When You Come Together

I Corinthians 14

33For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.[1]

The description of the spreading of the gospel by the apostle Paul in the book of Acts and his letters to individuals and assemblies focus on how the individual and body of believers are to act knowing that they have received forgiveness for wrongdoing as a result of the only sacrifice for sin freely offered by Yeshua the Messiah who died for those sins and was resurrected to live forever as those who believe in Him will also be. Paul's focus on the future resurrection of believers to eternal life compelled him to encourage the body of believers to act in the present as they will in the kingdom of heaven. While he knew that the believer would still sin, he admonishes his audience to overcome the desires of the flesh and to act the way that the Savior Yeshua the Messiah lives and teaches. The apostle's teachings are important today because they describe the characteristics of a believer, the gifts that he is given because of his belief, and the actions that come from him. This essay is a summary of some of the gifts of the believer and how the assembly of believers functions and is structured.

I Corinthians 12-13

Paul was obviously in agreement with the statement made by the Messiah in Matthew 5:16-20 and he demonstrated this by his actions and statements regarding the keeping of the Torah (law) that was given at Mount Sinai to Israel and those who went with them. He writes in chapter 12 that those who are obedient to the Torah of God and who accept the free gift of Yeshua the Messiah possess certain characteristics which he calls spiritual gifts. The gifts are different and believers have different gifts. However, all of these gifts are of the Holy Spirit and from the same Lord. Verse 7 shows that this spirit is given to each believer for the good of all.

Paul writes that the following are gifts of the spirit:

Paul reiterates that all of these different gifts are given by the same spirit. He writes that while there are many members of the body, the body is one and he calls it the body of the Messiah. He says that the different parts of the body are all necessary. He shows this by explaining that a part of the body that might be considered less important is just as valuable as another part which might be considered more important. This is because the different members of the body have a specific usefulness that would be missed if they did not exist.

Because of this reality, the body of believers is to give honor to those who might be considered less honorable. This is manifested by the members of the assembly who suffer and rejoice with one another equally. It also helps to prevent division within the assembly.

Paul then gives another list of gifts of the spirit including apostles, prophets, and teachers. He orders them in a way that indicates that those who possess such gifts would be seen as having greater honor within the body of believers. He then lists other gifts such as miracles, gifts of healing, helps, governments, and diversities of tongues. He then asks his audience if everyone has all of these gifts. Obviously, each member of the assembly does not. Paul then encourages believers to work to obtain the "best gifts." However, he then writes that he will show each believer how to obtain something that is even greater than the best gifts.

Continuing in chapter 13, Paul shows that while someone can possess a number of gifts of the spirit, the gift that is most important is charity (love). This English word is translated from the Greek word agape (αγάπη). The word is defined by the Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament - Friberg as "love; (1) especially as an attitude of appreciation resulting from a conscious evaluation and choice; used of divine and human love; love, devotion" and by the Liddell-Scott Greek-English Lexicon as "love: esp. brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God." Paul explains that if someone acts without charity, it profits him nothing.

While it is obvious that feeding the hungry is beneficial, the one that does this is not learning to be like God if he does not do it with charity. The hungry are fed, but the one who gave them food has not come closer to living like God. He is acting under obligation. Thus, he is not becoming better. Paul shows that acting with charity causes one to do things that are characteristic of God as shown by the works of Yeshua the Messiah throughout scripture. He also learns to avoid actions that are against God. Paul explains that while prophecy, tongues, and knowledge will cease, charity will never fail. This chapter concludes with Paul writing that faith, hope, and charity are present, but that charity is the greatest of these.

I Corinthians 14

Paul encourages the body of believers to pursue spiritual gifts, especially the ability to prophesy. Friberg defines this verb as "prophesy; (1) generally, of speaking with the help of divine inspiration; proclaim what God wants to make known, preach, expound (Acts 2:17; I Corinthians 11:4); (2) as speaking out divinely imparted knowledge of future events, foretell, prophesy (Mark 7:6; John 11:51; Revelation 10:11); (3) as bringing to light what was concealed and outside the possibility of naturally acquired knowledge, prophetically reveal, prophesy (Matthew 26:68)." The Liddell Scott Lexicon defines it as "to expound scripture, to speak and preach under the influence of the Holy Spirit." The UBS Greek Dictionary defines it as "proclaim God's message, preach; prophesy, predict; speak God's message intelligibly (as opposed to speaking in tongues I Corinthians 14.1ff); use prophetic insights to make something known (Matthew 26:68; Mark 14:65; Luke 22:64)."[2] Paul writes that someone who speaks in an unknown language is saying things that are hidden. He adds that a prophet says things that edify, exhort, and comfort. The difference is that the one who speaks an unknown language is only edifying himself while the prophet is edifying the entire assembly.

Tongues and Prophecy

Paul states that he desires that all be able to speak other languages, but he wishes even more that all be able to prophesy. He continues by saying that one who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in another language unless it can be interpreted for the assembly. He then compares the speaking in an unknown language without interpretation with indistinctive sounds made by different instruments. These sounds do not mean anything to the hearer just as an unknown language means nothing to the assembly.

Paul emphasizes the edification of believers as the focus of the assembly. He writes that the statements and actions within the assembly must edify the body. Thus, they must be understood. In verses 22-25, Paul states the reason why prophesying is important for the body. If one who is unlearned or who does not believe comes into the assembly and hears an unknown tongue, he will not understand what is being said and will think that the assembly is mad. However, if someone comes into the assembly and hears the prophesying of believers, he will realize the error of his ways, repent of wrongdoing, and proclaim to others the truth which he has heard in the assembly of believers.

Speaking in the Assembly

In this chapter, Paul is writing with the understanding that a number of different members of the assembly are speaking and that this is teaching. In verse 26, he says that the individual members of the assembly have different words to offer the body. However, he says that everything must be edifying. He then reiterates the need for interpretation of unknown languages. If there is not an interpreter available, that person must keep silent in the assembly.

The word translated "keep silence" here is the Greek word sigato (σιγάτω). Friberg defines this word as "(1) intransitively be silent, keep still; (a) say nothing, keep silent (Luke 20:26); (b) become silent, stop speaking (Luke 18:39); (c) keep quiet, say nothing about something (Luke 9:36); (2) transitively conceal, keep as a secret." This verb is imperative. As with English grammar, Greek imperatives command the hearer to carry out what he is told.[3] Obviously, there is not an opportunity during the assembly for this person to speak. However, there may be another time in which he is able because he has an interpreter or the listeners understand his language.

Paul continues by saying that one should wait for another speaker to finish. Also, if another believer has something revealed to him, the one speaking must allow him time to speak. An important part of this process is that those who are listening are to judge the words of the speaker.

In many modern day assemblies, the message is presented quite differently than what Paul describes here. Often, there is one speaker or maybe two and there is no dialogue with the body. In many cases, this comes as a result of the belief that the speaker has been trained in a seminary or is gifted by God as a prophet or teacher. Thus, the rest of the body is to listen and not question the speaker or at least not do it in front of the entire assembly. This has the effect of causing a religious organization to form a top down hierarchy. While it is obvious that the head of the body of believers is Yeshua the Messiah, Paul clearly states in chapter 12 that each individual member of the assembly is just as important as the others regardless of what gifts he has been given. Additionally, while there are times when an individual may rightly speak for a longer period of time, the general conduct of the assembly is one which allows contributions from a number of members. Instances where one might speak for a longer period of time would include exhortations, revealing of new understanding, and detailed prophecy. There is precedent for Paul's statements regarding dialogue in the assembly. The gospels and the book of Acts provide numerous examples of this dialogue.

Paul's statement in verse 31 shows that by following the process which he describes, all of the assembly is able to learn and be comforted. In verse 32, he says that "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets." While he uses the term prophet, it is found by using the context of the previous verses that this also applies to a believer who speaks an unknown language. He will not attempt to share his message to the assembly without an interpreter. Additionally, one who has a message for the assembly will wait his turn to speak. Also, if one who is speaking sees that another has something to reveal, he will conclude his comments. These all occur because one who is a believer is able to control himself. All of this is summarized in verse 33 which says:

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. {confusion: Gr. tumult, or, unquietness}[4]

Women in the Assembly

In verses 34-35, Paul writes that women are not to speak during the assembly because the Torah commands this. He adds that if they have questions, they must ask their husbands (men) at home. The Greek words for women and husbands used here can be understood either as wives or women and husbands or men. The context of the verses indicates that this applies to all women and that the man to whom a woman is to address questions is someone under whose authority she has been placed whether it be a father, a husband, or another party such as a relative.[5] The Greek word translated "keep silence" is the same word used in the passage regarding one who speaks in an unknown tongue. This verb is also imperative.

The passage of Torah which Paul uses to justify his statement comes from Genesis (Bereshit) 3:16 in the Masoretic text (MT) and verse 17 in the Septuagint (LXX).

MT Genesis 3:16 - Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

LXX Genesis 3:17 - And to the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy pains and thy groanings; in pain thou shalt bring forth children, and thy (1) submission shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. {1) Gr. turning}

While these verses are written differently, both versions show that the man is placed in authority over the woman by God. This authority carries over into the assembly according to Paul. He also addresses this in his first letter to Timothy which will be examined later. The chapter ends with a reminder to do things decently and in order.

Relevance in Modern Times

There are some that believe that these verses do not apply in the modern day assembly and various reasons are given. Some believe that this message was only for the assembly at Corinth. However, as just mentioned, Paul writes something similar to Timothy who is instructed in that letter to teach what Paul is saying to the assembly at Ephesus. Additionally, Paul tells the Colossian assembly to read his letter to them to the assembly at Laodicea (Colossians 4:16). Furthermore, I Corinthians 14:33 shows that the directives given in this chapter apply to all the assemblies of the saints. This is evidence that the books of the new testament writers are useful today just as those of the Tanakh are.

In I Corinthians 14:37, Paul reiterates that what he is saying comes from the commandments of the Lord. Taking verse 33 into consideration along with the Torah commandment regarding women, it is seen that when women are silent during the dialogue of the assembly, confusion is avoided because the Torah is being followed just as it is being followed when each of the speakers takes his turn and when one who does not speak in a known language is silent unless an interpreter is present. Learning and following these directives is useful in all of the assemblies of believers just as all of the other scriptures are useful (cf. II Timothy 3:16-17). Paul's letters were written to assemblies that were newly formed because the gospel of Yeshua the Messiah had only recently been magnified by His life, death, and resurrection. This new knowledge which magnifies the Tanakh was being spread to many who had previously been unable to learn this message of salvation. While many years have passed since these events, the modern movement to return to the way of life described by scripture is effectively still in its infancy. Thus, today's assemblies do well by learning and implementing Paul's message.

As stated previously, Paul references Genesis 3 as the reason why women do not speak in the dialogue of the assembly. The directives given to Eve are placed upon all women just as the ones given to Adam are placed on all men. Some may not think that this is fair. However, Paul states in Romans 9 that one does not ask God why he is made the way he is. Since these directives are given for all, women must be formed with the same inclinations that Eve had just as men are formed with the same inclinations that Adam had.

Evidence from Ancient Manuscripts

Another reason given for not applying verses 34-35 is that some believe that they are not included in the original letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthians. Some scholars believe that different ancient manuscripts show that these verses were added later by scribes. One of the manuscripts is Codex Vaticanus which is a fourth century Greek manuscript noted as a very important witness to the original books of scripture that were extant in the Second Temple period. Another is Codex Fuldensis which is a sixth century manuscript that is based on the Latin Vulgate. Also, there are a few other manuscripts that have these two verses after verse 40. The earliest date for this verse order is the sixth century with some of the others being dated to the ninth century.[6]

Vaticanus has markings at certain areas of the text. In the margin of I Corinthians 14:34-35, there are two markings (bar and umlaut, also called siglum) which are interpreted by some as meaning that a scribe knew of a variant for this passage. Fuldensis has these verses in the margin. Because of this, some scholars believe that these verses were later additions.

A detailed discussion of scholarly opinion is not within the scope of this essay. However, there is other information that can aid in determining whether these statements represent the belief of Paul. First, these verses are included in all extant manuscripts that contain the last part of I Corinthians 14 including Codex Sinaiticus which scholars also believe is a fourth century manuscript (assumed to be not quite as old as Vaticanus).[7] Also of note, Papyrus 123 contains part of verse 34. This manuscript dated to the fourth century is a fragment that contains 14:31-34 with 15:3-6 on the other side. The verses are in their normal order.

There is another manuscript that is considered to be even older than Vaticanus and Sinaiticus and is the oldest known extant manuscript that contains this part of I Corinthians. Papyrus 46 has been dated to 200 CE (175-225 or 150-250 CE). It contains verses 34 and 35 in the normal order.

The New Testament Prototype web site can be used to compare different manuscripts with the Nestle-Aland text of the Greek new testament.[8] When comparing the NA text with that of Papyrus 46 for verse 34, it is found that P46 is shorter.

P46 I Corinthians 14_34 Image

Using English grammar word order, Nestle Aland reads "the women in the assembly be silent, for it is not permitted for them to speak, but to be subject, as the law (Torah) says" while P46 reads "women in the assembly be silent - as the law (Torah) says."

There is a difference between the two. However, the meaning of the verse is not changed given the definition of the imperative Greek verb translated "be silent" (by definition and context of this chapter) in verse 34.

In verse 35, a comparison of Papyrus 46 and the NA text shows that they are identical except for the Greek word translated "is" which is not in P46.

The inclusion of these verses after verse 40 (and in the margin in Codex Fuldensis), albeit in later manuscripts, is not unprecedented. In some manuscripts, Romans 16:24 and 25-27 are located in different places such as verse 24 after verse 20. Others have it after verse 27 and some after both 20 and 27. Some manuscripts have verses 25-27 at the end of chapter 14. Others have them at the end of chapter 15. Like verse 24, some manuscripts even include verses 25-27 in two places. Also, unlike I Corinthians 14:34-35, these verses in Romans are omitted in some manuscripts.[9]

Given that all extant manuscripts which contain this part of I Corinthians 14 contain these two verses including the earliest dated manuscripts and that there is at least one other example of verse order being changed in different manuscripts, the weight of the evidence leans toward inclusion of I Corinthians 14:34-35. However, to support inclusion, other information which supports these verses is valuable.[10]

Paul and the Jewish Culture

As stated previously, scripture shows that Paul was in agreement with the teaching of Yeshua the Messiah in Matthew 5:16-20. Paul also says that he is doing nothing against the Torah or the Jews in several places throughout the new testament.[11] Therefore, the practice of the Jews with regard to behavior in the synagogue could provide evidence for his understanding. However, some dismiss the understanding of Jews. This comes from a statement in the Mishnah regarding the teaching of Torah to women. In tractate Sotah 3:4 H, it says, "R. Eliezer says, 'Whoever teaches Torah to his daughter is as if he teaches her sexual satisfaction.'" Yet, in the same section, it says in part F, "On this basis Ben Azzai says, 'A man is required to teach Torah to his daughter.'"[12]

Scripture is clear in showing that all are to learn Torah. First, Eve learned Torah along with Adam after they sinned (Genesis 3). Rachel knew the time of uncleanness (Genesis 31:34-35). Hannah made a vow (I Samuel 1). Mary had her son Yeshua the Messiah circumcised and purified herself according to the Torah of Moshe (Luke 2:21-24).

In I Corinthians 14:35, Paul writes that it is a shame for women to speak in the assembly. A reference regarding women in the assembly of Jews is found in the Tosefta with a talmudic explanation. It is shown that women were considered part of the congregation and called to Torah. However, they did not come forward to read "out of respect for the community."[13]

The Jewish understanding of this matter is stated a different way than how Paul wrote it. However, the meaning is similar. Paul uses a negative by saying that it is a shame for women to speak in the assembly. The Jewish explanation is a positive in that it says that women do not come forward to read out of respect for the community.

It is obvious that something that is shameful is not respectful to the community. Additionally, there is another example of teaching a concept where a positive statement is used in one instance and a negative statement in another. In scripture, the Messiah teaches the golden rule (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31). He uses a positive statement in his discourse. In Judaism, Hillel the Elder and others are credited with what is called the silver rule. In this form, a negative statement is used.[14]

Regarding the word translated shame in English translations of I Corinthians 14:35, this is the Greek word αίσχρόν (aischron) and it is used in I Corinthians 11:6 in the identical form, number, case, and gender. Friberg defines the word as "literally ugly, deformed." Liddell-Scott defines it as "causing shame, abusive" and "in a moral sense, shameful, disgraceful, base, infamous." Paul's use of this word in chapter 14 shortly after using it in his comments regarding hair length for women in chapter 11 is indicative of how he views women speaking in the assembly. It is not his opinion. It is true because he says that it is what the Torah says in verse 34.

One of the reasons that shorn or shaven hair is shameful for women is that it makes them look like a man should look. Likewise, speaking in the assembly, which Paul shows to be teaching by his comments that the dialogue of the assembly must be edifying, is the role of men and if women speak in that environment, they are acting as a man would act. The seriousness of this matter is magnified by his statement that even the questions that women have must be asked outside the assembly. Furthermore, his statements are in line with the contemporary practice in the Jewish synagogue where he taught numerous times.

I Timothy 1-3

In chapter 1, Paul tells Timothy that the Torah is good if it is used properly. He writes this after he warns Timothy that there are some who want to be teachers of the Torah, but who do not understand what they are teaching. Paul also says that the Torah is for those who are lawless and disobedient. This simply means that one who is obedient to the Torah is not convicted by it. He is blameless. However, these statements by Paul show that Torah should be observed and that deviation from it results in disobedience.

In the Assembly

In chapter 2, Paul says that prayers, supplications, intercession, and giving of thanks should be made for all men, including authorities. He also says that the believer should attempt to live in peace with everyone and that this is good in the sight of God. He states that it is his role to be a faithful preacher and apostle to the gentiles and admonishes believers to pray without anger or doubt.

Paul then writes that women should have a demeanor and appearance of modesty and sobriety. They should dress modestly and avoid braided hair along with costly jewelry and clothes. Given this statement and the previous one regarding men praying and Paul's description of his role, it should be assumed that these directives deal with actions in the assembly. The reason for this assumption comes from the fact that there is nothing wrong with women wearing costly clothing or jewelry or having braided hair in some instances. Scripture shows this to be the case (see Esther 5 regarding appearance in public).

In verse 11, Paul says that women must learn in silence with all subjection. The word translated "silence" is the Greek noun (ησυχία) hesuchia. Friberg gives the definition as "(1) as characterized by inward calm, tranquility, quietness (II Thessalonians 3:12); (2) of giving calm attention, silence, quietness (Acts 22:2)." Given the information described previously which shows that women did not speak in the Jewish synagogue along with the statements in I Corinthians 14:34-35 and the example of this Greek word used in Acts 22:2, Paul is telling Timothy that women are to refrain from taking part in the dialogue of the assembly. Moreover, the word translated "subjection" is the Greek noun (υποταγη) hupotage. It is defined by Friberg as "submission, obedience, subjection." This is also consistent with I Corinthians 14:34-35.

Paul continues saying that women are to remain silent and not to teach. He adds that they are not to usurp authority over the man. The Greek word translated "teach" is (διδάσκειν) didaskein and is a form of the Greek word that is used a number of times throughout scripture and classical Greek literature to indicate teaching. Friberg defines it as "teach, instruct (Matthew 4:23); passive: be taught, learn (Galatians 1:12)." While some believe that this word has the meaning of "continual teaching," it is simply the Greek word for "teach" as the definition indicates. Other scriptures show this also. A partial list of the use of this word in different forms includes Deuteronomy 4:1, 4:14, 6:1, 31:19, II Chronicles 17:7, Ezra 7:10, (Psalm 118:12, 26, 64, 66, 68, 108, 124, 135, 171 in the LXX - It is chapter 119 in the MT), Matthew 5:19, 7:29, 26:55, 28:20, Mark 7:7, Luke 5:3, 6:6, John 7:14, 14:26, Acts 5:21, 25, 42, 21:21, Romans 2:21, I Corinthians 4:17, Colossians 1:28, 2:7, Titus 1:11, Hebrews 8:11, Revelation 2:20.

The Greek noun (αυθεντειν) authentein is defined by Friberg as "strictly, of one who acts on his own authority; hence have control over, domineer, lord it over (I Timothy 2:12)," by Liddell-Scott as "to have full power over," and by UBS as "domineer, have authority over." This word is used in this one place in the entire Greek scriptures (both LXX and new testament). The Greek word (root) that is typically used for authority in the new testament is (έξουσία) exousia and in the KJV is translated as "power," "authority," "right," "liberty," "jurisdiction," and "strength." Its definition is what is typically understood as seen by the English words into which it is translated. The difference between this word and the one used in I Timothy 2:12 is apparent. In Matthew 7:29, exousia is used to describe the teaching of Yeshua the Messiah compared to that of the scribes. He was able to teach that way because His life was one of perfect adherence to the Torah and He was filled with the Holy Spirit.

When the day of Pentecost came (Acts 2), the apostles were given the Holy Spirit and thus, received spiritual gifts which include teaching. Because of this, they were able to teach with authority (exousia). When the gifts described in I Corinthians 12 are used as directed according to I Corinthians 14:32, this is evidence of authority given by God to the believer. Therefore, one who uses a gift properly is exercising his God given authority.

Paul's forbidding of teaching in the assembly by women is based on the commandments of God and is in agreement with the format of the Jewish synagogue from which many of the believers in Yeshua the Messiah came. He points again to Genesis 3. However, in this instance, he explains that Adam was formed first and that Eve was deceived while Adam was not. Taking this along with his statement referencing Genesis 3 to the Corinthians into consideration, it is understood that confusion can be brought into the assembly by deception. Following these directives can help prevent this from happening.

Paul does say that women who observe these commandments will be saved in childbearing. While a discussion of his exact meaning here is not within the scope of this essay, it is clear that obedience to the Torah will result in a blessing. Paul then proceeds to describe the qualities of the leadership of the assembly.

Bishops and Deacons

In chapter 3, he says that it is good for a man to desire to be a bishop (overseer) of the assembly. However, there are requirements for one to qualify for such a position. One who desires this position must be above reproach. He must be the husband of one wife, sober, vigilant, hospitable, and able to teach. Additionally, there are other requirements for this position which include ruling his house well with children who are obedient (hupotage) because a man will not oversee the assembly effectively if he cannot oversee his house effectively. He also cannot be new to the body of believers and must be well regarded by those outside the assembly. The qualifications for bishops listed here are imperative according to Greek grammar because the word (δει) dei (used in verse 2) means "as expressing compulsion, necessity, or inevitability in an event it is necessary, one must, one has to (Matthew 17:10); (2) as expressing the will of God or law it is necessary or binding (Luke 13:14); (3) of the compulsion of duty one ought, one should, one has to, one must (Acts 5;29); (4) of the compulsion of valid expectation or what is fitting it is proper, it must be, it is right (II Timothy 2:6)" according to Friberg.

Paul also tells Titus to ordain bishops and again gives the qualification of bishops stating that they are to be the "husbands of one wife." In Titus 1:7, the imperative δει is used. While it is not used in Titus 1:6, Paul's statements listing the same qualifications are in the imperative in I Timothy 3. Thus, it is logical that the bishops ordained by Titus would be required to have these qualifications to retain consistency.

Paul then lists the qualifications for deacons. The requirements for deacons are similar to those of bishops and thus, this is seen as imperative. Deacons must also be husbands of one wife and rule their houses well as bishops must do. The Greek word (εστωσαν) estosan translated "be" here is also imperative. Paul then writes that he hopes to arrive shortly, but if it takes longer, Timothy will have the information he needs to teach the believers in Ephesus how to act in the assembly.

As with I Corinthians 14, some believe that the requirements regarding women, bishops, and deacons given here are not applicable today. Regarding women, there is a belief by some that this directive came as a result of specific issues in the Ephesian assembly just as is supposed with regard to the Corinthian assembly. However, as described previously, Paul points to the same passage of Torah for his statements to Timothy as he does to the Corinthians. The Torah does address Eve specifically, but it also addresses all women just as it addresses all men along with Adam. Moreover, Paul was operating under the same framework as the Jewish synagogue (as seen in the book of Acts). The Messiah also acted within the framework of the Jewish synagogue and this is shown in the gospels.

Another reason why scriptures such as those in I Timothy 3 are not applied as Paul states comes from some modern day translations which have confusing readings. For instance, the Contemporary English Version indicates that overseers and deacons can be men or women. However, the Greek words cannot be rightly understood as allowing this. In verses 2 and 12, the Greek is literally translated into English as "one wife husband(s)." The Greek root aner (ανήρ) from which these forms come is defined as "man" (adult male) or "husband." When this word is used generally in an instance such as James 1:12, it is acceptable to assume that the statement may include females as the English word "man" may be inclusive when used in a general sense. However, the word gunaikos (γυναικός) from the root gune (γυνή), used along with aner in I Timothy 3:2 and 12, always describes a female as it is defined as either "woman" (adult female) or "wife."

Moreover, in verses 4 and 12, Paul writes that elders and deacons must rule their households well. Aside from Paul's statements in Ephesians 5:22-28 which is written to the same assembly about which he is advising Timothy, he told the Corinthians that he had sent Timothy to teach them what he taught in all of the assemblies (I Corinthians 4:17). This obviously includes teaching about the structure and format of the assemblies. Additionally, the Torah shows that men were the leaders of the people and that men were the heads of their households. This structure is evident throughout scripture and was practiced in the time of the Messiah as he placed his widowed mother under the responsibility of the apostle John at His crucifixion (John 19:26-27).

The reason for such word usage in some modern translations may be an attempt to bring the scriptures into agreement with the majority modern day opinion. However, scripture is not subject to change and one's opinion does not affect its meaning. On the contrary, the believer should bring his opinion into agreement with scripture (cf. Romans 3:4).

Additionally, some point to verse 11 as indicating that women can be bishops and/or deacons. However, bishops oversee the assembly and Paul clearly states that women are not to have authority over men in the assembly. The Jerusalem council described in Acts 15 was made up of men and decreed that gentiles also have an opportunity for salvation. The context of scriptures throughout the Bible shows this as well.

Regarding deacons, scripture does say that Phebe was a servant (diakonon - διάκονον) of the assembly at Cenchrea (Romans 16:1). However, this Greek word διακόνος (whether singular or plural) is used differently in various passages. It is used in the LXX and Greek new testament over thirty times. It is translated as servants (Esther 1:10, Matthew 23:11), minister (Matthew 20:26, Galatians 2:17), and deacons (I Timothy 3:8, 12). It clearly has a different meaning with regard to the role of serving depending on the context with which it is used.

First, Phebe was recommended by Paul to the assembly at Rome and he told them that she had been a helper to many (Romans 16:1-2). The Greek word prostatis (προστάτις) translated succourer or helper is defined as "as a woman who renders assistance from her resources, protector, helper, patron" by Friberg. Evidently, she was using her resources to aid believers and Paul wanted the Roman assembly to help her with whatever need she had. In other words, Paul wanted them become like deacons to her.

Second, if Paul's statement in I Timothy 3:11 refers to women who are appointed deacons as opposed to wives of deacons (and bishops) or those who are simply serving others, then the qualifications for women deacons are not as stringent as those for men. Also, if this is the meaning that Paul intended, there are no listed qualifications for the wives of bishops or deacons. However, the fact that the bishop or deacon has his house in order might mean that his wife possesses good qualities. While that can be the case, it is possible for a woman to have her children under control and still behave in ways that would not be considered faithful. While the placement of this statement in verse 11 may seem out of order, it seems that context indicates that the wives of bishops and deacons are to possess the qualities listed in that verse.

With regard to Paul's qualifications for deacons, there is an example of the appointment of men to such an office in the early assembly. In Acts 6, there is a description of an issue with the Grecian widows. They were being neglected. While the reason for this is not stated, it could have been that the culture from which these widows came was not as amenable to caring for widows as the culture of the Jews which is based on Torah.

The apostles were spending a great amount of time caring for the daily needs of widows and were unable to go out and deliver the good news of the gospel. To alleviate the problem, it was decided that seven men should be selected to serve these widows. In Acts 6:2, the word translated "serve" is the Greek verb (διακονειν) diakonein. These seven men had qualities that Paul says deacons appointed by the assembly should possess. These men then had hands laid upon them and took over the serving of the widows.[15] Their position was not one where they were commissioned to spread the gospel in the same way that the apostles were. They certainly could do so if they received the gift of teaching as Stephen did. However, as with all believers, they used the gifts which were given to them and those gifts were under their control. Thus, if I Timothy 3:11 does refer to women as ordained deacons in the sense that the men described in Acts 6 were and those women have the gift of teaching, those women will teach in a manner that is in accordance with the commandments of God and will not do so inside the assembly.

This is an example of what deacons appointed by the assembly are to do. They use their time and possibly the funds of the assembly to aid those who need it. While anyone can serve (i.e. be a deacon), those appointed by the church and ordained by the laying on of hands should possess the qualities which Paul describes in I Timothy 3. Thus, since the qualifications for this type of deacon include the fact that he must be married to "one wife" just like the bishop, it is obvious that such a position is only available to a male. Nevertheless, others, including women and single men, can serve and thus, be deacons of a different type.

Women as Teachers

One other reason why some believe that the scriptures in I Corinthians 14 and I Timothy 2-3 do not apply is based on passages that show that women can teach and be prophets. The previous portions of this essay summarize roles in the structure and practice of the assembly. Women are prevented from taking certain roles. However, outside the assembly within the general community, women are not only allowed to teach, they are expected to do so. First, nature clearly shows that mothers are primary teachers of their young children. This is one of the reasons why women must learn Torah.

Miriam, sister of Moshe and Aaron, was a prophetess (Exodus 15:20).

In II Kings 22:14 and II Chronicles 34:22, Huldah the prophetess tells the authorities of the kingdom of Judah (Yehudah) that God would punish them because the people had forsaken Him. Because of this, King Josiah had the idols and groves destroyed, put down the idolatrous priests, and brought the people together to hear the Torah so that they would know what God wants His people to do. Josiah made a covenant to follow the commandments of God. While Judah was ultimately punished, Josiah is described in II Kings 23:25 in the following way:

And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.

Huldah the prophetess obviously had a positive influence on Josiah and the people of Judah.

In Judges 4 and 5, Deborah is described as a prophetess and judge in Israel. She told Barak to gather men and fight Sisera because God would defeat him. Barak was fearful and refused to do this unless Deborah went with him. Deborah agreed to go. However, she told Barak that God would deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman and thus, Barak would not receive an even greater honor of defeating him because of fear. Sisera and his armies were defeated and the land had rest for forty years.

At the time of the circumcision of Yeshua the Messiah, a prophetess named Anna who fasted night and day and worshiped in the temple gave thanks to God and spoke about Him to those who were seeking redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38).

On the day of Pentecost when the 12 apostles were endowed with the Holy Spirit, Peter's teaching quoted Joel 2:28-32 to them (in Acts 2) which says:

17And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: 21And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

I Corinthians 11:5 shows that women are able to prophesy.

In Titus 2:3-5, Paul directs the older women to teach the younger women.

In the course of his ministry, Paul lived with Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth. The three eventually left Corinth and Priscilla and Aquila stayed in Ephesus while Paul continued his travels to the assemblies. While in Ephesus these two believers met Apollos who spoke in the synagogue. Acts 18:25 says that,

This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.

Priscilla and Aquila took him aside "and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly." Acts 18 says:

27And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: 28For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ. {Christ: or, is the Christ}

That Priscilla was party to the instruction of Apollos is not against Paul's statements regarding conduct in the assembly. The scriptures plainly show that Apollos was taught outside the assembly. He had indeed engaged in the dialogue of the assembly and had spoken of the baptism of John which is a precursor to the gospel of Yeshua the Messiah. Given that there is no mention of dissent against Apollos' comments in the synagogue, it would seem that there was at least some opportunity for the gospel of the Messiah to be proclaimed there. Otherwise, why would these two believers be attending and why would the assembly allow the teachings of John the Baptist to be taught? Priscilla and Aquila could have engaged him in discussion during the assembly if it were permitted for Priscilla to speak. That they took him aside and taught him indicates that Priscilla was going to be involved and thus, this is part of the reason that this was done outside the assembly.

In I Corinthians 16:19, Paul gives salutations from the assemblies in Asia along with Priscilla and Aquila whose home is used for an assembly of believers. Based on the evidence that scripture provides, this assembly was conducted according to the directives of Paul. Thus, inside the assembly, women were silent while outside the assembly, they were allowed to use the gift of teaching which was given to them by the Holy Spirit to spread the gospel of Yeshua the Messiah.

One other passage of scripture that some believe conflicts with Paul's statements regarding women in the assembly deals with Andronicus and Junia. Below is the translation of Romans 16:7 from the King James Version, the New American Standard Bible, the New Revised Standard Version, and Young's Literal Translation.[16]

KJV Romans 16:7 - Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

NASB Romans 16:7 - Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

NRSV Romans 16:7 - Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

YLT Romans 16:7 - salute Andronicus and Junias, my kindred, and my fellow-captives, who are of note among the apostles, who also have been in Christ before me.

The way that the verse is translated can be understood in two ways. One way is that these two people are well known by the apostles. The other is that they actually were apostles.

Junia is assumed to be a female name. It is not definitely known whether Junia was male or female (some manuscripts use the male name Junias). This has been debated for years. If Junia was female and was an apostle, there is a belief by some that she would have been able to teach in the assembly and have a leadership position.

However, Paul's directives to the assemblies do not allow exceptions. He clearly states that women do not have authority over men in the assembly and his statements in I Corinthians 14 and I Timothy 2 show that teaching is a form of authority. Furthermore, it must be determined what Romans 16:7 means regarding who the apostles are.

Some submit that this verse means that Andronicus and Junia were apostles. Others believe that these two were known by the apostles. First, the Greek word translated "apostle(s)" needs to be reviewed.

Apostolos (άπόστολος - singular) is defined by Friberg as "(1) one who is sent on a mission with full authority, apostle, messenger, envoy (John 13:16); (2) as a commissioned representative of a congregation, delegate, missionary, representative (II Corinthians 8:23); (3) in the NT used especially of a messenger for God; (a) generally (Luke 11:49); (b) more specifically as a person who tells the gospel message, apostle (Romans 16:7); often of a person who has the special task of founding and establishing churches, apostle, messenger (of God) (Ephesians 2:20); (c) especially of the Twelve chosen by Jesus apostle (Luke 6:13)."

In most cases in the new testament, this Greek word is speaking of the twelve (and later Matthias) who were companions of the Messiah or it is speaking about Paul. However, in Philippians 2:25, Epaphroditus is designated by this Greek word. Most translations use the word "messenger" instead of "apostle" in describing him. Additionally, Barnabas is called an apostle in Acts 14:14. I Thessalonians 1:1 and 2:6 indicate that Timothy and Silvanus (Silas) were apostles. I Corinthians 3:4-6, 3:22, 4:6, and 4:9 indicate that Apollos is called an apostle. Paul indicates that James the brother of the Messiah is an apostle in Galatians 1:18-19.

This shows that there is at least some difference between the original twelve (and then Matthias) and Paul and the others. The original twelve and Matthias were with Yeshua the Messiah during His earthly ministry. Paul saw Him in a vision on the road to Damascus. There is no record that the others saw the Messiah and it is very likely that Timothy would have been quite young if he was even yet born when the Messiah lived on earth.

While this information is helpful, it still does not provide proof as to whether Andronicus and Junia were apostles or were well known by the apostles. There is information that is helpful based on Greek grammar. In apocryphal as well as other Greek literature, there are examples which shed light on the Greek grammar in Romans 16:7 and provide evidence that Paul is writing that Andronicus and Junia are known by the apostles.[17]

Another passage of scripture that provides evidence for this conclusion is a statement also made by Paul. In I Corinthians 9, Paul is justifying the right of ministers of the gospel to be aided by the believers although he refuses such aid. In verses 5 and 6 (New American Standard Bible) he writes:

5(1a)Do we not have a right to take along a (2)believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the (b)brothers of the Lord and c)Cephas? 6Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working?

The version note for verse 5 (2) is: Literally sister, as wife. The word translated "wife" is the Greek word gunaika (γυναικα) again from the root gune (γυνή) which is the root of the forms used in I Timothy 3:2 and 3:12. As noted previously, this word is always translated woman (or wife) in scripture. Its use in other Greek literature also shows that this word always describes females. The Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University may be used to search Greek words and view the related work translated into English.[18]

The phrase "the rest" is translated from the Greek oi loipoi (οί λοιποί) and this definite article with the adjective is defined by Friberg as, "the rest, the others, the remaining ones (Luke 24:9)." Since Paul wrote to the Romans and the Corinthians and he knew who the apostles were, it seems that he would not make this statement if a woman could be called an apostle in the sense that the twelve and Paul were. However, with regard to the more general meaning of this Greek word, anyone can be an apostle. In fact, all believers are directed to be messengers of the gospel of Yeshua the Messiah.

As shown in this essay, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that Paul's statements regarding the assembly in I Corinthians 14 and I Timothy 1-3 as well as other passages are in accordance with the commandments of God. His beliefs are based on the Torah and have been implemented in assemblies even before the second temple. Furthermore, the assembly of which he was a member before his conversion, the Jewish synagogue, was a main place where he worked to bring the good news of Yeshua the Messiah and gain more believers for the body. When other assemblies were formed, many times after the rejection of the gospel in the Jewish synagogues, these assemblies were structured like the Jewish synagogue. This allowed believing Jews and gentiles to move into a similar setting that differed only because of the wonderful message of the gospel.


Scripture directs believers to live and teach the gospel of Yeshua the Messiah and spread the good news of salvation to others. Paul says that there is no difference between Jew or gentile or man or woman with regard to salvation and that all are one in the Messiah (Romans 10:10-13, Galatians 3:28). However, within the body of believers, different roles are given by God through His Holy Spirit. Additionally, the believer is in control of the gifts which he possesses and he uses them in accordance with the will of his Creator.

Women are to submit themselves to their husbands as commanded in the Torah. They are to do this as the assembly of believers is to submit to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-24). In fact, I Peter 3:1-6 says that a woman should be in subjection to her husband even in a situation where he is acting wrongly. This in no way means that she should follow her husband into sin. What Peter is saying is that the proper attitude and behavior of a godly woman is a significant factor in leading her husband away from wrongdoing. This shows that believing women have strong influence on their husbands. Additionally, this passage gives the example of the godly behavior of Sarah the wife of Abraham.

Men have the responsibility to oversee the assembly of believers and to exhort and teach the members to live righteously and demonstrate to the world the fruits of those who will obtain eternal salvation. They also have the responsibility to lead their families in truth by living like Yeshua the Messiah. They are commanded to love their wives exactly like the Messiah loves the assembly to the extent that He gave His life for the sake of those who are His (Ephesians 5:25, I Peter 3:7). This love is characterized by many different traits, but charity is the greatest of all.

Taking into consideration Paul's statements in I Corinthians 14:35, men must be attentive to the concerns of their wives and must answer their questions and listen to their observations on what they have learned in the assembly of believers. If questions cannot be answered by the husband or truthful knowledge is gained from the words of his wife, he must go to the assembly to have the questions answered or to teach the truth which his wife has shown him. Men must also love their children and raise them in a way that is righteous. While not all men will become bishops or deacons, they should act in a manner that would show that they are men of such character. Additionally, women are expected to teach within the guidelines of scripture just as men are. As shown previously, scripture shows that they are capable teachers and their gifts are also important to the body of believers.

While there are many different assemblies in the modern world of religion, there is not much agreement amongst them because of the different belief systems and structures. However, for those who are working to live a life as described in the scriptures, Paul's instructions on the structure and function of the assembly are highly valuable. No one is known to have built more assemblies based on the word of God. His work which has been recorded for many to see is like a textbook for taking the directives of the Creator and implementing them in any place at any time. By learning and implementing them, the believer will win the race set before him (I Corinthians 9:24).


1The King James Version is used in this essay unless otherwise noted. It has been chosen because many are familiar with it and there is no restriction of its use. Some passages contain version notes.

2The three reference books listed in this paragraph (Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament - Friberg, Liddell-Scott A Greek-English Lexicon, and the UBS Greek Dictionary) are used throughout this essay and are included in the BibleWorks for Windows version 5 software application.

3Information on Greek verbs is available at ntgreek.org. The relevant section is Verbal Moods.

4In some manuscripts, the last phrase of this verse (as in all the churches of the saints) is contained within what is now known as verse 34. However, this entire chapter was relevant to all of the assemblies in the time of Paul's ministry and is still relevant today. The phrase should not be connected to one verse. The entire chapter provides detailed information on how to avoid confusion in the assembly.

5Scripture demonstrates in several places that a woman is placed under the authority of a man. While women were given a choice, their fathers or other guardians arranged their marriages (Genesis 24:42-61). Levirite marriages (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). At His crucifixion, Yeshua the Messiah placed His mother in the care of John. (John 19:26-27).

6Information on Codex Vaticanus and Codex Fuldensis.

7Information on Codex Sinaiticus.

8New Testament Transcripts Prototype. Information on Nestle Aland Novem Testamentum Graece and Papyrus 46.

9The following is a list of textual variants in Romans in a PDF file. The Romans 16 variants are on pages 224-225 here (page number can be entered at the bottom area of the list). That link is an archive of the original location which is shown at the bottom left of each page of the pdf file and which is no longer a valid link. The owner's copyright and usage information was also located at web.ovc.edu/terry/tc/ which is no longer a valid link. This information on variants by this source is evidently archived on a few different sites, but could be removed in the future. The pdf copy will remain stored on this web site.

10Regarding the validity of I Corinthians 14:34-35, Payne's argument for this text being suspect is here. Miller's argument that the bar and siglum represent something different is here. Commentary on the two views is available here by Daniel B. Wallace with a focus on Miller's argument. Link to the article as a PDF file. Note the footnote at the bottom of the review. In the NET Bible, footnote 15 which is at the end of verse 35 of I Corinthians 14 version NET2 provides more information including support for the validity of the verses.

11Paul states several times that he is doing nothing against the Torah or the Jews - Acts 24:14-21, Acts 25:8, Acts 28:17-20.

12Neusner, J. (1988). The Mishnah: A new translation. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. The book Women in Judaism - The Status of Women in Formative Judaism by Leonard Swidler is an extensive study of women in ancient Judaism. Page 44 number 5, section Women Studying Torah contains information that shows that women did study Torah even if some had a negative view toward it. The book is in PDF form.

13The Tosefta described. The discussion of speaking in the assembly is found on page 44 number 4, section Women Reading Torah in the book Women in Judaism - The Status of Women in Formative Judaism. This section also discusses the titles given to women in some synagogues. Additionally, they were allowed to recite group prayers along with the congregation. Also, in the book Paul and the Jewish Law: Halakha in the Letters of the Apostle to the Gentiles by Peter J. Tomson, section Worship and Liturgy (pages 131-139), it is shown that the gentile assemblies that Paul formed and guided were based on Judaism. Additionally, contemporaries of Paul such as Josephus describe the difference in the roles of women and men. Note: A discussion of head covering for women is included in the information from Tomson's book presented here. That topic is beyond the scope of this essay.

14Hillel the Elder and the Silver Rule. See also Babylonian Talmud Tractate Shabbat - Folio 31A, second full paragraph.

15The article May Women be Deacons? A Prelude to Dialogue by Daniel B. Wallace discusses the deacons of Acts 6 in the context of other scriptures.

16Copyright statements: NRSV - "From the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved." NASB - "Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."

17See Junia Among the Apostles: The Double Identification Problem in Romans 16:7 by Daniel B. Wallace. Also, see Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Romans 16:7 by Michael H. Burer and Daniel B. Wallace.

18The Perseus Digital Library is located here. Using the search box at the top right corner of the page, when the English characters g, u, n, and e (gune) are entered and submitted, another page that notes The Liddell Scott Greek English Dictionary is shown. In the section titled (English), there is a link that may be selected. This leads to another page which provides for searching using Greek letters in the Dictionary Entry Lookup section. In the search bar, the selection exact word may be used. In the next box, English characters that represent the Greek letters using the chart below it are entered. In this case, the characters g, u, n, and h are used for the gamma, upsilon, nu, and eta. In the last box, Greek is selected. When the parameters are submitted, another page loads which shows the word, the dictionaries, the maximum and minimum frequency, and a short defintion. The dictionaries provide the defintion for the word. The link under Max. Freq. may be selected which then loads examples of the word in Greek literature (page load may take some time). The word or form of it is highlighted in each entry. The highlighted word may then be selected which loads the definition along with more information. Additionally, in each entry, there is a link to the section in English and below that another link such as speech 1, section 14. This may be selected which loads the Greek with more context. Again, when the highlighted Greek word is selected in either of these pages, the definition page for the word is displayed. The search for this Greek word produces over 500 examples in Greek literature. The classical Greek literature shows along with scripture that this word always refers to females even when the word is translated from Greek into English as spouse.


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