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 Vol. 2, No. 9                                        Page 20                                                September, 2000

Since You AskedImage

Women Preachers
 and "Thus Saith the Law"

By Louis Rushmore

Dear Mr. Rushmore, "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church" (1 Corinthians 14:34-35). Could you please clarify something for me concerning this scripture which is widely supported to supress women from preaching at the pulpit. My question is upon the wording in the first sentence, specifically "as also saith the law." I have the understanding that when Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians there were terrible troubles within the church. Specifically because the women were becoming Christians and they thought that their new found freedom in Christ would break the Corinithian Laws and they could speak out or question their husbands publicaly. In the time that Paul wrote this letter it was against Corinithian law for women to publicaly question their husbands. If I am incorrect and this is one of God's laws that women keep silent--where is the scriptural reference to that? I assert that it was not God's law for the women to keep quiet during services but it was Paul urging to the women to follow Corinith law. Did God set the Corinithian Laws and if he did where is that stated in the bible? Furthermore if women are not to be 'involved' like that in the church then I still have a problem with the reference to Phoebe in Romans 16:1. It is my understanding that the greek translation states she was a deaconess. Wouldn't that just be the female version of a male deacon spoke about in 1 Timothy? Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated here and might help squash some serious religious debates in our house. hahahhahahaha :) Thank you for your time, A.M. Eversole

The expression "the law" (without further definition in the immediate context) biblically refers to the law of Moses, given by God at Mt. Sinai (also called Mt. Horeb) or by extension to the entire Old Testament. Note the following Scripture samples that demonstrate this point. "On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying, The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying . . ." (Deuteronomy 1:5-6). "And this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel" (Deuteronomy 4:44). "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20). "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail" (Luke 16:17). "Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law . . ." (Romans 2:17ff).  ". . . the law and the prophets" (Romans 3:21). "But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:23-24). The Bible is full of references to "the law" wherein the Old Testament in its entirety or some part thereof is meant (Romans 5:13, 20; 1 Corinthians 9:20-21; 15:56; Galatians 3:17ff; 4:4-5, 21; Ephesians 2:15).

The apostle Paul uses the phrase "the law" to refer to the Old Testament revealed will of God in the very chapter from which the query about "the law" is drawn. "In the law it is written,  With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord" (1 Corinthians 14:21). Contrary to what you suppose (or even strongly wish were the case), the reference to "the law" in 1 Corinthians 14:34 means the Old Testament law of God -- not civil law in ancient Corinth.

The word "saith" in 1 Corinthians 14:34 is from the Greek "lego." This word is contrasted with "speak" in verses 34 and 35, which is from the Greek "laleo."

"A characteristic of lego is that it refers to the purport or sentiment of what is said as well as the connection of the words; this is illustrated in Heb. 8:1, R.V., "(in the things which) we are saying," A.V., "(which) we have spoken." In comparison with laleo (No. 2), lego refers especially to the substance of what is said, laleo,to the words conveying the utterance . . . cp. 1 Cor. 14:34, "saith (lego) the law;" ver. 35, "to speak" (laleo) . . ." (Vine, W. E., Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell) 1981.)

First Corinthians 14:34-35 teaches that women are not permitted to utter a word in the public assembly (in the biblical context of 1 Corinthians 14 which specifically includes leading songs and prayers as well as preaching -- in the presence of men). Further, the apostle affirmed that this principle was likewise taught in substance or was the summary sentiment of the Old Testament in general. There is not a specific passage to which the phrase "also saith the law" refers, but the reference is to the comprehensive Old Testament law of God. However, the God-ordained, respective roles of man and woman, from creation throughout the Bible, are not difficult to discern. Essentially, the apostle Paul reminded his readers that the law of God regarding the respective and contrasting roles of men and women had not changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament.

Several passages summarize the fact of contrasting roles between men and women, some of the God-given reasons for such and some of the distinctions in those roles. Here are two:

"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression" (1 Timothy 2:11-14).

". . . the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man" (2 Corinthians 11:7-9).

Regarding Phebe of Romans 16:1, the Greek word that appears there is from "diakonos." Its primary meaning (as translated in Romans 16:1, KJV) is "servant." The same word, depending on the context in which it occurs, also refers to a minister of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 6:4; 11:23; Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:23, 25; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Timothy 4:6) or to the office of a special servant, a deacon (1 Timothy 3:8-13; Philippians 1:1). The qualifications for the office of a deacon pertain only to men (e.g., 'husband of one wife,' 1 Timothy 3:12). Further, the individuals selected for special service to the church in Acts 6 were all men. (Though the word "deacon" is not applied in Acts 6 to the one's selected, they exemplify the work of deacons from what one can ascertain from the meaning of the word for deacon coupled with the stipulated qualifications for deacons.)

For further study regarding the biblical role of women in the church and the home, please read the following articles from the Gospel Gazette Online archives.

typewriter thumbnail typewriter thumbnail Does Baptism Make
A Boy into a Man?

By Louis Rushmore

Periodically, the question arises, "Does baptism make a boy into a man?" By this, additional questions are implied that have some ramifications: "May a woman continue to teach a Bible class in which a boy has been baptized?" "When a boy is baptized, does it necessitate his use in any area of service where adult male members may serve (e.g., serving communion, leading prayer, leading singing, preaching, making decisions for the church in business meetings)?" What can be gleaned from the Scriptures?

Passages that identify "men and women" as those who become baptized believers (Acts 5:14; 8:12) do not fully answer the question. However, we can glean from such verses that: (1) both sexes of humanity are equally afforded redemption in Christ (Galatians 3:27-28), and (2) that these individuals must be mature enough to repent and believe prior to baptism (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16).

In the Old Testament under Judaism, one became a child of God or was placed into a covenant relationship with God at birth. However, one was not considered a man until he attained the age of 20 (i.e., old enough to go to war, Numbers 1:20). Further, priests could only be appointed and serve between the years of 25 and 50 (Numbers 8:24-25). Principles that we can glean from these references are that: (1) Simply being a child of God does not necessarily qualify one to be used in any and all aspects of service. (2) A degree of maturity is required to be of special service to God (e.g., qualifications for elders and deacons include being old enough to have a wife and children).

Common sense alone would argue that a boy who is baptized is not thereby a man as far as candidacy to be either a husband or a father. Why, then, ought one to think that baptism turns an eight-year-old or thirteen-year-old, etc. into a man whereby he can assume with equality the roles of service entertained by adult Christians?

While our Christian young men of any age might well be used to lead singing or prayer, serve the communion, etc. (as they are able), neither biblical nor secular proscription pronounces adult maturity upon a child just because he has been baptized. Neither biblical nor secular perspectives surmise that a baptized youngster is thereby somehow mystically qualified to direct the affairs of the church (along with adult Christian men in the absence of elders).

The following article from the Gospel Gazette Online archives may also proved useful.

Copyright 2000 Louis Rushmore. All Rights Reserved.
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