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Published Date: January 27, 2010

Published Date: January 27, 2010

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No Condemnation

Like a swimmer gripped by an undertow, the following words in the Bible when taken out of context and misinterpreted can pull women down spiritually.

“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says… it is disgraceful for a women to speak in the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:34, 35b TNIV)

Feel the strong undercurrents “disgraceful” carries. To be disgraced is to have brought shame upon one’s self and to have lost favor and respect. So when the above verses are isolated, they appear to tell all women that if they do not silence their voices and become mute within the church, then they will be viewed with shame and dishonor. Words from their mouths are unwelcome.

These verses seem to denounce women believers and condemn them to a permanently lower spiritual level than men. Taken at face value, these words contradict the equality and mutuality between male and female expressed in Galatians 3:28. Spiritual maturity becomes irrelevant where gender is concerned. Gender restrictions overrule and prohibit women from exercising certain spiritual gifts. Women are still viewed as being spiritually inferior and under a form of condemnation because God created them female instead of male. Ultimately, these isolated verses even infer that God created women’s voices to be contemptible and unredeemable.

The misuse of these verses to restrict women also attempts to keep them under the law. No wonder women can feel dragged down and stifled. So how do these detached verses make sense within the greater context of scripture? Since no written law is found anywhere in the Old Testament that fits the description in verse 34, Paul seems to be referring to the misogynistic oral law of the Judaizers. Rather than agreeing with this oral law, many believe that Paul was offering a rebuttal in the verses immediately following after it.

“(What!) did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If any think they are prophets or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. Those who ignore this will themselves be ignored. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” (1 Corinthians 14:36-40 TNIV)

In commenting on this section of scripture, Katharine Bushnell wrote:

“Paul’s contention is, that since the spirit of prophecy, which is “the word of God,” did not, as its very terms imply, come forth from anyone but God, to attempt to control prophecy by restrictions as to who may utter it, means a dictating to God as to what instruments He may employ.” [1]

If you are a woman who has felt weighted down and condemned by Bible verses misused to entangle you and to keep you under the law, grab hold of the following life preserving words:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1, 2 TNIV)

Christian women have also been released from all guilt and shame through their Savior and Redeemer. They are no longer under any condemnation. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on both sexes. Women filled with the Holy Spirit were not silent but spoke out the words given to them by God.

If you would like to read a more in-depth explanation on “Shall Women Keep Silence?” click on the following link to an online copy of Katharine Bushnell’s book God’s Word to Women (first published in 1921) and read lessons 25 through 28.

If anyone would like to purchase a copy of Katharine Bushnells’ book, please go to the CBE online bookstore

[1] Katharine Bushnell, God’s Word to Women (Minneapolis, Christians for Biblical Equality, 2003) p. 94.  “As a scholar of Hebrew and Greek, she studies the passages in their original languages and in their historical context, discovering insights sometimes obscured by Bible translators.” (quote from back cover of book)