Bible Scholar Claims Apostle Paul Never Said 'Women Should Remain Silent in Church'

Parishioners sitting on church pews as seen from above.
Parishioners sitting on church pews as seen from above. | Runner1928?Wikimedia Commons

A U.S. academic has claimed in a study that the verse in 1 Corinthians that says women need to remain silent in church, which is often offered as a basis for restriction on women's ordination as ministers, was not written by the Apostle Paul but added to the book later.

In an article published by the Cambridge University Press, Philip Barton Payne argues that 1 Corinthians 14:34 was not part of the original, The Telegraph reports.

The verse reads, "Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says."

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Payne, a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from Cambridge University, argues that his analysis of the Codex Vaticanus, one of the oldest versions of the Greek Bible that exists, carries a symbol called a "distigme-obelos," or two small dots and a dash, which appears next to the passage to identify text that was added to the original.

The scholar further argues that 1 Corinthians 14:34 is not consistent with other parts of Paul's letters to the Corinthians, including 1 Corinthians 11:5, which reads: "… Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head." Payne believes the verse could be an indication that women were allowed to preach.

"This study demonstrates that scribe B was a careful textual critic who identifies 1 Cor 14.34–5, the only Bible passage silencing women in the church, as added text," he is quoted as saying in his article. "Vaticanus provides early and credible judgement in what is widely regarded as the most important NT manuscript that vv. 34–5 were not in the body text Paul's original letter, but are a later addition. This is important theologically since it offers a resolution to the notorious difficulty of reconciling vv. 34–5 with Paul's many affirmations of women in vocal ministry and their equal standing with men in Christ."

However, some scholars argue that the possible addition of the verse could be explained differently.

Pieter Lalleman, tutor in Biblical Studies at Spurgeon's College, told Christian Today, "The fact that some manuscripts have the passage in a different location (at the end of chapter 14) can be explained by the fact that at one stage a copyist forgot the verses and added them at the end of the chapter. The fact is that no single surviving manuscript omits the two verses altogether."

Last year, Pope Francis said he believes the Roman Catholic Church's ban on women becoming priests is forever and will never be changed.

"St. Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this and it stands, this stands," Francis said, referring to a 1994 document by Pope John Paul that closed the door on a female priesthood. The Vatican says this teaching is an infallible part of Catholic tradition.

Payne says on his website that he is "well known for his studies on New Testament Textual Criticism, the Parables of Jesus, and Man and Woman in the Teachings of Paul."

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