Silence in Church - 1 Cor. 14:34-35 KJV
Should women speak in church? Does the authority associated with the roles of men and women (see Head Coverings
) apply to the church as well as in the home?
34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
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NIV: "34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."
The word translated to "keep silence" is sigao, which means to keep close like a secret or hold your peace. It indicates that you do not make an issue of something. It is used to describe the three disciples when they kept it "close" and told no one what they had seen on the mount of transfiguration (Luke 9:36 ). It is also used to describe the priests and scribes who held their "peace" and didn't pursue more when Jesus outsmarted them and evaded the trap of their questions (Luke 20:22-26).
In this same chapter (1 Cor. 14), those who speak in tongues are told to be silent if there is no interpreter. "But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God" (1 Cor. 14:28). Notice that it is worded the same in verses 28 and 34. Both read "sigao en ekklesia" translated to "keep silence in the church". This does not mean the one speaking in tongues couldn't say anything, but rather that he shouldn't speak in tongues if no one could interpret. He was to hold his peace and not push the issue. In the same manner, verse 34 doesn't mean a woman couldn't say anything, but rather that she shouldn't speak if she wasn't in submission. In other words, a woman should not speak in church in a headship role or from a position of authority that usurps the man's role as head. Otherwise, she can participate in speaking in church.
The word translated to "they are commanded to be under obedience" is hypotasso, which means to be subordinate or submit oneself to. Other versions translate it to be submissive or to be subject to. As shown in other passages, this refers back to God's established order at creation of the man being the head of the woman (1 Cor. 11:3-16, 1 Tim. 2:13). This quality of submission is linked to humility. In addition to the humble attitude necessary in the special relationship between men and women, every believer is called to be subject to each other. "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5). This instruction to all believers does not negate the distinction of roles. Submission is a Godly characteristic that should be incorporated into the character of every believer.
The woman is to obey the law that commands her to be subordinate to the man ("they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law"). If she doesn't agree or understand something, she should not push the issue in a way that usurps the man's role, but hold her peace. She is to be silent when it comes to pushing her way in attempting to speak from a position of authority that usurps his headship position.
It is important to note that this passage applies the headship principle to the church, not only to the home. The roles of men and women apply to positions of authority in the church, as well as in the home.