Did the early church permit women to speak up in its public assemblies?

Two passages of Scripture in the same document, by the same author (Paul), seem to answer this question very differently. On the one hand, Paul seems to presuppose women may speak up in church (at minimum) to pray and to prophesy when he writes, “Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head” (1 Corinthians 11:4b-5a, Revised Standard Version; italics added). On the other he states rather directly and forcefully that “the churches,” generally, forbid women to speak in the churches’ assemblies (the word for church refers to its assemblies, not its buildings): “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak . . . For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church” (1Corinthians 14:33b-35, RSV; italics added).
Even those who do not accept the doctrine of the unity of Scripture as a whole (canon), i.e. that “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35b), must think it highly odd that a mind which could produce a document so rigorous in thought as Romans would fail to resolve the contradiction between what this translation of 11:5 presupposes and what that of 14:33Bff proscribes (only 3 chapters later, in the same letter). The attached file is an excerpt from a larger polemical work from 1999; it explores the ways in which students of 1 Corinthians have sought to find Paul’s real thinking on this hot button topic.
1Cor11-14 excerpt From 1999 RCJ Book by Lauer

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About woody lauer

Husband of Laurie, Father of 7, Grandfather of 5 OPC missionary at Kita Numazu RCJ chapel Adjunct Faculty at Kobe Theological Hall
This entry was posted in Corinthian Studies, Women in the Church. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Did the early church permit women to speak up in its public assemblies?

  1. Extra says:

    And this would matter because why?

    • woody lauer says:

      Just after directing, “As in all the churches of the saints, women should be silent [an imperative in Greek] in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak,” the same Apostle Paul explains, “what I write to you is the Lord’s command” (1 Cor 14:33-34, 37), and, elsewhere he explains the authority of his letter-writing: “I write these things to you . . . that you will know how people ought to act in God’s household, which is the church of the living God” (1 Tim 3:14-15). Those who with the Nicean Creed confess “one holy and apostolic church,” ought surely to recognize that what the apostles direct in the Lord’s name is binding on the Lord’s church.

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