Bible Class (V)

Previous Article: Bible Class (IV)

J. R. Pope
McAlester, Oklahoma

2. 1 Cor. 14:34-35 imposes a second restriction upon women: "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 anything, let them ask their husbands at home; for it is a shame f or women to speak in the church."

In order to understand these verses, we must determine the meaning of several terms:

"LET YOUR WOMEN..." Who are the women considered in this passage? The context indicates that they were the wives of the prophets! A careful study of the first Corinthian letter will indicate that in the 12th, 13th and 14th chapters the subject concerns spiritual gifts, and the regulation of such gifts is the subject of chapter 14. In verses 29-33, Paul addresses the prophets; then in v. 34, he says, "Let your women . . ." Of these women, Paul says in v. 35, "Let them ask their husbands at home." It is apparent that not all women are here considered, for some women have no husbands! Not all married women are here considered, for some have husbands who are not Christians! Not all women married to Christians are here considered, for some women know more about the Bible than their husbands! The women described in these two verses are the wives of the prophets!

"KEEP SILENCE . . ." This word silence is from a different Greek word than that found in 1 Tim. 2:12. This word, "Sigao," forbids the utterance of a sound! This word, which prohibits a woman uttering a sound, indicates one of two things: First, that there was a particular meeting, in which a woman could not utter a sound (which meeting would certainly NOT be the meeting where she could sing, confess, etc.). Or secondly, that with respect to the subject matter (the exercise of spiritual gifts) she must remain absolutely silent. Neither case extends to the present, for the subject matter was the regulation of spiritual gifts, and the meeting described involved the exercise of spiritual gifts.

"IT IS A SHAME FOR WOMEN TO SPEAK ..." "To speak" is from a Greek word which means to "make vocal utterance; to talk; in the N.T. absol., to exercise the faculty of speech" (Bagster, p. 245). Thayer says, "To speak, not to be silent; the opposite to holding one's peace" (Thayer, p. 368). This passage does impose an ABSOLUTE SILENCE upon SOME WOMEN, in a CERTAIN PLACE. The women were the wives of the prophets; the place is that assembly in which spiritual gifts were exercised! The word "church" used here is from the Greek, "Ekklesia," translated as an ASSEMBLY (Thayer, p. 196). Since it has been established that not all assemblies of the congregation are "Lord's Supper" assemblies, it appears that there was a special assembly, which concerned the exercise of spiritual gifts, in which the wives of the participants could not speak!

In an assembly in which the Lord's Supper may be served, such as our Lord's Day services, a woman is fully authorized to SPEAK (Eph. 5: 19) and to TEACH (Col. 3:16). However, in the church (assembly) of 1 Cor. 14:34-35, some women (the wives of the prophets), and for that matter, some men (1 Cor. 14:28, 30), were required to maintain an absolute silence! If in one assembly she could not utter a sound; yet in another she was authorized to speak in confessing Christ and was allowed to speak and teach in song, it is apparent that the assemblies were not alike! The thing that made these assemblies different was the exercise of spiritual gifts. Since there are no spiritual gifts among men today, it is not possible to duplicate the assembly in which some could not utter a sound! Since there are no prophets alive today, exercising the gift of prophecy, it is apparent that there are no prophets' wives! Yet they were the ones upon whom this restriction was imposed! These verses were written to regulate the spiritual gifts, those who possessed and exercised them, and THEIR WIVES! Since the gifts do not extend to the present, it hardly appears that the regulations would extend beyond that which they were intended to regulate!

3. I Cor. 11:1-16, "...Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth..." v. 5. Here is the third restriction imposed upon women in their teaching. As we have previously noted, woman's place has always been one of submission and subjection to man. However, the Bible records a few instances of women who were allowed positions of authority and leadership. Such instances, which received the Lord's approval always bore the mark of God's special appointment to such a position. These women were PROPHETESSES--they spoke by God's inspiration, not of their own usurpation of authority. Among them were Miriam, Ex. 15:20; Deborah, Judges 4:4; Huldah, 2 Kings 22:14; Anna, Luke 2:36-38; and the four virgin daughters of Philip, Acts 21:9.

Joel said that, "sons and 7 DAUGHTERS would prophesy" (Joel 2:28). Yet Paul said "to prophesy was to speak unto men unto edification" (1 Cor. 14:3) and that "he that prophesieth edifieth the church" (v. 4). The New Testament records the fact that Philip had four, virgin daughters which did prophecy (Acts 21:9), and here in 1 Cor. 11:5 there were women who prophesied. These women taught with virtually the same authority as men! "Whatever may be the meaning of praying and prophesying, in respect to the man, they have precisely the same meaning in respect to the woman. So that some women at least, as well as some men, might speak to others to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. And this kind of prophesying or teaching was predicted by Joel 2:28 and referred to by Peter, Acts 2:17. And had there not been such gifts bestowed on women, the prophecy could not have had its fulfillment. The only difference marked by the apostle was, the man had his head uncovered, because he was the representative of Christ; the woman had hers covered, because she was placed by the order of God in a state of subjection to the man . . ." (Clarke's Commentary, on 1 Cor. 11:5).

Just as God corrected the erroneous view of the Jews concerning the Gentiles by allowing the Gentiles entrance into the kingdom and then kept the Gentiles from being proud by reminding them of their former alienation, so has God dealt with the woman.

To correct the erroneous views of men concerning the woman (that she is virtually worthless in the kingdom), God allowed certain women to do exactly what the men did concerning prophecy. Then to preclude the woman's pride or insubordination, God placed a MARK OF SUBJECTION upon her WHEN SHE PROPHESIED -- the HEAD COVERING!

There is a great deal of controversy and perplexity concerning the head covering of 1 Cor. 11 that can be eliminated when we take into consideration the fact that this covering was a restriction upon the woman's exercise of her gift of prophecy, imposed upon her by God, lest she forget her place of subjection. This restriction did not concern those women who did not prophesy, nor would it concern women after the gift of prophecy had been removed.

From the study of these verses, we have noted three restrictions upon women and their teaching. Two of these restrictions involved the exercise of miraculous, spiritual gifts (the wearing of a head covering when a prophetess prayed or prophesied and the wives of the prophets keeping an absolute silence in a given assembly). Since these spiritual gifts, including the gift of prophecy, passed with the first century, the regulations would not extend beyond that which they were intended to regulate. Therefore, the only restriction God today imposes upon a woman who endeavors to teach the word of God is that she do so in keeping with her station of subjection! She is not allowed to usurp authority over the man, even in so noble a matter as teaching the word! In keeping with this restriction, she is fully authorized to teach!

The practice herein defended does NOT include women teaching with authority over men, but concerns women teaching classes of children and other women. The Bible is the most reasonable of all books. Though men may often be late in discovering the basic, good, common sense of the Bible, it has long been a book of reason and common sense, which falls not short of, but surpasses the wisdom of men. Therefore this question: IN WHAT OTHER AREA OF LEARNING IS IF MORE ADVANTAGEOUS TO CONSISTENTLY RETAIN STUDENTS OF VARIED BACKGROUNDS, AGES, I. Q. LEVELS, EXPERIENCE, ETC., IN ONE UNDIVIDED ASSEMBLY? Only regarding the Bible do men so think!

Bible classes, as conducted by most churches of Christ, consist of

1. A group teaching arrangement,

2. Which may involve a divided assembly,

3. With concurrent or simultaneous teaching of said groups,

4. Men teaching in those groups where men are present,

5. Women teaching in those groups, which consist solely of other women and children.

6. All this under the local elders' oversight.

Since scriptural authority exists for each point here considered, therefore no valid objection can be raised against them. Since these points are scriptural are sustain scriptural relationships one to the other, and since these are the components of the Bible classes generally conducted and herein found, it follows that such an arrangement stands as completely authorized by the word of God!

Truth Magazine VII: 7, pp.18-20
April 1963