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The function of prophecy in the New Testament is similar to that used in the Old Testament. There is a recognized aspect of proclamation, of the spirit of God moving on a person to speak or act in the name of a full member of the Body of Christ...gifted as the Spirit can a woman be told to be silent or for her responding to the Spirit of God, be called 'shameful'?

A.      Prophecy in the Body of Christ
Much of the letter of 1 Corinthians addresses the gifts of the spirit and among those is the prophetic gift.  The gifts of the spirit are divine special abilities that given to enrich, edify, instruct and guide the people of God as they follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The gifts go – as the Holy Spirit decides - to all believers. They are diverse with various functions and administrations, but they are all from the same God (1 Cor. 12: 4-14). The gifts Paul mentions are the “word of wisdom” (v.8); “faith” (v.9); “working of miracles” (v.10); “prophesy” (v.10); “discerning of spirits” (v. 10); “diverse tongues” (v.10); “the interpretation of tongues” (v.10).  Several of those gifts for the body of Christ, and by extension in worship/church, are verbal skills. It is not beyond the realm of expected use that a “word of wisdom” and “prophecy” may be both written and spoken, but diverse tongues and interpretation are definitely speech based. All together in the New Testament context the word of wisdom, prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of those tongues are based on the understanding that people in the assembly will be speaking. Nowhere is there any indication that the Gifts of the Spirit are specific to males and women are exempt. Indeed Paul’s discussion seems to clearly deny that.
The primary word used in most of the following scriptures is once more the term denoting inspired speech, to exercise the prophetic office, to prophesy, and to foretell events (propheteuo #4395).
1.       1 Cor. 12:7-31, especially v. 12 speaks of the “gift of prophecy.”
2.       1 Cor. 13:9 “we prophesy in part…”
3.       1 Cor. 14:1, notes Paul preferring the gift of prophecy over the others that might be sought and may link to 12:31 where he urged seeking after the best gifts.
4.       1 Cor. 14:3-5 continues his argument by citing the prophetic gift was superior because it edified the entire church. Prophecy, as inspired speech that edifies the body, is seem here as the preferred gift. The one who prophesies speaks to “edification, and exhortation, and comfort” (v.3).
5.       1 Cor. 14:19 “I had rather speak five words…that by my voice I might teach (or instruct) others…” He clearly elevates the role of the spoken word ministries, which by definition, include prophecy and teaching. The word used for teach/instruct means to “to inform, to teach, to instruct” (katecheo #2727). It may be inferred that if prophesy is a preferred gift due to it being clearly understood ( v.4) and, that both men and women share in the Spiritual Gifts as divided out by the Holy Spirit, that woman is expected to be verbally part of the worship service in the same manner men are participating by sharing their Gifts to the Body.
6.       After this detailed discussion of the diverse nature of spiritual gifts and value and superiority of the spoken gift of prophecy, comes an abrupt and hard to explain shift. After outlining the manner in which the prophets in the congregation (i.e., the Body of Christ) should function for orderly behavior and after using the same terms for ALL mentions of prophecy or prophetic function or actions, the writer drops a metaphorical hammer. In v. 34 the writer suddenly states: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded [inserted word] to be under obedience, as saith the Law.” 
7.       The question here in 1 Corinthians 14:34, that consistently goes underexplored is to what ‘Law’ is the writer referring? Most notes in common reference works tend to include Genesis 3:16 “unto the woman he, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow though shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband (or be subject to him) and he shall rule over thee.”  Also, Colossians 3:18 [3:16-25] “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.” Yet, these two verses raise additional questions of lasting theological implications concerning the limits of punishment and redemption. The Genesis text is part of the punishment phase of the Garden Fall of Adam and Eve. Due to the fall from Grace, the man and the woman are each punished (the woman in just a single verse and the man in three verses!).  The Serpent, as Perpetrator and Deceiver, is cursed or at least this is the explanation for the reason serpents are feared and travel on their bellies.  The question then becomes how much of this curse-pronouncement is symbolic and which is actual?  The punishment of Adam involved the ground being cursed, it would be hard to dominate and difficult to work and hard to grow anything, all of which bringing him sorrow and sustenance all of his life. There is no mention of him working animals, learning a craft, sailing ships, building cities, conquering others, enslaving people, or leading a business – yet these are all work areas men have flourished in over time. Yet when woman is defined, she is perpetually kept within a narrow framework of being ‘ruled’ by her husband, being under his ‘subjection’. Her punishment was doubly keen in that she would have a longing or “desire” to be with the man who will, for good or bad, have the power, will rule, and will have dominion over her. Woman was caught securely in a difficult situation because she listened to the deceptions of the serpent she ate of the forbidden Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and then offered the same to Adam. It is interesting to note that when God was doing the cursing and punishments the first one addressed was the Serpent cursed above “all cattle and beasts of the field”, and he would crawl on his belly and eat dust (v.14). Of note, God would “put enmity between the serpent and the woman for all time (v.15) and a promise that her seed would “bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (v.15), considered a prophetic reference to the future Messiah. Then the writer outlines the broad image of a different life for the man and the woman outside the Edenic conditions of the Garden. The punishments are the explanations for why women suffer in childbirth, parenting and why, although their men treat them poorly, they still stay with them. They are teaching moments to explain what happens when people willfully do what is wrong. They explain why men labor in making a living by toiling long hours with little reward and why life is a struggle and followed by death. In the New Testament framework of 1 Corinthians this appeal to a ‘Law’ must be explained as it appears inconsistent with other Pauline writings. Note in the version of the King James Bible that the word “commanded” has been inserted and is not found in other translations indicating a translational word choice not indicated by the text. Why would Paul write in Romans 10:4 that “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” or in Galatians 5:18 “..if you be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the Law” or Romans 6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” How to reconcile all of these to a  position based on “saith the Law” in 1 Corinthians 14:34, as well as in Ephesians 5:15-33 and others that make a dramatic statement about the issue of ‘submission’ by women. The only answer is that there is more to these sections than mere permissive statements for husbands to have power over their wives and for wives to be silent in church.


Part 3 – The Prophetic Woman and Church
A.      The Prophetic Woman in the Old Testament
One issue that may help to clarify the definition of ‘Biblical Womanhood’ is that of the prophetic woman seen in the Bible. Old Testament references clearly outline women serving in the office of prophet throughout its pages.
The word in the Old Testament Hebrew was ‘Nbiyah’ (nbiyah, Strongs #5031) meaning ‘prophetess’ a feminine form of ‘prophet’. This also meant an ‘inspired woman’ inferring speaking or actions. A prophet appears to have functioned as one who calls people to their faithful responses, prods people to follow God and reminds people of the consequences of failing to rely on God and keep his commandments. Strong’s adds “by association a prophet’s wife": yet not all women were married to a prophet so this is questionable translation selection.
1.       Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron (Exodus 15:20) is called a prophet (nbiyah, Strongs #5031). As Moses led the people in a song of praise for their salvation and “…Miriam the prophetess…took a timbrel in her hand: and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.” Later on scriptures state God sent Moses, Aaron and Miriam to 'lead' the people.
2.       Deborah, described as wife, judge and prophet (Judges 4:4). “Deborah, a prophetess,[ (nbiyah, Strongs #5031)] the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at this time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.” (v.4-5). She brought Barak from Kedeshnaphtali (some distance to the north) to her. She challenged him to fulfill the command of God with an army, Barak refused to go unless she accompanied him, but Deborah said she would go but it would not matter because God had already decided that the fate and the  opposing leader would fall by the hand of a woman (v.9).
3.       Huldah, prophetess (nbiyah, Strongs #5031) and wife of Shallum, keeper of the wardrobe.  King Josiah was rebuilding the temple. Hilkiah the priest, who was related to the prophet Jeremiah and to Huldah's husband,  took the book of the law discovered to the Scribe Shapan, who in turn brought it to the attention of the King.  When the King heard the words he immediately “rent his clothes” and commanded the priest to go “inquire of the Lord” brought the recovered book of the law She lived in the “College” or the “Second District.” Early maps of the temple region identify one gate as “Huldah’s Gate”….
4.       Noadiah (Neh.6:14) also utilizes the same term (nbiyah, Strongs #5031) in reference to this member of the prophetic order.

B.      The Prophetic Woman in the New Testament

Evidence of the continuing the tradition seen in the Old Testament are part of the New Testament are seen very early in the Gospels.
1.       Anna in Luke 2: 36, “And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanumel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.” The word used in the Greek was Prophetis (#4398, Strong’s) and is used to describe one who is a ‘female prophet/foreteller’.
2.       The Seven daughters of Philip in Acts 21:9 are described as prophets (propheteuo, #4395) by a word meaning one  who ‘foretells events, ‘speaks under inspiration’, ‘ i.e. prophesy’, and to ‘exercise the prophetic office’.
3.       “Your Sons and Daughters will Prophecy” from Acts 2:17 (propheteuo, #4395) repeats the prophecy from Joel 2:28 with a word that means to “speak under inspiration.” Note too that Acts 2 understands the future prophecy of Joel to have come to pass :”but this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (v. 16).
4.       “Women Praying and Prophesying” in 1 Corinthians 11:4-5 see the same term used (propheteuo, #4395) to refer to those who are functioning as prophets regardless of gender: “Every man praying or prophesying…” (v.4) and “…every woman that prayeth or prophesieth…” (v.5).


Questions and “Biblical Womanhood”
After reading some recent webpages devoted to Biblical Womanhood and a charge that 'women teachers and preachers' were not teaching/speaking about 'Biblical Womanhood', I began to do some studying of the subject.  I found that a common problem of people attempting to promote a view they purport to be 'scriptural' is a failure to  measure scripture by other scripture. In the case of 'Biblical Womanhood' - popularly used to promote a complementarian view of the role of woman in life, marriage, and church - it is clear that 'proof texts' are allowed to define 'Biblical womanhood' when a wider reading of scripture offers a much broader and multi-faceted image.

Just What Is "Biblical Womanhood?"
Part 1 – Definitions
                Definitions for the meaning of the phrase ‘Biblical Womanhood’ range from the literal life of women as seen in the pages of scripture to more catchword explanations that are weighted with tensions based on complementarian vs. egalitarian views of women in scripture and accompanying prejudices and bias about roles, authority, and submission of female to males.

Part 2 – The Scope of Women’s Activities in the Bible
                There appear to be two prevailing views of understanding the approved scope of female activity in scripture. One is the view that only those lists of behaviors and traits in 1 Timothy, Titus , 1 Peter, and 1 Corinthians apply to Christian women.  The other view is that in order to fully grasp the activities of women the entire corpus of scripture must be considered before defining ‘Biblical Womanhood.’

                In scripture, women were recognized as –
1.       Gifted artisans and skilled in many crafts (Exodus 35:25-26)
2.       Prophets (numerous prophets and wise women appear. Just the big 'names': Deborah in Judges 4:4-16; Huldah in 2 Kings 22:13-14; Noadiah in Neh. 6:14 Anna in Luke 2:36; Philip’s daughters in Acts 21:9 and future ‘sons and daughters’ in Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17)
3.       Judges and Military leaders (Deborah and Jael in Judges 4:4-16)
4.       City Builders (Sherah 1 Chron. 7:24)
5.       Queens and rulers (Esther, Sheba, Ethiopian Queen )
6.       Business women (Prov. 31:24; Lydia in Acts)
7.       Diplomat (Abigail)


Noel Brooks: A Life Shining and Burning, 1914-2006



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