Apostle Paul supposedly wrote to his mission church in Corinth:
Women should be silent in the churches.
They are not permitted to speak.
They should be subjugated
just as the Law says.
And if they have any question,
they should ask their husbands at home.
Because it is shameful for a woman
to speak in church. (1 Cor 14:34f)
This is the holy mantra of all the Christian misogynists. They all use and abuse this short biblical passage of two verses, to justify their rejection of ordination of women, keeping them from being pastors or priests.
But with biblical scholars of 19 and 20th centuries I am certain that this verse was not written by Paul.
Firstly it simply does not make sense in the historical context of Paul’s churches.
We know that Paul worked closely with women. Some women were leaders in his mission churches. In the letter to Philippians he, for instance, mentions Euodia and Syntyche, two women, as church leaders.
And in the letter to Romans in the final salutation he mentions several women as important members and leaders of the church. A number of whom he named as co-workers and especially there is Junia, who is being called a fellow apostle - the highest rank among the ministers of the earliest church.
Secondly it does not make sense within the context of Paul theology.
Because in Paul’s eschatology driven theology - in expecting a new divine order coming any moment - Paul rejected all superficial (cultural and social) human distinction.
There is no longer Jew or Greek,
there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male and female;
indeed all are one in Christ Jesus.
To quote a well known passage from the letter to Galatians 3:28
But furthermore, the simplistic argument from the Law (They should be subjugated just as the Law says.) does not fit at all with the Paul’s theology of the Law.
For the genuine Paul, the Law was the theological force of the past. It was superseded by Christ. To quote Paul directly: Christ is the end of the Law (Rom 10:4) Or Paul from his letter to Galatians Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13). There is simply no other place in the genuine Pauline letters with this kind of argument from the Law.
Finally, there are serious textual reasons indicating that Paul did not write these two verses.
These two verses are clearly an example of an interpolation. Some early scribe who was copying the letter inserted this misogynistic instruction into the existing text of the letter. It very likely happened in the late 2nd century. One sign that it is an interpolation is the fact that if you leave this passage out, the text actually reads better, it flows more smoothly.
And furthermore some early manuscripts, predominantly from the western tradition, actually attach this instruction at the end of the chapter fourteen. Such textual instability is always an indication of the early suspicions about this text’s authenticity.
So these are historical, theological, and textual reasons for serious doubts about the apostolic authority of these two verses. And that is something worth repeating, repeating, and repeating to all the Christian misogynists. Because women played an important role in the early church (unlike in Hellenistic Judaism and in Orthodox Judaism until today, unlike Roman Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches, unlike Christian fundamentalists and traditionalists throughout the centuries and also until today).
In reality, the inclusion of women in the ministry was something which went back all the way to Jesus and his group of disciples. Join us this Sunday as we continue reading biblical passages unique to Luke. Among the evangelists it was especially Luke who lifted up and defended the role of women in the early church.
Video version of this blog: https://youtu.be/vFfoJYaG8Zw