Posted by: clevsea | November 24, 2009

Women speaking in church

First we will look at I Corinthians 14

The Greek word “laleo” Strong’s #2980 is used 24 times in the 14th chapter of I Corinthians. We ought to know it’s meaning.

2980 Laleo, to talk, meaning to utter words, preach, say, speak, tell, utter. Berry’s dictionary says it means to utter a sound, to speak. Young’s says it means to talk, speak, tell. Vine says it means “is regarded by some as an injunction against chattering, a meaning which is ABSENT from the use of the verb everywhere else in the New Testament.” p.1080 Vines It is to be understood in the same sense as in the vvs 2, 3-6, 11, 13, 18, 19, 21, 23, 27-29, & 39

Laleo is the Greek word that is used OF Jesus when He speaks. Jesus “laleo” to the crowd. He spoke, He uttered words.

Why am I concentrating on this? Because there are many, many people and groups that think that women ought to be able to speak in church. Because of their “belief” they often make a case for the meaning of this word to be stupid babbling or nonsense. Their point is that a woman ought not to babble nonsense at church. They are mistaken. Laleo does not mean nonsense or babbling foolishness, it simply means to speak just like Jesus spoke.

The verb tense in I Cor 14:35 on the word to speak is a present infinitive active meaning a continuous or repeated action without any implications as to when the action takes place.

The sentence reads “it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” v 35

Next word we need to know is silent “sigao” Strong’s #4601. It means to keep silent, keep close (secret, silent) hold peace. It’s from the word #4602 to hush. It means silent. Youngs also says it means to be silent, quiet.

Okay, now we know that speak means to speak and silent means silent. That is very common in Greek Word Studies. You look up the word frog and find out it means frog about 99% of the time. It’s the 1% that cause English speakers to do the word studies because every now and then a word looses some meaning in the translation. Not the case here.

Before this chapter teaches about women speaking it covers the topic of tongues and interpretation of tonges. The words used are the very same as the section about women. Let’s prove that before we move on.

I Cor 14: 26-30 “26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks [2980 LALEO] in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent [4601 SIGAO] in church, and let him speak [2980 LALEO] to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak [2980 LALEO], and let the others judge. 30 But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent [4601 SIGAO].”

This shows that “speak” and “silent” are used in the rest of the chapter. Remember the word Laleo (to speak #2980) is USED 24 TIMES IN THIS ONE CHAPTER.

Now we’ll look at I Cor 14:34-35

34 Let your women keep silent [4601 SIGAO] in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak [2980 LALEO]; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak [2980 LALEO] in church.”
Some Christian groups ignore a teaching if it only appears one time in the New Testament. This teaching appears twice. The other place is in I Tim 2:11-14.

“11 Let a woman learn in silence [#2271 HESUCHIA] with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach [#1321 DIDASKO] or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence [#2271 HESUCHIA]. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”
#1321 Didasko means to teach
#2271 Hesuchia means silence, desistance from bustle or language, quietness, silence

Very clear Greek words.

The above passage is a little different because Paul says that he does not permit a woman to teach. One pastor who attacked me on the topic of women speaking and being Elders in church pointed that out as if that one phrase allowed women to speak and lead. Maybe he would be correct if not for the I Corinthians passage. Why? Because Paul closes out the 14th chapter of I Cor with these words:

“the things I write to you are the COMMANDMENTS of the Lord.”

That is VERY strong way to put it.

Perhaps Paul personally doesn’t allow women to teach when he is writing to Timothy but he clearly says he has the Lord’s words when he writes this section of I Cor 14.

Another important factor in the Timothy passage is that Paul goes back to Adam and Eve and Eve’s deception. That is a long term reason. That doesn’t sound like only Paul’s opinion. It’s very close to the reasons given in I Cor 11 when Paul teaches the headcovering.

Which brings up 2 important points. The many women I have known online that follow the covering teaching do NOT always follow the silence in church teaching. Why? Because they reason that once they are covered then they can speak/pray/prophesy in church due to chapter 11.

This has already been taught by Dr. Ryrie and he did such a good job that I will quote him. This is Ryrie’s comments on I Cor 11:5:

“In light of what [Paul] says in I Cor 14:34-35 it is doubtful that Paul approved of those activities by the women of Corinth. [Paul] simply acknowledges that these were unauthorized practices.”

I think that is a valid point.

As to what I think….I think that today’s woman is very capable of teaching the Bible and leading at church. However, the issue is NOT capability. Speaking in church is not allowed. Leading in the church is not allowed.

By following the Lord in this matter the men are allowed, even forced so to speak, to lead and to teach.

I fear that women would quickly make the church an almost all female place by leading. I think they would do the job well but the price is that the men would not lead as often.

I have gone to many churches over the 28 years I’ve been a Christian and all but 3 have had women speaking in church. A few times I have had conversations about this with the pastor(s).

The pastors explain “away” the meaning of either I Cor 14 or I Tim 2 or both and stand there looking quite satisfied with their reasonings.

I don’t want to teach men so when I’m in that situation it is already a strange spot to be in. Teaching a man why it’s not okay to teach men is a dumb place to find yourself. However, I have found myself there a few times.

My approach is to stay quiet (meek and quiet spirit) on the few occasions I have discussed this topic with a Pastor or an Elder. After the man has explained why the church does not have to obey I Cor 14 and/or I Tim 2 then I ask them one simple and usually next to the last question.

“Are women allowed to be pastors then?

A resounding NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO is usually the answer. If the church had female pastors I wouldn’t have even been talking to the leadership about the issue and YES plenty of churches have female pastors.

After the “no” that is so strongly held to is expressed with such certainty I ask the last question.

“Where does it say in the Bible that women can’t be pastors?”

This has embarrassed a few pastors. Not that I want to embarrass them however it is at this exact point that they realise that the same verses that do not allow women to speak in church or to teach men are the very same verses that prohibit women pastors.

Then they realise that they have explained “away” the very verses that they “need” in order to make a case against female pastors.

Again, I feel that today’s Christian woman is very capable of teaching the Bible. Today’s woman is able to read. She has study tools and access to the Greek and Hebrew. As far as the Lord God is concerned she is equal to a man. However, the Bible says that it is shameful and not to be done and that is all that I need to understand about the topic.

I remain silent in church and make reasonable efforts to not teach men or be in leadership over men.

Thank you,


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