CHURCH & MINISTRY
The Bible Verses Women Hate
By Dolores Kimball
"Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. ‘And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church" (1Cor. 14:34-35).
"Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence" (1 Tim. 2:11-12).
Were there ever Bible passages more despised by women and more fumbled over or completely ignored by men? Women learn in silence? Women speaking in church is shameful?! Seriously? As an educated woman with no shortage of words in my vocabulary or opinions in my mind, I have always looked at these passages with a certain amount of skepticism. Can this really be what God intended Paul to say? I've heard a variety of interpretations of these verses, but I've only recently come to see that here, once again, the Bible displays the absolute brilliance that comes from the mind of God. Here is a paradigm that, if followed, results in peaceful, contented wives, spiritually mature husbands, secure families, and vibrant churches.
First, let's look at the more popular quasi-interpretations and see how they line up against the doctrines of the faith, because any biblical interpretation that contradicts the nature of God or the doctrines of the faith is a faulty interpretation.
God didn't write that. Paul did and we all know what a misogynist HE was! If the Holy Spirit didn't move Paul to write those words, then the Spirit lost control of Paul somewhere along the line. That nullifies the doctrines of the sovereignty and omnipotence of God, not to mention the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. If God truly did ‘breathe out' the very words of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16), then these are His words, not Paul's and the idea of women remaining silent in church is His idea, not Paul's.
That's just a cultural thing. It doesn't apply today. The danger of this philosophy is that once we relegate one passage to the ash heap for cultural reasons, we open the door for the demise of every verse, passage, or doctrine we don't like. If the idea of the silence of women in church can be discarded, we can no longer cling to any doctrine with any security, which effectively eliminates them all. In other words, to declare any part of Scripture invalid culturally, we must be open to denying them all on cultural, or any other, grounds. Either the Bible is inerrant, sufficient, and God-breathed or it isn't. There are no other options. And if it is, then that includes the passages above.
I mentioned before the brilliance of the plan outlined in the hated passages. When a woman learns in silence, both in church and on her own, she mirrors Mary of Bethany who sat at the Master's feet learning from Him, said not a word, and later displayed a unique understanding of something the disciples had missed—that the death of the Lord was at hand (Matt. 26:1-13). (Martha, on the other hand, was doing what women are prone to do—complain and give orders [Luke 10:38-42].)
The woman learning in silence and submission may know as much or more than her husband, but she doesn't overshadow or ‘show him up' by speaking out in fellowship groups and Sunday school classes while he sits silently by, embarrassed by her outspokenness, something I witnessed recently. Rather, she takes the knowledge she has gained from silent and submissive personal study and brings it before him at home. What husband who hears his wife ask, ‘Honey, what does this verse mean?' or ‘What did Pastor mean when he said…?' can fail to meet the challenge she presents to him to study and learn more in order to answer her questions? Her learning in silence motivates him to do the same. Not only do his male ego and competitive instincts prompt him to know as much as she does, but his natural desire to lead finds its fulfillment in guiding her, as well as his children, in the knowledge of God. His wife, as a consequence, finds her desire to control her husband, a la Genesis 3:16, mitigated by her respect for him and her desire to obey and honor the God she has come to know through her studies.
Couples who study together, learn together, and sharpen one another with the Word strengthen their marriage. A husband's level of love for his wife is raised by her deferential and respectful attitude toward him. She demonstrates her respect for him by seeking his wisdom and understanding. Husbands and wives whose communications center on the spiritual and the eternal find one another's company more exciting and fulfilling. Couples draw closer to one another and to God, and positively impact their families and churches. Everyone benefits and the whole plan proves itself to be exactly what God ordained. Brilliant. Simply brilliant.
Image Credit: Judy Baxter; "Adult Sunday School Class at The Rock Church"; Creative Commons