Interpretations and Applications of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35

Written by Margaret Mowczko.
Margaret Mowczko is vice president of CBE-Sydney. She has a theology degree and is currently studying for a master’s degree with Macquarie University, specialising in early Christian and Jewish studies. Margaret writes on the subject of biblical equality for her website newlife.id.au. Her work has appeared in several publications of CBE-International, and one of her articles recently won an award in the 2014 Evangelical Press Association Awards held in Anaheim, California. Margaret is a leader of her church on the Central Coast where she regularly preaches.

 
 

The women [or wives] are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject [or control] themselves, just as the law also says.  If they want to learn  anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.  1 Corinthians 14:34-35  

Introduction

Several New Testament passages are regarded as critical in the current debate about the roles of women in the church.  1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is one of these passages.[2]  Throughout the Church’s history many explanations have been offered by Bible scholars, about how 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is to be interpreted and applied.  The purpose of this article is to present brief summaries of some of these interpretations by a few well-known classical and contemporary theologians, and attempt to determine what 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 might mean and how it may be applied in contemporary church life.

 Women must be Completely Silent during Church Meetings

At first glance, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 seems very clear: Women are not permitted to talk in congregational meetings and must be silent.  This is the stance that many have taken throughout much of the Church’s history.

From Tertullian[3] to Thomas Aquinas[4], commentators concluded that women could not even sing or pray audibly among men.  Although the Reformers relaxed some of these restrictions, as late as the 1890s certain Presbyterians still forbade women’s singing in the context of church worship. (Grenz 1995:121) 

Silence is called for three times in 1 Corinthians 14; in verses 28, 30 and 34.[5]  In 1 Corinthians 14:28 and 30, silence is called for in specific situations to regulate congregational contributions to the meetings. (The “silence” in verses 28 and 30 is not gender specific.)  It is very likely that the silence called for in verse 34 is also addressing a specific situation and is not meant to be a blanket statement to silence all women for all time in church meetings.

In fact, Paul’s intention could not have been to silence women at all the times during church meetings.  In 1 Corinthians 11:5 Paul acknowledges, without disapproval, that women prophesied and prayed aloud in church.

Paul not only approved of praying and prophesying by women in the assembly but he encouraged it!  Reading 1 Corinthians 11:10 with the literal, active voice (“has authority”) instead of the presumed, passive voice (“sign of authority”), Paul states that a woman has authority[6] (has the right!) to pray and prophesy . . .  (Hicks  1990) 

If Paul condones verbal ministry from women in chapter 11 it is very unlikely that he censures it in chapter 14.  Paul was probably prohibiting a certain form of speech from the women in 14:34-35.  Several theologians have tried to identify the type of speech that Paul appears to be disallowing.

Women must not Engage in Idle Chatter in Church Meetings

Early Church Father, John Chrysostom, in his Homily 9 on First Timothy, refers to 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.  Here he wrote that the Corinthian women regarded congregational meetings as an opportunity for socialising and recreation; and that they chatted more during church gatherings then they did in the market place or the public bath.  Chrysostom wrote that this idle conversation brought confusion into church meetings.

Chrysostom[7] and many others believe that the instructions in verses 34-35 were designed to prohibit nuisance chatter from the women.  To support this understanding, some people have interpreted the Greek word laleō, used in both verse 34 and 35, to mean “chatter” or “babbling”.  Laleō, however, is a very common word in the New Testament which simply means “speak”.  Moreover, in the immediate context of verses 34-35, Paul used the word laleō three times (in 1 Corinthians 14:27-29) to refer to the speaking ministries of tongues and prophecy, and not to chatter.

If the intent of verses 34-35 was merely to silence women who were disrupting congregational meetings with inconsiderate chatter, then these verses cannot be used to silence women who have a valid speaking ministry.[8]

Women must not Disrupt Church Meetings with Rudimentary Questions

1 Corinthians 14:35 begins with, “But if they [the women] wish to learn (Greek-mathein) . . . .”  Craig S. Keener, who takes into consideration the culture of learning in the first-century, believes that the problem being addressed in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 was that women were interrupting the flow of congregational meetings by asking too many rudimentary questions.  He writes that, “Throughout the first-century Mediterranean world, novices were expected to learn quietly, but more advanced students were expected to interrupt all kinds of public lectures with questions.” (Keener 2001:50)  Keener believes that the Corinthian women may not have realised that interrupting the meetings with their very basic questions was culturally inappropriate, even shameful.  According to Keener’s explanation, 14:34-35 was not aimed at silencing women with valid speaking ministries, but was intended to silence inappropriate, ignorant questions posed by uneducated women.

Today, in most churches in the western world, spontaneous contributions from the congregation are dissuaded, and women are mostly well-educated, so if Keener’s explanation is correct, 14:34-35 has little application in contemporary church life.

It is difficult to see how verses 36-37 fits and follows on from the idea of ignorant, nuisance questions from women, unless the women were monopolising the meetings with their questions and were behaving arrogantly.  Verse 38, on the other hand, seems to fit very well with the idea of ignorant people with ignorant questions.

Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?  If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this [or is ignorant][9], they themselves will be ignored. 1 Corinthians 14:36-38 (NIV 2011)

Keener’s interpretation is plausible, especially as the idea of ignorance is emphasised in verse 38.

A popular view, somewhat similar to Keener’s explanation, is that men and women were segregated in the Corinthian church that met in a synagogue; and that women were calling out questions to their husbands,  seated some distance away, thus disturbing the meeting.  However, there is no historical or archeological evidence that supports the idea that men and women were segregated in church (or synagogue meetings) at that time.  Moreover, while the Corinthian church started in a synagogue (Acts 18:4), at the time of Paul’s letter, the church met in homes (Acts 18:7). (Keener 2004:161)

Women must not Evaluate Prophecy Audibly

1 Corinthians chapter 14 is largely advice concerned with the regulation of prophecy in church meetings.  In 14:29 Paul wrote, “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.”  With this context in mind, Wayne Grudem proposes that Paul’s intent in 14:34-35 is to silence women from evaluating prophecy.

On this view, Paul would be saying, “Let the others [that is the rest of the congregation] weigh what is said [by the prophets . . . but] the women should keep silence in the churches.” In other words, women could not give spoken criticisms of the prophecies . . . (Grudem 1988:220/1) (Grudem’s use of square brackets and italics.)

Grudem goes on to say that women may evaluate prophecy silently in their own mind, but cannot voice these evaluations audibly.

Grudem acknowledges that Paul teaches that women may pray, speak in tongues and prophecy aloud in church meetings; yet he maintains that women may not minister in any way that can be construed as exercising spiritual authority.[10]  Prophecy is arguably a very influential ministry which can carry a great deal of spiritual authority.  Significantly, Paul lists the ministry of prophecy before the ministry of teaching in the lists of ministries in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and in Ephesians 4:11.  (Cf Ephesians 2:20a; 3:5b.)

It is unclear why Grudem considers the ministry of prophecy to lack spiritual authority.  Wayne Grudem is a well-known Complementarian.[11]  Has Grudem allowed his Complementarian views to influence his assumption that the ministry of prophecy lacks spiritual authority simply because prophecy is a ministry clearly open to women in the Scriptures?[12]

While Grudem claims his position is consistent with the context of Chapter 14, it is difficult to see how verse 36 fits with his view.  The subject shifts suddenly from instructions about women (in verses 34-35), to a reprimand to a group which probably includes men, in verse 36. (More on this below.)  Grudem’s view, while possible, is not as neat as he claims.

Women must not ask Personal Questions of the Prophets

Ben Witherington takes into account the broader Corinthian culture in trying to determine the meaning of 14:34-35.  Witherington believes it is very likely that the Christians in Corinth – in particular, those with pagan backgrounds – had incorporated inappropriate pagan worship practises into Christian worship. (Witherington 1995:274 cf Keener 1992:78 and Kroeger 1978) 

Since the sixth-century BC, Corinth was very well-known for the oracle at Delphi. In the Temple of Apollos at Delphi, a woman prophet called the Pythia[13] would respond to questions asked from inquirers.[14]  In ancient times, people travelled great distances to visit Corinth and ask the Pythia questions.[15]

Ben Witherington (2010) suggests the following context for 14:34-35:

It is very believable that these women [in the Corinthian church] assumed that Christian prophets or prophetesses functioned much like the oracle at Delphi, who only prophesied in response to questions, including questions about purely personal matters. Paul argues that Christian prophecy is different: Prophets and prophetesses speak in response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, without any human priming of the pump. Paul then limits such questions to another location, namely home.

By mistaking the true function of prophets, the women were hampering the real ministry of Christian prophecy and may have been asking questions about mundane, domestic concerns that would not have interested others.[16]  If Witherington’s suggestion is correct, and Paul sought to silence the women from asking personal questions of the prophets, then, again, 14:34-35 cannot be used to silence gifted women with a valid speaking ministry.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is a Quote

While many of the theologians mentioned thus far have tried to determine the meaning of 14:34-35 by exploring the broader sociological context of the first-century Corinthian church, other theologians have explored the textual evidence of 14:34-35 in trying to determine how to interpret and apply these verses.

First Corinthians was written in response to a verbal report from Chloe’s people (1 Cor 1:11), and in response to a letter Paul had received from the Corinthians asking his advice (1 Cor 7:1).[17]  At times it is clear in his letter that Paul is quoting from the Corinthian’s letter as he deals with its contents.   Some of these quotes include, “‘it is not good for a man to touch a woman in (1 Cor 7:1); “we all possess knowledge” in (1 Cor 8:1); “there is no resurrection” and “Christ has not been raised” in (1 Cor 15:12,14).  Some scholars believe that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 may also be a quote.  This would account for the way it does not seem to fit with what Paul is saying in the surrounding verses.

It is clear from 1 Corinthians 1:10ff that there were competing factions in the Corinthian church (cf 1 Cor 11:18-19).  It is possible that one of these factions was trying to silence the women in church meetings.  This would have been a real concern for Chloe!  (More on Chloe later.)

According to this explanation, after Paul quotes the faction’s injunction for silence from women in 14:34-35, he then reprimands the faction (which includes men) with, “Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only ones [masculine gender] it has reached?” (1 Cor 14:36, NRSV, my italics and square brackets).  The masculine gender in verse 36 does not follow logically after 14:34-35 and its instructions to women. (Flanagan 1981) 

The view that 14:34-35 is a non-Pauline quote is one of the few which offers a plausible explanation for the jarring change of tone which verses 34-35 bring into the text, and the subsequent abrupt change of topic, tone and gender in verse 36.  If this explanation is the correct one, then Paul is not silencing women in 14:34-35.  Rather Paul rebukes the people who are trying to silence the women.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is an Interpolation[18]

As noted, verses 34-35 sit uncomfortably within 1 Corinthians 14, grammatically and hermeneutically.  In fact, if you skip over verses 33b-35, and go straight to verse 35 from 33a, the passage flows and makes good sense.  Furthermore, because of the existence of textual variations involving verses 34-35 in several early manuscripts of 1 Corinthians, some scholars, notably Gordon D. Fee and Philip B. Payne, suggest that 14:34-35 may have been inserted into the text of Paul’s letter by an unknown author at a very early date.[19]

In several early (mostly Western) texts of 1 Corinthians 14, verses 34-35 are located after verse 40.  Metzger (1994:499) suggests that, “Such scribal alterations represent attempts to find a more appropriate location in the context for Paul’s directive concerning women.”

The sixth-century Codex Fuldensis is very ambiguous in its treatment of verses 34-35.

The Latin text of 1 Corinthians 14 runs onward throughout the chapter to ver. 40.  Following ver. 33 is a scribal siglum that directs the reader to a note standing in the margin of the page.  This note provides the text of verses 36 through 40.  [But omits verses 34-35.] Does the scribe, without actually deleting verses 34-35 from the [main] text, intend the liturgist to omit them when reading the lesson? (Metzger 1994:499) 

These textual variations, plus others,[20] suggests that 34-35 may not be original.  If 14:34-35 is a non-Pauline interpolation, then the scriptural authority of this verse is dubious, and its use to silence women is questionable.

“Women are to subject themselves, just as ‘the Law’ also says.”

Apart from understanding what sort of speech is (supposedly) being prohibited, another significant problem with understanding the intent of 14:34-35 is knowing what is meant by the “law” (nomos) mentioned in verse 34.  Nowhere in the Old Testament, commonly referred to in the New Testament as “the Law” (nomos), does it command or instruct women to be silent or to be in submission, either to their husbands or to men in general.  Yet Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther and many other theologians took “the Law” in 14:34-35 to refer to the Old Testament, and specifically to Genesis 3:16. (Krizo 2009:33) 

Grudem, however, is careful to distance himself from linking the Complementarian concept of male authority with Genesis 3:16 and The Fall.  Grudem claims, somewhat unconvincingly, that “the Law” probably refers to the Old Testament in general, and Genesis 2 in particular “where Adam is the ‘firstborn’.” (Grudem 1988:223)  Complementarians use the created order of Adam first, and then Eve, to support their view that God has ordained all men to be the authorities over all women. [I have written about The Complementarian Concept of the Created Order here.]

Other theologians suggest that Paul is referring to a Rabbinical Law.  Still others suggest that Paul is referring to a Roman Law.  There were many Roman laws that governed various religious observances in the Roman world.  Richard and Catherine Kroeger (1978:9) believe that Paul is referring to laws passed by the Roman Senate that were designed to curb women from engaging in wild, orgiastic Bacchanal worship.  The Kroegers believe that the Corinthian Christian women may have imitated Bacchanalian worship styles in church meetings, and Paul instructs them in 14:34-35 to be silent, control themselves, and stop acting disgracefully.[21]  Grudem (1988:223), however, writes that “. . . in the 119 occurrences of the word “law” (nomos) in Paul’s letters it never unambiguously refers to either Rabbinic law or Roman Law.”  [More evidence supporting the idea that Roman law is being spoken about in 1 Cor 14:34, here.]

As already noted, the Old Testament contains no instructions, or even encouragments, for women to be silent or submissive.[22]  Jim Reiher (2006:83) suggests that since the Greek Christians in Corinth would not have known the Jewish law as well as the Jewish Christians, it is possible the Corinthians may have simply been mistaken on this issue of “the Law”.   Or perhaps the people who were trying to silence women in the Corinthian church mentioned “the Law” speciously to support their view.

The ambiguous reference to “the law” is a hindrance to understanding the real meaning of 14:34-35.  The word “subject” (or “submission”) is less ambiguous.[23]  Most people mistakenly assume that the submission called for in verse 34 is the submission of wives to husbands.  Some apply it even more widely and believe that the women as a group were being commanded to be subject to the men.  Importantly, however, the same word “submission” is also used two verses earlier, in verse 32, where it literally says, “The spirits of prophets are subject to the prophets.”  The Kroegers (1978), and others, believe that Paul is using the word “subject/submission to mean “control”, and that Paul is instructing the prophets to control their spiritual gift of prophecy and not get carried away like some pagan prophets.  The NIV conveys this meaning in its translation of verse 32: “The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of the prophets.” (My italics.)  Similarly, the use of the word “subject/submission” in verse 34 may simply be an injunction to the women to exercise control in the manner they prophecy (or restraint in asking questions) and not get carried away.

Chloe of Corinth

One woman who ministered in the church at Corinth was Chloe.  In the opening chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul writes that he has learnt that there are problems and factions within the Corinthian church from some people who had come from Chloe (1 Cor 1:11).[24]  These people somehow belonged to Chloe.  They may have been members of her household, or members of her church, or perhaps both. [25]

Chloe had sent these people to Paul.  Sending a delegation is clearly something only a person functioning as a leader can do.  Considering the purpose of the delegation, it seems that Chloe was a church leader.[26]  Perhaps Chloe’s people did not just bring a verbal report to Paul about the problems in the Corinthian church; perhaps they also brought the letter which Paul responds to in 1 Corinthians.[27]  Could Chloe, as a concerned church leader in Corinth, have written this letter?

In New Testament times, most Christian congregations met in homes, and some house churches were hosted and led by women.  Nympha most likely a house church leader (Col 4:15), and so was Priscilla, with her husband Aquila (1 Cor 16:19).[28]  It is unlikely that Paul would restrict the ministry of women church leaders ministering in their own homes, especially as the New Testament provides ample evidence that Paul greatly valued the ministry of many of his female colleagues.  Knowing that some early churches were led by women, makes the interpretation and application that women may not speak authoritatively in the church very unlikely.

Conclusion

The summaries presented in this article are just a sample of some of the better known interpretations of 14:34-35.  Still more interpretations have been proposed by respected scholars.  Because of this vast variety of interpretations, it is difficult to know precisely how to apply these verses, especially in the context of the contemporary church.

One thing is certain.  1 Corinthians 14:34-35 cannot be used to completely silence women from speaking in church meetings, as Paul condones the verbal ministries of prayer and prophecy from women.  Taking into account that Paul condones women who prophecy, it is difficult to see how 14:34-35 can be used to exclude women from other influential speaking ministries in the church. [29]

The meaning, intent, and possibly the authorship, of 14:34-35 is far from certain.  Because of this uncertainty, 14:34-35 should not be used definitively in the continuing debate about women’s roles in ministry.  1 Corinthians 14:34-35 cannot be used legitimately to prohibit women who are called, gifted and qualified from exercising a ministry which includes public speaking.


Endnotes

The Bibliography to this article is here.

[1] The Greek word gunē can mean “woman” or “wife”.  The precise meaning is usually determined by context.

[2] Some believe the passage being discussed in this essay should begin half-way through verse 33. However, “. . . to begin a new paragraph at 33b would produce an awkward redundancy: ‘As in all the churches of the saints, let the women be silent in the churches’. . . ”   Moreover, “ ‘Let the women . . .’ is a typical Pauline start to a new paragraph (see Eph 5:22; Col 3:18).  (Belleville 2001:117)

[3] E.g.“It is not permitted to a woman to speak in the church; neither (is it permitted for her) to teach, nor to baptize, nor to offer, nor to claim to herself a lot in any manly function, not to speak (in any) sacerdotal office.”  Tertullian, On the Veiling of Virgins, Chapter 9.

[4] E.g.  “Speech may be employed in two ways: in one way privately, to one or a few, in familiar conversation, and in this respect the grace of the word may be becoming to women.  In another way, publicly, addressing oneself to the whole church, and this is not permitted to women.” AquinasSumma Theologica, II-II, Question 177, Article 2.

[5] The Greek word used for “silent” in 1 Corinthians 14:28, 30 & 34 is sigaō; all three occurrences are in the imperative (command tense).  The NASB and NRSV, etc, have translated sigaō consistently as “silent” in 1 Corinthians 14, the NIV 2011 has not.

[6] The Greek word exousia, usually translated as “authority” in 1 Corinthians 11:10, is a common word in the New Testament and can mean authority, right, freedom, licence, etc.  According to Paul, women have the freedom, or the right, to pray and prophecy aloud in church meetings with their own authority (exousia) upon their own heads (1 Cor 11:10).

[7] While Chrysostom believed that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 was intended to silence idle chatter, he maintained that these verses are also prohibited women from speaking about spiritual things.

[8] Contra the explanation that 14:34-35 were designed to silence chatter from disorderly women (and several very similar views), Stephen B. Clark (1980) states unashamedly that, “All these views miss an important point: Paul instructs the women to be silent because they are women, not because they are disorderly.”

[9] The Greek word agnoeō can mean “to be ignorant, not to understand; sin through ignorance.”  (Perchbacher 1990:4)

[10] In accordance with his Complementarian ideology, Grudem (1988:224) believes that in 14:34-35 “. . . Paul is arguing from a larger conviction about an abiding distinction between the roles appropriate to males and those appropriate females in the Christian Church.”  To assist churches (which hold Complementarian views) to work out what ministries are “inappropriate” for women, Grudem (1995) has painstakingly listed 83 church ministries in, what he considers to be, decreasing order of Spiritual authority.  (These 83 ministries are categorised in three lists.)  The idea is that a line is drawn somewhere in the lists and that women are excluded from the ministries higher up in the lists.   Where the exactly the line is to be drawn seems incredibly arbitrary. [My article entitled Wayne Grudem on What Women Should Do in Church here.]

[11] Complementarians believe that God has ordained only men to be leaders and have spiritual authority; and conversely, that women have been designed to be submissive and responsive to male-only leadership and authority.  They prohibit women from leading and teaching groups which include men.  It is beyond the scope of this essay to discuss the validity and veracity of Complementarian beliefs.

Many Complementarians, including D.A. Carson and John Mark Hicks, etc, hold to similar interpretations of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 as Grudem.

[12] Huldah, Miriam, Deborah and Anna are acknowledged as respected prophetesses in the Bible.  Philip’s daughters were most likely recognized as prophetesses also.

[13] In Acts 16:16, the fortune-telling slave girl in Philippi is referred to in the Greek as having a “pythian spirit” (pneuma pythōna).

[14] It is widely believed that the female Pythia sat on a three-legged stool which was positioned over noxious vapours that escaped through a fissure in the earth.  The noxious vapours caused the Pythia to become delirious and speak gibberish.  The gibberish was then interpreted by a male priest-prophet.  Ben Witherington however relies on the scholarship of Joseph Fontenrose (1978:197) who claims that the Pythia experienced no frenzy that caused her to shout wild and unintelligible words; she spoke quite clearly and directly to the consultant without the need of the prophet’s mediation.”

[15] By New Testament times, interest in the Delphic Oracle was declining.

[16] Legendary sources and ancient papyri provide information about what sort of questions were posed to the oracle.  These questions included questions about domestic concerns such as marriage, child bearing, separation and the death of a spouse. (Witherington 1995:279)

[17] First Corinthians may be a compilation of several letters that Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians.  L. L. Welborn proposes that there are three letters contained in First Corinthians.  Letter A (1Cor. 10:1-22; 6:12-20; 10:23-11:34) covers issues related to associating with immoral and idolatrous people.   Letter B (1 Cor. 7-9, 12-16) was written in response to a letter from the Corinthians.  Welborn refers to Letter C (1 Cor. 1:1-6:11) as “Counsel of Concord”.  L. L. Welborn, “The Corinthian Correspondence” (forthcoming).

[18] Interpolations are later additions inserted into the Scriptures by unknown authors.  Grudem is disingenuous when he criticises those who dismiss some Bible verses as interpolations.  Interpolations are not rare in the New Testament.  Several interpolations, such as the Johannine Comma (1 Jn 5:7-8) and the ending of Mark’s Gospel (Mk 16:9-20) are widely acknowledged as such.

[19] Verses 34-35 may have started out as someone’s margin notes in a very early text, which a copyist then later incorporated into the body of Paul’s letter when making new copies of 1 Corinthians.

[20] The Textus Receptus, and other manuscripts, include humōn (“your”) after the Greek word for women/wives.  This is probably a scribal addition as many older texts do not have humōn.  See endnote 23 for other textual variations.

[21] Ancient Corinth was a centre for the worship of Bacchus, also known as Dionysus.

[22] Jesus ben Sirach, whose apocryphal work is included in the Septuagint (the 2nd century BC Greek translation of the Old Testament), wrote that “a silent wife (or woman) is a gift from the Lord” (Sir 26:13-15).  Is this where the idea of womanly silence and submission and “the law” came from?  Sirach’s apocryphal work, which reveals his misogynistic views, cannot qualify as belonging to the Old Testament Law.

[23] The Majority Text and Textus Receptus use the present middle infinitive form of hupotassō, other (more reliable) manuscripts use the present passive imperative.  Hupotassō has a broader range of meanings other than just “submit” and “subordinate”.

[24] The NIV 2011 translates 1 Corinthians 1:11 as: “My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.”  The word “household” has been added; it is not in the Greek text.  A more accurate translation would be: “. . . some [people] from Chloe have informed me . . . ”

[25] Lydia (Acts 16:15, 40) and Mary the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12) were in charge of their households and used their homes to host church meetings.

[26] Chloe was obviously known to the Corinthian church, otherwise Paul would not have mentioned her by name in his letter to them.  Catherine Clark Kroeger (2002:646) writes that, “ ‘Chloe’s people’ probably indicates a worshipping community with a female leader.”

[27] About one quarter of 1 Corinthians deals with information Paul received through Chloe’s report.  (Wilson 1991: 172) 

[28] Other New Testament women who were probably house church leaders include Euodia and Syntyche (Php 4:2-3) and the Chosen Lady (2 John 1, 5).  Philip’s daughter (Ac 21:9), Phoebe (Ro 16:1-2), Junia (Ro 16:7) and some of the other women mentioned in Romans 16 were possibly church leaders also.

[29] 1 Timothy 2:12-15 is also used by some churches to prohibit women from ministries that include speaking, teaching and leading.  [I have written about 1 Timothy 2:12 in Context here.]

© 8th of July 2011, revised 11th of January 2012, Margaret Mowczko
This article was first published at newlife.id.au here.

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