Women Must Not Speak in Church
As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. 1 Corinthians 14:33-34
The regular reader will know that as I write every day, I’m simply working my way through the New Testament. Daily, I read until I hit the next verse I find to be important, and I spend the day meditating and reading about it. Today’s passage honestly though, is one that I’d rather skip. I’ve thought about it. I’ve read commentaries about it. I’ve asked other pastors about it. I even looked back to 2017, when I was previously in this part of the Bible – and found that I simply skipped over it last time.
It’s a tough passage, one that is offensive to our ears. In it, Paul clearly said that women must not speak in church. This, of course, is absurd to us. We would never (and should never) tell women that they must be silent.
Some commentators have said that this passage doesn’t belong in the Bible, but most manuscripts contain it. Some will say that it only applies to interpreting prophecy, but it doesn’t explicitly say that. It clearly says that women just shouldn’t speak in church.
It seems to me that the only explanation that works, is that this was a culturally specific statement, one that we just don’t adhere to today. We now have women up front in church, singing and praying. My church has a female pastor on staff, though she’s not the head pastor (gasp!).
The problem with the cultural explanation though, is that it’s a slippery slope to say that some rules in the Bible just don’t apply anymore. A hundred years ago, this passage would have applied in most churches. So, in a hundred more years, what other teachings are we going to throw out, just because we don’t like them? Like I said, it’s a tough passage.
We shouldn’t allow the difficulty with one passage to taint the view of the rest of the Bible though. God’s word remains profoundly relevant to our lives, and we shouldn’t dismiss all of Paul’s teachings just because we find one passage offensive. That would be akin to demonizing Abraham Lincoln as racist, judging individual statements he made based on today’s views of race.
Interpreting the Bible isn’t always easy, but we shouldn’t just skip the tough passages. We should read them, think about them, and ask God for wisdom. We must realize that God’s word is relevant to our lives, and we must daily ingest it if we desire to hear his voice. God is still speaking. If we want to hear him, we must actively listen – even when we don’t understand.