Monday, August 31, 2009


Last week I had the opportunity to watch an insightful DVD by Dr. Jon Zens on the role of women in the New Testament Church. It's by far the best thing I've ever seen on this topic and, for me, it puts the nail in the coffin on the two most controversial New Testament texts (1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15).

Here, with Dr. Zen's permission, I've pasted part one of his study which will look at 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. Our next section will look at 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

I hope this encourages you and blesses you as much as it blessed me.


1 COR.14:34-36

A Summary by Dr. Jon Zens

I’ve been wrestling with the issues raised regarding women in 1 Cor.11-14 for twenty-six years. My first article, "Aspects of Female Priesthood," appeared in 1981. For the first time I feel like significant light has broken through the lingering problems and questions. Without doubt every conceivable explanation of what is entailed in 1 Cor.14:34-35 can be challenged from some angle. It is admittedly a difficult passage. However, the position convincingly set forth by Cheryl Schatz in "The Elusive Law", does the best job I’ve ever seen of doing justice to what the verses actually say and the immediate context, beginning in 1 Cor.11.

In "The Elusive Law", Cheryl presents evidence to demonstrate that verses 34-35 are not Paul’s words, but the remarks of some in Corinth based on the Talmud’s restrictions on women (DVD #4, Women in Ministry: Silenced or Set Free?, MM Outreach, Nelson, B.C., Canada, 2006).

For a long time I’ve wondered what "law" was in view in v.34. There is strong reason to believe that it is not the Old Testament, but the Talmud that is being cited. According to Wikipedia, "The Talmud is a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, customs and history." In Jesus' day the first part of the Talmud, the Mishnah, was in oral form, but in 200AD and 500AD it and the Gemara were put into writing.

In brief, two key issues point to why the Jewish oral law (Talmud) was behind what was stated in vv.34-35.

1. Only the Talmud silences women.

2. Only the Talmud designates the speech of women as “shameful.”

The Talmud Silenced Women

Cheryl observes that "The silencing of women was a Jewish ordinance. Women were not permitted to speak in the assembly or even to ask questions. The rabbis taught that a woman should know nothing but the use of her distaff."

Josephus, a Jewish historian, asserted that "the woman, says the law, is in all things inferior to a man. Let her accordingly be submissive."

The Talmud clearly affirms the silence of females:

"A woman's voice is prohibited because it is sexually provocative" (Talmud, Berachot 24a).

"Women are sexually seductive, mentally inferior, socially embarrassing, and spiritually separated from the law of Moses; therefore, let them be silent" (summary of Talmudic sayings).

The Talmud Called the Voice of a Woman "Shameful"

"It is a shame for a woman to let her voice be heard among men" (Talmud, Tractate Kiddushin)

"The voice of a woman is filthy nakedness" (Talmud, Berachot Kiddushin)

The English translation of the Greek word, aiskron, as "shameful" or "improper" hardly convey the strength of what the word encompasses. The affirmation in v.35, Cheryl notes, is that a woman's speaking is "lewd, vile, filthy, indecent, foul, dirty and morally degraded."

Male and female prophesying was inaugurated on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17-18). Paul approved the prophesying of women in 1 Cor.11:5. In 1 Cor.14 he saw the whole body involved in prophesying – "everybody is prophesying" (v.24), "each one of you has a teaching" (v.26), "you may all prophesy one by one" (v.31). How could the same apostle Paul a few pen strokes later turn around and unequivocally designate women’s speech in the body as "filthy, lewd and vile"? It makes no sense at all. I have always felt like verses 34-35 didn’t sound like Paul. Something was awry.

The matter is cleared up by realizing that Paul did not write the negative words about women in vv.34-35. Instead, those basing their view of women on the oral law did. Paul never required women to be silent and never called female speaking "lewd and filthy." The Talmud was guilty of advocating both.

This is further confirmed in v.36 when Paul exclaims "What! Did the Word of God originate with you?" The "What!" indicates that Paul is not in harmony with what was stated by others from the Talmud in vv.34-35. Thayer's Lexicon notes that the "What" is a disjunctive conjunction "before a sentence contrary to the one just preceding, to indicate that if one be denied or refuted the other must stand."

Sir William Ramsey commented, "We should be ready to suspect that Paul is making a quotation from the letter addressed to him by the Corinthians whenever he alludes to their knowledge, or when any statement stands in marked contrast either with the immediate context or with Paul's known views."

Paul contrasts his commands which promote edification by the varied contributions of all with the restrictive prohibitions upon women demanded by the anti-gospel Talmud. Paul saw the voices of the sisters as a vital part of the building up of the Body of Christ. The Talmud, on the other hand, viewed female voices as "shameful" and as "filthy nakedness."

We know that various concerns and questions came to Paul from the Corinthians in a letter. He refers to this communication several times in 1 Corinthians. If quotation marks are placed at the beginning and end of verses 34-35, thus seeing them as the words of some Corinthians to Paul, then the apparent contradiction between Paul’s encouragement of female participation and then his seeming silencing of them is resolved satisfactorily.

Those who use 1 Cor.14:34-35 as a basis for requiring the sisters to be silent in the meetings would do well to consider the strong possibility that the words they cite as proof-texts are non-Pauline, and reflect the non-gospel viewpoint of the Talmud. Are they prepared to maintain, as the anti-feminine Talmud did, that a woman's voice is "dirty" and "like filthy nakedness"? I submit that it is unthinkable that Paul would assign such awful sentiments to the sisters' words.

FOR FURTHER STUDY - If you're interested in studying this issue further, I'd like to encourage you to obtain this set of 4 DVD's which contain 3.5 hours of instruction. They are filled with insight and presented in a respectful, Christ-like spirit. You may not be persuaded by every point that is suggested, but you will be challenged to search the Scriptures to see what is really so.

Order from: Searching Together, Box 377, Taylors Falls, MN 55084-0377; 651-465-6516;

To contact Dr. Zens you may do so at
or online at:


Derek said...

Thanks for sharing this, Keith. Extremely eye-opening. One of the verses I've struggled with the most, and now it seems to plainly obvious.

truthlover72 said...

Thank you for publishing this on your site. It comes as addditional confirmation to what the Holy Spirit has been showing me for quite some time now. I suspected the misogynist filth as Talmudic origin. Katherine C. Bushnell's book, "God's Word to Women" likewise pointed to the Talmud as the origin of this hatred toward women. Christ and His body on earth has been robbed through/by misogynist infiltration even while the apostles were laying the foundation.

What is pathetic is that so many 'Christian' men seem to want to hold fast to this divisive myth and continue to rob Christ of the truly glorious, functioning body He intended and desires. Time for Christians to repent for lending an ear and faith to the filthy words of mere men. I pray this knowledge abounds in the body of Christ to bring about that repentance so that we may 'make ourselves ready' for the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Thanks again.