Re: SIGATW in 1 Cor 14:34

Date: Fri Jul 04 1997 - 13:24:01 EDT


It seems that perhaps you are looking at 1 Cor 11:2-16 too much on a logical
level and not enough on a rhetorical level. I agree there are several
inferences that are not valid from the statement alone, but are valid from
the context and rhetorical use of the statement. What is Paul's purpose in
saying " the woman who prays and prophesies with her head uncovered shames
her head?" In the context of Pauline ethics it seems that he at least wants
to motivate the women to behavior that is not shameful. Thus, the force of
the statement is at least women should not pray and prophecy with uncovered
heads. Now there is a certain custom in the churches that Paul seems to be
enforcing (11:16). That custom seems to be the custom of (1) women covering
there heads at all times in church or (2) simply not covering them when they
pray or prophecy. Now the question is: What were the women doing in Corinth?
Were they not covering there heads at all? If (1) above why does Paull bring
up the issue of praying and prophesying? If (2) then it makes sense. Perhaps
the woman wore head coverings but took them off when they prayed or
prophesied. In this case either understanding of the custom would make sense,
but why would they do such a thing. Now if the issue with Paul was a
combination of a prohibition of prayer and prophecy for woman and the issue
of head coverings, your view makes sense, but it seems that the objection of
bringing prayer and prophecy into the matter of head coverings in uneccesary,
if 14:24-35 is to deal with the prayer and prophecy issue. One way or
another, something has to be inferred by the context. It seems that the
custom is covering the head while prayer and prophesying is the most natural
inference because of 11:10. As far as gender exclusive commands for women to
pray and prophesy, are they really necessary. There are generic commands on
prayer amd pprophecy . Rom 12:6 basically states that those who have the gift
of prophecy should do so according to the proportion of their faith. 1 Cor
12-14 encourage those who have prophetic gifts to use them for the
edification of the assembly. It seems that if Phillip's daughters were
prophetesses and were given the gift of prophecy they would be obligated to
obey these commands. You are appealing to an argument from silence, and one
that is very weak in this case. The appeal to the prohibition of
authoritative acts of speaking for women also is weak since neither prayer
nor prophecy is necessarily authoritative. 1 Cor 14:34-35 does not have to be
understood as absolute silence and is better understood contextually as I
have argued. It seems you might want to think through these issues a bit
more. I think the right of women to pray prophesy can be validly inferred
from the rhetorical force of the context and from extracontextual sources.
Happy July 4.

Charles Powell

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