Christians do not agree about the types of work that it is right for women to do in their churches. So, there have been many arguments about the meaning of these verses.
However, Paul’s subject in these verses was not the proper work for women. Elsewhere, he did encourage women to work for God (1 Timothy 5:9-10; Titus 2:3-5). Paul also approved of a woman called Priscilla, who, with her husband Aquila, taught people about Christ (Romans 16:3-5; Acts 18:26).
Here, however, in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Paul’s subject is how people should behave at church meetings. When someone is speaking at a meeting, the other people should be quiet. They should not interrupt the speaker with questions. They should not have conversations during the meeting.
Paul refers especially to the women here. In ancient Christian churches, the men and women sat separately. In Corinth, there were particular problems in the women’s section of the church. There, women were uncovering their heads in a manner that offended people (11:3-16). So, Paul had to warn them in particular about their behaviour.
In 1 Corinthians 14:34, Paul mentions ‘the law’, that is, God’s law. His reference seems to be to Genesis 3:16. That verse teaches that a woman should respect her husband. It is right that a husband and wife should often discuss such subjects as God, the Bible and religion. At church, we must listen carefully so that we can learn. At home, we should ask questions so that we can learn even more.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.