Troublesome Topic: Why Did Paul Restrict Women from Speaking in the Assembly? 1 Cor 14

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.


It is important to remember that there were several ways in which things were out of control in the Corinthian congregation. Paul felt it was necessary to write this statement because of abuses he heard about after his departure from Corinth. It appears there were women in that congregation who would not respect those in authority over the various realms represented and not respect the person in authority over their own realms (their husbands). They would speak out whenever they wanted and sometimes take over the meetings. They seemed incapable of keeping their mouths shut, so he spelled out clearly that such interruptions are the opposite of respect; they are shameful. We would frown on anyone interrupting the preacher today; for them it was even more disrespectful, so Paul had to call them out on it.

The restriction Paul gave for women would hold true for children and young men as well. While someone was speaking to the assembly, he would not want everyone to feel free to interrupt him. We follow the same rules of respect today – we do not interrupt the preacher in the middle of his sermon to ask a question. However, the rules about who can speak in an assembly of an early house church were more restrictive than ours. That is because their house churches were structured around the authority of the home and of the extended family. If that system of authority were not followed, there would be chaos, and that is exactly what was happening in Corinth.

As a starting point Paul was simply stating a universal rule of respect – don’t interrupt. However, the way he applies it specifically to women is the thing that makes it hard for some to swallow. He referred to women specifically 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 and father was expected to know the Scriptures better than anyone in his household. That should still be true, but 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.

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.


God is communicating balance and He wants us to learn to balance things in our lives. In this case, God was balancing the issues of individual spirituality and respect for authority. He wants us to balance each one of those without ignoring the other.

The next lesson is: Consequences Are the Bottom Line 1 Cor 14


1: "to learn"

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