Does 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Refer to Women Praying and Prophesying in Church? -- By: Harold R. Holmyard III

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 154:616 (Oct 1997)
Article: Does 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Refer to Women Praying and Prophesying in Church?
Author: Harold R. Holmyard III


Does 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Refer to Women Praying and Prophesying in Church?

Harold R. Holmyard III

[Harold R. Holmyard III is a Bible student in Dallas, Texas.]

On the basis of 1 Timothy 2:11–12 and 1 Corinthians 14:33b–35 many evangelicals are convinced that women should not speak in local church gatherings. Yet 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 gives instructions for the behavior of women when they pray or prophesy. The traditional view is that 1 Corinthians 11 as a whole pertains to the corporate worship of the church. However, several components of 1 Corinthians either allow for or press the conclusion that 11:2–16 does not address congregational settings. Thus if 11:2–16 pertains to nonchurch settings, it does not conflict with 14:33b–35. The former instructs women to wear headcoverings when they pray or prophesy in nonchurch gatherings, and the latter instructs them to remain silent in local-church gatherings.

1 Corinthians 11 Versus 1 Corinthians 14

In 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 Paul began to discuss worshipful activity by the Corinthians. However, female praying and prophesying may be a transitional subject leading into the gathered church setting that characterizes a good portion of chapters 11–14. The worshipful behavior addressed in 11:2–16 may be less formal in setting. This interpretation springs from Paul’s dictate in 14:34 that women keep silent in the congregation. This charge would contradict 11:2–16 if the latter text concerned women praying and prophesying in church.

House seeks to resolve the apparent conflict between 11:2–16 and 14:33b–35 by saying that “speak” (λαλέω) in 14:34 disallows

all forms of speech to women except divine utterances.1 But this assessment contradicts not only Paul’s blanket prohibition in 14:34 but also the tenor of the d...

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