Posted by: edhensley | September 15, 2012

Contradictions on Women in Corinthians

1 Corinthians 11 (NIV)

I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.

A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

1 Corinthians 14 (NIV)

26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the lawsays. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.[g]

36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.38 But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.

39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

[g] 1 Corinthians 14:35 In a few manuscripts these verses come after verse 40.

The bible is very unkind to women and has greatly contributed to gender discrimination. Yes, their are exceptions like Deborah in the Old Testament, who was a judge prior to the reign of kings in Israel. But most verses on women from Genesis to Revelation view them as inferior servants for men.

1 Cor 11 says that IF a women prays or prophecies, then she should cover her head.

1 Cor 14 says that “women should remain silent in the church…it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church.

How can a woman pray or prophecy if she is not permitted to speak? Apologists spin all over the place on this contradiction, but some biblical scholars have another explanation: 1 Cor 14:34-35 were inserted into the manuscripts by later scribes and were not a part of the original. There evidence is shown by footnote g above from (and also in hard copies of the NIV). These verses appear in different locations in different ancient manuscripts. Also, the two verses on women in the middle of 1 Cor 14 have little to do with the rest of 1 Cor 14:26-40, which is about prophecy in the church. There is more continuity if the verses on women are removed.

It is a fact that New Testament texts were altered by scribes, often for doctrinal reasons. This is covered in “Misquoting Jesus” and “Jesus Interrupted” by bible scholar Bart Ehrman. There are over 200,000 variations of the New Testament in ancient manuscripts, which means there are more variations among manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.

My first wedding featured Southern Baptists, Holiness Pentecostals, and Mennonites. The Mennonites were very strict about women not speaking in church, keeping their heads covered, women never cutting their hair, and women not having authority over men. The Holiness Pentecostal women also did not cut their hair or have authority over men, but they could speak in church and they did not keep their heads covered. The Baptists pretty much ignored these verses, except they never let women be pastors in the churches. Baptists would say the verses do not say “women can’t get hair cuts at all”, but the Pentecostals would say otherwise, noting that Paul (the assumed author) adds “we have no other practice – nor do the Churches of God.”  That is a pretty strong statement! Yet most Christian sects permit short-haired women today. They simply ignore this verse.

What is worse is that these Christians make a huge deal out of the length of women’s hair. The Holiness Pentecostals sneer with derision at Pentecostals and other “so-called Christians” who let women cut their hair. Then they make excuses for letting women speak in church and not requiring women to cover their heads. Christians should either follow the entire bible or they should openly admit that they are doing whatever they want and then justifying the bible to fit their personal choices.

Then there is the matter of women’s relationship with men. This is a much more serious problem than the length of hair and wearing head covers. It is not be accident that the atheist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the agnostic Susan B. Anthony were the pioneers of women’s voting rights. Anthony said, “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” Stanton said, “The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation.”  I can not say it any better.



  1. Context here is important, if you see the preceding verse it says 33 “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace”… Then it says women should remain silent, which I believe means that you shouldn’t be whispering to your friends, husbands, whoever, during church services or interrupting by asking questions. Then it goes on to specifically say “brothers and sisters” mentioning that they should be eager to prophesy and speak in tongues. So women were to be an active part of the church body.

    In most of the church services today, people most people are silent and do not talk during the sermon, even to ask questions. Back then many did not know how to read or write and so they would find out by what they heard at the services and probably had many questions to ask.

    • But the bible does not say “whispering to your friends.” You are once again rewriting the bible.
      Also, your translation permits men to speak up and interrupt and whisper at any time. The bible does not say “it is disgraceful for a woman OR MAN to speak in church.” If you rewrite the bible (as you ALWAYS do!) for this to mean “whispering to your friends”, then this rule still only applies to women and not to men.

      The phrase “brothers and sisters” is used 4 times in 1 Corinthians 14 as Paul’s address to his fellow Christians while describing how they should have order. He does NOT say “brothers and sisters are permitted so both speak” as you do when you once again rewrite the bible.

      Whether you like it or not, the bible clearly says the following. No amount of rewriting from you can change the actual words of the bible

      34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

      Next time you talk in church, just remember how disgraceful you are.

  2. It is usually disruptive to interrupt church services or talk out of order. V. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

    Silence is pertaining to “inquire about something” as in V. 35. In most churches people wait until after to ask the pastor about something.

    Then in V. 39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

    Notice it says brothers AND SISTERS, that they should prophesy and speak and tongues. Women’s participation in church here is encouraged.

    Not rewriting it, just interpreting it, so that you get an entire picture of the context.

    • You are rewriting the bible again because you left out verse 34 and most of verse 35. Stop leaving out the parts of the bible you disagree with and then pointing to contradictory, stupid, and evil verses.

      34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

      No matter how you spin it, the bible clearly says it is DISGRACEFUL FOR A WOMAN TO SPEAK IN THE CHURCH. If you disagree with that statement, you disagree with the bible.

      As I have pointed out before, “brothers and sisters” is used 4 times in 1 Cor 14 as a general address to the members of the church and not as specific instructions about what men and women should do.

      6 Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?

      The author could have said, “Now, members of the congregation, if I come…”. He is not telling men and women to do anything in this case, but is talking about the nonsense of talking in tongues without translation. Of course, all the pentecostal churches I have been to regularly feature glossolalia without translation.

  3. Yes, something we agree on Ed, if they encountered a person with unknown language, that is when the gift of speaking in tongues is usually supposed to happen. It is purposeful, not just people saying random words to look spiritual.

    Again I think it is context, the context is about asking questions (and later teaching in another book) and it is further explained by saying that brothers and sisters can prophesy and speak in tongues, so not all speaking in church is disgraceful.

    About hair coverings, in Corinthians it says judge for yourselves. It says that long hair is given as a covering. I take that as no head covering is necessary. Some traditional churches have the women cover their hair.

  4. Negating facts or picking what one likes is a consistent problem with the bible ( when I say bible I’m referring to Protestant bible… Not to be confused with orthodox or catholic bible that proceed it)… It makes me nauseous when apologist change the meaning of clear passages. But like most of Pauls letters… If you don’t like something just keep reading until it contradicts itself to make yourself feel better or the more common practice of just not reading it…

  5. Evangelicals often have a tendency to find implausible solutions to difficulties in the Bible and to be satisfied that they have once again vindicated the Word of God. On the other hand, critical scholars tend to find errors in the Bible where none exist. At bottom, our belief in the infallibility and authority of scripture is a faith-stance, just as our belief in the Deity of Christ is a faith-stance. This does not mean that we have no basis! Nor does it mean that we are obligated to solve all problems to our satisfaction before we can believe. As B. B. Warfield argued long ago, we believe in the accuracy of the Bible, first of all, because the biblical writers themselves both held and taught this view. And if we consider the biblical writers to be trustworthy as doctrinal guides, then their doctrine of the Bible must also be trustworthy. Certainly we need to make many adjustments in how we define that accuracy (allowing the biblical writers themselves to shape our understanding8); but if we were to deny their accuracy at one point, then we must either (a) deny that they held and taught such a view of the Bible, or (b) assume that they might not be trustworthy in other doctrinal areas as well. There is much to be done in this aspect of bibliology, not just in terms of vindication, but also in understanding.9 Responses that are implausible on their face certainly do not help the evangelical faith in the long run.

    • The King James Bible was not completed until 1885, when 14 apocryphal books were removed. They are viewed as non-canonical by protestants today, but are still viewed as canonical by Catholics and others.
      Even many conservative protestants admit that the last part of Mark 16 appears to have been added in later documents, that the story of the woman caught in adultery (neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more) was added, and that 1 John 5:7-8 is not in any Greek texts prior to the 14th Century but was added by the Roman church to bolster the doctrine of the Trinity.
      The bible is highly innaccurate and can not be trusted.

      See! (starting at 10:40)

      • My comment not clear was meant to mock those who try to find ways to justify their bible not to defend.

  6. The hair is the covering for women.

  7. Hello
    In Christ there is no male, female, Jew or Greek – all being one in Him.
    Soul is a feminine word and Spirit masculine. The soul is demonic according to James and has a wisdom that is not first of all peaceable . Which is why we need to be subject to the Holy Spirit which is received through faith in the one truly good man, Jesus the Christ

    • Yet, the Old and New testaments are filled with many limitations on the roles of women in both the family and the churches. Many churches today point to bible verses in limiting the roles of women.

  8. Just to add the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of prophecy, which holds with your noticing that the women and hair verses in Corinthians seem out of place within the other verses which are related to prophecy.

  9. Hi Ed

    as you say: Yet, the Old and New testaments are filled with many limitations on the roles of women in both the family and the churches. Many churches today point to bible verses in limiting the roles of women.

    I think that is more to do with the failure of man rather then the limitation of God. Perhaps that is why he said Come out of her – meaning Babylon.

    In the old testament there were daughters who received same inheritance as man – they went to Moses to adjudicate and he received the go ahead from God. Of course Christ first appeared to a woman in the garden which perhaps is a restoration of what was lost in Eden.

    • And yet the verses in Corinthians and other places still remain in the bible, while many Christian sects today do not let women lead churches or organizations.

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