Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Feminism Part 1: Paul's Missed Quote

Hello there, all! Today, we're going to talk about the F-word.

No, it's not "fat." Or "fart," as my family finds hilarious even to this day.

It's "feminism." Namely, one of the passages that lots of people get hung up on, which is 1 Corinthians 34-35. For my explanation and discussion, I have extended it a few verses.

34 Let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
36 What? Did the Word of God come out from you? Or did it come unto you only?
37 If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
38But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
39Therefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak in tongues.

This is the King James Translation, which has the most blatant Verse 36. If you look at the first two verses in the passage, it seems obvious that Paul is trying to tell the church to not allow women to speak up in church or to ask questions when the guys are talking. Don't get in the way, ladies, wait until you get home so your husbands can tell you what you want to know.

But then look at how Paul follows it up. Imagine, if you will, a voice of outrage and sarcasm. "What? Did the word of God come out from you? Or did it come to you only?"

This entire book is a letter from Paul to the Corinthians, and we don't get to see what he is replying to. But in the most dated Greek transcripts we have, the letter contains a funny little mark near Verses 34-35, a symbol that serves as primitive punctuation and means that the section is being quoted from another source. It's the very basic form of what we now know as these: " " .

Paul is quoting someone else, about the expected behavior of women in the Church. If he isn't, then what exactly is Verse 36 responding to? It makes no sense to have that kind of juxtaposition, and especially those two anti-female verses, in a paragraph about encouraging people to speak in tongues and prophesy. They stick out, a massive blot of forbidding among a large chunk of encouraging. So what Paul is actually saying here, is that traditional laws in the Church -- not made by God, but put there by society and culture -- have disallowed women from speaking during services. But Paul says, essentially, "Wait, what? Do you somehow think you made up God's Word, that you're mandating this? Do you think that you and only you are privy to it? That you're cutting out half of Christ's followers?"

In doing so, he's vouching for women, saying to let them talk, and let them prophesy, and let them speak in tongues right alongside the guys.

Now, I'm usually one to question apologetics, to make sure the people are coming from a reasonable place and not just pulling stuff out of the air. What really got me here was the mention of that quotation mark of sorts, the little engraving that has been seen to mean that the text is from a different source and should be considered a recitation of something said elsewhere. You can't deny a piece of the text, and presumably it fell by the wayside at some point during translation and the manuscript that survived natural selection was the one that didn't have it, or else the translators didn't understand what it meant. I can't really say what was going through their heads.

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