I am going to change up my format a little, but here goes for 1 Corinthians. I’m going to go over two passages, and I’ll even mention a connection of what Paul may or may not be referencing.
I notice here that Paul is taking an interesting approach to ministry. Everyone immediately notices Paul at first putting forward a point of Man over Woman. And it’s somewhat legitimate. Paul is definitely recognizing a status quo position for that time. And in some ways, he is definitely encouraging people to not buck the current system completely. Paul seems to recognize the view of Woman from Man and Woman for Man. However, Paul never likes to make things simple.
Notice in verse 11 that he begins by saying “in the Lord.” Why would Paul say this? Well, he might be recognizing that as far as things of this world are concerned, we should choose our battles and go with the woman acting with social propriety. But his second point seems to say that in the Lord there is no male and female (which is a point that we will revisit in Galatians).
Also, prophecy is always tricky to understand. I’ll go ahead and say that it is not specifically telling about Christ or just sharing general truths of God. It’s not even primarily sharing a message in an unknown tongue (although that can be a gift of the Spirit). Prophecy goes back to the Old Testament. It was a practice going back to the days of Moses. One recurring element about the prophets is that they always would critique what was wrong in their religion and then point to a better way. Sometime they would tell of things to come, call people nasty names, or even make a mockery of what the Israelites practiced when opposing God. They would even stand in front of Kings and tell them that they were not being good people (note that any other person who did this would be killed on the spot and that sometimes prophets were killed for expressing this critique). This is a position of great authority. Maybe Paul’s focus is not so much about putting women in their place as it is giving them a way to use their Christian authority in public. Remember that there were hardly any women if any who were prophets up until that time. This is a major step to allowing women more freedom to express Spiritual Authority (note the second verse I mentioned since it is key to understanding the Jewish hope and what it had to do with prophecy).
And this is where things get crazy…
Sometimes the Scriptures can throw you a curve ball when you’re not expecting it. In this spot, I can’t help but wonder if Paul changed his mind. I’m not going to say one interpretation of this verse is the one to go with. You might read this as Paul saying Women can’t say anything until their husbands have a free moment to explain or that women should just simply submit to the order of the meeting (which is a little more complex than just simply submitting to husbands).
I tend to go with the last one.
I usually try to interpret things in light of certain verses which seem more unique to Christianity rather than something that tries to fit in with the status quo. The way that applies here would seem to be in that Paul is more worried with giving women an outlet to express some form of authority by the Spirit rather than suppressing the Spirit that is trying to work through them. When we see a description beginning with “in the Lord” or “in Christ,” we have to pay attention to what is being said. It might not be as simple as surface reading which tries to take things simple and literal.
Think on these things. Find out for yourself what you think Paul is actually saying.
“There is no…male and female” Galatians 3:28