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1 Corinthians 14:26-40

Context
Church Order

14:26 What should you do then, brothers and sisters? 1  When you come together, each one has a song, has a lesson, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all these things be done for the strengthening of the church. 14:27 If someone speaks in a tongue, it should be two, or at the most three, one after the other, and someone must interpret. 14:28 But if there is no interpreter, he should be silent in the church. Let him speak to himself and to God. 14:29 Two or three prophets should speak and the others should evaluate what is said. 14:30 And if someone sitting down receives a revelation, the person who is speaking should conclude. 14:31 For you can all prophesy one after another, so all can learn and be encouraged. 14:32 Indeed, the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, 14:33 for God is not characterized by disorder but by peace.

As in all the churches of the saints, 2  14:34 the women 3  should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak. 4  Rather, let them be in submission, as in fact the law says. 14:35 If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home, because it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church. 5  14:36 Did the word of God begin with you, 6  or did it come to you alone?

14:37 If anyone considers himself a prophet or spiritual person, he should acknowledge that what I write to you is the Lord’s command. 14:38 If someone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 14:39 So then, brothers and sisters, 7  be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid anyone from speaking in tongues. 8  14:40 And do everything in a decent and orderly manner.

1 tn Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:10.

2 sn This phrase may be taken with v. 33a.

3 tn The word for “woman” and “wife” is the same in Greek. Because of the reference to husbands in v. 35, the word may be translated “wives” here. But in passages governing conduct in church meetings like this (cf. 11:2-16; 1 Tim 2:9-15) the general meaning “women” is more likely.

4 sn For they are not permitted to speak. In light of 11:2-16, which gives permission for women to pray or prophesy in the church meetings, the silence commanded here seems not to involve the absolute prohibition of a woman addressing the assembly. Therefore (1) some take be silent to mean not taking an authoritative teaching role as 1 Tim 2 indicates, but (2) the better suggestion is to relate it to the preceding regulations about evaluating the prophets (v. 29). Here Paul would be indicating that the women should not speak up during such an evaluation, since such questioning would be in violation of the submission to male leadership that the OT calls for (the law, e.g., Gen 2:18).

5 tc Some scholars have argued that vv. 34-35 should be excised from the text (principally G. D. Fee, First Corinthians [NICNT], 697-710; P. B. Payne, “Fuldensis, Sigla for Variants in Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-5,” NTS 41 [1995]: 240-262). This is because the Western witnesses (D F G ar b vgms Ambst) have these verses after v. 40, while the rest of the tradition retains them here. There are no mss that omit the verses. Why, then, would some scholars wish to excise the verses? Because they believe that this best explains how they could end up in two different locations, that is to say, that the verses got into the text by way of a very early gloss added in the margin. Most scribes put the gloss after v. 33; others, not knowing where they should go, put them at the end of the chapter. Fee points out that “Those who wish to maintain the authenticity of these verses must at least offer an adequate answer as to how this arrangement came into existence if Paul wrote them originally as our vv. 34-35” (First Corinthians [NICNT], 700). In a footnote he adds, “The point is that if it were already in the text after v. 33, there is no reason for a copyist to make such a radical transposition.” Although it is not our intention to interact with proponents of the shorter text in any detail here, a couple of points ought to be made. (1) Since these verses occur in all witnesses to 1 Corinthians, to argue that they are not original means that they must have crept into the text at the earliest stage of transmission. How early? Earlier than when the pericope adulterae (John 7:53-8:11) made its way into the text (late 2nd, early 3rd century?), earlier than the longer ending of Mark (16:9-20) was produced (early 2nd century?), and earlier than even “in Ephesus” was added to Eph 1:1 (upon reception of the letter by the first church to which it came, the church at Ephesus) – because in these other, similar places, the earliest witnesses do not add the words. This text thus stands as remarkable, unique. Indeed, since all the witnesses have the words, the evidence points to them as having been inserted into the original document. Who would have done such a thing? And, further, why would scribes have regarded it as original since it was obviously added in the margin? This leads to our second point. (2) Following a suggestion made by E. E. Ellis (“The Silenced Wives of Corinth (I Cor. 14:34-5),” New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis, 213-20 [the suggestion comes at the end of the article, almost as an afterthought]), it is likely that Paul himself added the words in the margin. Since it was so much material to add, Paul could have squelched any suspicions by indicating that the words were his (e.g., by adding his name or some other means [cf. 2 Thess 3:17]). This way no scribe would think that the material was inauthentic. (Incidentally, this is unlike the textual problem at Rom 5:1, for there only one letter was at stake; hence, scribes would easily have thought that the “text” reading was original. And Paul would hardly be expected to add his signature for one letter.) (3) What then is to account for the uniform Western tradition of having the verses at the end of the chapter? Our conjecture (and that is all it is) is that the scribe of the Western Vorlage could no longer read where the verses were to be added (any marginal arrows or other directional device could have been smudged), but, recognizing that this was part of the original text, felt compelled to put it somewhere. The least offensive place would have been at the end of the material on church conduct (end of chapter 14), before the instructions about the resurrection began. Although there were no chapter divisions in the earliest period of copying, scribes could still detect thought breaks (note the usage in the earliest papyri). (4) The very location of the verses in the Western tradition argues strongly that Paul both authored vv. 34-35 and that they were originally part of the margin of the text. Otherwise, one has a difficulty explaining why no scribe seemed to have hinted that these verses might be inauthentic (the scribal sigla of codex B, as noticed by Payne, can be interpreted otherwise than as an indication of inauthenticity [cf. J. E. Miller, “Some Observations on the Text-Critical Function of the Umlauts in Vaticanus, with Special Attention to 1 Corinthians 14.34-35,” JSNT 26 [2003]: 217-36.). There are apparently no mss that have an asterisk or obelisk in the margin. Yet in other places in the NT where scribes doubted the authenticity of the clauses before them, they often noted their protest with an asterisk or obelisk. We are thus compelled to regard the words as original, and as belonging where they are in the text above.

6 tn Grk “Did the word of God go out from you.”

7 tcμου (mou, “my”) is found after ἀδελφοί (adelfoi) in a number of significant witnesses (א A B* D1 048 326 1175 2464 al), but lacking in most other witnesses (Ì46 B2 D* F G Ψ 0243 33 1739 1881 Ï lat). Every other time Paul says “So then, brothers (and sisters)” he adds “my” (ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου; {wste, adelfoi mou). There is no good reason why scribes would intentionally omit “my” here but not elsewhere. Thus, the longer reading is in conformity with Paul’s general style and as such seems to be scribally motivated. NA27 has the word in brackets, indicating doubt as to its authenticity.

tn Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:10.

8 tn Grk “speaking in tongues.” The words “anyone from” are supplied for the sake of clarity.



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