Does I Cor 14:34-35 Apply Today?

Some gospel preachers argue I Corinthians 14:34-35 is only talking about prophets’ wives, and since we don’t have prophets today, therefore the passage’s prohibition against women preachers does not apply today.

But as a general rule in this book, the second person refers to the church (1:2) or brethren (14:6,20,26,39) as a whole, while the third person is used when referring to the tongue speakers or prophets specifically (e.g., “him” in verse 28). Just as we do when we are writing a letter, Paul uses the second person to address who he is talking to (the Corinthians as a whole). Paul uses the third person to talk about (not to) a select group of the Corinthians, like the tongue speakers and the prophets. And since I Cor 14:34-35 is addressing “your women” (in the second person), then it naturally follows the passage is addressing the Corinthian women as a whole.

But let me emphasize that even if I am wrong about who the “your women” of verse 34 are, that is, if “your women” does refer only to the prophet’s wives, I Cor 14:34-35 would still apply to women today because verse 35 generalizes the passage to all women, then and now. Whoever the “your women” of verse 34 are, whether they are the Corinthian women as a whole or just the prophets’ wives, verse 35 says they should be silent because “it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” In other words, the Corinthian women (or the prophets’ wives) are not permitted to speak in the assembly, because it is wrong for women in general (all women everywhere) to speak in the church.

And so this passage certainly applies to all women everywhere, then and today!

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Patrick Donahue