Women were lightly valued in the ancient Greco-Roman and yes—even the Jewish world. So God goes out of his way to highly value them.
The testimony of a woman was considered near-worthless back then. So God arranges that the two most important newsflashes in history be given to women.
The news that Jesus is the promised Messiah? First given to a woman:
“I know that Messiah is coming, who is called Christ. Whenever that one comes, he will declare all things to us openly.” Jesus said to her: “I am he, the one speaking to you.” (John 4: 25-26) Even the disciples had to jump through hoops for that one.
Jesus raised from the dead? That bit of intelligence also first given to women:
“Why are you looking for the living one among the dead?” the angel asked the women. “He is not here, but has been raised up. Recall how he spoke to you while he was yet in Galilee, saying that the Son of man must be handed over to sinful men and be executed on the stake and on the third day rise.” Then they remembered his words, and they returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. They were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. Also, the rest of the women with them were telling these things to the apostles. However, these sayings seemed like nonsense to them, and they would not believe the women.(Luke 24:5-11)
They didn’t believe them! Because the testimony of a woman was worthless? The angel doesn’t even bother to correct the men. They’d figure it out eventually, the clods.
And don’t get me going about Jael in the Old Testament, who had the privilege of pounding a tent pin through Sisera’s head! Sometimes guys need that. (Judges 4:25)
So who do you think is assigned the talk explaining the apostle Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 14:34? Me, that’s who! It’s not the easiest assignment in the world. Just listen to what Paul wrote:
“Let the women keep silent in the congregations, for it is not permitted for them to speak. Rather, let them be in subjection, as the Law also says. If they want to learn something, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the congregation.”
I mean, how are you going to put lipstick on that one? How are you going to account for how they speak all the time in today’s Kingdom Hall meetings? The guy doesn’t even try to be politically correct—that’s Paul’s problem! From this verse stem the modern complaints that he didn’t like women and that he was misogynistic.
Well, for a guy who doesn’t like women, he sure applauded enough of them. There is Phoebe, who has “proved to be a defender of many, including me.” (Rom 16:1-2) There is Euodia and Syntyche, who “have striven side by side with me for the good news” (Phil 4:2-3) And when Lydia “just made us come,” she didn’t interject, “Not you Paul—you’re a misogynist.” (Acts 16:15)
Women weren’t the only ones told to keep silent in that 1 Corinthians chapter. Men were, too, so that it appears to be a matter of special circumstances. Of gifts of the spirit that were destined to fade away but hadn’t yet in those days of Christianity’s infancy, congregation members who would speak in tongues when no one was around to interpret were to keep silent—what good is a tongue if nobody is around to understand it? (vs 28)
If someone was exercising the gift of prophesy and another started doing the same, one or the other was to keep silent. That way “all things take place for building up,” (vs 26) appropriate since “God is a God not of disorder but of peace.” (vs 33)
Always you have to figure in context for any item of scripture. It appears that the women who were to keep silent in 1 Corinthians 14 were also those of special circumstances. Maybe they were speaking just any old time out of order. Maybe they were challenging congregation teachers—male as a matter of spiritual headship. Maybe they were angling to be teachers themselves. It is not a verse that precludes commenting in the orderly Q & A structure of how meetings are carried on today, the same as men are to do.
So I ran all these points past the congregation in my talk. Afterwards, no women gave me dirty looks. At least, no more than normal.