The Meaning of 1 Corinthians 14:34 Explained

1 Corinthians 14:34

KJV: Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

YLT: Your women in the assemblies let them be silent, for it hath not been permitted to them to speak, but to be subject, as also the law saith;

Darby: Let your women be silent in the assemblies, for it is not permitted to them to speak; but to be in subjection, as the law also says.

ASV: let the women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as also saith the law.

KJV Reverse Interlinear

Let  your  women  keep silence  in  the churches:  for  it is  not  permitted  unto them  to speak;  but  [they are commanded] to be under obedience,  as  also  saith  the law. 

What does 1 Corinthians 14:34 Mean?

Study Notes

Cf. Genesis 3:16 .

Verse Meaning

The word translated "silent" (Gr. sige) means just that, namely, to keep silent or to hold one"s tongue. However in 1 Corinthians 11:5 Paul spoke as though women prophesying in the church was a common and acceptable practice. I think the best explanation of this apparent contradiction comes out of the context, as is usually true. Paul had just permitted others in the congregation to evaluate the comments that a prophet made ( 1 Corinthians 14:29). Now he qualified this by saying the women should not do so vocally in the church meetings, as the men could. The teaching of the Law on this subject appears to be a reference to woman"s subordination to the authoritative man in her family ( Genesis 3:16). The "Law" then would refer to the Old Testament, as in 1 Corinthians 14:21.
"Although some philosophic schools included women disciples (and Jesus seems to have allowed them, Mark 15:40-41; Luke 8:1-3; Luke 10:38-42), most schools, whether Jewish or Gentile, did not, and society expected men rather than women to absorb and question public lectures." [1]
". . . ancient society rarely allowed teaching roles to women." [2]

Context Summary

1 Corinthians 14:26-40 - Order Of Church Services
Again the Apostle sums up his directions in two simple rules: 1. Let all things be done unto edifying; that is, to building up individual character, and to fitting each member as a brick or stone into the rising fabric of the Church. Hence the stress laid on prophesying or speaking under the impulse of God's Spirit. All who had that gift should certainly have a chance to use it, because the whole Church would be thereby profited and enriched. 2. Let all things be done decently and in order: decently, so as not to interrupt the dignity and gravity of the services; in order, not by hazard or impulse, but by design and arrangement.
The Apostle's ideal is that of the calm and simple majesty which should mark all solemn assemblies, as distinct from fanatical and frenzied excitement. Hence he discountenances the disuse of the Eastern veil (the badge of modesty), the speaking of women in public, and the interruption of speakers by each other. That the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets is a truth of universal application. It condemns every impulse of a religious character which is not under the intelligent control of those who display it. [source]

Chapter Summary: 1 Corinthians 14

1  Prophecy is commended,
2  and preferred before speaking in tongues,
6  by a comparison drawn from musical instruments
12  Both must be referred to edification,
22  as to their true and proper end
26  The true use of each is taught,
27  and the abuse rebuked
34  Women in the churches

Greek Commentary for 1 Corinthians 14:34

Keep silence in the churches [εν ταις εκκλησιαις σιγατωσαν]
The same verb used about the disorders caused by speakers in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:28) and prophets (1 Corinthians 14:30). For some reason some of the women were creating disturbance in the public worship by their dress (1 Corinthians 11:2-16) and now by their speech. There is no doubt at all as to Paul‘s meaning here. In church the women are not allowed to speak He calls it a shame Certainly women are still in subjection But somehow modern Christians have concluded that Paul‘s commands on this subject, even 1 Timothy 2:12, were meant for specific conditions that do not apply wholly now. Women do most of the teaching in our Sunday schools today. It is not easy to draw the line. The daughters of Philip were prophetesses. It seems clear that we need to be patient with each other as we try to understand Paul‘s real meaning here. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for 1 Corinthians 14:34

Acts 21:9 Virgins which did prophesy [παρτενοι προπητευσαι]
Not necessarily an “order” of virgins, but Philip had the honour of having in his home four virgin daughters with the gift of prophecy which was not necessarily predicting events, though that was done as by Agabus here. It was more than ordinary preaching (cf. Acts 19:6) and was put by Paul above the other gifts like tongues (1 Corinthians 14:1-33). The prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28.) about their sons and daughters prophesying is quoted by Peter and applied to the events on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17). Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:5 gives directions about praying and prophesying by the women (apparently in public worship) with the head uncovered and sharply requires the head covering, though not forbidding the praying and prophesying. With this must be compared his demand for silence by the women in 1 Corinthians 14:34-40; 1 Timothy 2:8-15 which it is not easy to reconcile. One wonders if there was not something known to Paul about special conditions in Corinth and Ephesus that he has not told. There was also Anna the prophetess in the temple (Luke 2:36) besides the inspired hymns of Elizabeth (Luke 1:42-45) and of Mary (Luke 1:46-55). At any rate there was no order of women prophets or official ministers. There were Old Testament prophetesses like Miriam, Deborah, Huldah. Today in our Sunday schools the women do most of the actual teaching. The whole problem is difficult and calls for restraint and reverence. One thing is certain and that is that Luke appreciated the services of women for Christ as is shown often in his writings (Luke 8:1-3, for instance) before this incident. [source]
1 Timothy 2:12 Suffer [ἐπιτρέπω]
Lit. turn over to; thence, permit. See 1 Corinthians 14:34. [source]
1 Timothy 2:11 In silence [ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ]
See on peaceable, 1 Timothy 2:2. Rev. renders quietness; but the admonition concerns the behavior of women in religious assemblies. Comp. 1 Corinthians 14:34. The word is used in the sense of silence, Acts 22:2: with the broader meaning quietness in 2 Thessalonians 3:12. [source]
Titus 2:5 Obedient [ὑποτασσομένας]
Better, subject or in subjection. Frequent in Paul, but not often in the active voice. See on James 4:7; see on Romans 8:7; see on Philemon 3:21; and comp. 1 Corinthians 14:34; Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18. [source]

What do the individual words in 1 Corinthians 14:34 mean?

the women in the churches let them be silent Not for it is allowed to them to speak but to be in submission as also the law says
αἱ γυναῖκες ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις σιγάτωσαν οὐ γὰρ ἐπιτρέπεται αὐταῖς λαλεῖν ἀλλὰ ὑποτασσέσθωσαν καθὼς καὶ νόμος λέγει

γυναῖκες  women 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Feminine Plural
Root: γυνή  
Sense: a woman of any age, whether a virgin, or married, or a widow.
ἐκκλησίαις  churches 
Parse: Noun, Dative Feminine Plural
Root: ἐκκλησία  
Sense: a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly.
σιγάτωσαν  let  them  be  silent 
Parse: Verb, Present Imperative Active, 3rd Person Plural
Root: σιγάω  
Sense: to keep silence, hold one’s peace.
ἐπιτρέπεται  it  is  allowed 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Middle or Passive, 3rd Person Singular
Root: ἐπιτρέπω 
Sense: to turn to, transfer, commit, instruct.
αὐταῖς  to  them 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Dative Feminine 3rd Person Plural
Root: αὐτός  
Sense: himself, herself, themselves, itself.
λαλεῖν  to  speak 
Parse: Verb, Present Infinitive Active
Root: ἀπολαλέω 
Sense: to utter a voice or emit a sound.
ὑποτασσέσθωσαν  to  be  in  submission 
Parse: Verb, Present Imperative Middle or Passive, 3rd Person Plural
Root: ὑποτάσσω  
Sense: to arrange under, to subordinate.
καὶ  also 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: καί  
Sense: and, also, even, indeed, but.
νόμος  law 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: νόμος  
Sense: anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law, a command.
λέγει  says 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: λέγω 
Sense: to say, to speak.