Question 5: What is the role of women in the following verses?

1 Corinthians 14:34-35: The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. (NASB)

1 Timothy 2:11-12: A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. (NASB)

Answer: Before answering this question, let me begin by simply noting that my tendency is to take the Bible literally unless there is something in the context that tells us we cannot do it that way. Therefore, I would take the passages you asked me about quite literally, as that is always the safest way to handle the Word of God.

However, I want to make sure it is understood that the issue is not that God thinks more of a man than a woman, or that men are superior to women in any spiritual sense (the reverse is often more true than not), nor is there any difference in regards to intellectual capacities between males and females. However, God has assigned different roles to male and female believers in the body of the Messiah, and the two passages you asked about bring out one of the ways these roles are to be manifested.

Concerning I Corinthians 14:34-35, the basic ruling is that in the meeting of the church, women should not speak publicly. This is true for any meeting of the local church, scheduled by the elders for any day of the week. The role of the woman is to be in submission, and Paul points out that this was applicable during the period of the law and continues into the dispensation of grace. However, the means of showing submission is quite different. In this age, one of the ways women show submission is to not speak out publicly in the meeting of the church but to remain silent, even to the point of not asking any questions. Beginning in chapter 12, Paul made it clear that women can have spiritual gifts as well, including the various speaking gifts, but the principal difference is the audience and the location. Women cannot use their speaking gifts in the meeting of the church.

First Timothy 2:11-12 adds that although women can have the same spiritual gifts as men, they cannot exercise the gift of teaching in reference to men. They can exercise their gift by teaching children or other women, but they cannot teach men. The very act of teaching the Scriptures means exercising spiritual authority, and women are not to have spiritual authority over men. This is the reason for that ruling.

For more details on this issue, see “The Role of Women in the Local Church” found in the Messianic Bible Study, mbs106, “The Local Church”.

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Arnold Answers is a bi-weekly Q & A with founder and director of Ariel Ministries, Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum.