There is not a subject in the entire bible that has been silenced more than the apostle Paul’s silencing of women in the church. It is a subject that is rarely taught upon, and when it is, more than not, the preacher or teacher doesn’t agree with the commandment of Jesus Christ for women to be silent when the church comes together. I have written on this subject several times but one that needs repeating from time to time. Let’s examine carefully what Paul commanded all churches in regards to women.
First of all, let us read what Paul wrote to the Corinth church regarding women in the assembly: “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant” (1 Cor 14:34-38).
What is not to understand about these verses? It was Jesus Christ, not man, who does not want women to speak in the assembly. Notice, there are no exceptions in these verses. There are no exceptions in any other verses in the new testament in regards to women remaining silent in the churches. So, what is the problem? It has to do with the traditions and commandments of men (Tit 1:14). Man, not God, proclaims that women can teach children under the age of 18 and women in the assembly. The problem with this tradition is that it contradicts Paul’s admonition for women to remain silent. Therefore, man has a problem with God’s Word, which has to be rewritten or at best redefined.
So, man gets out his lexicon and seeks to redefine what “Silent” means in its Greek form. According to Strong’s concordance, silence in verse 34 means: keep close (secret, silence), hold peace. Thayer defines it as passive, to be kept in silence, be concealed. The word “speak” according to Strong in verses 34 and 35 means to talk, i.e. utter words: preach, say, speak (after), talk, tell, utter. According to Thayer, it means to emit a voice, make oneself heard; hence to utter or form words with the mouth, to speak, having reference to the sound and pronunciation of the words and in general the form of what is uttered. Now that we have the definitions covered, it is obvious that the Greek agrees with the English translation.
Then, man has to revert to attacking the author. Obviously, they say, Paul was single, a woman hater, or not totally inspired. Yet, the bible didn’t allow Paul to say he authored this commandment. No! Jesus Christ gave this commandment, and then a proverbial line was drawn in the sand. “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (v37). Question is, what side are you on? If you are spiritual, i.e., religious, you will acknowledge that Jesus gave this commandment. If you are not religious, you will not.
Others will visit the admonition Paul gave to a young Timothy for refuge. So, let’s read this passage: “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control” (1 Tim 2:11-15).
Many quote these verses as if to suggest that Paul gave an exception to women speaking in the assembly. First of all, these verses were not restricted just to the church but also outside of the church. This means it can be applied both in and out of the assembly. Women were prohibited from teaching men or having authority over men. In the assembly, this would have no meaning in regard to teaching because women were already commanded to remain silent. Outside of the church, where women could speak, it would mean that women could not teach men the Word of God. Elderly women could teach younger women outside of the church to love their family and obey their husband (Tit 2:3-5). Inside of the church, it would mean that women could not take on positions of authority such as being an elder, deacon, preacher, a song leader, leader of prayer, or even wait on tables (1 Tim 3:1-13 f; 2 Tim 2:2).
So, what about the definition of “Silence” in these verses? Strong defined it as stillness, i.e. distance from bustle or language: Thayer defined it as quietness: descriptive of the life of one who stays at home doing his own work and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others. In other words, it would mean that women have no business teaching men or usurping their authority to do God’s work.
It is obvious that 1 Timothy 2:11-15 agrees with 1 Corinthians 14:34-38. In fact, it adds to it by giving us why women were silenced when it comes to the Word of God. It was because of the sin of Eve, who not only disobeyed God but attempted to be equal with God. Since that time, woman was cursed to bear children and to be subject to man both in and out of the church. They are subject to their own husband in the home and subject to elders in the church.
I have heard some say if women can sing in the church, then they can speak up in the church assembly because singing is a form of speaking and teaching (Eph 5:19 f; Col 3:16). Yet, in a more in-depth study one will discover that women were commanded not to speak, i.e., become speakers such as preachers, teachers, or to ask questions. Women were commanded to sing in and out of the assembly, as were all Christians. However, they could never become in authority, even in singing. Thus, they could not be song leaders. They can pray, but not lead prayer. They partake of the Lord’s supper but they don’t wait on tables. In all these things, women are to hold their peace and allow Christian men to do the work of the church.
I have heard a few say that they agree with the scripture, but that women could do all these things if there were no men present. To these, I refer them back to the old testament and for them to read of the great sin of King Saul. Only the Levi tribe were allowed to make sacrifice, but Saul took it upon himself to do it in what he called an emergency. Israel always had Samuel to do sacrifice just before they went into battle. However, the enemy was quickly approaching and Samuel was nowhere to be found. There were 30 thousand chariots of the Philistines, and 6 thousand horsemen, and multitudes of people with them. The army of Saul ran for their life. So, Saul in fear did the sacrifice himself. And as he did, Samuel came walking up over the hillside. To make a long story short, King Saul had his kingdom taken from him and given to David. And Samuel said to Saul, “What have you done?” “You have done foolishly: you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which he commanded you: for now would the Lord have established your kingdom upon Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue…” (1 Sam 13). If we are to learn from this, if there were no men to worship with women, it is better that women worship God in silence and not approach the duties given to man, than to do the works of man and break God’s commandment (1 Sam 15:22).
Some ask what about Priscilla. They say, wasn’t she a preacher of God’s Word. Let’s read Acts 18:24-27: “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately”.
If Priscilla had been the one to teach Apollos, she would have violated 1 Tim 2:11,12 which commanded her to remain silent in such situations. Secondly, she would have been guilty of teaching a man. Thirdly, she would have been guilty of usurping her husband’s authority. Fact is, Priscilla was Aquila’s wife who only assisted her husband, even as did Phoebe did with Paul (Rom 16:1,2). They assisted but held their peace, remaining silent in such situations.
Conclusion: It is an absolute fact that women were forbidden to preach, teach, or to ask questions in the assembly; To do so would shame the church of Christ. Women were also forbidden to teach any man the word of God or to usurp authority over man. This includes her husband as well (1 Pet 3:1,2). Woman is under man’s authority both in the home and in the church. Women can teach their own children at home. Elderly women can teach younger women outside of the assembly to love their family, and obey their own husband, and be good homemakers, etc. However, women are forbidden to become speakers, teachers, and leaders in the assembly. Anyone who has a problem with these biblical facts don’t have a problem with man, but rather with God. These are not the commandments of men, but these are the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Who is on the Lord’s side? Let them say AMEN, and subject themselves to the will of God.