Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Disruptive Corinthian Women? (Continued)

“Answer 7.7b: This theory says Corinth is a special situation, but Paul applies his rule to ‘all the churches’…according to this view, noisy women were a special problem at Corinth. But Paul says, ‘As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches’ (1 Cor. 14:33b-34), and there are strong reasons for thinking that even though the phrase ‘as in all the churches of the saints’ comes at the end of verse 33, it really modifies ‘the women should keep silent in the churches’. And even if someone thinks that phrase goes with the preceding sentence, Paul still says, ‘the women should keep silent in the churches’. Thus his rule cannot be restricted to one local church where there supposedly were problems” (Grudem, 245).

Yes, this theory makes much sense. God as a “God of peace” is a universal, timeless truth that needs no “as in all the churches of the saints.” However, when Paul uses this, he is referring to a rule in the churches. This, however, is evidence he uses in addition to God’s character. Because God is a God of peace, and the churches have a rule regarding silence, then the women are not to disrupt the worship services. Grudem, however, is wrong because he makes the women the only ones in the church that are supposed to be silent. Note that Paul doesn’t just cover women in 1 Corinthians 14: he also addresses those who speak in tongues (v. 27) as well as those who prophesy (vv.29-31) (before he even addresses the women).

“Answer 7.7c: This ‘noisy women’ theory does not make sense of Paul’s solution’. If women were being disruptive, Paul would just tell them to act in an orderly way, not to be COMPLETELY SILENT…If noise had been the problem in Corinth, he would have explicitly forbidden disorderly speech, not all speech” (245).There is a problem with this statement: he claims that Paul now requires the women in Corinth to be “completely silent”—a few pages earlier, on page 232, Grudem writes the exact opposite of what he says here on page 245: When responding to the egalitarian claim that complementarians are not consistent with their application of 1 Cor. 14:34-35, Grudem responds, “The passage NEVER DID REQUIRE COMPLETE SILENCE of women”! (232). How can the passage require complete silence but not require complete silence at the same time? Grudem’s attempt to “forge” the complete silence of women on the basis of this passage demonstrates that he has an inherent gender bias against women.

“ ‘Answer 7.7e: Paul does not give noisy women as a reason, but gives the Old Testament law’…Paul therefore gives “the Law” as the reason for his statement, not noisy women’” (Grudem, 246).
Grudem now says that the Law is why Paul writes the church; but is this correct? As I argued earlier, Paul had ways of reminding the church about things he had mentioned before; but the only reason why he brings the Law into play is because of the disorder in the church. The Law is not the reason he writes—the situation is. The Law is not the REASON, but the SOLUTION, to the problem at Corinth.

Grudem then cites Craig Keener as an authority on the so-called “myth” that “women were
seated separately from men in early synagogues and churches, and this made it likely that women were shouting questions across the room to their husbands” (243). Keener says that “there is no historical evidence to support the idea that women sat separately from men, either in synagogues or in churches” (243), and that separate seating didn’t occur until the Middle Ages (244). But the problem with this theory is that we have evidence of separate seating dating from as early as the fourth century.

Along these lines, an ancient document, called the “Apostolic Constitutions,” dates from the late fourth century. While it dates 300 years later than Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, it is one of the only remaining ancient documents we have regarding the history of the early church. See the following (taken from
LVII. But be thou, O bishop, holy, unblameable, no striker, not soon angry, not cruel; but a builder up, a converter, apt to teach, forbear-ing of evil, of a gentle mind, meek, long-suffering, ready to exhort, ready to comfort, as a man of God. When thou callest an assembly of the Church as one that is the commander of a great ship, appoint the assemblies to be made with all possible skill, charging the deacons as mariners to prepare places for the brethren as for passengers, with all due care and decency. And first, let the building be long, with its head to the east, with its vestries on both sides at the east end, and so it will be like a ship. In the middle let the bishop's throne be placed, and on each side of him let the presbytery sit down; and let the deacons stand near at hand, in close and small girt garments, for they are like the mariners and managers of the ship: with regard to these, let the laity sit on the other side, with all quietness and good order. And let the women sit by themselves, they also keeping silence.
In the middle, let the reader stand upon some high place: let him read the books of Moses, of Joshua the son of Nun, of the Judges, and of the Kings and of the Chronicles, and those written after the return from the captivity; and besides these, the books of Job and of Solomon, and of the sixteen prophets. But when there have been two lessons severally read,
let some other person sing the hymns of David, and let the people join at the conclusions of the verses. Afterwards let our Acts be read, and the Epistles of Paul our fellow-worker, which he sent to the churches under the conduct of the Holy Spirit; and afterwards let a deacon or a presbyter read the Gospels, both those which I Matthew and John have delivered to you, and those which the fellow-workers of Paul received and left to you, Luke and Mark. And while the Gospel is read, let all the presbyters and deacons, and all the people, stand up in great silence; for it is written: "Be silent, and hear, O lsrael." (2) And again: "But do thou stand there, and hear." (3) In the next place, let the presbyters one by one, not all together, exhort the people, and the bishop in the last place, as being the commander.
Let the porters stand at the entries of the men, and observe them.
Let the deaconesses also stand at those of the women, like shipmen.
For the same description and pattern was both in the tabernacle of the testimony and in the temple of God.
(4) But if any one be found sitting out of his place, let him be rebuked by the deacon, as a manager of the foreship, and be removed into the place proper for him; for the Church is not only like a ship, but also like a sheepfold.
For as the shepherds place all the brute creatures distinctly, I mean goats and sheep, according to their kind and age, and still every one runs together, like to his like; so is it to be in the Church.
Let the young persons sit by themselves, if there be a place for them; if not, let them stand upright. But let those that are already stricken in years sit in order. For the children which stand, let their fathers and mothers take them to them.
Let the younger women also sit by themselves, if there be a place for them; but if there be not, let them stand behind the women. Let those women which are married, and have children, be placed by themselves; but let the virgins, and the widows, and the elder women, stand or sit before all the rest; and let the deacon be the disposer of the places, that every one of those that comes in may go to his proper place, and may not sit at the entrance.
In like manner, let the deacon oversee the people, that nobody may whisper, nor slumber, nor laugh, nor nod;
for all ought in the church to stand wisely, and soberly, and attentively, having their attention fixed upon the word of the Lord.
After this, let all rise up with one consent, and looking towards the east, after the catechumens and penitents are gone out, pray to God eastward, who ascended up to the heaven of heavens to the east; remembering also the ancient situation of paradise in the east, from whence the first man, when he had yielded to the persuasion of the serpent, and disobeyed the command of God, was expelled. As to the deacons, after the prayer is over, let some of them attend upon the oblation of the Eucharist, ministering to the Lord's body with fear. Let others of them watch the multitude, and keep them silent. But let that deacon who is at the high priest's hand say to the people, Let no one have any quarrel against another; let no one come in hypocrisy. Then let the men give the men, and the women give the women, the Lord's kiss. But let no one do it with deceit, as Judas betrayed the Lord with a kiss. After this let the deacon pray for the whole Church, for the whole world, and the several parts of it, and the fruits of it; for the priests and the rulers, for the high priest and the king, and the peace of the universe. After this let the high priest pray for peace upon the people, and bless them, as Moses commanded the priests to bless the people, in these words: "The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make His face to shine upon thee, (1) and give thee peace." (2) Let the bishop pray for the people, and say: "Save Thy people, O Lord, and bless Thine inheritance, which Thou hast obtained with the precious blood of Thy Christ, and hast called a royal priesthood, and an holy nation." (3) After this let the sacrifice follow, the people standing, and praying silently; and when the oblation has been made, let every rank by itself partake of the Lord's body and precious blood in order, and approach with reverence and holy fear, as to the body of their king. Let the women approach with their heads covered, as is becoming the order of women; but let the door be watched, lest any unbeliever, or one not yet initiated, come in. (4)

The above context demonstrates that men and women sat in separate seating; the laity and all others were to be quiet while the Law was being read. In addition, notice that there is Scripture used to justify quietness during the service: Deuteronomy 5:31 and Deuteronomy 27:9. Deuteronomy 5:31 says, “31'(AD)But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I give them to possess.'” (NASB) Deuteronomy 27:9 says, “9Then Moses and the Levitical priests spoke to all Israel, saying, "Be silent and listen, O Israel! This day you have become a people for the LORD your God.”

I’d like to add one final word on 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. We are not told by Paul what reference in the Law he was thinking of, but there are some references to being quiet in the house of God: one would have been that there is a time to be silent, and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes. 3:7). Another good reference would come from Ecclesiastes 5:1-3:
“Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and DRAW NEAR TO LISTEN rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools…do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few” (Eccl. 5:1-2). Other references to silence in the Law would be Habakkuk 2:20, Zephaniah 1:7, and Zechariah 2:13. I will provide these below:
(a) Habakkuk 2:20—“But the LORD is in His holy temple. LET ALL THE EARTH BE SILENT before Him.”
(b) Zephaniah 1:7—“BE SILENT BEFORE THE LORD GOD! For the day of the LORD is near, For the Lord has prepared a sacrifice, He has consecrated His priests.”
(c) Zechariah 2:13—“BE SILENT, ALL FLESH, BEFORE THE LORD; for He is aroused from His holy habitation.”

We will never know if Paul had a certain passage in mind when he referenced the Law; but there's one thing we can know-- Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 14 to restore order to a church that had taken a turn for the worst in their worship services.

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