In Assembly (1)

"Let [your] women be silent in the assemblies, for it is not permitted to them to speak; but to be in
subjection , as the law also says. But if they wish to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at
home; for it is a shame for a woman to speak in assembly. Did the word of God go out from you, or did it
come to you only ? If any one thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him recognise the things that
I write to you, that it is [the] Lord's commandment. But if any be ignorant, let him be ignorant"
(1 Corinthians 14:34-38)


It is important when we read a passage such as the above that we do not try to explain it away or accommodate it to what is 'politically correct' in the present day. The passage quoted above is not one very difficult to understand so one cannot excuse oneself from taking note of it by arguing that the passage is obscure in meaning. Dismissing the passage as being only the opinion of Paul would mean that we could also dismiss all the rest of Paul's writings in the same way. Without Paul's writings we would have no real basis for the convening of Christian assemblies at all or for partaking of the Lord's supper in them. Peter's writings will help us in our path through this world and John will help us as regards our inward life, but without Paul we can have no proper understanding of Christian corporate life. The other New Testament writers allude to the assembly in one way or another and were part of it, but they do not speak of it in detail, either in its spiritual or public aspects. Put another way, without Paul any corporate arrangements would be just something spun out of our own heads. Further, to just pick and choose what teachings of Paul we will accept would be folly and result in all kinds of church organisation coming into existence, which is what has in fact happened. If we go to James for instruction as to meeting together we will find ourselves back in the Jewish synagogue (James 2:2).

Who are women ?

The passage states that women are to be silent in the assemblies, so it is important to be clear who is spoken about when Scripture says women. This may seem obvious, but the point needs to be made that women when spoken of in the New Testament often means married women and is sometimes translated wives (see for example Ephesians 5:22). In the passage under consideration it could well be argued that the word means married women because in verse 35 it says that they should ask their own husbands at home. This they could not do if they were not married. However, it may be pointed out that no doubt most, if not all, the adult women in the Corinthian assembly were married and Paul was not dealing with unusual cases (see chapter 7 verse 2: "let each... [woman] have her own husband"). Children, whether male or female would not have spoken audibly in assemblies in any case. Further, it would be absurd if widows and other single women could speak, but women with husbands could not. What this amounts to is that Paul, while dealing with the usual case and maybe the one that had been put to him for resolution, in what he said he effectively covered the less usual cases. The word woman can be used to cover other adult females such as a widow (see Luke 4:26) or one apparently unmarried (see Luke 10:38) .(Note: in the AV Gune is translated wife 92 times and woman 129 times. The translation wife is in very many cases not appropriate.) It may be also mentioned that widows would probably have had sons to whom they could turn for enlightenment (see for example John 19:26/27 & 1 Timothy 5:16) and single women could well have still had a father or a brother to look to (see for example Genesis 24:50).

To take a somewhat similar case: when listing the kinds of persons not fit for assembly fellowship Paul does not mention murderers (see 1 Corinthians 5:9-13), probably because he gave the Corinthians credit for not having such persons in assembly fellowship anyway. In any case, if we exclude persons for lesser evils than murder we must necessarily exclude them for the greater evil. However, it may be noted that murderers are said to be outside in Revelation 22:15.

What is silence ?

Does this mean that women are to be completely dumb when in assembly ? This is not how it is normally interpreted. If it did mean that, then women would not be able to sing or say Amen. The statement is that it is not permitted to them to speak. It