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First: What does the text mean?

By Brian Tipton | April 30, 2008

I hate being uncomfortable. Here I sit in front of my computer, in a comfy chair looking outside at a comfy day. I am not out in the sunshine because 1) I am working and 2) it might be a little cool. After all, my home is a perfect 71 degrees (perfect for me), I have a beverage close by and everything is as it should be. I have noticed a problem with comfort when it comes to studying the scripture. When we are sitting in class and the teacher reaches a conclusion with which we are uncomfortable, and we cannot immediately see any hole in his argumentation with the present passage, we jump to some other passage in the Bible to defend ourselves. We do our best to protect our understanding from new information by building up barriers around the text with what we “know” from other passages.

The example I am going to use is just that, an example. It is not my intention to bash or defame another brother in Christ. I am not calling anyone out. His article just happens to be the one I was reading when I decided “enough was enough.” As an example, Wayne Jackson, in the Christian Courier wrote an article on what the word σιγαω (sigao) means in 1 Cor. 14:34. This is the word that is translated as silence. 1 Cor. 14:34 says,

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. (1 Cor. 14:34 -KJV)

As Jackson, points out, the word is used two other times in 1 Corinthians 14. It is used in vss. 28 and 30 to limit what the men can do in the assembly. First, if someone cannot interpret the tongue being spoken, they are to remain silent. Secondly, if someone else starts a prophecy, the first is to remain silent until after the person is finished. Jackson argues that since the word only limits what the men do in a particular context, “forbid these men to otherwise speak consistent with their divine obligations.”1 But when it comes to determining what a woman is to do, Jackson ignores the context and immediately jumps to another book in the Bible! He writes,

This does not demand that a woman be absolutely silent at church. Rather, in harmony with what the apostle taught elsewhere (1 Tim. 2:12), the woman is not to speak or teach in any way that violates her gender role. She is not to occupy the position of a public teacher, in such a capacity as to stand before the church and function as the teacher (or co-teacher) of a group containing adult men. In assuming this official capacity, she has stepped beyond her authorized sphere, and she violates scripture. (Emphasis mine)

Where did this passage in 1 Corinthians ever mention a woman teaching or having authority? In his haste to come up with a reason why women are to remain silent, he has gone fishing elsewhere for that meaning and done a large disservice to the meaning of the passage. Moreover, he has done a larger disservice to the Church because he is practicing bad, bad, bad study habits and presenting them as the way to do things. By going to another passage, he has robbed himself and his readers of any ability to understand exactly what Paul intended to say in his letter to the Corinthians.

Wouldn’t it be better if we first understood the passage, restricted to its local context, before we let some other passage of the Bible hammer on it in order to protect our precious beliefs? What if we should be beating the other passage on the head with the one we are studying now? What if we have missed the point all of these years and God is trying to teach us the truth, and in our uncomfortable state, we reject it? There is a better way. First, understand the passage. Then, let the larger context enlighten us further. If the Corinthian church would have required 1 Timothy in order to understand what was written to them, they would have had to wait 20 years to get an understanding.

So let’s first understand our passage. To do so, we will first reexamine our word for silence and then look at the passage in context. Let’s re-examine our word, σιγαω (sigao). According to several modern lexicons, the word does not mean absolute silence, but to remain silent or to keep a secret about something in particular. Thus, it means to remain silent and “to stop speaking.”2 So whatever it means to keep a secret, it does mean to keep that secret in silence and not speak about it.3 With this point Jackson agrees. However, it is only from the context of our passage that we can determine what Paul intended for women to remain silent about when he wrote the letter to the Corinthians.

By looking at our passage in its own context, we see that Paul is limiting woman’s ability to speak in church, but he is doing so in a specific way for a specific reason. The passage says,

(As in all the churches of the saints, women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only ones it has reached?) (1 Corinthians 14:33-36) (Emphasis mine)

First, Paul is restricting women from asking questions of the people in speaking during the assembly time. That is, if they want to know something let them ask there husbands at home. Don’t ask in church. However, the reason he gives is that “it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” It seems that Paul is restricting questions being asked because there is a larger restriction on a woman speaking in the assembly. Thus, it seems very clear from this passage that, during the assembly time, a woman in the 1st Century Corinthian Church was not permitted to speak at all. It would be quite difficult to argue that a woman could not sing since speaking is clearly what Paul has in mind.4 Paul restricts a woman’s speaking in the assembly during the time when others are giving their testimonies and prophecies. There was no need for Jackson to exit the context of this passage to make his point. This passage still allows a woman to sing and a woman to teach a bible class if she chooses to do so. It is as if he did not see the answer in the passage because he was too busy trying to get to 1 Timothy.

Maybe we preachers and teachers need to explain what the text means in its context as much as is possible. Maybe in this way we will be prevented from proof-texting meaning back into a passage from others we deem as easier to understand.

  1. Jackson’s whole point is to argue that the command for women to remain silent cannot be absolute for how could they teach classes for children or participate in corporate worship via singing.[]
  2. See BDAG and Louw-Nida 33.121[]
  3. To get a better idea of its usage you could examine the following passages: Lk. 9:36; 18:39; 20:26; Acts 12:17; 15:12f; Rom. 16:25; 1 Co. 14:28, 30, 34[]
  4. He uses the Greek word λαλεω (laleo) which simply means speak.[]

Topics: Ministry, Theology | No Comments »

Doubt and Faith

By Brian Tipton | April 5, 2008

I once talked to a woman who had quit praying. She told me that she used to pray fervently and believed that God heard her prayers since He had answered them many times. Her faith was simple (and this is not meant to be derogatory) in that she believed that God did indeed answer prayers. But then, God quit answering her prayers. As more of her prayers went unanswered, her doubts about God grew and grew until finally, one day, she quit praying.

She had a problem with doubt and with faith. These two concepts are really part and parcel of the same thing, two sides of the same coin. Doubt and faith are jarring when juxtaposed like this; these two words form the quintessential problem of Christianity. Why does God not live up to our expectations? On the one hand, we desire to have faith and to have it grow. Faith grows based on experienced relationship with the triune God. As God keeps his promises our faith increases. But on the other hand, as God lets us down, our faith is weakened by doubt. In the middle of both of these outcomes is prayer.

Now I will be very honest with you. When I falter and my doubts increase, I quit praying. I mean, why bother? If God is not going to honor his commitment to me, why should I honor my commitment to Him? This is the way many people handle their personal commitments to one another; it is no wonder it shows up in our relationship with God.

Take a couple who is in crisis. Let’s suppose that the husband has violated some major expectation of his wife. No adultery or infidelity, but what he did or thought or did not do shook her to the core because she had assumed that her husband would behave a certain way. When he did not, the relationship was strained and its future called into question. As a result, she quits talking to him. Many such relationships end in divorce. The only way to prevent the relationship from dissolving in divorce is to keep talking and work it out.

In a human relationship, there are two, fallible people. One or both could have contributed to the degradation in the relationship. Her expectation could have been valid and he failed to live up to it. More often than not, her expectation was invalid; he could never live up to it or should never have been expected to live up to it. Once they begin talking, perhaps with the help of a third party, this can be overcome and the relationship healed.

When I quit praying it is because God did not live up to my expectations. So, I get mad and quit talking. After a while, though, I realize that God could not make a mistake or do something wrong–he is God, right? Even though I do not yet know why God did what he did or allowed to happen what God allowed to happen, I know that I will never know if I do not keep talking to Him. When I start praying again, I am angry and hurt and I let God know that. I let God know that on the one hand I believe he is God and is perfect and Holy, but on the other hand I have doubts because of whatever has happened.

I wish I could tell you that after a couple of days he gives me an answer. Most of the time he does not let me know why what happened happened. He does remind me that he loves me and that one day all things will be made right. I just have to decide whether I really believe God loves me or not.

So I keep praying.

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. (Luke 18:1)

If the way to keep our relationship with our spouse healthy is to keep the lines of communication open, then the way to keep our relationship with God healthy is much the same. That requires prayer.

The only way back to faith from doubt is to pray through the doubt back to faith.

Topics: Prayer, Reflection | 5 Comments »

Thoughts for a New Convert

By Brian Tipton | December 16, 2007

We had two baptized this week. In Como, we always purchase a good, quality, NIV Study Bible to give as a gift to a new convert. We want to make sure they have a good copy of God’s word so that they can grow. I believe this is good. But what I do not want, is for anyone to think that the Bible is the end of it all. So this time, I included the something on top of the Bible. When they open their bible’s box, the first thing they will read is

Our Wish

Nothing is as precious as the relationship you will cultivate with your Creator. God has left his indelible marks on this world through His constant interaction with it. He formed it from nothing, cared for it when it broke, and became human so that He might save us. He came to restore a relationship with you. Even if you had been the only person on earth to ever believe that Jesus was the son of God, he still would have died for just you. God loves you.

This Bible is given to you as a guide. It is not given as the end, but the means to knowing God. Jesus said,

You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

John 5:39-40

Scriptures are a wonderful blessing. They are God’s revelation to us; God speaks to us on the pages of His word. But He speaks in order to bring us into a relationship with Him. Our prayer is that you take this guide and let it point the way to your Creator and His Son, Jesus Christ.

And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

John 17:3

Topics: Discipleship | 10 Comments »

A Word to the Apologist

By Brian Tipton | November 10, 2007

“A god who let us prove his existence would be an idol.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Topics: Reflection | 1 Comment »

Now Zotero Friendly

By Brian Tipton | October 22, 2007

In a previous article I told you about Zotero, a research manager that is integrated into the Firefox browser. I have since discovered several additional plugins that integrate a WordPress blog with Zotero or any other COinS based citation reader. On the address bar of your Zotero enabled browser, you will notice a Zotero folder icon. Click this icon and the relevant bibliographic data for my blog article will be saved to your research folder.

Perhaps I am arrogant (or hopeful) to think that my information will be of benefit to someone, or maybe I am just trying to make things easier. Go ahead and quote me!

Topics: Resources | No Comments »

Too Funny…

By Brian Tipton | October 20, 2007

You just have to see this to appreciate it!

Topics: Unbelievable | 2 Comments »

God Has Competition

By Brian Tipton | October 9, 2007

A surprising application was made near the end of may that has caught the attention of some. Researchers have filed a patent application with the US Patent Office #20070122826 which is an application for the construction of a new life-form. That’s right. A new, never before in existence, life-form. The abstract reads:

The present invention relates, e.g., to a minimal set of protein-coding genes which provides the information required for replication of a free-living organism in a rich bacterial culture medium, wherein… [science-babble that I find fascinating but would probably bore you]

Why is this interesting? Once life has been “constructed” from the chemicals and amino acids theorized to be present at the big bang, we have a materialist model for the construction of the universe that does not require the existence of God. Do I have your attention now?

So how are Christians supposed to respond? Intelligently and honestly; not like the Catholic Church did with Galileo. Now before we jump to any conclusions, there are a lot of people wondering if they have done what they claim. But, if they have indeed constructed a life from from proteins, etc., they have indeed created ‘life’ at least they have constructed a living organism1 then Christians are going to have to wrestle with this. What does Genesis 1 really prove? What is it really trying to say?

Take a step back…breathe….think…contemplate. For me, this does not rule out God even in the least and doesn’t even shake my faith. A while back, it would have, but not now. Perhaps I will blog more on why this is true in the near future.

What say you?

  1. This may be different from the concept of creating life which may or may not include the methods and components necessary for life.[]

Topics: Creation, Religion, science, Theology | 2 Comments »

My 9/11 Wish

By Brian Tipton | September 11, 2007

Six years later, I don’t know how much progress has been made in the war on terror.  But in the war we fight as ministers of God, much seems to be the same. As I ponder what will happen over my children’s lifetime with regard to terrorist activities, several things keep going through my mind and I would like to share them with you.

These are just some random thoughts that I have been thinking about today.

If you had a wish for 9/11, what would it be?

Topics: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Zotero: Research Must Have

By Brian Tipton | September 4, 2007

Zotero ScreenIt is only about 7 years late in the making for me, but there is finally a tool that will help you organize your research effectively and integrates with Word and OpenOffice. Zotero
is a plugin for Firefox that, according to their site,

help[s] you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. It lives right where you do your work — in the web browser itself.

I currently use Nota Bene for this, and probably will for some time. But for lighter research, I am going to try this and see how it goes. Since you can export your data, I don’t think you can get your notes stuck in it permanently. Plus, it will work under Linux!

If you don’t have a citation/research management tool and you are in school or are serious about keeping track of your ideas and insights, this is a must have for you. Another good reason to get Firefox.

Topics: Resources | 3 Comments »

Facebook Toolbar!

By Brian Tipton | September 4, 2007

Brian, brace yourself, but here comes #3! I have not used Facebook a whole lot, but am doing so more as more people I know get on it. However, I think I will be using it more not that I found this great Facebook plugin for Firefox.  If you are not Firefox friendly, sorry, there is no IE version.  You could get Firefox for free, though.

The plugin gives a toolbar that looks like this:

With this plugin, you get a sidebar that updates all your friends and lets you know if you have messages, without having to go to the site for updates. This is great!

Now I hope I don’t waste too much time with it!

Topics: Resources | No Comments »

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