Women in the Assembly: 1 Corinthians 14:34-35

[Update: See my book Women Serving God, or my blogposts that respond to Renew’s review of my book for further details and development of my own understanding.]

The academic lecture I have just uploaded as Women in the Assembly: Issues and Options (First Corinthians 14:33-35) was presented at the Institute for Biblical Research Regional Meeting, Jackson, MS in December, 1990. It has never been published till now. When I wrote and presented this material I was teaching at Magnolia Bible College in Kosciusko, Mississippi.

I originally prepared this material during the early summer of 1990 after I was invited to speak on 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 at the 1990 Harding University lectureship. As I read new materials and restudied the text and then authored this piece, my mind underwent a significant shift. Whereas previously I had argued that women should have no audible presence in the public assembly, in the process of writing this paper I changed my mind. That change meant that my invitation to contribute to the lectureship book and speak at the lectureship on this topic was withdrawn. I fully understood then, and still do now, why that was necessary since the invitation presumed that I would defend a position I had previously stated in print on at least two occasions (that is, “Worship in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40: The Injunction of Silence,” Image 5 [August 1989], pp. 24+ and with Bruce L. Morton, Woman’s Role in the Church [Shreveport, LA: Lambert Book House, 1978]). I have no resentments about the withdrawn invitation at all. It was probably best for me as well!

The reason for my shift in thinking was textual in character rather than theological. Theology is much more of my thinking now, but then I was focused specifically on what the text says (and I never want to do less than that even now). Since I had never accepted the differentiation of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 as a “private” gathering from the “assembly” in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 where the church shared the Lord’s Supper (the two assemblies are the same in my mind and where is the difference in the New Testament between a “private” and “public” assembly?), I was earlier forced to conclude that either (1) Paul was implicitly forbidding women to pray and prophesy by requiring the head coverning (one can’t wear a submissive head covering and exercise authority at the same time, right?) or (2) he was simply compartmentalizing his response to the situation (addressed the head covering question in chapter 11 and then dealt with silence in chapter 14). Through my renewed study I was disabused of either of those alternatives.

Instead, I was convinced that Paul not only approved praying and prophesying by women in the assembly but that he encouraged it! Reading 1 Corinthians 11:10 with the literal active voice (“has authority”) instead of the presumed passive voice (“sign of authority”), Paul states that a woman has authority (has the right!) to pray and prophesy when she honors her head through the covering. This led me to a critical point: in the early church women audibly prayed and prophesied in the assembly of the church even while they honored their husbands (or the men in the assembly). Consequently, it was not a violation of the created order (to which Paul appeals in 1 Corinthians 11) for women to pray and prophesy–to lead in the assembly through prayer and prophecy–since they could do so and at the same time honor their heads. Leadership, then, does not necessarily imply headship!

Since Paul approved audible female participation in the assembly in 1 Corinthians 11, he could not have meant that they should be silenced in 1 Corinthians 14.  So, what did he mean?  I concluded that he either meant that disruptive women should be silent (e.g., the wives of the prophets interrupting the assembly with their questions or women babbling in disorderly Greco-Roman cultic style) or that women were precluded from “judging” the prophets (which is the view I take in this presentation). Paul did not prohibit women from speaking per se, but from a particular kind of speaking, a disruptive or intrusive speaking.

This essay, then, represents an important moment in the development of my understanding of gender roles in the assembly. It was a significant step for me. I here offer it to the public for the first time since it was read at the regional professional meeting in Jackson, MS, in 1990. It has not seen the light of day since then though I have used its ideas on many occasions and in a variety of modes.

I have, of course, grown in my understanding of the issue since then. I can’t say that I am completely satisfied with where I am. I sense that I am missing something and I am open to hearing the text anew. The text mastered me (at least I think it did on this point) during the summer of 1990. I hope it will yet again master me so I that I might more faithfully speak God’s vision for his world and church rather than my own cultural and/or traditional biases.

31 Responses to “Women in the Assembly: 1 Corinthians 14:34-35”

  1.   Dan Smith Says:

    John Mark, your journey is very similar to mine, which journey has caused much grief within my small circle of family/acquaintances.
    God bless.

  2.   rich constant Says:

    the change in the dinamic from old to new cov.makes good common sence as in god being no respector of gender…
    in asembly…
    although in a healthy family the dinamic would stay the same(man ruler as christ does in love) unless authority is delagated by the husband
    to the wife through agreement…for the good of the family…
    thanks john mark
    for all that help


  3.   Darryl Says:

    So John, where are you now in this journey? I’d be interested to know. I’ve been leading a discussion on this very topic recently. I’ve pretty well been the odd man out in this discussion with some in my group. (Not to worry, I won’t bandy your name about like in 1 Corinthians: “I follow Paul…”, “I follow Cephas…”, “I follow John Mark…”!)

    I’ve had some suggest I’m influenced by our culture. To which I’ve replied over two millenia of paternalistic culture has had more influence on the way people think than the last fifty years of American culture. (Ok, I’m ranting now…sorry)

  4.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    I’ve developed some more, but not quite egalitarian. The below link gives you a peek into my thinking about 1999 (I think). Hermeneutics and Gender

    More recent would be materials prepared for Woodmont Hills “Women Serving God” series. These are available at Women Serving God: Four Lesson Series and Women Serving God: Eight Lesson Dialogue

  5.   Royce Says:


    I think I am probably a twin to you on this issue. I know there can be a good case msde for complete silence of women in the assembly. I believe the Corinthian text must be viewed in the context of history, culture,and the issue of languages (tongues).

    Those who hold that view of the silence of women enforce it in curious ways. Some who would never apporove a woman speaking or even praying in the “building” would have no problem with her doing so in private residence, in a fellowship hall while taking part in a wedding for instance, or in other simular situations.

    There is an entrenched idea that “church” only exists in the “building” and not outside of it. There are rules that apply in the building but would not apply outside of the building around a picnic table. Its the same “church” on either side of the wall.


  6.   Clyde S. Says:

    Thanks, John Mark. Would you post something on your understanding of 1 Tim. 2:11-12 (and its context) sometime? Maybe you already have, but I can’t remember.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      As you recognized in printing out some of the materials on my website, I look at 1 Timothy 2 rather closely there. The material from the dialogue at Woodmont Hills is the most up-to-date of my opinions and offers several options regarding 1 Timothy 2 that are viable, I think.

  7.   Clyde S. Says:

    I guess it would’ve helped if I would have read it first. I commented as it was printing and then took it off the printer and realized you address my Q in the material. 🙂

  8.   Terrell Lee Says:

    Even a public comment on this topic can create a “moving” experience for a preacher. But I’ll risk a few thoughts of my own as I’ve moved away from patriarchalism and into complementarianism.

    First, I’m deeply grateful for this blog and the forum it offers. John Mark, you offer your readers a priceless service.

    Second, this topic is not just an academic exercise or a matter of holiness in one’s commitment to textual fidelity, but it is often seen as one of those line-in-the-sand fellowship issues that divides both spiritual and biological families.

    Third, I don’t see the tension some apparently see in recognizing the occasional nature of Scripture yet still being able to discern normative principles in the context of occasionality. For example, in 1 Cor. 7 Paul explicitely states that at least two things motivated him to give the “counsel” he offers–namely that each should retain his current status: (1) the present crisis and (2) the time is short. And everyone received the same “counsel”–to stay as they were as it concerned their marital status. Had there been no “present crisis” might his “counsel” had been different? I believe so; doesn’t the fact that he gives his rationale for his counsel affirm just that? Yet, in the midst of all this, still there are normative principles that surface for all people in all generations, just not the ones many think they have found.

    Finally, one should use extreme caution and pray for wisdom before unnecessarily upsetting the apple cart. Jesus seemed to know things that he didn’t pass along to his disciples because they weren’t able to hear. Let us help our people develop the kind of ears they need so they can be capable of hearing. Let us pray for wisdom and divine timing as we help our people experience the eternal in the present.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      Thanks, Terrell. I appreciate the perspectives you offer here. Each is worthy of serious consideration.

    •   Leah Farmer Says:

      I think it is much simpler for men to discuss “divine timing” because there is not impetus for their being allowed to use their gifting from the Holy Spirit. For those of us who have followed generations of women waiting for the men of the Church to come to a more biblically correct perspective, divine timing is not a luxury.

  9.   Gwen Morgan Says:

    In response to Women in the Assembly, I share two very humbling situations:
    1. After returning from a mission trip to Thailand, I was escorted up to the pulpit, by the preacher, in the assembly to share of the miraculous works of God during my visit to Thailand. I hadn’t ever wanted to be in front of an assembly, but the leadership felt it would be encouraging to share of the goodness of the Lord while on that trip.
    2. I work with the poor and less fortunate in my city. We as a church body could get involved by housing the homeless. I asked to share this opportunity with the Elders and before we began, they asked me to pray. They felt like God had stirred my heart to approach them.
    (Still as I share this, it humbles me more…)

  10.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Thanks, Gwen. I believe we need more opportunities in some (most) of our churches for women to bear witness to how God has used them through the gifts he has given them.

  11.   Johnny Melton Says:

    John Mark,
    I listened recently as a mutual friend discussed 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 in the Open Forum at the annual Bible Lectureship of our alma mater. Invitations were given to the audience to send questions electronically for consideration. Below is the subtance of my response to his position which was two-fold: (1) women may ask questions and otherwise speak in a Bible class because that is not a worship assembly and (2) that in a church worship assembly women may not speak (except in direct response to a question posed by a man or in concert with the whole church when singing).

    I listened as you presented your arguments regarding the nature of the assembly in 1 Corinthians 14 and your view regarding women speaking. I take issue with your reasoning on both counts. Your argument that one can dictate the character of an assembly of Christians based on the intent of those assembled is, I believe, without biblical warrant. Your references to “come together” do not prove the point that you are asserting. There is no way for any assembly to gather without, in some sense, coming together—and, indeed, to come together in one place. When Christians come together in one place they are an assembly; and an assembly (ekklesia) of Christians is, by its very nature, church.

    Ignatius famously remarked, “Ubi Christus, ibi ecclesia,”–“Where Christ is, there is the church.” In Matthew 18:20, Jesus promised: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Now if the principle of ubi Christus, ibi ecclesia holds, then wherever two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus you have church. It is his presence among them that makes that assembly the church. To be sure, Jesus promised to be with his disciples individually until the end of the world (Matt. 28:19-20), but, it seems to me, in Matthew 18:20 he is promising to be present in a special way when two or three gather in his name.

    I contend that it simply cannot be the case that a gathering of Christians where Jesus’ name is invoked in prayer, where songs are sung to the glory of Father, Son, and Spirit, and where his word is reverently studied–which characterizes most Bible classes–can be anything but church. And furthermore, it seems to me that wherever such gatherings occur, all the rules of Christian decorum should apply.

    I don’t think that you would argue that in a Bible Class (a category that the NT knows nothing about) as opposed to a church assembly that a tongue speaker could speak without an interpreter or that a prophet could continue to speak even though another prophet had received a later revelation. Again, I don’t think that you would argue that a Bible Class doesn’t have to be governed by the over-arching rule of “all-things-done-decently-and-in-order,” even though that exhortation is given in the context of, and pardon the redundancy, a “church assembly.” That being the case, why do you argue that the rule of decorum regarding women speaking does not apply to a gathering of Christians at 10:00 a.m., but it does apply to that same group of Christians, meeting in the same room, praying the same prayers, singing the same songs, and studying the same Bible an hour later? Can it be that the Sovereign Lord of the Universe takes his cue from lowly humans and only shows up when we gather in his name intending for our assembly to be church so that we can worship, but otherwise he refuses to be present among us so that our assemblies are not church, and the prayers offered, the Scripture read, and the songs sung do not comprise worship, but are merely the pious acts of a secular body, because we intended the gathering to be something other than church, and we intended for our activities to be something other than worship?

    I don’t disagree with your conclusions about women speaking in a Bible Class—my contention would be that by creating an additional category of assembly (the Bible Class) thus elevating the so-called worship assembly to a special category with special rules, you are forcing a distinction that the early church would not have understood, and therefore, that the Apostle could not possibly have intended. Consequently, I believe that women may participate in a “church assembly” or “worship assembly” with the same latitude that would be granted to them in a Bible Class, at a “fellowship meal,” or even at the Open Forum.

    Regarding your analysis of 1 Corinthians 14:34, I find several problems. Even though the text of 1 Cor. 14:34 is ambiguous, it can be understood. To understand this text, I believe it must be read in light of its larger context. That larger context includes the prior verses in its immediate context in chapter 14, and what Paul has written earlier in the letter (specifically chapter 11). Consideration also must be given to the larger NT and OT contexts of the Bible. With that understood, the question is how should the larger context and the less immediate context of chapter 11 bear on our reading of chapter 14? I think that it is important to understand that what Paul says regarding women prophesying and praying in chapter 11 was heard prior to what he has to say in 1 Corinthians 14. I think that it is also important to understand that what Paul says regarding women being absolutely silent (not uttering a sound) in 14:34-35 was heard immediately after two other groups have been given situations “in the church” where they, too, are to be absolutely silent (not uttering a sound). As I read the text, there is nothing in Paul’s argument that suggests he is undoing his regulation of women prophesying and praying in the church in chapter 11. (Please don’t attempt to argue that these women were prophesying and praying in an assembly that is not the church—that begs the question of whether the NT recognizes such a category, and I contend that it doesn’t. Also, Paul clearly states that his instructions regarding coverings are what he gives to all the churches, and that there are no customs that would allow women to prophesy or pray uncovered in any of the churches. Finally, don’t suggest that these women were prophesying and praying in an all female assembly—if that were the case, there would be no need for a sign of authority—because there would be no possibility of usurping the authority of men, if no men were present. The fact that she needs a sign of authority to prophesy and pray implies that there were men present.)

    Since women prophesied and prayed in the Corinthian church in chapter 11, and Paul did not forbid that practice, but regulated it, then there must be clear evidence in chapter 14 that he is intending to take an entirely different position regarding women vocally participating in the assembly; if that is, in fact, his intention. Here is where reading verses 34-35 in their immediate context is imperative. Since there are two groups that routinely were speaking in the church (the tongue-speakers and the prophets) that were told to “be silent,” could it be that verses 34-35 should be understood as a third category of people who normally speak in church, but who, under certain circumstances should “be silent” (i.e., not uttering a sound)? I think so.

    As I have indicated above, it is my view that when this material in chapter 14 was first read in the assembly at Corinth, the regulations that Paul had given regarding women prophesying and praying in the church (in chapter 11) would be fresh in their memory. They would not have understood Paul to be reversing himself (taking back what he had only allowed for the sake of argument, or some other inane explanation of why women prophesying and praying in the church is really not permitted); they would have heard him adding further regulations regarding appropriate behavior in the assembly. Just as there are rules of decorum for women prophesying and praying in the church, there are rules of decorum for tongue speakers and for prophets and for women. There is a time when each group is to be absolutely quiet (not to utter a sound, which is the meaning of sigato (v. 28, 30) and sigatosan (v. 34). However, it is clear, in context, that Paul doesn’t intend for absolute silence to characterize either the tongue speakers or the prophets as a normal rule. It is only when their speaking is inappropriate that they are to sigato. Likewise, it is not the normal rule for women to be siagatosan. It is only when they are engaged in inappropriate speech that they are to “not utter a sound.”

    The identity of these women is debatable. You argued that there is no possessive pronoun in the Greek text. You didn’t explain that the absence of the possessive pronoun depends on the particular Greek text you are using. For that matter, you didn’t explain that verses 33b-35 have a checkered textual history—that while they appear in all of the manuscripts, they appear in different places in the text, and in some cases with the possessive pronoun and in some cases without it. Taking the point of view that the verses are original, that they should appear as verses 34 and 35 in our modern versions, and that the possessive pronoun should not be present in verse 34, it remains that in verse 35 these women are told to ask their husbands at home. So, it is a fair inference that the women of verse 34 are in fact wives. The question is whose wives are they?

    But before we answer that question, it is also significant that the instruction to ask their husbands at home is the counter-balance to the instruction for women to remain silent in the church. So it would be fair to infer, I believe, that the inappropriate speech that these women were engaging in—the speech from which they were to abstain by not uttering a sound—was asking questions. (It is most likely, I think, that they were asking questions of the prophets mentioned in verses 29-31.)

    Now back to the identity of the women who were told to be silent. Their men (or husbands) are men from whom the answers of their questions can be received. Otherwise, the Apostle is giving dangerous counsel. Why ask their husbands at home, if their husbands were not the ones being questioned in the assembly? One of the things that the church is told to do regarding prophets is to test or question them to see if they are from God (cf. 1 John 4:1; Deut. 13 & 18). Because these women are told to ask their husbands at home, it may very well be that they are the wives of the prophets. If this is the case, then it explains why it would be safe for the Apostle to instruct them to ask their husbands–their husbands were prophets. It also provides a rationale for why the speech of these women is inappropriate. If they were simply asking their prophet husbands nagging questions asserting their status as the wife of a prophet, then they are asking shamefully and should “shut up,” that is true enough. However, it may be that the testing of prophets was a male task because it involved the exercise of authority. Those testing the prophets would have the authority to accept or to reject the prophet (otherwise, there would be no purpose in testing them). Most likely, these women were asking questions as a part of the testing process, and, consequently, they were exercising authority over men; which is something that Paul doesn’t permit women (wives or otherwise) to do. It is this latter scenario that makes best sense of the text to me. (As an aside, I would suggest that prophesying does not inherently involve the exercise of authority. That is evident by the fact that the prophets and their messages were subject to testing. That is also why women prophesying does no violence to Paul’s prohibition agains women exercising authority over men.)

    Allow me one more observation. I often hear that 1 Timothy 2 states the prinicple regarding the silence of women and that 1 Cor 14 is a specific application of that principle. I think there is a real problem with that point of view. First, just as 1 Cor 11 was written (and heard in the church) before 1 Cor 14, both of those chapters were written years before 1 Timothy 2. The Greek of 1 Corinthians 11 is the least difficult to translate. Grammatically, it is simple and straight forward. The grammar of 1 Timothy 2:8-15 has many more thorny translational issues, and I have already indicated the varied difficulties with 1 Cor. 14:33a-35. The Corinthian church had to interpret and apply Paul’s instructions regarding women speaking (prophesying and praying) without the benefit of 1 Timothy 2. I would argue that whatever “teaching with authority over men” means in 1 Timothy 2:12 it does not mean that women cannot prophesy and pray.

    I reject the interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:8 that has Paul saying in essence: “I want men to pray (and by that I mean to imply that I do not want women to pray; in fact, I mean to imply that women may not pray with divine approval)….” If gender specificity in 1 Timothy 2:8 means that Paul (and thereby God, by virture of the doctrine of inspiration) intends to say that women may not pray, then why is it not the case that verse 9a should be read as follows: “Likewise (I want) the women to dress in suitable apparel, with modesty and self-control (and by that I mean to imply that I do not want men to dress in suitable apparel, with modesty and self-control; in fact, I mean to imply that men may not dress in suitable apparel, with modest and self-control with divine approval…”?

    I don’t think that it is reasonable to argue that gender specificity implies one thing in verse 8(“I want males to pray implies females may not pray–the so-called law of exclusion), but that it does not imply the same thing in verse 9 (“I want females to dress modestly etc implies that males may not dress modestly). 1 Timothy is an occasional document just like 1 Corinthians. What it teaches is true, but it is no more a principle by which all other statements must be interpreted, than is any other text on the topic. And given the general rules of hermeneutics (interpreting what comes later in light of what has gone before, and interpreting difficult passages in light of less difficult ones) it seems to me that 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 should be interpreted in light of 1 Corinthians 11.

    •   Homer Turnbull Says:

      I have been a long time reader of John Mark’s papers, books, etc., including those co-written with others. I recently finished “A Gathered People”, co-written with Johnny. I was excited to come across Johnny’s comments regarding women in the assembly. This is a subject that I have been studying and discussing for some time on another forum. Of special interest were Johnny’s comments regarding the practice of classification of various assemblings into “church” or “not-church” categories. I thought I had found a solution, or help toward arriving at a solution, but upon reflection I am not so sure.
      Paul seems to imply that all gatherings are not the same. In 1 Corinthians 11:18 Paul says “when you come together as a church (lit. in church)”. If all gatherings are “church”, would not the words “as a church” be redundant? And do they not imply that the Corinthians might come together not as a church? Again, in 1 Corinthians 14:23, Paul says “If therefore the whole church should assemble together…” prior to his instructions on what is proper; would the same rule apply to a gathering of less than the whole church? I am thinking that possibly Paul had in mind a gathering of the whole church, including the elders, and that other rules might apply in a less formal, or less structured gathering.
      I have no formal education in the bible or Greek, am just a “Berean”. Any comments will be apppreciated. God bless!

      •   Johnny Melton Says:

        I don’t believe that Paul is implying that it is possible for the church to assemble without being the church. The Greek phrase in 1 Corinthians 11:18 is difficult to translate. C.K. Barrett in his commentary on 1 Cor. translates it “When you come together in assembly (or in church)….” He then comments, “It appears that, notwithstanding the divisions, the whole company of believers still came together in one assembly. This translates the Greek word (ekklesia) usually rendered church (as e.g. at i.2). In non-biblical Greek, however, it denotes the citizen body of a town assembled for deliberative or executive purposes, and in the Greek Old Testament it translates the Hebrew word (qahal) which often refers to the people of God assembled. It corresponds with these facts that in a number of passages, especially 1 Cor. xiv, the word means not simply the people of God, but the people of God assembled. This seems to be the sense here.” The assembly (church) is the people of God gathered, and the gathered people of God in assembly is the church. The gathered people of God comprise the church whenever they assemble. The church in Antioch was called together to hear the report of Paul’s missionary work (Acts 14:27). This gathering of the people of God was church. The people of God in Antioch (the church) sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem (Acts 15:3) and the people of God in Jerusalem (the church) gathered together to welcome Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:4). Later, the whole church would give its consent to the procedures the apostles and elders had worked out to enjoin on Gentile believers (Acts 15:22) and that decision was written down in a letter which was delivered to the church in Antioch “when they had gathered the congregation together” (Acts 15:30). My point here is that the gathering of the people together for activities other than “worship” doesn’t make them anything other than “church.” The church remains the assembly and the assembly is the church. The phrase “come together in assembly (or in church)” (11:18) means the same thing as “come together in one place” (cf. 1 Cor. 11:20). Barrett translates the verse “When you assemble together” and explains the literal Greek phrase “epi to auto” means much the same as “en ekklesia” in verse 18. It seems to me that the best understanding is that whenever the people of God are gathered together in the name of Jesus, then that gathering, or assembly, is the church. I hope this helps.

  12.   Johnny Melton Says:

    If brevity is the soul of wit, it is obvious that I am not very witty. For claity, it should be noted that everything in my previous post after the first paragraph was a response to the position taken in the Open Forum. None of my analytical comments were addressed to what you wrote in your 1990 article. I offer these observations here because I believe they are in substantial harmony with the views expressed in your article, but the conclusions, of course, are mine.

  13.   Terrell Lee Says:

    I nominate Johnny to be co-blogger with John Mark! 🙂

    Johnny, thanks for your careful, thoughtful and gracious post. I want to be careful about going beyond the intent of John Mark’s blog though I may flirt with the boundaries in this post; if so, John Mark you can feel free to reign me back in.

    I think I can accept the position of the brother you refer to (though I strongly disagree with him!) until that position is used to judge who are the “faithful” insiders vs. the “liberal” outsiders. I am unable to understand how someone can look at more than one interpretation by Bible-believing people and judge one to be more faithful to God than another. Unity is more important that agreement on the interpretation of this text. (Though, in essence, I’m in agreement with your reading of the text.)

    Did you receive any kind of response from this brother?

  14.   Johnny Melton Says:

    Thanks, Terrell. No response yet.

  15.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Johnny, that one was a long post. 🙂 However, it was well argued, I thought and covered the bases fairly well.

    Co-blogger is a bit much, however! 🙂

  16.   Kyle Lane Says:

    Hello. I am I scholar of the Bible. I am not studying it in any college or school but on my own constantly delving into the true meaning of scripture and always asking God for the wisdom to discern what the true meaning of His word is.

    The bible was written by man. The original letter was written by Paul, but! For centuries the New Testament was hand-copied over and over and over ad nauseam. This, unfortunately, leads to accidents, or sometimes not accidents. We do not have the original copies of the letters that Paul wrote. What we do have is the earliest surviving manuscripts of these letters. So obviously these are the purest and most reliable in seeking out the true meaning of God’s word.

    My point in all this is that in the oldest surviving manuscript of 1 Corinthians that we have, nothing is said about making women be silent in church. Apparently some scribe hundreds of years later decided that he didnt like the authority exerted by women in the church and he made a quick little change. The reason why Christians at the time didnt do anything about it is because they didnt know about it! The scribe was most likely in greece and he took his adjusted Bible to where he knew there wouldnt be intelligent christians that could tell him otherwise.

    this all made sense to me when you look at all the times paul gave women authority and let them take leadership roles. I havent gone extremely deep into this yet but i intend to so dont take my words to be 100% truth. just as something to think about.

  17.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Actually, the oldest MSS of 1 Corinthians have verses 34-35 right where the modern translations have. This includes P46, Aleph, Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, etc. Only a few Western tradition MSS (text type in textual criticsm) move the verses to the end of the chapter. But all MSS have the verses.

    It could not have been “hundreds of years later” because P46 has it, as well as early Old Latin MSS and the Syriac and Coptic versions.

    John Mark

  18.   John Masumba Says:

    Hi John,
    You have articulated the issues very well. How can we influence change in remotest African region where silencing women in church is deeply rooted?

  19.   Cayce Says:

    Hi John,
    I am a female and deeply interested in understanding the Bible on this issue. I find it difficult to believe that these verses in I Cor. 11 (the more difficult to understand) have basically been used to throw out the clearer meanings in I Cor. 14 and 1 Timothy about women being silent. I wonder if the “literal active” voice means that they actually prayed and prophesied, their prayers and prophecies being literally spoken by their husbands (to whom these women had communicated in private). Thus they could actively pray and prophesy with their “heads” covered (meaning the women are protected by going through the covering God gave to them-their husbands) and still remain silent.

    I’m not a scholar, but seeking to be a Berean.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      I love Bereans! I appreciate your search of the Scriptures.

      At the same time, I don’t see 1 Corinthians 11 as that difficult. It is only difficult if we read 1 Corinthians 14 to exclude what 1 Corinthians 11 permits and encourages. I don’t see how one can prophesy silently or entrust another with the message. The text says that women prophesy. It does not say they do it through their husbands, and in the context of 1 Corinthians 11-14 the prophesying happens in the assembly.

      Perhaps we should read 1 Corinthians 14 to exclude a different kind of speaking rather than the speaking that Paul encourages in 1 Corinthians 11. And perhaps this kind of speaking does not violate whatever 1 Timothy forbids.

      Thanks for contributing to the discussion, Cayce.

      Blessings, John Mark

  20.   Masa Nonogaki Says:

    Hi, John Mark,
    I hope you still remember me. I was your student at Harding from 1992-1996. I was looking for some materials or books written by you because in 2011 I am expected to present a three day seminar on this topic here in Japan. This assignment is bigger than me.
    I came across your blog site. Thanks for your work. It is interesting to know how you shifted your thinking.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      Of course, my friend Masa, I remember you. It is great to hear from you. And I hope the materials are helpful…though my thought, it seems, is always evolving. 🙂 Blessings on your work! John Mark

  21.   Michael Semore Says:

    As a public school teacher and as a Bible class teacher, I swell with pride when I read of the accomplishments of my former students. From Alexandria to Memphis, we have had opportunities tp grow in the Kingdom. I wait eagerly for each new publication you have and read with a favoritism few would understand. I am so pleased to call you my brother and friend.

  22.   matwaites Says:


    I appreciate your commitment to the text – I had a “church lobby” conversation on Sunday with a mature lady – she asked where I fell on this topic. I quipped that I agreed with Paul. After we clarified which Paul I was talking about (of Tarsus, not Nashville), she said “Well, Paul and I sometimes come down differently on things”.

    It is disconcerting and even discouraging to hear believers put their personal tastes above what apostles have prophesied.

    How can we reach any kind of agreement when the text is not held up as “important”?

    – Mat

  23.   Robin Jones Says:

    maybe you’ll find this of interest also regarding 1 Cor: 14 and the silencing of women https://youtu.be/8DXX35p7kj4

  24.   Samuel Gabriel Says:

    I grow up seeing my grandpa strugling with church responsibilities , While there are strong and healthy women sitting in the congregation , they had taken 1 corinthians 14:34-35 as a barrier and limitation to express their God giving potential instead of. an admonition. I had ask time without numbers and it finally push me to embark on all kind of research, I finally found missing treasure . I sincerely celebrate and appreciate the commitment of everyone here


  1. Resources | Ramblings
  2. Five Years of Blogging | John Mark Hicks Ministries
  3. Women's Study Resources - Jason's Blog
  4. When Fish Form Committees - Patrickmead.org
  5. » When Quoting David Lipscomb about Women….. John Mark Hicks Ministries

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