King James had it right…

I’m not one of those who believes King James to be the only inspired version of the Bible (as used by Paul and the other apostles), but sometimes this version gets it right.

  Photo Credit: Jemimus via Compfight cc

One of the more complicated ways to explain what Paul was getting at when he said that women should be silent in the church is best understood from the King James version.

Here’s how it reads:

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.  And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? (1 Corinthians 14:34-36)

Since the Old Testament law does not command women to be silent or to be obedient, this “law” must refer to the Talmud, a collection of oral rabbinical teachings. Here’s an example:

Women are sexually seductive, mentally inferior, socially embarrassing, and spiritually separated from the law of Moses; therefore, let them be silent. (Summary of Talmudic sayings) taken from an unpublished chapter by Frank Viola on the subject of why women are able to fully participate in the life of the church. (I highly recommend this essay by Frank.)

Paul does not say, “I do not permit a woman to speak.” He is referring to others who have taught that women should be silent and he is going out of his way to refute this teaching.

In the original Greek, there were no such things as quotation marks. Remember that Paul was writing in response to questions the Corinthians had written him. So try putting the first couple of sentences in quotation marks–a quote from their original letter.

Paul’s response is one of indignation and horror. “What?! Did God’s word originate with you?” The Greek participle which the KJV translates as “What?”  has the effect of negating what has come before.

So rather than Paul being a misogynist, one who was trying to “keep women in their place,” he is actually standing up for their right to speak in public.

 

27 thoughts on “King James had it right…”

  1. I have to admit, I have heard this explanation and I love it (I think it comes from something John Zens wrote). I think it’s quite probably the explanation that best fits within the context of how Jesus related with women and the rest of what Paul wrote.

    That said, it’s not quite a “silver bullet,” unfortunately. This is a tough one for me, because without the words many women in the church have spoken to me, I’d be much, much, worse off. In fact my wife has been one of the main delivery points of God’s healing, grace, and instruction for me.

    Given my experience, the rest of the New Testament, and Genesis 1-2, I’m not convinced that women should be silent in the church. Neither can I prove conclusively that they should not be silent.

    I’ve settled my conscience on “yes they can and should speak” and that’s about the best I think I can do for now.

    Like

    1. Tim, thanks for your transparency about this. If everyone had that kind of openness, the church would be in a better state–at least for the women.

      Like

  2. Thank you for sharing this Felicity…I’ve heard something similar before (probably from Frank Viola’s document) but you always put things in a simple — aka easy to grasp — way, which I appreciate! 🙂

    Like

    1. Jared,
      One of my aims is always to write in such a way as to make complicated things easy to understand, so thank you for encouraging me. It means a lot.

      Like

  3. Thanks Felicity, that’s awesome!

    I had read something from Frank Viola in the past about the cultural situation that Paul was in, which I also found helpful, but I too love the way you have made it sound very simple!

    I long time ago I realised that many Bible-believing and Bible-quoting Christians seem to like to ignore certain passages; a good example is Jesus saying: Give and it will be given to you, pressed down and shaken together (Luke 6:38) . What they never quote to you is Luke 6:35: Lend expecting nothing in return.

    The same can be said here: They quote the part about women keeping silent, but not the part where Paul says ‘Whaaat!?’

    I have been following your series with great interest because I am part of a small housechurch that consists of only 2 men, but 4 women. I don’t think I would get very far with trying to tell them that only us guys can speak, lol!

    Like

    1. David, thanks for commenting. What you say is so true, that we often pick a single Scripture and milk it for all it’s worth without examining the balancing ones.

      Like

  4. Is there another verse in the NT in which someone refers to the Talmud? Does Paul use “law” to refer to anything except
    what God alone established? The KJ version uses Law 14
    times in 1 and 2 Corinthians. What do those refer to?
    Is the “it” in this phrase the Talmud:
    “are you the only people it has reached?” Then do we conclude
    that God inspired the Talmud? “…acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s
    command.”

    Like

    1. Hi Nate,

      You have some interesting thoughts. I’ve looked up the Greek word used, and it’s the Greek word “nomos” which has as part of its definition: “anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law, a command

      of any law whatsoever.”

      Undoubtedly, the most common reference when the word nomos is used like this (as opposed to references like the law of the spirit of life and the law of sin and death) is to the Torah—the first 5 books of the Old Testament. Which makes this all the more puzzling because this isn’t a quote from or principles described anywhere in the Torah, or the Old Testament for that matter. I think it makes this more likely that this is a quote from the Talmud where there are several such references to women.

      Like

      1. Felicity, I would imagine that you are quite committed to explain and defend what you believe in this matter. That is not an argument, just an observation. I don’t know if you would be willing, if evidence were sufficient, to change your position. If so, I would have many other questions to challenge you and would be glad to share them.

        Because law can mean different things, it does not mean that it was used to mean different things in the text of the Bible. The law of the Spirit of Life is hardly a general “law” example, I will point out.

        Here are some other things to consider:

        Why does the New Testament say that women are to submit? When God,
        through Peter and Paul, explained why he wanted women to be submissive, he always stated reasons that were far removed from the culture of that day. Here are those reasons:

        ·
        “The woman is the glory of man” refers to God’s purpose in creation (1
        Corinthians 11:7).

        ·
        “Woman came from man” reminds the reader of creation. In creation, man
        was the source of woman (1 Corinthians 11:8).

        ·
        “Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man” refers to the
        woman’s created purpose (1 Corinthians 11:9).

        ·
        “Because of the Angels” takes the issue out of the natural realm into
        the spiritual realm (1 Corinthians 11:10).

        ·
        “The very nature of things” claims that the principle exists in
        creation itself (1 Corinthians 11:14).

        ·
        “The law” is a reference to an Old Testament principle
        that is still applicable (1 Corinthians 14:34).

        ·
        “Adam was formed first, then Eve” refers to creation order (1 Timothy 2:13).

        ·
        “The woman was deceived” reminds the reader of the fall (1 Timothy
        2:14).

        ·
        “Like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master”
        gives an example of a godly women who lived millenniums earlier (1 Peter 3:6).

        ·
        “So that no one will malign the word of God” exhorts
        believers to keep the message sent by God in the Old Testament (Titus 2:5).

        ·
        “As is fitting in the Lord” explains that these instructions were
        righteous behavior for those who were in Christ (Col. 3:18).

        It is clear that Peter and Paul were not concerned about teaching
        a principle that satisfied a culture standard, but are concerned about
        administrating a truth that transcended culture. It does not matter what
        culture we are in, Adam was formed first. Also, no matter were we live, it is
        still true that Eve was created for Adam. If reasons for the commands were not based on culture, then there must be value in the commands in all cultures – at least in principle, if not in the specifics. To conclude that these passages and the principles that they contain were purely a response to a cultural situation is erroneous. Rather than brushing the passages off as cultural statements, we ought to agree that there is reason to study these passages to see how they apply to our lives today.

        Like

      2. You are right that I’m committed to the Word of God. I was taught all the things you describe in your comments here over many years, and obviously for the sake of integrity have had come to terms with what the Scriptures say. I hope I would be willing to change my position, but my current one is not one that I’ve come to lightly.

        The questions you ask actually tackle complementarian/egalitarian issues which I’m not planning to discuss in the book. But as you accurately surmise, I’ve come to an egalitarian position in the last few years. I certainly understand the complementarian argument.

        I wish I had the time to tackle each of these verses that you mention, but I’m in a really busy time at the moment. However, let me take a couple of them. I’d like to highly recommend a book by Philip B. Payne called Man and Woman, One in Christ, which takes an in-depth look at the Greek and the theology of many of the passages you mention.

        For example, as regards woman being the glory of man, which comes in the context of hair covering, “Paul affirmed the differentiation between man and woman which is undermined by effeminate hair… Woman being the glory of man,” Payne says, “affirms that woman, not another man, is the glory of man.” She, not another man, is designed to be man’s partner and his proper sexual partner and his pride and joy.

        You quote 1 Cor 11:8, which says that woman came from man, but a few verses later it says this:

        But among the Lord’s people, women are not independent of men, and men are not independent of women. For although the first woman came from man, every other man was born from a woman, and everything comes from God. (vv 11 and 12).

        I’d love for you to get a copy of Payne’s book. It’s the best book I’ve come across written by an accomplished scholar that really goes into the meaning of the Greek. It’s too easy to take the English translations and to assume we understand what the writer meant. Take a word like “head” (kephale) for example in this same passage–man is the head of woman etc. The problem is that the word “head” in English usually means leader or authority. In Greek, in most of the contemporary writing of the time, it meant source. There were two different words Paul could have used to denote authority. Nine out of the eleven times that Paul uses the word kephale, source is a better translation and neither of the other two can be conclusively demonstrated to denote authority.

        An interesting discussion.

        Like

      3. Thanks for the reply. I wish that I would get
        some sort of notification when you reply. I have to remember to look and then
        have to go back though your posts to find your comments. 😦 I am a member of
        Simple Church and logged in to post though facebook. I don’t know if there is an
        easier way for me to respond. If you have any ideas, please let me know.

        I am well aware of the “head” argument. I first heard it more than 15
        years ago. The truth is that no matter what “head” means metaphorically in verse
        3, we can still make since of verses 4-16. Those verses speak about a number of
        wonderful truths that are not based on what “head” means. We should go to the
        passage believing that God will give us general principles and instructions on
        these matters. List the facts and
        application when you read it with the term source. Repeat using the term
        authority. When you read 1 Corinthians 11 to speak of head verses authority,
        does it really make that much difference? Does it change the facts or the
        proposed application?

        I would also argue with Payne’s conclusion.
        Kephale means head, as in the above-the-neck
        region of a created being. If the word is using that metaphorically, then the
        passage will explain its meaning, not the other way around. That is just bad
        exegesis.

        The fact that it refers to a husband is not
        completely irrelevant in regard to the meeting of believers, as you suggest.
        After all, Ch. 11-14 are, primarily, about the meeting. In addition, all of the
        passages about women’s roles, whether regarding the meeting or the family, have
        a consistency in their arguments and their conclusions. Is there really that
        much distance between 1 Cor. 11 and 1 Cor. 14:35? Aren’t the praying and
        prophesying of 1 Cor. 11 the same ones that “must be done” in 1 Cor. 14?

        I could list 30 or 40 arguments that I have
        heard from MDIVs and PHDs concerning the verses that talk about women’s roles.
        Unfortunately, because others wanted to argue with me, I have been in many
        debates. These well studied people’s arguments don’t hold up past asking a few
        good questions. For example, in another post, you suggested that some
        statements were because of discord in the fellowships. This is a common
        argument. But, does it ever say that that was the reason for the instruction?
        Are the passages void of reasons? If not, does that mean that Paul (or
        another) was lying about the reason? Was he too intimidated to give the real
        reason? You would have to draw that conclusion. That sounds careless. Are you
        using different hermeneutics for these passages than you use elsewhere in the
        Bible?

        I think that the real issue with your interpretation of these verse is that
        you are struggling to put the institutional church models into the “simple
        church.” The institutional meeting has two models. Together, they do some sort
        of worship/liturgy and a sermon. In small groups they do a discussion Bible
        study. Often house churches will proudly say that they are not doing the first,
        but will simply follow the institutions example in the second. I don’t know for
        sure with you, but I have consistently made this observation. In these casual
        meetings, women speak. I would say that God is not looking for either of these
        types of meetings that the institution offers. He wants everyone to participate
        as 1 Cor. 11 and 1 Cor. 14 suggest, but he wants to do the talking! If there is
        a group that is applying 1 Cor. 14:26, I think that they would say that
        experientially, most of what you are writing about is irrelevant. You are
        answering questions for an institution.

        Like

      4. What I am suggesting in my last paragraph is that if we were truly meeting and living as they were in the 1st Century, where would be much less discontentment about women’s roles. The discontentment and discord increases with the ideas that come from the institution.

        Like

      5. Nate, I totally agree with you on this. I’ve been part of simple church in this country now for 16 years, and the issue of women is totally irrelevant, especially when, as we do, we’re mostly working in the harvest so the church is mainly comprised of new believers. The place where it becomes relevant is where simple churches are comprised of existing Christians. Since we do a lot of training in more traditional settings, it becomes very relevant then. Many women in these situations are held back by teaching they have received from the past. They are sometimes wounded by the treatment they have received. Some need to be set free.

        Like

      6. Felicity, it seems that you missed my points, or avoided trying to answer them. I read the post that you suggested carefully, but it failed to answer the concern that I expressed. “But, does it ever say that that was the reason for the instruction? Are the passages void of reasons? If not, does that mean that Paul (or another) was lying about the reason? Was he too intimidated to give the real reason?”

        Likewise, concerning “source,” could you respond to my point? List the facts and application when you read it with the term source. Repeat using the term authority. When you read 1 Corinthians 11 to speak of source verses authority, does it really make that much difference? Does it change the facts or the proposed application?

        Like

      7. I’m sure you can read the word kephale in either way in the passage in 1 Corinthians 11 and it will make sense in the English. But the implications of translating it one way over the other are huge. When it comes to Colossians 2:19, the word kephale makes much more sense as source rather than head: “… and not holding the head (kephale) from which all the body–through the joints and bands gathering supply and being knit together–may increase with the increase of God.”

        Like

      8. 11 1 Follow my example, as I follow the
        example of Christ. 2 I praise you for remembering me
        in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. 3 But I want you to realize that the SOURCE of every man is Christ, and the SOURCE of the woman is man,[a] and the SOURCE of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his SOURCE covered dishonors his SOURCE. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her SOURCE uncovered dishonors her SOURCE —it is the same as having her SOURCE shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her SOURCE, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her SOURCE shaved, then she
        should cover her SOURCE. 7 A man ought not to cover his SOURCE,since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own SOURCE, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.
        13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of
        God.

        Like

      9. Women were covering their heads with something when they prayed as a sign of authority. Men were not. Men were the glory of God, women the glory of men. Women had a natural “source” covering. In spite of your argument making the passage sound like gibberish (It is hard to read “SOURCE”), the men and women were still doing something different when praying in the meetings. This is undeniable. And, they were doing so because of creation and because of the angels, not because of the naughty women in the group or because of a religious practice of Corinth.

        Like

      10. Now do the same with a synonym for head using the meaning you obviously favor ie headship or leadership. It is equally nonsensical. Kephale generally means the physical head as is obvious from this passage. The problem is with the English. Head in English implies authority or leader–not so in the Greek Kephale is rarely used as a metaphor for head as in leader. It is often used for source.

        Like

      11. I think that it is easier to read with authority, but that is not my point at all. My point, which I have made several times, is that the instructions of the passage are not dependent on the metaphor. You continue to talk about the metaphor, and to seemingly ignore the instructions and what they meant. Get rid of the metaphor all together and read kaphale for what it is in the real world, and there is plenty left to learn from the passage, don’t you think?

        I also want to say that your suggestions about kephale fail logically in that source and authority are not the only options. Another, option is that kaphale means head and that God designed our bodies to have a head that served a purpose. The metaphor is in the created order, not in the language. That is, God created our bodies to be a metaphor in themselves.

        As it stands, you don’t believe that women in all of the churches prayed and prophesied with their heads covered? If they did in some places, why did they?

        Like

      12. Yes, we base how we do meetings on 1 Corinthians 14:26 and Acts 2:42. So our meetings are generally comprised of sharing a meal, sharing what God is doing in our lives or what we are learning from the word, spending time in the Bible and praying for one another. We are open to God speaking through anyone and have had amazing times when God has shown up in power. We are seeing salvations and healing, deliverance and God’s provision in other ways too. It’s exciting.

        I think of prophecy as God speaking using a person to convey what he wants to say.

        Like

      13. Nate, I really appreciate your thoughtful comments on this. Some of these issues I’ve addressed in other posts that you may have missed. For example, you ask whether discord is the reason for some of the letters. Check out this post: http://bit.ly/13tfSOV which although on a different topic, covers the background to 1 Timothy.

        I’d be very hesitant to argue with Payne. He’s studied these areas more than anyone else I’ve read (and I’ve read extensively around this topic). If you look at his studies of the literature on head, by far the most extensive use refers to source rather than leader.

        I agree with what you say on putting institutional church models into simple church. See my other comments to you below

        Like

      14. I was thinking about what you said and quoted here: “”Paul affirmed the differentiation between man and woman which is
        undermined by effeminate hair… Woman being the glory of man,” Payne
        says, “affirms that woman, not another man, is the glory of man.” She,
        not another man, is designed to be man’s partner and his proper sexual
        partner and his pride and joy.”

        I certainly would disagree with this assessment of 1 Cor. 11:11-12. I find is sexist. The extreme of which might sound like this: “Let me show you the car that I rebuild, and here is my wife.” Whether subtle or extreme, I don’t think it is the right attitude or the right understanding of these two verses.

        I also wonder how it equates to “Man is the glory of God” under this interpretation. Hmm. I also find it difficult to image that Paul quickly switched to the issue of homosexuality verses heterosexuality in the passage on praying and prophesying.

        Why didn’t God just create men? Why didn’t God just create women? I believe that it was because He wanted to communicate something positive. God created men and women to show the relationship between man and God.

        “man is the image and
        glory of God and woman is the glory of man.”

        It is simple role-playing. Man acts out loving leadership. Woman acts out honoring submission. The players display God’s desire to be in relationship with what he made. God is looking for those who will
        let Him lead.

        Women, then, are to be an example to the world. They are to show
        the power of trusting a good leader. The are to show the beauty of the love between a person and his maker.

        Once again God clearly states that man is to be the representation of God’s leadership and woman is to be people’s example of how to follow, i.e. to submit.

        “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
        Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

        This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.

        Ephesians 5:24-27, 32

        It is, according to verse 32, a mystery. It is not a mystery
        because people don’t know that men and women were made to assume different roles. That is obvious, Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 11. The mystery is that these different roles actually have purpose. They represent God’s desired relationship with man.

        Like

      15. Nate, I respect what you’ve said here. As I’ve said before, although I would now count myself as egalitarian, I’ve gone through all these points and have considered them fully. We’ll have to agree to disagree on this.

        The book I’m compiling is not going to cover these issues, deliberately. I fellowship with people of both persuasions without problem. The issues I’m hoping to cover are very different with more implications for the harvest.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.