Our Schizophrenic Biblical Interpretation, Part One of a Few


By way of introduction, I decided that I’ve been dealing with only easy issues for way too long and am not getting many comments and interaction. Since I see the purpose of the blog world as a way to engage in dialogue, I am starting this week by throwing out some thoughts on a tough issue, but you, O blog reader, have led me to it.

When one looks at our interpretation of Scripture, our holy book, one finds that we can be very schizophrenic at times. For instance, we believe that the commands of Scripture are important, but choose which commands we like to follow. When Peter tells the crowd of Jews in Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized” (or “baptize yourselves”—a very plausible interpretation if you know Greek and Jewish practices of baptism), we say that is a command not only to the Jews but also to us by extension and that is how we become Christians. Great! I follow that. But then we come to what Jesus says to his disciples in John 13:14, “Since, therefore, even I have washed the feet of all of you, the Lord and Teacher, even all of you are obligated to wash one another’s feet.” Some Christian traditions do foot washing, particularly on the Thursday before Easter, but the Church of Christ does not. Yet it is laid upon Jesus’ disciples as an obligation (the word “ought” just does not express in English the force of the Greek word here).

Our interpretive thinking would go something like this: In those days the custom was to wash feet because everyone wore sandals and walked on dusty roads. It was just common courtesy. Therefore it is not a command or example for us (even though Jesus specifically calls it such in John 13:15) because it had to do with their customs and their situation. In Acts 2, Peter was telling people how to become Christians so this applies to everyone at all times. We see this practice continue in the book of Acts and can therefore assume it to be normative.

Going back to the custom thing, the custom with footwashing was to have one’s servants wash the feet of one’s guests. The “lord” of the house did not do such menial tasks. The point Jesus was making had nothing to do with the what of footwashing, but the why of footwashing—i.e. why he, their Lord and teacher, did a slave’s work. The command still applies and concerns humility, not custom. If we don’t want to wash feet, we need to find a different way to humble ourselves before others that is similar in kind to footwashing in the first century if we want to follow Jesus’ teaching. [I say this not derogatorily, but assuming that perhaps we don’t think Jesus’ teaching to his disciples has relevance for us today. I would then wonder how it functions as Scripture for us, then, and not just a good story.]

The real point of departure for discussing our schizophrenic interpretation comes in the so-called women’s issue, or the role of women in the church [don’t swallow your gum, Al, when you read this]. For the purpose of this particular blog article, I prefer for all of us to stick with 1 Corinthians and try to understand it first, without bringing in 1 Timothy or 1 Peter. After all, if we cannot make sense of Paul in just one of his letters, how can we bring in a later letter of his and then the letter of another author?

Here is another example of our schizophrenic interpretation. We read in 1 Corinthians 14:34 that women are to be silent in the churches. They are not permitted to speak. So we (i.e. Churches of Christ, and others) say that women cannot say prayers in the morning worship assembly, they cannot read Scripture, cannot lead singing, cannot lead the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist, communion), and cannot even pass it down the aisles (you who are not from this tradition will see the differences between us in how we do the Lord’s Supper). How this last thing relates to being silent I do not get, but that’s what we do. However, women sing from the pew in our assembly. If there is an announcement and the person announcing has incorrect information, women are free to give them the correct information from their seat in the pew. We do not follow this command even though we say we do. Women are not silent in our churches. Were they completely silent in the Corinthian churches? They certainly weren’t before Paul wrote this. Does he expect them to be completely silent until church is over? I don’t think so. This is where 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 comes in. It reads:

2 I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you. 3 But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ. 4 Any man who prays or prophesies with something on his head disgraces his head, 5 but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head– it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. 7 For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man. 8 Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man. 10 For this reason a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. 12 For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if anyone is disposed to be contentious– we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

Although I have some issues with the NRSV translation here, I present the text so you don’t have to go look it up. Some important issues to deal with to get out of the way with this text are that the head covering is clearly a cultural issue. It was a custom when going to offer sacrifice before a pagan god for a man to cover his head. We don’t really have a similar custom. Secondly, Paul is no egalitarian. He is definitely more liberal than many in his day, but he stills sees women in a subordinate role. I don’t have a problem with saying that this is Paul’s understanding of things. Thirdly, in 11:14, when he says that nature teaches men should have short hair and women long hair, he clearly does not mean “nature”, as hair on both men and women can grow long or be cut short. There isn’t a gene that keeps men’s hair from growing long or a gene that prevents women’s hair from being cut—what Paul means is that the custom of his culture is that women wear long hair and it is disgraceful for them to have a shaved head. Such is not the same for men. It is disgraceful for men to have long hair, but there are also certain Jewish rites in which a man shaves his head and this is not disgraceful for him. This is custom, the word he uses in 11:16, but there he is dealing with a larger issue. Finally, as all good God-followers do, he uses Scripture to buttress his argument. 11:8-9 deal with the creation account in Genesis 2:18-25, where God takes a rib (customarily) out of Adam and forms Eve so that she is both made for him (11:9) and taken from him (11:8). This is also likely behind what he says in 11:3 about man being the head of woman and that for this reason there should be a “symbol of authority” on her head (i.e. to symbolize her husband’s authority over her) in 11:10. Paul gets very egalitarian on us when in 11:11-12 he talks about neither being independent of one another, but that man now comes from woman and all things are from God. He seems to mean here that neither is better than the other, but both are equal. An issue that never has been resolved satisfactorily (to my understanding) is what the “because of the angels” in 11:10 means. I do not attempt to solve it here. I do have a problem with Paul saying that only man is the “image and glory of God” (11:7) because Genesis 1:27 says that male and female were made in God’s image, but I’ll leave that point for now.

Leaving all of the prior discussion aside for the moment, let’s focus on the key issue here. This passage is about customary practice in the churches when it comes to men and women praying and prophesying in the churches (Which were, of course, groups of people meeting in houses, with the possible exception of the Jerusalem church meeting in the temple [see Acts 2:42-47]. There was no distinction between private worship and public worship—it all took place in homes.). When Paul sums up his argument in 11:16 by saying no other church has a different custom, what he is talking about is the central concern—the practice is that men do not pray or prophesy with any sort of covering on their heads and women do pray and prophesy only with a covering on their heads. This is the customary practice in all of the churches and Paul wants it to be the case in the Corinthian church as well.

Getting back to our schizophrenia does Paul have it too? Does he contradict himself by allowing women to pray and prophesy in chapter 11 and then telling them to be silent in chapter 14? Most interpreters in Churches of Christ would say that 1 Corinthians 14 is what Paul really wants to happen—he doesn’t want women to pray, prophesy, talk, or anything. Is this true?

Without boring you too much, 1 Corinthians 12-14 deals with speaking in tongues and prophesying in the assembly. There was complete disorder in the Corinthian churches as tongue-speakers and prophesiers all spoke at once so no one understood and no one got any benefit. What Paul tells these people, both tongue-speakers and prophesiers, is to, you got it, “be silent” (14:28, 30). Why? Because God is not a god of disorder, but a God of peace as in every church (14:33). “Be silent,” is exactly what he tells the women to do (14:34). Clearly this is not the main cause of commotion in Corinth or Paul would have spent more time on it like he did with speaking in tongues and prophesying. But just as that was a problem unique to Corinth, and was situational, so also was the problem of certain women who kept piping up in the assembly with questions for their husbands, thus adding to the chaos that already existed there. Paul’s advice to them parallels his advice to the prophets and tongue-speakers—be silent, submit to having order in the assembly, and further specific instruction for them is to ask their husbands at home. The Greek bears this interpretation out and I can reference the person who demonstrates this because this is not my original thinking. What is shameful, then, is not for women to speak, but for women to keep on causing chaos by asking questions, thus interrupting the speaker and creating disorder in the church. Once again, Paul is dealing with the same issue in all three cases—the prophesiers, the tongue-speakers and the women are all causing disorder and chaos that are making it so no one benefits from their time of corporate worship.

Paul does not want all women to be silent everywhere any more than he wants all tongue-speakers or all prophesiers to be silent at all times. Women who pray and prophesy with their head covered are the normal custom in the churches and Paul wants this practice to continue. (For further reference to Christian women prophets, see Philip’s four unmarried daughters in Acts 21:9.)

I’ve gone on for too long, but this is what I see as an example of our schizophrenic biblical interpretation. Tell me what you think.

22 Responses to “Our Schizophrenic Biblical Interpretation, Part One of a Few”

  1. Joe Longhorn Says:

    The difference I see between 1 Cor. 11 and 14 is that ch. 11 does not specifically address behavior during the worship assembly and chapter 14 does. I don’t think most Churches of Christ have a problem with women preaching, teaching, or praying outside the assembly. The phrase “when you come together” makes all the difference for me.

  2. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Ah, two good things!

    #1: If I can get Sandi to read a religion article here, she will undoubtedly get involved with this one!!!

    And #2: Joe unleashes a potentially comment-heavy topic by bringing up “the assembly.”

    To the assembly first…

    I do not recall Jesus ever discussing a worship assembly per se. So where do we come up with the distinction? (You would think a preacher would know these things, but I ask nonetheless.) I know what Joe refers to quite well being raised my whole life to make the distinction between a worship assembly and the rest of life, but I have long ago noted that Jesus never makes that distinction. And if the key phrase is “when you come together,” then what makes Thursday night at my house different than Sunday morning when I’m wearing a tie? If we have no problem with women preaching or teaching outside of a church building on a Sunday morning, then… well, I’ll just let the comments flow from there.

    And I’ll go email Sandi to ask her to read Duane’s article.

  3. Duane McCrory Says:

    Al and Joe,

    Good points. I guess part of my article was meant to head this off with the whole house church thing. We try to make a distinction today that did not exist then. They “came together” in houses. This was their worship assembly. Just because we compartmentalize worship into what we do in a building on Sunday as separate from what we do, say in a small group during the week, does not mean they did. That is an anachronism to say they did.

  4. Michael Lasley Says:

    I’m looking forward to this series, Duane. I’ll go ahead and admit that I’ve never really understood the point of the “role of women” argument. (Come to think of it, I don’t really always understand the point of our assemblies more generally.) What would be the “point” of women being silent? It seems like so much of early Christianity worked to break down cultural distinctions and boundaries, so it seems odd that they would cling to a distinction of gender, no?

  5. DeJon Redd Says:

    Is it possible the church is as repressive of women today as it was of minorities in recent history?

    I’ll admit I’m suspicious.

  6. Joe Longhorn Says:

    Al – I believe that you are correct in pointing out that Jesus did not specifically discuss a worship assembly.

    But Paul did. We can’t ignore that.

    I think we can all pretty much agree that there should be a distinction between “the assembly” and the rest of life. I trust the leadership (shepherds/elders) of individual congregations to make that distinction.

    As far as a woman’s role in the Church… I think Paul’s definitions are a natural outflow from the scripturally defined roles in marriage. A hierarchy (for lack of a better term) has been established, and applying different roles in the home and in the Church would be inconsistent.

    Our interpretation only appears schizophrenic when you take the Bible apart piece by piece. The consistency is there when you look at the scriptures as a whole.

    If we know anything about God, it is that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; the very definition of consistency.

  7. Sherry Lollar Says:

    The distinction we try to make in the setting of 1 Cor 11 is another example of our schizophrenic approach to the scriptures. Since Paul did not have “chapter and verse”, the section that Duane has included is in the middle of a discourse on the Lord’s Supper that begins in 10:14. We use the section in 11:17 and following to validate our practice of the Lord’s Supper in our assemblies, but ignore the passages that preceed it by suggesting that this was not part of their assembly. We also really want to ignore that Paul says in 11:2: “I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.” -and then he proceeds to address the conduct on men and women when praying and prophesying in the assembly. Then we choose to remember the injunction in 11:17: “In the following directives I have no praise for you . . . ” as a way to validate our practices. If Paul speaks of the Lord’s Supper in the verses preceeding and succeeding the section on head coverings, why would we assume that he as changed subject in midstream (assembly behavior) just because the passage addresses the physical appearance of women who are praying?

  8. Whitney Says:

    Sorry, had to repost.


    The big difference I see there is that the scripture does not address skin color–that was/is a purely human prejudice.

    The Bible does talk about women and their roles in the family and in the Church.

    For the conversation in general, I’m not one of those women who get all bent out of shape because I feel like someone is discriminating against me. I just see that the Bible clearly says that women are not to be heads over men (in fact the opposite) and placing them in leadership positions (i.e., preaching and praying) in the Church does just that.

    I don’t have a problem with the word submission. Joe is my rock. I defer to him on SO many things by choice. We can’t possibly always understand why God set up the hierarchy the way he did, but I’m pretty sure he knew what he was doing.

    All of you who know me know that I’m a strong, educated woman with a great professional career. I don’t defer to the men of the world; are you kidding me? But so far as the hierarchical structure of the family and the Church go, I accept God’s plan.

    One thing for Duane, I respectfully disagree with your assessment that it was a few annoying women that led Paul to tell them to be quiet. The scripture leads us to nothing close to that idea. Although I understand where you drew your assumption from, when I read that passage over, I still can’t see it. I see him saying, “In general…while we’re talking about how the assembly is to be coordinated and controlled…” Because Paul does say, “As in all congregations of the Saints…” If he were just talking about the specific setting/situation, wouldn’t he have been more specific in his instruction?

    That said, I’m so excited about Thanksgiving. DeJon & Ann, can’t wait to see you!! Hope everyone has a wonderful time.

  9. Joe Longhorn Says:

    Deej –

    You know I love you man, but you’ve been living in Tucson too long. Get out now!

  10. DeJon Redd Says:

    Joe & Whit, I’m sure you’ve long known I’m off my rocker. It is my hope that by confessing my marginal opinions on this small issue, I only supply you more evidence of what you already knew to be true.

    Whit, you are right that modern minority races common in American culture were not addressed in the Bible. But slavery is. Paul’s mention in Gal 3:28 comes to my mind first. And then Eph 6: 5 – 10, Col 3:22 – 4:1. And taken at face value with little context there seems to be at least a tacit approval of slavery in these contexts. Our church history shows that many staunch supporters of slavery adamantly quoted verse after verse showing scriptures agreement with the form of slavery.This obviously overlooks points of scripture like…
    -Paul explicitly denounces slave-trading, which would have restricted the supply of slaves to Christian households [1 Tim 1.9-10]
    -Paul tells free people to not become slaves [1 Cor 7.23]
    -Paul tells slaves to become free, if they can [1 Cor 7.21]
    -Paul encourages Philemon to ‘free’ Onesimus in that epistle [verse 21]

    Those out there like me have been doing this “church thing” for a long time. So had our ancestors in church history; yet some still found it appropriate to hold to a racially repressive culture and soothed their own consciences using scripture. Obviously slavery as a Biblical principal is scandalous notion today. Thankfully, times have changed.

    But racism/slavery is not my point. Here’s my point in the discussion…

    Is it not worth taking a fresh and personal look at the context of our “proof texts” given the nature of our stance on women in the body?

    I personally do not like the fact my wife can serve her country but can not serve the Lord’s Supper. She may not have issue with it, but I do.

    And if one person reaches a different conclusion than the other, can it not destroy their relationship or force the relationship to be surface only? (Sorry, separate issue)

    I would think Christians would at least hope to have been a bastion of racial tolerance, but as a whole we haven’t. When I critically consider my church heritage, I must admit there is a lot of intolerance for the sake of comfort held in the name of the Bible.

    If you have an hour, here’s a worthy discussion (streaming audio) on the issue – See “Women, gifts and the body of Christ.”

  11. Al Sturgeon Says:

    I should be a little more clear: How could a woman (or a man for that matter) teach/preach w/o an assembly?

    I mean, I talk to myself from time to time, but it doesn’t accomplish much for anyone else.

    And I very much appreciate DeJon’s well-presented comment. I share the same concerns, but wouldn’t have worded them so well.

  12. Duane McCrory Says:


    I need some clarification to understand your perspective better. If the women in 1 Corinthians 11 are not praying and prophesying in the assembly, where then are they doing this? If they are doing this at home by themselves privately, what is the point of their prophecy and then if they are just praying alone, why do they need to have their heads covered? I guess I just wonder based on your understanding of this, why would you think that Paul needs to deal with private prayer and/or prophecy if it is only between oneself and God? I mean no ill will, I am simply trying to understand how you would interpret Paul’s need to discuss this private matter of prayer and then if prophecy is private, what possible use could be gained from private prophecy? If you interpret it in the sense that women are standing on the streets and praying and prophesying in public, then please show me a venue historically (i.e. in 1st century Corinth) in which this would take place. I just want to know if this is plausible because I have not read anything that talks about streetcorner prophets in Corinth, though Jesus condemns Pharisees in Palestine for praying to be seen by people and recognized as pious. I guess I’m having trouble understanding how you would see prophecy occurring outside of the worship assembly, especially since in 1 Corinthians, this is not the only time prayer and prophecy are discussed. They are discussed in the following chapters, 1 Corinthians 12-14, prayer being what happens in a tongue (1 Corinthians 14:14-15) and prophecy, which is what people were doing also, but both were chaotic. Paul does distinguish between tongue speaking in the assembly (14:19) and privately, but does not do the same with prophecy. Since Paul is dealing with the same two practices in chapters 12-14 as he does in chapter 11 with women and men, it makes sense to me that he would also be dealing with women praying and prophesying in the assembly. In fact, when in 1 Corinthians 11:16, concluding his argument on this matter, he says, “But if anyone is disposed to be contentious– we have no such custom, nor do the
    churches of God,” the word for “churches” is just as plausibly translated “assemblies” making it clearer that he is speaking of the assembly and not a private prophecy, i.e. this is the practice that the assemblies of Christians follow. 1 Corinthians 12-14 do not use the terminology “when you come together,” but clearly deal with problems in the assembly so the argument about the Lord’s Supper using that language does not mean he has to say that to be talking about church. In fact, he uses that terminology 5 times in that section and seems to be contrasting their physical “coming together” with their actual “division.” Instead of coming together, they are not sharing, but each staying divided by eating their own meal (11:21) and thus using the very occasion that should express their unity to show contempt for other Christians (11:22). That’s what the “discerning the body” is about in 11:29; the Corinthians are not discerning the church body, which would mean them acting appropriately and welcoming each other, actually “coming together” instead of remaining divided (11:33).


    There’s a good article that explains how the use of the present tense infinitive (instead of the more typical aorist infinitive in this sentence) in Greek expresses ongoing action by these wives in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. It is Carroll Osburn’s, “The Interpretation of 1 Cor. 14:34-35,” in Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity, vol. 1, ed. by Carroll D. Osburn (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 1995), pp. 219-242. One of the other issues is why the verse division occurs at 14:34. The “as in all the assemblies/churches of the saints” can and should be taken with 14:33, not 14:34. What Paul is saying that God is a God of order in all the assemblies, which is what should be the case in Corinth but is not. The people speaking in tongues and prophesying incessantly are clearly the cause for this disorder and are why he spends most of three chapters dealing with this, i.e. 12-14. Rather than being the “love” chapter, 1 Corinthians 13 is an attempt to show the Corinthians that the way they are behaving in causing disorder in the assembly is not loving, and to speak in tongues without love and respect for one another is useless. That’s the reason he starts by talking about speaking in tongues (13:1) and then goes on to prophecy in 13:2. 14:34-35, then, are dealing with a problem that is adding to the chaos by a continual interrupting by certain wives, not women in general, who continue to ask their husbands questions during the assembly. They are doing what the tongue speakers and prophesiers were doing in the sense that they were causing a chaotic environment. The Corinthians would have known who these wives were and would understand what Paul was talking about. We don’t. That’s why they are told to ask their own husbands at home (14:35). If this applies to all women, what would the single woman do? Does she have no provision given by Paul to give her a proper setting in which to learn and ask questions? She has no husband at home. What is expected of her? Is Paul just ignoring her problem or is he rather dealing with a specific group of wives as I have interpreted the text (with a lot of help from the article I mentioned)? For clarity’s sake, and this is not meant derogatorily at all, I want to understand what you think the single women at Corinth should do. What would their avenue be for asking questions and why doesn’t Paul speak to their situation if he does want all women to be quiet in the assembly? And, bringing it to today, why are women allowed to sing in the assembly if Paul is telling all women to be silent? The problem I see is that you either have to say that Paul was telling all women everywhere to be completely silent in the assembly, or if not, then he was dealing with the situation of asking questions in the assembly. If the latter, and we can be specific enough to say that women shouldn’t ask questions in the assembly, why can’t we get more specific and say that Paul was addressing only certain wives who were doing this at Corinth? Why is that such a stretch? The application would then be that it is inappropriate for women in any time or place to behave like these wives were doing, i.e. causing commotion with incessant questions for their husbands and thus detracting from the worship.

    These are just my initial thoughts. I really do seek clarification of your position, though.

  13. Joe Longhorn Says:

    All right. I had a long post typed out in response to Dejon’s slavery post and this goofy computer lost it. Now I’m flustered. Let it suffice to say that I think Dejon is presenting an apples and oranges comparison between race and women’s roles in the Church.

    The Bible does not confuse slavery with the race issue. Also… current views on slavery have been tinted by the practice of slavery in America, which was in no way in accordance with the biblical laws regarding slavery. Here’s some interesting commentary about slavery in the Bible.

    I know this is going to come out wrong, but slavery was a form of ancient welfare. It’s counter-intuitive, but think about it for a moment. Who went into slavery (legally)?

    A. People whose livelihood and homes were destroyed in battle.

    B. People in debt.

    C. Thieves.

    Masters were supposed to provide for them and treat them humanely.

    It was an imperfect system prone to abuse, and that is why our civilization abandoned it.


    The phrase “when you come together” is used in 1 Cor. 14:26 (NIV). That phrase is not used in Ch 11, nor is the term “assembly.”

    Prophesying is preaching or teaching, not necessarily to a large group or in public. There could be a women’s study group, a devotional, a one-on-one study. There are plenty of opportunities for prophesying outside of the assembly or “street-preaching.” What does the head-covering have to do with it? I don’t pretend to know.

    Duane said –
    “I prefer for all of us to stick with 1 Corinthians and try to understand it first, without bringing in 1 Timothy or 1 Peter. After all, if we cannot make sense of Paul in just one of his letters, how can we bring in a later letter of his and then the letter of another author?”

    Why are we not discussing 1 Timothy again? Because it clarifies Paul’s point, and where’s the fun in that?

    You say we should ignore Paul’s point in 1 Timothy because he made it after he wrote 1 Corinthians. That’s flawed logic my friend. Once again… you have to take the Word as a whole and not just study little bits and pieces that seem to contradict each other.

    Here’s a hypothetical…

    Let’s concede that women are not required to be silent in Church and can lead prayers, preach, serve on the Lord’s Table. How long until someone “interprets” the requirements for elders and deacons in 1 Timothy to suggest that Paul really put forth gender-neutral requirements for Church leadership?

  14. Whitney Says:

    Al said:
    I mean, I talk to myself from time to time, but it doesn’t accomplish much for anyone else.

    Well, when i talk to myself, I accomplish a lot for me and my other personalities. Give yourself some credit! 🙂

  15. Whitney Says:


    I can see your line of questioning, and to be honest, I don’t have a ready answer. I can even buy the possibility Paul was talking to a select group of women.

    Now, I must go examine the practices of the New Testament Church more deeply. First to mind, however, are not examples of women leading the assembly. (Now, I know the term assembly is getting dissected, but people in the New Testament didn’t assemble as a Church all day, every day, so I think it is safe to assume they had formal assemblies, be they worship service or small-groups or whatever, as well as ongoing interactions with the world that were distinctly different in purpose.) Refer to Joe’s comments about the hierchical nature of the Church and how it is analogous to the marriage relationship.

    I don’t know what single women are expected to do. Believe me, my single friends have this same question. But Paul does talk about remaining single in order to serve God on a deeper level. So, I expect that they have a beautiful opportunity to serve other Christians and other people in the world in general in a very unique way.

    The thing to me that bothers me most about women who whine about their roles in the Church is that we have some awesome roles we can take, most people just do not take advantage. They want to be seen & heard. The fight about women’s roles, to me, is more one of pride than of sincere desire to serve. (This comment is a wide generalization and I understand that it is not true in every case.)

    If women are called to be leaders in the church, why were all the disciples men? There were plenty of good women who followed Christ faithfully.

    Why does the Scripture specify that elders and deacons are to be men? Joe’s hypothetical is actually happening in many congregations today.

    I’m sure you’ll have some interesting interpretations on these questions (I mean that sincerely, not facetiously.)

    When I have some more time (after Joe leaves me) I intend to sit down and look at the translations for some chapters & verses related to the questions I asked. I’m sure you’re already well-studied on this, but I’ll willingly admit I am not.

    At the moment, I have to tear myself away from this blog and get something productive done for my day job. I do have to say that this blog is more thought provoking and emotion-inducing than most sermons or bible-class lessons I hear; for that I am thankful.

  16. Annie Says:

    I’m not smart enough to contribute to this discussion. I didn’t grow up in the churches of Christ. My mom and I attended the local First Baptist Church. I don’t recall women preaching or praying in the worship assembly there. So it must not just be a church of Christ issue.

    I don’t get bent out of shape over this issue either. I think it would be nice to have women take part in the worship service. I don’t see how offering a prayer to God or passing the Lord’s Supper down the aisles are “leadership roles” or forms of “authority over men.” Now that I think about it, it’s a little silly. If a man feels as though I am exerting authority over him because I say a little prayer thanking God for whatever, or I pass him the tray from the pew in front of him, then maybe he has deeper issues of salvation that should be addressed.

  17. Duane McCrory Says:


    Thanks for clarifying your position, but I don’t know of any women’s study groups in Corinth or in the rest of the church of the first century. Do you have examples? I know we have such things today, but that does not follow that they had them then.

    Thanks for correcting the fact that I missed 14:26. Speaking of which, it says that each person has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, and interpretation. Though he uses the term “brothers” in that verse, most would not conclude that every time he says “brothers” it only includes the men. So does this include women who have each of these things?

    On another note, Joe said:
    You say we should ignore Paul’s point in 1 Timothy because he made it after he wrote 1 Corinthians. That’s flawed logic my friend. Once again… you have to take the Word as a whole and not just study little bits and pieces that seem to contradict each other.

    I’m not sure if I said it that way or not, but that is not what I intended to say. The people in Corinth did not get Paul’s letter that was addressed to Timothy. How were these people to understand what Paul wrote to them? That’s not taking bits and pieces, that’s trying to understand what was specifically addressed to a certain group. That’s all that that particular group had. Paul didn’t write Corinthian letters to Ephesus either (which was the destination of the 1 Timothy letter). One could argue that he taught the same things everywhere, but is that really how this works? I have preached in many congregations but I have not always brought up everything to every group. That’s not really possible. Paul stayed in Ephesus longer than he stayed in Corinth. Surely he taught more at the place he stayed longer (at least that’s what I do and did). Another thing would be that if he did teach what is written in 1 Timothy to every church, when then didn’t Timothy, a constant companion of Paul, already know this so that Paul does not need to spell it out to him? Just some more ramblings. These are questions I have.

  18. Duane McCrory Says:


    I like your link on slavery. It gives a good interpretation of what God intended for the Israelites when it came to slavery.

    In the Roman Empire in which Paul lived (and other Christians in the New Testament), there were other ways to gain slaves as well, one of them being through piracy on the Mediterranean and another through raising children who were exposed (i.e. left to die out in the open somewhere) because their parents didn’t want them. A good read on this subject is Keith Bradley’s, Slavery and Society at Rome. He mentions at one point how terrible it was to become slaves at the hands of a conquering power. He demonstrates by citing the mass suicide of certain Spanish tribes in 22 BC who rebelled against Roman rule. They set fire to their forts, cut their own throats, stayed in the burning forts or took poison. He says, “This willingness to participate in mass suicide rather than suffer the fate of enslavement is compelling evidence of how dreadful and terrifying the consequences of falling into slavery were thought to be.” (p. 44) I quote this just to show that sometimes the abuses of slavery in Paul’s time are minimized or not researched enough so that people think slavery as it existed in our country was worse than that in the Roman Empire. That falls far short of the truth. There were certainly examples of people who were able to work their way up the chain and remain slaves but have high positions in the society, but these are the exception rather than the rule.

    On another note, the word for “assembly” is the same word for “church”. It is used in 11:16 to talk about the “assemblies of the saints”. A church was an assembly and 11:16 leads me to believe that Paul has in mind rules for what happens in the assembly, but see also Sherry’s comment that points out how the assembly is in view from 10:16 on through at least 14:40.

    And, on another side note, 1 Timothy will come up in one of the next couple of posts is another reason why I’d like to stick with 1 Corinthians for now. I’m not preventing what you have to say on that, but I’d prefer to wait until a further posting if that’s okay.

  19. Duane McCrory Says:


    I appreciate your candor and the peaceful, respectful, non-argumentative tone of this whole discussion from everyone involved.

    I struggle with the fact that we think there is an easy correspondence between the world of the New Testament and our world. When you look at the speaking in tongues and prophecy going on in Corinth, it must have looked a lot different than what we see today. When in 14:26 he mentions that each one has a “revelation”, that seems to be related to prophecy, which in that sense is really not preaching at least as I think of preaching when I do it.

    Just the fact that head coverings were an issue is a foreign concept to us. Throw in the phrase “because of the angels” and you’ve lost me.

    The other thing we have not even mentioned yet is why the men were addressed. The problem is not just with women; it is with men as well. They were told not to wear a covering. In fact, I’ve read some article somewhere that talks about the major issue being with the men wearing a covering as that was the practice (see the early part of my article) when sacrificing to pagan gods. In what context were men prophesying and praying and needed to take off the head covering? This is where it comes to our schizophrenia again in my opinion. We would not have a problem with saying the men were praying and prophesying in the assembly, but we do have a problem saying the women were. Somebody was praying and propheysing in the assembly which is why Paul spends three chapters dealing with those abuses, i.e. 12-14. It seems logical to me that he starts with this issue first, discussing how men and women are to pray and prophesy and then goes into the abuses of praying and prophesying.

    We think of prophecy or praying in the assembly as an authoritative role is where I think our whole problem arises. But that’s why Paul has the provision of the head covering as a sign of authority. That’s what he calls it. In a situation in which men were not present, where would be the need for a covering?

    I know I have not talked about all that you have said, and I’ll try to say more later, but I guess that’s where I think I’ve already written too much.

  20. DeJon Redd Says:

    Joe, I think your hypothetical is a good one. I sense you ask it incredulously, but given Phoebe’s role described in Rom 16:1, I don’t think considering such an “interpretation” ludicrous.

    But, again, I don’t mean to be the champion of women’s rights in church.

    I just see too many “Christians” fostering a culture that oppresses others – in this example women – and what message does that convey? I believe this runs contrary to Christ’s example.

    Maybe I’m being reactionary, but I’m suspicious that the homogenous look of church has less to do with the Bible and much more to do with our culture.

  21. Al Sturgeon Says:

    I do think Whitney asks a good (and difficult) question when she asks why the apostles were all men as well as the pastor discussion sent to Timothy/Titus. I’d be interested in a good honest discussion of that. (Especially since the author explains in a different letter that in Jesus there is no gender distinction.)

    Now to deacons, however, there’s little defense to confining the role of “servant” (deacon) in the church to men. Not only is Phoebe referred to by the female equivalent of the title, it is quite a stretch to use the “deacon’s wife” translation in the pastoral letters. That was just straight up more convenient for the English translators! Kind of hard to explain away why deacon’s wives need to have certain qualities but not pastor’s wives…

    And the apostle designation could be an interesting discussion, too. Do you guys remember the apostles, Andronicus and Junias (referred to in Romans 16)? I didn’t learn their names in Sunday School. Speaking of, are those female names? (I’m not sure.)

    Bottom line: It’s just far too convenient to believe that the Southern phenomenon known as “Churches of Christ” found all these answers in the 20th Century and is waiting for the rest of the religious world to thank us for them.

  22. Duane McCrory Says:


    I’m writing too much, but there is a strong argument that Junia is the correct name in Romans 16 and it is female. I’ll be out of town for a week so I was trying to comment all I could before I leave. 😉

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