Re: Women in the Church

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Wed Aug 19 1998 - 00:15:39 EDT

My apologies for taking so long to respond - I have been absolutely flat
out with getting the new semester under way at my college.

>>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.
>Why does Paul say they are to be silent? Because it is being forbidden. The
>choice of present tense suggests to me that this is not something that has
>always been or always will be. An aorist would have made time irrelevant and
>an perfect would have made it something done in the past effecting them now.

Bill, it is not valid to suggest that the use of the present tense
indicates that something has not always been so and will not necessarily
continue to be so, i.e. that it is temporary. This is not indicated nor
implied by the use of the present. To the contrary, the present is used
where you are saying that something continues to be the case. There is no
way that the use of the present tense can be pressed to derive from it the
notion that Paul is giving a "local, contemporary prohibition". And as what
he is forbidding is disruptive behaviour in the assembly, conversing,
chatting or even chattering, and possibly calling out questions about what
is being said during the teaching being given (for this is the meaning of
this discussion, ISTM, in its context, which is "for God is not a God of
disorder but of peace"), why would we think that such an admonition on
Paul's part was not intended by him to continue to apply? And in any case,
we should note that he says expressly that what he is saying now to the
Corinthians is applicable to them "as in all the churches of the saints",

>>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.
>Vine's says this about EPERWTATWSAN:
>"a strengthened form of EROTAO [which more frequently than AITEO suggests
>that the petitioner is on a footing of equality or familiarity with the
>person whom he requests] (epi, "in addition"), <snip> The more intensive
>character of the "asking" may be observed in Luke 2:46; 3:14; 6:9, 17:20;
>20:21, 27, 40; 22:64; 23:3, 6, 9. In Matt. 16:1, it virtually signifies to
>demand (its meaning in later Greek). See DEMAND, DESIRE, QUESTION.

The extent to which EPERWTAW may have a "strengthened" meaning needs to be
drawn from its context. You may note that Vine does not include 1 Cor 14:35
amongst those verses where he considers that it has its "more intensive
character". I would hold that it is not valid to press such a
"strengthened" meaning upon it in this context. I refer you again to BAGD
which gives its first and usual meaning as being simply to ask (a question).

>>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.
>AISCHUNO relates to a feeling of fear or shame which prevents a peson from
>doing something, whereas AIDOS relates to moral repugnance. This has more to
>do with embarassment then guilt, as in:
>Luke 16:3 Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my
>lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.

The word in question in 1 Cor 14:35 is AISCROS; the meaning is that it is
shameful for a woman to be disrupting the assembly with her conversing,
chatting or chattering.

>>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).
>Not even that the wives are to "strongly ask" their own husbands in their
>homes [about the Word]?

ISTM that this interpretation is eisegesis, reading in a meaning as
distinct from taking out the meaning of what the passage is saying. The
passage does not say or indicate that Paul is addressing the husbands in
verse 35, nor that it is the husbands whom the women are shaming. And
"strongly ask" is not a translation of EPERWTAW which is required or
appropriate in this context.

>>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.

Thank you for sharing your understanding of the verse with us. For the
reasons I have given, it is not an interpretation I can accept, and seems
to me to involve quite a degree of eisegesis. Rather, I see the passage as
saying that Paul is concerned with another area in which the assembly of
the church is experiencing a measure of disruption/disorder (14:33a), that
what he says to the Corinthians is in line with what is done in the other
churches (14:33b), that the women are not to LALEW ("speak" in its normal
sense of converse, chat, chatter) but to be silent in the assembly, for
their conversing during the assembly is not permitted, and they are to
submit to this requirement (14:34). Whatever it is they wish to learn, the
right thing for them to do is to ask their own husbands about it when they
get home - for their speaking (LALEW again - conversing, chatting) during
the assembly is shameful (14:35).



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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