On Friday, January 16, 2009, I did a post called “Definition-Twisting: ‘Epitrepo’ in 1 Timothy 2:12.” The post itself talked about definitions of the word “permit” (the meaning of ‘epitrepo’ in the Greek) and showed how the word itself is of temporal significance (possesses an inherit time limit within the word itself).
Thomas Schreiner writes regarding the meaning of ‘epitrepo’:
“More promising, on first glance, is the contention that ‘epitrepo’ contains the idea of a temporary limitation by virtue of its intrinsic meaning. That the verb may relate to a specific situation is obvious in a number of contexts (Matt. 8:21 par.; Mark 5:13 par.; John 19:38; Acts 21:39, 40; 26:1; 27:3; 28:16). Nonetheless, the argument is again dubious. The specificity of the situation is plain not from the verb itself but from the context in which it occurs…in other contexts, ‘epitrepo’ is NOT NECESSARILY LIMITED TO A SPECIFIC SITUATION (cf. 1 Cor. 14:34; 16:7; Heb. 6:3, etc.)” (Kostenberger and Schreiner, “Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15”).
Schreiner affirms that a large number of verses demonstrate that the verb itself is temporal, time-based. However, he gives three verses that are supposed to prove that the verb itself is not temporal; these are the three verses that I will spend time on in this post.
First, we have 1 Corinthians 14:34 (ESV)-- 34(AI) the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but(AJ) should be in submission, as(AK) the Law also says.
The word “epitrepo” used here in 1 Cor. 14:34 means “to permit.” Paul is not permitting or allowing the Corinthian women to talk during worship. Schreiner claims that “epitrepo” here is used in the sense of “to forbid”; however, Paul does use the word “forbid”; but he uses it in reference to speaking in tongues in verse 39:
“39So, my brothers,(AM) earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.
Note that he has to tell them to “NOT FORBID” speaking in tongues. Evidently, the situation at Corinth had gotten out of hand, so much so that the church there was stopping people altogether from speaking in tongues! No one was allowed to come there EVER and speak in tongues because so many people were speaking in tongues in a chaotic fashion. Paul tells the church here to not hinder people from exercising their gifts in the house of the Lord (since the Lord is the one who gave the gifts); nevertheless,
40(AN) But all things should be done decently and(AO) in order.
Paul’s concern with the church was correct protocol and order, in contrast to the disorder of the services in Corinth. Paul offered a simple way for the believers of the church there to be able to use their gifts WITHOUT hindering anyone from exercising them. If Paul fails to BAN believers from speaking in tongues, why would he BAN women from teaching in 1 Timothy 2? If he did so, he would be doing in Ephesus what he accused the church of doing in Corinth! As I’ve said earlier, complementarians who espouse such interpretations are the ones who are theologically liberal—for they support their twisted views about what these texts say about women while failing to hold to the hermeneutical principle of BIBLICAL CONSISTENCY!
When Paul tells the women not to talk, he is not dealing with a gift—he is dealing with a normal activity. Next, he is talking about the women talking during a SPECIAL TIME of church gathering in Corinth—during the worship services. Notice that in verse 26, Paul shows the time limit in which women are to be quiet—“When you come together…”
Now, let’s look at this time limit. To do so, we will need to examine 1 Corinthians 14:26 (ESV):
26What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has(Y) a hymn,(Z) a lesson,(AA) a revelation,(AB) a tongue, or(AC) an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
Paul is describing the gathering of believers when it is time for worship. He notes the abilities of the believers: “EACH ONE has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.” Women would have been included in this list of those who had a gift to exercise in the church (they surely served as prophetesses in 1 Corinthians 11).
But notice something else: Paul zooms in on this time limit and makes the time limit even more specific and detailed than JUST worship time:
“29Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others(AE) weigh what is said. 30If a revelation is made to another sitting there,(AF) let the first be silent. 31For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33For God is not a God of(AG) confusion but of peace.
As in(AH) all the churches of the saints, 34(AI) the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but(AJ) should be in submission, as(AK) the Law also says.
Paul mentions women talking in the church right after he discusses the prophets and
how each prophet should have his turn exercising his gift—that is, prophesying to the church. So it seems as if these women were not talking during ALL of the worship service—just DURING THE TIME THAT PROPHECIES AND REVELATION WERE BEING GIVEN! In times of prophecy and revelation, God was sending a message to the church (God Himself was speaking), and the people needed to hear what God was trying to tell them through His chosen vessels—that is, the prophets. But if the people were talking during such a time, they couldn’t hear what God was saying—and they couldn’t be encouraged. The women desired so much to learn that they began to ask questions regarding everything being said during this time of sharing prophecies and revelations that Paul had to take away their privilege of asking questions and talking during this SPECIFIC TIME because the women didn’t know how to handle it.
This explains why Paul had to write the following verse in the chapter:
35If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
Paul had no problem with the women learning: it was just that they inquired regarding things said in the service DURING THE SERVICE, and Paul believed there was a better time to talk about the service—outside of the service at home. This is why he says at the end of verse 35 that it is “shameful” for women to talk in the church. Why is it “shameful”? Because it is a “SLAP IN THE FACE” to God, who was trying to talk through His prophets and prophetesses! It would be the equivalent of INTERRUPTING GOD while God was speaking to carry on your own conversation and pretend that God didn’t matter! The thought of disrespecting God like that gives me chills! Ooohhh…
Schreiner told us in the above quote at the top of the post that 1 Corinthians 14 would show us that “epitrepo” (Greek for “permit”) didn’t always have a temporal perspective; however, as the above text shows us, the context itself backs up why Paul didn’t “permit” the women to speak instead of “forbidding” them. It also showed us why Paul told the church to “not forbid” speaking in tongues—because it was a gift given by God to be used in the Lord’s House. Paul’s concern with the women as well as the gifts was order, which is why he ends 1 Corinthians 14 with the words “Let everything be done decent and in order.” As my hermeneutics professor always said, “A text means what it means in its context”; and I don’t think words are any different…