1 Corinthians 14 and the Silence of Women: Introduction

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As many of you know, who follow me and this blog, I have publicly expressed my support for the movement within Churches of Christ which advocates for the full inclusion of women in all areas of the life of the church. For many in my tradition, this is a place in which we disagree. (Although a shift is happening in our movement that, to me, is very promising.) But one of the fundamental things that my brothers and sisters in Churches of Christ and I completely agree upon is that the faith and practice of the church should be rooted deeply in Scripture. 

So one of the questions (or confrontations) that I regularly experience goes something like this:

"If what you're saying is true then the Bible doesn't matter or you have to ignore passages like 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2!"

This series is my attempt to begin to demonstrate that I personally, and many who share my convictions within our tribe have come to our conclusions because of our engagement with Scripture not our disregard for it! I believe that these texts are a part of the God-inspired Scriptures and are formative for the life of the church. Where I disagree with some is in the ways that we understand the background, history, interpretation, and implications of this text (and others).

This conversation is often difficult to have (especially around these more "central texts") for a couple of reasons:

  1. Too often people aren't interested in dialogue but in winning the debate/argument. (Something that I myself have too often done.)
  2. There are a number of important historical, cultural, and theological factors that are often unknown or ignored when studying this text.
  3. This conversation takes time, and we have too often valued brevity and "simplicity" over ambiguity and complexity.

So let's spend some time exploring one of the texts in this conversation that gives many people a case of theological heartburn...

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35, NIV)

So in the next few posts I want to highlight the following issues and questions…

  1. Textual Considerations
  2. Who are the "Women"?
  3. Cultural and Historical Background
  4. Key Words: "Silent, Submission, Disgraceful"
  5. Implications for Theology and Practice

Are there any questions that you want answered surrounding this passage? Leave them in the comments and I will incorporate them into this series!