When you encounter a command in Scripture that you don’t like, you have a few options available to you. You can reject it, accept it, or take a more creative approach and impose a new meaning on it.
Here’s an example of the latter approach.
The passage in question is 1st Corinthians 14:34:
“…women are to be silent in the churches. They are not permitted to speak but must be in submission, as the law says.”
The blogger is upfront about his bias:
It’s embarrassing because it so out of step with our understanding of equality and the value of women in our culture today.
This is a fairly loaded statement, because it implies that if anyone were to take Paul seriously and not try to read his meaning in a way that comports with our post-feminist society, that person doesn’t “value women” or “understand equality”.
He suggests that this statement, if interpreted literally, contradicts Paul’s theology generally, in particular his statement in Galatians that “… there is no longer… male or female”. This passage is often (ab)used to put a rubber stamp on all of the modern, often intentionally anti-Christian movements to attempt to remove distinctions between men and women. I suggest that it’s an abuse of the text, because Paul isn’t making metaphysical statements; he is saying that the Gospel is for everyone. This is obvious from the context, but if you strip that out, you can make the passage in Galatians into a Marxist toolkit.
If you decide to read the entire post, you’ll note that the author takes into account the history of Corinth, the linguistic circumstances of the day, and pretty much every piece of context that fits his case.
What he neglects, however, is the context of the passage itself as well as any parallel passages. Here’s the passage in full:
As in all the congregations of the saints, women are to be silent in the churches. They are not permitted to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they wish to inquire about something, they are to ask their own husbands at home; for it is dishonorable for a woman to speak in the church.
Did God’s word originate with you? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone considers himself a prophet or spiritual person, let him acknowledge that what I am writing you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this, he himself will be ignored.
Since these are Christians and Paul is an Apostle who has no problem taking badly behaving Christians to task, Paul could have said “Some women in your churches are misbehaving and talking out of turn, and talking out of turn isn’t good for order, so I do not permit them to do that.” Paul could not have been more clearly not saying that, though.
But it doesn’t stop there. We have a related passage in 1st Timothy 2:
A woman must learn in quietness and full submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman who was deceived and fell into transgression. Women, however, will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
I strongly suspect that the reason this passage was skipped was because Paul explains his rationale here, and it doesn’t fit the blogger’s interpretation. Paul doesn’t say “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; she is to remain quiet. For your churches have women who are misbehaving”. If that’s what he meant, he easily could have said it. Instead he traces his reasoning to the very nature of man and woman. Eve was deceived and Adam was not – and this is a huge deal.
Finally, there’s this gem summarizes his thoughts, and I think it explains what’s really going on. A feminist, thoroughly imbibing on Marxist toxin, doesn’t like the passages in Scripture that contradict feminism and all his pet liberal causes, so he imposes new meaning on them. At least in this instance, his motive is clearly stated:
Unfortunately, since many of the dominant voices throughout church history, have been straight**, white*, males, this has meant that the church has been slow in pushing past the flimsy exegesis, and damaging assumptions of our past.
Instead of being the sexist, misogynist many have taken him for, I believe that Paul brings the challenge of feminism to the Church.
It’s worth remembering that if this is true, 2000 years of Christians were women-hating, racist, homophobic, sexists who couldn’t understand Paul. It took secular anti-Christian feminist and sexual revolutions to get the church to finally see the light. Paul was, in his mind, obviously a far-left radical.
What I’d prefer, though, is for those who think all of these things to stop reinterpreting Paul and just say what they really think: Paul was wrong. Honesty is much better than manipulation.
* Most of the early church fathers were not European.
** I bet this blogger would also support the notion that the Bible has nothing meaningful to say about sexual ethics (except those cherry-picked portions that support feminism and egalitarianism). Who knew obedience to Christ’s commands about sexual activity was an unfortunate thing?