Headcovering & Complementarianism

Verses on Feminine Quietness

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Lately, I’ve been considering how a woman should speak and write. A friend of mine has been scrutinizing this matter, and I have been doing so right along with her. I greatly admire her willingness to conform herself to the truth of God’s Word, and I want to do the same. My aim is to be as true to the Bible as I can. If my opinions don’t line up with the Bible, then my opinions are wrong and need to be changed. After you read this post, you will understand why I am currently (though slowly) combing through my archives to see if there is anything I’ve published in the past that either needs to be revised in order to fit with biblical standards for feminine speech, or be thrown out all together.

The following is a sampling of verses from the Bible that refer to women being quiet, with my thoughts at the end. (But don’t skip the verses just to get to the part where I tell you my opinion :). )

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“Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 14:34-37

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“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” 1 Timothy 2:11-15

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“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do no let your adornment be merely outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel–rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.” 1 Peter 3:1-6

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The first quote from 1 Corinthians was written to the Christians living in Corinth. Was that an isolated situation? It does say, “Let your women learn in silence.” Let’s see.

The second quote from 1 Timothy was written to Timothy, who was overseeing the church at Ephesus. In that case, it says, “Let a woman learn in silence.” That seems to be referring to women in general.

The third quote from 1 Peter was written to Christians that had been dispersed throughout the regions of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. It emphasizes that “wives,” which is an all-inclusive term meaning all married women, should focus more on their conduct than on winning with words or on outward adornment. It tells us that wives should have “a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

I don’t see that the command for women to be silent/quiet was restricted to one region, or one time; it appears to be “the commandment[] of the Lord” (1Cor. 14:37) for women and wives in general.

How do we apply that to our own lives? Is it just in the church service where we are to be quiet? What about Bible studies? What about informal discussions with friends and family? What about when the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Mormons come to our doors wanting to discuss theological matters? What about blogs? Certainly we are not supposed to be quiet all the time! I mean, mouths are meant for more than eating, right?

Here are some thoughts for us to consider:

~Women of God teach the Holy Scriptures to their own children and grandchildren.
…”when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.” 2 Tim. 1:5 (Acts 16:1)

“and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures…” 2 Tim. 3:15

~Women of God teach other women, usually those younger than they, how to be good wives, mothers, and housekeepers.
“…teachers of good things–that they [the older women] admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” Titus 2:3b-5

~Women of God help their husbands share the gospel message accurately with others.
“When Aquila and Priscilla heard him [Apollos], they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Acts 18:26b

~Women of God give others advice, when sought for.
“Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.” Judges 4:4-5

~Women of God lead other women in worship.
“Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.” Exodus 15:20

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I consider that we women should abstain from voicing our opinions on theological matters in public. Perhaps the exception to this would be the gospel message. Mainly, we should be teaching our children, and instructing other women in how to keep the home, how to be a good wife, and how to be a good mother.

I talk a lot about birth control (and how I hate it). I believe this is within the realm of teaching women to “love their children” (even those yet unconceived). Also, my husband and I are in agreement on this issue.

I share my opinions regarding the culture, but I try to focus on those things that have to do mainly with women, and our conduct in general as Christians. However, I don’t involve myself deeply with doctrinal concerns (except the issue of salvation by grace alone).

Does this mean I don’t have an opinion on theological matters? Usually, I do! But, I believe it is proper for me to discuss those issues with my husband, and not necessarily with others. If anything needs to be said, I can let my husband be the spokesman. Have I always done so in the past? No, but I am trying to improve, and mold myself to what the Bible says is proper conduct for women.

Certainly, I need to be well-informed, because I am responsible for teaching my children (under the authority of my husband), but I need not teach everybody else! I need to be well-studied, because I want to make sure I am being obedient to the word of God, but I need not feel burdened to share everything I am learning in my personal study, publicly!

Women should be wise and learned, yes! I don’t believe in women being dim-witted; I don’t believe in women wasting their intellect. I do believe in being proper, and being biblical. Is there a way for us to be both “quiet” and mentally engaged at the same time?

 

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16 thoughts on “Verses on Feminine Quietness

  1. Dearest Jessica,
    I finally came to this post and read it. I read it with both heavy and relieved spirit. You know, our own background, spiritual and mental upbringings will not be changed in a day or two. It takes time. Now I confess to you that I’ve come to accept the points which you are writing here more wholeheartedly than last week. I’ve learned it through some painful experiences under His providence. I’ve come to accept the point that “it is proper for me to discuss those issues with my husband, and not necessarily with others. If anything needs be said, I can let my husband be the spokesman.”

    Thank you so much for being with me, Jessica. I appreciate your help and sisterly love. Kinuko

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    1. You are welcome, Kinuko!
      “…our own background, spiritual and mental upbringings will not be changed in a day or two. It takes time.” Yes, I agree with that! I have found that to be true in my own life, as well.
      I am so glad to have you as a sister and friend!
      Jessica

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  2. I saw your follow-up post come up in my blog feed, and I still hadn’t read this one! Ack! Trying to play catch-up here.

    ” My aim is to be as true to the Bible as I can. If my opinions don’t line up with the Bible, then my opinions are wrong and need to be changed.”

    Amen.

    This is a subject that I have been considering greatly of late, and I’m glad to see you address it. There is such confusion in the church on this, even among super-conservatives!! Thankfully I’ve learned a lot about this subject over the past few years as I’ve discussed it with my husband, and I am in agreement with your thoughts here.

    This issue came up in my life recently when I ended up having a deep theological discussion with two friends. Though I have intensely deep feelings and belief on the subject we discussed, I felt intensely uncomfortable during and after the discussion. That left me torn – I shouldn’t be afraid to speak about my beliefs, right?? But I think my feelings mirrored what you said above – that it wasn’t really my place, and in stepping out of my assigned place, I think I probably did more harm than good.

    I might question two of your Scripture references: (1) The quote about Deborah. I had heard it said that the choice of Deborah as Judge of Israel was a judgment because there was no suitable man to be found – especially when combined with the verses saying that leadership by women is a judgment in itself. Thus, the things she did (leading, advising, etc.) might not be a pattern to follow. (2) The quote about Miriam – it seems descriptive rather than necessarily prescriptive. Does that make sense?

    Again, not saying that those quotes are necessarily wrong, just that I was unsure about them.

    Have a wonderful week!!! Thanks for this post – I look forward to reading your follow-up post tomorrow.

    Diana 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Diana!
      Your comment has caused me to dive even deeper into this issue, and I thank you for that!
      I hope you don’t mind if I address the two concerns you brought up in a post(s), since after thinking it through, I will probably need a little more space for my answer.
      I always love reading your comments!
      Jessica

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  3. I totally agree with you on all this, but I have been struggling with two questions regarding a woman’s quietness and I would like to know how you would address them:
    1. What if you’re a single woman? Should you keep quiet or speak up, since there’s no husband to speak up for you? How do you think the Bible calls a single woman to conduct herself in situations like this?
    2. What if you’re in a Bible study where both genders are present and the leader asks you to pray and/or speak your opinion? Would this be an act of leadership, the speaking the Bible condemns for the Christian woman? How would you respond if you were placed in this situation? I have been in this situation many times but only recently has God made me aware of how He wants women to conduct themselves, so I’m really starting to question my life and my actions in this area. Thus, I am hoping, you, as an older Christian woman (not old, just older than me 😉), would be willing to give me some counsel.

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    1. Hi, Kim!
      Thanks for your questions! Here are a few of my thoughts on those points:
      1. Being a single woman.
      Do roles disappear and reappear based on our marital status? I mean, is man the head only when a woman is married? And is she allowed to be the head if she is single? First Tim. 2:11-15 does not mention the woman being married. In other verses, the woman is assumed to be married (typical situation), but that doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t apply to ALL woman; it just means that the author assumed most women WOULD BE married; it also means that the need to be submissive is ESPECIALLY important when a woman has a husband to be submissive TO.

      In 1 Cor. 11:1-16, women are told to veil their heads when praying or prophesying. Though at least one translation that I am aware of (ESV) uses the word “wife” to refer to the woman, this word in the Greek is actually interchangeable. In addition, there is a certain place where not even that translation uses the word “wife” but instead “woman”:

      “7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.”

      Woman is the glory of man. It doesn’t say “a wife is the glory of her husband” (not that she isn’t). God makes an overarching statement here that includes ALL women. It is NATURE that dictates gender roles, not one’s marital status. It is my understanding, then, that God intends for all women, whether married or not, to be quiet and submissive. It’s also great practice for the day a woman does become a wife!

      2. Being asked to pray or give your opinion.
      I’ve been in that situation, too. At this point, I think that praying informally is okay, like in a small, mixed Bible study group where everybody is gathered for discussion. But would I lead the whole church in prayer up on the podium? No.
      And if you are in a Bible study and someone asks your opinion, I think that’s okay to do, depending upon the sort of question asked (so, “what are some ways we can help the poor?” is okay, but “what is your opinion on Calvinism versus Armenianism?” may not be okay to answer in that context). But, we need to be careful to not DOMINATE the discussion when there are men involved. If you feel uncomfortable with the type of question someone asks (maybe you feel it is too theological or too controversial), then you can always politely say something like, “Thank you for asking my opinion; that is something I would like to think about.”

      I hope this has helped you a little! If you have any further points you would like to add, or any more questions you would like to ask, please go right ahead!

      Thank you,
      Jessica

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  4. Thank you, Jessica, for your thoughtful, godly answers to my questions. They help me understand more of what the Bible means on this topic.
    One more thing on question two. I understand the two examples of questions that might come up and how you would respond to them, but what about questions like, “What do you think this verse means?” Would the answer be understood as teaching, since you would be expounding on biblical text, and that is linked to teaching, or would this be ok? What do you think would be the most biblical response to this question, when spoken in the presence of both genders? I’m struggling to understand what would be biblically correct in this case, since that is a question that comes up quite often in Bible studies.

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    1. Hi, Kim!
      Thanks for asking!
      Again, I think what the verse is about would determine your response. So a verse like, “Blessed be the God of all comfort Who comforts us in all our afflictions” (from 2 Cor. 1:3-4), might have a simple, straightforward answer if they were to ask you, “What do you think this verse means?” It means that God comforts us through our trials. When you affirm that, that’s not necessarily teaching; that’s validating what the teacher is trying to get you to agree with; it’s showing him that you understand where he’s trying to lead the class.

      On the other hand, you would have to be much more cautious with a verse such as this one: “And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns” (Rev. 17:3). How would you answer the same question when it comes to that verse? I would say it depends on who you’re talking to and what you know that person believes.

      So, let’s say that the leader of the class just said that the woman represents the false religion of the end times. Then, if he asks you “What do you think this verse means?” you could simply respond with the answer he’s already given you, as a way of reaffirming his teaching. If, on the other hand, there seems to be some controversy over this topic, or if you are not sure what his stance is, you might prefer to back out of the question using the technique that I mentioned earlier: say, “That’s a very good question that I’d like to think about some more.” Not that you don’t know what you think; but you want to give the teacher a chance to tell you what he thinks, and you want to give your husband a chance to tell you what he thinks, first.

      If you find that after attending that class and discussing the subject matter over with your husband you are all in agreement, then the next time the topic comes up, you would simply reaffirm what your husband’s and the leader’s teaching is on it.

      Hope that helps a little. This is definitely a sensitive, and somewhat tricky, question. Why so? The Bible is clear, right? It is, but I think that we will encounter subtle variations in different social situations that require different responses. We must do our best to navigate those situation using the Bible as our guideline. And when the answer does not seem clear, then we must ask for wisdom from the Holy Spirit to steer a straight course.

      I am very encouraged to see that you want to search this matter out. That shows a humble, teachable spirit. Keep up the good work!

      Jessica

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      1. Thanks for your answer and encouragement! You and your blog are truly a blessing to women who are seeking to obey God!

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  5. There are some very good writings on the issue of women’s ministry on other blogs. I think the point is that for women to preach in public to men is clearly wrong, but to guide our families (under our husbands authority) and to help other women to have the confidence to defy convention and follow Christ is Godly.

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