Many people have a big problem with Paul because they think that he was sexist. I would like to change that point of view by looking carefully at the text so that we can fully appreciate Paul for who he was, not the false impression that we have of Paul. Under God’s inspiration Paul refuted faulty tradition and that faulty tradition included sexism that was prevalent during his day. Let’s have a look how Paul did that.
In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul responded to a letter written to him by the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 7:1, Paul says:
1 Corinthians 7:1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote….
Paul then quotes from the letter written to him and every time he quotes the letter, Paul contradicts the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 7:1….(Corinthians) it is good for a man not to touch a woman
1 Corinthians 7:2 (Paul) But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife and each woman is to have her own husband.
1 Corinthians 10:23 (Corinthians) All things are lawful (Paul) but not all things are profitable. (Corinthians) All things are lawful (Paul) but not all things edify.
1 Corinthians 14:34, 35 (Corinthians) The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper (filthy) for a woman to speak in church.
1 Corinthians 14:36 (Paul) (What!?!) was it from you that the word of God went forth? (What!?!) has it come to you only?
In verse 36 Paul starts each statement with the Greek word “n” which isn’t always evident in the translations as some completely ignore this word. It is a term used to show that the question implies a negative answer – a negation of something that has just proceeded it. It would be the equivalent of stating a false statement and then saying “Bunk!” or “Horse feathers!” or “You have got to be kidding!” So what Paul is doing here is negating what was just quoted. Since Paul cannot negate himself, it is evident that the quote from verses 34 & 35 is a quote from the Corinthian letter to Paul.
Paul is not the one who is silencing women in this passage. It is the Corinthians who were trying to silence women. Paul had already released women to pray and prophesy (chapter 11) and to prophesy and speak in tongues (chapter 14). Paul did not silence women. Paul is not the one who is sexist but the one who refuted sexism!
Touché Paul, good job!
So we note that in the book of 1 Corinthians there are times that Paul quotes the faulty tradition of the Corinthians, and he then he refutes their faulty tradition with a negation. In several instances after the faulty tradition, Paul says “but….” and then Paul gives the correction. Additionally Paul says “what!!…” and by that specific Greek word, he shows dismay at the outrageous claims of the Corinthians who have been more than likely influenced by the Judaizers who could not allow women to speak in the assembly because of the “law” against a woman’s (filthy) voice being heard in public.
Paul was not sexist, it was some of the Corinthians who were!