SIGATW in 1 Cor 14:34

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Fri Jun 27 1997 - 11:04:21 EDT

At 08:21 AM 6/27/97 -0500, Troy de Jongh wrote:
>Theresa J List, Dcs writes:
>> Anyhow, there were most certainly women prophetesses, like Anna, for
>> example who SPOKE (LALEIN! Look it up!) in the temple! So, women are
>> not to speak (LALEIN, 1 Co 14:34) in the assembly, but, of course, Anna
>> did this with God's sanction. Or, 1 Cor. 11:5, a mere few hundred words
>> before the injunction against speaking in 1 co 14, where women are to
>> prophesy with their heads covered. I refuse to believe that either God
>> or Paul are schizofrenic, erego I know there is some way to understand
>> these as not contradictory.

>I agree that these passages don't have to be read as contradictory,
>Theresa. In fact, I think it helps to remember who Paul was talking
>to and in what context he was speaking (as well as his overall purpose
>of writing the letter). Certainly there are many places in scripture
>where women are labeled as prophetesses or a woman holds authority
>(Deborah in Judges); but then Paul comes along and tells a particular
>congregation that women should be silent...
>My whole point is this: Paul wanted to minimize possibly negative external
>stimuli so the prospective believer would have a minimum amount of
>extra "noise" to deal with....

Troy, although you interpret this as figurative noise, maybe the real issue
in 1 Cor 14:34 is literal noise. The context, starting with verse 27, is all
about people not all talking at the same time because God is a God of peace,
not of confusion. So if people speak in tongues, then one at a time, and if
people prophesy, then one at a time, and let the others pass judgement.

In this context, he says:


Is he asking them to pay attention to what is going on instead of talking to
each other? In other words, is this asking them to not chatter and whisper
during church? Could SIGATWSAN be interpreted as meaning "maintain a
worshipful silence" rather than "do not teach, preach, or prophecy"? The
noun SIGH, related to SIGAW, seems to have this kind of meaning in many
contexts. I don't have the materials to look up all the references to SIGH
in BAGD, but a number of them seem to have this sense of worshipful silence,
and the articles he refers to for more information on this word include
something on Pseudo-Dyonisius, something called "De Philosophorum Graecorum
Silentio Mystico", and "Das hl. Schweigen".

Hmmmm...if we are to allow two or at most three people to prophesy, and two
or at most three people to speak in tongues, perhaps Paul is envisioning a
service which is largely held in silence, something like what the Quakers or
the Plymouth Brethren have today? Note that if a prophet is speaking and
another prophet starts prophesying, the first should SIGATW. That doesn't
mean that a prophet is not allowed to speak to the congregation. Perhaps it
means, in this context, to enter into a worshipful silence.

I'm speculating here, of course.

If this were the case, then EI DE TI MAQEIN QELOUSIN (if anyone wants to
know anything) might refer to women asking their husbands what this or that
means, and verse 36 could be taken in the context of creating an atmosphere
where the word can be spoken and received without distraction. "Was it from
you that the Word of God went out?" If not, then let there be silence so the
person who is speaking can be heard. "Or has it come to you only"? If not,
then give the others some silence so that they can absorb what has just been

Does this accurately reflect the Greek and the context?


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703

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