1 Cor 14:34-35

From: Ward Powers (bwpowers@eagles.bbs.net.au)
Date: Mon Jun 29 1998 - 21:37:35 EDT

B-greekers all:

At 04:45 98/06/29 EDT, David Palmer wrote:

>Ward's suggestion raises other questions in my mind (a mind not humble enough
>to boast its opinions humble, though I am certainly of low estate).
>about the same words ANHR and GUNH in I Corinthians 14:34-35. There the
>context is rules of order hOTAN SUNERCHSQE, when you assemble for church.
>This EN EKKLHSIA setting is distinguished from "EN OIKWi" in v. 35. If in
>church she wants to inquire about something, let her ask her husband at home.
>in I Timothy 2:11.

This discussion started off under the heading of 1 Tim 2:12, but as David
has now moved over to discussing 1 Cor 14:34-35, I have place this as the
new heading above this post. All list members will be aware that here we
have another highly controverted passage, and one which has not escaped
attention in previous posts to this list.

It is relevant for me to make a few points in response to David's post to
the list.

1. A great many commentators and exegetes link this passage with 1 Tim
2:11-15 and interpret them in tandem, as self-evidently referring to the
same situation. (The occurrence in each of MANQANW, which David mentions,
is one of the reasons why this is done.) I would aver that, to the
contrary, these two passages address different situations. As I have sought
to demonstrate in other posts, 1 Tim 2:11-15 refers to a "home, marriage
and family" situation; 1 Cor 14:34 expressly shows its context to be "in
the churches", and (as David points out) hOTAN SUNERCHSQE, "when you
assemble together" (verse 26), which is being distinguished from EN OIKWi
(verse 35). Each passage needs to be considered in its own context and on
its own terms.

2. What women are forbidden to do EN TAIS EKKLHSIAIS is to LALEW. Now, I am
well familiar with the range of interpretations which have been given to
this: but I want to point out that the core meaning of LALEW is to saying
words with one's mouth, to converse. LALEO involves verbal utterance, it is
something that the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). Thus whenever the NT
refers to a person who has been dumb as now being able to speak, the word
used is ALWAYS and ONLY LALEW (Mt 9:33; 12:22; 15:31; Mk 7:37; Lk 11:14) -
the emphasis is upon the FACT that he can SPEAK, not upon what it is that
he SAID. And LALEW is the normal word which is used when people are
engaging in informal conversation. This informal conversation COULD be
conveying teaching - LALEW is used of Jesus in this way (cf. Mt 13:3). But
the central idea is that of engaging in oral communication, of being HEARD,
and usually the idea of informal utterance is also present.

3. Therefore the starting point for the consideration of Paul's meaning in
1 Cor 14:34 should be of taking LALEW to be referring to making a noise
with the mouth, of informal conversation. If the meaning in a particular
context is other than this, that meaning will have to come from the context

4. It is often taken that what Paul forbids in this passage is speaking in
ministry, i.e., preaching or teaching, where what is happening is the
communication of particular content. It should be noted that Paul had at
his disposal (and elsewhere uses frequently) a range of over a dozen Greek
words which refer in various ways to the communication of information (such
as DIDASKW, KHRUSSW, ANGELW and its various compounds, together with the
ordinary Greek words used for the conveying of meaningful content, LEGW,
FHMI, EIPEIN). But Paul uses none of these here with reference to what the
women are not to do. The implication then is that what he is referring to
is not the speaking with the aim of conveying information, which would have
been indicated by using one or more of these words.

5. The word Paul uses (twice, once each in vv. 34 and 35) is LALEW - which
is a very ambiguous and inconclusive word to use if
"preach/teach/communicate information to the congregation" is the meaning
to be conveyed. And it would be very unPauline for Paul to be that
imprecise and unclear. On the other hand, if there were women who (now
enjoying a newfound freedom to be involved in worship in a way which went
far beyond what was possible for them in Judaism) were conversing or
calling out to others in the course of worship, this is precisely the word
Paul would use to tell them to stop doing this.

6. It is also very instructive to note what it is they are to do instead of
whatever it is which Paul is forbidding them. If there is anything they
wish to know, they are to ask their own husbands (TOUS IDIOUS ANDRAS) at
home. Wanting to know something and asking their husbands at home is not an
alternative to preaching or teaching in church. It is however an
alternative to asking their neighbour about something in church, and
especially to asking their husbands in church about some point or another -
particularly when we bear in mind that men and women sat on opposite sides
of the church, or the women sat at the back or upstairs in the balcony!

I believe that in this approach (rather than a link with 1 Tim 2 or looking
to Numbers 30:3-8, as suggested by David) lies the best road to
understanding the passage. Footnotes, references to other authorities,
discussions of alternative interpretations, and further and more detailed
presentation of this viewpoint will be found in Chapter 3 of my book "The
Ministry of Women in the Church" (SPCKA).

As usual, please understand that all comments above are IMHO.



Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-9799-7501
10 Grosvenor Crescent Phone (Australia): (02) 9799-7501
SUMMER HILL NSW 2130 email: bwpowers@eagles.bbs.net.au

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