Saturday, November 7, 2009

some thoughts on women in church from 1 Cor 11 and 14

Paul says that "every wife who PRAYS or PROPHESIES with her head uncovered dishonors her head" [1 Cor 11.5]. Now don't think about the definition of the spiritual gift of prophesy. Don't think about the head-covering issue. Think about the fact that Paul assumes women will PRAY and PROPHESY in church.

This reality in Paul's mind is not posited against 1 Cor 14.33-34, but alongside of it: "Women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak."

So, how is this not a flagrant contradiction? What is Paul's problem? He can't even think straight.

The context of the 1 Cor 14 passage is a discussion on orderly worship and the gift of prophecy. Paul says that when people prophesy, others should "weigh in" [ESV] or "judge" [NASB] or "evaluate" [NLT] the prophecy that was spoken [14.29-33]. It seems that Paul just doesn't want women weighing in or discerning these prophecies.

Just as there is functional subordination in the Godhead [the Son is equal is essence to the Father, but also obeyed Him], there is the same in His image bearers [see Gen 1-2]. The man and the woman bear the image together, but have distinct roles in the image-bearing process.

So, do I think women can participate in church on a Sunday morning? Sure. In what capacity? It appears a limited one. Guess we'll have to dig there later.


Brandon said...

Ben Witherington pointed out that most of the Corinthian Christians were Gentiles, who would have been accustomed to the consultative prophets and prophetesses, specifically the one at Delphi. It would be natural for people to bring that assumption into Christian worship. Witherington assumes, with probable cause, I believe, that it was primarily the women who made this mistake, which explains why Paul made this statement. In other words, I don't think it has anything to do with limiting women's capacities to serve.

jim thompson said...

but why then the supplementary, positive commands to be in submission according to the law? i understand witherington's approach with the historical context in Corinth. i do not dismiss it at all. his historical work is awesome.

however, that seems to only supply background for Paul's negative imperative of keeping silent. there is something that definitely transcends the Gentile 1st century background here, namely, the law.

and further still, Paul's hermeneutic is of new creation. and in the original creation is where he gets his understanding of gender roles and functions for those awaiting the fullness of new creation.

two redemptive-historical trump cards in my book, all the while maintaining BW's point of consultative prophecy.

what do we think?

and further furthermore :) ... whether or not you intentionally chose the word "serve" i'm not sure. but that's the diakovos/minister word that women SHOULD partake in, whether you go the Rom 16.1 route or the 2 Tim route. i'm all for women serving in the church. Paul even commands that they teach! - younger women, of course.

but a woman filling the office of a pastor/elder/shepherd/overseer... i still can't find exegetical warrant for that approach.

good discussion. more thoughts?