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.
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 (Summary of Talmudic sayings) taken from an unpublished chapter by Frank Viola on the subject of why women are able to fully participate in the life of the church.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.