1 Corinthians 14, is a woman's voice filthy?

1 Corinthians 14, is a woman's voice filthy?

In the last post we talked about how there is no “law” in the Old Testament scriptures that forced women to be silent in the assembly so the reference in 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35 had to be some other “law” that forced silence on women.  The “law” that silences women is found not in God’s law, but in the oral tradition of the Jews, now written down in the Talmud.

The next red flag that points to another source other than God’s law, for the saying in verses 34 & 35 is the charge that a woman’s voice is filthy.  Verse 35 says:

1 Corinthians 14:35  If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home;for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

The word translated as “improper” is shameful or filthy.  Is a woman’s voice shameful?  Is a woman’s voice filthy?  The oral law of the Jews said her voice was indecent, filthy and shameful.  A woman was not allowed to speak in their congregations for the sake of the men.  Her voice was considered a sexual enticement thus a woman was not to speak publicly.

Did God’s word also say anywhere that a woman’s voice is filthy, shameful or indecent as the Jewish oral tradition taught?  No, it doesn’t.  In fact Paul earlier on in chapter 14 said that everyone was allowed to prophesy in the assembly.  If everyone could prophesy, then certainly Paul would not turn around in just a few verses and say that women’s voices were to be silenced because they were filthy.

Tradition is a very strong force in people’s lives.  Prejudice follows such tradition and causes many of us not to want to hear a woman’s voice speaking the truth of God’s word.  Instead of following tradition, we should see what God’s word says about women publishing the truth.

Psalms 68:11  The Lord gives the command; The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host.

The word “proclaim” means to publish or make public.  God says that there is a great host of women who will take the gospel to the public.

How about you?  Have you had any prejudice against women’s speaking forth the Bible?  Have you considered their words to be inferior in some way or their preaching to be invalid merely because they are women?

20 thoughts on “1 Corinthians 14, is a woman's voice filthy?

  1. The Greek aischron is a very strong word, it is euphemized in most English translations.

    Eph 5:11


    Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

    Eph 5:12


    For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

    1Co 11:6


    For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head.

    These are indications that in BOTH these cases the words in 1 Cor are not from Paul, would he call a believing woman filty?  I do not believe it.

  2. Good point about Ephesians 5:11, 12.  The shame and filthiness is clear in the Greek regarding the works of darkness.

    I am curious why you believe that 1 Corinthians 11:6 is not Paul?  There is a little word translated “if” that changes the meaning from a certainty to an if/then statement.

    I see a distinct difference in 1 Cor. 14:34, 35 because verse 36 is a contradiction of the previous verses.  But what about 1 Cor. 11?   If 1 Cor. 11:6 is not Paul but a quote from the Corinthians where do you stop the quotation from the Corinthians?  And what is in the passage that shows the change from the Corinthians to Paul?

    I believe that 1 Cor. 11 can be read in context without Paul’s demanding women to veil.  But I am interested in your take how you divide the passage between Paul and the Corinthian quote.

  3. ‘morning Cheryl,

    I too believe Paul is quoting the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 11:4-6. Although there is no explicit “he” afterwards, I believe the Corinthians are presenting the problem the Christian women were facing, concerning the impossible position they were in regarding head coverings. To uncover was to indicate loose morals, yet to cover was to shame Jesus who paid for their sins. Here’s how I see it:

    Now I want you to understand that the source of every man is the Anointed One, the source of the woman is the man, and the source of the Anointed One is God. [You write,]
    It is disgraceful for a man to pray or prophesy with his head covered, but it is disgraceful for a woman to do so with her head uncovered, because it would be like having her head shaved. Because if she doesn’t cover then let her be shaved too. But if being shaved is shameful then let her wear a covering.
    Certainly a man shouldn’t cover his head since he is the image and glory of God. Yet at the same time, the woman is the glory of man, because she came from man and was made for him. So she has the power to decide what to do with her own head. After all, she too will judge messengers.

    However, woman and man are not independent of each other in the Master. Woman came from man, but after that all men have come from women, but we all really come from God. You figure it out! It is proper for a woman to pray to God without a head covering. Nature tells us nothing about hair being a disgrace for men or a glory for women; it is a natural covering for both. But if anybody wants to argue about it, consider that none of God’s communities of believers has any such custom.

    The passage just seems to flow much more smoothly with that being a quote Paul is responding to. He told them not to cover in worship as had been the Jewish practice signifying guilt before God, since Jesus took that away. But if women did not cover their heads, they would incur the wrath of society and their husbands, since only “bad” women didn’t cover at that time. They were between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

    So that’s their question (indented and italic), and Paul’s answer is first of all to explain that women are the glory of men and therefore should not be covered. Yet neither could society be instantly overturned. So Paul’s solution is to let the women themselves decide, since it’s literally their “heads” that are on the line.

    I also included the verses about long hair. Most translations render it backwards (the ISV is the exception). It isn’t even a question in the Greek, but a statement of fact: nature tells us nothing about hair length since both men and women can grow it long.

  4. I tried to put lines to mark the scripture quote but it didn’t take it. It starts with “now I want you to understand” and ends with “any such custom”.

  5. In my next post I think I will make it quite clear why I do not think Paul is quoting the Corinthians here.  I do believe he is writing about head coverings because they had questions that they brought to Paul in their letter.  However if this is a quote from the Corinthians in chapter 11, it is unlike every other quote that Paul put into his response back to the Corinthians.

    Can we look at this passage and see it as Paul writing and not the Corinthians?  I see no reason not to see that.  Would Paul have said that it is disgraceful for a man to pray with his head covered?  Yes, that is what he taught.  Likely those influenced by the Judaizers would not agree with Paul since it was their custom to cover their heads while praying.  So if the letter had questions or statement influenced by the Judaizers, this is unlikely to be a quote from the Corinthians.

    Also could it reasonably be Paul stating that the custom dictated that women whose head was uncovered in public prayer was disgraceful (or filthy)?  Yes.  That was the custom and Paul certainly would have been sympathetic to the married women’s dilemma.

    Also Paul makes reference to having the hair cut and/or having the hair shaved off.  Would he give a woman the choice to cover her head if she was shamed by having her head shaved?  A woman making a Nazirite vow would have her head shaved and would Paul force her to be in public bald or would he allow her to cover for personal shame (not for spiritual shame of her sin)?  It appears that Paul allows women to cover (for personal shame) or to uncover as the power for that decision is in their hands.

    More on this in the next post 🙂

  6. I don’t seem to have gotten the main point across.

    Whether it’s an actual verbatim quote or not, Paul is presenting a dilemma for which the Corinthians need an answer. He explains why a woman should not cover, but also recognizes why she may have to cover anyway. So he presents the problem, then the “theology” behind the problem, then leaves the final decision up to the women. He emphasizes this by saying “we have no such custom”, that is, we have no church-wide ruling.

  7. Paula,

    I agree that Paul is answering a question of the Corinthians regarding the length of hair and head coverings, etc.

    I just do not think that this is one place that is a direct quote (false tradition) presented by the Corinthians and then directly refuted by Paul.  I believe that Paul is refusing to allow men to follow the Jewish oral law that demands that men cover their heads when they pray but he is leaving the decision for women to the women’s own authority to make a decision as her head covering presented a huge dilemma for married women because of the culture of that day.

    This passage has been a difficult one for many because the translators typically have put their own interpretation into the passage by adding words that are not in the original text.  These added words change the original meaning and make the passage almost impossible to properly interpret.  It is only when we discard the added words that Paul’s meaning becomes much more obvious.

  8. I should add that just as Paula said, the passage has a question mark regarding the length of hair instead of a period.  This turns Paul’s comment into an affirmation instead of a statement refuting the cultural standards for hair as if they are God’s standards.

  9. Don,

    Do you see these verses as something that Paul is agreeing with or disagreeing with?   Also why do you not also consider verse 7 as a quote from Corinth?

  10. I am responding to Anthony who posted on the old post at http://www.strivetoenter.com/wim/2008/09/19/is-a-womans-voice-filthy/ The old post has the comments closed and all discussion is now on this new site.

    Anthony wrote:

    I believe in equal rights and a woman should have a voice but not for the sole purpose for trying to out-do a man or prove that she can be a powerhouse but to contribute to humanity.

    We cannot see what is inside a person’s heart, but the statement you made is equally valid of a man. i.e. you could have said: “I believe in equal rights and a man should have a voice but not for the sole purpose for trying to out-do a woman or prove that he can be a powerhouse but to contribute to humanity.”

    When we walk in the Spirit, we will live in the fruit of the Spirit and the problems of lording it over others will not be an issue.

    Anthony wrote:

    Some women just want to be heard just like some men but she should understand her role just like the women in the scriptures because I haven’t ran across any scriptures that ever said that a woman was a preacher, teacher, apostle-less, bishop,..but they were prophetesses which means God has put messages in their hearts that he wanted to be delivered and this was the purpose of a prophetess..to deliver messages but not to preach if god didn’t place a word for her she said nothing, and she didn’t add anything extra to the message, they took instructions seriously and they understood their roles, a message from God is just as powerful as a sermon, but it’s not to be abused on any level..and I personally believe that woman play a part in ministry just like men as long as they are obedient to their roles just like men should be.

    God Himself determines our gifts and God did not limit women in preaching nor did He limit them in receiving and giving out a message from Himself. No limitations on gifts is ever placed upon the receiver of the gift except that the gift is to be used for the benefit of all. If we take a different view, then we are fighting God Himself who is the giver of the gifts.

    Anthony wrote:

    MANY of us should not even be in office just because we have spiritual gifts I say discover how God wants you to use that gift and not the way YOU want to..that is why many will say LORD, LORD, have we not prophesied and cast out demons in your name..why will he say depart from me I NEVER knew you..that is very serious and frightening! Feel free to comment back, this was not intended to start a spiritual conflict just voicing an opinion of why I think most men (from my experience)have a problem with female spiritual leadership.

    When we deal with women in ministry we assume that we are talking about genuine believers. Anthony, your comment about Jesus saying “I NEVER knew you” shows that the person was never a believer and that does not part of the issue of women in ministry.

    I also do not believe this is the reason why most men have an issue with women in ministry. At least it has not been voiced this way on my blog. The issue has been primarily about a privileged role for males alone that somehow suffers when a gifted woman uses her gifts in what is considered a male-only privilege so that she operates only under the fear of God rather than the fear of man.

  11. Apologies about the flipping and flapping sorta off the subject I was caught up in some of the other comments which influenced my answer. from my understanding I don’t really think a woman’s voice being filthy is the real issue it’s how they are received by men. I have a few examples and stories but I don’t want to make it too long, when I said my first statement as far as women trying to out do men and prove that God can use them just as mightily as he can for a man well..it is what many churches are experiencing now ,of course that goes for men as well..I didn’t mean to sound sexist or anything, but I believe the real issue is value not filth, it’s how the woman is received by the man, I believe there are a few reasons to why a woman’s message is considered not as valued, or considered of God because in the majority of scripture you always see how God used the man for the majority of his work, and there aren’t many stories to prove that women held offices..back then,nor taught on the caliber that men taught. God has his order and he knows whom he wants to entrust it to and just about anyone that read and study the Bible can have a give a message. The churches I attended were full of drama and competition and both sides(male and female) got out of place. I believe Paul understood order which is why he stated what he stated, also prophesying and preaching are two different things like I said earlier women were used to give a message but it was a true word from God that he wanted released. That was it! Again.. I haven’t came across anything that said women held other such offices or titles or publicly spoke, or preached the Gospel. If you come across anything valid feel free to enlighten and correct me. I think this is mainly about God’s order and the devaluing from men to the voice of a woman, rather than filth. I believe that God can put a word on anyone’s heart that is open to him, but we all must make sure we treat it as such.. as God’s word not an opportunity to be heard or admired things of that nature! As far as the (I never new you part) these sound like people that are believers on some level but are laboring out of iniquity like he states, some people usually won’t bother with ministry in that nature unless they have an agenda..just me personally…I could be wrong!( Can’t wait for the time when there will be no more confusion and we will all be one and agree to one true faith)sometimes when the word doesn’t state fine printed answers to questions like we want it to we tend to fill in our own blanks at times..(I did as well)we should just go back to the original statement’ Do unto others as you would want done unto you..still a little flipping but just trying to clear up some things and just use some examples. Hope this helped if not I’ll hear from you again.

  12. Deborah the prophetess was a great example of how God used a woman to and she was embraced because she was a true vessel and was proven by God, not self appointed but CHOSEN by him. Deborah embraces her role Deborah calls herself a “mother of Israel.” While not a Queen or military leader, she took her role of mother over her people very seriously and faithfully. She followed God and led her children, the Israelites to put their faith in The Lord to deliver them from their enemies. In this she is a fine example and role model for Christian women (and men) today. In her song, you can hear her compassion for the people of Israel, her rejoicing over God’s defense of her nation and her desire for righteous judgment of the enemies of God. Her strength came through her reliance on God and she was blessed with helping to save her nation from destruction and bringing peace to her land. The close of her song typifies Deborah’s faith and the Christian life, ever looking to glorify God and trusting in His promises to glorify us in eternity I believe women are more excepted by men when they are proven by their fruits. Usually when people are chosen by God they are equipped to initiate change if they are obedient, God is strategic and careful of who he chooses for his specific assignments.

  13. Obviously Paul is referring to “wives” not women as a whole, since many women preached and taught the word. They were to ask their “husbands at home” The very first preacher was a woman when Jesus told Mary to tell his disciples he was alive.
    The women he is referring to here was “wives”, in that they were not to disrupt the services by asking their husbands while the service was going on.

  14. Hi Curtis,
    I agree that God sent forth a woman as the first preacher of the Good News. I do not believe that this was by accident, but set up by God Himself. As far as the issue of women not disrupting the early church services, this is what we were told when we were in Israel and sitting in the ruins of a synagogue. However there are several significant problems in the passage that required my view to be different than the view that this is a saying by Paul. I have a whole hour of teaching on one of my DVDs in the 4 DVD set “Women in Ministry Silenced or Set Free?” I have put a clip of it on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zryLDmoeqso I think you will find the reasoning in the DVD quite compelling. My goal was to stick to the inspired words and grammar and that changed everything for me. The result of my study of this passage was a gratefulness that He set women free to minister and that it isn’t God who holds women back.

  15. Cheryl
    I have never had a problem with women teaching or doing any kind of ministry work as I see it all the time in scripture. I really never gave it thought about it, until the Lord led me to a book written by “Kenneth E Hagin” called “the Woman Question” If you have not read this book I would highly recommend it. He goes through this topic quite thoroughly.
    There are very few books or people that I consider by their spirit safe for reading. The anointing was on his life, and it easy to spot. Kenneth E Hagin is one of those I consider God’s anointed teacher, even though I do not agree with him 100% but almost.

  16. Curtis,
    The women’s issue was a huge issue with me as I wanted God’s truth more than my own feelings. God led me to truth through the passages that have been abused and used against women. It wasn’t the positive passages that needed my attention, but the passages that seemed to contradict the positive passages. I had to know what Scripture said without any contradiction.

    The most important thing for me is to test everything by God’s Word. Jesus said that the Father wants those who worship Him to worship in Spirit and in Truth. We need the Spirit, but it must also have truth. The both together gives us the balance and it leads us to God’s truth. I know that I cannot trust my feelings as if my feelings are the measure of truth. The Spirit + the Truth = God’s Truth. Also the Scripture will never contradict God’s truth when it is read within its context and using the inspired words and grammar. That is why I work so hard to dissect the grammar, the inspired words, and the inspired context. I wish I could hold to the idea that Paul is telling wives to ask their husbands at home (as if only married women asked questions and as if married men knew all the answers) but the context and inspiration of the words and grammar do not match up with this explanation and that is why I rejected it years ago.

    I you are interested in seeing why the context doesn’t match up and what does work that also doesn’t contradict with all the great positive passages that show God has created women spiritually equal to men, I recommend my DVD set. I really do think it will challenge and correct in a gentle and thoughtful manner.

  17. Cheryl
    You and i are in agreement that we both think that men and women have the same right to speak, teach, or any other type of ministry in the Church, as God is no respecter of persons. I do believe, that in a Church service where ministry is being performed that wives, or even husbands should keep silent as that does cause a disruption to others.
    I myself who is called to teach the Word of God have experienced this myself, and I am sure you have to. The Word of God is easy to be understood by those who have the Spirit of God as their teacher, and can easily be detected in those who have that same Spirit. It all boils down to these two verses…

    1Co 14:33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,

    1Co 14:40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

  18. Curtis,
    You wrote:

    I do believe, that in a Church service where ministry is being performed that wives, or even husbands should keep silent as that does cause a disruption to others.

    In the early Church all believers were allowed to speak and there was an opportunity for one to take over from the speaker.

    1 Corinthians 14:29–30 (NASB)
    29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.
    30 But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent.

    You wrote:

    The Word of God is easy to be understood by those who have the Spirit of God as their teacher, and can easily be detected in those who have that same Spirit

    Much of the Word of God is easy to understand, but there is a portion that is very hard and takes a lot of work. Peter tells us that some things that Paul wrote are hard to understand.

    2 Peter 3:15–16 (NASB)
    15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,
    16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

    We are also told to be “diligent” in handling of the Word.

    2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

    The term “diligent” means to have an intense desire and to make every effort. A workman is a labourer, one who works hard at a task.

    We can recognize the spirit of the teacher in what is taught, but it is a lot different than working out what the Scriptures say. It can be hard work.

    I do agree that God does not contradict Himself nor is He the author of contradiction. I believe that this is why we are told to test everything by the Scriptures because they alone are the test of truth. Our subjective feelings can be deceived at times and many have gone down a wrong path because they listened to deceivers. We should not expect that God will keep us safe when we ignore what He has already said in the Word. His Word does not contradict itself for sure!

    Thank you so much for your comments.

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