Insights from Man and Woman, One in Christ: Part 5

This post wraps up Part 1 of Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters. Part 2 begins an exegesis of Paul’s later writings in Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 Timothy. I’m anxious to get there and find out how, if at all, Paul’s thoughts have developed from his counsel to the Galatians and Corinthians as covered in Part 1.

Without question, this chapter entitled “1 Corinthians 14:34-35: Did Paul Forbid Women to Speak in Church?” was the most weighty in technical details surrounding the text (The weight was exponentially increased for those of us who read all the footnotes!). I’ve some exposure to textual criticism but have not been trained formerly in it. Nevertheless, though the pages turned much slower for me, it was worth the effort since I learned a great deal about this important question.

Payne begins by noting that the “widely varying interpretations face three key issues: textual, exegetical, and systematic.” The central textual issue is “whether these verses are an interpolation not in the original text.” The central exegetical question focuses upon “whether Paul’s first-century Hellenistic audience would accept the obvious meaning of these words or would demand some qualification.” Finally, the systematic concern must address

“how to reconcile this triple demand for women to be silent in church with: (1) Paul’s approval of women praying and prophesying in church when their heads are “covered” (1 Cor 11:4-13); (2) “each has a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation” (14:26); (3) “you can all prophesy” (14:24, 31); (4) “all speak in tongues” (14:5, 18, 23, cf. 27); (5) the “Amen” custom (14:16); and (6) “be eager to prophesy and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (14:39).

After outlining four possibilities employed to confront this apparent contradiction (viz., that women are permitted to pray and prophesy in the church yet must remain silent), Payne concludes all are deficient. The best textual-critical data, according to Payne and “most scholars who have published their analyses of the text-critical aspects of this passage,” show 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is indeed a later addition to the original Pauline text. If true, this of course removes the charge of contradiction. The remainder of the chapter analyzes evidence for interpolation. [Incidentally, if readers wish to follow ongoing discussions for interpolation of vv. 34-35, see Payne’s entries and the entries at Evangelical Textual Criticism.)

To pique readers’ interests I will only highlight the major points put forth arguing for interpolation of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. [Note: For other examples of likely interpolations, see Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11.] Payne offers the following:

External Evidence for 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 as an Interpolation

  1. Transcriptional Probability Argues That 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Is an Interpolation
  2. Codex Vaticanus’s Distigme at the End of 14:33 Points to Interpolation
  3. Codex Fuldensis’s Text Corrected by Bishop Victor Omits 1 Corinthians 14:34-35
  4. The Most Reasonable Explanation of MS 88’s Treatment of 14:34-35 Is That MS 88 Was Copied from a Manuscript That Omitted These Verses
  5. Clement of Alexandria Reflects a Text of 1 Corinthians without 14:34-35
  6. The Apostolic Fathers Give No Sign of Awareness of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35
  7. There Is a High Incidence of Textual Variants in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35

Internal Evidence

  1. Verses 34-35 Contradict Paul’s Encouraging Women to Speak in Church
  2. Verses 34-35 Interrupt the Flow of Paul’s Argument
  3. Verses 34-35 Make Alien Use of Vocabulary from the Chapter
  4. Verses 34-35 Conflict with the Goal of Instruction in Church
  5. The Use of “just as the Law says” Does Not Fit Paul’s Theology or His Style of Expression
  6. Contrary to Paul Championing the Downtrodden, Verses 34-35 Subordinate a Weak Social Group
  7. The Vocabulary of Verses 34-35 Appear to Mimic that of 1 Timothy 2:11-15
  8. The Command in Verse 34 Addresses Women “in the churches”
  9. The Content of Verses 34-35 Fits an Obvious Motive for Interpolation

Payne finishes the chapter with this sober, and in my estimation, sound conclusion:

The thesis that 1 Cor 14:34-35 is an interpolation fits the external and internal evidence far better than any other thesis. If 1 Cor 14:34-35 is a non-Pauline interpolation, it does not carry apostolic authority and should not be used as such to restrict the speaking ministries of women, nor should it influence the exegesis of other NT passages.

This series will continue with the second half of the book and address the final ten chapters.


For a very helpful analysis see Ian Paul’s post, “What’s Going on with 1 Cor 14?”.

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