“EGALITARIAN CLAIM 7.7: DISRUPTIVE CORINTHIAN WOMEN: WOMEN IN THE CORINTHIAN CHURCH WERE BEING NOISY AND DISRUPTIVE, AND THAT IS THE REASON 1 CORINTHIANS 14:34-35 TELLS WOMEN TO BE SILENT” (Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, 242).
“Answer 7.7a: There is no evidence inside or outside the Bible to prove this theory. The first thing to be said about this view is there are no facts to support it. There is nothing in 1 Corinthians that says women were being disruptive. And there is no evidence outside the Bible that women in the Corinthian church were disruptive. Some people have assumed this, but their position is just that: an assumption without evidence” (243).
This is one of the passages on women that continues to be debated among believers. For conservative evangelicals, this passage is authoritative because it lies within the New Testament canon and the canon of Scripture. However, the question is not “is it authoritative?” But “how is it authoritative?” In other words, being that Scripture is the authority on all matters of life, how does 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 pertain to the modern Christian life?
First, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 14 itself to see what the text can tell us.
34The women are to (BF)keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but (BG)are to subject themselves, just as (BH)the Law also says.
35If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35, New American Standard Bible).
Going back to Grudem’s theory, there is no evidence in the passage that shows there was disruption of any sort in the church at Corinth. However, once again, Grudem can be shown to lack quality exegesis as well. The above two verses have to be placed within their context, which means that we have to examine these two verses within the other verses in the chapter, verses both before and after the two above. Looking at verse 33, which comes right before this one, we read “FOR GOD IS NOT A GOD OF CONFUSION BUT OF PEACE, AS IN ALL THE CHURCHES OF THE SAINTS.” The word here for “confusion” in the Greek is “akatastasias,” meaning “disturbance, disorder, unruliness, or insurrection.” Grudem says that we can’t know of a disturbance at the church—but Paul uses a word in the Greek that means “disturbance” and “disorder”!
Next, look at verse 35. Paul seems to offer a solution to the disturbance by saying, “If they desire to ask anything, let them ask their husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.” Why would he have to tell them what wasn’t proper if they were already demonstrating it? When Paul was about to leave the elders at Ephesus after three years with them, he left them with these words: “…REMEMBER the words of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:35). Here Paul doesn’t use the word “remember,” or “to write the same things again is no trouble to me…” (Philippians 3:1). Paul doesn’t use any indicators of a reminder here. It seems then, that Paul is writing to address a specific situation at Corinth among the believers there.
Verses 39 and 40 end with this discussion of order vs. disorder: “Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. But all things must be done PROPERLY AND IN AN ORDERLY MANNER.” Here once again, Paul is discussing order and propriety. The fact that he stresses this in the last few verses of 1 Corinthians 14 demonstrates Paul’s intention—his goal is to show them the PROPER way to have services. Notice that the “proper” manner of verse 40 matches what is “improper,” that of women speaking in the church, in verse 35.
According to Grudem: Craig Keener says in his book, “Paul, Women, and Wives,” that “What is almost certainly in view is that the women are interrupting the Scripture exposition with questions (Keener, 71)…what is the hard evidence for this? There is none. Keener bases much on Paul’s statement, ‘if there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home’ (1 Corinthians 14:35). But that does not prove they were already asking disruptive questions…it could just as well be Paul’s way of heading off any possible attempts to evade his command that women not speak out and judge prophecies in the church service” (Grudem, 243).
Notice that Grudem says “it could just as well be.” “It could be.” Grudem offers a possibility, like he accuses Keener of doing, but he offers no evidence for why his interpretation is correct. He doesn’t go back to the verses and show us why this is so. Grudem’s idea doesn’t make any sense—for example, if I walk in a room and no one is talking too loud, why am I gonna tell the audience to stop talking so loud? The only time that a person calls someone down about their voice is when the room gets “too loud,” because so many people are talking and nothing is getting heard. Paul is no different. His idea, that women were trying to disobey Paul’s command, is Grudem’s way of accusing women of something that Scripture does not say. Paul wrote earlier in the letter that “I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:1). The believers made great efforts to do what Paul had left as an example for them to do; this in fact contradicts Grudem’s response to Keener’s analysis.
In the next post, I will continue to confront Grudem’s attack of the egalitarian position on 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.