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Women in the synagogue

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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