Re: Women in the Church

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Thu Aug 13 1998 - 03:39:15 EDT

At 11:06 98/08/11 -0500, Bill Ross wrote:
>I do not support a gender-neutral reading of the NT. The differences are
>everywhere explicit.
>Here, though, it seems as I meditated these I Corinthians I came up with an
>interpretation that I'd never heard anywhere, but it seems to tie together
>much of the book. Much of this discussion may be too interpretive for some,
>so I identify that section so those inclined to may skip it.

Dear Bill,

Some responses to your comments.

>*** caution: interpretation section here:
>As I read it, the Corinthians were given to super-spirituality, especially
>concerning women, and thus when Paul wrote to
>* avoid fornication
>* not have fellowship with the immoral

I would agree.

>* not have women leaders

This rather depends upon what one means by "women leaders". Paul certainly
did not say, "Do not have women leaders."

>they wrote back:
>* so, should we not touch a woman?
>* should we separate from unbelievers, and divorce our wives [especially

Yes, we can identify where they said these things (or something similar).

>* we've silenced our women in Church and now they are protesting

Now I cannot find any way in which you can attribute saying this (or
anything like it) to the Corinthians. Bill, am I overlooking something?

>So Paul clarifies that:
>* celibacy is his favorite, though not for everyone

Again, everything depends upon what you mean by "celibacy" and "favorite".
In 7:1 he quotes the Corinthians who are recommending that in marriage it
is better for a husband to refrain from having sexual relations (the
meaning of the euphemism "to touch") with his wife. In verses 2-5 Paul
responds by totally disagreeing with this proposition. He says that each
one should "have" his own wife. By this he means not only that each person
should be married, but, further (as he goes on to explain), that each
husband should give his wife the fulfilment of her sexual needs, as also
should she to him: she does not have the "rights" over her own body but her
husband does, as also he does not have the "rights" over his own body, but
his wife does. They are each not to deprive one another [of their sexual
relationship] except perhaps by mutual agreement for a limited time for
some specific purpose (Paul mentions prayer, but it may be thought that
there could on occasion be other reasons, in particular circumstances,
because of which a couple may wish to suspend sexual relations for a short
period). Then they are to resume their sexual relationship ("come together
again"), otherwise they open the way for Satan to bring them into
temptation through a lack of sexual self-control.

And this IS something, we should note, which he addresses to everyone, "to
each person". This, it seems to me, can hardly be called an advocacy of

Then he takes up the situation where a person has been previously married
and that marriage has terminated (whether through divorce or widowing):
that is, the situation of people who have been in a sexual relationship
(such as he has been describing) but which no longer exists. So, what are
they to do now? they might ask. Paul answers this in verses 7-9. For a
start, they are to remain as he does. After Paul's own marriage ended, he
did not (he tells us) marry again; and some people are given the gift of
being able to live single and celibate (as he has), while some are not but
are given the gift of being able to be marriage partners. His wish is that
people in such circumstances would continue as he does, without remarrying
(verses 7-8). Such people should test out first of all whether God is now
giving them this gift and calling. But if they do not in fact now have this
gift of sexual self-control, then he gives an instruction: GAMHSATWSAN (an
aorist imperative), "they must marry". It is better that they should marry
than that they should be on fire with sexual desire which they are not able
to control or fulfil (verse 9).

This is, I suppose, a limited advocacy of celibacy, for those who now find
that it is their gift and calling.

>* if you are married, even to an unbeliever, remain as you are -
>* the Scriptures are not only for men


>********** End of interpretive section:
>There is a textual issue with I Cor 14:34. It is either "epitetraptai" ("it
>is allowed" in the perfect) or "epitepetai" ("is being allowed" in the
>present) to speak. Both are indicative, but the latter suggests more
>strongly that this is a local, contemporary prohibition.

I must politely dissent. The verb is durative aspect, negated, which means
as an ongoing situation they are not permitted to do (whatever it is which
is being forbidden). There is no suggestion in such an expression that it
in any way indicates "a local, contemporary prohibition" and certainly not
that it indicates a prohibition restricted to one church or one time.

>If so, this might be an admonition to the women to submit to the ordinance,
>rather than an affirmation of the correctness of the ordinance.

I cannot at all agree that this follows.

>This is further compounded by the textual issue of "hupotassesthai" ("to be
>in subjection" in the infinitive) vs. ("let them be subject" in the
>imperative). The infinitive seems to contrast "speaking" with "subjection",
>which doesn't seem proper to me, whereas the imperative seems to contrast
>civil disobedience with subjection.

I cannot understand this point at all. My UBS GNT at 1 Cor 14:34 has
hUPOTASSESQWSAN, which is present passive imperative, 3rd plural, "let them
(or, they must) be in subjection/be subordinate". No alternate reading of
an infinitive is given in the apparatus. You may care to clarify your point

>**** mostly interpretive below:
>This also explains the phrase "to the degree as also the law says". In the
>infinitive reading, the silence in Church is said to be taught in the Law,
>but I sure can't find it. In the alternate, it is subjection that is said to
>be said in the Law, which it is (ie: Sarah obeyed her husband, calling him
>Now, in Verse 35, Paul charges husbands to allow their wives to EPERWTATWSAN
>("interrogate") them at home,

This comment involves a reworking of the verse. What Paul says is not
addressed to husbands, to tell them to allow their wives to do anything:
EPERWTATWSAN is a present active imperative, 3rd plural, addressed to
wives, instructing them what they must do. And I am not sure what you have
in mind in your choice of "interrogate" as your translation for this verb:
BAGD gives its first and usual meaning as "ask (a question)", and does not
even list "interrogate" as a translation for it.

>because AISXRON ("censured") it is for women
>to speak in the assembly. AISXRON does not imply that it is actually
>shameful, but rather that there is an external censuring (consult Vine's).

I have consulted BAGD, who give the meaning as "ugly, shameful, base,
disgraceful", and do not refer to any concept of censure.

>Speaking to the husbands, Paul, shaming the husbands who have been like the
>shepherds in Exodus 2:17, keeping the women from the Word, says, "the Word
>didn't come from you [it came through Mary?], or to you only it didn't
>arrive. [but to women as well]".

I can see nothing in 14:36 to suggest that this was addressed to husbands
as distinct from the whole of the Corinthians (men and women together).

>So, the bottom line is: If you prevent women from talking in Church, they
>must submit, but husbands, at least let them ask their questions at home.
>The Word is for them as well.

As for the Word (of God) being for women as well as for men: this is most
certainly true. But as for your other comments: Sorry, but I just don't see
this meaning in the verse at all. We are rather far apart in our
understanding of what Paul is saying, aren't we?



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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