Before moving to chapter 15, which is a dramatic change in subject, I thought I’d post some thoughts I wrote in the comments for the benefit of those who don’t read the comments (although everyone really should, as the readers often post remarkably excellent material).
This is really way too long for a single post, but I just can’t bring myself to extend this discussion for another week — especially since so many participants are at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures (and I’m insanely jealous but my L4/L5 vertebral joint needs fusing, and those of us with really bad backs do not do well at the Stairmaster Lectures (surgery set for May 27)).
So here are thoughts (edited and corrected) in addition to those in the main posts, prompted by some great questions from the readers.
Cultural or counter-cultural?
I was asked in a Facebook comment how Paul decided when to follow culture and when to be counter-cultural — an excellent question. Here’s how I understand Paul’s thinking:
1. Gospel matters can’t be compromised. Therefore, circumcision cannot be required for salvation of Gentiles, even though this offended some of the Jews. The gospel cannot be diluted for the sake of culture/reputation.
2. Outside of the gospel, as a rule, the church must meet the higher of two standards of morality: Jesus’ standard and the surrounding culture’s standard. For example, even today, female missionaries in Muslim countries generally cover their hair, because to do otherwise would be to appear immodest — although the Bible has no such rule. Freedom is sacrificed for the gospel.
Sometimes culture and scripture align, so that both require the same thing. When culture changes, suddenly the scripture seems problematic. For example, scripture has always opposed gay sex. Culture changes but scripture does not. The higher standard applies.
Sometimes it’s the other way. Culture required that married women not speak to other women’s husbands. The higher rule applied. But our secular culture has changed so that neither the Bible nor culture now requires such a rule.
But within the church, well, it has developed its own extra-biblical, internal culture, and so to the highly churched — those whose personal cultures are largely church culture — it still feels wrong for women to speak in the assembly because hearing a woman speak in the assembly is contrary to experience and has been preached for generations as sinful. But biblically, it’s not. Culturally, it was in the First Century and that rule has been and is true in some other times and places, but not in the contemporary U.S.
How can Paul push to liberate and not liberate at the same time?
If you say, “Okay, you men can ask questions of the speaker (a common thing for men to do as you said) but you wives just ask your husbands at home; how is that liberating?”
Well, it’s not. But that doesn’t mean Paul wasn’t pushing in a liberating direction. I commend to your reading Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. It’s not an easy read, but it’s very insightful, and the general thesis is easily stated.
The Bible deals with slaves in an increasingly liberating way. Torah treats slaves much better than in surrounding countries. The NT treats them even better — so much so that many churches had slave elders. The trend is against culture and toward liberation — but with full liberation only to be accomplished by the church centuries later. But who today would argue that emancipation wasn’t required by “Love your neighbor” as Jesus taught it?
On the other hand, homosexual conduct is strictly forbidden in both the OT and NT even though it was largely approved in other Ancient Near East countries. The NT is just as strict as the OT. There is no discernible trend toward liberalization. Hence, we cannot argue that the Bible is pointing us toward approval of gay marriage. The Bible has pushed against culture toward prohibition, not liberalization.
So where do we find women in the church? Well, the case is much more like slavery than homosexual conduct. The Torah isn’t exactly the Equal Rights Amendment, but women are treated much better than in surrounding culture. We see even greater freedom and, more importantly, respect for women in the Gospels and in the NT. We even have a woman apostle in Junia. The trend is toward overcoming Gen 3:16 and establishing the “one flesh” relationship as in Gen 2 — but the goal is not fully realized because the culture wouldn’t tolerate such a change so fast. But just like slavery, the trendline is easily discerned, and over time, as we’ve treated our wives and daughters better, we’ve known in our bones that this was right.
The Golden Rule is plain enough, not to mention Joel 2, 1 Cor 11 and 12, Rom 12, etc. The direction that God wanted us to travel is clear when we look at the entirety of scripture.
Why does Paul refer to “shame”?
I don’t believe Paul issued arbitrary commands. I believe his instructions were always rooted in something else — the gospel, Gen 2, Torah, etc. And I think this is because he routinely gives the reasons for his instructions. In this instance, he says the reason is the requirement for women to submit “as the Law also says.” Therefore, that is the reason. He didn’t just make it up.
So we easily find a reason for wives to submit to husbands in the Law (Gen 2). We do not find the least support for wives being silent around their husband in the Law. It’s just not there. Hence, Paul skipped a step in explaining his logic.
The reason for silence is either it’s “because I said so” or “because cultural norms require this to avoid appearing shameful.” And lo and behold, he refers to the shamefulness of this conduct! And “shame” in an honor/shame culture is, obviously enough, cultural.
Hence, there is no reason to adopt the “because I said so” theory. We can, based on the scriptures and not assumption, see culture as driving Paul’s decision.
Those who insist that Paul makes up the rule out of the clear blue sky because somehow or other silence in an assembly honors the Law’s requirement to submit base their theory on assumption not scripture — because no scripture justifies that result. I mean, why is that silence is how submission must be shown? And why only in the assembly? There is no answer either in logic or the scriptures.
Why doesn’t Num 30 demonstrate that women should be silent in the assembly?
Num 30 certainly evidences the submission of wives to husbands and daughters to fathers in the Ancient Near East culture. It says nothing about about women in general submitting to men in general.
More importantly, it says nothing about silence. In fact, it assumes that daughters and wives will make vows in the presence of men — by speaking out loud.
The command to submit applies inside and outside the assembly, inside and outside the church. So why does submission require silence on in the church’s assembly? There’s nothing in Num 30 about silence.
Why does Paul say “as in all the churches”?
And my final question(s) is why does Paul go there with “For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” What is so “shameful” about an equally liberated woman speaking (asking questions as you say) in church, and why does he even say as in all the churches? Is he really saying “as in all the churches” it is a shame for women to ask questions in the same manner as men do?
First, remember that Corinth was part of an honor culture, and so honor/shame is the standard by which people lived. We covered this in theseries — and it’s really important (and a marvelous, very accessible book).
I would add this. I think much of Jesus’ teaching was specifically against the honor/shame culture of Judea. “Turn the other cheek” is the exact opposite of that culture. I don’t think Paul was any fan of honor/shame either, but sometimes you have to explain it terms that the audience can understand. So this is accommodationist language. He’s saying,”The problem arises due to how the culture of Corinth sees women. And in that culture, a woman questioning a man married to another woman is shameful (the opposite of honorable). You’re losing face! People see you as bad in a culture where life is all about how others see you. You are bringing shame to the gospel in an honor/shame culture. You of all people should know better!”
Remember also that 1 Cor was likely the first epistle we have of Paul’s (some say 1 Thes came earlier). Either way, the church was very young and very immature. There weren’t that many congregations, and the ones that existed were largely Jewish or Jewish with God-fearers (Gentiles who’d been YHWH worshipers before Paul arrived). See the excellent, which is another great read. This book describes the Jewishness of the early church. Thanks to German dominance of Christian thought in the last two centuries, this had largely been forgotten, but in fact the early church was very, very Jewish — for centuries. And Paul was a Jewish rabbi.
The early church started in Jerusalem, spread to Antioch (in Syria), Damascus, and through the Jewish diaspora. Most churches were Jewish or culturally Jewish or had Jewish members. Fully Gentile churches wouldn’t arrive for quite some time — which is why Paul is constantly dealing with Jews and Gentiles having to get along in the same congregation. (My guess is that the first entirely Gentile church was in Rome, and then only after the Jews were expelled by Claudius Caesar in about 51 AD). And even that was temporary.
So, yes, Paul was very concerned with Jewish sensibilities. And if churches he planted were seen as grossly immoral by the Jews back in Antioch and Jerusalem, he’d have to deal with that — and the circumcision issue was already a brewing fight and one he’d fight the rest of his career. That one was too big to yield on. But Greek and Roman sensibilities were also offended by women who spoke to the wrong men — making the problem even bigger. How could he plant churches in Asia Minor if his supporters in Antioch saw him as tolerating immorality and the Gentiles also saw him as promoting immorality?
When female missionaries go to Muslim nations today, they cover their hair in a scarf. Why? Because the Bible requires it? No, because they seem immoral to act otherwise. They yield their freedom for the sake of the gospel. They just have to be careful not to yield the gospel for the sake of the gospel! And so Paul couldn’t yield on circumcision, because requiring it as a condition to salvation contradicted the gospel itself.
Why did Paul’s instruction focus on women?
My other question(s) have to deal with the 1 Corinthian passage. If as you say, the passage is mostly about maintain order and proper etiquette in the assembly as women are exercising their gifts, then why the special admonition to the women? Why not just say, “OK everybody wait their turn, speak one at a time, and ladies if you have a question, just ask your husbands at home.” Why say as in all the churches of the saints women should be silent in the churches? What makes a woman inferior where she can’t ask questions? After all, didn’t the cross make everything equal between the sexes?
Because it’s an occasional letter written to deal with particular problems, not a legislative enactment designed to give a rule for all cases and circumstances.
Paul stated the universal rule: Wives must be in submission to their husbands, just as he said in Eph 5, which we should read in light of Gen 2 correctly exegeted. The application of that rule is that, when wives are asking questions of men married to other women, in that culture, they appeared grossly immoral. And that injured the cause of the gospel.
If the men had been acting in ways that appeared grossly immoral in that culture, Paul would have called the men down. In fact, I imagine that it was the men who were mainly responsible for most the problems that he deals with in chapters 1 – 10 and 15.
If 1 Cor is an occasional letter, why does it apply to us today?
Much of the NT is fairly characterized as “occasional letters,” that is, letters written to deal with particular problems confronting a particular congregation. As a result, as serious scholars, we are required to distinguish between the “occasional” part and the eternal part.
When my grandchildren fight, and my grandson is hitting my granddaughter, I say, “Stop hitting your sister!” because on that occasion, the problem is that my grandson is hitting his sister.
Now, if someone were foolish enough to think that I am Moses on Mt. Sinai issuing Torah-like laws, I might be read as saying that’s it wrong to hit your sister but okay to hit your brother. After all, I said nothing against hitting brothers. I might even seem sexist.
But common sense tells you that the reason I spoke harshly to the brother is because, on that occasion, he is the one who was the problem. The general rule is that we do not hit each other, brothers or sisters. The occasional result is that my grandson may not hit his sister. I didn’t have to announce the general rule, because he already knew it. He just chose not to obey it.
In 1 Cor 14, the general, eternal rule is that wives must be suitable complements/helpers to their husbands. In the Corinthian church, the problem was that the wives were asking questions of men not their husbands in a way that in that time and place was considered immoral and disrespectful to their own husbands. The passage reminds us of the important general rule, which is always true, but the occasional result only applies in similar situations.
On the private/public distinction
Jay wrote, “The public/private distinction is nonsense.” If so, then the argument over the distance between the years between the two letters and the difference in the different Greek words in 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2 used probably (IMO) wouldn’t be as great an obstacle to overcome as it is made out to be. Just maybe progressives would piece that puzzle together with the 1 Corinthian 14 passage as conservatives are accused of.
If we throw out the assumption that this is NT Torah and read the two epistles as the occasional letters that they are, then we don’t have to import 21st Century church concepts into the First Century. Their meetings were private. Their meetings were also their classes. And they met in homes. It was all private. There was instruction in true public, as when Paul spoke on Mars Hill and surely the equivalent philosophers’ debating places throughout the Empire. And the apostles taught in the Temple when they could. But the assemblies were private.
If Paul spoke in a synagogue, it was open to the circumcised only — only Jews and proselytes — and so hardly “public,” although it’s conceivable that Paul would call it “public” as the crowd might largely include non-believers in a given setting.
So the Priscilla distinction would have to be stated in terms of: In the assembly/Not in the assembly rather than In private/In public — but it’s really hard to see how Torah could create one rule for the Christian assembly and another for outside the assembly when there was nothing comparable to the Christian assembly in the Torah. (The synagogue only shows up 1,000 years later).
To say that you understand the text, you have understand each step of Paul’s logic. Hence, we have [Torah requires Submission] and [Submission requires Silence (sigao) in the assembly]. Both steps have to based on some good reason — not just “because I said so.”
How does Torah require Submission? Well, I’ve suggested that it’s about husbands and wives and Gen 2. This happens to fit with the Num 30 passage mentioned in another comment (wives’ vows must be approved by their husbands) and with “ask their own husbands at home” and Eph 5 — which all speak of submission of wives to husbands. Even Gen 3:16, if it applied (and it doesn’t) but if it did, speaks of husbands and wives. I can’t imagine where we’d find authority for all women to be in submission to all men in the Torah. It’s just not there — and no one has suggested a remotely plausible explanation. So we follow the evidence.
On the other hand, as we learned in the series on Misreading Scripture through Western Eyes, our language betrays our worldview, and the ancient world assumed in their speech that all women were married, even though it plainly wasn’t true. The same is true of modern German where a crowd is addressed “Frauen und Herren” – wives and men. “Frau” means “wife.” So the inexactitude of Greek in this regard reflects a cultural bias inherent in the language, and so it’s really no surprise that Paul doesn’t bother to give separate rules for single women, divorced, and widowed. He was worried about an abuse going on among married women. (Just as we in church often speak of “families” utterly ignoring single people as though they don’t exist. It’s our culture coloring our speech, and we are unaware of it. But ask some single people …)
So Torah requires a wife to be a suitable helper/complement to her husband. How does this require silence? And why only in the assembly? Why not over the kitchen table a la Priscilla and Apollos?
Well, the Torah contains no such law. But the culture required that married women not speak to other women’s husbands outside that woman’s home. That’s a fact. And so the true command of submission (to be a suitable helper) requires, in that culture, that wives not question men married to other women. And that fits the facts and the Torah and is consistent with Paul’s words without contradiction.
It leaves us unclear about the boundaries of speech for a female prophet in the assembly, but the prophetesses weren’t asking questions of a man. A female prophet said what the Spirit prompted her to say, and we can be confident that the Spirit was just as concerned and sensitive to local cultural concerns at Paul. He had the same Spirit.
How can we separate 1 Tim 2 from 1 Cor 14 when both require silence?
I’m not sure why (and maybe I’m completely wrong) but I feel that if the 1 Timothy passage seemed to suggest that instead of prohibiting women from being loud, for you said, “silence in 1 Tim 2:11-15 is hesuchios, meaning “in quietness” that if it seemed to suggest women should speak up (in the home and in the church) and be boisterous leaders and teachers of men (maybe quiet teachers) – you really can’t separate the two you seemed to suggest.
Hesuchios, used in 1 Tim 2, means in tranquility or quietness. It is not the same as sigao, used in 1 Cor 14, and refers to becoming silent to let someone else speak. That being the case, in 1 Tim 2, Paul instructs women to be sober and tranquil in the classroom (which was likely also the assembly — the Sunday school is a 19th Century invention). He does not tell them to be silent in that passage. He does prohibit teaching and usurping authority (authenteo, which means “domineer”).
Does that mean that men could rude and boisterous? No. It means that it was the women who needed to be called down. If we read the text as NT Torah, then it’s odd that men aren’t prohibited from domineering, as Jesus prohibits all domineering by all leaders for all time by all people. But if we read it as an “occasional letter,” that is, a letter written to deal with problems arising in a particular place at a particular time, then the problem goes away.
Just so, men are to “lift holy hands” in prayer because the men needed to be reminded to do so, not because women could not pray. Women were to dress modestly, not because men may be ostentatious peacocks but not women, but because women were the problem at that time and place. In other settings, Paul might tell men not to wear jewelry but instead to adorn themselves with good works.
In 1 Cor 14, isn’t Paul really addressing a lack of female authority to speak, which connects it with 1 Tim 2?
1 Cor 14 says nothing about authority. You are incorporating that concept from 1 Tim 2, which is talking about something else altogether. Asking questions of the speaker is not an act of authority. It’s how people learn. It’s the act of a student.
For that matter, reading from the Moses Seat in the synagogue was a privilege available to any male 14 or older. If a child read and offered his understanding of Isa 61, he was not speaking with any sort of authority. He was just part of the community sharing his ideas — and subject to questioning in order to discuss and interpret as a community. We impose our own hierarchical ways on what was a much more community-centric system in both the synagogue and the church.
Just so, even in today’s Churches of Christ, most Sunday school teachers have “authority” to call on members or to run the classroom, but their doctrinal teaching isn’t authoritative for the church. No one has to agree with them — and, trust me, I’ve been disagreed with plenty of times. I have no more “authority” as a Bible class teacher than my powers of persuasion and the Spirit provide — which often is very little.
A guest speaker in the pulpit also carries no authority other than the privilege of speaking. If the church disagrees, well, they can disagree. In most Churches of Christ, only the elders have the authority to decide doctrine or much of anything else. The preacher only has authority by delegation from the elders. And if he goes outside their authorization, he’s exceeded his authority and nothing is binding on the church. He has no inherent authority to bind the church just because he stands behind a pulpit and talks. (The Baptists would see it otherwise, but we are not they.)
On the other hand — and this is very important — if a female prophet were to speak by the power of the Spirit, then her speech would indeed be authoritative — by God’s own authority. And this was plainly allowed.
And so you can’t make 1 Cor 14 makes sense by analyzing it in terms of female authority. That’s just not what the passage is speaking to.
So what do you make of this passage —
(Joe 2:28-29 ESV) 28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.”
Now, there had been a few — a distinct minority — female prophets before Pentecost. So what changed? Merely giving the Spirit of prophecy to a few, rare women would have been no change at all. The change seems to be that women began to receive the gifts of the Spirit just like the men. And when we read in Acts, Rom 12, and 1 Cor 11 and 12 about gifts of the Spirit, we see no distinctions between men and women. Now how odd would it be to say that women who carry the mark of the Kingdom by being gifted this way must be silenced in the assembly. And yet they’d be speaking and teaching and acting with authority. Indeed, that seems to be the very point of Joel’s prophecy — that women would speak as real prophets on God’s behalf in numbers that would astonish the ancient world.
So how do we reconcile Joel with Paul in 1 Tim 2? And in 1 Cor 14? We should at least confess that it’s a difficult thing and — please, oh, please — avoid the temptation to say that the answer is “clear” and “obvious.” I mean, it’s only clear if you don’t bother to read it in context with Joel, Acts, Rom 12, and 1 Cor 11 and 12. Those passages force us to think about it — and I’d hope we’d give it the serious reflection that the scriptures merit.
Clearly the elders had authority. And in the early church, they were male. But they were ordained in the same cultural milieu that led to 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2. There’s a very real tension here that requires resolution beyond “I just do what it says.” Because you don’t. If you did what the Bible says, you’d also —
(1Co 12:20-25 ESV) 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
Who lacked honor and respect in that culture? Among others, women — most certainly. How did God deal with that? He gave them the same gifts the men had, just as prophesied by Joel. Would he then have us say to them that we have no need for their gifts in the assembly? How does that correct the lack of honor that was being corrected by the Spirit?
Ben Witherington’s thinking on the passage and Hab 2:20
Thank you so much for sharing that insight. When your comment hit my computer, I had Witherington’s commentary on 1 Cor open on my desk, looking at his thoughts on this very passage. I’m a fan of his work.
He rejects the interpolation theory and also the theory that these are words of the Corinthians that he is repudiating. Rather, he considers Paul to be addressing inappropriate questioning by women — likely women prophets. He concludes, much as I do, that Paul was definitely not requiring that all women be silent in all assemblies forever. He says that c.11:1-16 plainly gives them permission to speak. “Paul is correcting an abuse of a privilege, not taking back a woman’s right to speak in the assembly, which he has already granted in ch. 11.” Page 287.
The Hab 2:20 suggestion is new to me and bears some thought. “Silent” in the Hebrew is hacah, similar onomatopoeia to our “hush!”
(Hab 2:18-20 ESV) 18 “What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! 19 Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. 20 But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
It’s an ironic declaration. Idols cannot speak, but God can (as he is doing through Habakkuk). Thus, while the idols stand mute, the entire world should stand mute in the presence of God — the God who speaks.
Yahweh is approached in silence, a fitting response to his holiness and majesty, and a token of one’s respect for his being – dependency upon his grace and submission to his will (cf. Ps. 46:10; Isa. 41:1). This silence is requested not only of Judah but of all the earth, who will ultimately acknowledge God as the true giver of knowledge (cf. Ps. 22:27; Isa. 2:2–3). This contrasts with the frenetic activity of man to create ‘speaking’ gods, and the tumultuous cries of worshippers to make dumb idols respond. Lifeless idols approached in clamour are silent, while the living God, approached in silence and reverence, speaks.
David W. Baker, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale OTC 27; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), n.p.
The thrice repeated sigao! that culminates Paul’s discussion may well be a reflection of this thought. God, unlike the pagan gods, isn’t approached with a cacophony of babbling and shouting, as though he needs to be awakened from his sleep. YHWH is approached with reverent silence, because he lives, he hears, and he responds. True prophets speak in response to his prompting, not their own.
To return to Witherington’s commentary,
In light of the discussion of pagan prophecy above, it is very believable that these women assumed that Christian prophets or prophetesses functioned much like the oracle at Delphi, who only prophesied in response to questions, including questions about purely personal matters. Paul argues that Christian prophecy is different: Prophets and prophetesses speak in response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, without any human priming of the pump.
Conflict & Community in Corinth, p. 287.
Was Paul referring to Num 12 (Miriam struck with leprosy) as “the Law”?
The Num 12 argument seems very weak. Miriam wasn’t punished for daring to speak but for criticizing God’s chosen leader for his people. It’s interesting that God let Aaron remain unpunished, but this seems more likely due to his status as high priest and the need for him to continue the service at the tabernacle, not his gender. The text does not speak in terms of gender.
Their guilt pronounced, sentence immediately followed. For her sacrilegious talk Miriam came out with ‘leprosy’ (cf. 2 Kgs 5:27; 2 Chr. 26:19). Aaron was spared, perhaps because as high priest his role was vital to the divine economy.
Gordon J. Wenham, Numbers: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale OTC 4; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1981), n.p.
Does Gen 3:16 speak in terms of male dominance or just male spiritual leadership?
The Hebrew word is mashal. It next appears in —
(Gen 4:7 ESV) If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
We should “spiritually lead” sin? Or dominate and overcome sin?
(Gen 24:2 ESV) And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh,
We really don’t know what kind of authority the chief servant had in that culture. So we move to —
(Gen 37:8 ESV) 8 His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
Say what you will, the sense of “rule” is that sentence is not “spiritual leadership like that of a loving husband” but the kind of dominance that one would fear.
(Gen 45:8 ESV) So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
(Gen 45:26 ESV) And they told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them.
Joseph had so much authority that he converted Egypt to a feudal system in which Pharaoh owned every tract of land in the country. He was able to exact taxes. He was a wise ruler, but one with virtually unlimited power, which he used to destroy private property rights of an entire nation. (Joseph saved the people from famine-induced starvation, but he didn’t have to keep title to the land when it was all over. After all, he acquired the land in exchange for grain he’d obtained from the same people.)
(Exo 21:8 ESV) If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her.
Here, mashal refers to power to sell a slave girl to foreign masters.
(Deu 15:6 ESV) For the LORD your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.
As I recall, when Solomon consolidated Israelite rule over their neighbors, they were conscripted into slavery (1 Ki 9:21).
So I’m just not seeing “loving spiritual leader” in mashal. It’s a harsh word used of despotic rule.
Now, the key here is that you just can’t make a case for “loving spiritual leadership” from Gen 3:16 unless that’s what the word means. And it’s just not. In the Torah, it’s not ever used of a loving, spiritual, gentle leadership. It’s used of the rule of Ancient Near Eastern kings — who were absolute in their power. Some ruled well. Some ruled poorly. All had absolute power over their subjects.
Regarding Foh, I agree with her conclusion:
Contrary to the usual interpretations of commentators, the
desire of the woman in Genesis 3:16b does not make the wife
(more) submissive to her husband so that he may rule over her.
Her desire is to contend with him for leadership in their relationship.
This desire is a result of and a just punishment for sin,
but it is not God’s decretive will for the woman. Consequently,
the man must actively seek to rule his wife.
This has become the accepted interpretation of most commentators in the last several years — and I think for good reason. Gen 3:16 is not what God wants in a marriage but the result of sin.
On the other hand, to the extent Foh concludes that, to please God, a husband must seek to mashal his wife, I think Foh is dead wrong. I see in Gen 2 a partnership, a complementation, a one-flesh, united relationship, not a hierarchy. The dominance of wives by their husbands is a curse, not a command.
Does “the Law” refer to the Oral Law rather than Torah or the OT?
Apparently also there were similar standards related to the conduct of women based on the Law which were accepted in Paul’s day, since he states that women “must be in submission, as the Law says.”
It’s conceivable that “Law” refers to the oral law, but we have the oral law in the form the Mishnah and Talmud today. And I’ve read countless commentaries, blogs, comments, etc. on this topic, and I can’t recall anyone citing a particular command in the Mishnah or Talmud as a likely candidate for Paul’s statement. I don’t think we can assume an oral law for which there is no evidence.
I’ve found this in the Babylonian Talmud —
It is written: “None of you shall approach to any that are near of kin to him.” From this it was said one must not stay in a separate room with any woman in a hostelry, though she be his sister or daughter, because of public opinion. For the same reason one must not converse with a woman in the market, not even with his wife. For the same reason a man shall not walk behind a woman, even though she be his wife. This was deduced from the following analogy of expression: It is written in the passage of illegal unions, “Ye shall not approach,” and here is also written, “Thou shalt not approach,” from which it is to be inferred that one shall not approach such things as can cause him to sin (or cause people to talk about him).
Abo 1:5 MISHNA E. Jose b. Johanan of Jerusalem was in the habit of saying: “Let thy house be so wide open that the poor may enter it as were they inmates there; and do not hold too much discourse with woman.” The sages have cautioned against talking too much with one’s own wife. An inference can then be made with regard to talking with the wife of a neighbor. Hence the wise man said The man who does talk overmuch with woman causes evil unto himself, makes himself insusceptive of the words of the Thora, and in the end will be an heir to Gehenna.”
It has been said: “And prolong not converse with a woman.” It means not even with his own wife, much less with the wife of his neighbor; for he who holds much discourse with a woman causes evil to himself, neglects the teaching of the Law, and finally he is doomed to Gehenna.
The rabbis taught: All are entitled to be counted read among the seven on Sabbath, even a minor and a woman. The sages, however, said: A woman should not read in the Torah for the honor of the congregation.
A man may be left in the street to hold an oration over him, but not a woman; the greatest man of the city may accompany a man, but he is not to be troubled for a woman. R. Jehudah said: He may; the funeral meal is taken over a man, but not over a woman. Said R. Jehudah: If she has little children, the meal is taken with them.
I see nothing here akin to Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 14 – except a clear cultural stigma against women speaking with other women’s husbands. But nothing that says, “Don’t talk in the synagogue.” The prohibitions are general.
I think it’s likely true that women were not allowed to speak in the most First Century synagogues, but there is no such command in the Oral Law. It would have been true due to the Jewish cultural treatment of women.
If you check the other references to nomos in 1 Cor, which I just did last night, you’ll find that every other reference is to the Torah, not the oral law. Given how little regard Jesus had for the oral law, it really seems unlikely that Paul would be enforcing it on the early church. This is especially so given that the Jews living west of Jerusalem did not learn Hebrew, studied the Septuagint, and were not much influenced by the rabbis. The rabbis were only active in Palestine and Babylon, where the scriptures were studied in Hebrew and the oral law was enforced as though from God himself.
Doesn’t the fact that Tertullian repeatedly cites 1 Cor 14:33b-37 as authority and binding tell us that the text is ancient and authentic?
You quite right that Tertullian enforces a very conservative interpretation of these verses, but he is the earliest to do so and only a Third Century writer.
The hypothesis that that these verses were not in Paul’s original letter helps to explain why none of the Apostolic Fathers—Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Polycrates—or Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Shepherd of Hermas, the Gnostic Gospels or second century pseudepigraphae, Tatian, or Clement of Alexandria or Hippolytus ever make reference to them. Clement of Alexandria has it in his head that both men and women should “embrace silence” at church, but extols Miriam as Moses’ associate in commanding the host of Israel as a prophetess, which together implies his text of I Cor 14 did not have vv. 34-35. Tertullian (Bap. 15.17) [early 3rd century], then, is our first Christian writer to clearly show his awareness, not to mention wholeheartedly acceptance of, this pseudo-Pauline policy of feminine silence.
So it seems that the Tertullian argument actually cuts the other way. I mean, the entirety of the Apostolic Fathers have no knowledge of this text that’s been preserved for us.
Reflecting on the eta argument
First, let me thank you for introducing the eta argument into the discussion. I was not aware of it until Price mentioned it. And I’d entirely missed the fact that the KJV honors the argument —
(1Co 14:36 KJV) What? [eta] came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
(1Co 6:19 KJV) What? [eta] know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
(1Co 6:16 KJV) What? [eta] know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.
Interestingly, the more recent translations seem to have uniformly preferred to translate as “or.” I wonder what happened in Greek studies to shift the translators’ opinions? In fact, in each example in 1 Cor of the eta construction I gave this morning, you can substitute “What?” for “or” and get good, even better, sense. Paul plainly uses the eta to mark a false choice between a good and a bad alternative — and the bad alternative always deserves at least a “What?”
The double eta construction in 14:36 is surely intended to be even more emphatic.
On the other hand, I don’t buy the argument that “Law” in 14:34 is local law because Paul routinely uses “law” to mean Torah throughout his writings, and in very parallel ways in 1 Cor — 9:9-10; 9:20; 14:21; and 15:56. That’s every use of nomos in 1 Cor. All seem to plainly reference Torah. Hence, if it’s Paul speaking in those verses, I take him to be speaking of Gen 2.
The dialogue argument is true in principle. No one disputes that there are several passages in which Paul quotes the Corinthian position — with no indication of when the quote begins in the Greek. (Translators add quotation marks based on their own exegesis.) The general rule is that it’s from the church, not Paul, when it’s contradictory to Paul’s position stated in the immediate context (it would seem to me). And there is a strong case for just such a contradiction in these verses. And Pappiott’s work is surely helpful to your thesis.
I’ve argued in earlier posts that Paul speaks in gender-neutral terms in the preceding chapters, making his reference to silencing women something of a shock to those who read Greek and who don’t come to the text with a hierarchical bias. If that’s right — and I’ve not yet seen a refutation — then that passage may well be a quotation from the Corinthian congregation.
I have to say that my own inclination (but I’m still thinking all this through) is to conclude that Paul is speaking to a temporary cultural issue, evidenced by his reference to “shame” in an honor/shame culture and the emphasis he places on wives speaking to their “own” husbands (NASB correctly translates the Greek idios). It’s about not speaking to another woman’s husband — which is entirely concordant with First Century cultural attitudes.
But I agree that it’s entirely possible that the Corinthians were the ones worried about shame and a woman’s own husband — and so Paul is actually meaning to contradict a Corinthian teaching. My trouble with that reading is many grammatical. Throughout 1 Cor, Paul’s use of eta marks a false choice between Paul’s position and a ridiculous position. Hence, the choice Paul wants us to consider is —
(1Co 14:35-36 ESV) 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 36 Or [eta] was it from you that the word of God came? Or [eta] are you the only ones it has reached?
To me, Paul plainly wishes us to reject the choices given us in v. 36, so that we are forced to accept the choice he offers in v. 35 (in that particular time and place, not forever). And so I can’t agree that v. 35 is the Corinthian position. I therefore conclude that it’s Paul’s position for that occasion.
Why not just go with the clear sense of the text?
John F states,
I don’t mind being “stuck” with scripture’s clear wordings.
This is a purely subjective standard. Many would consider Gal 3:28 very clear indeed regarding the role of women. Those who disagree will mount an elaborate argument about inheritance rights under the Torah, declaring this is really what Paul is addressing (for example, Cottrell’s book on the role of women). In fact, both sides have no lack of “clear” authority and of elaborate argument. “Clear to me” means nothing but “my opinion is right.” Both sides see themselves to be clearly right. Hence, the claim of clarity is meaningless.
Rather, the far, far better test is whether a proposed interpretation fits into the larger scriptural principles — the grand narrative of the entirety of scripture, the chesed/grace of God, salvation by faith, the atonement, the work of the Spirit promised in Deut, Jer, Isa, Eze, Joel, etc. and fulfilled in the church, etc. And it’s really hard to find a justification for silencing women in these great, overarching doctrines. It’s easy to find reason to respect women as co-equal creations of God and as expected to use their Spirit-given gifts in furtherance of the Kingdom. It’s easy to find the submission of a suitable helper/complement to her one-flesh husband who left his family to be joined to her as one.
So I personally seek clarity in reading this Bible through the lens of the overarching doctrines — the ones that flow throughout the pages, chapters, books, and testaments. So I’m all for clarity, but not clarity separated from the context of the entirety of the holy text.