A gracEmail subscriber asks, “What does Paul mean in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 when he says that women are to keep silent in the church?”
* * *
The passage you mention is only one of several specific “sit-down-and-shut-up” commands found in the same chapter. The chapter is part of an epistle addressed to a volatile group of Middle Easterners known for their unruly assemblies, whether “secular” (Acts 19:29-41) or “sacred” (1 Cor. 14).
Three times within a few verses, Paul issues a restraining order of “Silence!” First, to the disorderly tongue-speaker who lacks an interpreter (v. 28), second, to the disorderly prophet who declines to yield to another in turn (v. 30), and third, to some disorderly women who apparently are interrupting the proceedings with their questions (v. 34-35). It is indeed ironic that the only thing many churches today allow women to do in a public assembly is the one thing Paul here specifically forbids — asking questions!
The passage (1 Cor. 14:34-35) certainly is still authoritative, for making the same point it originally made — when the same circumstances reoccur. If women (or men) begin to call out in an interruptive and disruptive manner while someone else has the floor, this text authorizes the presider to pronounce them out of order and to ask them to be quiet.