Re: Women in the Church

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Tue Aug 11 1998 - 10:38:52 EDT

At 22:45 98/08/07 -0400, Theodore H. Mann wrote:
>Greetings all:
>I have an off-list question I hope someone can answer for me.
>In 1 Cor.14:34ff, women are forbidden to speak in the churches. However,
>1 Cor. 11:5, it indicates that women prophesy. I assume this prophecy
>occurs in a social setting of some kind. What is the solution to this
>apparent contradiction? ( I'm sure there is really no contradiction at
>all. )


Let me venture a comment or two which involves the question of Greek usage,
and therefore legitimately can be given on-list.

In 1 Cor 14:34-35 what Paul forbids is for women to LALEW in church. If
Paul were intending (as he is most frequently taken to be intending) to be
forbidding women to communicate information, by way of teaching or
preaching or similar, he had available to him in Greek (and he uses
elsewhere) a vocabulary of about a dozen suitable words, from specific
words such as DIDASKW, KHRUSSW, PROFHTEUW, through the range of ANGELLW
words and compunds, to FASKW, FHMI, EIPEIN, and simply LEGW. All of these
words have in common that they refer, specifically or generally, in one way
or another, to the concept of conveying information. Paul did not use any
of them when referring to what women are not to do in church.

There is another word in Greek which refers to the fact or act of speaking
without necessary reference to the content of what was said. This word is
LALEW. This verb simply involves verbal utterance - it is what "the mouth
speaks" (Mt 12:34), the act of uttering words. Thus whenever the NT refers
to a person who has been dumb as now being able to speak, the word used is
always LALEW (Mt 9:33; 12:22; 15:31; Mk 7:37; Lk 11:14). What that person
says is irrelevant, of course: what matters is the fact that he speaks at all.

Similarly, LALEW is the normal word used for when people engage in informal
conversation: it refers simply to talking, especially in the sense of
conversing, or chatting, or even chattering or babbling. On some occasions
LALEW is used of Jesus teaching people (e.g., Mt 13:3), but on such
occasions the central idea conveyed is that of engaging in oral
communication, of being heard; and usually the idea of informal utterance
is also present.

In my judgement it is significant that when Paul says in 1 Cor 14:34-35
that women are not permitted to speak in church, he does not use any of the
words that mean to teach or preach or communicate a message. He does not
even use one of the ordinary Greek words for "speak" which refer to the
conveying of meaningful content (LEGW, FHMI, EIPEIN). The word Paul uses
(twice, once each in 14:34 and 14:35) 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.

The background context in which this passage is found is one that is
dealing with the question of good order in the congregation. The (correct)
alternative to whatever it is which the women are doing in the congregation
is to ask their husbands their questions at home. This would suggest that
what they were doing was breaching good order in the congregation by
talking amongst themselves or asking questions of their husbands during the
assembly. (Men and women sat separately in the assembly.)

>Can anyone suggest a really good article or publication dealing
>with the role of women in the church ( head coverings, etc.)?

My comments above are drawn from Chapter 3, "Women Speaking in Church", of
my book "The Ministry of Women in the Church" (SPCK Australia, 1996, ISBN
1-876106-05-0). Chapter 4 of this book deals with 1 Corinthians 11 and
headcoverings, headship, etc. Other chapters discuss other passages of
Scripture considered relevant to the topic. It is not for the author to
comment on whether this book comes into the category of "good article or
publication". But it does deal in some detail with all the Scriptures
touching on the issue, examining the different interpretations which are
found in the church, and suggesting which interpretation most fully does
justice (in the judgement of the author) to biblical teaching. (If the book
is not readily available locally, I can forward a copy postfree for $US15,
paid into a US bank account.)

>I haven't
>checked the archives. Is there anything there? Many thanks.
>Best in Christ,
>Theodore "Ted" H. Mann
>Orchard Lake, Michigan



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

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