Women Shouldn’t Speak or Why You Should Shut Your Mouth

How much do you have to look at the cultural life that was in place when studying the Bible?

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

(1Co 14:33-35)

Paul seems to be saying that wives should not be allowed to speak in the church. There are people I wouldn’t mind telling to shut up during the service, but it is not limited to women and you better believe I would never tell my wife to remain silent until we got home. So what is going on where people would be asking questions? It seems that this was a session of teaching, which is what church today should be. The women had a desire to learn and understand that which was being taught. Women were looked down on culturally, so the fact that they are encouraged to learn by Paul is a good sign that he didn’t not think that the wives were beneath him. So why is it shameful for women to ask questions? When did God say women should not seek to know His word? So what is the “law” in question here? Paul was a Pharisee so we could assume Levitcal law, but he was also addressing gentiles. It seems more likely that he would be referring to a cultural law instead of a religious law.

For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness–with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

(1Ti 2:7-15)

I can see why people think Paul did not like women or wanted to oppress them. Modern cultural views don’t often line up with ancient cultural views. Look how Paul references submission and authority here. This is a key point that is lost in modern society. Not that women need to be submissive to men, but that in everything there is an authority that has been established. Notice how Paul says he does not permit not that God does not permit. We have to look at the cultural environment at the time to understand the intent for some things that are said. I like this part because it shows that Adam was not deceived because he was taught right from wrong from God. Did God teach Eve or was that left to Adam since he was in authority?

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

(Rom 13:1-2)

Paul is clear to all that authority must be followed. Are there things that God does not forbid but man does? Of course there are. Women were treated as property and had no authority. That is one of the argument for the resurrection. Jesus first revealed himself to women, Jews would laugh at that. Their testimony was not worth anything. Women were not educated at that time either, but God wanted them to know His Word. In marriage, the woman is under the authority of the husband. Now husbands are to lay their life down for their wife, so this is not supposed to be an abusive relationship. The men would have been more educated and should have been instructing their wives. It seems to be as much an order to men to share what they know as it is was to women to keep order during the meeting.

Understanding the culture at the time helps to understand the message. Looking at the Bible strictly from a 21st century western perspective will limit the message from God. That is not to say though that everything that is culturally acceptable is permissible in the kingdom.


Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

(Act 15:19-21)

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

(1Co 6:9-10)

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

(1Ti 1:8-11)

So how do you know what is ok and what isn’t. That is where the relationship with God comes into play. He will reveal His plan for you. You hold the plan up against the Word to make sure you are listening to God and then proceed. We have to remember that even though we have liberties in the Kingdom, that we are still responsible for our influence over others.

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”– yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

(1Co 8:1-13)

If we know something is permissible but would cause someone else to be upset / angry, we refrain from doing it in front of them. We are not to give cause to others to sin based on a reaction to our actions.

So cultural influence and the authorities in place at the time should be considered when reading scripture. It comes in handy when you have scripture that might seem to conflict with other scripture.


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