Troublesome Topic: Precepts about Tongues from I Corinthians 14:33b -35

1 Corinthians 14:33


for He is not the God of disorder

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but of wholeness.

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As in all the assemblies

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of the saints,


for our God is not a God who accepts, promotes, or causes the instability that comes from tumult, rather He is the God of healthy wholeness. As in all the churches of the ones God has purified,


Beginning with the second half of this verse, Paul interjects comments about another source of chaos in their meetings; it has to do with women speaking out whenever they wanted to, taking control of the meeting in order to say their piece, refusing to respect the leadership of the church, ignoring the rule about orderliness in their meetings, and disregarding the rule that all things must be done to help others grow.

1 Corinthians 14:34


let the women be silent

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in the assembly. For it is not permissible for them to speak, but to be subordinate,

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as even the Law says.


women should be silent in these types of assemblies. For it is not proper to allow them to speak in this setting, but rather they should remain subject [to their husbands or fathers]. I am not making this up; the Law also teaches this.


There are several parts of the Old Testament that Paul could have had in mind. The cornerstone passage for this concept is Genesis 3:16 (in the Torah, which the NT calls the Law); it gives the following consequence to Eve for her part in succumbing to the deceit of the Serpent: “your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” In my paraphrase I present it this way: “You will desire to dominate your husband, but he will dominate you instead, and you will not like it.” Paul is indicating that the arrangement in which the husband is what I call the captain of the team, has come to us in part because Eve took the lead and led Adam into sin instead of following him. Another reason given elsewhere is that Adam was created first and Eve was made from Adam.      Another passage Paul could have had in mind is what we call chapter 30 of Numbers (they did not have chapters and verses back then). It is a section about women making vows. It spells out clearly that the husband or father could veto a vow made by his wife or daughter. In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul is not talking about vows, so the connection to Numbers 30 is not a direct one, but the Numbers passage does indicate clearly that a woman was subject to the main man in her life (her husband or her father). Other parts of the law also imply the same dynamic, for the man was consistently seen as the leader of the family and the one who represented the family.


Earlier in this passage Paul uses the phrase “the whole church” (1 Cor 14:23), implying that there were gatherings that were smaller, and there were occasions when all the believers in the city of Corinth got together in one assembly. One type of meeting was a small group made up primarily of extended relatives and a few neighbors, and the other was a larger meeting which would have been a “household of households.” The latter was held in a very large home, or wherever they could accommodate that many people. Thus I Corinthians 14:23 and following, or even all of chapter 14, relates to the meetings they would have every once in a while in which all the believers in that area would come together.

The larger the realm, the fewer the people who would have been able to participate by speaking to the group. In the regular activities of the home, mama was the “queen” and papa was the “king.” While the queen could not override (veto) the decisions of the king, she had some authority and could do many things. But when a few relatives got together as a small house church, there were other “Kings and Queens” present, so the participation of the Queens seems to have been limited to singing, maybe starting a song, and possibly sharing a testimony of what God had done. In the larger meeting of several households gathered together, the women were even more restricted and even some of the younger “Kings” might not get a chance to share or participate through speaking to the group because they had to give the opportunity for the old kings, the “elders,” to share first.

The word “church” most commonly used in the NT literally means “the ones who are called out,” but is usually seen to pertain to “an assembly, a gathering.” Thus the most basic idea of “church” is “those who have been called out from their homes to form an assembly.” Originally the word referred to a public assembly, however, in the Epistles it is used of gatherings that are held in homes. The location does not seem to matter greatly, it is simply some type of assembly, the purpose of which is implied by context.

A secondary sense is those who are called out from the world to follow Christ. Being secondary does not mean it has less power or impact, but that it is once-removed from the original usage of the word.

But it is hard to determine when the larger group is being referred to and when the smaller group is referred to because the term “church” was used of both.

I am convinced that in this passage (1 Cor 14) Paul was talking about the larger realm, the household of households, not the regular house-church meeting, and definitely not the everyday interactions that happen in a home. The context of the largest gathering of believers possible for that city would make the stricter restrictions on women more understandable, for even the young fathers would have had some restrictions in that setting.

In contrast 1 Corinthians 11:5 talks about women prophesying and praying, but that passage is probably referring to a smaller gathering or to the activities of a home, in which the wife and mother can have more participation than in the large gatherings.

1 Corinthians 14:35


But if they want to learn

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anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to speak in the assembly.


But if she has a question about something, she should not disrupt the meeting to ask it, rather she should wait and ask her husband at home because it would be shameful to have women speaking out in the assembly every time something came to their minds.


One of the abuses Paul heard about after he left Corinth was that some women seemed incapable of keeping their mouths shut. Therefore, Paul spelled out clearly that such interruptions are the opposite of respectful; they are shameful.

As a starting point Paul was simply stating a universal rule of respect – don’t interrupt. While someone was speaking to the assembly, he would not want everyone to feel free to interrupt him. We follow similar rules of respect today – we do not interrupt the preacher in the middle of his sermon to ask a question. We wait and ask him about it later.

 The restriction Paul gave for women would hold true for children and young men as well. He applied this rule specifically to women because they were the ones causing the problem; if it had been young men causing the problem, he would have addressed them and taught the principles of respect for authority that applied to them.


The husband/father was expected to know the Scriptures better than anyone in his household. That should still be true, but it is seldom the case. The father is the one that God holds responsible for the spiritual vitality of those under his care. It is a daunting responsibility. Obviously, we cannot force our children to follow God, but we need to do everything in our power to teach them what we can from God’s word and be a good example for them. To do this properly the father and mother need to work together as a team, not against each other.

The word picture of priest simply conveys the idea of a spiritual leader. This is not the picture of a priest in the Catholic sense in which confession is through the priest. It is based on the Jewish view of a priest in which even during sacrifices, the one who brought the sacrifice did part of it and the priest did part of it; they worked together.


When the text says, “But if they want to learn anything,” it uses a form of the word “disciple.” A disciple is a “learner.” Thus, if a woman wants to be a good disciple and learn spiritual truths, she should take her questions to “her priest,” i.e. her husband. If he cannot answer her questions, he should take those questions to “his priest,” i.e. his father, and on up the line it goes. The husband and wife should have regular discussions about what they are reading in God’s word and what they are learning from the school of life. But those discussions should be characterized by a proper respect for the positions of authority that God has put in place.

However, this does not mean that a woman cannot learn anything on her own from reading Scripture and it does not mean that God never speaks to the women directly. A wife must still have her own relationship with God and maintain it carefully. In Acts 18 we see how God used both Priscilla and Aquila working together as a team to teach spiritual truths to Apollos. But in that situation, it appears that Priscilla was the more prominent Bible teacher because her name is mentioned first in every instance (Acts 18:18, 19, 25) other than when they are first introduced in Acts 18:2. This may have been because Aquila was a newer believer and did not know the Scriptures as well as his wife did. But they still worked as a team.


Through Paul, God was communicating balance. He wants us to learn balance in every aspect of our lives. In this case, God was balancing the issues of individual spirituality and respect for authority. They are both important.

When my wife, Audry, was a little girl and her mom took her to the grocery store, her mom would choose two small items from her list, find them first, and ask Audry to hold them for her. She was not allowed to let go of either one of them to grab something else.

There are many things God wants us to hold on to; there are many cases of balance between two important things. Regarding what we read in this verse, allow me to express it in this way – God wants us to hold on to individual spirituality and respect for authority without letting go of either one of them. The women of Corinth had let go of respect for authority so they could grab hold of self-expression. In so doing, they had dropped the jar of respect for authority on the floor of the grocery store and it had shattered into a thousand pieces. Some jars, like that of self-expression, are plastic and can be dropped without breaking them. The jar of respect for authority is delicate; it cannot be dropped.

The next lesson in the Full Series on Tongues is: Precepts about Tongues from I Corinthians 14:36-38


1: "disorder"

The word used here has a root meaning of “instability.” It is a compound word made up of the words “down” and “standing,” or we would say, “to not stand,” i.e. something unstable. Such instability is the result of tumult, disorder, upheaval, revolution, war and possibly anarchy. Thus it is a very strong word. It includes the causes and the result.

2: "wholeness"

This word is usually rendered “peace.” To us the word “peace” means the absence of war and strife, but that is extremely narrow compared to the way Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek expressed it. This Greek word means “oneness, wholeness, to join, tie together into a whole”, or “when all essential parts are joined together.” The Hebrew word meant “wholeness or wellbeing” with an emphasis on health. For the Jew, it was an all-inclusive picture of mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual health. For my translation I have chosen “wholeness” because it emphasizes health through unity, tying together the Hebrew and Greek meanings and addressing the problems that were present in the church at Corinth.


This is the word for “assembly or church;” it comes from the words “call out,” thus the church is made up of those who are called out from the world to the assembly of God’s people.


Unlike I Timothy 2:11 which uses the word “quietness,” this verse uses the word “silent.”


This is a compound word coming from “under” and “to arrange.” I can be rendered “be in submission, be subordinate, be subject to.”

6: "to learn"

This word is a form of the Greek word for “disciple” because a disciple was a “leaner, someone in training.”