Vol.XVI No.I Pg.7
March 1979

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Does 1 Cor. 14:35 forbid women to ask questions in a Bible class where the whole church is assembled? WTG Reply:

Some basic considerations of women in society were dealt with in an earlier query page (Cf. V.15, n.8). It is my conclusion that the "women" of 1 Cor. 14: were to keep silent when Spirit-filled men were speaking — being "in subjection, as also saith the law." It is the subjection that is primary here — one may even discern a reflective reference to previous instructions, in 1 Cor. 11:3-f. NOT spk. BUT b.n. subj., is a Greek method of indicating comparative degree (See Jn. 6:27; 1 Pet. 3:3-4), the NOT being qualified by the more important subjection. It is no unlimited negative.

And what did the law say? It seems Paul had Gen. 3:16 in mind, where Eve was told, "he shall rule over thee." In the LXX the word is kurieuo, found also in Rom. 6:9:14; 7:1, and meaning, as here, "dominion over." The "law" Paul cites did not forbid women to speak, except when such speaking indicated she was not subject to man. The silence imposed in the special circumstances of 1 Cor. 14: should not be interpreted to mean she could not, under any circumstances, speak in the presence of the assembled saints. She sings (teaching, Col. 3:16) and Peter asked one woman to speak (Acts 5:8). (I am reminded of one church which took a woman out of "the assembly" so she could confess faith in Christ.)

Man's dominion over woman is not limited to "in church (assembly)." In fact, I fear "in assembly" has become a realm for validating and/or negating — almost as if it was a congregational consistory. What makes a gathering of saints "the assembly;" and where did you get your information?? How many members does it take to have a quorum? Are we to understand that if there is less than "the whole church come together (1 Cor. 14: 23) it would have been all right for the men to speak at the same time? Or for women to speak? God authorizes saints to do certain things together, and warns us about "forsaking our own assembling" (Heb. 10:25). But reference is to "the coming together of ourselves" — the act of gathering, NOT some official validating quorum.

The "church" exists and functions (distributively) prior to gathering (1 Cor. 14:23); and its collective work continues (through agency) after its gathering (Rom. 16:1; Phil. 2:24-30; 4:15; Col. l:7). "He shall rule over thee" is applicable both before, during, and after saints have gathered to worship, or to study the Bible in a class arrangement. It is not some official "assembly" that makes it wrong for a woman to "have dominion over a man" (1 Tim. 2:12), but an all time principle divinely established from the beginning (v. 13).

"In church" (1 Cor. 14:19,28,35) is used without the article (the) to indicate a general rather than a particular substantive. It contrasts public with private — NOT a "called assembly as opposed to some other public gathering of saints; NOT ritualistic Mass in contrast to other meetings. Let us think long and well on this.