Women Speaking in the Church -- By: John H. Fish III

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 01:3 (Winter 1992)
Article: Women Speaking in the Church
Author: John H. Fish III

Women Speaking in the Church

John H. Fish III1

The Relationship of 1 Corinthians 11:5 and 14:34–36

The restrictions found in the New Testament on the ministry of women in the church pose a problem to many different contemporary groups. 1 Corinthians 14:34–36 commands women to be silent and not to speak in the church, not even to ask questions. 1 Timothy 2:12 says that they are not to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. Secular feminists say that these verses prove that Paul is a misogynist, a hater of women, and that the entire Bible reflects a patriarchal bias against women. Evangelical feminists look at them as contrary to the essential message of the Bible that men and women are fully equal, both created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), and both equally redeemed so that in Christ there is no longer male or female (Gal. 3:28). Conservative Christians who recognize that God has distinct roles for men and women also have some problems with these restrictions. They may be an offense and a stumbling block to non-Christians who get side tracked over what the Bible says about women rather than what it says about Jesus Christ and the gospel. Furthermore, the prohibition against speaking and the command to be silent seem to be absolute. Yet it appears that 1 Corinthians 11:5 gives women permission to pray and prophesy as long as their head is covered. How can these two statements be reconciled?

These problems are too great to deal with in one article. It is the purpose of this paper to reconsider the issue of whether women are really to be silent in the church. Does 1 Corinthians 11:5 open the door to some vocal participation of women in which they may speak in a way that does not violate 1 Corinthians 14:34 or 1 Timothy 2:12? Is it possible for them to pray or give a word of testimony as long as they are

not teaching? Is a vocal word of praise to God by a woman out of place at the Lord’s Supper? This is a very practical and important question for any church which has the kind of open service indicated in 1 Corinthians 14:26 where various believers may be led by the Spirit to take part.

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