nationality, or by race. We don't know the relationship between Andronicus and Junia, if any. They were married, for all we know. If they were, was Junia not a "real" apostle, but only a shirt-tail apostle, rising to apostleship on the shirt-tails of her husband? No. Married or not, related or not, "who are of note among the apostles" definitely means each of the two. Shirt-tail apostles are not "of note among the apostles".

KJV "of note" is from Gr. "episemos" {ep-is'-ay-mos} which appears twice in the Bible. The other time, Matthew 27:16, it is translated "notable". Barabbas was a "notable" prisoner. Notorious, in other words. Well known.

It is defined: "1) having a mark on it, marked, stamped, coined. 2) marked. In a good sense, of note, illustrious. In a bad sense, notorious, infamous."

Paul obviously means the two are well known, in a good sense.

Our point is that a woman was not only an apostle, but a well known one. With a track record even longer than Paul's, and deserving of public recognition. (Paul asked the whole church to "salute" her. Gr: joyfully welcome, with hugs and kisses.)

It is pretty hard to imagine how anyone could become a well-known apostle who is not allowed to talk in church!


Romans 16:1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: (KJV)

Notice that Phebe was a "servant". This is the same word used elsewhere to describe a church leader. Notice what Paul says of the character of servants:

2 Timothy 2:24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all [men], apt to teach, [skillful in teaching] patient, (KJV)

True, not all servants in the Bible are leaders. But "servant of the church" seems like a way of describing some leadership role, rather than some janitorial role. Paul did not say "servant of the choir director", "servant of the elders", or "servant of the boiler room". Today's "servants" are called "employees". In a corporation, only one person is normally spoken of as "serving" the entire corporation: the CEO. All the other employees are spoken of as "working for" the variety of bosses under the CEO.

If Phebe did not have some leadership role, which requires trust among followers, why did Paul single her out to "commend" her?

Paul meant that he "stands with" Phebe. The Greek word is sunistemi {soon-is'-tay-mee}. Of the 16 times it appears in the NT, KJV translates it "commend" 10 times, "approve" twice, and "consist", "make", "stand", and "stand with" once. It is defined:

"1) to place together, to set in the same place, to bring or band together; to stand with (or near). 2) to set one with another; by way of presenting or introducing him, to comprehend. 3) to put together by way of composition or combination, to teach by combining and comparing, to show, prove, establish, exhibit. 4) to put together, unite parts into one whole; to be composed of, consist."

In Luke 9:32 it means Moses and Elijah "stood with" Jesus. In Romans 5:8 it means God "commendeth" His love toward us.

Paul could not tell an entire church he stood with this woman, without enhancing her influence there. How remarkably can a servant, regardless of the nature or degree of her influence, serve, without ever talking?

The fact that Phebe was allowed to talk in church is pretty clear from verse 2, where Paul tells the church to "receive her in the Lord". Gr: "To receive one into [social] intercourse and companionship." Social intercourse and companionship cannot exist where talking is not allowed. An individual, in a church, might be able to have social intercourse and companionship with someone not allowed to speak in church, as long as it takes place outside church. But an entire Fellowship cannot have social intercourse and companionship with someone whom it does not permit to speak!

Romans 16:2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a SUCCOURER of many, and of myself also.

Paul credited Phebe with serving, protecting, etc. many people, which Jesus said is what defines a leader. Luke 22:26. And Paul tells the church to help her with whatever she wants, which sounds like she will be able to tell them what she wants them to do, and they will do it. Sounds pretty much like a church leader to me.

A church leader who is allowed to talk.


1 Corinthians 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, [including Junia, Rom 16:7], secondarily prophets, [including Phillip's daughter, Acts 21:8-9], thirdly teachers, [including Anna, Luke 2:38, who "spake of Him"] after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. (KJV)

Women evangelists included Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis, Rom 16:12; and the Samaritan woman who brought many men to Jesus:

John 4:28-30 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? 30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him. (KJV)

How about women preachers?


Oh, there were lots of women preachers in the Bible! That is, if you can accept the Bible's concept of "bringing a message from God", which the KJV translates as "prophet" or "prophetess".

Luke 2:36-38 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; 37 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. 38 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. (KJV)

Anna delivered a message from God, the definition of "prophet", which chapter one has shown is the Biblical concept closest to our word "preacher". It is impossible for her not to have also been a teacher, of men as well as women; since she was old, was constantly in the Temple, and was constantly talking about God with people. Such study of any subject makes you an expert on it, so that it is impossible but that as she talked with men, she communicated many things they did not already know, which is the essence of teaching. The Bible explicitly calls her a "prophetess".

Matthew 28:7 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. (KJV)

The women were given a message from angels to give to the men!

Matthew 28:8-10 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. 9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. 10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. (KJV)

Jesus reiterated the command of the angels: go give this message to the men! The women were divinely commissioned as prophets! Prophets to men! "Preachers" to men! The women were to instruct the men! And the men were later rebuked for not believing the women! (Luke 24:25)


Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (KJV)

How can anyone look at all these passages and still be satisfied with an interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-12 that says women must be acoustically silent in church? Of course, that doesn't mean we should go to the other extreme and have one woman be the one to do all the talking! Let's do church the way God designed it!

Chapter Three




 Feedback Box

Got feedback? Send it, along with name or url of the article, and a little of the text on either side of where your comment belongs, so I know what you are responding to, and I'll post your response. I might even place it right smack dab in the article! (If you don't want your email posted, SAY SO!)