Q. and A. in church - the NT tradition

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Puritan Board Senior
There is a fascinating text in Corinthians where women are commanded not to ask questions in church but to do so at home. What is implied is that the men were asking questions and the women were becoming bold enough to join in. It is not asking questions that is rebuked but rather the gender posing them in public.

Sadly when discussing this text I was told it was "probably not canonical". This derailed the discussion I wanted on men leading in Q and A sessions in the "primitive church".


Puritan Board Senior
Asking questions was a method of instruction in itself. When Christ was teaching in the temple as a boy we hear of no explicit doctrinal instruction. What we do observe is that he was asking questions. Asking questions is a form of teaching. Jews had it before Socrates and Jesus exemplified it in His ministry.

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
The text in question is 1 Cor. 14:34,35:

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.
And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

For some context, see the verse immediately preceding (and indeed the entire chapter):

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.


Puritan Board Doctor
There is a fascinating text in Corinthians where women are commanded not to ask questions in church but to do so at home. What is implied is that the men were asking questions and the women were becoming bold enough to join in. It is not asking questions that is rebuked but rather the gender posing them in public.

Sadly when discussing this text I was told it was "probably not canonical". This derailed the discussion I wanted on men leading in Q and A sessions in the "primitive church".[/QUOTE
There is a fascinating text in Corinthians where women are commanded not to ask questions in church but to do so at home. What is implied is that the men were asking questions and the women were becoming bold enough to join in. It is not asking questions that is rebuked but rather the gender posing them in public.

Sadly when discussing this text I was told it was "probably not canonical". This derailed the discussion I wanted on men leading in Q and A sessions in the "primitive church".
It's part of the inspired text, is Canon, but main question is was it reflecting cultural norms of that time?


Puritan Board Freshman
Or to ask it theologically, how could a woman asking a question in church be deemed as usurping the headship of her husband?


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
It is an eisegetical inference superimposed on Paul's statement: that men interrupted the order of worship, or that there must have been a free-flowing Q&A period part-and-parcel of worship when men asked questions during worship. That either must have been the case is no necessary conclusion from Paul's words.

Here is a possible objection to the initial injunction of v34. "Hold now, what if one of the women has a question, or wants/needs an explanation about what's going on or why the congregation or pastor is doing X?" Thoughts like that are perfectly rational, if wrong, reactions to Paul's general prohibition, prompting a further testimony. In fact, I imagine his reply was similar to ones he might have had to give verbally during his ministry.

Let's switch the scenario to--there's a man in the congregation, and he's got a similar question... Is it OK for the man to interrupt the worship service, challenge good order and potentially make a scene because he wants/needs an answer to, "Hey! Why we doin' this?"

I think the response is self-evident: no, he should keep still, mind his place in the worship. There will be a more appropriate time in later settings after the decent-and-in-order worship is over when that question may be posed decorously.​

Back to the text, and the woman with the question. All Paul is saying is that worship isn't the place for her to interrupt for the clarity she needs, and yes even she deserves. "Ask at home," is merely a reference to the normal place where she would have the freedom and opportunity to ask, also with least social embarrassment.

After the service? In the hustle and bustle of the post-worship dismissal there is no guarantee of getting a full explanation. It isn't as if there was a quiet classroom down the hall from the assembly hall where the pastor could have a few minutes with Mrs. X to answer her questions. This is a Greek city in 1C A.D. Besides, "her husband" is simply the most convenient, not necessarily the only person from whom she could get an answer.

Here in 1Cor.14, as before in 1Cor.11, there are frequent hasty inferences about supposed implications from the actual things Paul writes, concerning what went on beside the matter under discussion, and in ancient worship. The usefulness of inference is not in doubt. But inferences are guesses, and guesses are only as good as their underlying assumptions. The best assumptions are actually facts drawn from other Scripture declarations. The hope is to minimize the actual fill-in-the-gaps space in the proposal.

What proposal? That two thoughts in my head--possibly only one of which is actually something concrete in the text of the Bible--are substantively connected. There is no necessary connection between the 1) idea that a woman in the church had a question she was not permitted to ask it in a particular setting ; and the 2) idea that there was a man in the church who had a question and he was (must have been?) permitted to ask it in the same setting.

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
Another important implication of this text is that husbands should know enough about the Bible and theology to be able to answer questions from his wife.

Henry Hall

Puritan Board Freshman
32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
Deuteronomy 12:32 (KJV)

Did God command Q and A?


Puritan Board Freshman
Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians by Kenneth Bailey is a go-to for background on this text and he deals with chapter 14 carefully.

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
I believe Gordon Fee actually questions the originality of that text and affirms that portion as an interpolation.
That isn't too surprising, seeing Fee is an outspoken egalitarian.

For what it's worth here are the NET translators' (who aren't always conservative themselves) critical notes on the passage:

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.
It's probably also worth noting that the NA27 critical text doesn't bracket these verses to denote questionability.
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Puritan Board Senior
My point is that the question session is OK it is those women joining in that is being "discouraged". There was an established place for Q and A but is did not include questions from married women (and preumably younger).

We have lost this "discussion" aspect of teaching. Women were expected to be present but to access discussion through their spouses. This is reminiscent of after service meetings among the Brethren?

Asking questions is one of my foibles and I am always fascinated by not only questions but the answers given.


We often want to have perfect answers to people’s questions about the Gospel. But sometimes this can lead to conversations that feel more like sales pitches than meaningful interaction. Veteran evangelist Randy Newman says that answering with a question instead can lead to meaningful conversations about Christ. —The Editors

A rich man asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” That question was a great setup for a clear, concise Gospel presentation. I can almost hear a disciple whispering in Jesus’ ear, “Take out the booklet.” How could Jesus not launch into the most perfect model for every evangelistic training seminar for all time? But how did He respond? He posed a question, “Why do you call me good?” (Mark 10:17-18, NIV).

I once did a study of how Jesus answered every question that was asked of Him in all four Gospels. Answering a question with a question was the norm.

At times I’ve answered questions with biblically accurate, logically sound, epistemologically watertight answers, only to see questioners shrug their shoulders. My answers, it seemed, only further confirmed their opinion that Christians are simpletons.

So I started answering questions with questions.

Once a team of skeptics confronted me. It was during a weekly Bible study for freshman guys that we held in a student’s dorm room. The host of the study, in whose room we were meeting, had been telling us for weeks about his roommate’s antagonistic questions. This week, the roommate showed up–along with a handful of like-minded friends.

The frequently asked question of exclusivity arose, more an attack than a sincere inquiry:

“So, I suppose you think all those sincere followers of other religions are going to hell?”

“Do you believe in hell?” I asked.

He appeared as if he’d never seriously considered the possibility. He looked so puzzled, perhaps because he was being challenged when he thought he was doing the challenging. After a long silence, he said, “No, I don’t believe in hell. I think it’s ridiculous.”

Echoing his word choice, I said, “Well, then why are you asking me such a ridiculous question?”

I wasn’t trying to be a wise guy. I simply wanted him to honestly examine the assumptions behind his own question. His face indicated that I had a good point and that he was considering the issues of judgment, eternal damnation and God’s righteousness for the first time in his life.

The silence was broken by another questioner, who chimed in, “Well, I do believe in hell. Do you think everyone who disagrees with you is going there?”

I asked, “Do you think anyone goes there? Is Hitler in hell?”

“Of course, Hitler’s in hell.”

“How do you think God decides who goes to heaven and who goes to hell? Does He grade on a curve?”

From there, the discussion became civil for the first time, and serious interaction ensued about God’s holiness, people’s sinfulness and Jesus’ atoning work. Answering questions with questions turned out to be an effective way to share the Gospel." https://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/july-2006-2/answering-questions-with-questions/

Consider these four examples of the Messiah answering questions with questions:

An expert in the law: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Christ: “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

Luke 10:25-26

A rich young man: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Christ: “Why do you call me good?”

Mark 10:17-18

Nicodemus: “How can this be?”

Christ: “You are Israel’s teacher and you do not understand these things? I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”

John 3:9,10,12

Pilate: “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Christ: “Is that your idea or did others talk to you about me?”

John 18:33-34
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