I am in the process of writing a Grove Biblical booklet with the title ‘Women and authority: key biblical texts’ which aims to explore all the key texts in 28 pages! Due out in March. I cover Gen 1, 2, 3, Luke 24, John 20, Acts 18, Romans 16, 1 Cor 11 and 14, Eph 5, 1 Tim 2.
Here is the section on 1 Cor 14.34–35. Any comments welcomed.
These verses are problematic mainly because they appear to contradict not only what Paul has said in chapters 11 and 12 but also what has been said in the immediately preceding verses. If women are to be silent and not speak, how can they pray and prophesy in the assembly (ch 11) or be part of the ‘all’ in 14.31? If the whole purpose of this is that ‘everyone’ might be instructed, why should the women need to go home for this?
Green and others have argued that ‘speak’ (lalein) should be understood as ‘chattering’. This is a possible meaning of the word, and though Paul never elsewhere uses it in this sense, it could be argued that the need to inquire of husbands at home shows that uneducated women are not able fully to participate in what is happening—though this still sits in some tension with the discussion of chapter 11. It seems highly improbable that Paul has had a change of mind within a chapter or two or even a verse or two, or that a rogue group in Corinth is either being quoted or has doctored the text.
Payne (2009, pp 227–67) follows Fee in arguing that these two verses were not part of Paul’s original letter. The key elements of Fee’s and Payne’s arguments are that an important textual tradition has these verses after v 40, which is hard to explain if they are original, and some evidence from an important manuscript, Codex Vaticanus, suggests that these verses were a secondary addition. Moreover, patristic citations of Paul appear not to know these verses. Along with this, Payne notes that the language here is used elsewhere in 1 Corinthians but with near opposite meaning. Payne also notes the significant overlap in vocabulary with 1 Timothy 2, and so argues that these verses were a second generation addition to Paul by someone wanting to reconcile the teaching of 1 Corinthians with what they understood 1 Tim 2 to be saying.
Either way, this text cannot mean that women should say nothing in the assembly, or that any of the gifts of speech that the Spirit gives to all (without gender differentiation) in chapter 12 are forbidden to women—without making Paul contradict himself within a very few verses.
 ‘In church’ usually refers to what happens when they are together, and not what should not happen. ‘To be silent’ is used elsewhere for stopping doing something approved, rather than as a blanket prohibition on speak. ‘To speak’ elsewhere includes identifying what it is that is being said, rather than speech in general. Paul nowhere else refers to ‘the law’ without citing the Old Testament text in question—and the command here bears no resemblance to any known verse. ‘Learning’ is elsewhere envisaged as a central part of what happens together. The phrase ‘disgraceful for a woman’ occurs in exactly the same form in 11.6, but is there used to allow not prohibit participation.