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Question #44

More Questions on Women’s Role in the Church

I was reading questions and answers as well as the theological stance that you support with your website, and I have a couple of questions regarding women’s roles. Is it not true that in the Greek language the nature and relationship of men and women are based on the context of different words? That is, whether a man or a woman assumes the title of spouse is dependent on the syntax of the sentence. With this in mind, I can see how it may be difficult to translate certain New Testament texts clearly and honestly. My questions concerns 1 Corinthians 14:34 as well as any other scripture relating to women.

The New International Version of 1 Corinthians 14:34 is as follows:

“women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission”

The Message interprets the verse this way:

“Wives must not disrupt worship, talking when they should be listening.”

The implications of the alternate translations can be quite different. In The New International Version, it is evident that all women should stay away from leadership roles within the church, yet the second translation indicates that wives, in the context of their relationship to their families, should keep silent. This appears to imply a more domestic meaning. Perhaps wives should not argue personal or family matters in front of the church, but should keep silent out of respect for the church and their family. With this in mind, could it be possible that there is room for women to actively participate in leadership roles in the church? Also, could this indicate a possible fallacy with the way we look at scripture, the way it is translated, and the authority given to it?

Thank you for taking the time to hear and answer my question.

The Answer:

Your are correct that the same Greek word is used for “woman” and “wife” with the meaning being determined by the context. The same is true of the Greek word for “man” and “husband.” Every translation that I checked that has been published as a generally accepted (though some are questioned) translation translates 1 Cor. 15:34 as “women.” I am not familiar with The Message translation. However, the portion of 1 Cor. 15:34 that you cite from it demonstrates that it is at best a paraphrase and at worst a poor commentary. The Greek speaks of silence, not disruption. Further, the Greek says nothing about “when they should be listening.” While such translations sometimes provide interesting thoughts, they should never be relied on for serious Bible study. Further, the assumption that The Message implies a more domestic context is without support from the context. It clearly refers to the assembly. Even The Message admits that the context is worship. If the translation “women” is correct, it is not limited to married women. Moreover, given the context, there is no reason to limit the word to wives. There were certainly unmarried women in the congregation. See chapter 7. Some conclude that wives must be in view because the word for man or husband (plural) in v. 35 is translated “husbands.” Based on the context “men” would be the better translation. This is so because clearly Paul is not speaking of husbands and wives in this context, but of the two sexes as such. Thus, in both places the general translation is dictated. Finally, female leadership in the church must also pass the test of 1 Tim. 2:12. The woman is not suffered to teach or to usurp authority over the man. To the contrary she is to be in silence.

Confusion sometimes arises because people fail to note the difference between the setting in 1 Cor. 14 and 1 Tim. 2. 1 Cor. 14 relates to the assembly; 1 Tim. 2 relates to a wider context. It is compounded because it is not noted that two different Greek words are used for “silence” or “silent.” The word is 1 Cor 14 means to be silent. We might say “hold your peace,” and some suggest that it should be so translated in 1 Cor. 14. The word in 1 Tim. 2 means to be quiet or peaceful or submissive. It is used in 1 Pet. 3:4 where it is associated with “meek.” In the broader context outside of the assembly it is quiet, peaceful submission that is commanded, not silence or refraining from speaking. 1 Tim. 2 only restricts the woman from teaching and thereby usurping authority over the man.

Some suggest that these passages have no application is today’s world because we have outlived them and our culture is different. Note, however, that the restrictions are not based on culture, but on creation and Eve’s role in the original transgression. These reasons are neither local nor historical and must not be so treated.

There is nothing in these passages that indicates a possible fallacy in the way we view Scripture and the authority given to it. The Message does suggest that we must be careful in the way that we translate it. Many of the modern speech translations go far afield from the Greek text, most generally in a manner that supports unscriptural theology and thus supports arguments to support unscriptural positions. It is unfair to broadly condemn The Message translation given the lack of information; it is not unfair based on what is quoted from it here to advise reading it with suspicion and care.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)