Women in the synagogue

06 Apr
Women in the synagogue

Women in the synagogue

In 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Paul speaks about women remaining silent in the church. At this time, Christians still used synagogues for worship. Have any of those who oppose women’s ordination been to a synagogue, or been part of a Jewish bar mitzvah in a synagogue? I suspect not. I found attending a bar mitzvah a very interesting experience, and it explained Paul’s words to the Corinthian women.

The synagogue’s “place of worship” and teaching was in the centre front of the ground floor. Here all the men and boys stood together while the rabbi addressed them. There was an upstairs gallery surrounding the sides and back of the building where the women sat, including the boys’ mothers, whose bar mitzvah it was. The mothers and the other women were completely segregated from the men and none of them understood, including the mothers of the boys, what was happening with their sons, or what they were being told because it was virtually impossible to hear what the Rabbi was saying to the men. The women were bored so they started chatting amongst themselves. But the talking and then laughing became increasingly louder, and was starting to intrude on the service below. The Rabbi suddenly stopped talking, turned around and looked upstairs to the women, and commanded them to stop making a noise. The women became silent for a short time, then through boredom, started to chatter again. They were reprimanded by the Rabbi 3 times during this bar mitzvah which I attended.

Suddenly it dawned on me – this is what the apostle Paul was talking about! The women were not an integral part of the service – it was for men only – and this would have been the custom in the early church. Of course it would have been disruptive if these isolated women tried to call out or say anything. When we got back to the host family, we  women had to ask the father what was being said. If any woman had called out for an explanation of the events, of course it would have been disruptive! So now, because some Christians don’t understand the Jewish customs or culture, they read words at face value in the Bible without understanding, and then stand against women’s ordination in the Lutheran church – using this scripture to say Paul forbade women to speak in church – without understanding why he said it.

1 John 4:18 tells us: “Perfect love casts out fear.” Why then are some Lutherans showing fear of women’s ordination? Why are they trying to hinder the preaching of the Gospel?

May the love of those in the Lutheran Church who favour women’s ordination grow and spread into the hearts of those who appear to be putting ‘law before grace’ and are hurting the Lutheran church and the spread of Christ’s love to the lost.

1 Corinthians:7 “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”              God is love.


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3 responses to “Women in the synagogue

  1. Barney

    April 13, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Silence in the church 2013-04-07
    Under the title of “Women in the synagogue” ‘Katie and Martin’ (K&M from here on), use a truncated syncope of St Paul (1 Cor. 14:34-35) instead of the full one (14:33-38) to try to make the point that silence for women in worship was the result of them not hearing the Rabbi because they were separated from the ‘men only’ Bar-Mitzvah’. They claim that the women were bored and hence started chatting among themselves; after the claimed talking and laughter became louder and louder the Rabbi told them several times to be quiet. The problem with K&M’s thought is that they only take 2 verses out of a larger syncope, of which the deciding verse is verse 37 “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.”
    As a Lutheran I do not find it difficult to accept that the Epistle written by St. Paul IS and REMAINS the Word of God. Our Lutheran Confession on this is quite clear; we require all our Pastors and Congregations to adhere to the Confessions of the LCA, which in Article II, clearly state:
    1. The Church accepts without reservation the Holy Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments, as a whole and in all their parts, as the divinely inspired, written and inerrant Word of God, and as the only infallible source and norm for all matters of faith, doctrine and life.
    2. The Church acknowledges and accepts as true expositions of the Word of God and as its own confession all the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church contained in the Book of Concord of 1580, namely, the three Ecumenical Creeds: the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed; the Unaltered Augsburg Confession; the Apology of the Augsburg Confession; the Smalcald Articles; the Small Catechism of Luther; the Large Catechism of Luther; and the Formula of Concord.
    As a consequence of being a member of a Lutheran Congregation one is likewise bound by the Constitution of the LCA, applicable here in both paragraphs of our Confession. The presence or otherwise of Jewish women at the Rite of Passage of their son(s), does not hold a cup full of cold water in the discussion whether Christian women could – against the command of our Lord – be considered for ordination. In my opinion the Word of God is quite clear, given through Christ’s “chosen vessel … ” (Acts 9:15) standing now and for ever more; including the part 1 Cor. 14:33-38 above as in Article II,1 quoted above.
    K&M further state; “Why then are some Lutherans showing fear of women’s ordination?” Well, is it really the fear of the heterodox practice of women’s ordination, or is it the deep concern and love of the Word of God? I believe it is the latter, the love of the Word of God. It has been claimed that some put the Law before the Gospel, but let us take a syncope from the Gospel according to St. Matthew i.e. Matt. 7:21-23 where Christ Jesus quite clearly warns against deviations from His commandments. Now, if we were to take notice of the Gospel commandment and then go against His commandment brought to us through an Epistle by Christ’s ‘chosen vessel’ we are acting rebelliously. This is not acceptable, at Easter we have rejoiced and said loudly “He is risen”; those who do not comply with the commandments of the risen Lord, heap coals upon their own heads and should fear their day of judgement.
    For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. Mark 8:38 NKJV
    Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:1–5 NKJV.
    In contributing to this blog I have openly stated who I am, and also stated my educational background for supporting what I wrote. How about Katie and Martin match this with their full name and with their theological qualifications.
    Barney [byname since 1967]
    Christian P.J. Bahnerth
    GradDipMaintEng., GradCertMgmt.
    GradDipTh., MTh., PhD(Biblical Studies)
    Volunteer Lay Hospital Chaplain.
    Lay Reader and Pastor’s Aide

  2. andor

    April 20, 2013 at 11:02 am

    I’m a fisherman for my mate the carpenter.


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