Sunday, May 24, 2009

Women Silenced for ... aargh ... want of Quotation Marks?

Fellow 'gator, Bill Kinnon, had a link to a great piece about Women in Ministry from Rebecca Groothuis. What a wonderful article. And the video from NT Wright, which I've seen a number of other places, is worth watching more than once.
But I just have to say that both the article and the video, while wonderfully supportive, are missing something that has been foundational for me for the last 29 years of processing this debate. And, come to think of it, I have often wondered how Scot McKnight has missed this, too. It would have been perfect for inclusion in The Blue Parakeet....
So, Abi is going to stir the pot a bit ... and she's going to use Online Greek Interlinear Bible and Today's New International Version of I Corinthians 14: 26-39 (below) to do it. So read it all the way through now, as a starting place. Do your best to empty your mind of preconceptions about how you've read it before. You can do it, if you will just give it a try.
Good Order in Worship
26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church; let them speak to themselves and to God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord's people.

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. f]">[f]

36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If any think they are prophets or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. 38 Those who ignore this will themselves be ignored. g]">[g]

39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

Okay, now you all know that I am no Greek scholar. I do, however, know quite a number of them. And it interests me that so few of them have considered what I'm about to pass on from my favorite scholar for your consideration. Serious consideration, now.

This entire pericope (passage) concerns orderliness. The entire book concerns orderliness, really. And Paul is addressing issues that have been brought to his attention concern a lack of orderliness among the Christians at Corinth.

What I wouldn't give for a copy of the account to which Paul is responding ... and I really do wish that Koine Greek used quotations marks, so Paul could have made this beyond question ... but enough whining. Back to the task at hand....

I have chosen this translation because it does two very good things. First, it keeps all of verse 33 together. Which helps tremendously. (I'll wait while you scroll back up and read it.) Because when it is added to the front of verse 34, it changes the entire meaning of what follows -- rendering it very confusing.

Now, my friend, who has been known to read aloud from the Greek NT and translate into English on the fly (and does the same with the Hebrew OT), reads this in such a way as to make it absolutely clear what he thinks Paul is doing. He reads verses 34 and 35 in a different voice, as if he is quoting someone -- and with a tone that sounds a bit "superior."

Now, go back and read verse 36 (I'll wait for you, go ahead.) and see that the first word is rendered "Or."

What Dr. Bartchy does when he reads that verse, after finishing his "quotation" presentation of verses 34 and 35 is this. He pauses and says "What?" As in, "Are you serious?" Then he continues with "Did the word of God originate with you?" and the rest of the verse.

Clearly, this reading suggests that Paul is quoting back what had been reported to him. There were some who were having trouble letting the New Covenant supersede the Old Covenant. (Their descendants are, unfortunately, still alive and well today!) And rather than approving of the quoted text, Paul is saying that it is not to be accepted, but that what Paul has taught and written is to be considered from the Lord ... and those who will ignore this will remain ignorant and unregarded.

Reading these verses in this Greek/English Interlinear will be helpful in showing how Dr. Bartchy is not the only one to read the text this way. I'm not even going to attempt to discuss why this is not the common translation.... Sigh!

However, when you read it this way, so many of the troubles that commentators struggle with concerning apparent conflicts with what Paul wrote just a few chapters earlier, and elsewhere, disappear. It makes ultimate sense.

To this Abbess, that is.

And I decided I couldn't keep silent about it one more day....


Sonja Andrews said...

Sarcasm perhaps? Now that makes sense ...

Janet Woodlock said...

Actually Abi, there's some quite conservative sources that claim they have uncovered the "cue" words that imply quotation marks... and the passage about women being silent is precisely one of those spots.

I'm no Greek scholar either... (actually I'm struggling like mad with it)... but what I have discovered is that there was no punctuation or even gaps between words in the original manuscripts (gah!)... so "cue words" were used to suggest sentences, paragraphs etc. And certain "cues" are used throughout Corinthians from that point onwards when Paul writes: "Now concerning the matters about which you wrote....

And you've spotted it... "the women must keep silent as the law says" is one of those passages the follow the "cue" word. It's absurd anyway... what law? As a Pharisee Paul would know perfectly well that no such command is in the Torah.

So his reply is sarcastic. WHAT? DID THE LAW OF GOD ORIGINATE WITH YOU? (obviously not!) And the phrase "No other practice" is probably better translated "no such practice". This makes sense of why Paul has made such a carry on about how women should wear veils on their heads when praying or prophesying a few chapters early.... an unnecessary waste of ink if they are not allowed to pray or prophesy in the church!

If you are really interested I can post you a copy of the journal article around this... just email me your address.

Phew... one of my bandwagon topics. Thanks for sharing it!

AbiSomeone said...

Sonja, yes ... as Janet mentioned in her comment ... sarcasm is something that Paul (and Jesus!) used to good effect. Too bad the translators didn't always catch it, eh?

Janet, I would love the article -- am sending my address by email.

I was aware of Greek structure and have some additional experience with a kind of language structure that has no upper or lower case letters, no punctuation, no sentences (only paragraphs, really) and no spaces between words: Thai. One has to learn to read by knowing how words were spelled and there were words that identified whether the "speaker" was male or female. Very daunting, indeed!

I am glad to see that there is wider discussion of this phenomenon and especially glad to have provided this small soapbox opportunity for you, sister!

Diane said...

I'd had never thought about this, but I love it! It's so hard to reconcile a Paul who saw everyone as equal in Christ, with this passage about women's silence.

Janet Woodlock said...

Well, it's not only women who've had it tough by our "missing" the quotation marks... think of all the years of celibate priests... in part because "it is good for a man not to touch a woman" was interpreted as a divine decree, not as a quote from the Corinthian's letter to Paul.

(Paul does concede that under the current persecution it was less troublesome to be single... but he rejects the idea that sex is sinful).

Serves us right for reading other people's mail I suppose!

I'll try to post off those articles tomorrow Peggy...

AbiSomeone said...

Hello, Diane ... always glad to bring a fresh perspective! ;^)

Janet, wouldn't it be grand if we all would be willing to let people live according to the grace God gives them, rather than require that we have everything "set in stone" so that everything was "ordered" -- with just a bit of a pun intended.

Those with the grace to live a celibate life are no better than those given the grace to be married. God knows that each have their challenges and their unique blessings. Why is it so very hard for us humans to learn to embrace and appreciate God's sense of generosity in diversity?!?

Look forward to those articles when you have a chance to send them.

...LOL, reading other people's mail, indeed. Isn't that most of what history is about? ;^)

Janet Woodlock said...

Well, speaking of mail, I've just managed to post this article out now, so we'll see how good the postal service is between Australia and the U.S. (I'm such an electronic addict it's not a common thing for me to go to the post office for a stamp!!!)