Troublesome Topic: The Idea of “Realms” 1 Cor 14

1 Corinthians 14:34

Translation

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.

Paraphrase

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.

THE IDEA OF “REALMS”

Earlier in this passage (14:23), Paul uses the phrase “the whole church” implying that there were gatherings that were small, not the whole church, and there were occasions when all the believers in the city of Corinth got together in one assembly. I think there were several types of meetings of believers in the early church era. There were times when a single family of believers would gather for a planned time of prayer and Bible reading in their home. I will not get into whether or not a single family is considered the church; the point I am driving at here is that there were various meetings of different sizes, and the smallest size meeting was the individual family. Then there were times when an extended family would gather for all that is entailed in worship. This would include a grandfather and some of his grown children with kids of their own. At other times a few extended family units would gather together and possibly a few neighbors. The largest meeting possible would have been when all the believers in a given city would gather together; this was truly a “household of households.” The latter was held wherever they could accommodate that many people, usually in a very large home; therefore, I still consider it a house church, lacking the institutionalized elements of today’s organized churches. Thus, First Corinthians 14:23 specifically, and in my mind, all of chapter 14, is addressing the meetings they would periodically have in which all the believers in that city would come together.

The larger the realm, the less likely it was for someone to participate by speaking to the congregation, unless that person was a very old grandfather, called an elder.

In the regular activities of the home, papa was the “king” and mama was the “queen.” While the queen could not override or veto the decisions of the king, he shared some of his authority with her and she could do many things. But when a few relatives got together, meaning that there were other “Kings and Queens” present, the participation of the Queens seems to have been limited to starting a song or possibly sharing a testimony of what God had done, at the request of her husband or Father-in-law. In the larger meeting of several households gathered together, the women were not allowed to speak publicly and even some of the younger “Kings” might not get a chance to speak to the congregation because they could only speak if asked to do so by their father who was the Elder over them. If several grandfathers were present, they would all get to share first, starting with the oldest, before any of the younger men participated. This was because authority was usually vested as it had been since ancient times, in the oldest grandfather of the group.

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That would be even more true in a meeting of all the believers in that city. (We are not given any idea of how often they met as the entire group.) The greater the number of realms represented, the higher one had to be in the authority of the church in order to speak to the congregation.

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The context of the largest gathering of believers possible for that city makes the restrictions on women given in these verses 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 in which the wife and mother can have more participation than in the large gatherings.

Thus, the picture we are given of the congregation at Corinth was one in which various people, especially women of all ages, spoke out of turn, and refused to respect the elders present in the meeting. There was chaos, division, and discord continually. There were multiple people at each meeting creating a confusing cacophony by babbling out loud in tongues. Hence the restriction that women be silent in the meeting and learn from their husbands at home.

The next lesson is: Why Did Paul Restrict Women from Speaking in the Assembly? 1 Cor 14

Footnotes

1

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

2

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

3: "exceptions"

There were details made it more complicated than what I just stated. Of note, within the New Testament church, being an elder also required having been a mature follower of Jesus, not just being an old grandpa.

4: "Church"

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.