Re: 1 Cor 14:34 -- LALEIN (offlist)

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Sep 14 1999 - 09:15:07 EDT

At 1:33 PM +0200 9/14/99, Mark Markham wrote:
>What I see here is like I proposed last week-- speak as in prophecy or
>tongues etc. It is consistent with Paul's writings to Timothy not to allow
>women to teach or usurp authority from the man. He seems to state it is not
>a matter of custom but one or arranged order rank or authority. Why is it
>a such problem to be honest with the text here in 1 Cor 14:34? And later in
>this chapter he claims these were the commandments of the Lord. Not social
>traditions, customs etc. The Greek poses no problem here. Could the problem
>be reading things into the text?

Dear Mark,

Let me respond with the text of a message I wrote yesterday in response to
another off-list message to me making assertions somewhat similar to what
you're making (I don't want to cite that person's message without asking
permission, but I don't think I need to cite it: essentially the claim was
that Paul is uniformly consistent throughout the Pauline corpus on issues
generally and certainly on this issue of the status and authority of women
in the church. What this comes down to ultimately is a question of one's
hermeneutics: how one reads the Biblical text and how one goes about
seeking to understand how it bears on the issues of one's own time. The
person who wrote me was utterly convinced, as apparently you are, that
there's no other way to read the Biblical text than to see women as
excluded from any leadership role in the church; I am NOT convinced at all
that one must read the Biblical text that way. While I don't expect that
you'll agree with me, I would like to make clear to you the assumptions
from which I am approaching the text--so here's what I wrote yesterday in
response to the assertion in question:

>I stand tried, convicted, and condemned (in the eyes of those who are
>confident that Paul is absolutely consistent in all that he ever wrote or
>said) of supposing, NOT that Paul contradicts himself within the corpus of
>unquestionably authentic letters, BUT that he occasionally addresses issues
>from different perspectives in such a way as to APPEAR to be talking or
>writing inconsistently. On the other hand, I don't think it will come as a
>shock to you to learn that I don't share some of the major assumptions of
>your hermeneutic.
>So far as 1 Cor 14:34 is concerned, I feel quite sufficiently chastened by
>both Carlton Winbery and Edward Hobbs as to the unlikelihood of LALEIN
>there meaning "chatter." I never did mean to affirm it positively so much
>as to suggest that it might be worth considering whether LALEIN didn't
>still hold some of that sense in Hellenistic Greek, whereas I am now
>perfectly satisfied that, even if it DID still hold some of that sense,
>that sense doesn't really come to play in this passage.
>But some more heretical perspective: I don't really believe that the
>pastoral epistles are Pauline, but I admit that 2 Timothy sets forth the
>strongest statements in the entire NT against women assuming any
>authoritative status within the church. I'm not saying either that the
>pastoral epistles are not canonical, but I have assumed, ever since I found
>it imperative to come to terms with a consistent stance toward scriptural
>authority, that Biblical texts do not all weigh equally in the balance
>where there is a question to be resolved by Biblical authority; that is to
>say, it is necessary to settle upon a "canon of the canon"--to decide the
>relative weight of scriptural teaching on any matter where there is not a
>clear preponderance or uniform teaching on a matter, such as, in
>particular, the place of women in the congregation and the authority
>structure of the church. I think that every institution, denomination and
>sect within Christendom operates by such a "canon of the canon" whether or
>not they are fully aware of it--which is why I think one OUGHT to be
>honestly aware of the criterion one is employing to weigh the relative
>weight of scriptural authorities--anyone who asserts that all Biblical
>documents and texts are equi-valent is, in my judgment, under a delusion; I
>think there are different traditions that weight bodies of Biblical texts
>differently. I think some traditions give far MORE weight to the OT than
>they ought when there is clear evidence of a distinct NT teaching; I also
>think that some interpreters weight the Pauline letters as holding more
>authority than the evidence in the gospels for the teaching and behavioral
>stances toward other human beings, whereas I personally feel that the
>evidence about Jesus deserves far more authoritative status. That is
>precisely why I am not much impressed by some of the argumentation in 2
>Timothy about women in the church--I just don't think it's consistent with
>what Jesus said and did (I also don't think it's consistent with such items
>as the brief mention of the Elder Junia in Rom 16:7). What I DO find in the
>Pauline corpus to be consistent with what I understand to be the teaching
>and practice of Jesus and to be about as authoritative a stance as any in
>all the Pauline corpus is Gal 3:28 in its context. I frankly don't believe
>that there is any justification whatsoever, in the light of that text, for
>relegation of women in the church to a subordinate status of any sort.
>Is Paul really consistent on this matter? I'm not altogether sure that he
>is; he may have been, as Edward Hobbs says, a misogynist. I wouldn't go so
>far as that; what I think more likely is that Paul occasionally was guided
>more by his traditional ethnic biases than by his theological principles
>and that there are passages within the Pauline corpus that are clearly to
>be weighted more authoritatively than others (e.g., where he offers an
>opinion about what to do that he states clearly is his own and admits that
>he has no dominical saying to back up his view--in such instances I don't
>think he is claiming overriding authority).
>I think that's quite enough. I don't doubt that what I'm saying here is far
>removed from where you stand on these same issues; I just wanted,
>relatively briefly, to answer you enough to show that, wrongheadedly or
>not, I do not have to accuse Paul of deliberate inconsistency and I also do
>not have to accept your view that Paul's teaching on the issue of women in
>the congregation or in positions of authority in the church is
>crystal-clear and unmistakably consistent. We're just going to have to
>disagree on this one as well as whatever else we may disagree on.

Best regards, cwc

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

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