What does it mean in 1 Corinthians 14 when it says that women should remain silent in the church? Does it mean when it says that they cannot teach or lead in prayer?


1 Corinthians 14 probably does not teach that women cannot teach or lead in prayer in church. Rather, the context suggests that this instruction pertains to orderly worship, with particular regard to prophecy. In the immediate context of 1 Corinthians 14:35, I suspect Paul was forbidding wives (the word translated "women" is the same word for "wives") to challenge the prophecies of their own husbands (continuing the train of thought from 1 Cor. 11:2-16). Out of respect for her husband, a wife was to leave all such public challenges to others when her husband prophesied (1 Cor. 14:29). Also, earlier in this same letter Paul implied that he expected women both to pray and to prophesy (1 Cor. 11:5) in church (1 Cor. 11:17). It would seem odd, therefore, for him to have prohibited such actions here. Elsewhere he did say that he did not allow women to teach men (1 Tim. 2:12), but teaching and holding authority over men (humanly appointed positions and offices) -- quite distinct from prophecy (a spiritual gift) -- do not seem to have been at issue in 1 Corinthians 14.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.