I’m pleased to present here an excerpt of my forthcoming book Because of Eden, 1 Corinthians 11 & 14 and 1 Peter 3 by Bruce C. E. Fleming. This excerpt is taken from the chapter on 1 Corinthians 14:34-40.
A Closer Look
Paul starts verse 36 with the one-letter Greek word (“eta”) meaning, “What?” or “Indeed?” This word was often used in a diatribe, or the middle of a written “dialogue.” What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?
In 1 Corinthians 10:22, this same Greek word is used at the start of his reply to those Corinthians who are putting undue stress on the saying, “All things are lawful.” There, Paul uses it to introduce his vigorous response, Indeed? Do we really get the better of the Lord? With this introduction in verse 36, Paul rejects the self-righteous assumptions of the men voiced in verses 34-35 who believe women should be silent.
What Was Paul Not Saying?
Since many people take verses 34-35 as Paul’s own ideas, it is important to realize how important it is to correctly identify these words as coming from other people – those influenced by the Scribes. Since these are not Paul’s words – but ideas he vigorously rejects – it means that:
1. Paul does not say in any way that Christian women “should be silent.”
2. Paul does not say that women should “be subject.”
3. Paul does not restrict women from learning the word of God.
4. Paul does not consider women’s words to be “shameful.”
5. Paul does not respect, nor defer to, any “law” that teaches any of this.
Summary and Application (1 Corinthians 14:39-40)
39Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40Let all things be done in a fitting and orderly way.
In verses 39-40, Paul leaves behind the diversion of the legalists. He picks up his train of thought, from the end of verse 33. His words harmonize with what precedes verses 34-38. It is as though verses 34-38 haven’t been written at all.
The words in verses 34-35 are not Paul’s words. He vigorously rebutted them not only in word but also in deed.
Because of missing quotation marks in our modern versions of the Bible, the unwary reader of 1 Corinthians may miss the context of Paul’s dialog with persons from the church in Corinth. Not everyone wanted to challenge Paul’s teaching (1 Cor 11: 2), but some did. This was also the case in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. Notably, both quotation sections in 11 and 14 use the ugly Greek word “shame.” This is another sign of a common source for these words apart from Paul.
A helpful way to remind oneself of what is happening in these passages is to take out a pencil and place quotation marks in your Bible around 14:34-35 (as well as around 11:4-6).
If it is clear that the Bible does not promote the teachings of the Jewish oral law, then those thoughts can be relegated by you, as Paul did, to the waste file of “human opinion only.” No Christian today should propagate or tolerate such teachings either.
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