Prophecy—Yes, But Teaching—No: Paul’s Consistent Advocacy Of Women’s Participation Without Governing Authority -- By: Wayne Grudem

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 30:1 (Mar 1987)
Article: Prophecy—Yes, But Teaching—No: Paul’s Consistent Advocacy Of Women’s Participation Without Governing Authority
Author: Wayne Grudem


Prophecy—Yes, But Teaching—No: Paul’s Consistent Advocacy Of Women’s Participation Without Governing Authority

Wayne Grudem*

In 1 Cor 11:5 Paul apparently assumes that women may pray and prophesy freely in the public assemblies of the church, for he does not forbid these activities but merely regulates them by stipulating the necessity of a head-covering. And in Acts 21:9 Philip’s four unmarried daughters prophesy.

But in I Cor 14:33–35 Paul enjoins women to be silent with respect to some kinds of speech in the assembled church. And in 1 Tim 2:11–14 he prohibits women from teaching or having authority over men.

Are these passages consistent with one another? If “prophecy” and “teaching” are different words for the same activity, then the passages would seem contradictory. And even on the basis of some contemporary understandings of the English words “prophecy” and “teaching,” these passages seem irreconcilable.

But I shall attempt to demonstrate that if we derive our definitions of “prophecy” and “teaching” inductively from the NT text itself, these two functions are found to be distinct activities, different in the kind of authority possessed by those who exercise them.1 Once these NT definitions of “prophecy’ and “teaching” are used, Paul’s statements about women speaking in church can be seen to be consistent with each other and with indications about women’s role in the Church that are found in the rest of the NT.

I. The Nature Of Prophecy In NT Churches

1. The gift of prophecy in the NT Church had less authority than Scripture, or apostolic teaching. Most evangelicals will readily agree that the OT prophet: were able to speak and write with absolute divine authority. Their words wer~ the very words of God, and they were able to be written down as God’s words in Scripture for all time (Deut 18:18–20; Jer 1:9; Num 22:38; Ezek 2:7; etc.) Therefore to disbelieve or disobey a prophet’s words was to disbelieve or disobey God (Deut 18:19; 1 Sam 8:7; 1 Kgs 20:26; etc.).

In the NT there are also men who can speak and write God’s very words in Scripture, but we are s...

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