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The Epistles of Paul - 1 Corinthians Part 16: Christian Assembly
In 1 Corinthians chapter 11 Paul of Tarsus had been addressing Christian deportment within the assemblies of the Body of Christ. From there, in chapters 12 and 13 he discussed the various gifts which each member of the Body receives from God. While Paul does not speak explicitly of fleshly gifts, he does mention that various members of the Body are granted certain abilities, or are given greater wealth and therefore they have the ability to share in carnal things, and he lists among the noble things which a Christian may do which are generally perceived by men as being fleshly or worldly. Therefore it should be perceived that those with abilities, or those who have wealth, are also the recipients of spiritual gifts and that they also should use those gifts to edify the assembly in the same manner as those who interpret prophecy or those who speak in tongues.
All of this is evident in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, because in the very same place where Paul had written that “if I have the gift of interpretation of prophecy, and I know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if perhaps I have all the faith so as to remove mountains, but I do not have love, I am naught” he also wrote that “if perhaps I employ all my possessions in feeding others, and if I would hand over my body in order that I may boast, but I do not have love, I am due nothing.”
Making this exposition of the gifts within a Christian assembly in conjunction with an appeal for the need of Christian love among the members of the Body of Christ, it is evident that Paul's underlying purpose was to correct those Corinthians whom he had admonished in chapter 11, who had been bringing food and drink to their Christian gatherings and eating, while some less fortunate Christians were going hungry. While Paul had asked them directly in chapter 11 whether they had houses in which to eat and to drink, telling them that they should eat their meals at home, on the other hand in chapter 13 he made an example of things a noble Christian may do for the assembly that would be of benefit to him later, and one of those things was to employ one's wealth in the nourishment of the poorer members of the assembly.
Therefore it should be manifest, that some members of the body are blessed with spiritual gifts, and they are obliged to share those things with their brethren for the edification of the Body of Christ. However those members of the body who are blessed with what men may perceive to be carnal gifts, they too are obligated to share their gifts with their brethren for the edification of the Body of Christ. Out of love, and certainly not for personal aggrandizement, should Christians seek to use whatever gifts it is that God has bestowed upon them for the edification of the Body of Christ. And if for whatever reason one cannot share those gifts, he should leave what he does have at home, rather than flaunt it before his fellow Christians. As Paul also said, love does not vaunt itself or become inflated or seek things for itself.
After explaining that all of the gifts granted by men in this life are temporal, even the most precious gifts of the spirit, Paul informs us that love endures. It must be kept in mind that at the end of 1 Corinthians chapter 11 Paul had already explained that the members of the Body of Christ, whom he considers “Israel according to the flesh”, were obligated to distinguish themselves from those who are unworthy of the Body. From this the Christian may perceive that it is through love for God and Kindred that one stores up treasure in heaven. Here in 1 Corinthians chapter 14, Paul continues his admonishment concerning love, and his discourse concerning Christian deportment.
1 Pursue that love, admire the spiritual things, and still more that you may interpret prophecy.
As we have explained over the past several presentations of this epistle, the Greek word translated as to interpret prophecy here may also be interpreted so as to mean merely to prophesy, in the sense of one who is able to reveal to others things which are not generally known. The examples of this attribute in Christ are in the Gospel of John, where He interacts with Nathanael in John chapter 1:47-49, and with the Samaritan woman at the well in chapter 4:16-19.
From John chapter 1: “47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. 49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.”
From John chapter 4: “16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. 19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.”
This ability to reveal things which could otherwise not be known except through the Holy Spirit must be what Yahweh had promised in Joel chapter 2, which Peter had quoted in Acts in connection with the first Christian Pentecost: “28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.”
2 For he speaking in a language speaks not to men but to Yahweh, indeed no one hears, but he speaks mysteries in Spirit.
The King James Version takes the Greek word γλῶσσα (Strong's # 1100), which is a tongue but which was also used to describe a language, and it adds the word unknown in front of it even though that word does not appear in the Greek. One may isolate this verse and imagine that Paul is talking about other-worldly languages which are not comprehensible to man, however that is simply not the case and it is not fair to isolate any verse of Scripture in such a manner, removing it from its context. Rather, in verse 10 of this chapter Paul clarifies his meaning, where he says that there are many sorts of languages in the Society, or in the world. Therefore Paul is talking about worldly languages. There may be contention over this because Paul mentioned earlier, in chapter 13, “the tongues of men and angels”, but there in that verse Paul is only making a hypothetical example, and he is not stating a definite fact. Furthermore, he is also about to explain that unless the languages which one may speak have people here in the world who can understand them, they are useless to men and one is better off keeping such things to oneself.
3 But he that interprets prophecies, to men speaks for building and encouragement and exhortation.
This can of course refer to one who interprets the Old Testament prophets, or to one who has the ability by the Spirit to reveal hidden things which are not generally known. It may very well be that Paul is using the term in both senses, however it is the second sense that is meant in the later portion of this chapter, where after mentioning the utility of speaking in tongues Paul says “24 But if perhaps all might interpret prophecy, and some unbeliever or uninstructed may enter; he is brought convincing proof by all, he is examined by all; 25 the secrets of his heart become evident, and thus falling upon his face he will worship Yahweh, announcing that truly Yahweh is among you.” This also describes the reaction of the Samaritan woman at the well when Christ said to her “thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband”.
4 He speaking in a language builds himself, but he interpreting prophecy builds the assembly.
As Paul says below in verse 5, speaking in a language is pretty much useless to everyone except the speaker, unless others nearby understand what is being spoken. Therefore prophecy, or the interpretation of prophecy, is the greater gift of the two. We must keep in mind that Paul is still answering questions that the assembly in Corinth had asked of him in a letter, which is evident at the opening of chapter 7 of this epistle, and therefore the assembly must have inquired of Paul as to the value and use of these gifts of the Spirit as well as the other things which he has discussed here.
5 Now I wish you all to speak languages, but still more that you should interpret prophecy: indeed greater is he interpreting prophecies than he speaking languages, unless publicly he would explain what was said, in order that the assembly would receive building.
There is a phrase here in verse 5, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ, for which the King James Version has only the word except. The Greek word ἐκτός literally means outside, beyond or exterior. But as we often do in English, so also in Greek was the word ἐκτός used in certain contexts to say except, in phrases such as where we may say something like outside of my paycheck I have no money, or outside of the rent all of the bills are paid. However this is an idiom and it is not the primary use of the word. Paul did clearly use the word ἐκτός to mean except in the sense of being outside of something, without the accompanying phrase εἰ μὴ, in 1 Corinthians 15:27.
The phrase εἰ μὴ, according to Joseph Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon and others, is a conditional phrase which by itself means unless or except. Therefore here in this verse, one phrase or the other, either ἐκτός or εἰ μὴ, is ignored by the King James Version translation and all of the other major translations. Where in other places Paul had often used either ἐκτός or εἰ μὴ to say except or unless, one cannot merely take it for granted that he is being redundant in the three places in his surviving epistles where he uses both terms in the same phrase. While it does not bear much significance in this particular passage, it certainly does in places such as 1 Corinthians 15:2 and 1 Timothy 5:19, the other two places where this exact same phrase appears in Paul's writing.
It is not fair to assume that Paul was using these words redundantly when in all three instances interpreting the phrase ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ as unless outside or unless publicly makes perfect sense according to the context and also literally represents all of the words of the phrase, ignoring nothing. We shall discuss this further when we present 1 Corinthians chapter 15.
Here Paul is saying that if there is no interpreter, if there is no one present who may understand a language, then there is no reason for speaking in that language publicly. But if interpreters or people who understand the language are present, then it certainly would be edifying to speak in that language before the assembly. If there are interpreters of a tongue, then speaking in that tongue is every bit as useful to those of the assembly than the interpretation of prophecy.
6 And now, brethren, if perhaps I come before you speaking languages, what benefit will I be to you, unless to you I would speak either in revelation or in knowledge, or in interpretation of prophecy, or in teaching?
So we also see that speaking in a foreign language is nothing by itself, but rather it is what is said in that language which is important, that those who hear and can understand it are edified by one of these other gifts of the Spirit which operate in concert.
From Acts chapter 2: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues just as the Spirit gave them to utter. 5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Judaeans, devout men from every nation under the heaven. 6 Then with the occurrence of this sound the multitude gathered and was confused, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 And they were astonished and wondered saying "Behold, are not all of these who are speaking Galilaians? 8 Then how do we each hear in our own language, with which we were raised? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and those dwelling in Mesopotamia, and Judaea and Kappadokia, Pontos and Asia, 10 and Phrugia and Pamphulia, Egypt and the regions of Libua throughout Kurene, and the Romans who were sojourning - 11 both Judaeans and converts - Kretans and Arabs, we hear their speaking in our own tongues the magnificent things of Yahweh.” Ostensibly, when the apostles were speaking in tongues, they were not just babbling. Rather they were speaking in intelligible languages in the presence of men who already understood those languages, and through them they were sharing revelations, knowledge, interpretations of prophecy and teachings.
7 Like [reading ὁμῶς “like” rather than ὅμως “and even”] lifeless things giving a sound, whether flute or lyre, if perhaps they did not give a distinction in their voices, how will one know that being played on the flute or that being played on the lyre? 8 Indeed then if perhaps a trumpet would give an uncertain sound, why would one prepare for war?
In ancient cities trumpets were used to call the citizenry to various functions, including war. If the trumpets sounded ambiguously, the people would be confused regarding what to do.
9 Just as also you, unless by means of language you would give speech clear to understand, how will one know that being spoken? Indeed you will be speaking into the air.
Here we have a principal set forth by Paul whereby we should understand that when his letters are read that his words are to be taken by their plain, everyday Greek meanings. Therefore sperma means seed as in actual physical descendants, ethnos means nation as in a homogenous group of genetically related people, a father and forefather are literal genetic male ancestors, oikos means household as in the members of a genetic family of people, and Israel according to the flesh means actual fleshly genetic descendants of the ancient Israelites, which Paul attests are found both among the Judaeans (in Romans 9) and among the Greeks and Romans (in Romans 4 and 1 Corinthians 10).
None of these words can have any special theological meaning outside of the common Koine Greek vernacular, or else Paul may have been saying one thing, and the people of the assemblies to whom he wrote would have been understanding something quite differently than what he was saying! The denominational churches are therefore attempting to make Paul of Tarsus into a liar when they claim that some of his words did not mean what they say, and rather they claim that those words had some special spiritual meaning which is not found in the common Greek of the time. If the people of those assemblies did not understand the plain meaning of Paul's words in their common Greek vernacular, then Paul was speaking into the air. In truth, Paul is true, he meant exactly what he wrote, and the universalist denominational churches are the liars.
10 So many, if for example, sorts of speech there are in the Society, and not one [the MT has “one of them”, the text follows P46, א, A, B, D and 048] without a voice.
This use of the verb τύχοι to mean for example is found here and in 1 Corinthians 15:37, and it is literally perchance or perhaps. The root verb τυγχάνω means to hit upon, light upon, or to happen. Both Liddell & Scott (τυγχάνω, B., III., 2.) and Joseph Thayer (τυγχάνω, 2.) discuss these specific instances where they each explain the adverbial use of this verb and its use in the manner in which we have translated it here.
While we translated the word ἄφωνος (Strong's # 880) literally, since it most basically means without a voice, the King James Version did well to render it as without signification here. Our hesitation to follow it is only because Paul's intention may well have been to say that of those worldly languages, they all have someone who understands and speaks with them.
In any event, Paul is speaking of worldly languages, tongues that are already established and commonly used by at least some of the people of the Greco-Roman world. His statements here clearly discredit the insane babbling and childish so-called interpretation conducted among certain of the modern denominational sects, which for some strange reason seems to occur only on Sunday mornings.
In other words, if there were truth to the modern phenomenon of speaking in tongues which we see in the so-called Pentecostal churches, then it would be attested to continually in all areas of daily life, and not just in a “church”. [If from this point it ever does become a fad, we will know that satan is listening to these podcasts.]
11 Then if perhaps I do not know the meaning of the speech, I will be foreign to he who is speaking, and he who is speaking foreign in respect to me.
Speaking in tongues is useless unless those tongues represent a language which is commonly understood by at least someone among those who are listening. The word for foreign here is the Greek word βάρβαρος, or barbarian.
12 Even so you also, since you are a zealous admirer of spirits, for the building of the assembly you must seek in order that you have the advantage.
The word order for this verse is the original. The King James Version has excel rather than advantage. The Codex Alexandrinus (A) and another 5th century manuscript, the Codex Freerianus (I 016) have the last clause of this verse to read “... in order that you would interpret prophecy.”
Seeking the building of the assembly, we seek to employ whatever gifts we have in the edification of the Body of Christ, and as we asserted at the beginning of this presentation, the advantage is in storing up treasure in heaven by showing our love for our brethren.
As for the phrase “admirer of spirits”, all of the ancient Greek manuscripts have πνευμάτων, the Genitive Plural of πνεῦμα or spirit (Strong's # 4151), and therefore the word it is rendered properly and literally to mean “of spirits”. Some 9th and 10th century manuscripts, which the King James Version seems to have followed, have the word πνευματικῶν instead, which is the Genitive plural of πνευματικός, or spiritual. To that the King James Version added the word gifts in order for it to make sense. In all of the oldest copies Paul is recorded to have said spirits instead, although some Latin and Aramaic manuscripts do have a word equivalent to spiritual.
13 On which account he who is speaking in a language must pray in order that he may explain. 14 For if perhaps I pray in a language, my Spirit prays, but my perception is barren. 15 What is it then? I will pray in Spirit, but I will also pray with the mind. I will sing with the Spirit, but I will also sing with the mind.
Paul had written something in Romans that seems to be related to this statement, where he said “And in like manner the Spirit assists us with our weakness; for that which we should pray for, regarding what there is need of, we do not know, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible utterances.” (Romans 8:26) However the phrase “inexpressible utterances” only implies that the Spirit can communicate with God in a manner other than the words of a language, and not with a strange language.
If we could speak in tongues then we should pray that we ourselves understand the things which we say. Praying in the Spirit is silent prayer, and there is an example found in Hannah in 1 Samuel chapter 1. Christians should pray with their minds and not with thoughts or words that they cannot understand. If we pray in a foreign tongue it is useless to us if we do not understand what we think or say.
In Romans Paul was talking about a different aspect of communication between God and man, which man may not even be conscious of. But here Paul is discussing the prayer or praise of God that a man offers consciously, that man should pray and praise God perceptibly, with understanding of mind and not with useless babble.
16 Since if perhaps you would speak well with the Spirit, he who is sitting in [or literally “he who is filling”] the place of the uninstructed, how shall he proclaim ‘Truth’ [or “Amen”, the word is from a Hebrew adverb which expresses agreement with something perceived to be a truth, which we prefer to translate] upon your giving of thanks, [the NA27 rather clumsily ends the interrogation here after “thanks”] seeing that what you say he does not know? 17 For you indeed give thanks rightly, but the other is not built up.
The “place of the uninstructed” seems to be a place within the meeting-place of the Christian assembly designated for those who are new to the community. The word for place is explicit in the Greek, and the phrase rendered as sitting in in verse 16 is literally filling, which therefore must refer to a specific area within the general meeting-place. We may conjecture that this custom is a hold-over from the synagogues of the Judaeans, which many of these Greek Corinthians had attended before having met with Paul and becoming Christians (Acts 18:4). Speaking in tongues is useless if the language is not understood by those present, since if the words are meaningless to them then there is no edification in them.
18 I give thanks to Yahweh speaking in more languages than all of you, 19 but in the assembly I wish to speak five words with my mind, in order that I may instruct others also, than a myriad of words in a language.
The Codices Sinaiticus (א), Vaticanus (B) and Vaticanus Graecus (048) have verse 18 to read “I give thanks to Yahweh that I speak in more languages than all of you”, which would seem to imply that Paul had vaunted himself above the assembly contrary to his own admonitions in chapter 13 of this epistle. The text of the Christogenea New Testament follows the 3rd century papyrus P46 which has the Infinitive form of the verb for speak (λαλεῖν) rather than the First Person Present Indicative (λαλῶ). The MT has the Participle (λαλῶν) , a reading which would not change the translation in the text of the Christogenea New Testament. The Codex Alexandrinus (A) is wanting the verb entirely, which would not change the meaning implied by the text. The reading in the Codex Claromontanus (D) is uncertain.
Paul is not boasting, but rather he is making a plain statement of fact, that he himself can speak in more languages than any of the members of the Christian assembly at Corinth. Yet in spite of this, he speaks with his mind – rather than in the Spirit and with the gift of tongues – so that those who are listening can understand his words. He would rather speak five words that his listeners can understand, than show off and speak a multitude of words in a strange language that his listeners cannot understand. So Christian edification is found in clear understandable language, and not in any vain babbling for the sake of performance.
20 Brethren, do not be as children in your minds; rather in regards to wickedness be infants, but in your minds be full-grown.
In verse 19 the word for mind is νόος (or νοῦς, Strong's # 3563). Here in verse 20 on both occasions it is from φρήν (Strong's # 5424). While the two words are synonyms, νόος more commonly represents the unseen mind, while φρήν describes the actual muscles of the chest, or the heart, which was perceived to be the seat of the mind.
Being full-grown in mind, Paul encourages men to communicate their wisdom, encouragement, or whatever Christian gifts they may have with clear language and in a way that all in the assembly may understand and have edification from. Being infants in regards to wickedness means that one should not seek to experience unseemly things, but keep oneself free of them.
21 In the law it is written, that “in other languages and with other lips will I speak to this people, and not even in that manner will they heed Me, says Yahweh”.
Here Paul seems to be paraphrasing Isaiah 28:11-12. This is one of the minority of citations of the Old Testament from the letters of Paul which agree more closely with the Masoretic Text than with the Septuagint. However neither does it agree completely with the Masoretic Text.
The New English Translation of the Bible has Isaiah 28:11 to say “For with mocking lips and a foreign tongue he will speak to these people.” That version seems to be a better representation of the Hebrew than the one found in the King James Version, however the Hebrew may even be read “For because of a mocking lip then with another tongue will he speak to this people.” This last reading seems to be closely reflected by Brenton's translation of the Greek Septuagint, which is a fair interpretation of the Greek and which says “by reason of the contemptuous words of the lips, by means of another language: for they shall speak to this people”. The Septuagint Greek may be interpreted to say “through contempt of the lips and through another tongue that they shall speak to this people.” The Septuagint has they shall speak rather than I will speak.
Yet here in the Greek of his epistle Paul has very clearly written “in other languages and with other lips will I speak to this people”, and the rest of the verse, where it says “and not even in that manner will they heed Me, says Yahweh”, is paraphrased from Isaiah 28:12. Therefore it is evident that either Paul was reading from a version of Isaiah 28:11 that was slightly different from the Septuagint or the Masoretic Text, or that Paul interpreted the Hebrew for himself somewhat differently than the Septuagint or modern English translators had done.
22 So then, the languages are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to the unbelievers; but the interpretation of prophecy is not to the unbelievers, but to those who believe.
This statement seems to conflict with the one which follows where Paul describes unbelievers hearing tongues who may imagine Christians to be mad, while unbelievers are converted to believe by interpreters of prophecy. Yet that is precisely what Paul is saying and there is no real conflict at all. The word popularly translated as unbeliever refers to more than merely someone who is not persuaded by men. The Greek word ἄπιστος (Strong's # 571) literally means without faith. Those without the faith, being outside of the faith, would have to be confronted by Christians both speaking in tongues and prophesying in order for Paul's words to be tested. Those who are potentially of the faith will see the truth of the interpreters of prophecy and be converted into being believers. Those who cannot be of the faith, which are those who are not truly of the children of Israel, may deny the prophets but will continue to have the testimony of the tongues as a sign in spite of their unbelief. Even the Jews had to admit that Christ was able to do many wondrous things, nevertheless they remained steadfast in their disbelief. We read this in Luke chapter 13: “17 And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.”
23 If then the entire assembly would gather in the same place, and all should speak languages, then let enter the uninstructed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are mad?
This was the case in Acts chapter 2, where after so many Judaeans who were from the surrounding nations heard the apostles speaking in their native tongues, and we read “12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? 13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.” After Peter had addressed the crowd, many understood and were converted to Christ, while others continued to disbelieve, but the sign of the apostles having spoken in tongues remained.
24 But if perhaps all might interpret prophecy, and some unbeliever or uninstructed may enter; he is brought convincing proof by all, he is examined by all; 25 [here the MT inserts the words “and in that manner”; the text follows P46, א, A, B, D, 048 and 0201] the secrets of his heart [P46 has “thoughts”] become evident, and thus falling upon his face he will worship Yahweh, announcing that truly Yahweh is among you.
Once again we must mention that here Paul uses a sense of the verb προφητεύω (Strong's # 4395) which Liddell & Scott did not recognize, perhaps because the term was not used explicitly in that manner in Classical Greek. It is evident from Classical Greek writings about the pagan oracles that the Pythoness was attributed with the ability of revealing the secrets of men. However the Pythoness was only seen as a conduit for the pagan deity, and therefore her words required an interpreter. That is what the Greeks considered to be a prophet, one who interpreted the words of a god, which they believed were the words which they received through the priests or priestesses of their oracles. In his Greek-English Lexicon Joseph Thayer does explicitly describe this use of the words for prophesy and prophecy, as they can refer to one who has the ability to reveal the secrets of men.
26 What is it then, brethren? Whenever you would gather, each of you [P46, א, A, B, and 0201 all want the words “of you”; the text agrees with D and the MT] has a psalm [literally “song”], has a teaching, has a revelation, has a language, has an explanation. All things must be engaged for building.
All things offered within the assembly should be offered for the edification of the assembly, and not for the vaunting of oneself. Having an honest interpretation of Scripture or speaking in tongues for the benefit of people present in the assembly who understand them, one is building the assembly. However purporting to have special wisdom or a special ability to speak things that no one else can understand, one is vaunting oneself.
27 Whether anyone speaks in a language, two or three at the most and in turn, then one must give an explanation.
Paul seems to be making examples in order to encourage Christians to show deference for one another. Of course, according to Paul's other admonishments here, one should know that there are men present who would understand that language before endeavoring to speak. This Paul is about to state in verse 28:
28 And if perhaps there is not an interpreter, he must be silent among the assembly, and he must speak to himself and to Yahweh.
If one speaks in a tongue that no one else can understand, there is no point in trying to share it. This is another indication that Paul is speaking concerning worldly languages, as he indicates also in verse 10, and not in some unworldly babble.
29 And two or three interpreters of prophecy speak, then the others must discern; 30 but if perhaps to another sitting by they are revealed, the first must be silent.
Likewise, Christians should show deference for one another. Here it may also be evident that each member of the Christian assembly should always have an opportunity to speak when he feels that he has something to offer. Verse 30 seems to indicate the more traditional understanding of the word for prophecy, as an expounder of the Word of God in Scripture. It is likely that wherever Paul used the terms, he had all of its definitions in mind.
31 Indeed you are all able one by one to interpret prophecy, in order that all understand, and all should be encouraged. 32 And Spirits of prophets are obedient to interpreters of prophecy. 33 Indeed Yahweh is not of instability, but of peace.
As the apostle John had recorded in the Revelation of Yahshua Christ, in chapter 22, “These words are trustworthy and true, and Yahweh God of the spirits of the prophets has sent His messenger to show His servants the things which are necessary to happen shortly.” Paul encouraged Christians to learn through the Holy Writings, as he said in Romans chapter 15 that “4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Therefore through the study of the scripture and through prayer, one should be able to interpret prophecy.
From Numbers chapter 11: “24 And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the LORD, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. 25 And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. 26 But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp. 27 And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. 29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD'S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!” So even Moses was not threatened by the prospect that others of the children of Israel were given the gift of prophecy.
However Yahweh not being of instability, ostensibly Christians have an obligation to search the Scriptures as well, to ensure that their interpreters of prophecy are indeed operating in accordance with the spirits of the prophets. While there were many prophets among the people in the Old Testament, there were false prophets as well, and Christians have that same warning from the apostles. Therefore the apostle John says in chapter 4 of his first epistle: “1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
As in all of the assemblies of the saints, 34 the [D and the MT have “those of your”; the text follows א, A, and B] women in the assemblies must keep silent, indeed they are not to be entrusted to speak in them; rather they are to be obedient [A has “obedient to the husbands”], just as the law says.
The Codex Claromontanus (D) has the text of verses 34 and 35 at the end of verse 40, rather than here.
Women were not permitted to lord over men, as the commandment in Genesis 3:16 has always been interpreted, “16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Therefore women could not be teachers of men in the assembly of God. Neither were women permitted to fulfill any of the functions of the priesthood. However women were certainly allowed to fulfill other functions. For instance, things such as women singers were allowed, and that is evident in 2 Samuel chapter 19, 2 Chronicles chapter 35, Ecclesiastes chapter 2, Ezra 2:65 and Nehemiah 7:67. So women were indeed permitted to glorify God in public.
Furthermore, there are found examples such as Anna the prophetess, who prophesied openly of the Christ child while in the temple of Yahweh. This is recorded in Luke chapter 2: “36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher: she was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” Similar to Anna were the seven daughters of Philip the evangelist, all of whom were virgins and who had the gift of prophecy, who are described in Acts chapter 21. Therefore Paul's admonition for women to be silent must be taken in this context, that while women were barred from teaching or ruling over men, they were nevertheless allowed to use their voices in other ways, for the glory of God.
35 But if they wish to learn anything, in the home they must enquire of their own husbands; indeed it is a disgrace for women to speak in the assembly.
There are not many examples in the Old Testament of the behaviour expected of women while they are in attendance within the assembly of God, in either the temple or the synagogues. In fact, even many Identity Christians do not realize that there were such assembly halls throughout the lands of Israel and Judah, where people gathered to hear the law and other things from the Scriptures. Yet there were, and one record of there existence is in Psalm 74. There are exceptions found in Scripture which describe some of the occasions where women stepped up to do something which the men had failed to do, such as the story of Deborah in Judges. However those are indeed exceptions, and not the general rule.
However in Classical Greek culture, which was certainly derived from and related to the culture of the Hebrews, we see that in the 5th century BC women were depicted as being forbidden from speaking in public, and were not even permitted to look at men who were not close relations to them. To paraphrase a paper at Christogenea entitled Paul Was Not a Misogynist:
Only men participated in the “democracy” of Athens. Women were excluded from politics, they did not speak publicly, and as Euripides’ character Aethra in his Suppliant Women says at lines 40-41 “It is proper for women, if they are wise, to do everything through their men.” So Paul’s admonition to women, not to speak in the assembly but to learn and inquire through their husbands, which we see here in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, was surely not a novel contrivance. Rather, it was already a part of Hellenistic culture! It was also a part of the older Hebrew culture. In fact, Athenian life was stricter yet: For in Euripides’ Hecuba at lines 974-75 the title character states that “custom ... ordains that women shall not look directly at men.” The word translated “custom” in the Loeb Library edition of Euripides is νόμος, a word which is translated as “law” everywhere in the New Testament.
In ancient Greece we see an extreme which is far beyond the restraint in which the apostles of Christ encouraged Christian women to hold themselves. Like Paul, the apostle Peter in chapter 3 of his first epistle also admonished Christian women to adorn themselves in a meek and quiet spirit, keeping themselves in subjection to their husbands. The ancient Greeks may seem like terrible tyrants to the women of today, but in Greek society faithful women understood that their place was to stand behind their husbands and to maintain their homes.
What many modern people, both men and women, do not seem to understand is the dynamic of sexual desire in the workplace as well as in the public arena. In 1 Corinthians chapter 7 Paul discouraged the separation of man and wife for any significant time, as he himself says, because of fornication. Not all, but probably most men are generally weak and easily persuaded by a pretty face, or by a beautiful feminine body. The sexual urge is powerful and it is easy to sway a man with it. History is proof, where many great men have fallen because of an unseemly lust for women. Once a woman is introduced into the workplace, sexual desire is introduced along with her. Once women are introduced into the political arena, sexual desire follows them there also. Once men begin to make decisions which are facilitated by the imaginations of their lustful hearts, a nation embarks down the path to hell. There is no way around that, and the liberated society is a doomed society. The enemies of Christ know that very well, for which reason the liberation of women from their fathers and husbands was a key component of the Communist Manifesto as well as the Protocols of Zion, and it has been a key element in the Jewish agenda for the subversion of Christendom for well over two hundred years.
In the days before Yahweh pronounced His judgment upon the city, ancient Jerusalem was also awash in feminism. Therefore we read in Isaiah chapter 3 that “8 For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of his glory. 9 The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. [Today it is packaged under the label “LGBT” .] Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves. 10 Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. 11 Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him. 12 As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths. 13 The LORD standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people. 14 The LORD will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. 15 What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord GOD of hosts. 16 Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: 17 Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.” Yahweh will indeed punish us all for the removal of women from His natural order, because it has been a key element in the creation of a decadent society.
36 Truly, has the word of Yahweh come out from you? Or to you only has it arrived?
The attitude which Paul reflects here must be in response to something that the Corinthians had said concerning these things. As Paul had explained at the beginning of chapter 7 of this epistle, he is still addressing things that the Corinthians had written to him in an earlier letter.
37 If anyone supposes to be an interpreter of prophecy or of the Spirit, he must acknowledge that the things which I write to you are commandments of the Prince.
The Codex Alexandrinus (A) ends verse 37 with the phrase “commandments of God”; the Codex Claromontanus (D) wants the word for commandments; the text follows the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the Codices Vaticanus (B) and Vaticanus Graecus (048), and also the Codex Sinaiticus ( א) and the Majority Text which each vary slightly, although the English translation would not necessarily change.
The things which Paul has written are indeed commandments of the Prince, or Lord, because the Old testament God Yahweh and the New Testament Lord Yahshua Christ are indeed one and the same. Here according to Paul himself, anyone who has a legitimate claim to being those things which Paul has mentioned here, either a prophet or a man of the Spirit of God, must recognize and acknowledge the preeminence of the Law of God. If one does not acknowledge the preeminence of the Law of God, then one is a false prophet and an interloper.
38 But if anyone would be ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39 And so, my [P46, D, and the MT want “my”; the text follows א, A, B, and 048] brethren, you be zealous to interpret prophecy, and you must not be prevented to speak in languages.
So long as speaking in tongues has a purpose, as Paul has already explained.
40 All things must be done with dignity and in accordance with order.
With this we conclude our presentation of 1 Corinthians chapter 14.