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Improper and Unseemly


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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. —1 Corinthians 14:34

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It appears that the Church of the Corinthians was infected with this fault too, that the talkativeness of women was allowed a place in the sacred assembly, or rather that the fullest liberty was given to it. Hence he forbids them to speak in public, either for the purpose of teaching or of prophesying. This, however, we must understand as referring to ordinary service, or where there is a Church in a regularly constituted state; for a necessity may occur of such a nature as to require that a woman should speak in public; but Paul has merely in view what is becoming in a duly regulated assembly.

Let them be in subjection, as also saith the law. What connection has the object that he has in view with the subjection under which the law places women? “For what is there,” some one will say, “to hinder their being in subjection, and yet at the same time teaching?” I answer, that the office of teaching is a superiority in the Church, and is, consequently, inconsistent with subjection. For how unseemly a thing it were, that one who is under subjection to one of the members, should preside over the entire body! It is therefore an argument from things inconsistent—if the woman is under subjection, she is, consequently, prohibited from authority to teach in public. And unquestionably, wherever even natural propriety has been maintained, women have in all ages been excluded from the public management of affairs. It is the dictate of common sense, that female government is improper and unseemly. Nay more, while originally they had permission given to them at Rome to plead before a court, the effrontery of Caia Afrania led to their being interdicted, even from this. Paul’s reasoning, however, is simple—that authority to teach is not suitable to the station that a woman occupies, because, if she teaches, she presides over all the men, while it becomes her to be under subjection.

Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:467–468.



Posted 2019·12·18 by David Kjos
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Posted in: 1 Corinthians · Calvin’s Commentaries: 1 Corinthians · Complementarianism · John Calvin

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